The Respite of Knitting

I’ve had some challenging things going on in my life lately, like leaving school, starting a new full-time job, breaking up with my boyfriend, and losing a dearly loved aunt to cancer. When my father called to ask if I wanted to spend the weekend at the shore, I barely let him finish his question before I said I was packing my bag and on my way.

I realized recently that none of my knits were portable, so I scrambled through my queue to find something with a minimum of materials or complexity. One skein of lovely laceweight yarn, an easy-to-memorize lace pattern, and one little needle thrown into my bag, and I’m well on my way to a fluttery, beautiful scarf.

Obviously I was knitting at the beach, and no, I’m still not sure I pull off that flopsy beach hat look. I’ve also knit a little here and there during train rides and ferry rides. i like having a simple, soothing project to contain whatever is currently going on in my mind in an orderly, gentle form.

I speak lace

I love learning and speaking foreign languages. I am fluent in Spanish and Italian, and I’m working on French. I love picking up fundamentals of grammar in other languages, and I genuinely enjoy discovering the quirks and peculiarities of a given culture’s modifications to a base structure.

One of the things I love best about languages is the way they stick in some part of the brain, whether used or not, and come up to the surface as needed, Italian words and Spanish idioms rolling into conversation naturally and comfortably. I find that lace-knitting is its own language, and I love that I am becoming slowly, modestly fluent in lace.

I had started my Wakame Lace Tunic way back in early 2010, over the holidays when I needed to take my mind off of an emotional situation (that’s always the way with me – I bury my feelings in lace). I put it aside just after establishing the sleeves on the back, when I got too busy with my graduate thesis. I packed it up when I moved to Staten Island, and I only just took it out again the other day.

Luckily, I speak lace. I’d left myself all the information I needed with the amount of stitches on the needles, and I was able to read where I was at in the first sleeve repeat. With a quick perusal of the pattern, I came right back up to speed, and I’ve been just chattering away with this gorgeous tunic since then.

I’m enjoying it immensely, and like most lace projects, it’s a great comfort for me during another emotionally trying time (I’ll talk about that once it’s all settled). I can’t get past the cleverness in the construction of this garment, and I look forward to making more progress as I zip up toward the end of the back and get ready to start the front.

Whispering and Ribbing

It would be a lie to say I’ve been knitting monogamously since starting this sweater, since I’ve actually finished two other sweaters while working on it (I know, right??), but for the most part, I’ve been obsessively focused on it, and it’s showing.

I’ve reached the “long rows” or skirt portion below the ribbed waist/collar, nearing the finish line on what has been an intensely enjoyable and lovely project.

The amount of time I’ve spent doing 1×1 ribbing in laceweight yarn this week is a bit staggering. It made me realize that on my last Whisper Cardigan, I stopped the ribbing half an inch short, with no memory of why I did that. I also noticed something about my 1×1 ribbing itself.

This is the outside, which frankly, looks a little cruddy. This photograph is obviously pre-blocking, so presumably the unevenness and sort of wonky appearance of the stitches should sort itself out.

But look at the backside. The knit stitches are so much more even, tame, and nicely spaced. These photos don’t show it, but the back looks much nicer when stretched too. Why is the wrong side of my ribbing so much nicer-looking than the right side??

When I accidentally picked up stitches backwards on another ribbing-edged project, I thought I could test an idea I had, that knitting my ribbing with the backside as the right side would result in a nicer edging. At first, it had the intended tidy, attractive appearance and I was very pleased with myself. But after stretching it a little in trying the garment on, the two sides are indistinguishable. So much for that theory.

I’ve always knit English (yarn in my right hand, throwing over the stitches), in part because it’s how I was taught and because I’ve read that it typically results in more even stitches and consistent gauge. I’m starting to wonder if I wouldn’t benefit from switching up how I do my 1×1 ribbing, not only for improved appearance, but for what I imagine would be a dramatic increase in speed.

Nevertheless, I’m thrilled with where this project is going, and I’m glad I soldiered through all that ribbing. I can’t wait to share some FOs with you soon.

What’s old is new again

Back in 2010 I made a laceweight sweater that I adored. Then I wrecked it when I was trying to block it. I was so sad that I put it away for months.

When I took it back out last summer, intending to unpick the bind-off and repair the parts I’d ripped, it became a disaster. My collar became a tangled mess, and in a fit of knitterly rage, I went at it with scissors. It… wasn’t pretty.

I nicked the body of the sweater while angrily trying to cut off the collar, which necessitated reknitting the bottom several inches and ribbing. By that point, I just couldn’t look at it anymore. I relegated it to the depths of my WIP basket, periodically taking it out to admire it, but I dreaded reknitting the collar.

Finally this week, I worked up a head of steam and reknit the whole collar. Now that it’s over, I’m actually relieved that the first bind-off was so inflexible because it gave me time to rethink the length of the collar/bands.

Now I don’t want to jinx it, but the ends are woven in, it’s soaking in lavender-scented Eucalan, and I’m pretty confident that I will soon have my favorite sweater I’ve ever knit.

Then again, I’ve been here before with this sweater. Let’s hope it sticks this time!

New look, new resolve

I hope you will find the new blog design and layout cleaner and more inviting to read. I certainly feel encouraged to come over here and write more.

I’ve noticed, as I’m sure you have, a large number of year-end summary posts detailing the various accomplishments and industry of other knitters and crafters. “I should make one of those,” I thought briefly, before I was discouraged by a sorry lack of productivity to show for myself.

The funny thing is that, while I have excuses aplenty (full-time school, overwhelming personal life stuff, busying myself with NYC) it’s not that I haven’t been knitting. I actually knit quite often, but I am not finishing anything. Or if I do, I’ll leave out some tiny but super-important step, like weaving ends in a scarf or hat, or sewing buttons on a sweater.

I don’t want to do that anymore. It’s lazy and silly of me, and I’d like to finish these projects and put them to use. So the good news is, very soon I’ll have a pile of imminent FOs to show you. The bad news is, you’ll probably have to wait until 2012. But since that’s right around the corner, I’m calling it all good.

Coincident with turning over a new crafting leaf (since really, you would not believe how important crafts are to maintaining my sanity), I’m drumming up a new set of Crafting Resolutions. (You’ll note I said Crafting, not just Knitting, wink wink.)

2012 Crafting Resolutions

  • Gather together all nearly-finished projects and block, sew on buttons, weave in ends, or perform any finishing tasks to transform them to FOs.
  • Finish at least one project each month (including photographing it and posting it here).
  • Make long overdue gifts for my family: Cobblestone Pullover for my father, Cable-Down Raglan for my mother, Oiled Wool Hat and matching gloves for my brother.
  • Knit a sweater using the yarn I bought in Iceland (related: tell the internet all about my trip to Iceland).
  • Make at least one pillow from the number of pillow kits I obsessively accumulate.
  • Learn to use my sewing machine, and sew at least four projects.
  • Branch out with needlepoint, cross-stitch, crewel work, etc.
  • Do not buy any more yarn or crafting supplies until marked progress has been made on finishing some major projects.

These resolutions probably look pretty familiar to those of years past, and alas, they may be my perpetual crafting goals. This year, however, I have a plan, and I hope you will enjoy watching it unfold.