Wednesday, August 30, 2006

I am not alone!

Diane says the feather and fan is lace. In that case, I am not alone in my travails. Look. See? Here. Mason-Dixon Ann is frogging, too. And here. So is Stephanie Pearl McPhee. (Who I discovered was even more of a delight in person when she came to My Sister's Knits. Her voice is lovely.)

Okay, so their lace is real lace. Big pieces of lace. Lots and lots of rows of lace. But it feels so good to know it's not just me. There's something in the air. The knitting muses are feeling cranky. The knitting fates have their scissors out, snipping people's plans and projects all over the place.

With that in mind, I need to go figure out how to take Diane's advice and place stitch markers in my wanna-be-lace so they don't float all over the pattern. This should work, yes?

There's a marker every ten stitches and 2 yo's and 1 [k2tog, psso] between each marker. We shall see...
Oh, by the way, I think I've internalized it.

Monday, August 28, 2006

I thought this was supposed to be fun?

I am not in love with knitting today. See this:


Believe it or not, this is not from the same series of photos I posted previously. I have, in point of fact, knit another dozen or more rows. When you factor in that I have then un-knit that same amount, I should have another couple inches here.

I'm noticing a pattern in my knitting escapades. The same thing happened with the warshrags. Also with the moss grid towel. I obviously think I know the pattern before I have, in fact, internalized it. Except I'm not getting any satisfaction out of solving my mistakes this time.

It makes me wonder. Do you think my husband had a message for me when he bought these?

Or is it a more cosmic one from the Knitting God?

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Delayed Gratification

I learned something with all my Mason-Dixoning. I like the patterns you can make with knitting. Knitting, for me, is completely non-intuitive. So I'm fascinated by how the texture of the fabric changes with such simple variations. I love that I can create shapes and textures based on how I manipulate the yarn. I realize this means cables are probably somewhere in my future, but not yet.

No. Flushed with the success of my tree of life hand towel, and wanting to practice the skills I learned at Stitches Midwest, I cast around for Something. Something new. Something pretty. Something patterned. And I found this at Knitty. Go ahead. Take a look.

I really want to make this. The description of the project sounds encouraging. There's even a knit-along I could join for support. But.... It's lace, isn't it? The sort of thing that leads to hours of winding thousands of yards of nearly invisible yarn that ends up in a ball approximately the size of a half-dollar.

So, no. I'm not making it. But I want to.

I confessed my dilemma/desire to my neighbor. (An observation here: My life is filling up with people I thought I knew who have secret knitter lives.) She tells me she has the perfect pattern. A feather and fan scarf. Only 3 repeats. Only 31 stitches wide. But with yarn-overs, slipped stitches, knit 2 togethers and pass slipped stitch overs. All the basic techniques I'd need for "Branching Out." I could think of it as a learning experience. Or a really big swatch, well, two actually. Except I'm hating them. Here's one of the reasons:

See that? The edges don't match. It's making me crazy.

Here's another reason:

This is what happens when you can't count to 31. Or when you think you found where you lost/added a stitch,
but you're wrong.

The last time I frogged the red scarf, I decided to knit the first and last stitches in the purl row. We'll see how this goes. The edges look sloppier to me, but at least they match. Maybe blocking will fix it?

Of course, if it does, I'll have to frog the other scarf. It looks like it'll be a while before I branch out.

Monday, August 21, 2006

I blame Mason-Dixon

I have a rudimentary knitting library. I have the books I bought while trying to learn to knit. They weren't much help then, but I love them now. I have the first two Barbara Walker stitch dictionaries. Vogue Knitting, of course, which my sister swears by but of which I am less enamored. The Sallie Melville Knitting Experience Series, all three. The books I bought at Stitches Midwest.

The book getting the most use, however, is Mason-Dixon Knitting: The Curious Knitters Guide. I read it all the way through in one sitting. I started
lurking. Once the Knit-Along started, I lurked there, too.

I followed a pattern correctly for the first time when I attempted the Ball-band Warshrag. Admittedly, deciphering "slip stitch purlwise" involved several minutes of frowning bewilderment before the light bulb went on. And I felt so sorry for the cotton I used for my first one. It was frogged so many times it's a wonder there was any cotton left to knit with. My muttered imprecations and exasperated queries of "Whatever made me think I wanted to knit?" were all forgotten when I finished it. Let me repeat that: I finished it. Okay, it wasn't a pair of socks, or a scarf, or even a hat, but it was a finished and functional object. I have two more on the needles right now.

I found that, having made ball-bands with Lily's Sugar 'n Cream and
Elmore-Pisgah's Peaches 'n Creme, I much prefer the latter. Even if they don't make a blue-yellow-white ombre. In fact, when I found an online source for 23 of the colors, I joined the knit-a-long and posted to a blog for the first time.

To me, warshrags naturally led to hand towels. And having achieved success with cotton, I figured I could knit with anything. So I graduated to the moss-grid hand towels and linen. I was good. I swatched and got gauge - stitch and row. I was off to the races. Three days later I was still at the starting line. Okay, maybe ten feet out. The first few repeats went so smoothly, I was sure it was competence that was growing. Turns out it was hubris. I frogged enough to populate a swamp. I finished, though. See?

Then, I did what Kay and Ann told me to do. I went to my few knitting books and found stitch patterns to make my own towel.

I turned four pages of notes, numbers and attempts at graphing into this:

I even remembered to reverse the pattern so that my trees would be right-side up no matter which end I hung the towel from.

I taught my 19 year old daughter to knit at the 4th of July picnic with a ball-band warshrag.

When the principal and case manager at my disabled son's special ed. high school retired at the end of the year, he wanted to give them ball bands for their going-away gifts. I think he felt he was giving them rainbows.

My youngest, so far, remains unmoved. Although he tells me: "I'm happy you found something you like to do so much and that's fun for you."

With that in mind, perhaps I need to so some Scribbling. (It's on page 114).

Friday, August 18, 2006

Stitches Resumed

Gwen Bortner of Knitability taught me to make this. You may think it's a mitten for a Yeti. You'd be wrong on many levels.
Because of this, I now know:

The importance of using wood or plastic DPNs, at least when starting out. They are less likely to abandon your work in spite.

How to knit in the round and what happens if you twist your cast on.

How to join without twisting.

What a "working needle" is.

I know how to make yarn over increases and how to close the yarn over by twisting the stitch in the next round.

I know how to make a thumb gusset.

I know how to make a stitch holder if I don't have a "real" one.

I now know that SSK makes a left-leaning decrease.

K2TOG makes a right leaning decrease.

Together, well, at opposite ends of a row, they make mirror image decreases. Knitters are clever.

It will, eventually, be felted down into an oven mitt. After I fix the thumb.

Incredible. Six hours of class. I've crossed into a new world.

On to Yarn Substitutions with Kellie Nuss. A fundamental skill set. Vital. Necessary. The lifeline to grasp before going under (at least for those of us who succumb to yarn lust, or who are rarely happy with the yarn in the pattern). Okay. It's math. There's no getting around it. But it's math that works. Good math. The math that will, if I follow it, save me from the nightmare that is knitting thousands of stitches to make a sweater only to run out with mere hundreds of stitches left.

Plus we left with proof positive that changing the needle size and/or the stitch pattern really will change your gauge.

Swatches don't lie.

Thursday, August 17, 2006


My 11 year old tells me it's his new favorite word. I have had some recent experience of it. I went to my first Stitches Midwest.

I have a friend whose knitting life has recently been revealed (at least, to me). She knew about Stitches and emailed me. I went to the website and found the Gloryland.

I really wanted it all, but, having failed to bend time and space to my will, with one of my remaining shreds of sanity, I registered for "Everything Beyond Knit and Purl" and "Mastering Yarn Substitution: Art, Science or Black Magic." I needed the first one because, even though I know all knitting is made up of knitting and purling, I also know there is a world of permutations and re-combinations out there. There are cables. There is lace. There are three-dimensional objects. I needed the second one because of my conviction that knitting is, in point of fact, magic. You may call them patterns. I know they are incantations which, with the use of two wands, turn string into cables, into lace, into three dimensional objects. Also because so far I have demonstrated a lamentable tendency to fall in love with yarn before I have any idea what to do with it.

And then, there was THE MARKET. Hand-dyed rovings that could be wonderful, one of a kind yarns. The drop spindles and spinning wheels to effect the transformation . Every knitting book you ever wanted,

including the ones you didn't know you wanted.

Needles. Gadgets. Cases and Bags. Thingies and doodads. All absolute necessities.

And yarns. Hand-spun and hand-dyed one of a kind yarns. Yarns by companies your local yarn store doesn't carry. Or companies they carry, but in colors they don't. Like Mountain Colors Bearfoot in Brick, and Lorna's Laces Shepherd's Sock in Gold Hill.

No wonder at one point I completely lost my sense of direction and stood, turning, in the middle of the market. Yarn-stupid. Gobsmacked.

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Tuesday, August 15, 2006


I don't remember how old I was when I was taught to knit the first time. What I do remember is that I thought I couldn't. I know my legs were so short my feet dangled as I sat in my grandmother's kitchen in her yellow-painted machine-wicker chair. And I remember hearing that I was "purling," which meant I had to rip out whatever I had done and cast on again (and again, and again...). Whatever purling was, it wasn't knitting. I couldn't knit.

Over the years, it began to seem the condition was permanent. My god-mother tried to teach me. My grandmother tried again. As I grew older, I tried to teach myself with the help of famous knitters who published books with such kind titles:
Knitting Without Tears, Knitting in Plain English, How to Knit. Perhaps the synapse that needed to fire, the one necessary to forge the knitting path in my brain, was defective. After all, my sister could knit. Friends in high school and later in college, at work, with children, could knit. Even my mother could knit (although she stopped in 1948, half-way through the second mitten and never picked it up again).

This year I tried again.
Patternworks had a Dale of Norway "Learn to Knit" kit. Well, they had two and I got them both. Everybody needs backup. Months after the kits had arrived, with a fatalistic mind-set and a shrug of my shoulders, I pulled out the needles, yarn and how-to booklet and prepared to cast on.

The one thing I had learned in my grandmother's kitchen was how to cast on. Repetition will do that. The instructions in this kit, however, bore no resemblance to what I thought I knew. You didn't use your fingers. You needed to use both needles. I remember thinking, "What is this? This isn't casting on. This is strange. I bet this is what you'd
have to do if you could knit. Wait. What did I just say?"

Most people understand (probably as 5 year olds) what I didn't. Purling is knitting. Most people would have figured out that Dale of Norway was teaching the knitted cast-on. And yes, the little booklet confirmed, if I could do the knitted cast-on, I could knit.

Gloryoski Zero.