September 2012


So, I decided to put down the sweater for a few days, because my knitting mojo is so gone right now. I’m going to take out the seaming I’ve done, block what I have in the next few days and then try the seaming again. I’m hoping that I will be happier with the result and be able to pick up for the neck and body by this weekend.

I have finished my two charity scarves, so I really have a dearth of things on the needle. I need to cast on a pair of socks, but I don’t have any yarn balled up, and I didn’t have any real time over the weekend. But I was going to Disneyland for a few hours on Sunday morning, and then to see a friend’s band play, and I needed something to knit. I was not waiting in line and then sitting at a bar for hours with no knitting. So I picked up my Fay Fay, which had been in hibernation for a few weeks.

Fay Fay is a really airy pretty lace scarf-type thing. I’m making it out of Rowan Kidsilk Haze, which is a mohair/silk blend. It looks complicated, but it’s really not. The purse stitch lace pattern is really easy. The open cross-stitch (which is what is making those really big holes) is a little fiddly, but it’s pretty easy to execute. When I first put it down, I was maybe a quarter done with it, and I hadn’t really had any problems with it. The pattern was memorized, it was a fairly easy knit, and I had been knitting it out and about (at work and backstage at Julius Caesar) with no problems. I really didn’t think it would be too difficult for out and about knitting. I started knitting it again in the car on the way to Disney. I knit through a whole pattern repeat.

As we were walking around, I knit some more and I got to the open cross-stitch part, and I was two stitches short. Two stitches. And I counted and I recounted, and then I saw, way down at the beginning of the pattern repeat, on a row that was plain knitting across, I had dropped two stitches. I hadn’t noticed because the pattern is a repeat of two. But the open cross-stitch is worked over a multiple of six, so all of a sudden, twelve rows later, those two stitches mattered.

The lace pattern is lace on both sides (there is no plain purl back or knit back row), and I find it really difficult to pick up dropped or lost stitches in that kind of pattern. Also, due to the nature of the pattern, dropping a stitch actually throws it off a lot and it’s usually way too fiddly to pick up. So we sat down to watch Billy Hill and the Hillbillies, and I ripped back the whole pattern repeat–all 12 or so rows of it.

If you’ve never worked with mohair before, I have to tell you something about it. The really pretty fuzzy halo around it makes the yarn stick to itself. Badly. And since the yarn is so thin, it very easily breaks if you aren’t careful pulling the stuck bits apart. So ripping it out is really, really a pain in the butt. But I got it all ripped back without breaking the yarn, and the stitches were all picked up and over the course of the rest of the day managed to finish a whole pattern repeat.

So then I was knitting Monday at work during my lunch break. And I worked a few rows of the purse stitch repeat, and then I saw it. Another dropped stitch. I tried valiently to figure out how to pick it up, but I just couldn’t salvege it. So I ripped back to where I was at the beginning of lunch. My whole lunch break was spent knitting, and I made zero progress.

Then at rehearsal that night, they were adjusting lights, so I had some downtime. I thought it would be the perfect time to catch up on this thing and make some progress. So I started working on it and about five rows in, I looked to see yet another dropped stitch. And again, picking it up just wasn’t working. So I ripped back yet again.

I don’t know if this project is just mad at me because I set it down for so long, or what. Because when I knit the first quarter of it, I had zero problems. But after this little knitting hiatus it was on, it’s the worst project ever and I can’t seem to get it done at all. I’ve been slowly and carefully knitting on it, and have completed a whole two pattern repeats since Monday. By comparison, the first bit of it that I had knit (maybe four or five pattern repeats) took like two days. I want to put it in the corner and make it think about its behavior.

But just so this isn’t all bitching, I still love how this scarf looks. I’m going to wear the hell out of it once it’s done.

Image belongs to TKGA, not meA few weeks ago, I signed up for Level 1 of the Master Knitter’s program. If you’re not familiar with the program, it’s a program run through The Knitting Guild Association. It involves three levels; in each level you must submit samples of certain techniques per their instructions and you must do one or more projects and you must do research and write reports on certain topics. You send the samples to the guild and they critique them and sometimes (usually) you have to re-do some things, but eventually you can become a “Master Knitter.”

It is highly self-directed, which I really like. I think it will make me a better knitter, because I will have to figure out how to improve my technique such that I can meet their standards. I was really excited about it when I signed up, because I’m super nerdy and like reading knitting technique books.

I got the instructions and then I started looking at some forums online for people in the program, and instead of excitement, I started feeling dread. I have so many problems with my knitting. All of a sudden, I feel like I will never even pass the first level.

This program is KILLING my knitting mojo, and I haven’t even started a single swatch. I now look at everything through the eyes of “How would this look to the Master Knitter judges?” My selvedges are sloppy, I hate my bind offs (except on lace-work for some reason), I have spots of uneven gauge (which will probably block out–but what if they don’t).

I can’t even look at my sweater, because I’m at a point where I have to do some seaming and I can’t stand how my seaming looks.

The only thing I’ve managed to knit in the past couple of weeks are scarves for a charity project. I’m knitting them in garter stitch out of eyelash yarn (which hides so many sins). What do you do when you love knitting, but you start to feel like your own knitting is all crap?

I was getting ready to go out and run some errands Wednesday afternoon when my phone rang. I saw it was a dear friend calling, and it put an immediate smile on my face. I hadn’t heard from him in a while. I answered the phone with the typical silly greeting we usually use with one another. “Suuuuuuuup,” I drawled.

I was met with silence. “Suuuuuup,” I repeated, thinking that maybe our connection was bad and he hadn’t heard me.

“My dad died.”

It was such a sudden and unexpected thing to hear. His father had been a good man. My heart hurt for my friend and his family. We talked and cried together. I tried to make him laugh a little. As I hung up the phone, I was sad and frustrated. He lives three thousand miles away from me now, which meant that what I could do for him was limited. If I lived closer, I would have been over at his apartment with dinner and cleaning supplies, ready to talk or not talk as he chose.

He has taken care of me through some pretty tough times, but I am helpless to do much of anything for him right now. I can offer sympathy but I can’t do much of anything real.

I am finding myself seized with the urge to knit for him. He doesn’t own much that I have knitted. He does, however, hold the dubious honor of owning the first scarf I ever made–a green seed stitch thing made with worsted weight acrylic on size 8 needles. It took forever and it is probably one of the most structured scarves ever–there is no drape to that thing. The needles were way to small and I was pulled the stitches way too tight. It has a glaring mistake in the stitch work. It’s not long enough. He insists he loves it anyway.

Maybe he deserves better. It’s August now, and it’s hot and humid and gross where he lives. But in a few months, it will be very cold and it will snow and he deserves something better than a nearly nine year old acrylic scarf for this winter.

I know that knitting won’t fix anything. I won’t bring his father back. It won’t help fix any of the logistical problems that a death always creates. But sending him some nice socks or mittens is something tangible that I can do. I can’t hug him or clean for him or feed him, but at least I can help keep him warm. It’s like what Stephanie Pearl-McPhee says–we knit, in part, because we want to wrap the people we care about in love. And let’s face it, it takes love to make thousands upon thousands of tiny stitches with sticks and string into a garment.

I sometimes think of knitting as a hug you can send long distance. “I may not be there to wrap my arms around you, but here is something that you can wrap yourself up in instead. I hope it keeps you warm and safe and that you feel how much I love you.”

My friend is stoic. He has not asked me for a thing. And maybe he doesn’t want or need mittens or socks or a hat. But I need to give him something. He’s far away from his friends and family, and I worry about him. Grieving takes time, and even after the memorial is done and the affairs are settled and he’s back living his normal life, he will still miss his father. So I will cast on, and hope that when his fingers or toes are warmer this winter, he will feel loved and a little less alone and it will make him smile.