Monday, July 26, 2004

Knitting Evolution pt 2 (or the knitter's yellow belt)

Ages ago I began recording how I started knitting. It was with my best friend SR at the Taos wool festival in 2001. This is part two of my biography as a knitter. It is long-winded (like me). Tomorrow I promise I will have progress pictures of the WIPs.

My first knitted article was a large rectangle (just like Jessie!).It was probably 18 inches wide, and 48 or so inches long.  I knit it using Brittany 10.5US birch needles, and I used the scratchiest (read: cheapest) Jacob and Churro wool that could be had at the Taos, NM wool fest (on later inspection, the tag on the wool read "Rug weight"). It was too wide for a scarf, and too short for a wrap, and it was so coarse it brought to mind the penitential hair shirts of yore.

Good adjectives for that knitting: tightest ever, English-style (I was a thrower), and methodical.

My friend SR had this crazy way of holding the left needle in her lap and throwing the yarn with her left hand... it didn't look like the pictures in my book (Debbie Bliss, How to Knit) but it sure was fast! I was a slow knitter and the wool was not "fun." When I moved away from SR and New Mexico to Texas, my knitting slumped.

In Austin, it was hotashell. Knitting was the LAST thing on my mind.  Then, while bored outta my mind one week, I was in the bookstore looking for a craft to while away my time, and I saw the Yarn Girls' Guide to Simple Knits. Hmmm. Even I can knit a sweater? Come on. This I gotta see.

I still had tons of the scratchy wool, but the sweater I wanted to make needed to be 2.5 stitches per inch, and the natural Jacob/Churro was around 4¾ per inch. Plus it had that whole "penance-worthy" scratch factor going for it.

(You know how you can be watching a movie, and the heroine is about to do something REALLY stupid, and you want to yell out to her? Here's that moment for me.)

Instead of getting all new yarn, I thought I could just add bulk and softness with an additional strand of something and thus I would save money and produce a cool not scratchy sweater... I went to the first online yarn store on my google results ( and bought what they said was the softest, fluffiest yarn around (Rowan's Polar, in Storm).

If you can imagine what I did to that poor innocent Polar... It was so soft, so floofy. And now (finally frogged) it is full of wooly slivers. But I'm jumping ahead. First, I made the sweater. I followed the directions, knitted on size 15 circular Addis, it knit up in no time (as promised). Then I seamed it up, tried it on, and lo and behold: because of the weight of the scratchy wool, the V-neck pulled down to about my navel. Additionally, the scratchiness had not dissolved into pillows of Polar, but had in fact persevered. It was too heavy, too scratchy, and had cost almost $60 (I coulda bought a nice lambswool Gap sweater for that!) and two months or so of my life. I didn't know how to fix or frog. I was stuck with it.

The verdict: Screw Knitting! Sweater, needles, and yarn is stuffed into the closet along with the box of fancy stamps that were going to make me into a stationery makin' fool, the wood carving tools that would help me produce block prints to rival Dürer, and of course, the stupid-never-has-decent-tension-how-am-I-supposed-to-make-anything-NICE sewing machine.

As the holidays were approaching later that year, I saw a magazine that offered Fast! Fun! Fancy! gifts to knit and crochet. And I thought, well there's an idea! I can knit and crochet, and I am broke, so how about I make everyone's gifts this year (I know, I am fickle). I marched on over to Hobby Lobby and bought $18 worth of Red Heart in nice mix/match-able colors and settled in for some serious gifting.

It was around this time that BD and I were going to see his folks.

Let me rephrase. I was going to meet his mother for the first time.

They are Baptists. The closest I ever got to religion: I married a Methodist minister's son once, and I have a lot of tattoos. They are Southern. I wilt in 80° and think Pace Piquante is spicy. I was literally sick with worry. 'Cause I really like this guy, and he really loves his folks. It was a long drive, so I took a granny square scarf I was crocheting for the drive. Turns out MIL-to-be is a crafter. She knits, crochets, tats, embroiders... and she has few good friends left in town with which to talk. Talk about bonding! We had a two day stitch n bitch (tho' you didn't hear me say it). Sat on the porch swing while she worked on a pretty double fabric lap blanket, pored over 35 years or more worth of patterns at the table after dinner...

It was great! Recharged my desire to knit. A little bit for me, and a little bit for her. I had never gotten along well with my former in-laws and it hurt my heart a little. I wanted to knit well so Gloria and I could sit on the swing together and chat when I visited next without my having to curse under my breath at dropped stitches or overly tight rows.

That Christmas, I made five or so hats, a couple of scarves (it is probably best that I missed the whole novelty scarf thing that year) and a pair of slippers for Gloria. Early in December I had interviewed for a job in Maryland, and it snowed while I was there. A lot. When I got the job, I knew there would be much knitting of woolies in my future.

The MIL2B slippers were made of Homespun, and I had quite a bit leftover (that and some Wool-Ease) and the wrapper said I could find many more patterns at  Once there, I found an afghan pattern for Homespun, Wool-Ease, Wool-Ease Chunky, Jiffy, and Thick and Quick Chenille (an inexpensive and machine washable version of the Ab-Fab, IMO) on size 17s! Perfect for riding in a moving truck from TX to MD! A week after we moved in, I had a finished afghan. And I was officially addicted. I had knit an afghan, nothing but time and stash stood between me and beautiful sweaters and gloves...

Suddenly, I was searching online for knitting patterns and in doing so stumbled onto a couple of knitting blogs (Rachael's and Liz's are two I remember as my first glimpses). I learned I could frog things I didn't like and it wouldn't be giving up, but moving on! I frogged the rectangle and the sweater (maybe a rug and a super floofy sweater vest?) And that's pretty much up to today. My once meager stash is now outta control, and the FOs try to keep up. Whew! If you are still reading, bless you. Now go knit!

Next, I want to write up some technicalities. I started throwing, then learned picking, and now am learning a continental "counterclock" purl. But one novella a week is plenty, I really need to learn to serialize.

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