Knitting geekery May 8, 2013Posted by philangelus in geekery, knitting.
“You’re going to love me,” said my friend.
I should have replied, “I already love you,” but instead she meant she had a bag for me in her car. My friend’s mother, in the process of cleaning out her house, had given her a bag of stuff and said, “Can you use these?”
My friend looked in the bag and said, “No, but I know someone who can!”
(You can click on any of the photos to see them larger if you want to geek out too.)
Yeah. This is a stash of knitting tools assumed to be from my friend’s grandmother and great aunt, and any other relatives who passed along knitting needles. I sat at the kitchen table for about half an hour playing with the stash, and another half hour browsing through the patterns.
(I love how some of the needles were stored in a Thin Mint box.)
Some of the knitting books date back to 1936. (!) And the needles — some are plastic needles, but there’s a set of metal needles so much heavier than my aluminum needles that they pretty much have to be made of steel.
After I finished geeking out over all the needles, I started doing the geek-thing and analyzing, and I realized…knitting is the same, but the knit-tech is a bit different.
First off, whoever’s stash this was, they loved socks. There are sock needles galore in here, so many that in the needle case there’s no more room in the size 2 and 3 slots, so the extras are bunched up at the ends.
But no zeros or smaller. And oddly enough, no needles larger than a size 8. (I used my needle sizer and verified that the sizing is consistent with what I’m using today.)
So what’s the difference? These are the needles of a Real Knitter. And I’ll prove it, because I also have her patterns. And based on her patterns, what is she knitting?
1) Socks, lots of them. Argyle socks for the most part, but also some textured socks. No lace socks, but lots of cables and ribbing.
2) Hats, mittens.
Everything had colorwork. I can’t do colorwork because I haven’t learned it yet, but there’s colorwork in just about every pattern (at least those I could see — not all the patterns have pictures so you can tell what the finished object should look like.)
What’s not there? Shawls. Lace. Pretty decorative stuff. Weird things like Ken joked about in a recent comment (“tree sweaters”). Because this person was knitting to keep people warm, as opposed to knitting because it’s kind of cool to knit.
What’s also not there? Large-size needles. Nothing you could use to knit chunky yarn or super-bulky yarn. Maybe in part because it would be hard to do colorwork on super-thick yarn, but maybe also because no one was doing that.
What else isn’t there? Circular needles. I guess because a) no really long shawls and b) sweaters were all being done flat and seamed up, rather than being knit in the round.
A couple of years ago, my mother gave me my great-aunt’s crocheting tools for my birthday, and they’re just amazing too, working with the tools of people who used these tools to provide warmth and cover (or income) for their families.
This isn’t quite the same as putting your nose to the F-holes of an old violin and smelling the scent of Time. But it comes very close to touching Love.
Breaking the yarn January 17, 2013Posted by philangelus in knitting, religion.
Tags: cancer, knitting, shawl, trust
Two weeks ago, a friend showed me a shawl she knit for a woman with breast cancer, and I said, “Philangelus, you idiot…” because I too know a woman with breast cancer. And suddenly I needed to knit her a shawl. (Peer pressure! I can’t handle it!)
As soon as I got home, I dove into my yarn stash, but nothing would work. First off, there had to be enough of it. Secondy, due to where this woman lives, the shawl had to be light. And since she’s dealing with breast cancer, I wanted it to be machine-washable so she wouldn’t worry about having to keep it clean. Someone spilled coffee? Sure, wipe it up with the shawl. No, really.
I had covered my bed with unsuitable yarn when I came up with the last skein, something I’d bought on a whim and then forgotten. It was perfect.
I went to Ravelry. On the first page of search results, I found a pattern I’d “favorited” a long time ago and then forgotten. And it was perfect for this yarn.
Okay, so clearly God looks out for fools, drunks, the United States of America — and me. I cast on and knit like the wind.
I knew I wanted it to end right on one of the dark blue stripes, but of course you can’t control the stripes on self-striping yarn. Nor, I guess, could the manufacturer, because two thirds of the way down, the yarn broke, and there was the wrong color beneath. Mill-end.
Joining it to the wrong color right beneath it was going to mess up the pretty striping pattern and look like heck, and this shawl deserved better. So instead I reached into the center of the ball to more of the light blue, snapped it there, and joined light blue to light blue. And when I reached the last row…? It turned to dark blue. Just like I’d wanted.
I knit along chattering to God what a gift from Him it was that the mill-end had happened in my skein of yarn, otherwise there wouldn’t have been so much light blue, and then the bottom inch would have been dark blue instead of just the very bottom…and then I realized I was running out of yarn. What if I didn’t have enough to finish the bind-off?
I refused to watch the yarn ball decreasing. I had the “wrong” color yarn still, but can you join yarn on the bind-off row? What if I ran out?
And then, another Philangelus, you idiot moment: if two years ago God had seen that I needed this yarn, this flawed yarn, for this pattern, for this person, and had even managed the mill-end such that the shawl turned out just the way I wanted it to…wouldn’t God also know I needed to bind off?
I couldn’t very well say God was smart enough to make sure the yarn was defective in just the right way but then not trust that God would give me enough yarn to finish. So I forced myself. I had to trust.
God indeed looks out for fools.
And as for the shawl? Yeah.
help me define “a knitter” January 3, 2013Posted by philangelus in knitting.
Tags: identity, knitting, pattern, sock, sweater
It’s easy to get into an “am not!”/”are so!” fight about things that don’t actually matter, and being a knitter is one of those.
In my heart, I’m not a knitter, and this despite the evidence to the contrary.
That evidence would consist of the stash of yarn in the corner of my bedroom, the hand-knitted socks hanging to dry in the bathroom, the unwanted knitted gifts crumpled at the back of dresser drawers all over the country, and the “Knitting Patterns” folder on my hard drive. And my Ravelry membership. That’s some of it.
Ivy used to say I was a knitter, and I’d negate her with an intensity even I found over the top, but in my mind the demarcation was that a knitter makes a sweater, and I’d never made one (except for the Barbie sweater, which doesn’t count. I’ve noticed “that doesn’t count” coming up a lot.) But today, I’m at a bit of a crossroads.
Yeah, that’s almost done, except for weaving in the ends and knitting the closure ties. So why am I still not a knitter? And I’d better figure this out fast, because it’s time to call Father G from our parish and re-pitch him the knitting ministry he told me to discuss with him after the New Year.
The best I can come up with is this: the people I think of as “knitters” have not only technical skill and a mountain of yarn, but also drive. Need, I guess. I think about my grandmother, who came home from school at age ten to crochet hats so her family could sell them for income. I think about the women who knitted a sweater because their kid needed a sweater, and then when the kid grew, unraveled the sweater and re-knit the same yarn (with a stripe of another color through the center) in a larger size.
More to the point, a real knitter is one of those Scandanavian girls who was required to spin enough yarn for a sock every day, and then knit it up in addition to her regular chores. Every day. Not someone like me who goggles over sock patterns designed in homage to The Hobbit.
But I’m not consistent in my reverse snobbery, because if someone demurred that she wasn’t a real writer “because all I write are poems and letters to the editor — I don’t need to write” then I’d tell her nonsense. She’s a writer. Not writing for income or necessity, perhaps, but all the same a writer, because writers write. And yet according to my paradigm, knitting doesn’t make you a knitter.
Thoughts, anyone? Raucous laughter? Spare Noro Silk Garden?
Things I have learned December 3, 2012Posted by philangelus in Biking, knitting.
1) If you are lace-knitting in the dark, using burgundy yarn, while trying to read a chart, you’re going to have a bad time.
2) It takes thirty seconds to rip out half an hour of semi-distracted knitting.
3) If while knitting you were watching the animated “Batman: The Dark Knight Returns,” based on the Frank Miller comic, you will be shocked by how much it is a product of the 1980s. Especially if you lived through the 1980s and read it the first time then. So many of the themes are reflections of the questions we as a society were asking right then.
4) If you want to jog and are given three warm December days in a row by God, and you know your heart rate leaps up in jaw-dropping fashion when you try to jog, you can take comfort in realizing that Jarvis will call home if you do something stupid to yourself.
5) You will look like a dork if you shove a heart rate monitor down the front of your shirt, but it’s the best place to keep it while jogging.
6) I was stressing about the time-intervals of the Couch To 5K program (yay week one! even though I’ve been biking up to 25 miles a week for the last year, I’m still starting on Week One because I’m a wimp) until I realized I didn’t have to time sixty seconds of jogging and ninety seconds of walking. Because they’re about the same distance — so I just picked two landmarks and walked uphill, then jogged downhill.
7) This looks like an elaborate form of pacing. My neighbors now know I’m nuts.
8 )The neighbor dog does not like this either. The mean-looking neighbor dog who frequently wanders the whole neighborhood looking mean.
9 ) Fortunately, there are other landmarks on my block.
10) The muscles used in biking are not the same muscles used in jogging.
12) To the folks who bought my books last week when they were on discount — thank you, and I hope you enjoy them!
The red bird of angriness November 28, 2011Posted by philangelus in kiddos, knitting.
Since I posted the first one, here’s the second. Please note that I don’t intend for there to be a third, and there is no way I would ever make these to sell.
The Kiddos agree: he’s angry, but cuddly.
(We ran the kids ragged this weekend, which is why Kiddo#4 looks exhausted.)
And he’s got plenty of friends to play with:
Now maybe I can get started on my Christmas knitting. (Trip to the yarn store tomorrow. Be afraid. Be very afraid.)
The things we do for love November 19, 2011Posted by philangelus in knitting, sarcasm.
Tags: Angry Birds
Somehow I end up being somewhat voluntold to knit a Blue Bird Of Angriness for my kiddos.
Have you stopped laughing at my plight yet? (The godmother of one of the Kiddos laughed out loud and then choked it back admirably, perhaps considering karma: she has three Kiddos of her own who may come up with their own unreasonable knitting demands.)
I needed to use Red Heart yarn for this. I happened to have polyfill. I needed to learn two different techniques. And I’m not happy with the way the eyes came and may redo the left one.
But regardless, the Kiddos are happy.
Pattern is from here, although I modified it in order to create a bluebird of angriness rather than a cardinal bird of angriness.
O those tricky archangels… September 23, 2011Posted by philangelus in knitting.
Tags: colors, dye lots, knitting, yarn
Back in May I decided to try Malabrigo’s Silky Merino, and when I had to pick a color, I noticed one of the colors was called Archangel. How could I resist? I bought two skeins and figured eventually the right project would show up.
I picked a gorgeous cowl for the project. And then the yarn showed up. These are the same dye lot.
Last week, when I was finally ready to do the cowl, I realized the project would most likely require a third skein, so I ordered two more, figuring the dye lot wouldn’t matter since these two were already so different. With any luck, the two would end up somewhere in between, or at least close enough that I could use one of these with the two new ones.
You already know where this is going, right?
Don’t get me wrong: they’re gorgeous. But can none of these look like the others? Not even a bit?
I love the orange, by the way. The one that’s mostly orange is exactly the color scheme of the angel Rachmiel, whom you’ll be hearing a lot more about in coming weeks. (Or, if you read my first novel, you already know who he is.) So I was thrilled to see the colors, but…well, I kind of wanted them to match.
Well, the takeaway here is that no two angels, or archangels, are exactly alike. God kettle-dyes our souls and we all come out in different patterns and shades even from others who are in our same colorway. And then it’s up to us to find a project that best harmonizes whatever color combination we came out with.
“And that’s when it turned around.” September 21, 2011Posted by philangelus in knitting, pensive.
Tags: charity, donation, homelessness, prayer
1 comment so far
Check it out:
It’s “Ela’s Favorite Hat” from the book One-Skein Wonders, done in Noro Silk Garden. I didn’t choose the color bands; Silk Garden is self-striping yarn, and it comes in all these crazy colors.
This one is for the donation pile, and I prayed for the recipient while knitting. I don’t know anything about the eventual recipient, but it might be someone homeless or someone in a shelter, and those are pretty awful places to be. I figure people in that situation ought to at least have a brightly-colored warm hat, and I pray for them. I pray that they can be one warm hat away from turning it around.
Originally I donated to a charity that sent all the scarves and hats to Mongolia; it wasn’t until I dropped off that beaded scarf at the Angeltown Food Pantry that I realized I might see the scarf again one day — I might meet the recipient. And that weirded me out because it feels like violating someone’s privacy. Angelborough is an even smaller town. The women’s shelter in the next town over doesn’t seem very far away.
While knitting this hat, I thought about it again. Standing in line at the supermarket, I look up and the woman in front of me is wearing the hat. What do I do? If she turns and sees me staring, I would never say “I made that,” but I might say, “I was looking at your hat. Is it hand-knit?”
And what if she says, “Yes, but I don’t know who made it. It was given to me at a very dark time in my life, and I know this seems silly, but right after I got this hat, everything turned around. I found the courage to apply for a job, and I got it. I was able to move to a safer place with my kids. And everything’s good now.”
That doesn’t happen in real life. It happens in my head during rows of knits and purls and while making whimsical iCords for the crown. She’d probably just say, “Yeah, I think it was,” and leave it at that.
I do like to think, though, that maybe a woman would receive a hand-made hat and think, “Someone must have cared to make this,” and maybe that can be enough to fight off the despair when it’s all gone wrong.
Oops — two more knitted objects July 28, 2011Posted by philangelus in knitting.
Of course the knitting backlog was so great, I forgot two of them.
First we have a scarf I started two weeks before Easter as a prayer for someone who was having a difficult time. This went into the donation pile. All wool, so it should be amazingly warm.
And then we have a hat knitted in honor of someone who’d done me a favor, also for the donation pile. The yarn is Wisdom Poems, again all wool.
I think that clears the full backlog of Undocumented Knitted Objects.
a thousand knit objects July 28, 2011Posted by philangelus in knitting.
1 comment so far
The socks I mentioned a while back are still “on the needles” but I did finish the first sock before the color repeat. I know you’ve been losing sleep over that.
I haven’t been posting pictures of the things I have completed, but I’ve been working. In April I picked up a copy of One-Skein Wonders with a birthday giftcard to Amazon.com (thanks, Brother!) and after a trip to the yarn store (thanks, Mom!) I started one-skein-wondering. Are you ready?
First we have a bookmark, my first completed laceweight project on size zero needles, sent to my literary agent when I had to mail her a copy of The Guardian.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is a shawl knit on size 300000 needles (er, I think 19s; it felt like knitting with hot dogs) which the description in the book claims “are worn tied around the waist by dancers in Wisconsin.” Or something like that. I am neither a dancer nor a Wisconsonian, but if any readers are, please feel free to chime in.
This is going into the “donate” pile because it will work as a shawl OR a scarf…
and it will also work wrapped around the head if the recipient doesn’t have a hat. Or doesn’t have a warm enough hat. Boston. Winter. Homeless. Not a nice combination. I made this with Noro Iro, a yarn which inexplicably gave me a headache.
Next up we have two Noro Silk Garden projects which caused me to fall absolutely in love with Silk Garden. (And I have one skein of it left!) First is one mentioned as the designer’s “favorite hat” (sorry, I haven’t looked up whose) and it’s pretty neat. Ignore my daughter’s eyeroll as she models for me. She’s gotten used to putting down her book and trudging downstairs when I call, “Kiddo2, I need to borrow your head!”
Second hat is a mock cable pattern and required me to make my first four attempts at doing a “french knot” and the discovery of four different failure modes for french knots. Fortunately I tried a fifth time, and then I “got” it.
Aurora Kidsilk Haze in cream, with white and silver beads, done on size 10 needles. It’s a very simple pattern (yarnover at the ends, garter stitch in between) and it worked up pretty nicely. The yarn feels like knitting with a cloud. And it looks cute.