The Knitting Journeyman

Gathering Up One Thread At A Time As I Weave This Web Of Mine.....

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Did I Forget Who I Am? Nope...Not Really....

Did I start to knit in 2005?  2006?  Somewhere, way back when, that’s when I learned to knit.  At that time, I had two young children.  I was looking into using a Waldorf methodology in our homeschool curriculum, which I still use in bits and pieces today.  Part of the Waldorf methodology is to introduce handwork, finger knitting.  I haven’t learned to finger knit yet.  I have learned to knit.  Not only to knit at this point…I have also learned to crochet.  I still have so much to learn about both crafts.  My daughter is learning to both knit and to crochet.  I even taught the love of my life to knit recently.  I bought him his own yarn, his own needles, and told him he was to knit a scarf in memory of his mother so that I could donate it in her name to one of any number of certain places that I know that deal with cancer victims and survivors.

This past year has been the first year where I didn’t have yarn and needles, or yarn and hook, in my hand every single day.  I used to have to have a fiber project going, every single day, or I just wasn’t right all day.  Even if I only did a few stitches, a row, something, no matter how small, soothed my unresting soul and made me feel more calm and more focused.  This past year has certainly been one of great trials and tribulations.  A car accident that cost us our one vehicle.  Not to mention caused my children’s lives to cross in front of my eyes.   A new relationship…no…that isn’t right…an old relationship that expanded into something completely new and different—which is a good thing, though I am about to bracket it with not so good things.  A miscarriage.  A new house, which is falling down around us pretty much, not to mention the sucky neighbors who live behind us and who cause no end of havoc for more than just my family and me.  A new house, closer to my boyfriend, in a much better neighborhood, in a much better place where I can walk to things and be happy and feel a slight bit of independence in my walking.  Way too many things, both good and not so good, have gone on this past year.

I knew I was depressed.  I’ve known for a long time.  It’s hard to flip a vehicle over and remain unscathed by the experience—roll a moving truck, with your child asleep in the seat next to you…and your other child hundreds of miles away and maybe never to be seen again….I still suffer from vertigo.   Sometimes the vertigo is very mild.  Other times, I am lucky enough to sit down, or to be held, until it passes.  Riding as a passenger in a car…heavy traffic….tractor trailer trucks…canoeing….swinging on a swing at the playground with my children…walking down the hall in the dark….you know how sometimes at the edge of sleep you sometimes feel as if you are falling….I’ve made myself literally ill when that feeling has hit…vertigo that bad…if I am very tired and I take a hot shower, the heat tends to make me dizzy, which triggers the vertigo, which can drop me to my knees….

When I don’t knit, I’m depressed.  I know this.  I hadn’t realized until we started looking at things and preparing to start packing the first house in order to move to the second house how very much that first house has been holding me back.  I have a storage room—not a basement.  I wanted and I needed a basement for a reason.  I came into this house knowing it was only temporary and I was ok with that.  I didn’t realize how much of my life I had put on hold because of that.  My yarn is very safe in the storage room, because I can’t get to 90% or so of it.  It’s even difficult for me to reach all my sweaters right now, even after all the stuff I have thrown away over the past year…

Recently, for whatever reason, be it the new house, be it new dynamics within the romantic relationship, be it a different and more decent rapport with the ex which makes things better for my children and with my children, whatever the case, I have picked up both needles and hooks of late.  And that makes me feel so much better.

Now, not only do I knit and crochet, but I study as much as I can about fibers and whatnot.  I have always had to be happy and use what I had on hand, or what the local discount store carried.  I have been rather outspoken about not wanting to spend gobs of money on yarns to knit myself a sweater when I can go to the thrift store and by wool or cashmere or alpaca sweaters, or delicate lacework sweaters or heavily cabled sweaters or intricate intarsia sweaters, for anywhere from twenty-five cents to two dollars.  I can’t afford to buy delicate fingering weight cashmere or alpaca yarn.  I don’t have the tolerance or dexterity (so I have always thought) to knit up a cardigan on tiny little size one (US) needles.  I always check out the knitwear, the crochet work, every time I go to any store.  I especially love thrift stores.

I found a pair of knee high hand knitted socks at the thrift store just two days ago…and I paid thirty four cents for them too.  One sock needs a little bit of darning in two small spots…the other sock is pristine…They are a wool blend—they wash and dry in the dryer well…I figured for under thirty five cents, I could experiment…I had to nearly smack myself to stay away from the sweaters though. 

I always check out the blankets in a thrift store.  I have gotten some of the most amazing hand knit and hand crocheted blankets and throws for incredibly low amounts.  My current favorite blanket was a thrift store find.  It is crocheted, using a thick wavy textured yarn.  Yarn I know that costs roughly five dollars per skein.  And there has to be no less than five skeins used in this blanket.  Maybe four.  I paid a grand total of four dollars for this blanket.  It’s made with a yarn I cannot stand to work with, but that I love the end product once the yarn is knit or crocheted up.  This blanket is how I have learned to sleep without being curled up in my boyfriend’s arms throughout the night when we are in our separate beds.  My boyfriend puts out a lot of body heat; when we are together, we both put out a lot of heat.  Yes, even just sleeping.  In cold weather, I can sleep with him and be happy with little more than a sheet over us because we are so warm together…  This scarlet and maroon blanket of mine, I sleep wrapped up in it and it keeps me as warm as my boyfriend does, although it lacks the moving breathing caressing presence of my boyfriend.  It is a decent and acceptable substitute.

I am in a relationship with a man who rarely wears scarves, but he does go out of his way to wear a scarf his sister made him.  I have knit him a couple cozies.  One for his gps system.  One for his netbook.  I have embarked into the world of sock knitting, just to be able to knit him ski socks for his yearly ski trips. 
I have made my daughter hats.  My son has his favorite scarf, which he refuses to take to his dad’s house, in case it gets lost.  The scarf is a snake, complete with tongue.  My son has a ton of hats at his dad’s that I’ve made him, by request.  Both my children have hats and scarves galore.  My daughter even has a dress that I knit her, with yarn that she and my son bought me for mother’s day one year. 

I have learned a great deal in the past year, in relation to my fiber obsession.  I was once content not really knitting sweaters for myself.  Now, I see the logic and the appeal of it.  Part of this reversal has to do with the accident last November, I am certain.  Another big part of it has to do with my boyfriend…and my never ending need to knit something for him.  I love knitting for my children, and yes, I have a Captain America sweater request still staring me in the face after a year, with the yarn still sitting in the bag I brought it home in still sitting in the corner mourning the fact I stare at it periodically before ignoring it again…

I have come to realize that the pride of being able to make something for the ones you love that they will actually wear, and in public, means a great deal.  Ok. So my daughter has worn the dress I knitted for her two years ago out in public many a time.  That kid will wear a brown paper bag if I hand it to her.  The fact my kids, who are still young enough to think everything I knit them is cool, will wear what I make them, it’s awesome and it’s terrific, but the rate of the recognition for my effort knitting and everything else, it didn’t hit the right spot in my knitterly heart.  That came in with my boyfriend.  It’s not just the socks, which he said I could knit in just about any darn color I want, since they’ll be inside his boots and no one will see them, until he takes his boots off back at the condo, where he will be more than proud to tell everyone his girlfriend knitted him socks…that’s what really started the process in my brain…but…I am planning to knit him an Einstein jacket too (see Sally Mehlville’s first book, The Knit Stitch, for that pattern….)…he has seen the finished jacket in the pattern book and he said he would wear it in public—and he’d be proud to wear it in public.

And then I started to look around at other things.  Being with him has caused me to look at a great many things in my life differently.  This is indeed a very good thing.  One thing is…I want to knit sweaters for my entire family.  I do not fear the sweater curse where my boyfriend is concerned.  That man is not going anywhere…I could not be rid of him with a pitch fork.  Not that I would ever want to be rid of him.  I may have only wanted to have him as my friend for the past nine years, before we started to get really hot and heavy, but once he and I hit that mark and grew closer, there is no turning back.  Our only regret is that we didn’t pursue things sooner.

Now.  I have never considered myself a yarn snob.  I read about them.  I heard about them.  I listened to their stories.  I had to scoff at them, being a single mother on a tight tight budget.  I took what I could get, be it red heart super saver, or caron simply sock, or bernat coordinates.  I took that and I was happy, because that’s what I could find and could afford.  I still fall back on these yarns quite a bit; I have plenty of all of them in my stash as well.  Among other things.

But…but…I am in a much more secure financial arena these days.  I branched out a bit for my birthday.  I bought a stash of handspun luxury yarns on ebay…oh, what an excellent thing to do.  I also started knitting things for certain people, and they had requirements for certain things.  I bought a yarn for a client who requested a scarf that I would never have bought otherwise…a nice thick wool blend with some lovely soft color changes.  Not noro by any means, but still, delicious.  Oh, then there’s the noro, which may be the original culprit in my developing yarn snob syndrome.  There truly is such an amazing difference between working with icky old acrylic and, say, nor kureyon.  I began to branch out in my fibers a bit more.  Some silk here.  Some alpaca there.  Linen over here.  Bamboo over there. 

I worked on designing my own patterns, increasing my repertoire.  I kept picking up my needles, even if I planned to do nothing more than swatch all night.  I nearly finished a shawl two days ago.  I had seen an item online that I thought I could duplicate, so I swatched it and I worked it.    I had nearly finished the first ball of yarn before I decided I didn’t like the look and the lay of this piece and I frogged the entire thing back to square one, a round ball of yarn, waiting to be knit into something beautiful and useful.

I have a boyfriend who helps pick out knitting books and knitting patterns, who wants me to knit blouses and bikinis and other things for myself so that he can see me in them.

I am developing a finer, more evolved sense of how the finished fabric should lay and move and …breathe….I think this is an important change to the challenge of my knitterly brain.  When I first started knitting, it really didn’t matter to me about the drape or whatever.  To be honest, I made a lot of scarves and shawls and washcloths.  Drape really wasn’t all too important then.  Now, I am looking at making myself a series of off the shoulder tops, tube tops, bikini tops….and drape is very important.  I am looking at making my son his Captain America sweater, my boyfriend his Einstein jacket, my daughter her swing jacket sweater thingy.  I am doing more than just thinking about the possibility of making myself a skirt, or two. 

What does all this mean?  It means I am paying more attention these days.  I feel safer…and more sage…spending money on higher quality yarns to create a sweater that will last a lifetime with the proper care.  Not that I am not looking in the good places to get the expensive high quality yarns for less, online and locally, because I genuinely am.  But I am also opening the door to a great many more possibilities and ranges.
Usually, I don’t sit down to think up knitting goals until the New Year is upon us.  The traditional New Year, since All Hallow’s Eve is a New Year for me…the beginning of a New Cycle.  This year, these goals keep presenting themselves to me.  As I struggle to find a way to teach my daughter and boyfriend (my son as yet has not expressed an interest in learning to knit, just the desire to have me knit things for him….), I find myself thinking things.  There are technically only two stitches in knitting…all you have to do is learn all the different ways to combine them and to use them.  Knit two together is still a knit stitch.  The more I think about it, the more I wonder why I have let so many things hold me back for so long.

I can knit socks.  So, I shouldn’t knit socks at one and two o’clock in the morning when I al already tired and then try to graft on a big toe to a pair of flip flop socks…which I did and I grafted the toe on inside out…and then had to frog the entire sock…which really ticked me off and I haven’t touched that pattern again yet…YET…but I will be back for it soon…

I can knit lace.  I like lace so much I have written a great many patterns for different things, at this point a great many shawls and scarves….using the principles of lacework…although I still have to test knit many of them.  My first test knit is a Faroese style shawl that I am planning to wear at my wedding…if I can remember where I stuck the pattern last time I worked on it so I can keep working on it…I can remember it by heart now, but I am afraid of making a mistake and I want the pattern there in front of me.  Since it is the prototype, and I had to do so much rewriting and reworking when I first cast on for it, I haven’t transferred the scrawled pattern notes onto the computer, nor have I charted them out yet…so…I have to figure out what I did with the paperwork before I continue knitting…although I would honestly like to rework this shawl with thinner yearn and perhaps even a larger needles, to really enhance the lacework.

I can work stripes into patterns.  I knit the belly of more than one animal or toy a different color than the rest of the beast.  This should mean I can work intarsia, right?  A little more effort, a little more focus, yes, but still, the same ideas at work here.

I can work cables, for more than a few rows.  That is another thing I want to have done before my boyfriend goes skiing in December.  A cabled scarf.  I don’t think I’ll manage that.  His socks are more important at the moment. 

I can make toys.  I can make items to fit.  I can do so many different things.

What I want to learn to do this coming year is make my own sweaters, not just for me, but for my entire family.  I want to do colorwork, even if It is small to start.  I do not have to get into a traditional Norwegian intarsia sweater.  I want to work lace patterns with very thin yarn and very tiny needles, and I want to enjoy every moment of it as I do.  I want to knit socks, lots of socks.  Not only for me, not only for my boyfriend.  I want to knit mittens.  I want to knit holiday stockings.  I want to go hog wild and be HAPPY!

This is my plan.  And I will be sticking to it.  In the middle of writing my novel, to be sure.  Not to mention, setting up that volume of poetry we want to get published as well.

Off I go.  I have to cast on that pair of ski socks now, before I let time run out.  Bye!