Knitting in the fall

[ed: am finally posting this thing that’s been on my tablet’s “local drafts” for I’m not sure how long — am guessing approx mid-November 2011.]

It’s been about six weeks now since I found the (horrible) Idiot’s Guide to Knitting in the back of a closet and decided to take up the hobby. So far I’ve made two scarves, two and a half pairs of fingerless gloves (wrist warmers? wristers?), and a french press cozy, and I’m in the middle of a third scarf. Suffice it to say that I’m enjoying the process.

I’ve basically ruined one partially-used skein of yarn, which seems to be irreparably tangled. Happily, it was a teal acrylic that I didn’t like very much anyway; less happily, I only did one half of a pair of wristers and was looking forward to doing the second one. I’ve discovered that I’m really picky about texture. I bought a skein of a wool/acrylic blend that I might just give away, because I hate the way it feels when I try to knit with it. And my new favorite scarf is a wool-acrylic blend that was so soft and easy to knit that I was almost sad to finish. Right now I’ve got several weights of the least expensive blend from the yarn/fabric store downtown that I really like; the scarf-in-progress is a chunky weight knit on fairly small needles, so it’s really plush.

I signed up for Ravelry (epersonae, as everywhere else); it’s a clever site, good to be able to track projects and yarns. I get more enthusiastic about taking pictures, so I can post them, even though I don’t know that anybody is seeing them! More dangerously, I’m in love with the pattern browser. It’s astonishing how many free patterns are out there, and it’s delightful to be able to narrow by skill level, yarn type, project type, even methodology. (I have yet to learn knitting in the round.) My two wish list items: a decent mobile experience and a way to say “not” — ie, “not infant”, “not knit-in-the-round”, etc. Of the three wrister patterns I’ve tried, I found two on Ravelry, and they both came out quite nice. Actually, one of them is now my go-to for when it’s cold at the office, which is most of the time.

The scarf patterns (such as they are) have been from books; I’ve sampled a variety of books from the library, mostly to pick up techniques. Chicks With Sticks was good; Stitch ‘N Bitch was as well. I also bought an inexpensive book that looks promising; I don’t have it at hand, can’t remember the title. It’s mostly a catalog of basic techniques with really big color photos, which is just the thing for me. I’m thinking about using what I can untangle of the teal acrylic to try out increases and decreases.

I have gotten some help in person — I went to a knitting group at Skep & Skein (mead & cider place on the west side) with a woman I know from Twitter, and she helped me get a better cast-on technique. That was one of those things that I just could not figure out from any of the half-dozen books (websites, etc) that I looked at, and she walked me through it a few times until I got the feel of it. Curiously, I think I was making it more complicated than it actually was; my basic reaction was: oh, that’s it? And it was fun to sit and knit with other people, although they all knew each other more than I knew anybody.

Knitting on the bus is strangely relaxing, and a combination of weather and health has put me on the bus quite a bit in the last couple of weeks, so I’ve been enjoying that. I’m also guessing that T-Mobile upgraded a tower someplace, because now I can get streaming audio on my phone all the way to the office, instead of it cutting off somewhere around 40th SE in Lacey. So yeah, I’m that lady sitting on the bus, knitting and listening to NPR. I think I’m okay with that.

It’s a little late in the year to be able to make much for giving away for Christmas, but beware: there will almost certainly be knitted gifts next year!

On Knitting

A few weeks ago, while I was cleaning I found a knitting book that I bought some years back in a burst of optimism,  thinking I was going to be all crafty and stuff. But who has time for that sort of thing? This time, though, I figured I might as well give it a whirl. I went to Fred Meyer, bought a skein of yarn (in fern, I think – a color very similar to a sweater I had as a child) and a pair of needles, and started in on the book. Which sucked, at least for me; but all of that is in my knitting book reviews, including my notes about other books I’ve tried, am reading now, and am thinking about reading later. That’s not what I wanted to write about.

The process of knitting is interesting for me, and I’m glad I started it up. For one thing, it’s a good experience in learning something totally unfamiliar, and being bad at it for a while, and experimenting with techniques to get better. In some ways, I’m practicing failure in a safe environment. If I totally muff binding off a test piece, and end up tossing the whole thing, or have a few backwards rows or WTF happened to those stitches, it’s all okay, as long as I keep trying.

I imagine I’m building my spatial skills in particular – the part that’s been most difficult is translating text and drawings into fingers, needles, and yarn. Each book has slightly different descriptions of each technique, so I find myself jumping back and forth until I find one that makes sense in my head. Alas, the only casting on technique that I can make sense of doesn’t seem to make for a particularly nice edge. I may need to get help in person.

I’m trying to stick with inexpensive yarn, but I’m also discovering how cheap is too cheap. The first yarn I tried worked fairly well, but the second one (teal), not so much. I got a piece done, but it felt like fighting the whole time, and the same with that borked test piece I mentioned earlier. (I should get a picture of that. The basketweave look was pretty cool.) Yesterday I bought yarn from an actual yarn shop: Cascade Pacific in Ginger. It’s so soft! And easier to work, as far as I can tell, either that or I’m getting better at maintaining appropriate tension.

All my life I’ve been a fidget. Notoriously, when I did the speech competition for Academic Decathlon in high school, I was required to remove all my jewelry (and I wore a lot more then) because otherwise I’d just work my way through playing with Every Single Piece. To this day, I have to consciously stop myself from worrying at buttons, zippers, earrings, etc; at my desk, I have a fidget toy made of safety pins that I worry at basically all day long.

Turns out knitting is like fidgeting, only you end up with a scarf (or whatever) at the end of it; perfect for watching TV or for being a passenger on a long drive. And I find it both relaxing and oddly compulsive.

What this hobby doesn’t help with: my poor overworked hands. It’s more of the same small finger movements as working on the computer, which is probably why it’s a good match with fidgeting. But I definitely should be pacing myself!