There is something about the summer – I know it’s not officially here yet, but…- with plants growing up towards the sun and little critters running around our yard, birds flying here and there and calling to each other endlessly, butterflies stopping by for a drink, that makes me feel like doing things. Lots of things. All this busyness around me makes me want to be busy, and the longer days and extra sunlight give me just that bit of an extra boost I need to make things happen. And so, in the midst of planting and watering and chopping and stacking and biking and cooking (and cleaning and working) I have decided that it is time to take up knitting. Lots of knitting. Lots and lots and lots of knitting.
Matty calls me a binge knitter.
If the shoe fits…
Not that I am a good knitter. I’m not. There are the slow and steady knitters who learn through each mistake, pulling out row after row to make their projects perfect and beautiful. I just knit. Compulsively. I keep moving, through mistakes with the excuse of “I’m a beginner, and who cares if it’s not perfect? I just want to get it done…”
This is my first project. A sweater-vest for Emerson that I started making a year and a half ago.
(Actually, there were other projects before this – little knitted animals that I never finished because I never bothered to learn to seam, or stuff, or sew on eyes and tails; little knitted animals that are just flat effigies of what they really could be, because rather than complete them, I just moved on to the next, so that I could knit, knit, knit, knit…)
You can gather a full enough sense of my knitting style by solely looking at the photo above, but let me illuminate it further:
My natural ability to change colors seamlessly,
my flawless seed stitch,
and my general perseverance when it comes to rectifying mistakes.
Hole? What hole?
But not only is this vest unsightly, it lacks function as well. Because I somehow added stitches throughout the entire bottom half, it’s wide enough to fit around my mid-section, and I began working on the v-neck so late that by the time I’m finished, the arm-holes will be so disproportionately huge, that an elephant could step into it with ease.
My friend, who has patiently helped me through the entire process, has gone from saying it could work if you felt it, to threatening to rip the entire thing out if I bring it over to her house again. (Usually people start with a small project…like a hat. Or dish-clothes…)
So as we packed everything up this Memorial Day Weekend to leave all our other ongoing projects and head to the beach, I decided to bring some cheap cotton yarn and a set of knitting needles. Dish-clothes it would be. (I’ll continue to work on the sweater-vest intermittently when I get home.)
My goal over the weekend was not to actually make anything, but to practice knitting in the “continental” style, as opposed to the oafish adaptation of the “english” style that I have been perfecting all these years. I figure that if I can train myself to become a more efficient knitter, the rest will come…
But after a very brief attempt on the drive up, in which I found myself completely tangled in yarn, I found myself back to my maladroit habits. I’ll try again tomorrow, when I’m better rested, but now I just want to knit. Knit, knit, knit….
And I finished something. Something right on par with all the other projects in my portfolio. A very ugly dishcloth, that somehow ended up with far more stitches on one side than on the other.
I finished it that night beside a campfire. Although I noticed that some stitches were a bit wonky, I just knit right through them. Knit, knit, must knit. Lesson 1: I am not a good enough knitter to knit in poor visibility whilst talking to people.
The next day I tried my hand at continental style again, and again my hands ended up in a spider web of yarn, and again I couldn’t be patient. I wanted to make something. Anything. Knit, knit, must knit… Even another malformed dishcloth. So I worked throughout the day, paying attention to how many stitches I had and where my needles were going, and I did it! I made a mistake-free, perfectly square dishcloth!
(Although it really isn’t perfect, because instead of weaving in the ends, I just tied knots and cut off the extra yarn. This dishcloth will be unraveling very soon…)
In the spirit of procrastination and rationalization, I told myself then, that instead of trying to knit in the continental style, I would instead just try to find a new way to hold the yarn in the english style, and that way I could become a more efficient knitter without putting in all that effort. That night we left the campground and went to visit some friends at their house, so I was able to get on the computer for a few minutes to check out my other favorite knitting mentor and how she holds her yarn.
After practicing that for a few minutes – the yarn again like chewed gum in my hands – I rationalized some more and decided that as long as I could smoothly execute some more difficult stitches in my own make-shift knitting style, that I could get by with that. It’s hard to teach a dog new tricks, and if I don’t have to…
So I went on the computer again, found a pattern that alternated knit and purl stitches often (which is tricky to do when you let go of the yarn in between stitches like I do) and went to bed hoping that my experiment would work.
And the next day,
it worked! (I think) And best of all, I spent a lot of time back stitching and pulling out rows to correct mistakes. And I didn’t tie knots and break off yarn. (Next week I’m going to work on weaving in ends) And it felt really good! I actually enjoy making things correctly, even if it slows me down, and I learned a lot this weekend – my friend was right – by just making dishcloths.
And as for the continental style. Bah-humbug. I’m going to stick with my style, for good or bad. There are a lot of people out there who have strayed from the textbook style of doing things and made it work for them.