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Sigh. Usually, my year in summary forward thinkingness and nostalgia are posted the first day of the year. It is now, officially, day 2 of 2010. First, I have to say, 2010 is the END of the decade, not the beginning. I am solid on this. I refuse to admit otherwise. Nothing can change this in me. When I review a decade, it will be on the year starting with 1. End of story.

Over the last few months, technological manners of communication such as Twitter and Facebook have allowed me to update friends and family on the day to day goings on. I have pondered, at great length, self-identity and the internet. Does referring to myself in the third person remove me from my own life? Do tweets and status updates somehow make life into a miniature caricature of the truth? A few days ago, I used the Facebook collage of status updates as a year in review for myself. Horrified, I realized how much of my life revolves around another person and how little of myself I truly share with friends. Depth of self has become nothing more than an internal monologue. True, my philosophy of “amuse, inform, or entertain” for updates likely adds to the shallow quality of this collage. However, has my life truly become this vapid?

This particular year probably falls into the top five most life changing years. 2009 brought a new person into my life. A little tiny person who I did not realize it was possible to love as deeply, passionately, and selflessly as I do. However, just as much as my life has revolved around him, it has brought a greater sense of self-awareness than I ever thought possible.

Life is not about finding yourself. It is about discovering yourself. It is about finding true passion – in people, work, and hobbies. Little Man is, obviously, the greatest discovery of self I have had. I have learned that it is possible to have a different self underneath your sense of self. Lurking within me has been this human that I never thought possible. I have become someone who is willing to choose being with someone else over being alone. I have become someone who treasures each day – both its trials and its wonders – in an attempt to grab hold of the moment, hang on, and go for the ride without thinking. Many days are redundant, obviously. However, it is just this redundancy that reminds me, every night around 7:30 when Little Man hits his mattress, that another precious day of his life has slipped into memory. It is at that moment that, every day, I re-vow to live in the moment. I never realized that those times alone that seemed so precious would seem so pointless when faced with the potential for having so many of them in the future and so little moments to share with a small person growing so rapidly.

This year also brought the greatest professional fulfillment. I enjoyed the classes I taught this past year more than I have enjoyed any other classes (at least, as a whole) before. I enjoyed watching my students in the Spring wish my newborn a fond welcome and be excited to meet him. I enjoyed teaching a class of predominantly young men about nerdism. I enjoyed the raucousness of my classes this semester. I enjoyed finally being willing to let loose and be myself in a way I didn’t realize I had been holding back. I found myself giving more to my students than ever before. True, it might be unhealthy, but for the first time, I realized that when I call them, “my kids”, I truly do mean it. I reached out to students in a way I had previously condemned within myself. I found that the part of me that nurtures my son, husband, and dogs is an important part of finding fulfillment within my work. I found that within my work I find a sense of self. It is this sense of self that allows me to be a better educator, to give to my students more than just information, but knowledge. It allows me to dig into the material to create a place where open discussion of ideas can, potentially, make a difference. For this realization, I am grateful.

In the course of making sure that a certain little someone has benefits that I did not have, I have stepped outside of myself. I have become that which I previously mocked, at least in some respects I have. I am, at times, the definition of a “soccer mom.” However, through the course of providing social surroundings for my son, I have stepped out of my normal introverted self and created new friendships. These new friends (and if you read this you’ll know who you are, I hope!) have touched my life in ways I did not believe possible. Only a few short months ago, I did not know some of these people. Only perhaps, one or two or three. However, these new friends have helped me adjust to my new sense of self. These new friends are thoughtful, generous, wonderful, and caring. For these friends, I find myself grateful. I am grateful that they have helped me to discover this other side of myself – the me that wants to be with others and forge new friendships. This me that is willing to step outside of my normal boundaries and discover ways to be a friend that are new, different, and wonderful.

Fulfillment of self, however, came in various other places as well. Knitting and spinning have become, as never before, an outlet for expressing who I am. Finding inspiration in surroundings is obvious. After all, isn’t that what most people do? They look to their life and then use life to create? However, for the first time, I think I understand how something from within can become something from without. Finishing the first handspun was an accomplishment. After finishing it, the yarn was set aside waiting for the right pattern. However, no such pattern emerged. Thinking of the yarn itself, I began to think up a pattern. This pattern gestated for a while in my mind. Sitting down one night, I had to begin the creation. True, it did not work correctly the first few rows. In fact, since i have figured out what I wanted to do with it and made it work, I have thought of ripping it out and starting over. However, knitting is an expression, sometimes, of learning. This pattern is me. It is the visual, textile expression of my journey in the last year. It is all mine – start to finish. When it ends, I will have a tactile representation of my journey of self. For this, I am grateful.

2009 has gone. It is over. Tears, for the first time ever, were cried for seeing the end of a year that has brought such wonder to my life. 2010 looks to be an amazing year. However, 2009 will always hold a special place in my heart as a year in which I discovered my inner self. The self that I have been looking for my whole life. This is the end of the year as I knew it, and, y’know what? I feel fine.

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It’s Creation

“The opposite of war isn’t peace. It’s creation.” Jonathan Larson

Creation inspires. However, people traditionally think of the creation of art in terms of galleries and theaters. Art can be found in even the most mundane of activities. Art is life. Life is art. All of this is true.

However, recently, I mentioned my participation in the Tour de Fleece to a friend. The response I got was, “yarn people are funny.” Yup, we’re funny folks. We joke. We laugh. Some of us have tattoos. Some of us wear nothing but fair isle sweaters. Some of us are exactly what you think of when you think of “yarnies.” Some of us are not. Most people think of knitting and spinning in terms of a hobby. It’s a “craft.” What a cute word. It just brings to mind all those little macaroni projects and ashtrays you made out of clay when you were a kid, right? It makes you think of gaudy tie dye. It makes you think back to those days of shrinkie dinks. Nothing sets off the good old childhood memories like doing a “craft.”

However, “crafts” are just as often about creative expression and art as are musical compositions and paintings. In thinking about creating a yarn, for example, you want to think about weight, texture, color. You want to take into account how it will work up, depending on how you plan to use it. There’s a compositional factor to it that most people do not think about.

In any art, the artist first starts with the essentials. In music, it’s notes. In painting, it’s, well, paint. In writing, it’s words. All of these are the basic essentials of the art. In spinning, the spinner begins with fiber. Fiber is no different an essential tool than are paints or music notes or words. All of these are the foundations of an art.

The artist, regardless of medium, takes a material, a foundational essential, and crafts it. She looks at her words, if she’s a writer, or her paints, if she’s a visual artist, or the keyboard of a piano, if she’s a musician. A fiber artist looks at fiber. She looks at texture. She looks at color. She looks at the material. Is it wool? Alpaca? Mohair? Milk fiber? Bamboo? These are the fiber artist’s foundational essentials. They are the paints on her canvas. They are the words on her page. She carefully decides what type of fiber and how colors will mix together. She takes her inspiration from her life, from the world around her, from other arts.

During this year’s Tour de Fleece (for those who don’t know during the Tour de France, spinners created challenges and spun every day that the cyclists cycled), the challenge for me was to spin a representation of an album cover. Of the albums available, one spoke to me loud and clear.

Not only do I love The Clash, but Little Man loves them, too. When I think back to the last few months, I think about how my whole world changed in a milisecond. Then I think about the day where, after crying for about five hours straight, I sat little man in his bouncy chair, turned up The Clash and watched him wiggle around to the music. It is a moment that I will never forget. When the challenge to interpret this album cover as yarn was presented, I couldn’t help it. Inspired by my life and by art, I sat down to work through how I would do this.

First, I had to find fiber. Fiber, as the basis of the art, would be most necessary. The fiber had to be “just right.” The color had to be “just right.” After scouring Etsy for several hours, I found these two batts:

They don’t look like much, do they? Big, poofy, bundles of fiber. Organic wool, for what it’s worth. Ok, so the pink was actually titled “Purple,”  but there seemed to be enough of the color I had in my head to make what I envisioned. Plus? Well, they were on sale, and cash was tight.

Next, I had to decide how I wanted to work with these. Was I going to single ply? Double ply? Triple ply? How would I incorporate the whites and grays and blacks in the album cover? At first, I thought a ply of green, a ply of pink and a ply of white. Then, after more thought and some discussion, that did not seem to create the interpretation in my head. If I did that, the pink and green would smoosh together, and the yarn would turn into some scary mush version of, well, blech. While rummaging through the bookstore, I came across Intertwined: The Art of Handspun Yarns, Modern Patterns and Creative Spinning. In it, I found the inspiration for which I was searching.

I decided that an art yarn was the goal. No, not a painted yarn. Not a yarn glued to paper. A yarn that was, in itself, an art. I conceived a yarn that would look like a boucle. A yarn that had stripes of green and pink, with silver running through it and black beads spun into it. I set to the task.

I found that there was a greater amount of purple than I originally thought. I also noticed, as I spun my single ply, that pink and green? They do not mix together very well. Who’d have thunk? With all those prepsters out there mixing the colors, you’d have thought they’d look perfect spun together. Mmmm…not so much. It was then that I conceived my goal. The pink and green would be joined by purple “bridges”, much like the chorus of a song joins the verses.I picked through the dense batt of fiber. I painstakingly pulled out the purple from the midst of the pink. I set aside the different colors.

The single ply looked like this on my wheel:

Still, the process was far from over. I needed beads and a silver thread. I found a bead stringing thread, but there was not enough available for what I thought I needed.  I thought about embroidery thread, but that did not seem right. It was too thick. It was too little in a skein of it, making it expensive. It just wasn’t…right. I looked through the store.  I found a sparkly crochet thread – white with silver plied into it. Perfect. I looked for beads. The first ones would not fit on the crochet thread.  I found the perfect beads, but again, they were not going to fit on the thread. I settle for glass beads which, in the end, plied into the yarn well, probably better than my more asymmetrical “perfect” beads.

I set to the task of stringing the beads onto the crochet thread. I put enough beads for there to be approximately one bead per yard. I wanted the beads to be obvious but not overwhelming to the yarn itself.

I set up a homemade lazy kate:

I wanted to ply a boucle. I wanted the plied fiber to puff out to mimic the curves and lack of focus in the album cover. I wanted the colors to be prominent with enough beading to hint at the grays and blacks in picture. I wanted to intepret not just the colors, but I wanted to try to mimic the lines of the photograph and energy presented in the image.

I started to ply:

Finally, I finished the plying. I set the twist in warm water. I left it to dry. I woke up to find it looking like this:

Exactly as I had envisioned it. The yarn is not evenly plied. Then again, the image isn’t evenly focused. The yarn’s colors move from one to the next. They create a sense of motion within boundaries. They give a sense of the music, as well as the cover. The white and silver running through the second ply create a structure to the yarn, similar to the boundaries of the cover and the structure of the lettering, while also mimicking the black and white in the album cover. The black beads give pause here and there throughout the yarn at irregular intervals, creating a sense of the gray by using the black intermittently. The yarn’s texture is as I originally imagined it in my head. The colors, in the end, worked well within the construct of the interpretation, although they are not as I originally conceived the idea.

This is not painted macaroni. This is hours of work and thought. This is more than a hobby. To create one must love the creation. To imagine, one must have the imagination. The is the opposite of war. This is true creation from the bare esentials, from the basic fiber to the finished product. This is art. It begins with a thought, with an inspiration. It brings together different textures, colors, and materials. It uses these different materials to craft, not as a “craft”. It is creation.

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Ahhh, knitting. To borrow from Homer Simpson, “the cause of and solution to all of life’s problems.” Ever since the energy sucking Gremlin came along back in June, knitting has been activity non grata over here. Who knew that once you got pregnant all those plans for baby sweaters and baby booties and all sort of little cutesy cutesy things would be a thing of the past? Imagine the surprise when needles felt heavy, when yarn felt monumental, when reading a pattern was cause for that eye-burning pain that makes you lie back, close your eyes, and pass into the blissful unconsciousness known as sleep.

Dang baby.

Then, the most miraculous thing happened. One of the Ravelry groups had a swap. With the swap box came yarn. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful yarn. Noro. Kureyon. Mmm. Dear, dear Packerbelle (this is a Ravelry link). Her box contained sooo many goodies. Including adorable little socks and an adorable little baby hat. A FABULOUS Booga bag. And more that are too numerous to list. Good thing the camera already had mojo:

See that gorgeous skein of Noro in the back? The one with the blue and green and purple? That, my dear online friends, was the Mojo Maker. (And see that green Austermann Step? Yeah, that’s the inspiration for going down the great black Sock Hole. A future blog to be had at a much, I’m sure, later date.)

In the meantime, that Noro was screaming to be used. Begging, even. So, off to the great wide world of Ravelry. Searching and searching, I decided that a one skein pair of fingerless mitts would work. Last year’s initial foray into the world of the Double Pointed Needle brought the birth of the Cabled Fingerless Gloves. I enjoyed making them. However, the Noro seemed a little too “busy” a yarn for such a busy pattern.

There were aspects, such as the thumb gusset and easy needle shift in the pattern, that I really liked about the Symmetrical Braided Gauntlets . The pattern would be lost with the self-stripey goodness of the Noro. So, a-searching we will go, I thought. Skimming patterns, Koleyna had some nifty construction that seemed good – particularly adding stitches to keep the wrist ribbing smaller than the rest of the mitt. However, the little bridges done in crochet were not to be done by yours truly. Plus, me likes me some cabling. So, putting together my favorite aspects of these two patterns and thus posting my first ever vaguely original pattern, I bring you:

MOJO MITTS

To the extent that there are mistakes or errata, you are knitting these at your own risk. My hands are small and these are just a wee bit too big. However, for what it’s worth, they’re warm, the cable pattern was easy, and they were a quick knit. One that might become a gifty for some people in the fairly near (insert Holiday Season) future.

First, some pictures:

Just The Mitts

Left Mitt & JD

Right Mitt & Max

Supplies:

1 skein Noro Kureyon

Size 7US DPNs

Stitch Markers, Waste Yarn or Stitch Holder

Pattern:

CO 30 using cable cast on or other stretchy cast on.

Split evenly onto needles

Join, Place Marker on Needle 1

K1 P1 6 rounds

Next round (round 7) – on each needle: K4, M1 K4 M1 K2 – you want to add two stitches to each needle for a total of 6 stitches added. You will have 36 stitches total (all three needles) when done.

Start cable pattern for 11 rounds before starting thumb gusset. Cable pattern is only on Needle 2. It is a reversible pattern so you do not need to worry about changing it for switching left and right hands. Needles 1 and 3 will be Knit only.

K2 C2B C2F K2

K 3 rounds

K2 C2F C2B K2

K 3 rounds

Thumb gusset (begins Round 12)

Left Hand ( for right hand, all increases take place on third needle instead of first with cable pattern remaining on second needle)

Needle 1: K6, slip SM1, kfb1, place (another) SM2 and complete the round.

(for left hand: K34, slip SM1 kfb1, place SM2, k1),

Needle 2: K

Needle 3: K

Needle 1: K

Needle 2: K2 C2f C2b K2

Needle 3: K

Needle 1: K6 (SM) M1 right leaning (for the rest of pattern this is M1R) K1 M1 left leaning (for the rest of pattern this is M1L) (SM) K6

Needle 2: K

Needle 3: K

Needle 1: K

Needle 2: K

Needle 3 K

Needle 1: K6 (SM) M1R k3 M1L (SM) K6

Needle 2: K

Needle 3: K

Needle 1: K

Needle 2: k2 c2b c2f k2

Needle 3: K

Needle 1: K6, (SM) M1R K5 M1L (SM) K6

Needle 2: K

Needle 3: K

Needle 1: K

Needle 2: K

Needle 3 K

Needle 1: K6 (SM) M1R K7 M1L (SM) K6

Needle 2: K

Needle 3: K

Needle 1: K

Needle 2: k2 c2f c2b k2

Needle 3: K

Needle 1: K6 (SM) M1R K9 M1L (SM) K6

Needle 2: K

Needle 3: K

Needle 1: K

Needle 2: K

Needle 3: K

Needle 1: K6 (SM) M1R K11 M1L (SM) K6

Needle 2: K

Needle 3: K

You should have 13 st between the SM.

In the next round,.

Needle 1: k6 place 13 new stitches on a stitch holder or waste thread CO 2 st where the old stitches were, (you should have 14 st on Needle 1), remove SM2, K6 (The purpose of casting on these two stitches is so that you can make the thumb hole not too tight when you finish the thumb)

Needle 2: k2 C2b c2f k2 row

Needle 3: K

Needle 1: K

Needle 2: K

Needle 3: K

Needle 1: K 5, K2Tog, K2tog, K5 (you’re back to twelve stitches on fist needle)

Needle 2: K

Needle 3: K

Needle 1: K

Needle 2: K

Needle 3: K

Needle 1: K

Needle 2: k2 c2f c2b k2

Needle 3: K

K round on all 3 needles (you may want to decrease back to the original 10 stitches on each needle to even out the tops and bottoms – that would be K3 K2tog K3 K2tog K2 on each needle, I forgot to do this so it’s not involved in the ones I made)

5 rounds K1 p1 rib

BO in ribbing

Thumb:

Place 13 stitches that are on waste yarn on three needles. Pick up four stitches. Make sure there are 5 stitches on 1st needle and 6 on each of the other two.

K 3 rows.

Next round (Round 4): K 5, k3 k2tog k, K3 k2tog k

K 2 rounds

BO.

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Elegant Trust

Ever notice that occasionally, something comes along that has the most amazingly simple construction and yet it makes you rethink architecture? The Roman arch, for example. The act of putting stone into the rounded shape that built the aqueducts. The construction is simple. It’s utilitarian. It’s perfect.

This is the best description of Twisted from Knitting New Scarves . Twisted amazes me in how its simple construction is something that is not knitting in the traditional sense in my mind. To me, this scarf is architecture with yarn. I am not creating. I am not stitching. I am building. Granted, the author mentions that she based the design on the Infinity Tower being built in Dubai. However, the pattern is a special version of brilliance. In my excitement over this, I instant messaged a friend who knows nothing about knitting but is a super computer genius. I said, “have you ever read code that is just so beautiful in its simplicity, that it is a special version of perfection? That you sit there in awe looking at wondering how someone could manage something so simple yet so utilitarian yet so kind of mindset changing?” My friend responded, “Not often, but a few times. We call that ‘elegance.'” I thought for a second and realized that elegant is the best description of this pattern. The way that the stitches create a three dimensional quality through a simple yet unique manipulation? Elegant, simply elegant.

The Noro Silk Garden? The perfect yarn for this project since the color changes with almost every pattern repeat.

However, there’s more to this pattern than that for me right now. Many of my friends know that I’m not particularly a religious sort. I believe in God. I believe there’s something greater than me out there. I’m not going to argue that one. Formalized religion? Well, not quite so much. As some of my closer friends know, I’ve been having me an existential crisis. Thursday was a low low day. One during which I not only cursed at God, I asked Him (or Her) what the lesson I needed to learn was. Since I’m obviously deficient in something lately. It was at this point that I realized I needed to take a step back. I mean, really, there has got to be some mental imbalance or maybe even chemical imbalance when you scream at the ceiling assuming that there is a Great Being overhearing you. I decided that the best option was to crack open the Noro Silk Garden color 203 (now discontinued) I had just bought and cast on Twisted. The name, of course, being equally appropriate considering I was feeling as though my mind was a bit twisted.

Sitting down, I cast on the required stitches and started knitting. I made it through the rib section to the first twist. I followed the directions. I went to the back of the book to figure out how to split the rib stitches. I reviewed the directions. I moved step by cautious step. At each step, I looked at the results of my knitting. In my head, I just could not picture the final result. I could not visualize how the twist was going to occur. Sure, I saw how reducing the stitch number made it pinched in. However, it still seemed so flat. Weird looking, even. Then, I began the final set of directions and the reorientation of the stitches on the needles. I kept asking myself, “Am I doing this wrong? Is this right? How does this work? Is it really going to look right?” I reoriented stitches. I knit them back to the one needle. I started the next ribbing section.

Suddenly? It all be came clear. The pattern really did work. The directions were truly that simple. Just following and trusting in the pattern was all I needed. The pattern was that brilliant. The pattern was that simple. The pattern was that clear. All I needed to do was trust it, follow it, and let go of what my mind wanted to do, which was take over and control the knitting. Instead, with this pattern, you just have to trust the pattern and let the knitting take over. Once I realized that this pattern wasn’t about intellectualizing it or controlling it but about following it, things rolled along smoothly.

At this point, I admit, I had my first knitpiphany of the day. The pattern? Totally a metaphor for my existential crisis. I realized that I need to let certain things go. I cannot control them. I cannot intellectualize them. I need to free myself and just let things happen in the time and way they are meant to happen.

Then, I had my second knitpiphany of the day. Only forty minutes earlier I had been railing against God. I had been screaming, at the top of my lungs, that if there was something I needed to learn, please for the love of Yourself, at least give me some kind of hint. I mean, I’m all good with learning things. However, you have got to point me in the right direction. I am not psychic. I cannot figure things out with a nudge in the right direction. I suddenly realized that I was being nudged. I would not have cast on had I not felt I was going over the edge to crazy. I had bought the Noro because I had a gift certificate. I had gone in search of yarn because I was feeling a bit lost that day. Normally, I would have just worked on the projects I already had started. I am not one for many ongoing projects.  All these events of the day leading up to that moment were out of the ordinary for me. Something had guided me to go out and spend an afternoon doing something I do not normally do.

While I realize that perhaps there really is such a thing as coincidence, perhaps there is not. Perhaps I needed a little persuasion. Perhaps the lesson I needed to learn was to trust that things would work out, even when I am unsure. The simple, efficient answer is that sometimes you just need to let go and trust that the pattern, or that life, will work. That’s the elegance in life. Trust.

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A few years ago, I spent a summer working and living in Washington, DC. Granted, I was young and naive. For some reason, however, the “poker! you poke her! you brought her!” joke was hysterical. It remains so to this day. I can explain it not. Once I began working intarsia, all I could hear was this joke in my head.

Speaking of intarsia, it isn’t nearly as difficult as I thought. Sure, it’s futsy. However, the end result will be worth it. Why, for the love of all things holy, am I doing intarsia, you may ask. As anyone who has ever met me will attest, I am fairly monochromatic. Occasionally, I venture into the realm of bichromatic. That is, unless you don’t count gray and black as separate colors. At which point, I revert back to monochromatic. However, when I saw this pattern:

(courtesy Plymouth Yarn)

I couldn’t resist using it as the perfect pattern for the imortalization of my Kerry Woolen Mills yarn. However, in my haste to purchase yarny goodness while abroad, I did not think about how much yardage one would need. Alas. I realized that I would want enough to make a special project. However, as discussed earlier, I have no commitment for making a sweater. Goodness, this is probably pushing my commitment level further than I thought I could take it.

Unfortunately, little did I realize that I wouldn’t have enough yarn to make this pattern, either, when I purchased said pattern. Upside, I found a class for it, and the teacher offered to help me by teaching me intarsia. The pattern isn’t terribly difficult, but does require attention. This is not football knitting. This is serious, attention required, cables and P1 K3, K1 P3 seed stitch ribbing knitting. However, even though each row currently takes about 20 minutes, the result will be gorgeous. The charcoal compliments the red beautifully. The buttons I bought are an abstract tree pattern, but the tree is so abstract that I question whether it really is a tree.

The Kerry Woolen Mills yarn is fabulous in its wooly goodness. The raspberry is luscious and deep. The charcoal is a beautiful shade of dark gray. Every time I pick up the yarn, I’m reminded of that rainy day driving the Ring of Kerry. How I saw the sign for the mill. How Mr. Adventure (who I decided needed a name better than DH) smilingly agreed to let me go off the beaten path to see the yarn. How as I drove through the green, I suddenly came upon this:

Then rounded the corner to view this:

How at first I was disappointed to the verge of tears that the shop was not yet open. How the owner found me as I made my way back to my little rented Nissan Micra to tell me he would open a few minutes early for me. How I stood in the dim light, fondling the wool. How I transferred my missing of my dogs onto the beautiful dog in the shop. How the owner turned to my husband and said, “who’s the knitter?” and how Mr. Adventure just chuckled and said, “yeah, not me.” How I hugged it and lugged it throughout the rest of our trip. How I came home and have thought about this yarn for the last five months. Every stitch is a memory turned into knitwear.

Every purl is a moment standing in the rain at Blarney. Every knit is walking a beach on the Dingle Peninsula. Every cable front is a winding road through the Wicklows. Every cable back is a walk through the Burren over the uneven ground to the Poulawack Cairn. Every intarsia yarn crossover is a view of the ocean off the end of the Dingle peninsula. Every whiff of the yarn’s faint animal smell is a reminder of the vast amounts of wooly animals on the roadsides and the roads (and whom I nearly creamed with a Nissan Micra).

Here is the progress of memory lane so far:

Here is a closeup of the cabling progress:

Here’s a closeup of the seed stitch rib:

Here’s a close up of the intarsia:

I plan to relive every moment I spent laughing with Mr. Adventure as I create knitwear. I plan on enjoying every moment of working with this yarn. I plan on making a living reminder of all the things that were wonderful about my trip. So, sure, you may have brought her, but I will be the one to intarsia my way through my memories.

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Birth of a …

baby blanket and a dynasty, all in one night.

Tonight I finished the baby blanket from hades. It was miles (ok, only inches, maybe even feet) of stockinette. Yet, for the last few months, it has mocked me. It mocked everything I want, am working towards, am worried about, and don’t have yet. It took up space in my project basket. It stared at me daily querying why oh why don’t you love me. It’s soft fuzziness made me sneeze. It’s squishiness made me go down needle size after needle size so that little tiny baby fingers didn’t poke their way through the fabric. I knitted this blanket with love. I knitted it with hope. I finished it while watching the Red Sox play the first and fourth games of the World Series. Given that the baby in question is going to be a die hard Red Sox fan, I’m sure some day his momma will tell him the story of this series, of this fan by marriage, of this blanket.

Tonight is also the birth of a baseball dynasty, as the Red Sox win another World Series. I sit here, a Mets fan, weeping with joy. Of course, that joy might come from getting to watch Jonathan Papelbon in spandex. The world may never know.

Pictures of said baby blanket will be forthcoming when it is washed and blocked. Now I will watch the Red Sox celebrate and celebrate for myself the fact that I can go to bed at a regular time tomorrow night. Go BOSX!

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Musicalknitty

Ever since I picked up yarn and needles, I found that knitting, albeit something I don’t do every day, fulfills a need within me. I’ve tried to determine exactly what it is about knitting that intrigues and captures my imagination so much. A few months ago, in an online knitting group, one of the women mentioned that she had picked up the violin. It was at that point that my love of knitting clicked.

For 15 years, I played the violin. Note, I use the word played. I was ok at it but never great. I would perform, but I was never dedicated enough to practice so regularly that I would become anything other than passable. While for many people I knew, the instrument was a ticket to a college application essay or a lifestyle, for me it gave me something that I enjoyed. I would identify myself as “someone who played the violin,” but I would never call myself a “violinist.” Violinists have pinache. They have style. They have talent. I plugged along. I practiced when I wanted. I played with music; I didn’t dedicate my life to it. I loved the community of being in an orchestra or in the pit of a musical (although usually for the Upright Bass, not the violin). I loved riding the creative process, even if only sitting shotgun instead of driving. I loved giving my own interpretations to phrasings, trills, and dynamics. I enjoyed being a part of history by playing the same music that people had performed hundreds of years before me. I enjoyed updating the violin repertoire with things from bluegrass to rock. The highlight of my “career” was playing in an acoustic fest with a friend in college. We (mostly he) wrote the arrangement, and I have to say, I kind of rocked the house that night. I began at the age of eight and fell in love with music. My love of music remains, but, sadly, my stage fright and the fact that the noise of the violin freaks out the dogs have put a damper on my practicing. In other words, these days? I stink. That being said, there’s nothing quite as fulfilling as the feel of my fingers on the fingerboard and the smell of rosin wafting out of the violin case that’s just been opened after sitting for some time. Every so often, when life gets too stressful, I still pick up the instrument. However, these are those moments when nothing can quell the storm in my mind. Focusing on the little black dots and lines becomes a different world for me where time drifts away and sound – be it in tune or not – is the only thing that surrounds me.

One day, after reading about the woman in Knit Knack who played the violin, I realized that for me, knitting has that same magic. There’s rhythm to it. The needles move in and out in the same way the bow strokes the strings of the instrument. My mind can get lost meditatively in counting stitches and following patterns the same way that it used to get lost in paying attention to the black lines, the crescendoes, the decrescendoes. Since I knit continentally, in retrospect, the sweep of the right needles is similar to the sweep of the bow. The feel of the yarn threading through my left hand is similar to the feel of the metal strings underneath my fingertips. Colors replace sounds. Textures replace dynamics. Stitches replace those grooves on my instrument’s fingerboard to where my fingers always intend to go but which they don’t always remember or find. In the way that the notes make a song, the stitches make a fabric. The meditative quality of getting lost in something greater than myself is there. Sure, it’s just a scarf or a minuet, but it’s more. Others before me have done the same thing. I connect to history; I connect to myself. I connect to my past; I connect to the world. The community is the same with people coming together to work with a single mind on a single project – be it a knitalong, a Mystery Stole, or a slogalong. Women (and sometimes men!) congregate together to discuss, to share, to form friendships. My knitting friends are my quartets. My knitting group is my orchestra.

To me, music is a part of my life. I hear songs that I’ve played, and I remember the locataion where I was, the point in my life where I was, the things I was doing, and the people with whom I was doing these things. Knitting is the same way. I look at the blanket I’m making for my friend’s baby. I remember sitting in my knitting group. I look at the scarf I carry every day, and I can see myself sitting in the Bradley airport ripping out a week’s worth of work, sitting on a couch in a B&B in Kilkenny knitting quietly, sitting on a stone bench in Dublin waiting for my husband. I look at my yarn that I’ve bought or received from trips in the same way I look at my instrument. They are special, unique, precious. I’ve picked up my violin maybe five times in the last five years, but I think about it most days. I pass it on my way to get dressed in the morning because I need to know where it is. My yarn and needles are the same way. They need to be accessible. They need to be there in case I need to be calmed, to medidate, to recuperate from life.

 Knitting to me is more than yarn and needles. It transcends the act to become more for me. Playing the violin was never a burden. It was always more than the instrument. It was the act of doing and being. It gave me a place in the world at a time when I needed one. I may never be a Knitter, but I hope that I will always knit. For me, there is a musicality to knitting, a musicaliknitty or musical rhythm that only it can provide for me.

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