Category Archives: knitting philosophy

Hay is for horses

Hey there folks – where is the time going these days? How is it possible that in a mere two days, October will be upon us? I’m all conflicted about that. On the one hand, I love fall and I love cool weather that allows me to wear my knitted things, and I love that October will bring some travels to NYC and the Rhinebeck wool festival…but on the other hand, time always does tend to pass by faster than you think it should. This whole last year I think the only month that appeared to go by “slowly” was July, and now I have very little recollection of what I actually did in that month.

As far as what I’ve done this past month, well, I have indeed made some good progress on the Cabled Swing Cardi. The chocolatey Berrocco Ultra Alpaca is lovely and soft and heathery…


…however it is possible the alpaca content is not the best idea ever for my hands. Yesterday afternoon suddenly my right hand started to cramp up while in the clasping position, and then this morning the same thing happened when I was turning the shower knobs. Not a huge setback yet, there are still 3 weeks left to go until the Rhinebeck deadline of course….But still, one never does want to be plagued by injury. Here’s hoping a few days of ibuprofen and stretching and 100% wool knits only will do the trick.

In other news, in between agonizing over how best to convince my students that ideas are actually important and do in fact matter a great deal in our every day lives, I’ve started to fall a bit behind and have a couple of book reviews to catch up on. I also have some catching up to do on blogging and passing on good will. Marie at Sel & Poivre and Froggie girl at The Crafty Frog have ever so kindly nominated me for blogger awards, and I was extremely touched.

In the rules of this game, one generally does the “pass it on” thing and nominates more bloggers…I always have such a hard time with that because I feel guilty for excluding people at the expense of others. Y’all know I have my fantabulous sister who also knits and whose blog I think is awesome, and I regularly try to keep my Blogroll (down there at the bottom right) updated with the bloggers I read on a regular basis, and I often link to my knitting friends around these parts who I think are the bee’s knees. Please visit them and know that if I was passing out blog awards, these folks would be the first I would turn to.

When it comes right down to it I think anybody who writes a blog, a knitting blog or cooking blog or whatever-you-are-most-passionate-about blog, is doing something that is not without significance. It takes time, energy, and thought to write a blog, any blog, whether you’re posting every day or every month. I have a lot of respect for anyone who does it, and having this blog right here has been an important experience for me. I could write blog posts while I was working on my thesis and remind myself that writing things down and thinking thoughts was not always going to be an agonizing experience, just as one example, and yanno, that’s not nothing. Reading others’ blogs always reminds me that we are not just our knitting, we are people who find knitting very important, and our blogs are always some very small window on what that means in our lives.

Ever since Ravelry came on the scene a year and a half ago or so, there has been a lot of speculation in the Knitblog world about whether Ravelry would take the place of blogging. And I think there’s some truth to that only if you value Knitblogging for pictures and Finished Object specs and yarn information. But for me Knitblogging is more than just an archive of information; it is a different medium for sharing ideas and expressing ourselves and figuring out who we are as people who identify so strongly as Knitters. I mean, we haven’t abandoned newspapers, magazines, or novels, merely because Google has become such a big part of our lives, you know?

Anyway, if you’re a blogger, cheers to you. Me and my yarn stash salute you.

With that, i’d better get some lunch and continue sorting out my day and the rest of my week…Onwards to October! I sense great things in October, don’t you think? What’s on your knitting plans for October?


Filed under knitting addiction, knitting philosophy, sweaters

Happy Mother’s Day!

My sister learned to knit from our mom, and I learned to knit from my sister (although I think there was that time that I tried to learn to knit for a Girl Guide badge when I was 9, which didn’t really take, I think mom must have taught me then), so I would expect there to be some shared genetic knitting traits among us:

1. We all throw stitches.

2. We all have even tension.

3. We all always get gauge. (Okay, this is maybe only 99% true, but it’s pretty close. Please forgive that I may have done a little hairflip while saying that.)


Here we see Mom in a knitting habitat, knitting socks with yarn dyed from Kool-Aid. I think she was a little skeptical about the Kool-Aid at first, but now she wants to do more. We will arrange this. In her bag is also the ‘Knitting Rules’ book, but I digress.

There are a few key elements that distinguish Mom’s knitting from either mine or my sister’s, which I feel it is my duty to point out:

1. She does not ‘stash.’
This is not to say that she does not have a stash. She does, it’s just that she doesn’t tend to buy yarn for the purposes of stashing. Most of the time she actually buys yarn for a specific project, knits that project, stashes the leftovers, and then buys yarn for the next project. (With the exception of those 2 sweaters’ worth of Philosopher’s Wool she has artfully displayed in a basket in the basement, that I’ve been very good not to bug her about for many months.)

It’s always possible there is a huge stash that I have just never been allowed to see, but I would actually guess that her stash and my stash are not much different in size, and I’ve been knitting for 3 years while she’s been knitting longer than I have existed. Take from that what you will.

2. The majority of her knitting is for other people, not for herself. Seriously, you’ve never seen so many gift sweaters and blankets. Clearly this Knitting Niceness is not genetic, because the majority ofwhat I knit is for me, me, me. Hm.

3. She will knit pretty much anywhere, including board meetings. At said meetings she has been known to have men approach her and ask her how they can learn how to knit.

4. She has knitted sweaters for my father, who is 6 foot 5. And the sweaters fit him.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!


Filed under knitting philosophy

But it was only hard the first time

(Warning! A post chock full of photos and rambling.)


As I’ve been working away on the Endpaper Mitts over the past few days – using them alternately as bait (to do work) or procrastination fodder (just a few more rows and then I’ll work), my train of thought was enjoying itself. “I love fair isle,” my brain said. “This is easy. I know some people don’t like fair isle, but I love it. Why don’t I do fair isle more often? It’s so much more fun than other knitting. I should knit more fair isle. I love fair isle. Fair isle is the best ever.”


And then, it occurred to me that if someone – a non-knitter, say – were to happen upon me while I was knitting this slim and sleek little fingerless mitt on tiny tiny pointy needles with tiny tiny yarn in two colours, they would probably look at me with either fascination or trepidation and wonder what in the freaking heck I was doing. And I was quite sure that nobody would think that I was doing anything that could be remotely considered easy.

So the ‘represent’ voice in my head then reminded the ‘this is so easy’ voice not to dumb down my skills, and reminded me not to tell people knitting is easy, because, damnit, Knitters Shalt Not Undervalue Their Skill Which Is Mighty And Glorious. And I started wondering why I would feel so compelled to tell people that what I was doing wasn’t hard, because it’s certainly not because I think it doesn’t involve skill.


I think part of it is that the Recruiter Knitter in me doesn’t want non-knitters to be scared off. I don’t want them to see my fiddly DPNs and multiple colours and think, “damn, good thing I’m not trying to do that.” I want them to think, “I could do that! I’d do it in green and blue and make it 1/2 inch shorter to fit me better!” And because I like that knitting is challenging, and don’t like to think that challenge = hard = run away, I would rather people think it’s a fun, easy thing.

(I remember reading an interview ages ago with Jennifer Garner during her Alias super-spy days, where she responded to the eleventy-millionth question along the lines of “wow, you’re so fit! You must work out so much and be insane about exercise!” and she was all, “I just work out for an hour a day. Really. Anybody can work out for an hour a day. Really.” And I think my brain follows this logic with knitting, that if you’re convinced only some people can do X, then you’ll never let yourself do X. With the exception of out and out non-preference. If you just plain don’t like fair isle/cables/socks, then of course why the heck would you want to bother? but anyhoo…)


But that isn’t really all of the picture, either, because I know quite rationally that any knitting technique requires a certain combination of skill, fear, and blind faith. I remember the first fair isle sweater I did from Philosopher’s Wool, and was just getting used to the idea of working with one strand of colour in each hand and then got told that I would have to do steeks, which is a nice-sounding word for cutting up the beautiful and multiply-coloured fabric I was going to have to knit with my bare hands.

I had the fear then. Then, if a non-knitter had come upon me, I would have said that yes, yes this is hard, please save me from myself. But that’s just it, it was only hard the first time. Now I love it. It’s the bestest ever. I’ll happily join the Knitting Conversion Squad, Fair Isle Division. it was the same with DPNs. I was all, “are you kidding? Socks with 4 needles? Maybe I’ll just do these plain 2-needle ones first and then work up nice and slow to 4 needles…” And then with cables, too, I needed hand-holding, and now I chastize myself for not trying more cables. So much knitting, so little time.


And so now that I’ve had those little bits of fear I realize now that (with my knitting, anyway), I’m okay with the fact that there’s a lot of skill I haven’t learned or mastered yet, because I get what it’s like to have worked through these first few other fears. I’ll learn the other hard stuff all in good time. Now I will happily join the cheering squad for my new knitting friends who aren’t sure about cables or aren’t sure about socks or whatever, because I recognize now that a lot of knitters – myself included – need to hear people saying, “it’s not hard, I promise, you can do it,” before they can start telling themselves that. And I think ultimately that’s where my “knitting is easy” voice comes from.

So, anyway…did I tell you about how awesome fair isle is? ;)


Endpaper Mitt #1 is lovely. And fits, well, like a glove. (Yuk yuk yuk.) I’m already planning a second pair in solid yarn so that the contrast will show up better – this was an experiment using a solid colour paired with a single-spectrum self-striping yarn. The dark shades of purple aren’t as strong against the charcoal as the lighter shades are. Still, they fit well and are super comfy and I’ll enjoy wearing them. Now, to finish #2…


Filed under fair isle, knitting philosophy

The Joy of Finishing

The weather continues to fall in line with Project Spectrum’s grey, blue, and white theme for February and March:

(Snowy, fluffy footprints outside a local school.)

And, for the fourth time in as many weeks, some more things are done, around here:

(Patons Kroy Socks, ‘Winter Eclipse’, 3.0 mm needles and basic sock pattern; ‘The Woman in White’ for KTC)

The Woman in White was an enjoyable read, all 730 pages of it, and next up (well, currently up, I should say) with a couple of weeks to spare is Brideshead Revisited. Hey look ma, I can read books again!

As I say, this is the fourth knitted item I’ve cast off in the last few weeks, and without immediately casting on for something new. I’m trying to start a new phase of my knitting life where I take projects one at a time (or two at a time), because lately it’s been more like five-or-six at a time and that’s too many for my psyche to handle. Most of the projects I’ve recently finished were things that were on the needles for a few months, and they were causing me stress with their unfinished-ness because they were holding me back from casting on new things that I wanted to start.

So, new plan. I will not allow my knitting to cause me stress. I will take pleasure in project anticipation without casting on all the time.

I will enjoy my finished objects for their own merits, rather than using them as an excuse to immediately start three new projects.

I will remember that limiting the # of current projects on the needles does not limit my knitting abilities, and that in fact it allows me more freedom to choose what projects to try next.

I will also remember not to be disturbed by mocking laughter, should anyone be amused that I feel the need to write lists like this. ;)

Hey, I always say I like knitting for its challenges, right? ;)


Filed under finished object: socks, knit the classics, knitting philosophy, project spectrum

In which I realize that I am a selfish knitter

[Edit]: My friend Kelly has just (JUST, like, this past week) started spinning with a drop-spindle and I’m sure there are many of you who know the ways of spinning who would be extremely capable of heading on over there and celebrating her first handspun and giving her tips. Wouldn’t you? *bats eyelashes*

Although I didn’t do much posting last week, for some reason I spent a bit of time mulling over the whole “why I knit” concept. And then Lolly posted about her “Someday” projects, the ones she wanted to knit for a while and didn’t because she wanted to work up to the skill level first (and BTW the hoodie she’s making is looking gorgeous).

Somewhere in one of her books, the Yarn Harlot talks about process knitting vs. product knitting: if, on a desert island, you would choose to unravel your one knitted item and re-knit the yarn over and over again, you’re a process knitter. If you would leave the knitted item intact and go off in search of other materials to knit with, you’re a product knitter. I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m a product knitter – ultimately, I think I knit because I want the finished thing, to use or to wear or just to have and say, “I made this!”, and move on to something else.

I think I have the same trepidation as many knitters of “I can’t do [insert knitting skill here] yet, so I’ll hold off on that pattern for a while”, – and I KNOW I had that trepidation in my first year of knitting in particular. Right now, I’ve become the sort of knitter whose trepidation is, in the end, always outweighed by the fact that I’m stubborn, ambitious, and oriented towards the ultimate goal of having the finished thing. Also, the more I knit the more I convince myself that I am capable of knitting – whether with new skills or skills I’ve already learned. This explains why, in 2006, I managed to knit 6 sweaters (2 of them fair isle, 3 involving a few cables), 7 pairs of socks, and many other miscellaneous things, and why my stash continues to grow and my mental knitting wish list gets longer every month. ;)

So when I call myself a selfish knitter it’s because I am ultimately knitting for me, me, me. ;) Knitting is close to my only hobby these days. For the past ten years or so I spent a great deal of time doing volunteer work with the same organization, and last year when my commitments there came to an end I decided to take a pause with that work and do things that I wanted to do for myself. I never used to do that – I was always the person who was out doing something different every night, either working or volunteering or taking on a new project. It’s very refreshing to me that I’ve streamlined the commitments I have in my personal time – whether this is permanent or temporary, only time will tell ;)

The thing that holds me back in my knitting, more so than whatever skill level I’m at, is always time or money – the time to knit the thing, or the money to buy the yarn or pattern or whatsits that the thing needs to get knitted. I got clued in to this fact when I realized that my “Someday” projects (the ones I’m waiting until “someday” to do), are all ones that I covet dearly but have to wait to start until I have fewer things on my plate. I think the project that goes at the top of my “Someday” list is from the book Viking Patterns for Knitting, the ‘Ragna’ pullover. It’s got 4 long panels of cabling that join up a few inches above the bottom to form a kind of medieval tunic look. (Also, I borrowed this book from my friend K and really need to get it back to her and buy my own copy to drool over.)

I swear, when K let me borrow the book I was this close to leaving lip-prints on the pages, that is how much I was taken in by all the patterns. The cables are friggin’ gorgeous. I don’t know how much I would actually wear the Ragna pullover (it would be very warm, very big, but at the same time oh so gorgeous and a fantastic challenge), but damn I want to knit it. Someday.

Today, I still have wee unfinished socks. And other unfinished sweaters. ;)

A “Someday” list, of sorts:
*Ragna cabled pullover from Viking Patterns for Knitting
*The nightie and dressing gown from Mason-Dixon Knitting
*A lace shawl – the Icarus Shawl, perhaps?


Filed under knitting philosophy, socks