28 August 2007

Fiber Goddess (On Being Finicky)

My spinning wheel lives at our house in the country, which is fine, except that I thought, Where am I going to find anyone to teach me how to spin in the country?

This question was idly bruited over dinner with friends, who answered: oh, about two miles down the road.

Down the road, at a house tucked behind a thin veil of trees, there is a house where there used to be a fiber shop filled with needles, yarn, books. There used to be a flock of sheep. There used to be eight looms. Now there are only three looms, and the fiber shop has closed; and the woman who used to run the looms, breed the sheep, sell the fiber said, when I called her, Sure, she would be happy to give me lessons.

I find knitting a good discipline because it requires a certain amount of picky detail, which is not something that comes naturally to me, and which, as a result, I have instinctively sought out at different times in my life to counterbalance my tendencies to soar with grand ideas into the clouds. But there are aspects of the discipline of knitting that make me itch: writing down a pattern, for example. I like the idea of making things, less the idea of regulating what is made.

I think of fiber gurus, however, as having a natural ability to focus on details and write down patterns. So it was an unexpected gift to find that the fiber guru who just happens to live down the street embraced the creative part, rather than the finicky part. She dreamed bigger than I did. She pulled out bags of silk fiber, skeins of merino, thick handspun like colored dredlocks. She talked about dyeing without keeping track of the dye lots, combining different fibers to see what happened, buying a whole fleece that we could prepare together.

At one point as I was spinning I said, embarrassed at my beginner's yarn, Oh, it's not very even.

And she said, I've never spun an even yarn. You want an even yarn, get storebought. The whole point is that it's not even. I mean, why am I going to all this trouble?

Which is a nice comment on the quality of being handmade - the unevenness and un-finickiness of which is part of what I enjoy about knitting in the first place.

(This might even reconcile me to the wobbliness of my Baby Surprise Jacket. And after all, the buttons are pretty cute.)

23 August 2007

On finishing

My knitting eyes are bigger than my stomach.

I dream of great creations; wonderful intricate sweaters with involved color work; giving friends elaborate gifts I made,even designed myself.

I finish knitting a sweater: the stitches look even, the rows are flat and neat, and I am happy.
Then I sit down to sew the pieces together and am forced to remember that I have not been doing this very long.

I have taught myself patience in the last couple of years. I have learned how to mattress stitch, and how to join stitches to rows along a seam, stitch by stitch, matching the colors to the stripes. I have learned to crochet a border. I place buttons carefully, making sure they are evenly spaced and aligned with the buttonholes.

And yet, when I am done and survey the finished product, I only see its imperfections. The buttons always gap a little, the seams are sometimes harder and stiffer than I would like, the edges are not crisp. It looks, well, homemade.

Now, I realize that the homemade look is part of the charm of a hand knit. And I love my friend who wears the sweater I designed and made for her all the time, embracing its imperfections. But still, I feel I've brought my knitting to a level that I should be getting crisper, happier results.

The only sweater I've ever been thoroughly satisfied with is my Faroe.

14 August 2007

Catching some rays

To mitigate the recent sock focus of this blog, I thought it was high time to allow in a ray of summer sunshine in the form of the Baby Surprise Jacket, here catching some rays at the local lake.

This little sweater has been ripped out so many times it has earned some sun privileges. One problem is that it's so deceptively easy that I think it's the Log Cabin Blankie and therefore forget to count. I had to rip out many rows after spending an hour blithely chatting on the phone to a friend while knitting, figuring I had just AGES to go until it was time to make the increases around the waist. Not. Ages.

I added quite a bit to it last night after this picture was taken, but most of that will have to go too. To anyone who hasn't made it yet and wants to, I definitely recommend reading this before you start. I looked at the page briefly, but not carefully enough to see that it anticipated the problem of picking up stitches on the wrong side of the jacket, which I solved rather maladroitly with a row of plain knitting that looks and feels odd in a fabric of garter stitches.

Fortunately I have another new baby to knit for, and more yarn left over from the Log Cabin, so I am going to plunge right into a second one to enjoy the thrill of getting it right the first time. I hope.

08 August 2007

Happy Feet

From the moment I signed up for Sockapalooza, I assumed that I would be one of the ones whose sock pal went AWOL. It seemed to me that through the law of averages one would have to do several swaps in order to get a pal who came through.

So I was thrilled when I first heard from my sock pal. And even so, I was so focused on knitting for my own pal that on some level I didn't quite believe that at the end of this process there would be a pair of socks for me.

Imagine my surprise.

My Sock Pal is Traci, who doesn't have a blog, and who did a fantastic job with these socks. They're beautifully knit, with my favorite short-row heels, and altogether so tight and compact it puts me to shame. I love the bright confetti-colored yarn and the not-quite-basketweave inlay pattern she chose. And they fit absolutely perfectly. Thank you so much, Traci. I will cherish these always.

07 August 2007

Monkeying around

Hey, hey, we're the Monkeys...

The only square thing about these socks is their toe. (It didn't help that I almost ran out of yarn and had to decrease a little more abruptly than planned on the last 3 rows.)

It turned out that what imprinted on these socks was not opera but Anthony Trollope, since Can You Forgive Her is my husband's and my current read-aloud book (even though I've read it already - there is no such thing as too much Trollope). Victorian novels seem to make the best summertime read-aloud books, probably because they were written to be read aloud in the first place. The only problem with knitting and reading aloud is I only get to do it every other night because we take turns reading.

On another note: lest anyone think I was exaggerating about the size of my Sidewinders, I submit this:

These two socks are knit for the same foot.
Exhibit B:

Now, I am well aware that the engineering of the Sidewinder requires a whole different kind of measurement (since a knit stitch stretches differently on the horizontal than on the vertical). And I appreciate that the Sidewinder extends considerably farther up the leg than do most socks (which is an advantage when you are more than six feet tall, like me). But still: that is one big sock.