Sunday, September 10, 2006

Knitting Lessons

Well, I happened across a 70% off book store last night and picked up a couple books for myself - "Knitting Lessons" and "Chicks with Sticks." I spent my break and lunch reading Knitting Lessons. I love reading other people's stories about their knitting - how they learned, what their reasons are, how they feel about buying supplies and starting and finishing projects. It gives me a great sense of relief that I am not the only one with a problem finishing things, or the only one who has a dozen projects started at any time, or that I can't stop buying more yarn, even though I've literally run out of space to store it. Reading about other people's endeavors inspires me to get out my stash and create new things. Right now I'm wishing I could just get out my wool yarns and create swatches in all different stitch patterns. Or that I could whip up sweaters for each family member that they would, by some miracle, actually wear. I found a pattern in a mail order catalog I received in the mail for a shawl that was made with 8 different colors of lace weight yarn, blended in 4 strand combinations to give a gradual color change effect. It sounds like a project right up my alley, and I wish I could order it, but let's face facts - I have a bunch of projects already going, with countless projects worth of yarn in my stash! I could start an expensive, intricate fairisle sweater at the drop of a hat and without spending another dime! If only I could build up the desire to finish the one I've got 3/4 done!

The book made me think a little about my beginnings in knitting and my philosophies so far. I started knitting after teaching myself to crochet. I was going thru a phase where I'd been working solo overnight shifts for months and was going a little mad. I had very little work to do - I was a computer operator, but Y2K took our non-stop mainframe processing down to a limited Windows environment where I only had to run an occassional billing cycle or more commonly back up our data bases... it was an interesting night if I forgot to take the write-protect lock off a tape and had to run the backup all over again after it errored out the first time. So, when I got sick of reading romance novels and downloading songs off Napster (in it's heyday) and instant messaging all of my friends, I decided I wanted to do something with my hands that didn't involve a computer for a change. I got some yellow and slate blue yarn and decided to try to crochet .... hmm, was it supposed to be a place mat or a table runner... I can't seem to remember. I just stitched the stiffest piece of acrylic you can imagine... Oh, now I remember - it was supposed to be a blanket! It just felt like a place mat it was so stiff! This was the project that taught me that different crochet heights also meant a different potential width and most importantly a different fabric weight! Let's just say that treble crochets after a lot of single crochet caused somewhat of a ruffly fabric to appear. I decided that what I really wanted to do was knit. Something about holding needles in both hands and accomplishing something really drew me. There's a mystery to people who don't knit - the needles seem so complicated to work, the fingers work so nimbly as you wrap and slide and poke. Something about it drew me to learn to knit. I bought a set of needles and a how to book, sat on my bed for a couple hours trying to cast on my first stitch. Frustration mounting, I turned to the internet where I searched (This was before I'd even heard of "Google") and found some knitting sites where they described, pictured and demonstrated how to knit. I figured it out, and then I just wanted to keep going and going. My first projects of memory were knit balls made with short rows, followed by a knit beret where I realized that I was knitting into the back of stitches instead of purling them. By this point I'd started accumulating odd balls of yarn at the clearance sales at the local craft stores, who were having one heck of a re-set in the yarn department that year, in retrospect. I was fascinated by all the different yarns and textures and colors, picking up a ball of this, two skeins of that, figuring that each could become something - a hat, a scarf, etc. That started my yarn addiction. I discovered the internet outlets for bargain yarns, and started buying enough for many projects at once, driven by the $1 sales and $35 minimum and "flat rate" shipping. Meanwhile, I wasn't really accomplishing much. I had changed jobs and found that knitting required so much attention that it relieved my tension headaches, which have plagued me since my teenage years, but which flare in times of stress. Crochet was too simple, but knitting required focus, and the relief I felt almost immediately from my headaches drove me to knit almost every night after work. Then I decided to crochet 16 afghans for christmas gifts for everyone on my list. After spending $396 on yarn, and being criticized by everyone in my house for the purchase, I ended up getting pregnant and was stricken with morning-noon-and-night sickness for the first 4 months of pregnancy, where I couldn't sit still long enough to work on the simple projects that would only take 8-10 hours to complete if I could just sit and work on them. I finished 7 of them, the rest of the yarn sitting in my stash trying to become other things over the years. After my daughter was born, I splurged on sock yarn from HeartstringsFiberarts, one of my favorite sites at the time. They arrived the day I went back to work from Maternity leave. It took me 9 months to finish that pair of Lorna's Laces Sassy Stripe socks, and they're too small! But I think that marked my real transition from crochet to almost always knitting. The small needles fascinated me, and after spending so much on the yarn and needles, I started to indulge in more expensive materials all around.

I wish I had local friends to get together and knit with, but I just don't have that opportunity anymore. I did have a group I met with occassionally, but haven't in a couple years now. Life's hectic, my husband left, I have my 2 girls, my full time job, and a mind that won't stop turning it over and over again.


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