Splint-free and Ready to Knit All the Things

Two weeks from Christmas seems an appropriate time to begin gift-knitting, yes? I kid. I gave up any thoughts of handknit gifts when I broke my hand. It’s been a very weird season for me, to go through each day with no knitting for all these weeks.

I got my splint off this week, though, and I’m ready to get back to the needles. It’s a little overwhelming, to figure out where to begin – I have such a backlog of projects and ideas.

But this morning, my son asked me if I would knit something for him. He said he would like some socks, and my heart melted. I already have the yarn spun:

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They may not be ready in time for Christmas, but now at least I know where to begin.

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Grey Friday

I don’t shop on Black Friday. I stay home with family and stay cozy. Today was grey and rainy so it was especially nice to be cuddled up inside. While staked out on the sofa, I decided to try something new…

  
I’ll let you know how it goes!

A Few Things for Friday

1 – I made some yarn.

Hello Yarn Extra Fine Merino, “Damp Earth”

I like it! It’s not for me, though. It’s Jessica’s prize from the giveaway I held in … July. (Sorry for my delay, Jessica!)


She said she likes earthy, autumnal colors and I think this “Damp Earth,” with its ochre, tan, chocolate, vanilla, and bits of mossy green, fits the bill. It’s 180 yards of aran weight fluff that feels like kittens.

2 – I changed course on the hat I was making.

It wasn’t quite turning out the way I wanted, so I frogged and started over from the top (literally), revisiting one of my all-time favorite patterns (details when I’m done).

3 – I picked out my next spin:

Hello Yarn Falkland, “Mignardises”

I’m pretty excited about it.

How about you? What’s on your finery docket this Friday?

The Best Part

In your opinion, what is the best part of knitting? Is it the planning – considering patterns, comparing yarn options, making purchases, making a decision? Is it the start? Is it the soothing nature of picking up something you’ve been working on for awhile? Is it the renewed energy and commitment that come from picking up an old project out of hibernation? Is it the ability to fix almost any mistake you’ve made (unlike real life)? Is it the finish? The blocking? The wearing? The gifting?

I love them all. But today I think the best part might be casting on.

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Handspun Southern Cross Fibre South African Superfine, “Nobby”

This will become a hat, and it’s long overdue for its recipient, but now I have cast on, and the new beginning has been begun. And it feels good.

Loop through Loop upon Loops :: Learning a Little About Grief from My Knitting

Thank you so much for your very kind, very tender words on my last post. Losing my mom (and so unexpectedly) has been the most painful, most disorienting experience I’ve ever gone through, but the kind words and support of friends, acquaintances, and even strangers has truly made a difference for me. Some of you shared in the comments on my last post your own experiences with grief or depression, and I feel very honored that you would do that. It makes me feel less alone.

One of the weird things for me has been that, professionally, I deal with grief quite a lot. From a professional/academic standpoint, I feel like I know a fair amount about what’s “normal” and what’s “expected.” But none of my knowledge or experience makes any difference for my own grief. No matter how “normal” this is – how I feel does not feel normal. No matter how much I expect grief not to move in linear stages, it is still always a surprise to me to find myself back in the middle of feeling shocked. I can go for two or three days of feeling like the absence of my mom is the new reality, and I’m adjusting to it; and then, I’ll suddenly have a day where it will feel like a total surprise (of the worst kind), and something that cannot possibly be real. Knowing this is how grief works hasn’t made it any more comprehensible, or reasonable, or manageable.

I realized several days ago that the addiction recovery movement has something to teach me about grief recovery: one day at a time. You know this. I thought I knew this. But I’m knowing it in a new way now. When I think too far ahead – how can we celebrate Christmas without my mom? – I’m sunk. But if I can just think – today, I’m not going to have a chance to talk to my mom, and that can be okay, because there have been plenty of days like that in my life, and those days were okay – if I can just think like that, and approach each day as a single day, and just get through that one day without her, then I do all right, and I think that maybe I can keep being all right.

In other words: grief has a lot in common with knitting.

As you and I both know, the only way to knit a sweater is one stitch at a time. Not even a single round or row at a time – a single, tiny stitch. If you just keep doing that, you will have a sweater in your hands eventually. It may take longer than you’d hoped, it may involve ripping back and redoing some portions, it may involve tears, anger, frustration, and discouragement, you may have to set it totally aside from time-to-time. But in the end, the only way to move forward is to knit the next stitch.

Of course this analogy is imperfect because I don’t expect I’ll ever be “done” with my grief the way I expect to eventually be done with a knitting project. Still, for now, it’s helpful to keep in mind that all I have to do is the next tiny thing.

For me lately, that has finally meant picking the knitting needles back up. It’s not with the same zest and energy I typically have, and it hasn’t been every day. But I am making the time to make some stitches, and it feels good.

handspun Laurie pullover

handspun Laurie pullover

Wooly stitches offer a kind of familiar solace that I’m cherishing now (handspan wooly stitches even more so!). This is supposed to be my Rhinebeck sweater, and with a cuff and a sleeve left, I’m still not sure I’ll get it finished in time. I have ten days to get ‘er done, so we’ll see.

I’m also, at last, back at the wheel e-spinner, and that, too, feels so good. If the grief process is like a spiral, then I suppose it has something in common not only with knitting but also with spinning.

Over the last few days, I took this:

Southern Cross Fibre Organic Merino,

Southern Cross Fibre Organic Merino, “Laurel Crown”

And did this:

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and this:

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And I ended up with this:

230 yds light worsted 2-ply

230 yds light worsted 2-ply

And I love it very much.

Squoosh!

Squoosh!

And I guess this is one more thing I’m trying to learn from my knitting and spinning. If I just keep going – stitch-by-stitch, loop-by-loop, turn-by-turn – eventually, something beautiful might be created. I do believe this – I do believe that out of great sorrow, something new and beautiful and good can come. Pain can be a good teacher, if we let it be, and loss can shape us in ways that make us stronger and truer than we were before. I have seen the tiniest flashes of how this might become true for me – ways my mother’s legacy suddenly burns brighter in my life – and I trust that a new strength will grow and deepen in me if I can open my heart to my own grief.

In the meantime, I knit on.

Swatching for Crackerjack Socks

I know, I know! Baseball’s Opening Day is next week, and I’ve promised you a worksheet for Crackerjack Socks. It’s coming, I promise! I’m just still tinkering with it a last little bit. But my plan is to make it available in the next couple of days. Because this is one of the busiest weeks of my year professionally, and it makes all kind of sense for me to be putting together a knitting worksheet on top of that, right?

In the meantime, I’ve been swatching:

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Even on my usual size zero needles, these are somehow knitting up a bit loose. The garter ridge indicates where I changed needles from one brand to another (but the same size). My knitting did tighten up a bit once I found my favorite size zero dpns (Darn Pretty brand), but it’s still pretty loose.

I’ve decided to knit two rounds per game. I just like the way that looks. For comparison, here’s how it looks with one round per game:

20150331-123937.jpgMore of a zigzag stripe. So instead, I’m going to do two rounds per game. In other words, more knee socks for me!

And Then I Ran Out of Time

After knitting six pairs of handknit socks in a row, I wasn’t quite ready to stop with the foot accessories. Ever since early last fall, I’d been dreaming of a pair of handspun Mukluks to keep in my office at work. I even spun up some bulky 2-ply yarn to make a pair, but then I decided I wanted to save that yarn for another (yet-to-be-made) project.

So in early February, I pulled out some delicious Hello Yarn fiber:

Fairytale

Fairytale

This is “Fairytale” on Falkland – one of my favorite fibers in a palette a little outside my usual. Spinning it up was a total dream:

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I spun it fat, fast, and lofty, making it into 122 yards (out of 4 ounces) of bulky 2-ply.

I immediately cast on for a pair of Mukluks:

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And then, it was time for me to leave for Nicaragua on a 10-day trip, to help install water filters in a remote rural village. I knew better than to think I would work on a pair of bulky wool slippers while traveling through the countryside. And by the time I got back, earlier this month, I had other things I needed to focus on. So the slippers have been set aside, perhaps till next fall. In fact, I think my sock-making days are on a hiatus now, too, as I turn my attention to more spring-like knits. The handspun sock-knitting gig was a fun run while it lasted!

Or, Perhaps the Opposite Will Happen

 

So yesterday I did a bunch of math to figure out whether to rip back and add a few rounds to my shawl, and, if so, how many rounds to add, and I determined that yes, I did have enough yarn for that, and the answer was three rounds, and that was what I would do.

And then I proceeded to do the opposite, which was to move forward by intuition instead of math and keep doing the border I was already doing.

What happened was this. First, John pointed out that adding a second picot crochet cast-off border might be a nice idea. I experimented with how that would look and decided that it looked very nice indeed and that this was exactly what I wanted to do.

And then secondly, Annika and Kelly-Ann both commented on my post yesterday, pointing out that of course the picot crochet bind-off was eating a lot more yarn than a regular bind-off. Which is, in fact, extremely true. And my calculations didn’t take that into consideration at all. I mean, I knew it was taking more and yet I had no idea how much, so I didn’t know how to calculate for that. But I decided it would be unwise to add additional knit rounds without knowing the true amount of yarn this cast-off is consuming.

So I decided to just keep doing the border as I’ve been doing, and to weigh the ball of yarn when I’m done to calculate how many yards I have left.

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Then I began to get concerned – what if this bind-off is taking up so much yarn that I will run out before I even finish? Ack. So late last night, without a little less than three-quarters of the bind-off done, I weighed the ball of yarn. It was 3 grams. Three grams! That’s not very much! I calculated that at maybe 20 yards.

But then this morning, I did some more binding off. I worked and worked and worked. And then I weighed the ball of yarn – 3 grams! Hmm. I guess with this light yarn (laceweight-ish), it’s not going to register at less than that for awhile. So I’m just going to keep moving and hope I can out-crochet the yarn. And then, when I’m done with this bind-off, if I do have yarn left (and currently my intuition tells me I will), I will go back and add a double set of picots here and there at various places around the shawl. That sounds pretty, right? Don’t tell me if you don’t think it sounds pretty because I’m very excited about it!

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Right now the shawl looks like an indistinct blog with a curling border. I can’t wait to see it transformed by blocking. SOON!

 

Adventures in Mathletic Knitting: Calculating the Completion of My Pi Shawl

I’m interrupting my parade of last year’s projects to bring you actual up-to-the-date knitting news!

In November, I began working on a handspun Pi Shawl:

Handspun Pi Shawl beginnings

Handspun Pi Shawl beginnings

I have absolutely adored working on this project. It’s my in-between knitting, the thing I pick up when I have a gap between binding off and casting on for other projects, or for when I need to knit something that requires little attention. It has made for good knitting in the morning when I’m still waking up…

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… and in the afternoons when I’m waiting for my kids to be done with music lessons and rehearsals…

knitting during kids' piano lessons

knitting during kids’ piano lessons

… and in the car on my many-miles holiday journeys…

with coordinated nail polish

with coordinated nail polish

It has become such a good companion, that it’s been with a bid of sad surprise to realize this week that I was nearly out of yarn and so needed to go ahead and finish the shawl.

I did a couple of rounds of faggotting and then tried out a sideways garter border.

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Though this was great fun, I didn’t like how it was looking, so after a few inches, I ripped back and tried a picot crochet cast-off:

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I like this a lot. Love it, actually. It’s so easy and fun and gives the perfect finish to this particular project. However, I am about a third of the way done with the bind-off and it turns out I still have plenty of yarn left. I hoarded one long stripe of purple yarn to save for the end and I would love to use all of it, if possible.

Time for some math! Let’s take this step-by-step.

  1. I weighed the yarn – .2 ounces. I started with 768 yards out of 4 ounces of this yarn. So .2 ounces is roughly 38 yards.
  2. I measured the radius with my measuring tape – 23 inches, stretched but unblocked.
  3. The diameter is the radius doubled – 46 inches (again, unblocked).
  4. I had to look up how to determine the circumference from the diameter, and then I felt a bit sheepish. Circumference is the diameter times pi. Of course it is! This being the Pi Shawl should have been a nice reminder to me of that basic equation. At any rate, Circumference times Pi is 46×3.14=144.44.
  5. A good rule of thumb for figuring out how much yarn you need for the bind-off is 3 times the amount of knitting you have left. Let’s round the circumference up (I always round up in knitting, to safe-side things). 145×3=435. This is how many inches of yarn I need to bind off.
  6. Let’s put it in terms of yards since that’s usually how we think of yarn. So let’s divide the number of inches of yarn required by 36, to give me the number of yards required. 435/36=12.08. Again, let’s round up to be safe. I only need 13 yards of yarn to bind off the shawl.
  7. I have 38 yards of yarn left, but I’ve already bound off about a third of the shawl. Since the circumference of the shawl is roughly 145 inches, let’s divide that by 3 to see how much I’ve bound off: 145/3=48.33. But then we multiply it by 3 to estimate how much yarn I’ve used to bind this much off: 48.33×3=145. But then we divide that by 36 to see how many yards: 145/36=4.02. Add that to the 38 I have left in the ball, and I have roughly 42 yards of yarn left.

In other words: I’m ripping back. I have 29 yards of yarn I can knit with before I need to begin the bind-off.

I’m thinking I could probably do three more rounds of faggotting before doing the bind-off, what do you think? (I’m doing a generous estimate of needing twice as much yarn as the circumference for each round of faggotting, but this could be way off.) Of course, once I’ve added a few more rounds, the circumference will have grown a bit (probably by nearly an inch), but I think I’ve allowed enough cushion in my figures to make this work.

I do so much of my knitting by intuition, but sometimes it just makes sense to sit down and deal with the numbers. In this case, I’m especially glad that I did, even though it means ripping back. I have loved the process of this shawl so much that spending a little more time with it is pure joy.

Have you begun to see the well-known geometric theory behind what you have been doing? If you are a man, you will have spotted it right away. If you are a woman (sorry, lib), you probably expunged such theories from your memory the minute you finish high school, or even college, to make room for more useful stuff. It’s Pi; the geometry of the circle hinging on the mysterious relationship of the circumference of a circle to its radius. A circle will double its circumference in infinitely themselves-doubling distances, or, in knitters’ terms, the distance between the increase rounds, in which you double the number of stitches, goes 3, 6, 12, 24, 48, 96 round, and so on to 192, 394, 788, 1576 rounds for all I know. Theory is theory, and I have no intention of putting it into practice, as I do not plan to make a lace carpet for a football field.

– Elizabeth Zimmermann, Knitter’s Almanac: Projects for Each Month of the Year

 

 

Craft Friday

I love Thanksgiving and always have. I love the simple focus on family and food. I love that there are no gift-giving expectations. I love the reminder that I actually already have everything I need – and a whole lot of what I want.

Given that I actually need nothing more than what I have, I am very happy to decline the frenzy of shopping on Black Friday. I choose instead for this to be a gentle, quiet day at home, with my family. As I pick up my needles and yarn, as I put my feet on my spinning wheel, as I practice ancient arts passed down through generations, as I use tools provided by the earth and the animals, I will do so with ongoing gratitude. I am mindful of what a great freedom it is to opt out of consumerist compulsion, and what a great privilege it is to create.

So I’m joining the Craft Friday Party!

A few things I’ll be working on:

handspun colorwork mittens

handspun colorwork mittens


A test-knit for Kirsten, which I had to set aside for a quick gift knit that I finished up in the wee hours last night (pictures and story of that soon).

handspun pi shawl

handspun pi shawl


Of course!

Hello Yarn Romney, "Tideline"

Hello Yarn Romney, “Tideline”


After a few weeks of no spinning, my stash finally told me what needed to go on the wheel next.

cross-stitch!

cross-stitch!


Yep! I started this on Craft Friday four years ago – ’bout time I picked it back up!

So those are a few things I’ll be working on today. How about you?