Friday, August 2, 2013

26th New Thing ~ Have Yarn. . .Will Travel.

Until this New Thing, the only thing I knew how to knit was my brow.

My grandmother taught me to crochet when I was a little girl.
Specifically, she taught me to crochet a single crochet chain. I could crochet the longest and single-est chain you could ever need. Mostly because she never showed me how to end the chain. So, I kept going and going....

Now there wasn't much practical use for a long, single chain of crocheted yarn. This was before thongs became mainstream. So I'm not sure what I thought I was making....a hair-tie maybe, a book mark? A garrote?

Since it turned out that I was not exactly a 'natural' when it came to crochet, Grandma and I never advanced to knitting. And frankly, as a kid, this was a huge relief. Requiring two needles, knitting looked twice as involved as crochet.

(If you're reading this and not sure the difference between crocheting and knitting, it's okay, you're welcome to go read other posts.... the Oil Change, the Raw Oyster or the Hockey...)

Years after mastering the single-chain, with various babies and corresponding baby showers on my schedule, my mom helped me get past my single-chain mental block. Teaching me to crochet my first real project: A baby's blanket.

I loved to crochet and over the next few years, baby blankets and grown-up afghans, abound.

To crochet was to relax. To stop for breath, during days filled with diapers, cooperative preschool, VBS, 4th grade science fairs and dentist appointments. At the end of each long day, once the kids were in bed, at least for the next five minutes, I could crochet. It wasn't my life's passion but it was something I could count on, and calming, in that.

I loved the comfortable, familiar motions that my hands (eventually) knew by heart.
I also loved that in the end, there was a beautiful, hand-crafted gift to give.
But the aspect that I cherished most was that with each back-loop and double-chain, I thought of the recipient.
This is the quiet but priceless benefit of the handmade gift. Thinking of the person to whom you'll give: as you go through each step of crafting an item, as a blanket emerged, row by steady row, the emotional connection I felt with the person who would use the blanket. Crocheting a blanket could often take weeks. And each day, I thought with affection of the recipient: The baby on the way. The sick friend. The beloved family member. The family member's dog. (Okay, that was more of a novelty gift but a true story. I did, in fact, crochet a blanket for a dog.) It feels like the very best energy, to hold someone in your thoughts, in your heart that way, as you create a true gift with your hands.

Well, if this post is about Sue teaching me to knit, then I am, as Elise would say, "In the weeds." And it's true; I have wondered off topic. But some weeds are beautiful and whimsical and worth an unintended diversion. One man's weeds are, perhaps, another's wildflowers.

We planned a day in Seattle, to end with a concert at The Neptune Theater.  (See the next New Thing...#27) But before we put our Metal Face into practice, we made a stop at the UW bookstore. This is where I learned to knit. At a quiet corner table surrounded by books about needlework and crafts.
Sue generously provided the tools for my beginning experience. Different colors of yarn. Different sized needles.

I started with wonderful blue yarn and these beautiful bamboo needles.

It was inspiring, watching Sue's lovely hands in their natural rhythm. She made it look so easy.

I've said before...there are some New Things, in which, lugging around a large camera is not practical. Or simply contrary to the spirit of the New Thing. I didn't take my camera but did I take a couple shots with my phone.

With Sue beside me, I began to knit....slow and steady. And it was going okay. But then the first mistake I made, I started to unravel my work. Sue stopped me.
When you make a mistake crocheting, you simply unravel your work to before the mistake. Then you start again. No need to look at the mistake too closely, just continue on as if it didn't happen. It's like traveling back in the needlework-space/time-continuum. And one can unravel as many times as needed.
In knitting? Not so much. Knitting, it turns out, is more like real life. Unable to unravel back to a previous state, we find ourselves having to make the most of our mistakes and move on. (Not my favorite part about real life, frankly.)

It's unfortunate that I didn't arrange to have yarn from the wool of Shepherd's Bounty for this New Thing. (See the 11th New Thing ~ Sheep Whisperer) It seems crazy now that this didn't occur to me ahead of time. (Perhaps I could have spun my own Cheviot wool into yarn. Although spinning wool wouldn't have been a New Thing.)
One of the 'hazards' of the New Thing year, is feeling quite disorganized and at times overwhelmed with goals, planning and courage mustering. And the little details that can slip through the cracks, in the process. But there are other knit projects ahead, so I'll work that out for the future.

In the weeks following my first lesson, I picked up the needles to stitch at least one row each day. Trying to keep it fresh in my mind. In my hands. It felt good. Until I made a mistake and Sue was not with me to help fix it. I just had to suck it up and keep knitting

I'm not sure what it will be when it grows up. 
But this is my progress so far, mistakes and all.

26th New Thing ~ Learn to Knit

When I was drafting this post, I surfed for some quotes on knitting. I didn't end up needing them but these from Good Reads are so fun, I'm including them here.

Advice for New Knitters
When choosing a pattern, look for ones that have words such as "simple", "basic", and "easy". If you see the words "intriguing", "challenging", or "intricate", look elsewhere. 
If you happen across a pattern that says "heirloom", slowly put down the pattern and back away.
"Heirloom" is knitting code for "This pattern is so difficult that you would consider death a relief".” 
― Stephanie Pearl-McPheeAt Knit's End: Meditations for Women Who Knit Too Much

“In the nineteeth century, knitting was prescribed to women as a cure for nervousness and hysteria. Many new knitters find this sort of hard to believe because, until you get good at it, knitting seems to cause those ailments.
The twitch above my right eye will disappear with knitting practice.” 
― Stephanie Pearl-McPheeAt Knit's End: Meditations for Women Who Knit Too Much

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