Craft · Knitting

Getting past the ugly for beauty’s sake

You won’t always love everything about knitting. Quite often you won’t even love the thing you’re knitting right now, even though you were super excited to get started on it. That’s okay! Learning to tolerate and embrace the less-fun things about life and knitting will help you get a handle on the best things.

Let me give you an example: last year, I designed my own shawl (which will eventually make it to the interwebs). I usually avoid long gradient yarns, which means yarns that are died in long, gradual stripes of colour, but my LYS owner got in some simply fabulous locally dyed stuff from Blue Brick yarns and I snapped some up without thinking about it.

The colours are something special. It starts a rich evening-sky blue and melts into a sea green before finishing on the colour of soft wet sand. I grew up with seaspray hitting my bedroom window, so I’m a creature of the coast. Now I live a few hundred miles from the nearest ocean.

Despite the colourway apparently being something to do with a barn (and chickens?) I see the seaside, because we all see what is most important to us.

Weymouth harbour, Dorset, UK
Weymouth harbour, Dorset, UK. I walked past this scene daily as a young adult.

I’ve lived in Canada for three years, nestled a short way outside of Toronto. I can see the lake from my window where I work, but it doesn’t move right and Lake Ontario often smells like it’s been left out in the damp too long. There are no waves, no sea spray hitting my windows, no crashing against the cliffs. The only time I get homesick is when I think of standing on the beach in my hometown, shin-deep in saltwater, toes tangled in seaweed.

Looking at this gradient, I saw everything I missed about living on the coast. An idea splashed into my mind immediately and I picked up the needles.

Knitting this shawl went in several stages. At first I forgot about the colour and focused only on the knitting, on constructing a shawl for the first time from the inside of my determined brain. It was going well, so as the wingspan grew, so did my fascination with the colours. I ogled. I prompted strangers to admire it. I loved it with all my bitter little heart.

Until I didn’t.

With only the edging to finish, I looked at the shawl, then peered at what was left of the skein. For once I had decided to knit from the centre of the ball, just to shake things up a bit. Usually I prefer the neatness that comes from knitting from the outside, though anyone who knows my chaotic tendencies may find that surprising. It meant the blue/green was in the shawl and the gold/brown was in the skein, and disappointment flooded me. How had I not noticed how drab the colours were? They didn’t pop at all! How did I see my hometown beach in this?

Disheartened but too invested to stop, I continued knitting. I ripped back a few inches because I tried to drown out the colour with a pattern too complex for the original idea. I considered stopping knitting it completely, but then as the yarn moved from bright blue to damp brown, I realised something: I liked it.

The Beach Shawl - Knitter Nerd
A small blurry representation of the colour. The blue makes it pop.

I didn’t (and still don’t) like the gold/brown colour on its own. It’s boring and not at all a shade that would appeal to me outside of a big dollop of mustard. Or cheese. Or actual wet sand on Weymouth beach (softest ever, true facts).

Yet when I held the shawl up, blocked and ready to go, I was glad that I continued. Though the colour itself was unremarkable, the finished piece made me happier than I had been with a creation in a long while. I loved the completed shawl, even if I didn’t love the brown. After all, the individual colours are not the point.

Life is like that too, have you noticed? Sometimes you’re going through such a great time, ambling along with bits of your life falling into a neat little pattern that’s leading you just where you want to be, and then you’ll step in a big fat pile of dog poop and your day is ruined. It’s easy, in situations like that, to forget the overarching gradient of the day/week/millennium and focus only on that one stripe of colour.

Suddenly, a day that had been shining with bright, beautiful colours becomes invisible, taken over by that one brown smear.

The Weymouth Shawl - Knitter Nerd
Image of the shawl blocking. I have not touched it since. Whoops.

This is an unfortunate glitch in the human brain. Spoilers for both life and gradient yarns: nothing is forever. You will clean your shoe and move on from that steaming shitpile, and you will knit past the colour you hate. Don’t stop. If you stop, you’re stuck in that poop for good, and you’ve wasted your day. Would you stop knitting a pair of self-striping socks because you don’t like the individual stripes alone?

What I’m saying here, minus the gratuitous poop comments, is that sometimes you’ve got to ignore the terrible stench on your shoe.

Wait, no. That’s not at all what I’m saying.

I’m saying that if you keep knitting past that colour you don’t love, you’ll end up with a project you do. And even if you don’t, you’ve still completed something with talent and meaning, and your life is richer in experience if not in shawls. Keep knitting past the mustard smear. It’s worth it.

This is a small chunk of something I’ve been writing for a while outside of my blog. I’ve never posted any of it anywhere, so I’d really appreciate hearing what you folks think. Do you want to see longer, more in-depth posts about craft, especially how it relates to self-development and activism? Let me know!

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Craft · Knitting

Sewing in the ends

It’s the hardest thing to do. Not because it’s a complicated endeavour, but because if you put that finished project down for five damn seconds, it’s impossible to get around to picking it back up within a month.

No? Just me?

I do this all the time. A few months ago I decided to knit my partner a hoody since she wears them a lot and I don’t care about the sweater curse, we’re basically married anyway (we’ve been together nearly seven years, when did this happen, and if living on different continents for some of that time didn’t break us, the sweater curse hasn’t got a chance). I finished it just after Christmas, then decided I was done with it and would give it to her for Valentines, honest.

It’s May. This weekend, mid-concussion and still unable to knit because my tendons hate me, I picked up the hoody. I took ten minutes to sew in the ends, and suddenly I have a completed project on my hands.

She likes it. I’m giving it to her just in time for it to be too warm for her to wear, but no one ever said I was made of logic.Hoody for Nari - Knitter Nerd

It’s currently spread out behind me on my blocking mats, mocking me by taking roughly five bajillion years to dry. I also have to sew on the buttons but I won’t put that off once it’s dry – my partner now knows it exists, so I have to get around to it. Them’s the rules.

(That didn’t work when I made her the Avengers blanket, though… That took about eighteen months to give to her.)

This is clearly something I need to change. I sorted out my basket of random projects the other day and realised roughly 25% of them are about ten minutes from being finished. Do I just not like finishing things? Do I have commitment issues? Or do I just get too easily distracted?

Since my hands aren’t letting me knit at all these days, I may as well take some time to weave in some ends and finish up some older projects. After all, that will make me look super productive with minimal effort. Why yes, I did finish a sweater and a pair of socks and a shawl all in one weekend! (I started that shawl about 4 years ago, but that will go unsaid.)

It turns out knitters are a predictable lot, so I know I’m not the only one to do things like this. Has anyone got any tips for getting past it?

Craft · Inspiration · Knitting

Craft group success

When organising an event you can never tell if it’s going to go well. As a kid, I hated birthday parties for this very reason. I’ve mostly avoided organising things in my adult years, preferring the method of ‘turn up and hope others do too’ socialising. It’s easier that way and you don’t have to get so invested in the outcome. However, I took a different take in organising the craft group at the local mosque, and I’m glad I did.

With a lot of help from a lovely woman at the mosque called Asma, the event was a resounding success. (Read about it here if you don’t know what I’m talking about.) Not only did people come, they enjoyed it. People started mingling the moment we opened the doors, and everyone was smiling and enjoying themselves.

Every time I think about it I want to cry or laugh, possibly both. It feels good to foster decent relationships and bonds in the community. It feels good to see people stepping outside of their comfort zones and the strict social lines we follow in order to have fun and meet new people.

It’s a small thing, but it felt wonderful.

The event is going to be a monthly deal, so if you’re local to me (hello Oshawa) let me know and I’ll give you the details.

Books · Craft · Knitting

Knitting socks (which actually fit)

Yesterday I picked up my knitting and started a new sock. It’s for a friend from yarn they bought. I have their foot measurements already, so I did a gauge swatch (I know, shocking for me!) and figured out the maths of the whole thing. This is much, much more organised than I usually am in sock knitting, but there’s a reason for it: if I’ve worked it out right, they’ll actually fit my friend.

In the past I’ve been lax about this, bizarrely. I’m a bit of a lax person when it comes to fine details anyway, so it’s not a shock that it transferred over to my knitting. Relaxed, that’s what I am. That sounds a lot better than ‘absent-minded and all over the place’. Sometimes I’ve knitted socks that barely fit my foot and are too loose around the leg, but I don’t care. I kept them, I wear them. I’m stubborn that way, and I still love my creations.

However, it is possible to make socks that actually fit, and I learnt that last year.

I think I mentioned that my friend and I went to a class with Kate Atherley at The Purple Purl. We turned up late because Toronto traffic is evil but even in that time we learnt so much.

Kate Atherley has very strong feelings on socks. I respect that. She showed us how to measure our feet and what gauge to aim for and what yarn is best for socks. By the end of the night I was so inspired by the awesomeness that is knitting and maths that I went out and designed my own shawl – not sure how that is what my brain took out of it, but you can’t account for the little grey cells.

If you want to learn about this magic and set your knitting brain aflame, you should check out Kate Atherley’s book Custom Socks: Knit to Fit Your Feet. No, this is not a sponsored post; I do not yet even own this book, though it’s on my wishlist and one day I shall have it, it shall be mine, my precioussss. However, I’ve had enough looks at it to know that it’s incredibly useful.

Even better, it’s logical thinking that’s tricked my illogical mind into actually planning ahead when knitting something. Sometimes. Okay, occasionally at best, but it’s a start.

Do you use unmodified patterns for socks or do you do your own thing to make it fit perfectly?

Craft · Knitting

The power of the pink hats

There’s a lot going on right now, isn’t there? Somehow the USA has a large Cheeto for a President, and he’s already trying to gaslight the average person on the very easily-observable facts about the inauguration. The only good thing to come out of it was the Women’s March that spanned the globe and brought out millions of people in support of the rights that the Angry Yam is threatening to take away.

I didn’t hear about the Pussy Hat Project until too late. I’m sure you’ve heard of it, but for the three people in the world who haven’t, here’s the website.

(There are people who missed it, by the way, like this star pupil:)

sigh.PNG

It makes me proud to be part of a community that can come together and create a symbol for an important movement basically on the fly, then make it such a big deal that people outside of the community notice.

The march was just the start, of course. There’s a lot of work to do even if we’re not in the US. Still, it’s heartening to know there is a resistance, and that resistance will not die because the President pretends it isn’t happening or outright lies about it. Though I’m still not 100% convinced I didn’t knock myself out and end up in some strange dystopian coma dream, I think this proves that knitters, along with millions of others, are ready for the fight that’s coming.

Craft · Knitting

Lack of Knitting Time

Due to some circumstances changing in my life, I don’t have as much knitting time as I used to. I haven’t finished a major project I’ve been working on, and nor have I finished a hat I’m knitting for a coworker. I started a pair of socks to knit on my breaks at work just because I’m so desperate to knit socks, but in general I don’t have as much time as I used to for the knitting frenzy.

Of course, tonight is knit night which is the best night of the week (proven by Science). It is when I go hang out at my LYS with a bunch of fabulous folk making bad jokes and eating cookies. Thankfully, it’s also two hours of completely uninterrupted knitting time, which is just what I need.

Since I can’t knit too much right now, help me out. Give me my fix! What’s on your needles? A link or a picture would be greatly appreciated. Let me live vicariously through you.

Craft · Knitting

Of course I forget to take a picture.

Yesterday was our Secret Santa exchange at work. In a group of about 40, you would think this would be less fun that it is, but since we’re a close-knit group we all know each other well enough to get a decent present. Everyone seemed chuffed with theirs, and I was super excited to give mine.

You see, three days before the Secret Santa was due I decided to completely lose my mind and knit a pair of mittens for my recipient’s gift. He’s a big sports fan so I knitted him a pair of Toronto Maple Leaf-inspired mittens, and somehow I managed to get them finished less than an hour before my shift started that day. I wanted to swiss-darn a pattern on the mittens but ended up crocheting a maple leaf for them instead, but it turned out okay and I was pleased with them.

Of course that coworker turned up in a Toronto Maple Leafs Christmas sweater that day, so I spent all day excited about him opening his gift (which included a couple of other items along the same theme). It seemed to take forever to get to him but he opened them and gave me a hug and I was pleased.

This is why knitting for decent people is fun; they get a kick out of it, and you get a hug.

Still, I’m only about 40% of the way through a large gift that I need to finish by Christmas Eve, so I probably should have reconsidered the whole idea before it took hold.

No regrets.

Are you guys doing Christmas knitting this year? How is it going?

Craft · Knitting

Let’s Put Cute Things on Cute Small People

My coworker happens to be quite a nice person – and rather pregnant. Since I had some leftover yarn and an urge to make something small and adorable I whipped up a couple of gifts for her future sprog.

When I finished them I left them on her desk while she was on lunch. Cue everyone keeping a diligent eye out for her, all squirming with anticipation. It was fun, and she liked the gifts.

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I didn’t use a pattern for either of these, just looked on the baby hats page of Ravelry and chose a shape I liked, then cast on without reference. It was entertaining and for once didn’t end in disaster.

(By the way, that cardigan I was making? Oh, how that turned south. Don’t worry, we’ll discuss it as soon as I can face it.)

The hat was a tube which I joined with kitchener stitch at the top, then tied the corners into little ears. The mittens were simple enough, but I crocheted and sewed little pads on to make them match the hat. This kid is already going to be a cutie, and now they have a nice little snug addition to their wardrobe!

Craft · Knitting

The Cardigan Continues

If you saw my last post, you’ll know I’m in the middle of a binge of sweater knitting. A cardigan is on its way into my life, piece by piece.

Yep, piece by piece – I’m not knitting it in one piece. I hate sewing things up, but I’m sure it will be worth it because this cardigan is going to be glued to me for the whole of autumn and probably a large portion of the winter.

So far I’ve made only two mistakes, though they were big ones.

  1. I made the back about two inches too small. I don’t know how I managed that. I’m going back in a few days to rip out the top bit and add a couple of inches. Not ideal, but I will pull through.
  2. When decreasing the right front of the cardigan I started doing both the neck and the shoulder on the same side of the section, which apparently is not how human bodies work.

Both of these problems could have been solved by printing off the pattern and actually reading it as I go along instead of skimming it in the morning and making it up, because you know, that’s a sensible way to do it. (Though this time I’m not just making it up completely as I would on a less important project; I do write down some small notes. Just… not enough.)

After work today I decided to go to the library to print off the pattern but alas, they’d changed how the system worked and I messed it up and then there were no computers so I was outta luck, buddy. Maybe I’ll try again tomorrow. Or maybe not.

Maybe I’ll just keep making it up and see what happens.

(By the way the pattern is Cushing Isle by Amy Herzog, though I’m using the Custom Fit generator for it. More on that stroke of genius when the sweater is done!)

Craft · Knitting

Suddenly, a cardigan appears

Over the last week I have finished a few projects  (on their way to the blocking mat) and frogged one fairly major project (story coming later this week). Since everything on the needles is giving me attitude, I decided to start a project I’ve been excited about for a while.

Plus it was my birthday Sunday. What better excuse to cast on a cardigan?

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I only started this yesterday and it’s already ten inches deep. It’s a welcome break from troublesome projects!