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 · 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!

Craft · Knitting

Knitting in Humidity

This weekend I had hours and hours to knit. On Saturday it stormed through most of our plans (we even had a little tornado, unusual for this area) and on Sunday, the only plans we had involved Oshawa Ribfest, which is still one of the most North American things I’ve ever seen in my life.

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So many pigs. Delicious, delicious pigs. (Can you believe I was vegetarian once?)

I also had Friday afternoon, at least part of it, but I spent that giving in at last to the urge to dive into the world of Pokemon. I loved the Gameboy games when I was a kid, and spent many pounds of pocket money buying and trading the cards. I was a little monster at it.

It took me so long to give in because I am a highly obsessive person and I knew it would take up too much of my time and energy. Sure enough, a few days later I’m already level 9. Just watch me go.

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That’s not me, by the way. That’s my friend who drove us around in her air conditioned car charging our phones between Pokestops, because we are literally the coolest.

This weekend it was… humid. The kind of humid where breathing is not all that fun and you sweat like you’re running a marathon when you’re cleaning the floors. We have no air conditioning in our apartment. This combination meant that every time I picked up or even brushed against some yarn I wanted to run away.

It would have been different if I had some cotton to hand; that stuff is easy to knit in the heat. But I did not. I couldn’t bear to pick up my yarn with my sticky skin so I spent the weekend playing Sims instead, because making Matt Murdock and Foggy Nelson marry and have seven kids is a perfectly valid way to spend my Sunday afternoon, thank you.

I hope you guys had better weather for knitting.

Do you have a limit to your knitting? Do you put it down in the cold or the heat? Or are you hardcore and keep soldiering on no matter what? If so, I salute you. I reached my limit this weekend.

Craft · Knitting

It’s August. In August, I knit shawls.

This time last year I knit myself a Faroese Jane Eyre shawl, as shown in my last post. Because apparently it takes me a year to get around to posting finished-object photos, at least when it’s of projects I use all the time.

Perhaps I’m developing a habit, because a week ago I cast on Grandifolia by Vickie Hartog which is another shawl, though very different in both style and construction.

Fair warning: I actually know Vickie in real life, so I had a heavy bias in wanting to try out this pattern. That said, I’m pleasantly surprised by how much I love knitting it and how easy it is, even though the charts made my poor brain go kaboom the first time I saw it.

Turns out that once you get into it the charts are very easy to read. They are however very big so marking it off with a pencil is probably a good idea as you go (or however you normally keep track).

Here are some pictures from Instagram (you can follow me here); it’s much bigger now, but you’ll have to wait until it’s done for proper photos.

A photo posted by Polo Lonergan (@knitternerd) on Jul 28, 2016 at 4:31pm PDT

 

I don’t know what it is about August that makes me want to knit shawls but there you go.

By the way, if you love the pattern but don’t know if you can handle that much lace and so many charts, you can always try out the Grandifolia Lite. It’s currently free until October 31st.

Grandifolia Lite
Picture from the Ravelry Grandifolia Lite page. Copyright Vickie Hartog.
Craft · Knitting · Patterns

A Long-Finished Project: The Jane Eyre Shawl

Sometimes a finished object (FO) becomes so useful the moment I cast it off that I forget about it. I forget that I made it. I forget that I spent hours and hours working each stitch, fixing the many mistakes, and cooing over the progress. I forget that at one point I had to pick out the yarn for the pattern that caught my eye and that once this thing I’d made was nothing more than a concept in someone else’s mind.

The moment I cast off my Jane Eyre shawl I started using it. I wrapped it around my shoulders and forgot.

This shawl is my favourite. It’s not particularly fancy but it is perfect for me. It’s big, it’s warm, it’s got just enough detail to keep it interesting. I wear it a lot.

I remember the day I found Literary Knits by Nikol Lohr in my local library. I flicked through and found a pattern based on Jane Eyre. Awesome, I thought; Jane Eyre is my favourite literary character and her strength has given me my own determination more than once in my life. Still, I won’t knit something just because it’s named after a bad-ass woman since there are a thousand patterns out there that I already want to knit, badly named or not.

Then I noticed that the shawl was made in the Faroese style and I was done. I was sold. I had yarn at home that could work and I cast on immediately.

The shawl happened quickly and without much fuss. I loved knitting it but due to that love it was over in no time at all. The only real post I made about it was lamenting my tendency to play Yarn Chicken, which didn’t really cover how much I loved knitting that shawl, though I did recommend the pattern again in a later post about Jane Eyre-inspired knits.

I knitted this shawl… wow. A year ago. See? Time flies when you’re wearing something all the time. Last month I spent a few days camping near Charleston Lake and used the shawl the moment the chill picked up, and finally remembered that I should get some in-use pictures of the project.

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This is what it looks like most of the time. Cosy and amazing.
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It’s big, no? So very perfect.

The reason I love it so much is because of the shape. If you haven’t knit a Faroese shawl before you should consider it; the result of a small bunch of very windy islands, the knitters of the Faroe Islands put shoulder shaping into their shawls. Genius. Practical and stylish! It stays on easily and hugs you like an old friend.

Revisiting the shawl’s creation has been a pleasure. It’s such a part of my daily life that I forgot that I nearly ran out of yarn for it and had to buy more, and that I’d knit it in no time at all in my excitement. I’ll love it even more now.

(Though with the current 30 degree weather and 70% humidity, I might not be wearing it for a while.)

Animals · Craft · Knitting · Yarn

Do you love alpaca yarn too?

If you saw my last post about Nuevo Norte Alpacas and my trip into a little world full of alpaca-based happiness, you will know that I one day intend to keep alpacas.

Why? Well, the first time I felt alpaca yarn my mind was blown. I knew on a vague level that alpacas were a thing, but alpaca turned into my gateway drug into the world of fancy, soft, fluffy, amazing fibre. One small skein of pale blue baby alpaca/silk and I was sold on the world of fibre.

glovet_mediumThat project was one of the early documented ones on the blog, back in December 2011. I had been knitting for about a year and a friend send me the yarn. I found a nice pattern for fingerless mitts, something I’d never needed so badly before I knitted, and spent some of the worst weeks of my life knitting them. I was sick, I was in pain, and I’d had to postpone my year in Canada due to all of the above. (The picture to the side is from when I was bed-bound for a few weeks, and the featured cat is Disney who hated almost everyone but loved me so, so much. Especially when I didn’t move for a while.)

By December I was better and ready to go, but there’s a reason I called them ‘Escapism Mitts’. They gave me the space to enjoy texture and colour and the process of knitting instead of dwelling on the difficulties at the time.

I still have and use the mitts and they still look fabulous.

Since then I would have to say alpaca has remained close to my top spot in terms of my favourite fibre. I knit with wool more often as I knit socks pretty much constantly, but when I have an excuse for alpaca I don’t often resist.

How does that translate into wanting to keep alpacas myself?

My girlfriend and I are animal lovers. We surround ourselves with them, her even more than me (at her work). One day we plan to have a small farm – one they call here a ‘hobby farm’ – and keep a few choice animals. We’ll have alpacas (because I’m deadly serious about it), goats, chickens, horses. Maybe a few cows one day.

I mean, ideally I’d like to have an enormous herd of merino sheep but as I would spend all day running around hugging those giant puffballs, I’ll stick to alpacas.

I mean REALLY.
Just look at this fluffy asshole. – Merino, Glen Orkney, Awatere, Marlborough, New Zealand, CC BY 2.0.

Wait, alpacas are also giant puffballs. Maybe I should reconsider. (I won’t.)

Do you like alpacas? Would you ever like to keep animals for their fibre? If you do already, how do you find it?

 

Craft · Knitting

Let’s talk about socks, baby.

You remember that song in the nineties? Let’s Talk About Sex by Salt-N-Pepa. I used to sing it enthusiastically even though I was under ten, to my mum’s embarrassment. Listening to it now thanks to my inappropriate title and I have to say it’s badass. (And this time I understand what the eff they’re talking about!)

Anyway.

SOCKS. I have knit an unreal amount of them for other people lately, and for myself too. I have knit vanilla socks so much I’m not 100% sure I remember how to knit anything else. Best of all: I am okay with that. If I could knit nothing but vanilla socks for the rest of my life I would still knit as much as I do now, I’d just have REALLY WARM FEET.

Who else shares my love of knitting socks? It’s my default, the thing I slip back to when I mess up on another project or when I’m feeling stressed or distracted.

If sock knitting doesn’t do that for you, what does? What’s your default?

For those who love knitting socks, what’s your favourite pattern? Or are you like me, do you just pick up the needles and go with a plain sock? Do you prefer 1×1 or 2×2 ribbing for the cuff, or something else? Do you use a fancy heel or stick with the heel flap? Do you, like me, have a passionate love for eye of partridge? Do you get excited when you buy Lang sock yarn and it has a yarn baby inside for reinforcement? Are you weirded out that we refer to it as a yarn baby around here? Tell me! I love socks, I am rolling in socks.

Let’s talk about socks, baby.

Craft · Knitting · Needles · Tools

How I Avoid Ladders on DPNs

Whenever I talk about how much I love knitting with double-pointed needles (DPNs), people who aren’t converts talk about the ladder. It’s that awful run of loose stitches you get where you switch needles, and it does make your knitting look less than tidy.

It took me a long time to get the hang of avoiding that ladder and sometimes even now I’ll end up with one if I’m working at an unusual gauge, but I’ve mostly got the hang of avoiding it and this video shows you what I do.

I wasn’t feeling chatty so you get slightly sarcastic, extremely silly captions instead (which is basically my natural speaking tone anyway).

Oh, and you also get some old timey music to cheer you along. You’re welcome.