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Beware those Knitting Gods

October 2, 2012
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Like the ancient gods of the Greeks and Romans, the knitting gods can be benevolent or they can be vengeful. They are tricky, these Knitting Gods. They can make you feel like the smartest person in the world one minute and cut you off at the knees the next. The Knitting Gods have been toying with me this week.

The God of Yarn knows that I am on a yarn diet. She know that I am desperately trying to be a good girl and prove to my husband that I can abstain from purchasing yarn for three measly months. Why make that easy? Oh no, not this God. She knows that my yarn diet coinsides with the precise time that one of my all time favorite yarn companies releases 34 new colorways. 34!!!! Oh Three Irish Girls, how you tempt me. If that wasn’t enough, she ups the ante by having the colorways available at some of my local yarn shops AND offering coupons for online ordering of these new colorways. Oh Yarn God, I am stronger than you! I will resist (as I empty out my online shopping cart and close the internet browser.)

Not wanting to miss out on the fun, the Pattern God has gotten in on the action too. I picked the easiest of patterns for a pair of socks, just two simple twisted stitch patterns down each side with stockinette in between. That first sock flew off the needles and was finished in no time. Seeing how cocky I was with my progress, Pattern God jumped in as I started that second sock. Twice it has been ripped out and restarted. Twice I have missed a row, or three, and not caught it for another few inches. Twice I have attempted to rip back that sock and failed to get all of the stitches back on the needles. What should have been finished last week is only 1/3 of a sock. Oh Pattern God, be gentle, I beg you. Please let me finish this sock before November. I promise I will slow down and read the pattern. I promise to use my post it notes and mark the row I am on.

While Yarn God and Pattern God are enough for any mere mortal to deal with, they weren’t the only ones messing with me. Oh no. I got hit with the big guns. The God of Gauge, working in concert with that little imp, the Superwash Troll. I changed gears last week and decided I needed to work on some colorwork projects. Since I am relegated to stash yarn, and since my stash contains a copious amount of single skeins, what better way to use them up than with a stranded colorwork project?

Gauge God lead me on a merry path. I was confident in my stranding. I steam blocked it as I went and felt that I was knitting the correct size. Gauge God whispered in my ear that it was going to fit the recipient (a young girl) perfectly. Gauge God let me finish that entire hat and then, THEN he told me I should give that hat a proper blocking. Well of course I should! I plunked it in a nice warm bath and left the room for a moment. A moment was all it took for the Superwash Troll to have his fun. Oh how that hat grew. And grew. Oh how the yarn relaxed into the loose knitting that I had bestowed on it. I tried desperately to rescue it. I threw it in the dryer only to hear Superwash Troll chortle from the corner of the room. “Its superwash you idiot! It’s not going to shrink! Ha ha ha!”

Andre the Giant would look fabulous in this hat.

What’s worse, when I went to frog it, those nasty Gods tangled my yarn!

Oh Knitting Gods, I apologize. I would like to atone for whatever sins I have perpetrated against you. I will slow down. I will stop casting on for new projects before I have finished the old projects. I will finish all of those WIPs languishing in the baskets. I will clean up my stash and put away all of the needles and notions scattered around my house. I will make sure I have picked up all of the blocking pins from the floor before someone else steps on one. I will stop insulting acrylic. I will swatch for every project, even it if it just a hat. I will not let the cat get too up close and personal with any more balls of precious yarn.

I will do it all, I promise. Please, please don’t demand that I sacrifice some of my precious cashmere or silk. Please, I beg you.

While you think it over, I will be on the couch sharing some quality time with my new favorite god, Bacchus. How much trouble can I get into hanging out with him?

Swimming with the Fail Whale

September 27, 2012
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Remember that classic graphic from Twitter, when the site was experiencing troubles, the infamous fail whale? Little birds trying to lift a whale? ? I have always loved that graphic not only for the fail it represents, but for the effort still being put forth even though failure was all but inevitable.

He made an appearance at my house this week. I had grand plans for knitting some gifts. I concocted these plans well in advance of when I needed to complete the gifts. I gave myself over a month and a half to accomplish them. Three things I had to get done. Three little things. A scarf, a pair of socks and a skein of yarn. My deadline was today. I have nothing complete.

In short, I failed.

But who, and what, exactly, did I fail? I didn’t fail the intended recipients, they didn’t know the gifts were even coming. I didn’t fail the yarn, or the needles, the roving or the pattern. They are all still there, in good shape, ready to be made into lovely things. The who or what I failed was myself. I didn’t execute my plan like I intended. Sure, there are reasons why I failed in my quest, but there are always REASONS for failure. Mine are pretty basic ones, repeated over and over again. I could have planned my time better, I could have concentrated on the patterns better, I could have remained consistent on my projects, I could have done a lot of things I didn’t do.

In the past I would have been quite upset with myself over this failure. I would have pushed myself harder, I would have stayed up all night, working through the wee hours to get things done. I would have ignored my children and my house and the rest of the inhabitants (No walks for you Kenai!) in favor of pushing myself to try and get at least ONE thing done. I didn’t do that this time. In fact, when I found the mistake on the second sock, three inches back from where I was, I looked the situation over, frogged the entire sock and started over.

Because you know what?

It really didn’t matter. It didn’t matter that I didn’t get the socks done. It didn’t matter that I have started the scarf over three times, only to mess up the pattern again and again. It didn’t matter that I couldn’t frantically spend the night before last spinning so that I could get one skein of yarn spun at least. In the grand scheme of things, none of these things mattered.

This past week I have been reflecting on the things that really matter. I knit because I like it. It calms me, it grounds me. If I finish a project and get a beautiful object out of it, that’s a bonus. If I don’t finish it, who cares? I can always try it again. I can always knit the sock again. I can always start the scarf again and I can always spin some fiber into yarn (once I fix my wheel.) The things that I can’t do again, like watch my daughter’s last tennis match of the season, listen to my son and his friend play terribly on the trombone, tease my eldest child about his job ambitions, sit next to my husband and just enjoy our time together, these are the things that really matter. At the end of the day, when I look at the pile of unfinished things sitting in the basket, or the yarn wound up waiting to be cast on, I need to remember those things.

Start each morning with a hug. End the day with a kiss. Say ‘I love you” often. Enjoy the time that you are given.

If I can do those things every day, I will know I haven’t failed. That’s got to count for something, right?

Diet or Bust Baby!!!

September 19, 2012
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Gosh darnit. I went and did it. I said the words. I made the promise. Now I have to hold myself accountable. I hate holding myself accountable.

What on earth did I go and do?

I uttered the “d” word. I agreed to go on a, *gasp*, yarn diet. Along with the dieting comes some busting, stash style. My stash may have gotten a little bit bigger over the last several months. Now, I am not saying I have spent a lot of money on yarn (it remains a possibility) nor am I saying that yarn may be taking over my bedroom (It squishes nicely under the bed) but it might be time to curtail the acquisitions a wee bit. Therefore, via text messages and over dinner last night, I told the long suffering husband that I would go on a yarn diet and not buy anymore yarn for the rest of the year. For three and a half LONG months!

What does this mean, exactly? It means that I have to stay out of yarn shops. And away from fiber festivals. And off of Etsy. And off of all internet yarn retailers . . . I can’t even give into the errant skein of Lion Brand from Michaels. All of it needs to stop tempting me with its beauty until I have managed to use up some of the lovely things I already have. It means that all of the Christmas presents I am currently plotting to knit needs to come from my stash. Can you believe it? I have to give away MY yarn!

Me thinks I doth protest too much, eh?

Truth be told, I think this is going to be a good thing. Just don’t tell the husband that. I could use a chance to go through all of the wonderful yarns I have and put them to good use. After a couple years months in the stash, I have probably forgetten about some of them. That’s not good for any yarn. It will also give me a chance to go through the stash and check it again for moth signs before the winter comes. Can’t have those nasty buggers ruining all of my yarn!

There are some parameters for this little yarn diet experiment of mine. They include:

  1. Any yarn already ordered gets to come in. If there is any. . . There might be some. . . I can’t remember. . . .
  2. Any yarn from yarn clubs or fiber clubs gets to come in. However, I can’t add to those club orders (the thought had crossed my mind less than two minutes after I made the promise.) And no, I can’t sign up for any more clubs.
  3. Pattern purchases are allowed. I need to have something on which to use the yarn don’t I?
  4. If kind and generous people were to GIVE me yarn, well, I can’t refuse their lovely gesture, now can I? Gift yarn gets to come in as well. Hint, hint.

For the next few months I am going to see how much yarn I can knit up from my stash. Once I figure out how to get it working, I will put up a knitmeter on the blog to keep track of how many miles yards of yarn I can knit up. Hopefully I will be able to post a weekly tally of yarn used up, as well as a steady stream of finished objects. Provided I finish projects. I have a lot of needles. I could have a lot of WIPs going on. . . better not think about that.

Parameters that have not been worked out are the following:

  1. What happens if I start a project and run out of yarn before I finish it? I think I should be able to get enough yarn to finish. Mike thinks I will play the system, start a sweater with two skeins of yarn and then suddenly need to buy 8 more. I think he has a suspicious mind. Who’s right?
  2. Do I get to buy more needles? Or stitch markers?
  3. If I take the three alpaca fleeces in my garage to a mill and get it spun into yarn, does that could as adding to the stash? I mean, I already have the fleece . . .

I bet you are wondering, sInce I am being such a good little girl, what I get out of the deal. Well . . .

I get to knit my husband a sweater. A sweater that he has agreed to wear no matter how terribly it turns out. Not that it will be terrible, but I thought it wise to get that agreed upon up front. Even better, I get to BUY yarn for his sweater since I don’t own any suitable yarn for a man’s sweater. Any yarn I want. Any yarn that he and I agree will work for the pattern he has picked out.

It’s a win/win situation right? I get to bust a little stash and then add 2000 yards back into it to it to turn into a sweater for my favorite guy. I can’t lose, can I?

P.S. Anyone have any good stash busting patterns?

P.P.S. Yes, I get to buy wine.

Much Too Young to Act this Old

September 18, 2012
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I was going to tell you all about my recent trip to Washington, D.C. I was going to tell you all about my sightseeing adventures and the fun that I had. That was what I was going to do but now I am too worked up over something to do that.

Yesterday afternoon I found myself in another waiting room. This time it was the dentist’s office waiting for my son to get some filings. (As a side note, do a better job of brushing your darned teeth child! This is getting ridiculous!) As I do when I am stuck in a waiting room, I knit. This time it was a sock and I was at the beginning, sloughing through the 1×1 ribbing on the cuff. I love to watch people in waiting rooms while I knit. It is a never ending stream of amusement. Today man and his daughter came in for their appointments. He was a very friendly fellow, a little older than I, cracking jokes with the receptionist, while his daughter, a teenager with jet black dyed hair, took a seat, got out her chemistry book and start on her homework, all while ignoring her dad. I am quite familiar with these actions, being the mother of a 12 yr old girl. Since she wasn’t interested talking, he moved on to me.

He noticed my knitting and remarked that I must have just started the project. Since I was knitting the ribbing of a cuff down sock, that was a good assumption. He then told me about his grandmother and how she used to spend all of her time making those multi colored “flowery” things. She would have piles of them, he told me. Then she and her friends, all “old ladies”, would all get together and make them into blankets. I told him that it sounded like she crocheted and that she was making the classic granny square blankets. It was a lost cause to explain the differences of knitting and crochet to him, and besides, he seemed like a pleasant enough fellow. Until he said this: “You seem much too young to be doing that.”

I have spent the last 24 hours trying to let it go. I am fully aware it was just an offhanded comment from someone who had never met me before. He didn’t know me, didn’t know what I was like and was only equating knitting with his own experiences. Easy to let go of and move on, right?

Except that I can’t.

I know, I shouldn’t take exception at being told I was too young, whatever the reason for it. This was different. Upon seeing that I was a knitter, which is immediately lumped into the category of “grandmotherly”, I felt like I had been told I didn’t fit in. For goodness sake, I have an 18 yr old son. Biologically speaking, he could, in fact, make me a grandmother. (If he does anytime soon, I might kill him. Please, please, please, use common sense my child.) Why does knitting have to have the reputation of being a grandmotherly activity?

I am a wife, a mother to 3 highly active children and I work full time. I also travel, can handle a compound miter saw with the best of them, have been known to shoot tequila, cuss like a sailor, run, cross country ski, hike, create stained glass, swim, dance on tables, play quarters, cheer my boys on at hockey games and a whole heck of a lot more. I generally don’t have much of a filter and often times say exactly what I am thinking, the consequences be damned. I don’t have a neat, orderly house but do have an extensive collection of boots. On the best of days our family operates on a level just short of chaos. In short, not your typical grandmotherly type.

According to the Craft Yarn Council, today’s average knitter is far from the grandmotherly type as well.

“For the third consecutive year, CYC conducted its research online in late fall of 2011. The sheer volume of respondents substantiates trends in consumers’ perception of these crafts and their motivation to purchase yarn. All regions of the country were represented and the data is projectable to all online knitters and crocheters. Sixty-three percentage of respondents said they both knit and crochet, while 23% said they only crochet and 14% they only knit. The age range of respondents also represents a broad cross section: 18% were 18-34 years old, 19% were 35 to 44, 29% were 45 to 54, 26 % 55 to 64, 8% 65+.”

The CYC also estimates that there are over 38 million knitters in the US.  The online website Ravelry has over 2 million registered members.  Keep in mind, these numbers only represent the crafters who have the technological skills and access to go online.  That’s a lot of younger, tech savvy knitters.

I live in the greater Twin Cities metro area.  According to the state census, the population of this seven county area is small compared to a lot of urban areas, but still stands at 2,873,444 in 2011.   A quick survey of the yarn shops listed by the Minnesota Knitter’s Guild shows 23 yarns shops just in those seven counties.  That number doesn’t include the big box stores such as JoAnn Fabrics, Michaels Arts and Crafts and Walmart, all of which sell a lot of different yarns, nor do they include many shops who aren’t listed with the Minnesota Knitter’s guild, or any of the independent dyers, spinners, or farms in the area that also sell yarn.  Knitting and crocheting seem to be popular activities, fully capable of supporting many small businesses.

The people who I know and meet that knit are as wide and diverse as you can get.  There are my high school friends who knit and crochet, a past board president of a large non profit who fully understands not only my project polygamy but also my need for stash, teen age girls, my mother in law and her friends, cousins much younger than I.  My co-worker, who is 10+ years younger than me, is knitting several pairs of fingerless mitts for her future sister in law’s bridesmaids.  I have taught girls from my daughter’s girl scout troop to knit and now my 10 yr old son’s best friend can rock a mean knit stitch.  While I was in Washington DC a couple of weeks ago, browsing a yarn store (souvenir yarn of course) I chatted with a woman in her early 20s who was in town for a girls’ weekend/bachelorette party.  Her friends hadn’t yet arrived so she was hanging out in a yarn shop she had never been to, talking to the other knitters around the table, both women and men, whom she had just met, while knitting on a shawl.   If you do even the quickest of Google searches regarding knitting blogs or podcasts, your results will be as diverse as you can get.  Young, old, male, female, they are all represented.

Why did that one little comment get me so riled up?  I know who I am and I am quite comfortable with her.  I have no fear of knitting anywhere, anytime, with anyone.   I knit in waiting rooms, on planes, at hockey games, on subways, at the pool, in restaurants, it doesn’t bother me at all to get the odd look or question from someone as to what I am doing.   Except when I hear the sterotype of what a typical knitter should be.  That gets me angry.   I am white, female and in the middle class.  I don’t often get sterotyped, except when I am knitting.  I am not old enough to be a grandmother so why on earth would I be doing a grandmotherly thing?   Frankly, the grandmothers I know don’t fit into the “grandmother” persona either, knitting or non knitting.  They are out kayaking, traveling to France and hiking the Superior National Hiking Trail.  They also drink wine with me at the fire, will drive for an hour and a half to visit a yarn shop and can cross country ski and bike me into the ground.

I should be happy someone thought I was “too young.”  I’m not.  I am only “too young” in connection to his preconceived notion of knitting grandmothers.   Knitters come in all ages, shapes and sizes.  We are as varied as the projects we make.  We may have a little too much yarn and spend a lot of time playing with it, but we are also armed with pointy sticks.  Don’t mess with us or project your sterotypes onto us.  We will poke holes in all of them.

Now if you will excuse me, I have to go block the lace shawl I just finished, turn the heel on the sock I am working on, listen to a knitting podcast, install my new microwave and watch my daughter’s tennis match.  Maybe I will even have time to spin. By candle light.  While wearing my bonnet.

Perfectly Normal

September 14, 2012
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I am trying to pack my bag for a weekend away, again. This seems to be the normal in my life lately. As is the case whenever I pack, I first have to finally bring up my pile of laundry from the basement and fold it. Then, and only then, can I find the stuff I want to pack.

After I finished folding everything and headed to my closet with a pile of teeshirts to put away, I found this.

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Perfectly normal behavior, right?

A change in the air

September 3, 2012
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Can’t explain, there’s something strange about the early fall
It’s a comfort leaving me without a care

~Clint Black

The time has come. A time to say goodbye.

Good bye to one last jump.

Goodbye to one last swim.

A time to pull the boats from the water.

A time to smell the flowers one last time.

One last treat, before we hit the road.

The sun has set on summer this year.

It was magical.

Hello fall.

I am ready for you.

Forethought or Foolishness?

August 31, 2012
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I am packing to go to the cabin this morning for one last trip up north before school starts. This is something I have done hundreds of times over the past 15 years. I know exactly what I do and don’t need to pack and it should be a piece of cake to throw my stuff in a bag and be on my way. It should be. . . but it isn’t.

My clothes are packed, what personal items I bring (who does their hair or makeup at lake?) are in the bag, I have even remembered to stick my running shoes in the bag in case I get inspired. That isn’t my problem. My problem is packing my knitting projects. Here is what I have set out to bring so far.

In that pile are two socks in progress, a shawl, a bag and a scarf that needs to be cast on and started for the third time. Even with all of those items, I am still finding myself digging through my stash pulling out different yarns and searching Ravelry for patterns.

Why on earth am I doing this? I am not a fast knitter by any means. I am going to the lake for a whole TWO days. I have to drive the three hours up to the cabin. I am bringing kids with me who need to be supervised. The dog is coming too. I am not going to have a whole heck of a lot of time to knit on any of the projects I have set out but in my deluded little mind, I can’t help but think of the “what ifs”.

What if it rains all weekend and we can’t go outside and do anything? What if the kids just want to swim all day long and I have to sit on the pontoon boat and knit while watching them? What if my knitting speed suddenly triples over night and I start tearing through projects? What if I can convince the 18 yr old to drive on the way home? What if I get terribly bored with every project I have brought and desperately need to cast on for something new? What if I squirrel steals all of my projects and I have nothing to knit with? What if all of our cars (there will be 5 of them there this weekend) develop mechanical troubles and we are stuck at the lake for a week? Or even a month? What if . . . What if the zombie apocalypse is THIS weekend?

I know, I know. I may have a little bit of a problem. I have plenty of projects to work on already. We are probably going to go on a road trip Saturday to a yarn shop. If the best should happen and I finish everything I brought, there is a little yarn store in town that sells Peaches and Cream cotton yarn.   I can always make wash clothes. I need to quit the craziness, finish packing my bag and get out of town before the traffic gets too heavy.

Right after I wind up this skein of sock yarn.  Because you never know what could happen . . .

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