Saturday, March 24, 2007

the beginning

I'm often asked how or when I learned to knit. The true answer is: I don't really know! I know that it was when I was in elementary school, since I have memories of knitting in those years, but I'm not really sure when, or who exactly taught me. I assume that it was my mom and her mom, but I don't have any memory of learning.

I do remember occasionally getting the urge to make something and turning to my mom's knitting stash. I would root through her knitting bag and find a pair of needles that I found interesting (they were colored nylon mostly). Then I would dig around in her yarn stash (99% acrylic) and find a color that I liked. Then I would sit down with her worn copy of Mon Tricot Knitting Dictionary and try out different stitch patterns. I would imagine some amazing thing that would be created out of the stitch I chose and sit down to figure it out. I believe that this is how I learned to read pattern instructions, using the glossary of abreviations in the book.

These compulsive knitting experiences never really produced much in the way of finished objects. Maybe a doll blanket or a coaster, but mostly I would end up undoing everything when I got bored of it, or when I ran into the limitations of not actually knowing how to make anything other than a rectangle.

This sporadic, compulsive knitting behavior went on from time to time but I don't remember ever making any completed objects. It wasn't until I was in college that I completed something to wear.

I was procrastinating wanting to do something creative while studying and went to Lewiscraft in the mall. I suddenly really wanted to make myself a toque so I picked out some yarn I thought would be warm and that would fit with the mental picture I had and a pattern book with toques in it. I picked out a pair of needles that the pattern book said to use. I was excited.

I worked hard on that toque, re-teaching myself how to knit and learning how to make something that wasn't rectangular. This was before the days of the knit-blogs, knit-forums etc. so I didn't have anyone to talk me through it. I just wanted to do it and I did.

It was wool, I had never used wool for knitting before. My mom only had acrylic and cotton in her stash because her skin is extremely sensitive to wool. (Although, she did make me a wool sweater once. What a sacrifice that was for her to work with all that wool!) I loved it. I felt accomplished as I completed my new toque. It was warm, it fit, it was extremely dense...

I had never learned anything about gauge or needle size or weight of yarn. The yarn I had chosen for this toque was Alafoss Lopi a chunky weight yarn (suggested needle size US10/6mm). The pattern I chose called for a DK weight. I had purchased US6/4mm needles to make my toque.

Yes. I knit the entire thing on needles that were 2 whole milimeters too small and I loved the whole experience. As I mentioned, I had never knit with wool before so I thought maybe the tight knitting was part of it. It wasn't until YEARS later that I realized what, exactly, I had done!

I don't have that toque anymore, and it would be a few years before I really started getting obsessive becoming a capital K Knitter, but that experience reintroduced me to a hobby that I loved and taught me to make my own choices in knitting.

A few years later, in 2000/2001, I was working in Pakistan at a school for ex-pat kids. I came across a box of knit and crocheted squares and some random yarn that had been abandoned by a former staff member. I was told that I could make something of the squares if I wanted or I could use the yarn. I chose to undo all the randomly shaped/sized squares. I found some needles in the home-ec room and started knitting. I knit a toque out of the fugliest fuzzy pink yarn and gave it to one of the girls in my care. She loved it. I was hooked. I started unravelling abandoned sweaters or sweaters that were unwearable b/c of laundry disasters or silverfish bites. I found a shop in a bazaar in Abbotabad that sold yarn. I knit as much as I could with the limited means at my disposal.

That fall (2001) we were forced to "evacuate" from Pakistan after 9/11. I arrived home in Canada the day my nephew Talon was born. 5 days after I arrived home I was taking my parents to the airport so that my dad could go to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota to hopefully get a better diagnosis than the ALS he had been diagnosed with locally. It was a very stressful time.

It was also the first time I instinctively cocooned myself with yarn and needles to work through the stress. I stopped at a Walmart on my way home from the airport and bought supplies to make a sweater for my brand new nephew. I holed up in my parents' house, watching "Pride and Prejudice" (the A&E version with Colin Firth) and knitting. The repetitive motions of the stocking stitch sweater and the comfort of the yarn worked wonders for my stress.

I was even more hooked than ever before.

And that, my friends, is why there is more yarn than anything else in my apartment.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

in progress...

Over and over today at work, I did the data entry equivelent to frogging. Enter 25 lines of complicated ordering information, get to the LAST line, realize the sales person (who is on a "conference" in Mexico) didn't give you all the info needed, undo 25 lines of complicated ordering information. Repeat.


I kept looking longingly at my bag where my knitting was resting peacefully, calling out to me: "You won't need to frog us! Work on us for a while!" (there were 2 projects in there)(you think I would only take ONE thing to knit at work?)


I'm working on a teeny tiny hoodie for my brand new niece (born Feb. 8). I haven't met her yet, but I will in the next couple of days. I don't know if the hoodie will be done in time, but I hope so.
Yarn: Sirdar Snuggly Tiny Tots

My handspun sock is speeding along:
I love the way the yarn is striping. I can't wait to finish this one. The next one is on the wheel:

I want a snow day*. Or at least a Saturday so I can just knit. And spin. And knit some more.

*I've never lived in a place where we got snow days! Even now, in Calgary where they don't clear side streets when it snows, we don't get snow days. It might take you over an hour to drive 10km to work, but no snow days. I have to admit a twinge of jealousy whenever I hear about a snow shutting down cities in the States**.
**I don't mean to make light of the seriousness of the storms y'all got hit with this year. I just want an excuse to stay home.

ETA: I almost forgot! THANK YOU for all the lovely comments on my red sweater. I wore it the other day and love love love it. Lesley asked about the sleeves. They weren't intentionally belled, but I do like how they behave like they are. I didn't increase for them, but because I used a 4x4 ribbing, they aren't pulled as tight to the wrists as other sleeves may be. If anyone is interested, I am planning to try to sort out my notes for the modifications I did. (I'm planning another (and maybe another) sometime soon). I'll post them when I have them sorted.