Archive for the ‘knitting’ Category

By now I am guessing that most of you have seen Julie & Julia, the movie about Julia Child and Julie Powell.  Even if you haven’t seen it, you might have seen the original episode of The French Chef where Julia Child flips some potatoes in a pan and talks about the need to have the courage of your convictions when doing something that’s just a little risky.

Last night when I was thinking about what my next blog post should be (over a wonderful dinner with S at Ned Ludd here in Portland) it came to me that a recent experience with my current knitting project had required me to invoke the courage of my convictions too.

A very dear friend is about to embark on a great adventure — heading to Thailand to provide mental health services for refugees.  Unable to think of exactly what to do to support her in this endeavor, I decided to knit her a hat to take with her.  I chose cotton yarn thinking it might be a bit warmer over there than here, dug around in my voluminous yarn stash for a bit and got started.

The pattern I chose starts at the top with only 4 stitches. After knitting a bit of I-cord, you increase to 8 stitches, move your nascent hat onto 4 double pointed needles, and start knitting around and around, increasing at the end of each needle (adding 4 stitches in every row) until the circumference is as big as you want it to be.  At that point you stop increasing and keep knitting until the hat is long enough, cast off and voila! a hat is born.

Pausing at several points along the way to check my gauge (a measure of how many stitches there are to an inch), I calculated that I would need 112 stitches to create a hat of the right size.  And so I proceeded merrily along and finished the hat after two evenings in front of the TV.  And it was WAY too big.  And not really long enough to cover even my ears.

And so here’s where the courage of my convictions part comes in (I know you were wondering about that by now).  At this point — after finishing my project (I hesitate to call it a hat) and finding it was not going to work for the person I had made it for I had a few choices.

(1)  I could throw it away.

(2) I could give it to someone else.

(3) I could rip it out and start again.

The third option was really the only courageous one, and this gets back to Julia Child and the potatoes.  Ripping out knitting is not something to be undertaken timidly.  I mean, you can carefully take out every stitch, one at a time, gently moving stitches from one needle to the other as you slip the yarn out of each stitch.  Or you can just pull your needles out of your knitting and rip courageously, confident that when you have ripped back as far as you need to go you’ll be able to slide the stitches back onto the needles and start knitting again.

And that’s what I did.  I ripped it out.  Rows and rows of stitches (well, it was only a hat, so it was not really that many rows, but it felt like a lot of rows when I was ripping).  And when I had ripped it back to almost the start, I slid the stitches back onto the needles.

And now I am knitting again.

I’ll let you know when it’s done!


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Readers of this blog will probably remember my post (last September) about the knitted snake scarf I made (originally for my nephew).

That post set off a series of conversations with a friend, M, who was so taken with the scarf that she wondered if I could knit a snake big enough for an adult.

No challenge is too great for an intrepid knitter, so with some additional input from M (color, snake species, etc) I set to work.

Today I am happy to report that the new, grown-up sized snake scarf is ready to be shipped to its new home in California with M.

I added a few new wrinkles — bi-colored eyes (for fun) and an orange (instead of red) forked tongue (looked better with the green of the body, I thought).

I’m excited to hear M’s reaction (and she is an enthusiastic person, so I am sure I will hear something).

In exchange for the scarf, M (a wonderful writer) has collaborated with me on a new project, still in the development stages, but soon to be revealed.  Check this space!

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Learning to knit

Last week one of the commenters on my blog asked me about when and how I learned to knit and I decided to respond here.  It’s not a long story but it comes with pictures.

My mother was not a knitter.  Maybe in reaction to her own mother, who was a high school art and home ec. teacher, she didn’t sew or knit, though she had an eye for design and color that I envied.

One of my prized possessions, however, is this pair of socks, knitted by my mother for my father.

My mother’s sense of humor is clearly evident in the bell she sewed on the pointed toe of one of the pair; the socks’ lack of symmetry (and lack of similarity to the shape of a human foot) meant they were never worn and probably accounts for the fact that I still have them more than 50 years after they were made.

All of this means that I did not learn to knit from my mother.  Instead, I was taught by a dear friend when I was first in graduate school in Ann Arbor, MI in 1983, otherwise learning to be a geologist.  Knitting was something that I could do when I wasn’t studying that felt productive and didn’t make me feel guilty for avoiding school work.

Since that time, knitting has come and gone in my life.  Sometimes I knit every day, other times I don’t knit for months on end.  A return to graduate school (this time to earn a PhD in education) resulted in another period of intense knitting. This sweater was knitted during my first month in Madison, WI as I waited for classes to begin.

Living in Maine brought on another knitting phase.  I made a lot of things during that time, including this hat (knitted from a pattern designed by the wonderful knitters at the Green Mountain Spinnery in Putney, VT)

and this scarf that I dreamed up all on my own.

While in Maine I also took up sculptural knitting, enrolling in no fewer than three classes on the subject and creating all kinds of things including fruit

and eggs.

As regular readers of this blog know, I have been knitting a lot since moving to Portland.  One of my favorite recent projects is a collaboration with the grandson of a good friend.  Last spring I received the following detailed drawing in the mail

and made this hat based on his specifications (this picture is of the prototype — I made another, larger, one that I sent to the designer).

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