Archive for the ‘making things’ 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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Around Thanksgiving, on one of my first Christmas shopping trips (this one on Portland’s fashionable NW 23rd Avenue), I found a cool scarf that I thought I would get for my niece.  The scarf was made of many long thin strips of a jersey material, tied together at a couple of places.  It came with a booklet of suggestions for different ways it could be worn: draped loosely around your neck, braided as a belt, twisted around your head.

The one drawback was the hefty pricetag:  $70 for the one I liked.

As soon as I got home I started looking online for a similar scarf.  I couldn’t find one like the one I had seen.  I did find the site of another blogger who had made her own from a recycled T-shirt.

As soon as I arrived in St. Louis, my sister-in-law and I headed for the nearest Target where we picked out 4 X-Large T-shirts.  We couldn’t find the seamless ones recommended on the website, but decided to give it a try with the ones we could get.

Once home I reviewed the instructions and got started.  The first step was to cut off the hem and the top part of the shirt, including the sleeves.  Then I started cutting strips from the tube of material that remained.

I cut each of the resulting loops along one of the seams to create thirteen long strips of fabric,

and tugged on each strip causing them to lengthen and curl.

I then took 12 of the 13 strips I had made and divided them into three bunches, braiding them together to form the center of the scarf.  I used the thirteenth strip (which I first cut into two shorter strips) to tightly wrap the ends of the braid to hold them in place.

In the end, I made a total of four scarves, one for each of the women in my family.  They are already in frequent use and get noticed wherever we go.

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