Saturday, September 11, 2010

New Directions

Are you a picker or a thrower? Not sure? Let me elaborate...

Maine seems to be breeding the pioneer woman in me. Back to the land. Grow your own food. Raise sheep and spin wool (not!). Learn to make jam without poisoning family and friends. Simple things...good things...humble things. Like afghans - small "a" - something to cozy up under in front of the fire with a good mystery. It all started two weeks ago...

Amy was up for a visit and whilst taking her leisure, pulled out the cutest pair of socks she was in the process of knitting. "AHA!" my mind screeched. "A new endeavor to tackle and conquer," visions of warm socks and sweaters for Chris and me. Beautiful afghans on every bed, chair, bench and sofa. And if I took it to the level of Chris's cousin Viola in Iowa - curtains, bathroom toilet cozies, shower curtains(I kid you not), bedspreads, placemats, throw rugs, hand towels, kitchen sink cloths, chair arm and head covers, pillow covers, small appliance covers, handbags, table scarves, bureau scarves, chest scarves, neck scarves...all over her house. All at the same time. Really. In her favorite color yellow. But I digress. Eagerly I peppered Amy with questions, hungry for the knowledge of all things knitting. That led to a wander to locate yarn shops one rainy afternoon. That led to "EyeCheMama! They want HOW MUCH for that skein of 100% hand raised and spun Alpaca wool! Doing a slow and laborous calculation in my brain (you thought I was going to say "speedy," dint ya) that works out to $50 for a pair of socks. Are you kidding me?

So, of course, I bought enough to make a small lap throw. Size 10 needles will be perfect. Hey, it was all Walmart had in stock. We get back home and I tear into my new-found passion. Hours and hours of furious knitting pass, days of more furious knitting pass, a week gone - poof, just like that - and I have produced three inches of a 60 inch blanket. Hmmmmmm. New plan.

Maybe larger needles would help. And a simpler pattern. And more basic stitches - leave double seed stitch for another day. And MAYBE I could loosen my knitting tension just a wee bit. Afterall, the guage was 7 stitches to the inch, but I was producing 42 per inch. Oh, and just to be clear...stitches is written in knit speak as "sts." So, for example, a typical instruction would read CO 52 sts, on next R, *k 2, p2, yo,* repeat from * to end of R. Easypeasy, right?

So I get bigger needles, find an easier pattern with simpler instructions and commence again. The second half of the afghan came out beautifully. Especially once I mastered the proper way to insert the needle to create a knit stitch and the proper way to insert the needle to create a purl stitch. See, I THOUGHT I knew what I was doing, but through the miracle of the internet and video, I realized I had been DOING IT ALL WRONG. Aaarrrggghhhhh. Well, I was half way through the damn thing and damned if I was going to rip out the damn thing now. So here is a picture of the damn thing!

The piece next to the geranium looks lumpy because the yarn was lumpy (not evenly woven - thick and thin as spun). Amy and I thought it would give interesting texture to the afghan, but it just looks...lumpy. The very bottom section was done in the same yarn but a diffent skein. It doesn't look...lumpy.

To be fair, the last time I tried to knit I was a teenager. Being dyslexic, albeit a high functioning one, it was - shall we say - a painful experience. Add to the fact my teacher was left handed and tried to teach me by having me look in a mirror. (Do you have any idea what a mirror image does to a dyslexic person???? OMG) As an interesting side note, Chris does not let me navigate anymore. That's because there is only an 80% chance I'm right when I say turn left here, which can get really, really exciting when we are in the motor home. But now I am older, wiser, more patient and I have discovered something new (to me, at least) in the world of knitting, something amazing, something better than sliced bread, a Godsend if you will: pattern charts. A pattern chart is a visual "map" of the project; not lines and lines and lines of written instruction. Pictures I can understand!!! It was a Eureka moment for me. Yippeee!

Maybe knitting is my new life calling. My mother told me many times of her Irish grandmother, who was a farm wife living along the coast of Nova Scotia. She produced 15 sons and 3 daughters. Family legend has it she knitted a pair of socks a night. Can you image? Apparently she wore a large cork on her belt and maybe that somehow figured into pushing the needle as she knit along. I have this mental image of someone dressed like Whistler's Mother knitting away in a rocking chair by oil lamp through the long, dark winters of Canada.

Back to my original question. There are two ways to knit - hold the yarn in the right hand and "throw" it over the right needle to produce the next stitch or hold the yarn in the left hand and let the right needle "pick" the yarn for the next stitch. I'm a picker.

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