Category Archives: On the needles

I know when I’m beat.

You know when you studiously keep knitting on a project, even though your deep misgivings about how much you adjusted for gauge only get stronger with every row?

And you know how you keep powering through, convincing yourself that sure, you’ll wear a rasta-baggy hat even though you hate that style and don’t own a single beret?

Nothing, but nothing, will dissolve those thin excuses quite knitting pure worsted-weight wool on a 85ºF and sunny day in a converted warehouse office with no air conditioning. Eight rows into the crown decreases, I finally saw the light.

I look forward to revisiting this pattern in the exact same yarn, with a less sweltering environment and a saner number of stitches.

This is just to say

This is just to say that knitting a hat with bulky wool and size seven needles is one thing, and that knitting the same hat with size one needles and sock yarn is a completely different, vastly slower, hugely more tedious meditative thing. I knit on the train, I knit in front of Netflix, I knit at work in between tasks, and the whole things moves forward at a crawl. This is definitely a product knit, not a process knit; The results will be gorgeous, once I finally get there.

Fortunately, I’ve only got one more Double Dutch sample to knit before I can update the pattern’s yardage and gauge, and that one’s in a super bulky yarn!

Not writing, for a reason

I have been knitting, and not writing.

For awhile I wasn’t writing because I was knitting for my mom, who was very sick, and whose circulation got so terrible that even on hot days, she wrapped herself in wool.

I have never knitted that hard in my life. I made her wool socks in our favorite color, fire-engine red. I cast on for slippers, after she raved about how the wool socks kept her feet from hurting. I made her a shawl, something more practical than the flashy red lace number I’d made her that she was so proud of.

Stripe study

I gave it to her in August. Mom had the shawl for a week. She died at home, in her sleep, with Dad in the next room. I got the striped shawl back awhile later. She’d sewn it closed, since it kept slipping off her shoulders. It has a big, unexplained tear in it that I don’t yet have the heart to repair. I don’t know where the socks are.

I also have the red lace shawl that was wrapped around her at the viewing. It’s in a chest next to some incense, gently exuding the smell of funeral home. She might’ve wanted it to go with her; she was very practical and thought things should be used, but the strong sentimental streak that had her digging it out and showing it off at every holiday meant she might’ve wanted to take it with her. I couldn’t decide whether it should be buried with her or not, so I kept it. They gave it back to me at the memorial service, where I wore a red dress the same color as the socks I made her.

Now it’s months later and I am knitting, but still not really writing, here or anywhere. My heart has been flipped upside-down and shaken out very hard and I am still trying to figure what goes roughly where. I will get there, but not yet.

Accidental trenta

(Written a couple months ago)

The boyfriend’s sweater continues.

American dudes like things baggy, which is a problem when knitting for him. He’d rather give up his hip-urban-loft collection of tiny objects or favorite posters (we have a drinking game going with that site re: our own design choices) than wear a sloppy sweater out of the house. Yes, this is the same man who wears a Batman Snuggie around his apartment, but that’s “different,” apparently.

With men’s patterns, I assume it generally means you’re generally stuck with one size to choose from, small. “Small” can mean a lot of things. This “small,” I guess, is small like store-brand sizes and fast-food soda, meaning not small at all. Reading pattern sizes for men feels like coffee sizes at Starbucks, where you try to translate made-up marketing lingo into something you can actually use; give up; and pick whatever looks closest, and then when you finally get your sweater it comes back in a huge cup, way too sugary and tasting like burnt dirt and there’s not even enough caffeine in it to make the whole rigamarole worthwhile and — okay, I think that simile got away from me  there, but you get the idea.

Anyway. Throw in some gauge weirdness, and the already-barely-small sweater I’m working on gets huge. Huge to where a pleasingly grandpa-style shawl collar starts to channel grandma diva chic, reaching all the way to the outside edge of the shoulder and draping down in back to the shoulder blades. The thing was vast. VAST. Like, Icelandic scenery vast. The armscye was so deep you could lose Sigur Rós down a sleeve. Or, in proper grandma-diva fashion, a poolboy or two.

Once I sewed the collar down, but before handling buttonholes and finishing, I tried it on. Good lord, what a shambolic mess. Bulky, saggy sweaters on a woman with a rack have a certain look I like to call “Hello I am Boob Mountain,” where you’re sort of an amorphous blob with two breasts kinda haphazardly poking out and looking absurdly smooth and boulder-like amid the drapey waves of fabric they float in. No good, dude. No good.

After a long, despairing minute in front of the mirror, I pinned the front shut and did my best to mash my bust flat so I could get an idea of what the sweater lines would look like on a guy. Hmm. Better. Then I started pinning it to the proper fit. Take ten stitches off the sleeve circumference … halve the collar width … bring the bottom of the armscye up by a good five inches … hey, not a bad-looking sweater at all! Just gotta measure the fabric folds I’d pinned out so I’d know how many stitches to get rid of, redo the saddle shoulder, make a gusset under the armpit to get rid of those extra stitches, knit the arms down from the top, rip back the collar to the narrowest part and reknit and resew it and hey! Sweater!

I had to reknit the saddle shoulder three times to get the width right. Sleeve two is taking, oh, I dunno, A YEAR. I’ll have to do all the buttonholes, since I skipped ’em figuring I’d do afterthought buttonholes. (Smart, in retrospect.) But I’m close. Like, four-episodes-of-Archer close.

(Weeks later)

DONE! All it needs is buttonholes and buttons! It’s ready! It’s wonderful!

It’s July!

Like knitting with an earthworm made of kittens!

Stressful job is stressful, sewing-room setup is moving at a crawl, social life is hypersocial, and knitting is … well, a swathe of ambitious, half-finished designs from my own patterns scattered around my house like acorns planted by a drunk squirrel.


I’m knitting on an incredibly simple project straight from the pattern (OK, OK, with an added cable and at a recalculated gauge, but still so straightforward I could do it in my sleep) on big needles with soft, round yarn the thickness of a squirming nightcrawler and my god, people, I forgot knitting could go this fast. A high-level yarn organization binge the other week (read: I retrieved all the skeins stashed in oddball places around the house — under the bed?! — and put things into bins vaguely sorted by weight. Mostly) proved that most of my yarn maxes out at worsted weight, with more recent purchases hovering more around sock- and sport-weight that takes about a million years to knit.

My pattern tastes tend toward the innovative, heavily constructed and technically challenging. If I can graft instead of sew, I do. If I can complicate the cast-on for something stretchier, sturdier, more reversible … I do. So this? Stockinette. Knitted in the round. Raglan. This project is wildly, fabulously, mind-bogglingly, unbelievably fast.

… except for the part where I decided I would switch the nearly five feet of long-tailed cast-on to an icord cast-on. Knit a total of four stitches to make a single cast-on stitch, making 20 minutes of work into a two-day snake-wrestling match that baffled nearby mass transit riders?


I’m drawin’ squirrels!

For some reason, I think better on graph paper.
For some reason, I think better on graph paper.
The boyfriend needs a hat, I’ve decided. An earflap hat with squirrels. He picked up the nickname “Squirrel” from friends on a camping trip, and I’ve seen him blow ten minutes trying to creep up to one to see it up close. He’s also a sucker for earflap hats, even though we’re poised on the edge of a warm spring. Whatever, he’ll probably wear it anyway.

I picked out his favorite shade of electric blue, with a good saturated red for the squirrel design, since he loathes brown. (My favorite color? Fire-engine red. We tend to check in before dyeing our hair to make sure we don’t end up with the same livid red or magenta. We are not subtle people.)

I did a quick check for squirrel charts on Ravelry, but the charts were small and heavily stylized, so I’m drawing them myself. Translating small, round, spastic animals into big, chunky blocks without losing their essential squirrelness is fun. I’m primed by an extremely nerdy childhood hobby: origami. As a kid, I’d fold and fold and fold, then hold up the finished product in front of someone and demand “Can you tell what this is?” If they guessed wrong, I’d go back to folding. The best response I ever got was “OH MY GOD IT’S THAT THING FROM STAR WARS!” when I figured out how to make an X-wing.

The X-wing, if you’re wondering, is the only origami that’ll get you laid. Fold one of those out of a peeled-off beer label, and you’ve got a fast ticket into nerd-boy pants.

I don’t practice origami much anymore, but since I am a born fidgeter, I end up making most of it when I’m out at bars. The boyfriend has a small collection of tiny drunk paper animals: a few cranes, a bright pink manatee, a shark twisted out of the sticky label from a bottle of Poppy Jasper. Last Friday I went out with some officemates after work, and got to see a drunk coworker charging around the financial district, cheerfully yelling and counting off from the fortune teller he held in one outstretched hand, which I’d folded for him out of a torn-up bar menu.

The challenge of origami, or drawing charts, or caricaturing, is figuring out how to get across somethingness with the smallest amount of real estate. What says “squirrel”? That big question-mark tail; the long smooth curve of the back; eyes; a large head; those wide-mounted eyes. Squirrel!

Stop! Squirrel time!

Stubborn just isn’t the word

Good god. Judging by my knitting habits, my headstone’s gonna read “COULDN’T LET WELL ENOUGH ALONE.”

I’m on my second project in a month where I decided I wanted to make something, found at least three different patterns for it, and scrapped all of them for not being perfect enough and decided to knit my own. And I am! The latest is coming along gorgeously, now that I’ve rejected nearly every single possible method I could use to build the thing for not being utterly and fanatically true to my vague vision.
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