Escape Velocity

I have a new theory. Look at this.


Here we have Birch. I knit on Birch off and on yesterday. I knit on it a little at the Stitch and Bitch last night (except for I might have played with baby Penelope a little, a lot, as much as I could before people start thinking about watching me closely for signs that I intend to take the baby home, smuggled out in my backpack. Don’t look at me like that. I would leave it a little bit unzipped…) and I knit on Birch for a while after I got home.

This means, that I can personally vouch for having knit at least 20 rows on Birch yesterday. For sure 20, probably 30….maybe more…but we’ll use 20 because I don’t want to be caught on a technicality. The point is (and I do have one) that the row gauge on this shawl is 28 rows to 10 cm. If I have knit 20 rows, I should have gained some distance. I didn’t. I knit 20 rows and the shawl is exactly the same. Exactly. There is no discernible difference in length or width.

I am clearly being drawn into a knitting black hole.


Now, knitters have known about this for a long time. The black hole of knitting is not new, and far better knitters than me have suffered deeply in it’s grips. So far, the only escape has been time. You put in the time (not the knitting time, that’s completely irrelevant…I’m just talking about waiting time) and when your time is up, you are released from the black hole. I personally have had sleeves where you knit and measure and it’s 30cm, and then you knit 3674 rows and it’s still 30cm, and then you have a little lie down and maybe a bit of a drunk-up and a temper tantrum and whammo. 40cm without another stitch knit. It’s about doing your time and the knitting goddesses playing with you like you are a ratty little cat toy.

This got me thinking. Real black holes are related to gravity. (You probably know this. You are probably an astronomer who is about to send me a really serious email about how all of this isn’t possible and I don’t know what I’m talking about. Fine. A disclaimer. I’m a knitter, not a physicist, dammit (don’t you want to say that with Scotty’s accent from Star Trek?) {added: Whoops, Roggey pointed out that I mean Dr. McCoy. See how uninformed I am?} and you should totally not write an exam in science class based on the black hole theory I’m about to tell you. In addition, if you are a student who does fail science because I’m wrong about this, you should know that there is no way that you will be able to convince me that I’m responsible. Study. )

Sorry, what was I saying? Right, black holes are a gravity thing. Every object has a gravitational field. The more mass an object has (please remember class, that mass is different than size) the harder it pulls on the other things. Black holes (regardless of their size) have so much mass in one spot that they have an enormous gravitational pull. So big, in fact, so startlingly hugely big, that light gets pulled in. (Hence the whole “blackness” of the hole.)

Now. Birch is like this. Birch has so much knitting mojo in one place that its pull is so great that all of the stitches get pulled in. You knit and knit….nothing. The yarn goes in, but no length comes out, since it’s pull it too great to allow it. It’s a fuzzy mohair and silk hole. (The first clue that Birch was not a normal knitting object should have been the way that knitters are drawn helplessly to it….)

If you are getting pulled into the black hole, you have a problem. Think about how if you are juggling and you throw a ball into the air, it will go up for a little while, because of the force that you used to send it upward. Then, pulled by gravity, it will come back down. If though, you could really hurl that ball upward, really heave it, you could throw it so hard that it would escape the pull of the earth, enter space and go on forever. That amount of force, that speed is called “escape velocity” and it varies with the amount of mass the object pulling on you has.

The earth has more mass than the moon, so you need to go faster to get off the earth. It has a higher escape velocity. Jupiter would have a really fast one, and black holes (and birch) have so much mass (or knitterly mojo) that the escape velocity you need to pull yourself out of the field of gravity is so huge that you….well. You can only imagine that most encounters with a black hole end badly.

Thusly, in order to escape birches black hole, I am going to need a remarkable escape velocity. Today is about speed. I am going to knit as fast as I can, attempt to reach escape velocity, and see some progress.

If I am correct about knitting black holes, gravitational pull, and the way the universe is put together, I expect to have an alternative to getting your poor little chain yanked by a insubordinate, obdurate piece of mass sucking fluffy knitting for as long as it wants to work you over. We will be free at last.

Groundbreaking work really.

118 thoughts on “Escape Velocity

  1. all this talk of space and black holes makes me wanna go knit a steven hawking sweater (potential spelling error) and think of 2001: a space oddyssey “dave….Dave, I’d Like to sing a song for you dave….Daisy, daisy….” Hehe..But if going with 2001 you’d also have the advantage of that freaky room at the end with the old man where you could just picture birch done and Voila! it’s done! ok…if this makes no sense ( i usually never do) disregard it and take me as being sucked into a black hole. ๐Ÿ˜€

  2. Not that I’m a Trekkie by any means, but I think you mean Dr. McCoy, not Scottie
    (Dr McCoy is perhaps best known for his infamous line “Damn it Jim, I๏ฟฝm a doctor, not a๏ฟฝ (moon shuttle conductor, bricklayer, psychiatrist, escalator, engineer” etc.)
    I consider sweaters to be my personal knitting black hole, which is why I avoid them at all costs.

  3. Ah! I just finished reading Krauss’ The Physics of Star Trek, so I think I understood some of that! It explains what’s happening with a certain shawl that I’m currently knitting…. Must increase velocity! Although Krauss was fairly adamant that one cannot escape the event horizon of a black hole…. I like your explanation better. There’s just more hope in it! ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. My personal knitting black hole is a baby blanket. So small, so innocent looking, so…square. They take for-fricking-ever to knit!

  5. Aah Hah, The black hole theory explains what happened to a scarf I once started which didn’t get longer, it just kept getting more and more scrunched up. And here I thought I was reading the pattern wrong and doing slips on the same stitches row after row. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  6. I’m in a similar black hole with a lacey leaf shawl. I knit and knit and knit (for months, it seems) and it doesn’t grow. I leave it wadded up in the bottom of my bag all day at work and by the end of the week I take it out, give it a good shake, and it grew! I’m now in that phase where the ginormous ball of very fine lace-weight merino has finally shrunk from softball-size to tennis ball-size. I’m looking forward to smaller sizes. It just keeps going and going.

  7. wow, i’m not alone! my current WIP poncho (a modified version of the Harlot Poncho) is currently in the knitting black hole as well. Every night I knit for at least two hours on it, and it never gets any further than chest-length.
    Stephanie, your thesis explains everything… it’s all so clear now… I have been enlightened, oh enlightening one.

  8. Nope not McCoy, absolutely Scottie. As in “I’m giving you all she’s got, Captain!” And it seems that’s the only thing you can do to escape the black hole. Now that I’ve labeled myself a geek I’ll go back to lurking.

  9. The time it takes to knit something makes so much sense now. Since once you hit that escape velocity (time)the piece doesn’t take very long at all. Just like when you are in space it doesn’t take much energy to move. I wonder if this is related to Second Sock Syndrome.

  10. You must be almost to the end – how many repeats left…must. climb. out. of. the. hole!!!!!!!!! It’s really beautiful, by the way.

  11. I wonder if you could get an NSERC grant for your research? Throw in your work on the transmission of the sock disease and you could probably get an CIHR grant as well. You would have to use to buy yarn of course…for the research.

  12. Is this kind of like the space-time warp that causes fair isle to grow faster, even though each stitch takes longer than plain stockinette? It sure seems like it.
    Last night I swear it took me 15 minutes to weave in half the ends on a sweater, and at least 45 minutes to do the rest. I was so happy when I started, and I was about to give up and tie knots by the end. Argh!

  13. Since I have obviously been in a black-hole of my own, not having sat down and read anything in a couple of days (well on the computer anyway), I missed the b-day post. I am wishing you a belated b-day. Hope it was a great relaxing day.

  14. And let’s not forget about String Theory, which posits that fundamental building blocks are actually extremely tiny “string-like” objects. String theory is hoped to be a Theory of Everything, including Quantum Gravity–and since yarn is essentially string….

  15. Brilliant! It ranks with the answer to the question whether hell is exothermic or endothermic. I propose a new major: knitterly physics (like astrophysics only more tangible).

  16. Well crap, now my head hurts. All that talk about science really freaked me out – science and I do not get along so well. Although, in a strange way it makes a lot of sense – it explains my whole sleeve problem – knit and knit and never get anywhere. Based on this new information, I must bow down to your genius and thank you for showing me the light :).

  17. I too entered a black hole with a Kidsilk Haze sweater, of all things, which may have been more massive than the lovely Birch shawl. It was only when confined to my bed recovering from sinus surgery–and thus have tons of time and need for distraction–that I was able to make any noticeable progress. The good news: I finished the darn thing and have worn it to great fanfare. It is lovely and lighter than air, as will be Birch.
    I should have been privy to Jean’s experience before unknowingly entering into my current black hole: The Baby Blanket. So square, and yet so far away from finished.
    You can do it Stephanie! Happy Belated Birthday!

  18. Ah, Stephanie, you make me laugh! I’d never quite thought of the black hole in quite that way–though I HAVE experienced it!!

  19. All this talk of physics reminds me of “What the BLEEP!?” … do you think we could come up with quantum-knitting-physics? THAT’S a science class I would take … and I’m a writing major.
    Oh, and those two little boys (ie Hank and Leo) are ABOSLUTELY wonderful! I’m just the tiniest bit envious that you get to hang out with TWO Spidermen!

  20. Whew! I felt like I was drawn into a black hole just reading this post. But I think I can, being a survivor of Birch’s black hole, tell you that, although you will be somewhat foggy brained and confused at the end (I mean more than what is considered normal for you, or me for that matter) you will be released from the grip. Well kinda. Under-cover I am trawling the LYSs and the internet to find the perfect color in KSH for another lacy project. The pull is always there, underneath the skin. For short periods of time you can ignore it, but it always pulls harder the next time. I remember the last rows of my Birch. I could NOT put it down. You will finish today only because the darn thing won’t let you put it down. Birch and KSH are in control. Go with it.

  21. Well, I *am* an astrophysicist and I have to say that you did pretty well explaining black holes and escape velocity. And really the only problem with your extension to advanced knitting theory is that you have to go *extremely* fast to escape a black hole. Faster than the speed of light actually. And while we all know the harlot is capable of superhuman knitting, I think we need a theory which doesn’t doom the rest of us.
    Now I think if you modified your theory slightly we’d be fine. In addition to the mass of the attracting object, escape velocity also depends on how close you are to the object. So rather than already being *in* the black hole, birch has you swirling around and approaching the black hole (like water going down a drain). The essential battle here is for the knitter to reverse this inward spiral by an extraordinary application of energy sufficient to reverse direction and achieve escape velocity. This extraordinary feat of knitting energy must be applied *before* you have been sucked past the event horizon (the point of no return for light) and into the black hole. We all know what happens if the knitter fails to achieve this escape velocity in time — the piece ends up in the pile of UFOs.
    Perhaps your third book should be a textbook on the unified string theory of knitting?
    astronomically yours

  22. Oh my gosh. I have a day off work today and you made me laugh so hard I have coffee coming out of my nose.
    THERE IS A GRANT IN HERE SOMEWHERE. Make it a Moebius shawl and I think you could get a grant. Really.
    This is also making me wonder about the effects of zero-G on knitting, how one would take an accurate gauge in zero-G and how one would block anything. Also, is it possible to drop a stitch in zero-G?
    My personal black hole is The Other Sock. I do believe that initiating the First Sock generates a warp in the space-time continuum which causes one to knit round and round and round on the instep of the Second Sock without making progress until you reach the point that entirely too much progress has been made.
    But seriously. Back to the Moebius shawl and the black hole: what would happen to an object having only one side and one edge when it reaches the event horizon?

  23. Uh, teacher, I thought school was out for the summer? But that picture of Birch in the black hole cracked me up to no end. Just goes to show what clever creatures we knitters really are. I mean, who would think that astrophysics and knitting went hand in hand? Ah, but how they do…. See you on the other side.

  24. Event horizon. What a wonderful term.
    But has it occurred to the rest of you that Stephanie in herself constitutes an event horizon? Once you’ve seen the picture, read the post, only enormous effort or, possibly, utter sloth, will save you from being sucked in. (I suppose procrastination until the event horizon has receded might be a third possible saviour, except that there’s another one along in a minute.)

  25. Now I know why my Birch refuses to grow! And I thought it was because it was in the bottom of my knitting bag – silly me.
    What really gets me is that tomorrow you’ll be finished … and I won’t. Happy belated birthday.

  26. I like your physics better than any I ever studied in school. Maybe if they had explained everything with knitting I would have done better…
    Happy belated birthday- and many happy returns.

  27. That is exactly why I hate garter stitch. The fact that a garment done in garter requires more yarn means there’s something to it.
    Take comfort Stephanie. If you decide to escape the black hole by knitting very, very, very fast (Starbucks, two grande mochas should do it) at least you’ll have a lace shawl to show for it instead of miles of mind numbing, yarn sucking garter. What is that leaf pattern? It’s beautiful.

  28. I am in so much trouble. I found the yarn AND the pattern in my stash last night. We won’t talk about WHY I would be looking in the first place but…there you have it.

  29. All the time I was reading your “lecture” I couldn’t help thinking – “Did she buy enough yarn?”
    Heaven help the universe if you run out before completion.
    I’m doing a “wave” to encourage your speed knitting.
    Everyone – please join me.
    Thank you.

  30. Yeah for Jessie the astrophysicist! May I add that to be in reverse probably means to knit on birch until you have completed what should be the end, wash it, and Block It and Watch It Grow!!!

  31. You should consider adding “astroknitaphyst” to your resume. That was the most succinct explanation of the black hole of knitting I’ve heard yet.
    Just make sure you don’t get sucked back into the hole, yourself.

  32. “You can only imagine that most encounters with a black hole end badly.”
    I am so very glad I wasn’t drinking anything when I read that.

  33. Ok but tell me THIS – how the flip does one cope/deal/DO the increased velocity thing when one has at least 10 current WIPs that are in the black-hole state? I mean – one can’t possibly knit with enough velocity on all of them at once.
    or are they simply separate entities, and thus one can choose when to exert enough escape velocity on any particular one?
    if I could focus on my WIPs longer than say 10 minutes before putting them down to SPIN I might test your theory.

  34. Wow. Last time I entertained thoughts like this, I was high as a kite. Are you smoking birch bark? Is there something else you’d like to tell us? ๐Ÿ™‚

  35. My Lara is in a knitting black hole. Also, my 12 year old son’s plain black pullover. Black hole. I hear you.

  36. ok. If my science and math teachers had used knitting examples (rather than the ubiquitous x, y, and “widget”) I would have stuck with it for MUCH longer.
    Why o why doesn’t my LYS have Rowan 34??!!

  37. When you’re done with that whole black hole thing, could you work on warping the time/space continuum? I could use a little extra time in mid-December for knitting, if you get my drift. Don’t go to any extra trouble, though.
    And Happy Belated Birthday!

  38. Happy Belated Birthday!
    Um, should the rest of us brace ourselves? What is the impact of escape velocity… Will there be a tidal wave or earthquake somewhere?

  39. As a side benefit of the phenomenal burst of energy necessary to achieve escape velocity, your speed of knitting will increase accordingly, and will, therefore, finish the piece before you can run out of yarn.
    Hippo Birdie, Harlot. ๐Ÿ˜€

  40. I had an aunt who’s knitting practically grew in front of you no matter what pattern. It was inspiring. Perfect tension, fine wool, I could just sit and watch her- better than TV ’cause she could smoke and drink tea and still knit. Don’t ask me how. Talk about multi-tasking.

  41. Umm. Let’s not forget that a disproportionate number of Star Trek episodes involved whipping round massive stellar bodies so fast that the intrepid crew get snapped back/forward through time. Do be careful, Stephanie. You might end up in the middle of next week…
    And while we’re talking about cheesy SF shows, did anyone else notice that the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy movie contains the best footage of knitting animation ever seen on the big screen? Don’t know about you, but for me that 10-second scene alone was worth the price of admission. ROFL, indeed.

  42. No, no, no. You need another knitting project with enough mojo to exert enough pull to get you back out of the black hole. Something involving a certain laceweight purchased recently, perhaps?

  43. My theory (which is not fully independent of your theory) is thatyou need to send a knit sacrifice into the world to appease the knitting goddess…maybe some mittens?

  44. okay, I spent quite a bit of time looking at the “silver needles” in birch and wondering what they signified, until it finally dawned on me that it is the light streaming through the fence… duh. After this, I think I’m not even science-worthy, but damn girl, you go for it.

  45. ummmmm, so maybe i’m not ready to venture in the world of lace shawls. you may not see your own progress, but we do! it’s beautiful (and oh so enticing). no, i’m not trying to talk myself into it. really.

  46. Well, if any of you rememer the painfully horrid Disney movie “The Black Hole” (Two reasons I remember it 1–I am a cheesy sci-fi geek((and I am in so much agony that I don’t have sci-fi channel and Stargate SG-1’s new season is about to start with Ben Browder and Michael Shanks and uh-oh double parentheses I’m babbling)), and 2–I was on a date as painful and contrived as the movie) you will realize that after you emerge through the Black Hole you will either be in hell with Maximillian Schell, or in heaven with Anthony Perkins. Neither prospect sounds particularly exciting to me(see Stargate sg-1 above), but I suppose knitting with mohair in heaven, is better than knitting with mohair in hell.
    And let’s not forget time travel and Dr. Samuel Beckett and his holographic pal Al from Quantum Leap, who’s theory about travel has to do with string. If you stretch out a piece of string, or dare I say yarn, in a straight line, you can only move to a single point. But suppose you roll up the ball of string, or dare I again say knit yarn, all points of the string are accesible from any other point. So theoretically, time ceases to exist when you knit. With or without the black hole.

  47. Stehphanie, be very careful. You could end up in the middle of next with William Shatner.

  48. or…. you could stick your big toes in the bottom edge and tug downwards as you knit…. thus it would then grow as you would be using Newtons first law of saomething or other… equal and opposite reaction…

  49. This happened to me just today! I am trying to finish a second sock so I can start a new pair before getting on an airplane tomorrow. Last night I knitted and knitted and knitted and still had an inch before it is the right length. Gave up, went to bed. This morning: It’s half an inch LONGER than the first sock!
    And since the sock had been marinating in a drawer at work (as “emergency knitting”) for at least six months, it’s about time it grew some on its own….

  50. Great… I really needed to read this BEFORE I ordered Kidsilk Haze for my own Birch. Well, now I’m prepared.
    Actually, I’m in my own version of the black hole with some Karabella Gossamer. It’s more like a knitting supernova than a black hole… this stuff seems to expand exponentially, even when I haven’t touched it! It’s in danger of filling my front room… pretty soon we won’t be able to use the front door. Come to think of it, I haven’t seen one of the cats in a few days…

  51. Okay Micheline:
    Who would be able to rescue us from the event horizon of the black hole and be wise enough NOT to disturb us while we knit? Personally, I prefer John Crichton, er Ben. (D’Argo was no slouch either, but he would have been a bit rough on the stash!)
    Stephanie, sorry if you’re confused, but you started this!!

  52. Well, if it makes you feel any better, Birch is looking absolutely phenomenal. Perhaps that’s why you’re experiencing the black hole _phenomena_? It’s so gorgeous that the universe has to compensate, forcing you to slow down. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  53. Crabbygal, that would be a tough one. Crichton has all that fabu wormhole technology in his subconcious (ok, it was “erased” but I don’t buy it), but Daniel has ascension experience. Let me take both and call you in the morning.;0

  54. Thanks for the heads-up about black holes and mojo and stuff. The UPS guy JUST NOW delivered 3 skeins of very hot (they actually feel moist even though I know they’re not) Kidsilk Haze in the dreamiest dark blue color (“Dreamboat”, to be exact, and I didn’t know the name of it until I JUST NOW checked the invoice). Freaky. Now, if I can reach the unfinished length you have reached within, say, 2 years, I will be doing well.

  55. what happens when you actually *do* finish some black-hole knitting, then rip it out? i am about to do this, but do not want to cause some kind of universal calamity beyond my comprehension!
    i wish you extreme escape velocity,

  56. Tee hee- I’m dying to hear the outcome of this! And is this anything like the ever growing amount of roving in the bottom of the bag that you can NEVER finish- not if you spin for 10 lifetimes?????

  57. Does this mean that knitting in the round is the equivalent of being caught in a time loop? That would explain so much. I’m not insane and I am knitting the same round over and over; that’s why the sweater isn’t growing. Ah! science.

  58. time is an illusion; knitting time doubley so
    ford prefect
    aren’t second sox in that black hole too?
    marie in florida
    where i’m wondering how doubley is correctly spelled

  59. I cast on for Birch last night…and I’ve allready been sucked in the Black hole. Help me I’ve been sucked in & I can’t get out. Heeeelllppppp mmmmeeee!

  60. I’ve been in a black hole with socks before, but I am currently in a different kind of immobilization with a cotton mesh top: I can’t seem to concentrate enough to knit the pattern correctly for two consecutive rows. I swear, if I have to do row 8 one more time…
    (I LOVED the yarn scene in Hitchiker’s Guide, too! I dream of living in a yarn world.)

  61. I just finished Birch. Guess I achieved escape velocity on yesterday’s long car trip. I thought it would never happen!

  62. And pretty fine Photoshopping, there, someone.
    I mean, what amazing documentary photography…

  63. Black hole? Finally!! I have an explanation for what happened to the socks from hell (as they were dubbed during the supposed knitting process) that led to my complete and utter hatred of all things knitted by me! Ahem (donning the story hat)…I love my husband, which isn’t surprising really, considering he’s a pretty nice guy. He loves hand knitted socks. So…being a loving wife, I thought he would love me forever if only I knitted him some socks. Off to the knitting store I went, with visions of socks dancing in my head. First thing I discovered was that knitting store owners lie. They tell you that you can knit a pair of socks in, at the most, a couple of weeks. They tell you that yes, they are easy and that yes, you will have them done in plenty of time for Christmas (it was September). I, being a totally gullible person (and never believing for a minute that sweet little white-haired ladies would tell such bald-faced lies) trotted home with all the necessary ‘stuff’. Well, to make a long story even longer…I knitted. And I knitted. And I knitted. As of Christmas Eve I had one sock down to just past the heel. Hubby was very impressed with his gift of wool and knitting needles and a misshapen mass of something I hoped would become a sock. Suffice to say, my knitting career came to a screeching halt after I finally finished those damm socks (in time for Easter). So…lesson learned…there IS a black hole in sockdom too and I am so very relieved to know that it is at fault and not me. Fast-forward in this story to today…guess what I’m doing? Yep..knitting another sock. I’m blaming you for this regression into hell, but to be truthful I’m enjoying the process. Wanna know something else?…the socks from hell are still being worn twelve years later & flatly refuse to die. Could it have been all the loving words I bestowed on them while I knitted….and knitted….

  64. Black hole? Finally!! I have an explanation for what happened to the socks from hell (as they were dubbed during the supposed knitting process) that led to my complete and utter hatred of all things knitted by me! Ahem (donning the story hat)…I love my husband, which isn’t surprising really, considering he’s a pretty nice guy. He loves hand knitted socks. So…being a loving wife, I thought he would love me forever if only I knitted him some socks. Off to the knitting store I went, with visions of socks dancing in my head. First thing I discovered was that knitting store owners lie. They tell you that you can knit a pair of socks in, at the most, a couple of weeks. They tell you that yes, they are easy and that yes, you will have them done in plenty of time for Christmas (it was September). I, being a totally gullible person (and never believing for a minute that sweet little white-haired ladies would tell such bald-faced lies) trotted home with all the necessary ‘stuff’. Well, to make a long story even longer…I knitted. And I knitted. And I knitted. As of Christmas Eve I had one sock down to just past the heel. Hubby was very impressed with his gift of wool and knitting needles and a misshapen mass of something I hoped would become a sock. Suffice to say, my knitting career came to a screeching halt after I finally finished those damm socks (in time for Easter). So…lesson learned…there IS a black hole in sockdom too and I am so very relieved to know that it is at fault and not me. Fast-forward in this story to today…guess what I’m doing? Yep..knitting another sock. I’m blaming you for this regression into hell, but to be truthful I’m enjoying the process. Wanna know something else?…the socks from hell are still being worn twelve years later & flatly refuse to die. Could it have been all the loving words I bestowed on them while I knitted….and knitted….

  65. oops…trust me! Longest comment here..and I have to go & push the send button twice. Sorry everybody!

  66. You just need to put it in time out to give it a chance to think about it, then get out something to make it jealous – less fuzzy laceweight perhaps? Then add lots of comments about how much you’re really infatuated with the new yarn, how sweet it is, how it just seems to grow like magic, how it just flies off your needles, etc. The next time you pick up Birch, it’ll be a few inches longer, just because it missed you and feels bad. (at which point you should pick it up and knit joyously on it, telling it how much you love it). Sorry, not an astrophysicist, just a psychologist….

  67. I think I called this the Red Queen effect, as is, in order to get anywhere, you have to go really really really amazingly fast, otherwise you end up right where you started.
    I would recommend avoiding any quantum considerations while you entertain the whole physics as knitting angle, because its mode of probablities instead of certainties can be debilitating to a knitter. The again, there is a quantum possibility that Birch could knit itself.

  68. Well that explains it then! I’ve been wondering why I seem to keep knitting the same row over & over on the socks for my son’s sweetie. I swear, the cuff is just 3″ long and continues to be, regardless of the many hours I’ve spent knitting while waiting for various appointments. I know for a fact that there’s a black hole in the laundry room. . . that’s where all the single socks go. . .but in my knitting bag, too???? This is too much to comprehend.
    Happy belated birthday, Girl! I hope to see you in Seattle. . .
    Yvonne in Bellingham

  69. Fare warning (ALERT) If I suspect a UFO I will first have to chech the swirling vortec below before calling national security, being the husband of a Mythical Beast of a knitter. I’ll remember to duck as the yarn goes into orbit.

  70. You know about the SciFi-esque theory that black holes are actually wormholes to another dimensions or faraway places? I think what you knit on your Birch appeared on mine. It seems to grow even though I don’t have much time to knit on it.
    So, there we have it. Mystery solved. Now we only have to figure out a way to return the runaway stitches to you.

  71. In my opinion, as a fellow knitter and (another) astrophysicist, I think your initial idea of throwing a temper tantrum is the way to go. The thing about black holes is that they eventually die when there is nothing left for them to feed on. (Yes, black holes eat the stuff around. I will spare you any other details.) So when you throw you tantrum, you can’t knit so you can’t feed the knitting black hole. Therefore the knitting black hole dies and can’t suck up any length. You are then free to knit on, as fast or as slow as you won’t. If there is still length being sucked up, just continue the tantrum a little longer, that hole will die soon enough.

  72. I’m so glad that someone has finally made the ultimate connection between string theory, black holes and quantum whatevers. It explains so much. I guess I was wrong when I just assumed that somewhere in a parallel universe the sock was really finished. Who knew?
    I hope the you can figure out how to send the stitches back through the wormhole.
    And yes, there have been several earthquakes lately, so be prepared!

  73. Micheline: You do have a point, but I like ’em a bit in the curmudgeonly side. You take Daniel, I’ll take Jack. (and Cricton, too. Don’t forget — he WAS twinned.)

  74. I see you are not only a year older but you are wiser. I need to lie down to recuperate from that post. I guess I will meet you in person this weekend (and Norma and Judy) but it sounds as tho none of you talk much and you spend a lot of time in bathrooms.

  75. stephanie- we have all known about the black hole theory of knitting. but none of us could ever put the theory into words so eloquently.
    i am currently making a dress for me little one. she it little so why the heck is it taking so long?
    now i understand. thanks for making learning fun:)
    and happy birthday

  76. Dammit, Jim!!! (A friend of mine and I went around a whole month saying that once….), you’re making my head swim. All this talk of black holes doesn’t mix well with cold meds. ๐Ÿ™‚

  77. Actually, I think it is more a Relativitic Compression you are experiencing. As your Kniting speed increases, the length L approaches the Lorentz-FitzGerald Contraction transform of L’=L(v)/y where gamma equals something like 1/(1-v^2)^1/2.
    What all this means is that as you knit faster, your knitting actually appears not to increase in size, but when you go lie down for a bit, or have a spot of tea, the kniting comes back into phase with your temporal frame, and hence, boom, the length pops back to what it should be.
    Of course, to an outside observer, it has always looked longer, since they are percieving a different reference frame, and that is why they look at you with that look of ‘Did you really mean to add three feet to that stocking?’
    This proves conclusively that knitting is best done while drinking, as one can more easily discard the relativistic effects with a good pint or two; and more importantly, the person with you is more likely to think that the third arm you have added to that sweater is a result of that last pint than your over enthusiasm.

  78. Wow, what a lot of comments. I noticed a couple people talking about the knitted scene in Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy… just had to pop in with my bit of geek information – one of the comic shops I’ve been to actually sells an entire set of knitted people from that movie (Arthur, Trilliam, Zaphod, Ford Prefect and the robot). They’re adorable. There’s a picture here:
    Probably someone’s mentioned this before, but there’s also a music video by Steriogram that’s mostly knitted. It’s just incredible – the creativity and the work that went into it. Here’s a link to stuff about it on the forum (including links to where you can watch it):
    Both very entertaining.

  79. This does explain why I ended up with yarn for Birch from the yarn store yesterday… Maybe I’ll only knit while riding in the car – the speed might help to make up for my slow-knitting-speed. ๐Ÿ™‚

  80. …gosh I really hope I’m cute…because apparently, I’m not so bright…you lost me after “I have a theory”…lmao

  81. Wow. I think that was the first time I actually grasped science. I realize that wasn’t actually science, but dammit, Jim, it sure sounded like it.
    How’s the attempt at reaching escape velocity coming?

  82. Well Crabbygal, I didn’t mention O’Neill only because he’s leaving the show. I loved him when I was a teenybopper (MacGuyver), and he’s still mighty fine.

  83. Where do I get the pattern for Birch? I keep seeing references to it here, there and everywhere, but NO PATTERN. You think SOMEONE (like you) would have put it up on the internet by now.

  84. Yesterday when I read this it was hard to wrap my wee brain around it, but now after two glasses of wine, I get it!!

  85. My knitting black hole is all those i-cords on the Color on Color scarf from the Scarf Styles book. I was insane enough to make this. I-cords by the dozens, hundreds even…on size 2 US needles. I am amusing myself in the meantime toying with the Mariposa shawl (2/3 of a FO) and the Lotus Blossom shawl (had to have it after seeing the finsihed product on the blog, current status drooling over the kit)!

  86. I just blogged about this today–though not as much or as well. I’ve hit this point on one of my projects. Sadly my project doesn’t have Birch’s seductive quality of getting smaller and smaller as work. Instead I am knitting a lumbering rectangle. A mass of never-ending sameness. I will never get out.

  87. It’s the physix of KidSilk Haze. I should have known when the shawl I started called for six skeins. They don’t look like much, but the first one lasted a LONG time. I’ll let you know how long the second one takes sometime next winter. This particular yarn has inverse mass — the more you knit, the greater the skein increases. Not only does the shawl not increase in length, but the skein extends its lifespan.
    Also, did you ever notice how hard it is to go back and fix errors in a lace pattern in this yarn? Oh, sorry, you’ve graduated from the errors-in-lace stage of development. Wave at me, I’m still back here… My daughters will have to wait untill adulthood to fight over this shawl.

  88. This is vaguely related. It was recently pointed out to me that geometry helps to explain why it takes a ball of yarn so long to shrink at first–if its diameter decreases by 25%, the amount of yarn left is actually cut in half. Something about 4 pi R squared that I’ve never used since 10th grade.

  89. Thanks for all the physics… and science fiction. I think the ‘black hole’ knitting will show back up after blocking! lol.

  90. Just looked to see where you are on the travel list, and see that you are coming to Edmonton in August. Oh my. I will be waiting to see when and sure hope it isn’t when I’m gone. Edmonton is only 20 min. away, and not far from that to any yarn shop. I am still waiting for my bookbookbook as my favourite shop is waiting for her backorder.
    Barb B. in Gibbons AB

  91. I loathe the black hole of knitting. It had the lovely lace scarf I was knitting for nearly two weeks, and when I finally wrestled it back, there was a HUGE hole in it from nowhere. Silk/cashmere ramen anyone?

  92. You forgot to mention that the closer you get to the “hole” the slower times goes..theoretically, you will actually be going backwards in time at one point due to time slowing so much. In effect, you will actually be “unknitting” it! LOL!

  93. Wow! How did you know? I slowly and methodically have started to be drawn into the dark whirlpool of Birch. I’ve been trying to fight it, but I’m weakening, even though I’ve Googled it to find out other bloggers experiences with it, almost all who said, in so many words, “Beware, fuzzy, impossible to frog, stitches cling together.” But do I listen? Am I heeding the warning? I’m one mouse click away from ordering the patternbook and yarn. HELP!!!!

  94. I thought I would try to circumvent the second sock syndrome by casting on and knitting both socks at the same time. I use the magic loop method for knitting socks. Twice the knitting, twice the fun, ten times as long to get any where near the heel. Oh well at least both socks will be the same length when or if I reach the heel, I don’t even want to think what the gravitational pull will be when I head for the toes.

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