Another Kind of Needle

It has always struck me as sort of odd that knitting ends up lumped with "needlework".  I know we use needles, so maybe in a grand way it ends up making sense, but really,  I can’t tell you how many ways that embroidery is different than knitting – and I say that not just as a knitter struggling with the *&^%!ing chain stitch on this baby sweater, but as a semi-retired cross-stitcher.  (It’s been a long time since I did any, so I was going to type retired, but I did have some sort of spasm and buy a kit a few years ago, and it’s still sitting here, and I suppose I plan on doing it or I would have recognised it as a momentary impulse and given it away. I guess that technically, that makes me semi-retired, or maybe just weak.)

Last night I diligently applied myself to embroidering round each of those stars on my little grey to turn them into what the pattern says is a snowflake. (The pattern is wrong. They are clearly flowers. It may have been a long winter, but I still know one when I see one.)

It seems to me like these flowers are taking forever – and that’s because they are. Last night I worked on them for hours – about two and a half hours all in, and I got four done. That means that each one is taking a rather ridiculous 40 minutes each. I tested the theory this morning, and yup – even fresh as a daisy in bright light with a good attitude, it was 40 minutes for one little flower snowflake.  I know that skill with a knitting needle and yarn doesn’t translate to skill with an embroidery needle and yarn, and I know that you’re going to tell me now that they look great. Really great, and I think they do too.  I think they look like someone who knew what they were doing embroidered them.

That’s not what’s happening. What’s happening is that I suck at this lack so much experience, that I’m having to swap in time for a skill.  I know someone else could be doing a better job, I’ve actually unpicked two of them because they looked like I gave a three year old who didn’t give a crap a needle and yarn.

It was last night, when I was unpicking one of them – and perhaps pouring myself a largish glass of wine and using unlady-like language (for the record, I think both were appropriate, considering my situation) that Joe asked me what the problem was.
I told him it was too picky. Too tiny. That the stitches had to go in just the right places and the tension had to be just right and it is taking a really long time and…

"Sounds like knitting" he said.  He’s right, and it hit me that this is a good experience for me. Makes sure I don’t get cocky.  It’s good for me to be humbled. I’ve always got something to learn – and knitting and needlework are definitely not the same. Being good with yarn apparently isn’t a cross-platform sort of thing, both are picky, both take skill and dudes, I need to get some experience.

In other, sad news, Peter Workman has gone to the big bookstore in the sky, and the book business has lost a giant, and a knitter friendly one at that. I was lucky enough to have met Peter several times, since the first publisher who ever took a chance on me (Storey Publishing) was an imprint of Workman Publishing. I remember the thrill of realizing how incredibly intelligent and sensitive he was – especially around books. I liked him, and he scared the heck out of me. I wanted so much for him to think I was a good writer, and as far as I know, he did.  He trusted my instincts and was always willing to hold a sock.  I remember that several times at BEA, he would make the time to walk with me, and choose books he thought I would love.
He was always right. 
I barely knew him, but will miss him. My sympathies to his family, friends, and colleagues. He was a strange and wonderful man.


I’ve got a deadline kicking my arse, so I’ll be random. It’s easier than stringing it together. This weekend I:

1. Drove to Springfield (Ontario, not Illinois) and taught for Wildflower Wool.  It was amazing, what a great group of students.

2. Drove home, walked in the door, put down my stuff, and Sam and I hopped on our bikes to go out, rode to the bottom of the driveway and:

Broken arm, or broken elbow, to be precise. (Sam wants you to know that the reason she looks rough is because it was, and also because I did her hair.) The rest of the weekend passed in a blur of the emergency room, fracture specialists, sock knitting,  x-rays, casts and passing things to Sam. (She’s right handed, and that’s her right arm It’s a serious bummer, but she’s being a trooper – or maybe that’s just the percocet talking.)

3. Let Luis play the ukulele.  He really likes it…

or, was that licks it?

It’s all the same to him.

4. Read all the comments on the previous post and felt grateful that you’re all so totally made of awesome. It must be all the yarn that does it to you.

5. Finished the knitting part on the little grey sweater.

It’s all done but for the rest of the embroidery.  I’ve done the sleeves, but those six motifs took hours, and there’s ten on the body. I hope the fetus it’s intended for isn’t in school before I finish.  It’s ridiculously fiddly – and yeah. I get the irony of that coming from a knitter.

6. Wondered what you were doing this weekend. Did you have a good time? What are you knitting?

Endings and Beginnings

I’ve started typing this a hundred times.  I thought I was just having trouble finding the right words, but it turns out that there aren’t really the right words to say something that you don’t want to say.

I’m convinced that the best thing to do here is just rip off the band-aid and tell you straight.  Yesterday I signed some papers and left Knot Hysteria, the company Tina Newton and I owned together.  We had begun the process of dissolving the company, agreeing that its time was come, but in the end, this is how it wound up.

This means that there won’t be another Sock Summit.  Tina and I agreed that we made that possible together, and without that togetherness, the thing can’t exist.  I want to thank all of you a very great deal, because in the end it was the knitters who believed in Sock Summit that made the thing real, and fabulous, and work that I will always be proud of.  I wish everything that amazing could last forever – and I wish things could be different, but they aren’t, and life happens, and things change.

I’m sure you have questions, but to be completely honest I’m also pretty sure that there isn’t much more I think it’s appropriate to say. Our reasons for coming to this place are private, and it’s important to me that this is graceful. 

It might be the end of this thing, but I’m going to pour myself a cup of coffee, knit, look at my daffodils and dream of spring, and remember that a good thing about endings, is that it leaves room for beginnings. I’m looking forward.

I guess I’ll Find Out

I try not to worry about knitting instructions. I know, I know – that’s a grand and great statement, but the truth is that at this point in my knitting career,  it’s been a good long time since an instruction knocked me down and left me bleeding in an alley while it partied with its skanky friends. (I admit it hasn’t been that long since one slapped me around a little, but that’s normal.)  Part of this is experience, and part of it is that I have lots of resources, but most of it that I am frankly so stubborn that I make the mules the other mules hate for being obdurate look weak-willed. 

This means that if I want to knit something, I don’t usually worry about it being too hard.  I’ll figure that out later.  If there’s something I don’t know how to do? I’ll look it up. If there’s something tricky – I’ll get the hang.  Most of the time, I look at a piece of knitting, compare it mentally with what I imagine the study of statistical thermodynamics is like, and then sort of think "How hard can it be?"

Obviously, the answer to that varies. (See reference above to getting slapped around a little by yarn and it’s friends.)  Knitting, I feel like I can handle.  Knitting and me, we’re square.  It’s with this in mind that I tell you the following. The little sweater is not done. This is because the last instruction on this knitting pattern is a hard one.

It says "Embroider."  The first time I saw it it took a couple of minutes to hit me that it wasn’t knitting at all.  It’s totally embroidery, which (while I admit to a brief but intense period of cross-stitch) is not exactly something I know a ton about – so we’ll see how it goes.  If you need me, I’ll be the one cursing in the corner with McCall’s Needlework Treasury open to "chain stich."

I know they’re famous last words, but really…how hard can it be?

(PS. I knew I was saving a needlework book from 1964 for a reason. I am now officially vindicated in my decision to also save " Creative Hands" from 1966, which contains this lesson:

Some day being able to tell the difference between those two could be critical.  I’m glad to have pictures.)