I couldn’t possibly

I left to go to Madrona with two projects in my bag. Well, three. I had a sock with me just for the sake of security, but I had no real intentions of knitting it – which definitely wasn’t the case with the other two.  I took with me the do-over of Elliot’s little sweater, and I swear to you that I had every intention of finishing that straightaway. I only took the yarn for the second Bonfire cowl with me in case I finished that sweater super quickly and needed a backup project.

Oh, sure – I mean, I started the cowl in the lounge on the way to Madrona, but that was just for the flight. I wasn’t really going to knit it all weekend – not when Elliot needs a sweater.*  In a practical sense, it made sense to knit the cowl on the plane. Circular needles, nothing to drop, no notions required, no interruptions while I established the pattern.  Start the cowl on the plane, then put it away until the sweater was finished. Completely responsible choice.

Once I landed, I was super busy teaching and organizing, so I just grabbed the bag with the cowl, because the sweater was in my suitcase.  For three days. Fine. The sweater was in my suitcase for five days and I had a lot going on, and it simply was not convenient to bend over for a moment and pick it up because I LOVE KNITTING THE COWL.

another bonfire 2018-02-22

So I am knitting the cowl, and now it doesn’t make sense to stop because I am almost done, and really, once you’ve come this far, why not finish. I mean, who puts something aside at this point?**

stillbonfire 2018-02-22

*It’s okay, he has more than one knitter looking out for him. Ken just finished one,  so it’s not like he suffered for a moment.

rocketry 2018-02-22

(Pattern: Rocketry, Yarn: Dream in Color Classy. Knitter: Ken (AKA: Poppa.)

**Please refrain from noticing that this is the point at which I set the sweater aside. Thanks.

Doubling up

Off I go this morning, the first of two flights, making my way from cold and snowy Toronto to what I hear is a decidedly more spring-like Seattle.  It’s the time of the year that I get to go to Madrona, and I’m excited and happy to be on my way, despite the 5am wake-up call. It’s early morning in the Air Canada Lounge at YYZ, and I’m here with my fellow travellers, watching Olympic curling on TV and knitting.  Well, we’re all watching curling (it is Canada, after all, and the sport is a bit of a national obsession here) but I think I’m the only one knitting. I’m certainly the only one posing yarn with curling. (Hold on… yes. It’s just me.)

second bonfire 2018-02-14

As I was getting my projects together for this trip, I realized that for the first time maybe ever, everything I’m knitting is something I’ve made before. I’ve got the second go at Elliot’s sweater in my bag (because you guys are right and it makes more sense to knit it all over again than it does to rip it back – I’d only be able to keep a bit of it, and I’m pretty sure I have enough yarn) and those two balls of yarn are destined to be another Bonfire – this time in Freia Handpaints Vitamin C and Driftwood, a combination that’s a little more 1970’s kitchen than the one before.  I loved knitting that last cowl, and I’ve been dreaming of a do-over since the minute I finished it… The way I remember it, every single moment of it was a pleasure. Then just now I started the two-colour Italian cast-on this sucker begins with, and all of a sudden I don’t know what I was thinking. Last time it all seemed so fast, so easy, so entertaining, and that must be true, if I forgot about this part.  Second verse, same as the first.

In a drawer

We’ve been going through my Mum’s things. It’s time to empty her house and sell it, and unbelievably, months of wishing the house would sort itself without us hasn’t really done anything. Erin and I are not really terrific at this, we’ve both got a low threshold, and I think we both feel like the house is full of emotional bombs.  You’re going along fine, sorting something, and then run into something that’s just so… Mum, that it hits you like a sledgehammer. Nothing is safe. Even trying to get rid of stuff from the freezer was hard – Erin pulled out the little jar of frozen lemon curd I’d made mum at Christmas, and I came undone, two minutes later we’re laughing and crying because we’ve pulled something out with a best before date of some time in 2014.  Mum didn’t really believe in best before dates. She thought they were a scam. (She once ate an 14 month old yogurt by accident and didn’t die. This cemented her philosophy.)

I knit a lot of things for my mum over the years, and I’ve been stunned to discover that she kept them all. Every bit of it (with the exception of slippers that wore out) are still in her closets and drawers. She’s got a fantastic sock collection, and hats, sweaters and tops. Erin took a few of the sweaters, and the silk tee that I knit her, and I think I’ll take the socks back – I’m not sure yet. Socks are such an intimate thing, I don’t know if I can bear to let them go, or bear to have them here.  There’s a lot to figure out and I hadn’t expected it to come down to weeping into old socks, but there you have it.  In her cupboard of sweaters, I found an old one.

musweaterchair 2018-02-11

This was the first sweater I knit my mother, and frankly, it doesn’t have much to recommend it. For a while with my mum, there was a sheep thing. It’s hard to explain, but she ended up with a lot of sheep stuff, and at the beginning of all of it, I knit her a sweater that was supposed to be reminiscent of her grandfathers sheep farm in BC. It was 1990, and at the time I was very young and broke, and Amanda was six months old, and the outlay of cash for the yarn was a big deal, even though it’s absolutely acrylic. (Canadiana, ordered from Mary Maxim. I remember it coming in the mail.)  I designed it myself, such as it is, a little square, drop-sleeve sweater, and charted the intarsia sheep and hills and clouds, and embroidered on the little bunches of flowers and the legs and noses of the sheep.

I remember making it. I remember hoping she liked it, and I remember being worried because the clouds didn’t look quite right, and the seams aren’t perfect, and the green wasn’t quite the green I thought it would be.  All those things are still true. It’s not the most expertly executed knitwear, my skills are very different now, that’s for sure. I remember her opening it, and I remember her saying that she loved it. I don’t know if she really did. I mean, now that I’m a mother I see that she certainly did love it, but we’ll never know if she loved it because of what it was, or because I made it for her.  The stuff your kids make is like that, and I suspect it doesn’t change because they grow up. She wore that sweater for years. Years and years.

mumsweter 2018-02-09

(That’s her and Meg. The sweater’s already three years old by then.) I felt a little twinge of shame every time I saw that sweater in the last 10 years or so.  Wishing, now that I am older and wiser and have more skills and money that I’d made it better. I thought a few times about re-knitting it, this time in wool, with the green I’d always meant it to be, and with shoulder seams that were a bit tidier.  My intarsia isn’t much better, but I could have tried. I never did though, and now there it was, on a shelf in a cupboard in her room, carefully folded, with a bar of soap in-between it and the sweater under it. (My mother has a bar of soap in every possible spot of her closets and drawers. We can’t explain it, but there’s got to be fifty of them.)

It smells like her (and like soap) and right now it’s in my living room, and I have no idea what I’m going to do with it, and I can’t even explain my feelings toward it, but I knew it couldn’t go to Goodwill.  I now own a pretty crappy acrylic sweater, one that I’m super attached to, and rather ironically, it was knit by me.  Couldn’t have predicted that.

musweaterdetail 2018-02-11

Life is surprises.

By the way, we’ve opened our April Retreat up for Registration, there’s some info here if you would care to join us.  Who knows. Maybe I’ll wear the sweater.

A River in Egypt

This June I will be fifty years old.  When I am fifty, I will have been knitting for forty-six years, and I have just done a classic dumb-knitter thing, and I want you to know that if you were hoping that sometime soon you would stop doing the same thing, you should probably give up.

I just finished the sweetest little sweater for Elliot.  It’s the Elwood sweater – re-jigged colour-wise to match all the hats I knit this Christmas.  Looks great, right?

toosmalldammit 2018-02-06 (1)

Wrong. It does not fit him, it is too small. I have to pull the whole thing out. I think I can just go back as far as the divide for the sleeves, work some more increases and carry on, but I have to pull out the sleeves, the collar and button band, the body from the divide… and here is the worst part.

It is my fault. It is completely my fault. It is entirely, 100% totally my fault in about ten ways, which I have listed below, so that the record is complete.

1. I didn’t do a swatch.  I can’t explain why not, I just let it go, like a passing and irrelevant thought.  A bubble I let float away on a breeze.

2. Once I decided not to do a gauge swatch, I also decided that even though the gauge for this sweater is 18 stitches to 10cm, and even though I have never, ever gotten that gauge with this yarn and a size 4mm needle – that this was indeed the needle I should use.

3. I made that decision, knowing that it would result in a fabric that I liked, but not a gauge that would work, and started knitting anyway – believing that it might still work, even though I absolutely knew it would not. I did not suspect it wouldn’t work. I knew it wouldn’t, and yet I hoped that this was the time that everything would change, for no reason what so ever, even though the world never, ever works that way.

4. I began knitting, and knew the gauge was wrong, and the sweater would be too small, but thought I might just do a few extra increases to make it work.

5. Then I didn’t do them. I didn’t forget either. I just decided to skip it because #3.

6. I had a feeling again, once I divided for the sleeves and body, that it wasn’t working out. As a matter of fact, I applied forty-six years of experience and knew it wasn’t working out, but I decided to ignore that feeling in the hopes that magic dust would settle on the sweater and a unicorn would spit on it and a knitting miracle that has never before happened to me would finally occur.

7. It did not, and despite that, I decided to knit the button band and the collar before the sleeves, just to make it harder to rip it out if the unicorn thing didn’t happen.

8. As I was knitting the first sleeve I knew it was too skinny. I knew my gauge was wrong. I knew all of those things and I felt pretty bad about knitting the sleeve, but I told myself that all of these problems were probably going to block right out, so I knit the second tiny stupid too small sleeve.

sweater wrong 2018-02-06

9. Then I wove in all the ends.

10. Then I blocked it, and it didn’t block out.You know why? Because nothing ever blocks out. Nothing ever has. The first time you think “oh dear… well, that will probably block right out” you should immediately rip back, because that isn’t a thing. That’s not what blocking does, and I know that, and I teach that, and I have written that down and I literally have a tee-shirt emphasizing this and I honestly can’t tell you what the hell was wrong with me from the word go on this sweater because despite points 1-10 this morning I texted Megan and asked her to give me Elliot’s measurements because you know… BABIES SHRINK ALL THE TIME, and when he was as big or bigger than he was the last time I asked I actually got upset and shocked that this sweater is too small.

The only redeeming thing I can possibly say about this episode is that at least I didn’t sew the buttons on. I hate me.