Hello, lovelies! I hope those of you in cold places are staying warm, and I hope those of you in warm places are staying cool. I’m currently feeling great, temperature-wise, although I did just get attacked on the foot and the arm by a vicious mosquito. Ah, the tropics! Here’s a tip: skin-friendly lavender oil is both a pest repellent and itch reliever. I mix a few drops with water and put it in a spritz bottle. Let me just go grab that…
Ah, better. So, in knitting news, Lisa and I have been working on a knit-along since December. You can check it out on Instagram using #sammylisaKAL, if you feel so inclined. A “knit-along,” or KAL, is a project multiple people knit together at the same time, and it’s great for plain old fun but also when you need to troubleshoot something in the patter.
I say that we’ve been “working on” our KAL even though at this present moment Lisa is already finished; I’m stubbornly neglecting the final bit, out of frustration and rage at making a mistake resulting in two items of a supposed-to-be-matching set having different finished lengths.
We’ve been working on the gorgeous Beira, by Liz Corke. The pattern is sexy, cable-y, and really easy to follow. I did mine on size two needles with Misti Alpaca Tonos Carnaval (I believe the “Birds” colorway, though I can’t be sure as I’ve tossed the label), and Lisa did hers on size zero needles in a lovely light green Finullgarn from Rauma’s Nordic Fiber Arts. My yarn was a little too slippery for my liking, though the fabric texture turned out to be very soft and cozy. Lisa’s quite pleased with hers because of the nice, tight, warm fabric she could create with it. She’s living basically in the tundra, so the fact that her Beira turned out to be super toasty is a supremely good thing.
Before I tell you about my Beira, please allow me back track and tell you a little bit about my knitting history. When I was about eight years old, I learned to knit from my grandmother, Ada Ilene “Nanny” Raycraft (1924-2014).
I have crystal clear memories of weekends at my grandparents’ lake cottage, sitting with Nanny on the family couch (she perched in her special spot on the far left corner and me on her right-hand side), working diligently on basic cotton washcloths, the first items I ever learned to create. I used to sit for hours in my room in the cottage working on my knitting, beyond confused about why the squares I tried to knit had holes in them and tended to get narrow when they should have gotten wider and wider when they should have gotten narrower. I remember Nanny’s collection of shining, colorful straight needles in light pinks and electric blues, and I remember gawking at her perfect finished objects: variegated slippers for uncle so-and-so, a coral owl jumper with black sequin eyes for sister, a blanket for the new baby in the family. Nanny taught me the basics: cast on, knit, purl, yarn over, knit two together, bind off–and thereby gave me a solid foundation for knitting, as many of us can surely say about the grandmothers and other important folks in our own personal histories who handed us our first set of sticks and strings (or paintbrushes or rolling pin or garden trowel, or sat us down at our first piano or wound our first fishing pole…).
So, eventually I became a knitter–a Knitter with a capital K, as they say. At some point, it transformed from a hobby to part of my identity, something I knew would always be a part of my life. I picked up the rest of the knitting skills I possess through books, online resources, and fellow knitters. I took a sock knitting class once at my college town’s local yarn shop. Mostly, though, I learned through choosing patterns to execute and picking up the necessary techniques as I went through the pattern, learning as needed.
I’m not sure how many knitters are autodidacts to the same extent–perhaps it’s more than I realize and the feelings I’m about to describe aren’t that special. Because I’m largely self-taught, I feel that sometimes I am shockingly incompetent, challenged to complete what should be basic projects without committing at least one or two serious blunders. It’s totally normal to make mistakes, but I have high expectations for myself considering that I’ve been knitting for twenty years. Besides eating, reading, writing, and basic human hygiene tasks, knitting is my longest-sustained activity thus far in my life. And though I’m proud that beyond the basics I’m self-taught, I wish I weren’t such a clumsy knitter.
Because I’m so clumsy, knitting often frustrates me to extreme and excessive levels. I chug along thinking everything is going fine and realize all to late that I’ve made a horrendous mistake that necessitates starting over completely or ripping out most of the work. I make sloppy fixes, usually do my leaning increases wrong, I misread patters and stubbornly think they’re flat-out wrong when they’re not, I cannot do the kitchener stitch or grafting of any kind to save my life, and I still have ladders in my circular knitting projects no matter how hard I yank and tug or mind my tension. I rarely check my gauge, usually choose the wrong yarn for needle size, and I’m still not convinced I actually know how to weave in ends.
There’s a light in the darkness, however: I always have fun when I knit. I do realize that I can’t make improvements if I don’t make mistakes. I’m the type of person that will mess a project horribly the first time through and do it almost perfectly the next time no matter how stressful the first go-round was. Often, I’m the type of person who obsessive-compulsively* and in a fitful rage rips out hours and hours of work because of a silly mistake that nobody will ever notice except for me. I’ll fret and fret, focus on nothing but the error, and put the project away until I can come to terms with either tearing the whole thing apart or accepting the error and moving on (the latter being far less likely, of course).
Because I’ve been knitting so long, it’s clear to me what my knitting habits reflect about me as a person. Knitting isn’t really a hobby since I’ve spent so many hours of my life with needles in my hands. It’s part of who I am, and part of me is how I knit. I can’t be satisfied, I’m a perfectionist to a serious fault, and I have unrealistic expectations about what I can produce, in how much time, and to what level. I have a hard time accepting my faults and a harder time not obsessing over stuff that only I notice when it bothers me, especially if it’s a personality or character flaw of my own. I find it incredibly difficult to knit for myself and keep my projects, since I have an equally difficult time giving myself the level of care and attention I give to others. I have self-esteem and self-confidence issues, but, in my twisted mind, perfect knitting means I am good and worthy as a person, and imperfect knitting means…something much less nice.
Knitting is not always fun, and it’s not always relaxing. It is not always a meditation, it is not always a positive outlet for stress, and it is not always healthy, at least not how I do it.
But stick with me: I’m trying to change. I’m trying to accept the flaws and take things as they come, because I’m worth the time and the project is too. I don’t want to be the person who negates the hours of fun and enjoyment spent working on a project before I realized something was going horribly wrong. I want to embrace the flaws, acknowledge the imperfections, and show myself, through my knitting and my attitude toward it, that mistakes are a beautiful and magical part of life. Forgiving myself my flaws and mistakes is sublimity.
So, let’s move from knitting and the human condition back to the less intense subject at hand, the luscious Beira…I knit my second glove when I was on vacation in Gili Trawangan two weeks ago after finishing the first one in mid-December. I didn’t bring the first glove with me since I wanted to avoid getting it unnecessarily salty and sandy because, yes, I was knitting on the beach. But even if I had had the first glove with me, I’m not convinced I would have noticed the error, because I took a photograph of them together that clearly shows the problem way before it got too serious and didn’t catch on.
So, what happened? From the outset, I had decided to knit a few more rounds of cables to elongate the gloves to my desired length, which meant I had to repeat a certain section of the chart two times. But, cleverly, I wrote “repeat once” on my pattern, blisfully forgetful of the fact that I had done two repeats. Thus, I ended up with a second glove a whole inch (one cable repeat) shorter than the first.
A week’s worth of work was more than I wanted to waste by ripping everything out. When I messed up one of the early cables on the first glove, I had decided to accept the inevitable flaws in Beira with grace and patience, and sticking to this decision when I realized what it meant for the second glove was not easy. I refused to frog (rip it all out).
So, I snipped a string near the cuff, picked up the stitches, knit the extra inch of cabling, and grafted the mess together. There’s a glaring glitch row because I simply cannot teach myself to graft–as hard as I have tried over the years–but at least they are the same length. In truth, it’s barely visible when I wear them, and if I wear them with a coat or long sleeve, it will be totally invisible. But it irks me. It’s hard to accept. I know it’s there!!!
I haven’t touched Beira since I did the graft, even though all I have to do is finish the thumb and weave in the ends, which is about an hour’s worth of work…
…but I know I’ll finish. I know I’ll want to give Beira away to someone who won’t just stare at the glitch row like I will (I wish Nanny were still around to give them to, because she wouldn’t give a damn about it and would call me silly for thinking about it this much!). And I know I’ll resist this temptation, force myself to wear these gloves, and eventually love them. This is part of my accepting-faults-and-not-being-an-obsessive-perfectionist self-prescribed therapy, and it’s difficult, but it’s working.
We are what we do, and I’m not about doing everything perfectly: these days, my goals are to accept mistakes as opportunities for growth, to accept myself as talented and hard-working despite obvious flaws and shortcomings, and to honor the journey, however cheesy that sounds.
I’m also going to knit another (perfect) Beira at some point. Ha!
So, at the end of the day, I appreciate the gift of knitting, even though it makes me crazy more often than not. I encourage you to pick up some sticks and see what you can do, because knitting can help you learn a lot about yourself, just like most other challenging activities can do. Knitting, however, is special, ‘cuz you get handmade knitwear at the end.
Thanks for reading!
Big knitty love,
PS: I will post a fine-quality picture of the finished Beira on my next post.
*I’m using this term sincerely, not intending to diminish obsessive compulsive disorder, from which I suffered as a child (and might still do).