Sometimes, it’s best to admit defeat

I’ve spent this past week working on a new pair of mittens. During lunch on Monday, I went to “The Needleworks,” a small yarn store in Mission Valley and bought some lovely classic one fifty yarn, by Classic Elite Yarns – one ball of dark blue and one ball of white. When I got home I went straight to Ravelry and picked out a pattern, then dove right in. The pattern calls for fingering weight yarn and size one needles, but classic one fifty is sport weight. This, I decided, would not be a problem because I want to add a liner, a la “Fiddle Head,” and having the mittens turn out a little big would be great. The pattern, likewise, recommended a gauge of 10 stitches per inch. After casting on and knitting a few rows, I was getting about 7 stitches per inch, and the color work was looking a bit sloppy.

It was getting late anyway, so I put the mitten away and went to bed.

Tuesday at lunch, I cast on again, using the next smaller size needles that I had access to – size 00. After a few rows, I found my gauge had only improved to 7.5 stitches per inch, and my color work still looked crappy. Fine. Lunch was over anyway.

When I got home I unravelled the uncooperative mitten and cast on once again, still using the size 00 needles, but increasing my tension a fair bit. A few rows in, I measured my gauge and found it was at 9.25 stitches per inch – exactly what I was going for. And, as a bonus, the little white stitches were showing up perfectly against the dark blue background rather than being pulled so tightly they disappeared into the fabric, or knit so loosely that they stuck out like Frankenstein’s monster at a cotillion.

And so, I knit on.

I knit on for several days (until this morning, in fact), the sides of my lovely little mitten rising up straight and even. Then I decided to try it on, to ensure I wasn’t knitting mittens that would fit the aforementioned monster.

As I mushed my hand in I swore silently, as the mitten was really quite tight. When I got it on all the way I found myself getting a little claustrophobic. And as I eased it off my hand, my swearing gained volume until, at the moment I was finally freed from its woolly snare, my face was nearly blue from cursing. I took a deep breath, then unravelled 5 days worth of knitting, put all the yarn and the needles back into the bag, and walked into my bedroom to tell my husband about how the mitten had vanquished me.

When I entered, I noticed “Girasole” sitting demurely on top of my yarn chest, where she’d been put last night because we were too tired to return her to her home inside the trunk where she’s lived for the past year waiting patiently for me to weave in the ends before giving her a bath stretching her out to dry. Right then, I knew the reason for the mittens’ attitude.

I needed to finish Girasole.

And so, without further ado (or whining – I promise to stop whining too), here she is, in all her sunflowery glory.

This is where it all started – just a few little stitches

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Cruel

I’m not sure what I’ve done to so anger the knitting fates, but let me tell you – they seriously have it in for me.

First it was Girasole. I’ve been knitting away at it since I finished my Christmas knitting. When I got to the third chart, I thought, “Wow, you’d think I’d be getting faster with my needles. How odd that it takes me more than 20 minutes to do a round (320 stitches)…” When I got to the fourth chart, I thought, “Wow, it sure seems like I’m doing this boring little 4-stitch repeat a lot more than 80 times…” When I got to row 10 of the fourth chart, I got a little worried. By my calculations, I had more than 38,000 stitches to go, having completed about 12,000 stitches to that point. And I was already starting my fifth ball of yarn out of the 10 I’d purchased for this project. But I merrily knit on, knowing that I have a very bad track record when it comes to how much yarn is required (see Fascine Braid Socks and February Lady Sweater posts).

At row 14, I finally tracked down a pair of 60″ circular needles, and proceeded to move my lovely blanket off of the short pair. Once I had the stitches mostly-evenly distributed, I laid the afghan out on my bed, and called my husband in to admire my work. “Look,” I said, “it’s even lovely from the back!” because I’d finally managed to control my tension and make all of the stitches the same size.

Then, for reasons I can’t explain, I counted the leaves at the center of the blanket (this would be the part knit whilst I was pontificating the possible reasons for my slower-than-molasses knitting). I should have had 20. When I got to the 20th leaf, I wasn’t even half way around the blanket. Holy crap!

I know that my mistake started somewhere in chart A (back when there were only 80 stitches in each round), but I can’t for the life of me identify what happened.

Luckily, my mom bought me a ball winder for Christmas, so I was able to re-wind 1100 yards of yarn in no time at all (by the way, watching 1100 yards worth of knitting unravel, intentionally, because you screwed up is one of the most heartbreaking, yet beautiful things ever. The yarn I knotted in ever increasing circles seemed to jump joyously back into ball form). Then I took my yarn, and the needles, and the pattern, and I put them into my knitting chest to “rest” until I am stable enough to try it again.

But all was not lost (well, all was lost for Girasole; but that’s not the only stick I’ve got in the fire). I started over on the Alpaka Tunic from Interweave Knits Fall 2009 that I’m making for my daughter. I’d misinterpreted the chart so many times that I had stopped making a sweater and started making a jumble of yarn that wouldn’t, in the end, make either of us happy. This time, in order to practice with the chart a bit, I’ve started with the sleeves, which only have one pattern repeat, and are only 30 or so rows long. I finished the first one yesterday at the bookstore, and I was looking forward to getting the second one cast on today during lunch.

Anyone want to venture a guess as to what happened to that plan? Please note the time of this post (obviously written around lunch time), and the use of the phrase “…was looking forward…” in the previous paragraph. Well, I have my yarn. I have my pattern.

But I have no needles.

So, if anyone knows why the knitting fates are ticked off at me, please share the reason with me so I can make amends. This is getting old, and I’d really like to knit something (anything) this evening.

Unraveling my Nemesis

I see it as a sign of my growth as a person and a knitter that this evening, as I sat on my bed unknitting my very first sweater (started way back in March), that I didn’t cry. Not even once. Heck, my eyes didn’t even well up as I sat there, pulling out row after row after row and winding my sweater back into (many) balls of yarn.

I took the band-aid approach, and ripped back the sleeves and the bottom edge before I realized I should probably document this potentially psychologically damaging undertaking. That way, when my husband got home and found me blubbering in the midst of what seemed like a mile of lovely yarn, he and the doctors could use the photographic evidence to piece together just what led to my demise.

Here we are a little further in the unknitting process. At this point, I was cursing the fact that I’d knit the sweater with two balls of yarn at once, doing two rows with one, then two rows with the other in order to spread out the color variations a bit.  Aside from the inevitable tangles of string, knitting this way was not a problem. Unknitting it, however, proved to provide just the right amount of frustration to take my mind off the three wasted weeks of work that had been lost.

Nothing but yoke. Ha! You could say that, at  this point, I had egg on my face (get it, nothing but yoke (yolk)?). Or, if you have a proper sense of humor, you could just skip it and observe the growing number of yarn-balls in the background. Horrifying, yet it grabs your attention and holds it, much like a train wreck, would you say? Admit it, you’re thinking, “Better her than me.”

And here we are. Back at the beginning.

The whole time I was doing this, I kept thinking that if I’d had just a little more yarn, and if the lady at the yarn store hadn’t mentioned the fact that my knitting was arse-backwards, I would have had this sweater done months ago, and could have avoided freezing to death in my office.  But now, I’m looking forward to making a more beautiful, if only because it will have been knit correctly, sweater. Although no longer my first sweater, this project will always have a special place in my heart.

Featured here is the February Lady Sweater by Pamela Wynne, (undone) in Araucania Toconao Multi (which, although a lovely smooshy yarn, is a pain in the butt to match hank to hank)

Isn’t it funny?

Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it. George Santayana

Apparently, I am one of those. I’ve come to the (slow) realization that I never knit a project once. Instead, I cast on and knit away for an inch (or, in this case, all the way to the toe of a sock), realize I made some sort of grievous error, then rip it back and start over. The only thing saving me this time is that the mistake happened after the heel, so I don’t have to go all the way back to the beginning.

(Unfortunately, the lovely Miss Jojo ran my camera’s batteries down to the nub yesterday, so you’ll have to wait until after dinner to see the photo of my disgrace and disgust)

Before…

…and after. I’m over it. See how I’ve matured?

I  actually noticed this trend with the evil shawl of doom, and took a moment to appreciate it. Although I have to do everything (at least) twice, the second time goes impressively well. Hopefully, the same will be true with this sock. I’d like to finish this installment of the Rockin’ Sock Club before the July shipment arrives!

I should note that this error is entirely my fault. The pattern is perfectly written. I simply can’t follow directions. This is not a new problem… My mom can probably dig up a report card from grade school that can attest to this being a long standing and ingrained issue.

Ahhhh…Much Better

Ok. It’s been a while, but I’m back. Two weeks ago, on Thursday, I experienced an ego-crushing blow that made me pause and examine whether or not I was worthy to continue calling myself a knitter (note the lower case “k”).

See, I went to a LYS to get some advice on how to weave in the ends of cotton yarn, as I was nearing the end of the Mabel sweater and didn’t want to have to wait after I’d cast off that final stitch to block it and see what my creation looked like after blocking. The lady I spoke to gave me the information I needed, then complimented my fine knitting. Then, she tipped my world upside down.

“What an interesting pattern. I’ve never seen one that had you twist all of the stitches.”
IMG_0229
Huh?

I broke the news to her that I had no idea what she was referring to, and a worried look crossed her face. She had me sit down at the table and take a deep breath. Then she handed me a sample and asked me to purl a stitch.

“Oh good. It’s best that it’s not your purls.”

Huh?^2

Then she had me knit a stitch.

“Ah. See, you’re wrapping your yarn around the wrong way. Look at your sweater. See how the stitches aren’t lining up quite right?”

Oh shit.

I took a few days off of knitting to consider my position. Mabel, nearing completion, was not the only project I was working on. The Hemlock Ring Throw was still on the needles, as were the January installment from the Rockin’ Sock Club. To make matters worse, my February Lady Sweater was still packed away as well, awaiting my final decision on how to get 4 more yards of yarn that actually match the rest of what I’d used.

All of those beautiful (to me, prior to that fateful Thursday, at least) projects. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

Well, I’m here to tell you that I’ve recovered. Mabel got ripped back completely (I nearly cried) and re-knit properly. It looks SO much better now.

Much Better!
Much Better!

The January RSC socks were removed from their needles and likewise frogged.

February Lady is still in timeout. I’m recovered, but still stinging a little. Maybe I’ll undo her next week.