Friday, July 18, 2008

Trust (Kn)issues

I remember knittng my first sock. I had purchased yarn at the Ross Farm in Nova Scotia. I found a Briggs and Little pattern. I was on vacation with my Aunt and I was a fairly new knitter.

I struggled a bit with casting on to 4 double-pointed needles so I cheated and knit back and forth a few rows before connecting to knit in the round. I'm not sure I had even knit in the round before.

I happily knit down the leg and then got the heel instructions. When I read through them I was completely blank. I could not at all envision what was going to happen. I had never slipped a stitch and had never done a short row. So, what's a knitter to do? I decided I would take it one instruction at a time and trust that it would all work out. Twenty years later, I still remember that feeling of awe when I finally had a heel. It seemed like magic! I had no idea how it worked, but there it was. It cemented by faith in "just do what the instructions say."

Of course, later I would find that not all patterns were so reliable. No matter how well you followed those instructions you weren't going to achieve the pictured outcome. After a frustrating time with a lace pattern that shall remain unnamed, I had to revise my pattern mantra to "just do what the instructions say and if it doesn't work out, check for errors."

This has served me fairly well in my knitting life. As a knitting teacher I have taught many of new knitter to follow this rule, particularly while they are learning and every pattern instruction seems like jibberish.

Now I'm writing my own patterns. Do I have the same faith? Apparently not! I started knitting the right sock for my Swirling Dervish and immediately started questioning the pattern I wrote. And I took very meticulous notes as I was designing/knitting the left sock. I was 12 rounds into the toe when it began. Suddenly I'm saying to myself, "This doesn't seem right. So few rounds and i'm almost done with the main toe shaping. Surely this toe is too tiny. I must have written something wrong." Next thing you know, I'm calculating the depth of the toe based on row gauge and trying to count the rows on the finished sock by hand. I considered spreading out the increases thinking I just hadn't noted that. I put down the sock for the evening and decided to come back to it the next day after thinking about it.

The next time I picked up the sock, I stared at it and thought about all my calculations. I was sure that something was wrong. Just as I was about to pull out the whole thing and start over I had an idea. Something so radical. I held up the toe I was knitting against the one on the finished sock. Imagine that! And, gee, guess what? They were a match. All those machinations for nothing.

Sheesh, I guess I have a trust issue. Only it's apparently not just about the knitting. It's about me.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Wanna Meet a Dervish?

I know. It's just a sock. It is called the Swirling Dervish, though. I finished this one yesterday. It uses a lot of traditional Turkish techniques. Turkey being the home of the original Whirling Dervish himself, Rumi.

I've enjoyed designing this sock. I'm not a very experienced sock knitter. I've knit some, but I've always been more enthusiastic about sweaters. Yet, I've had fun coming up with designs for Circles Sock Hop. Even though the project came to a grinding halt along with my health, it stays with me and I'm motivated to keep it going. Each sock focuses on different techniques. It's an opportunity to try out different heels and toes, etc, to see what you like best.

This one particularly grabbed me, because the techniques of Eastern Europe and the Middle East are sometimes wholly different from what we're familiar with. For instance, when they say to twist a stitch, they mean to twist it in the opposite direction than we do. Once I learned this, it prompted me to think about how to combine them for twisted stitch motifs. Which is how I created the little swirl patterns.

Other techniques used here: swirl toe begun with an Eastern cast on, extra shaping for the little toe (I can't tell you how comfy it feels. One of those things you don't think about until you've experienced it), a purls and yarn overs transition at the toe, twisted stitch patterning on the body,

a thumb
joint heel (I have finally found the solution to my deep heel needs. With a modification for how it is closed off in the end, this may become my preferred heel for all socks.),

with twisted rib and Bosnian Crochet (I'm a reluctant fan of crochet, but this may have convinced me to use more of it in my knitting. It creates a fabric density more compatible with knitted fabric.)

There's a lot to keep a curious knitter's attention.

I've liked the sock since casting on. I did lose momentum during the relatively mundane sections of the foot and the leg, but when the edging was done, I really fell in love with it. I've cast on the for the right foot and will use the process of knitting that to refine the instructions before publishing. Intrepid knitters who would like to dive in before I complete the second sock are welcome to, with the understanding that I will provide technical support for any pattern confusion.

On a blog-tech note: I use Blogger and I have a lot of trouble getting the actual post to look the way it does when I'm composing it. Anyone else have this problem? Solutions? I'd appreciate any tips!

Monday, July 07, 2008

Anything happening?

Well, yes. Not much to show for it at the moment. (Though may finish knitting the Swirling Dervish tomorrow. All the design work is done, the toe, foot heel are knitted and there are about 5 more rounds of the leg to knit before finishing the cuff.)

Other progress: the Design Circle is going strong. We have 7 of us (soon to be 8, and welcoming anyone who's interested.) It's a real working circle and we've got our first round of 7 patterns being worked on. Each of us picked one of our finished pieces to start working up the instructions for in the first meeting. The second meeting we were deconstructing, doing math, looking at the Garment Designer software and writing out first drafts of a couple of the patterns. It feels quite good and I'm very thankful for all the positive energy everyone is bringing.

My first pattern in the circle? Well, I wasn't given much of a choice. I'm writing up the Siberian Collared Cardi.

I haven't even had to list classes on the web site or send out emails, as they've filled up right away. First sweaters. First Socks. Custom Tank. Lots of challenges met with good spirits and happy knitters.

Met with Jackie (formerly of The Knitting Room) this week and we're going to get together with Lyssa (once she's settled in with her new work gig) to work out a schedule for 6 months worth of workshops - including some for sewing. (Have requests? Send them in....)

But really, things have been quiet on my communications output because I'm tending to my dog with cancer. It's heartbreaking. She has a form that is only rarely manageable, so it is likely that I'm doing hospice care. She's such a sweet, dear thing. I can't stand to see her sick. The one consolation is that I'm told she's not in pain. Indeed, she doesn't seem to be suffering. Today, however, there was a development with her eyes that is not a good sign. It looks like Horner's Syndrome, which means that something likely is pressing on a nerve connected to the eye. That may the cancer has metastasized. Or it could have something to do with a weakened immune system. No way to know for sure. Her eyes are drooping. One doesn't open much. It looks like she's squinting it at you. It happened very quickly and I broke down into tears for quite awhile. I hate this process of just watching her degenerate. Again, this symptom does not include pain. And she still can see. But it's not a good sign.

Also, my daughter is on summer break. It's great to have her home so much. We opted to go very light on summer camps. How many more years is she going to want to spend her time with me? So, that keeps me pretty occupied during the day, as well.

Additionally, with the dog's care and the child care, I missed a bit my own medical care and two weeks ago I plummeted symptomatically. Lots and lots of seizures. Got back on track, though, and I'm doing a lot better now. Won't let that happen again. It was pretty dramatic.

So, no pictures right now. Hopefully in a couple of days I'll be able to show off the sock and send off the pattern to the Sock Hop members who are probably cursing me every day that goes by.

That's it for now......