Tuesday, April 27, 2010

White Knuckle(head) Knitting

It's not like I don't have enough WIPs and UFOs in my life. Currently, I am working on a grey mohair sweater that needs only the back, cast on in a fit of fury, a blue cable turtleneck for Eric I had intended to finish for Christmas 2009 that needs only the front, neglected because we went on vacation and I needed something more portable to work on (proudly adding said "filler"project is completed), and a single twisted cable glove missing two fingers and its mate, something I have intended to rectify for over a year now. On second thought, lets put that glove and its unfinished mate in the UFO category...

Also on my conscience is a recently frogged Malabrigo Merino worsted cardigan that simply wasn't ''doing it" for me anymore, dissected in the hopes its reincarnation would be more inspiring. When all else fails, there's always hope! That, my friends, is the beauty of knitting.

Add to that the 11 pair of girl's slippers I really need to get into the mail, but that's a saga all on its own.

No, that's clearly not enough knitting on my mind. Spurred on by the US/CAD$ being at par (which can induce many a sane person to attempt foolish cross-border purchases), I took the plunge and joined The Knitting Guild Association in the hopes of completing their Masters Program in Knitting. Three levels, each one harder than the next - how hard could it be?

Well, there's a story in there, somewhere.

I've been knitting for a long time. My parents are both manual, so I grew up baking and cooking, sanding and varnishing, sometimes it seems there's not a craft or fad our family didn't try. My father sewed jointed teddies for many years having learned the craft from the noted teacher, Helen Henderson, on top of many talents; my mother did pottery, quilting, counted cross stitch, and sewed our clothes, (I was the only kid with an emerald green melton wool rabbit-fur trimmed coat), as well as knit and crochet. I come by my procrastination honestly: I clearly remember my mother sewing away furiously on a green velvet dress the day of my Christmas pageant - I must have been in 2nd or 3rd grade at the time. I still remember sitting opposite her in the dining room, the light on her Singer sewing machine casting shadows down the length of the table. I can see her now, and hear her admonitions. "Never put the foot down unless the needle is in the fabric" was one of her favorite lines. She even sewed my Brownie uniform - no buying for this family if we can make it ourselves! In doing a quick inventory over the years, it seems there are few crafts we didn't attempt. We made candles and wax ornaments from the beeswax from my father's beekeeping exploits, we made soap and creams, did macramé, made paper, dried and pressed flowers, and experimented with natural dyes, as well as tie-dye t-shirts. We made paper arts: cards, scherenschnitte, and quilling. I had a little loom to make place mats on, we hooked rugs, did needlepoint (my brother too!), and I learned to crochet, knit, sew, embroider and generally concoct anything worth concocting! As far as I can remember, our family has always been making things.

Some habits die hard, I guess. Life is the biggest WIP, so you might as well broaden your horizons, non? 'Tis better to have tried and failed, than to never have tried at all. You can tell that person was a crafts-person.

But I do digress! It all seemed so easy. I already have an arsenal of knitting reference books, and the basics have been under my belt for many a year. But suddenly, I find myself second guessing everything from my cast-on edge, to my tension, to each actual stitch, right up to the final bound-off edge. White knuckle knitting indeed! Slowly, I am progressing through each swatch, painstakingly and laboriously. It's not so much the actual knitting that takes time, it's the dissection of my work that consumes me the most. I can bang off one of these swatches in an hour or so, but really, that's not the point, is it now? Sometimes I think I should throw caution to the wind and just steam through them all, send the whole shebang in to the reviewer, and get back to my regularly scheduled life and not look back.

But I can't do it. It's not in me.

Perhaps I am a bit too detail-oriented, too reflective, too judgmental of my own work and too insecure in my knowledge, but I suppose that's who I am. I am hoping that this Level 1 experience (or should I say experiment) will help me grow into a better knitter. I still have a few weeks to go before even hoping to have all samples knitted and the requested reports done, and something tells me I'll have learned a lot by the end of the process.

At least I tried, and that says something right there.

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