Monday, February 20, 2006

Cynthia writes:

Although I don't realistically expect to finish my entire sweater by the end of the Olympics, I am making great progress. My goal right now is to have both sleeves finished so that after the Closing Cermonies, all I have left is the easy part of the knitted-in-the-round body for those times when I need a mindless project. I'm closing in on finishing the one sleeve. Here is a photo:

Notice that surrounding this sweater are project bags containing other sweaters. These are the projects in my office area (as opposed to my closet)--projects that in my mind I am "working on currently." They are, in clockwise order from bottom to top, my mitered-squares sweater made from Kureyon (needs only sleeves), my felted flamingo (needs to be started) and in that same bag, an entrelac purse that needs to be started (will do this for the entrelac class I am teaching this Wednesday....note to self: take time to wind yarn....), a raglan sweater made from Harrisville Orchid (needs sleeves and upper body), a sweater for my friend Eileen (needs 1 1/4 sleeves and two fronts), and a super-bulky pullover (needs back, front, and both sleeves--but hey, at least the ribbing is started on the back).

My project pile up is normal. Almost everyone who comes into our store has it in one form or another. We all start out every project with a certain level of enthusiasm, and somewhere along the way, we get stuck or waylaid. (Or maybe we start too many projects with enthusiam!)

I admit that if I weren't in the Knitting Olympics with this top-down sweater, I might have ripped it out and started again with a new pattern. But that is mere speculation, and in the reality of today, I am glad that I have persisted through.

The first problem, which I have already talked about, was that the gauge was off, and I had to rip the whole sweater out. The nice part is that I am now further along than I was before I ripped. Think about this. In one week, I've caught up. Is ripping out really so bad?

Over this weekend, I got stuck on a needle problem. I was knitting the sleeves on a size 6 needle. The sleeves begin at the top, and you knit on a 16" circular for a while, and then switch to double points as you reduce. I had put all the needles in my project bag, ready to go--more organized than I have ever been for knitting. When I pulled out the 6's, they seemed large. I looked, and they were a 4.25 mm. The size 6 circulars I had been working on were a 4.0 mm. So I pulled out a size 5 double-point set. They were 3.75 mm.

I decided to flex. I would try knitting with two circulars, just as one can do with socks.

I hated it. The needles kept crashing into each other and pulling the yarn out of shape.

So I decided to go with the #5 double points; better to make the gauge tighter at the bottom of a sleeve than looser.

The double points were too short for the circumference of the sleeve, so I had to watch carefully that the stitches didn't fall off. Because of that, I wanted to scream through the next 2 inches or so of the sleeve, but as I kept reducing the number of stitches, it got easier and easier, to the point where I was knitting contentedly again. And that's where I'm at now--back to contentment and bliss. I know what I'm in for with the second sleeve, and I am prepared to face the challenge.


Every project has a sticking point--a point where you need to rip out, redo, or just slog through. Even though knitting and quilting are supposed to be fun--and most of the time they are--it's an illusion to think that it'll be fun 100 percent of the time.

I see too many people coming into the shop who hate making mistakes, and who never want any problems as they are knitting or quilting. But mistakes and problems happen. They are normal. They make a process interesting. Learning how to fix mistakes helps you get better at your craft. Overcoming a difficult problem is deeply satisfying.

We all need to accept that ripping out and taking detours are normal parts of knitting, just as they are normal parts of driving. It's frustrating, but it teaches you how to read a map, and you get to see some things you've never seen before. Maybe you'll even meet some interesting people if you stop to ask for directions. Too many people fail to realize that struggle is not only normal in knitting and quilting--but that it's an integral part of contentment and bliss.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I've given up on finishing my sweater - I'll be glad to get a sleeve started. :)