Monthly Archives: April 2019

Off (or on) the Map

I get emails on a fairly regular basis asking me why I use charts in my patterns instead of just writing out the instructions.  I try to explain why I prefer charts over written instructions (they are easier to read, they give you a visual representation of what the finished pattern should look like, etc), but I feel like I’ve never had a really good, succinct explanation.  Until now.

I was chatting with a friend about charts vs. written instructions (like you do), and she had an amazing analogy.  An analogy I’d like to share with you.

The year is 1998.  The Barenaked Ladies, Destiny’s Child and Brittney Spears are on the radio, Armageddon is in the movie theaters, and I’m in middle school.  You’re planning on taking a road trip (while listening to your new NSYNC CD in your very high-tech car CD player), and you need directions. 541c9257a84d7.image

You boot up the modem and go to Mapquest for driving directions.  After 45 minutes (which seems very fast), you’ve downloaded and printed out your instructions.  You’re ready to go.

 

You hop in the car, follow your instructions.  Left on Aurora, right on 145th, take the northbound on-ramp, drive 5 miles, get off at Exit 220.  But wait, there is no Exit 220!  Where’s Exit 220?  I thought I was supposed to be on the freeway?  Why am I in the middle of a neighborhood? What happened?

You don’t have a map with you, because you didn’t need it- you had your Mapquest directions.  Sure you could retrace your steps, carefully make your way back home and try following the directions again, but that’s a lot of work.  You’re lost.  You’ve got to cross your fingers that you can find a friendly gas station attendant to give you new directions.CaptureNow imagine you’re on that same road trip, but this time you’ve got a map (or better yet, you’ve got a map and your instructions).  If you get off track, you can pull over, find your cross street and figure out your location.  Sure, reading the map might be a little tricky, but in the long run you know you won’t ever be stranded like you were with just the instructions.

Knitting is the same way.  Sure, if you’re knitting with only written instructions, and you follow the instructions exactly to the letter, you’ll end up with a beautiful garment.  But let’s be honest, when’s the last time you knit a garment without a single mistake?  (I can’t say I’ve ever done that.)  And once you’ve made a mistake, all you have is a big block of text that you have to wade through to figure out where you went wrong- not easy.Capture1If you’re using a chart, on the other hand, you can usually tell much more quickly where you went wrong.  Maybe there’s a yarn over where there should be, a section of lace that is missing a stitch, or a cable that’s been crossed the wrong direction (the bane of my existence).  Because a chart gives you a birds-eye view of what your project should look like, it’s easier to figure out what’s going on, where you went wrong, and ultimately how to fix it.

I know charts aren’t for everybody (just like some people will never be able to read a map, no matter how hard they try), but if you’re on the fence about trying a charted pattern, give it a go!  You might like it!

My Favorite Distraction

Please indulge me for a minute while I get sappy.

It’s my prerogative, after all, to get sappy when my BABY TURNS ONE! This is ridiculous. He can’t be one!  I still only half-believe that I have a baby at all.

It seems like yesterday he was just a tiny little nugget, wearing his tiny Captain Picard sweater.  But he grew (and is still growing) so fast, he barely fit into it a month after he was born. (Pro Tip: never actually make the “newborn” size for babies.  They fit for about fifteen minutes.)IMG_20180423_163616976He put up with my ridiculous knitwear designs and questionable color choices.  (Although, to be fair, I put this sweater on him the other day, and while it’s still not the best sweater I’ve ever made, it’s much less ridiculous now that it kind of fits.)IMG_20181106_164347481He posed for Christmas pictures with my Arne and Carlos Christmas balls (which he was a big fan of).  And look at that poofy hair!  I miss that hair.  It’s gotten too long to stand up on its own now.IMG_20181128_084112346He got over his dislike of hats (most of the time).  He’ll even happily wear his hat if it means going out to our favorite diner for pancakes.IMG_20181209_090601434_HDRHe wore the heck out of this adorable little fair isle sweater while he learned to crawl.  It’s a little small on him now- it’s hard getting it over his GIGANTIC HEAD, but it fits well enough once it’s on, so I only break it out when we’re both in the mood for a wrestling match.IMG_20181210_161920040And now he’s ready to go on adventures!  (Ollie is less than enthused about adventures.  He’d rather be comfy at home .)IMG_20190226_112451188It’s been a crazy year of knitting (and not knitting).  The boy is definitely cutting into my knitting-and-blogging time, but I don’t mind (most of the time).  I can’t believe we’re already a year in!  It seems like just yesterday I was wrestling him into his first sweater.

(Thanks for bearing with me.  And, don’t worry, I’ll be back to my regularly-scheduled knitting programming next week!)

Burnout (or how I learned to stop worrying and just procrastinate more)

Y’all.  Sometimes being a “professional knitter” is hard.  (Disclaimer: I know that as far as “hard jobs” go, Professional Knitter is pretty low on that list.  Just bear with me as I throw myself a little pity party.  I promise I’ll be back to myself soon.)  Sure it’s not “I’m a doctor and I hold people’s lives in my hands” hard, or “I’m a cop and I put my own life on the line to keep people safe” hard, or even “I’m a construction worker and am constantly doing backbreaking labor” hard.

I think that anyone who takes their absolute favorite hobby and tries to turn it into a real job will understand what I’m saying.  No matter how delightful your job is day-to-day, there’s always something super practical and kind of crappy that you have to deal with.  There are deadlines, paperwork, and (sometimes rude) customers, and (if you’re me) having to deal with the fallout when I say “yes” to one too many projects.  And when your job is also your hobby, you can’t be really go do your hobby to decompress.

Lately I’ve been less than in love with my knitting.  I’ve been designing and writing up two sweaters, which will be lovely when they’re done, but I’m beyond done with knitting them right now.  I even put down one of the prototypes mid-knitting, which I never do- I do my very best to be diligent with my design process.  But, I just can’t make myself pick it up again right now.

And instead of the sweaters I  should be working on, I’ve been plugging away at the wedding blanket for my brother.  It’s turning out wonderfully, but I’m realizing that I greatly miscalculated both the amount of yarn that I’m going to need for it and the amount of time that it’ll take to work up.  So, maybe this will end up being a First Anniversary blanket instead of a Wedding Blanket. Sigh…

Anyway, all of that is to say that I’m itching for a fun, simple, and above all quick project.  Something that I can bang out in an evening or during the kid’s nap time.  Something that doesn’t have a deadline or even a purpose.

Maybe something like a pile of soft knitted balls.  Why? Why not!  For anyone in particular? Maybe my kid! Maybe my dog! What yarn should I use? I donno! Whatever I have laying around!

Knit Ball Pit by Anna HrachovecIMG_7316_medium2

Or I could make a little tiny doll for my kiddo!  Does he like dolls?  No! Has he ever shown any interest in any stuffed animal? No! Are these guys too cute for me to really care? Yes!

Pretty Izzy Dolls by Esther Braithwaiteprettypinkizzydolls_medium2

Would he like them better if they were little animals instead of little people? Doubtful!  Do I find these guys even more charming? Yes!

Forest Friends Dolls by Esther BraithwaiteIMG_6929_medium2

Should I really lean into  the whole “making something for absolutely no reason except it makes me smile” thing?  Yes! Do I actually care about cats? Not particularly! Is this cat stinking adorable? Yes!

Tiny Parlor Cat by Sara Elizabeth KellnerIMG_3331__2__medium2

Don’t get me wrong, every day I’m surprised and pleased and grateful that I can say that for my job, I’m a Knitter.  It’s just one of those weeks that I’m sure everyone gets.  I’m going to go make myself another cup of coffee, dig out some scrap yarn and work up a silly little project or two.  And, once that’s done, I’m sure I’ll be back to making ridiculously gigantic projects at ridiculously tiny gauges.  Because, after all, that’s what I do.

Do you ever get burnt out on knitting? What do you do when the burnout hits?

Tradition! (Tradition!)

I’ve got Fiddler on the Roof stuck in my head and fingers itching to start my next project.  We knitters are nothing if not creatures of tradition (or, if you’re being uncharitable, habit).  Everyone has a story of their mother/grandmother/cool next-door neighbor who taught them to knit.  And everyone has a traditional project that they keep making over and over again.  (Mrs. Weasley’s famous Christmas sweaters spring to mind.)

For Christmas, I make socks (sometimes).

For new babies, I make sweaters.

For weddings, I make blankets.

I started this tradition back in college, when my friends started getting married.  I’ve done fancy blankets and simple blankets.  I’ve crocheted and knitted.  I’ve made them with cotton and acrylic and wool (depending on the weather in the recipient’s hometown and just how broke of a college student I was at the time).

It’s been a while since I’ve been to a wedding- now that I’m in my thirties, my friends are more or less done getting married and starting to have kids (which means I’m knitting baby sweaters instead, which is a heck of a lot easier).

But, I’ve got to get my blanket-knitting muscles going once again because my brother is getting married this summer! It’s very exciting!

Now I’ve just got to pick the right pattern.

My first instinct is to try something super-simple, and bang out a blanket as quickly as possible (after all, my knitting time is severely limited these days).

Garter Squish by Stephen West

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But, it’s for my brother!  My only sibling!  On his wedding!  It’s gotta be nicer than a regular old garter square.

I could break out a fancy pattern.  Maybe something lacy and textured like this:

Sweet Pea Baby Blanket by Suzanne MiddlebrooksSweetPea1_medium2

While that’s really pretty, I don’t know… it might be a bit too twee, even if I use a nice masculine color. Plus, that looks incredibly time-consuming.

I could go somewhere in-between, a simple 2-row texture, heavy on the garter stitch.  This chevron pattern could work, but I’d have to play with the colors- my brother’s not really a “rainbow” person.

Garter Chevron Blanket by Catherine AndersonIMG_0824_medium2

I’ll keep looking. I’m sure I’ll find something that’s casual enough for my brother and soon-to-be-sister-in-law (that’s a lot of hyphens!) to use every day, but nice enough (and maybe heirloom enough) for a wedding gift.

What are your traditional knitting projects?