Knitting with restraint

This spring I wrote about how my wrist was hurting, partly due to incorrect keyboard usage, but mostly due to binge knitting.

I completely abstained for over a week (knitting not keyboard) and then came back to it for smaller lengths of time. It’s hard to binge knit the way I did pre-parenthood anyway, but every once in a while I get an opportunity and then I really have to exercise restraint, else I spend the whole next day rubbing my wrists (note: to the commenter who suggested wrist wraps, thank you! Wearing one at night really does help after a day of overdoing it).

I’ve started using Instagram more, and a lot of my feed is made up of semi-professional and serious-hobbyist knitters. I have moments of intense jealousy in seeing how prolific they’re able to be, even though I know knitting through the wrist pain is a bad idea. I try to think of my Dad, who for the past four decades has gone on the same mile jog every morning. Through his 20s and 30s I’m pretty sure he had friends who thought it was silly to run just one mile every morning. They were training for marathons and half marathons, logging ten times the weekly miles. But one by one, most of them had to stop running completely due to bad knees, bad ankles, bad shin splints. And there’s my Dad, still lacing up his shoes at 5:30am every morning for his daily jog.

So, in the interest of similarly being able to keep my hobby going for the next four decades, here’s what six months of slightly scaled back knitting looks like…

Waiting for Rain ShawlI worked hard to learn continental knitting for my Waiting for Rain Shawl, and it really did help me get through big swaths of garter stitch without much soreness. The pattern is so pretty…I knit additional rows so there wouldn’t be any leftovers of the Mirasol Nuna Fina, and then tried picot bind off for the first time.

Then I used some Two If By Hand Targhee Superwash, lovingly spun and gifted to me by Christine, to knit another Purl Soho Garter Ear Flap Hat for L. This one is sized to fit her next winter. This is now officially my go-to baby and kid hat.

Garter stitch hat, purl sohoMy coworker is due with her first baby late this summer, and for the baby shower I made her an Elizabeth Zimmerman February Baby sweater in Madelinetosh DK. The sweater calls for a lace body, but I’d been inspired by this knitter’s version to sub in ribbing. As she noted, it does pull the arms and body inward, which bells out the sleeves and hem. But some of that came out with blocking, and what was leftover just gives it a bit of a swingy shape.

EZ baby sweater on two needles

And finally, there was enough Targhee left over that I thought I could get a cardigan out of it for L. I’m going to tinker a little more with the pattern and then try to write it up.

I bribed L into modeling it for a handful of Craisins.

Toddler Sweater

Toddler Sweater

 

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Ready for a little holiday knitting?

I’m working on finishing touches for a pattern…hoping to get it out in time for post-Turkey relaxation knitting.

It’s a quick pair of lined baby mittens, knit all in one piece, perfect for holiday gift-giving and personal stash-busting. I’ve made a half dozen prototypes and passed them out to friends, who report that the mittens are super warm and don’t fall off. YEAH!
Untitled

Learning to knit without the garter-stitch scarf

Four years ago I made my first design contribution to ravelry – a free hat pattern called Kami. Almost 600 of them have been knit!

Someone commented that she used the pattern to teach a friend to knit:Screen shot 2015-10-17 at 9.18.33 AM

Hats aren’t often used to teach people to knit, but I think they should be. That’s because a hat is – most importantly – not a scarf. Ugh. It is unclear to me how garter-stitch scarves earned their spot as the ubiquitous learn-to-knit project. In my experience, here’s what’s wrong with them:

1. They completely ignoring purling, inevitably leading to another generation of knitters who claim that “knitting is way easier than purling.” It is, if knitting is all a beginner practices for an entire scarf.

2. They are usually knit on straight needles. I prefer teaching on circular needles, which are easier to hold and maneuver. The weight of the piece is evenly distributed on the needle, which puts less of a strain on the wrists.

3. They take forever. I warn beginners that knitting has a pretty long improvement curve. That means that you have to suffer through it feeling awkward and slow for quite a while. I know people who have been “working on their first scarf” for multiple years, or who just never finish. It’s too much work for too long without having a finished object to show for it.

i plan to half knit quite a bit this winter

4. They announce, “I knit this.” Which is alright, but most people get into knitting to make things that look handmade, not homemade.

5. They don’t require a pattern or a gauge swatch. This seems like a plus, since it takes some of the fussiness out of the process. But if someone’s goal is to eventually move out of scarf-land (i.e. sweaters, mittens, hats), they’ll need to learn gauge and pattern-reading eventually, and I’ve found that beginners are okay with both as long as it’s not complicated. Plus, knitting a gauge swatch is the perfect practice run before launching into the project.

Wow. I just hated on garter-stitch scarves a LOT. I owe them something of a thank-you, to be fair, since that’s exactly what my first project was. But I also clearly remember the first FO that I was proud of, and it was not a scarf. It was a pair of fingerless mitts that used short rows, which I spent days attempting and ripping out. In the end my pride was misplaced, since I hadn’t realized that 100% cotton would lack the sort of stretch you’d want in fingerless mitts.

https://encrypted-tbn0.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcSIkVrjIY-qBOpXY9QZYSMG_YiJHb1NAo1nI-SmcMpOO1ivBgxprw

Am I the only one with a strong hatred for garter-stitch scarves? What pattern did you learn to knit with? What pattern(s) do you use to teach others?

Here are a few patterns that I’ve used when teaching:

Wurm Hat (photo (c) verabee)

Drop-Stitch Cowl – © Abi Gregorio

Calorimetry ear-warmer – © Kathryn Schoendorf

Amecameca infinity scarf pattern

This pattern has been in the works for a while. I sketched out a few motifs after visiting a Latin American textiles exhibit two winters ago, then I played with the lines until there was a nice little tightrope dance between the positive and negative spaces.

At first I tried making a big squishy worsted-weight cowl, which was meh. After a few other stop/starts, I tried laceweight knit up in a slightly looser gauge than what’s typical for stranded work. Ahhh…a delicate and beautiful sheet of patterned fluff started to emerge from the needles. I had a winner.
Amecameca infinity scarf

Now I’ll be honest – this is no kami hat. It doesn’t knit up in one evening of binge television. But my thinking is that after all the holiday knitting you’ve done for others it might be nice to stretch out with a longer, more luxurious pattern. Especially one that practically makes you buy some new yarn, because if you’re going to do a long stranded project there’s no sense in using anything but the prettiest. Right?
Amecameca infinity scarf

The pattern is all set up in the shop, and from now through Christmas Day I’m offering it at 50% off. It includes charts for the main motif as well as its photo negative – depending on your particular yarn colors you can choose which will look best.

Amecameca infinity scarf pattern

Amecameca infinity scarf

Dyeing fiber from a photograph

PicMonkey CollageI’ve been spinning up 8 oz. of merino and am loving the colors. All artistic credits go to Skeinnydipping, who dyed the fiber for me using this photo of the Oregon coast as inspiration. Isn’t it gorgeous?
UntitledI think I’ll probably end up with something close to 300 yards of light worsted. I wrote once before about my fondness for stripes and handspun, and I could see that working again here. But not necessarily. It’s such a playful colorway. Maybe the Summit scarf again?

P1040308
What do you think the yarn wants to be? Any favorite handspun patterns that you’d like to share?

Handspun

A week in Oaxaca

Hierve El AguaOur week in Oaxaca was more a trip for me than for R’s research. Oaxaca has affordable intensive language schools and a strong fiber arts economy. I took advantage of both, and then together we capitalized on some unexpected Oaxaca perks, including strong coffee and really good french chocolate croissants (evidently we’re a little tired of tacos and mole), and some excellent mountain-top swimming at Hierve El Agua. Hierve El AguaLanguage school was that type of mental discomfort that you know is good for you. I think there’s like a graph-able enjoyment/pain curve that goes with tackling a big new skill. It shows up when teaching people to knit. In the very beginning you feel child-like joy (“I can list a whole bunch of nouns!” or “I’m actually knitting a washcloth!”) and that’s eventually replaced with equal parts determination and frustration once you learn just how far the road extends into the distance. Language school taught me a lot, but it also placed me squarely on the road where I got to see how far I am from Passably Mediocre.

Thankfully there was fiber stuff (plus those chocolate croissants) to help soothe the pain. I took a tour from a local nonprofit that gives microloans to women, and was able to visit the home workshops of local weavers. They hand-card the wool, handspin it, hand-dye it with indigo or plants, and then turn it into rugs and shawls on these big wooden floor looms. Obviously I asked all kinds of nerdy-fiber-loving questions during the Q & A sessions. R had the camera that day for a site visit, so I had to pull this photo off the internet, but it’s a good representation of what I got to see. teotitlan-magic-oaxaca-weaver

I bought one rug on the tour, although if I’d had more pesos I would’ve bought a few. This one was more expensive than others its size, but that’s because the pattern lines are more intricate. And I loved all of the undyed colors of wool. UntitledLater on the street in Oaxaca I bought a second rug, similar to the first in pattern but with this great dark green color and some reddish browns. The green, I was told, is from dyeing with alfalfa. UntitledYou will notice that a certain apartment cat is using the new rug for napping. Fantasmon is most definitely our adopted Mexican cat now…jumping in and out of the kitchen window as she pleases and meowing for scraps of chicken. She’s using as a pillow my latest knitting project, a big squishy cotton/wool blanket that’s almost done except for the attached i-cord border. Here’s a link to ravelry with the details. big squishy baby blanket Attached i-cord edge for baby blanket