Monday, February 25, 2013


“Properly practiced, knitting soothes the troubled spirit, and it doesn't hurt the untroubled spirit either.”
― Elizabeth Zimmermann

There is a meditation that comes with knitting. A rhythm appears and it occupies your hands leaving your mind to think about the important things.

There is a difference between mindless and meditative knitting. Even as a knitter the distinction between the two is hard to describe. Generally, mindless knitting makes me want to stab people. Meditative allows me to relax, fall into the rhythm that the motion creates and think.

[Knit. Purl. Knit. Purl. Knit. Purl.]

You wouldn't think that thinking is something that is difficult to do. It isn't the thinking that's hard, it's calming down your brain and getting it to stop thinking about the frivolous things that don't matter like what to make for dinner or if your coworkers were laughing with you or at you or if that bump you hit earlier was just a pothole or a small animal. The repetition allows you to focus about the more important things like life and what the hell should I do with mine. 

Unlike anything else I've ever done, school, relationships, work, knitting is the one thing that I feel like I should be doing, that I need to do or I will go insane. It is the calming moment at the end of the day, it is the moment of solace while waiting in line, it's the silent friend whose presence is enough to comfort you. Everything else in my life can go wrong, has gone wrong, will go wrong, and yet I know that as soon as I pick up those needles and string, my life will make sense again for those few moments, that things do make sense and I don't have to think about what I have to do or what I need to do. I can focus on breathing instead of worrying about rent.

[Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale. In. Out.]

Sometimes breathing is more difficult than you would think. 

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Dead Birds and Unraveled Hats

I found a dead bird the other day while walking on campus. I was walking home from class and cutting across the grass that everyone avoids walking in. The imposing building give a sense that everyone must be on their best behavior at all times and not walking on the designated paths is one way to not adhere to this sense of propriety. I looked down at the black mass and I didn't recognize what it was for a second. Only after I saw the little beak did I realize that it was a half-decomposed bird. It was laying on its back with its eyes closed, almost as if it were sleeping. It could've been sleeping if its ribcage hadn't been exposed.

Sometimes when we look at something, it takes us longer than we want to admit to recognize what we're really looking at. That person you know you should recognize but you just can't remember their name. A decaying bird that is unrecognizable laying, covered in mud, on the ground. That hat that you don't remember why you started in the first place.

Sometimes that hat you put time and effort into just doesn't turn out right. Or it doesn't fit. Or you don't like that color.

Instead of a hat that that pile of yarn used to be, it is now just a pile of yarn reminding me of a failure. I don't recognize it as a hat or that it used to be a hat even if it does still have some hat-like characteristics. To me it is a series of mistakes that resulted in a flawed finished product.

When I started that project, I didn't intend for it to be a failure, for it to sit in a box, never to be worn. I started it in hopes of having a new favorite hat to wear. No one starts something with the goal to fail at it. We start things with the hope that we will accomplish something, that we will be a better person for having finished our task. I might've learned something from this failure but I couldn't tell you what it might be. I know know that I messed up. I fucked something up and it's wrong. It's hard to recognize that you failed. It's even harder to accept that you failed.

Failure might be the most unexpected thing I've had to deal with in life and every time I'm faced with it, it's just as hard to swallow as that first time I failed.

Sunday, February 10, 2013


I'm terrible at making decisions. Something about the finality of making a decision and being stuck with it whether it turns out good or bad. Even if it's just dinner or what movie to watch or even what shoes to wear. Okay I'm actually really good at picking out clothes and I only really wear like two pairs of shoes that are really weather dependent so that's helpful. But dinner, that part is true. If I'm asked what I want to eat or where I want to go out to eat I freeze and my mind goes blank. Why should I have to make such an important decision? I usually voice my objection to being made to decide where we should go to eat and that's when everyone reminds me that I have dietary restrictions so I have to be the one to decide.

But when I finally make a decision, I stick to it. There have to be a lot of extenuating circumstances for me to change my mind.

I picked a major and stuck with it until I realized that I really didn't like working for 14 hours at a time, 7 days a week and not getting paid for it just as an attempt to possibly get a job in an incredibly competitive field. And I didn't change it immediately. It took probably a year for me to realize that I wasn't happy and that I wouldn't be happy with my decision. That's when I changed majors and I didn't even really change majors, I just changed my concentration. And now I'm working on a completely different career path than I had planned six years ago. We can discuss how terrifying that is at a later date.

Knitting projects are something that I also take very seriously. If a project isn't going how I want, it will fall to the bottom of the WIP pile and stay there, wallowing in my rejection and failure. I have countless things that I just haven't ripped and frogged it back into that original ball of string. I just can't take the eventual step of taking hours of work and making it seem like it never happened, like hitting the delete key and getting rid of a whole page of writing.

Not the actual color

I recently did this though. I bought this yarn so that I could make a sweater. It isn't especially nice yarn but I wanted a sweater with this fantastic color that cameras can't seem to capture. This is my third attempt at making a sweater with this yarn. [Third time's a charm?] The first time was too big and would never fit me even if I had tried to fit two of my closest friends in with me. The second time I decided I wanted to make something complicated. Something to challenge myself. Something that wasn't mindless. The problem wasn't that the pattern was too hard or that it was the wrong size, the problem was that I can't count. [Half of my problems in life go back to this basic skill that even toddlers seem to master.] My lace motifs were off and I had dropped a stitch several rows back in a complicated lace pattern. And my biggest fear: What if the back and the two front panels turn out to be different sizes?

And then I let it sit. It sat only for a few months in the purple project bag, reminding me every time I went to look at my closet. It was waiting for me to decide what to do with this half attempt at a sweater. Do I start over? Do I try to finish it? Do I continue to ignore it in hopes that it will magically finish itself?

I kept choosing the latter.

It didn't finish itself.

There is a phenomenon that knitters and crocheters and I'm sure other crafters experience when you find a pattern and you have a yarn and the two seem to speak to each other and decide that they're going to work together. The yarn chooses the pattern that it wants to be made in to. It seems silly and a bit ridiculous but it happens. I knew that my purple yarn didn't want to be made into that first sweater. I thought it wanted to be made into that second sweater.

But third time's a charm.

I've made more of this sweater than any of the others and everything seems to just work. Sure, I messed up one of the cable patterns but not in a really noticeable way. It doesn't even really bother me knowing that I messed them up.

Sure, I might change my mind and those few mistakes might be enough for me to rip the whole thing out in the future but for right now, everything just seems to be working together.

I think crafting is the closest thing to magic that I will experience. I am taking plain string and some aluminum sticks and creating something that is not only useful but beautiful. Not many hobbies can do that.

Knitters are wizards.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Salsa Gravy Soup

The majority of the time that I am knitting something is when I am watching a TV show. My second greatest passion after knitting is media. I can and will bore your pants off about media in every incarnation if you let me. (This is my other blog I co-write with Austin Lugar. We talk about pop culture and sometimes Sherlock Holmes.) I usually watch TV shows on my computer, at my computer desk. It is technically my computer desk but it is also my food storage, my accountant, my medicine cabinet. It's multi purpose. After being a desk, it is more often my dining room table. I eat at my desk more than I eat anywhere else. It's probably a bad habit but it stems from watching TV while eating dinner with my family when I was a kid. I don't feel right unless I'm watching something while eating my meals. Hence eating at my desk all the time.

So I knit and I eat a lot in the same area.

There have been numerous times I have spilled things on the project I was working on.

Soda (onto a baby blanket for a family friend)
Gravy (So this is a funny story. I didn't even know I spilled the gravy until much later. I was using the blanket as a cushion for my chair because my desk chair kinda sucks [it was free]. I went to refold this blanket and on one corner I noticed what I thought was cat vomit. I then tried to think of when a cat could've vomited on it since I haven't lived with a cat in many, many months and the blanket had been created after I had lived with any cats. Turns out it was just gravy. Cat vomit = gravy. At least in appearances.)
Soup (on almost everything)
Noodles (ditto)
Salad dressing (I don't exactly remember this but I'm sure it's happened)
Water (This happens so often I don't know if it should count. I have a drinking problem. Get it? Drinking problem? Okay.)

The latest incident involved salsa and a monochromatic scrap blanket.

I started this blanket because I firmly believe that you can never have too many projects to work on. There are some people who are project monogamous and kudos to them but I am not that person. I probably never will be. I have countless scrap blankets that I'm working on, each one devoted to a different amount of leftover scraps. I regularly have to go and organize it just to keep things straight. I'm alright with that.

I started this blanket because I have wanted a zig-zag blanket for a long time. I love the way they look and how the different yarns and colors act with each other. And they're just fun.

I started this blanket because a friend of mine started one and I couldn't resist any more. I kept telling myself not to start another blanket until I had finished SOMETHING but I couldn't wait any longer. So I went and gathered all of my scraps that were grey, gray, black or white or any combination there of. And I casted on.

I really do like how this blanket is turning out. I was working on it again, trying to use up what I have set aside for this right now. It was a Lazy Day. A day when I didn't want to accomplish anything which more often than not is just about every day. I can blame lots of things here but it all is probably my fault. So I sat and I knit and I ate.

In my early college years I had heard of stories of people living off of ramen and frozen dinners that you can get 10/$10. I never faced that. I never had to deal with it. Sure, I was broke, but I always made sure I had money for food. This year has been the hardest year for me, financially. Lots of sorta expensive things all were due at once and I couldn't put them off so I put off buying food. It helps that I am resourceful and that I am creative and I don't mind eating the same meal repeatedly. I finally went grocery shopping for the first time in two months. I bought food I knew I could freeze and I knew would last me a while since I don't know when I'll be able to afford to go grocery shopping again. But I did get food I wanted. Like chips and salsa. I love chips and salsa and it's one of the few foods that I don't have to worry about if I can eat it or not. (Having a gluten intolerance sucks.)

That was my lunch. And dinner. And drunk snack. All was going great until I went to measure the blanket that I had been working on all day. I wanted to see how much progress I had made. And as I slid my chair away from the desk and laid the blanket down on the floor beneath it, my bowl of salsa, freshly topped off, fell. I'm not quite sure what caused it to fall whether it was my headphone cord or my measuring tape or something shifting, but it tumbled. Right onto my blanket.

Luckily I work with acrylic.

Luckily I am a quick thinker even while slightly inebriated off of cheap wine.

Luckily no one was in the bathroom.

My blanket got an emergency shower at 12:30 on a Saturday night.

Who says you have to go out to have a fun and exciting night. (I guess your definition of "fun" and "exciting" could be different from mine.)

Friday, February 1, 2013

Falling Out of Love

When I start a new project, I usually don't notice I start it. Of course I notice when I cast on and start knitting the first few rows but the beginning of a project is before picking up the needles. There's planning and gathering of yarn and sketches and plans. If I am going to start a project I usually think about it for a few hours at least. I try to get a mental picture of it before I try to make the yarn do that thing. If I'm ambitious I'll even knit a swatch and see how it will look. If it's a pattern that I'm winging, I'll try to write up some rudimentary directions. Gathering the yarn is always my favorite. Just something about picking yarn and matching it with others and seeing what looks good next to what just makes me happy. And I usually don't notice I'm doing it. I don't notice that I'm constantly thinking about how something would turn out if I only used this yarn or what it would look like if I did these decreases. When I cast on is usually when I realize, fully, what I am doing.

I did that with this project. I saw numerous variations online. It seemed like everyone and their brother was making one. I fell in love. The colors, the patterns, the creativity. I could do that. I could make something that was neat that other liked and were inspired by. I told myself not to start another project. I had too many already and I was going to be moving and downsizing so I definitely shouldn't start a new project and not a long term one that will take years to finish and will take up a lot of space in the meantime.

But I did it anyway.

I knew that I would have to make lots of them.

I knew I'd have to sew them all together.

I knew that it would take me a very long time to finish.

But I did it anyway.

They say that when you fall in love, you lose all sense of reality and stop thinking clearly. I was head over heals for this project. Love one could definitely call it. I didn't listen to the logical part of me that was telling me all of the things I didn't want to hear. They were just so cute and there were so many options and I couldn't resist.

I made a bunch. A handful. About 10% of what I needed to make a queen sized blanket.

And then I stopped.

I got distracted from new projects, old projects, projects that were more interesting to me. Usually I start a project, work on it for a bit, put it down and then come back to it one day when I'm bored or want to tackle my WIP pile. I kept seeing the project bag for my little hexes. I kept moving the one on my desk around and piling things on top of it. I would see the needles for the project in my pen mug and forget about them as I push them aside to look for my fingernail file or a marker.

Tonight I was feeling that ennui that I get. I didn't want to start a new project (even though I started a new one last night but we'll get to that later). I looked through my pile of WIPs to see what I could work on.

And there they were.

At the bottom of the pile.

My hexes.

I didn't even want to work on them but I needed something to do. I picked out some yarn and picked up the needles and I casted on.

And I didn't care.

I made one. I picked out yarn for three but after binding off the first one of the night I realized that I didn't love this project anymore. I didn't care about it.

I had fallen out of love.

And now it is sitting. The project is sitting to the side. Waiting for me to decide what to do.

Do I frog it all?

Do I wait to see if I fall back in love?

Do I try to make something out of the 67 I have made?

I am at a loss.

Maybe waiting is the thing to do.

Waiting is the hardest part though.