Friday, March 29, 2013

Why We Knit

Why We Knit
            So I spend a crazy amount of time knitting.  If I go to the dentist – I take my knitting.  If I’m watching TV – I’m knitting.  When I go visit the grandkids – I take my knitting.  Basically, if I’m not working or sleeping – I’m knitting.  So one must ask the question – WHY?

            There are lots of reasons that come to mind.  I knit to relax.  I knit because I can.  I knit because I like it.  But what’s so relaxing about poking a needle through a loop of yarn, wrapping a new piece of yarn around the end and pulling it back through the loop – over and over and over.  I had to do this over 50,000 times for the last baby blanket I made.

            So why do we knit?  I love yarn and wool.  I like making things out of just a ball of string.  There’s a satisfaction that comes when you finish the last bind off and the project drops into your lap.  I love to see lace pop open when I block it.  Is that reason enough to spend countless hours knitting?

            I may find some really cool yarn that would be perfect for a pair of socks.  It may cost $20.  I could spend over 20 hours knitting this into a beautiful pair of knee high socks every bit as nice as something that would cost $2.99 at Walmart.  Go to ETSY and look at beautiful hand knit shawls selling for $80.   When you take away the price of the yarn this could not be more than $1 an hour.  So – we don’t knit for economy.  We don’t knit to provide clothing.  That could be accomplished much cheaper and easier at any box store.

            Do we knit for ourselves?  OK – we do.  When I go to meetings with knitters many of us wear our knitting.  I have made myself a sweater, a scarf, a pair of black socks and a pair of white socks.  That’s 4 items.  I’ve made hundreds of knitted items.  Many hundreds. 

            So, the simple answer must be we knit for others.  We knit for the joy of giving something that can’t be bought.  I once made 5 dolls at the same time for some of my granddaughters for Christmas.  They turned out beautiful so I took one to work to show off.  Several of the ladies there really liked them and asked what I would charge to make one for them.  I told them that the dolls took about 20 hours each and had about $10 worth of yarn, so at $10 an hour, I would be happy to make them one for $210.  Of course I make much more than $10 an hour, but I told them that for a co-worker, I would be willing to work for that price.  They looked at me like I was crazy.  But the worth of the dolls is much more than $210 to me.  Everytime I see one of my granddaughters drag her doll around I get a payment.  I have a foster daughter who was recently divorced.  Even though I never see her children, I hope my doll sitting on their bed makes them realize they are loved.

            I like to see baby blankets and toys worn out.  One of my granddaugters has drug her blanket through everything.  I’ve tried to patch it, but some of the areas are so thin there’s nothing to darn.  Still she takes it with her everywhere.  I’m constantly running a doll repair shop for worn out dolls and other knitted animals.

            I have a rocket scientist son-in-law.  He’s a bigger nerd than I am.  He’s a huge Dr Who fan so for Christmas I sent his family some scarfs.  They live far away so my daughter taped them opening our presents.  It was fun to see his eyes light up as each of his boys unwrapped a 2/3rds scale Dr Who scarf.  He was playing with the scarfs and telling the boys he would have to borrow one to take to work.  Then it was great to see him open his own package to discover I had made him a full sized one.  Later in the video they can all be seen running around playing with their toys.  The boys have their scarfs on and the 2 year old Kaitlyn has her little alpaca shawl draped over her head.  In the back is my Son in law with his scarf on.

            If you google charity knitting, or search for charity groups on ravelry you will be surprised at the number of different projects going on.  There’s a general group called Charity Knitters that has over 4000 members.  There are hundreds of other charity groups.  You want to make Afghans for Afghans – there’s a group.   I’ve participated in several.  My favorite is knitting blankets and burial clothing for premee babies that don’t make it.  I can’t imagine the sorrow that a parent must go through to go to the hospital just to loose a baby.  I love making beautiful lacy things that will do nothing but let some sad parent know that someone out there cares.  Another project is making leper bandages.  You take a small needle and some crochet cotton and knit bandages about 2 inches wide and 4 feet long.  Basically you’re just making an ace bandage.  I assume somewhere in a terrible place is a leper living in very sad conditions.  I can’t imagine how they feel to know that someone spent hours making a bandage for just them.

            I’m part of a knitting group here in the St Louis Area.  One of our members had a terrible house fire.  Her family got out but she has a little girl who was screaming because her “babies” were all burning in the fire.  Along with her children’s toys and things, all of her knitting was either burned or smoke damaged.  So for our next monthly meeting we decided to all donate some of our stashes and try and help rebuild her stash.  We also wanted to give something for her children.  I have one of my Annie dolls waiting for my own granddaughter but I won’t give it to her until this summer – so it was just sitting there.  I figured I could always make another one, so I threw the Annie doll in the pile.  At the next meeting we presented her with the knitting and tears were shed on both sides. 

            After she gave Annie to her little girl she could not be separated from it.  She takes it everywhere.  That night she slept with the doll.  Ever since the fire she has had nightmares of the fire and of her babies burning.  The next morning she told her mom that the doll took her nightmares away.  That is the best payment I have ever received for anything. 
Annie and her new home

            So, why do we knit – we knit to bring joy to the world.  Out of balls of string, we make happiness.  There’s no greater purpose.


Monday, January 28, 2013

Minding your P's & Q's

Minding your P Q’s

My mom always told me to mind my P’s and Q’s.  I didn’t know until many years later that this stood for “Please and Thank You’s” but I did know I should mind my P’s and Q’s.  For knitting, I've come up with a new rule, Mind your Projects and Queues. 

Today I want to address a serious problem that hits every knitter.  Next to managing your stash (which I don’t even want to talk about), managing your projects can be the biggest problem a knitter faces.  To keep things simple, a project is any item that has at least one stitch cast on and hasn’t been blocked and had all the ends woven in.  I believe these projects fall into 3 categories.

1.      The Frog Pond
2.      The Inactive Queue
3.      The Active Queue.

I’ll handle these in reverse order.

When I talk about my project queues, I’m not talking about items I plan on knitting.  This is what the Queue on Ravelry is all about.  You line projects up in the order you want to start them.  You find a new item you simply must knit and add it to your queue.  Every so often, you may even order your queue, but if you’re like me, you normally find something you just have to knit NOW and forget you even have a Ravelry Queue, and pull something out of the stash that is perfect for the project, and away you go.  Probably the only things in my Ravelry Queue that will ever see the light of my needles are the top couple items.  My current queue has 22 items.  I just looked through it and there’s not even a remote chance I’ll ever do 12 of them.  Of course I’ll never remove them because I like them.  Anyway, that’s not the queue’s I want to talk about.

I believe the first rule of knitting is: Knitting should be enjoyable.  Knitting is why women outlive men.  While men have all that energy pent up inside raising their blood pressure until they pop – women drain all that pressure through their fingers into the knitting needles.  If we’re knitting something we don’t want to knit – we’re not enjoying ourselves – we're breaking the number 1 rule.  If enjoying yourself is the 1st rule of knitting, the 2nd is:  There are no Knitting Police.  This has been said many times by greater knitters than me but it bears repeating – so I will, There are NO Knitting Police.  Just like there is no set way to hold your needles, there is no set way to manage your projects.  Some knitters can cast on a fair isle sweater on #2 needles with sock yarn and knit until it’s done.  Then they cast on a Dr Who Season 12 scarf and knit until it’s done. 

I am not one of those kinds of knitters – Hence, my project Queues.  I can normally knit about 1½ hours in one kind of knitting before I have to switch.  Normally this is about 2 episodes of Little House on the Prairie or 4 episodes of the Andy Griffith Show (assuming you are watching without commercials).  Normally, this comes down to about 1,600 stitches in straight knitting.   I'm I'm knitting something that is 100 rows across, I'll break it up into groups of 15 rows or so (or other obvious breaks around that size.)

My project queues are for items that are either being worked on regularly or are waiting on something like more yarn, or beads.  I normally have 5 or 6 projects that I am actively working on.  Normally they alternate from worsted to fingering to lace.  Simple mindless knitting will be followed by complicated lace which may be followed by small projects like dolls. 

To see my queue, you have to go into the unfinished storage room in my basement.  I nailed a board on the wall and stuck several hooks in it.  I just hang my various project bags on the hocks.  Then, I take one down, work it for an hour or so and then hang it back up and grab the next bag.  Below is a picture of my active queue.  The projects are:

1.      In the first canvas bag is a “Truly” shawl by Anne Kingstone.  It’s made with DK yarn and is mindless knitting (until I get to the last 15 rows which are lace – but still pretty simple)

2.      In the Bart Simpson bag is a “Truly” baby blanket (by the way, this is out of order, it should be in position 3.  Since the Truly shawl is a triangular shawl, if I knit it in the round, and repeat the pattern twice, I end up with a square blanket.  More on this in an upcoming blog.

3.      In the black sheep bag is my Ethereal Shawl by Lakshmi Juneja.  This is tedious lace work.  After about an hour on it, I am close to going blind (that ‘s why its position is actually #2 between the 2 worsted projects.)

4.      In the blue bag (hand made by my wife – thank you very much) is a lace Rose of England tablecloth by Marianne Kinzel.  It’s also tedious and now that I’m getting near the edge, 2 rows are about the most I can do at a time.  This is probably in danger of the frog pond when I get the supplies to do some of the projects in my inactive queue.

5.      Finally, the 5th bag which is also a canvas bag has my current doll project.  It’s a “Little Lisa” doll by Yvonne Boucher. 

I can’t over emphasize that there are no Knitting police and there are no Queue police.  If I feel like working on the baby blanket for 3 hours, I do.  If I get tired of the doll after just one arm (like I did last night) then that’s it.  If I feel like doing something out of order – I do.  The queue is for guidance only.  Often, if I’m near the end of a project I’ll just work until it’s done.  On the other hand, if it’s something with a million ends to weave in, I may go through the queue and skip it several times.  If I find that I’m dreading something each time it comes up – it’s shuffled off to the frog pond for a much deserved time-out.

 My Queues (excuse the mess)
My 2nd queue is my inactive queue.  These are projects that are on hold for some reason.  You can’t see them very well, but they are in the above picture on the far end.  Currently in my inactive queue are the following:

1.      The small black sheep bag has a Downton Alley Mystery KAL project.  I only get the clues once a week.  When I get the clue, I knit it, then back in the inactive queue it goes. (This little guy is in grave danger of the frog pond and eventual death by frogging)

2.      In the Red bag holds Charity work – currently booties.  I normally work on that on Sundays.

3.      The Purple diamond bag holds my Christmas stocking project by Marji LaFreniere.  It’s on hold for yarn.  This year I’m planning on making 23 of them so I better get the yarn soon.

4.      Finally the huge green bag is a Kiki Mariko Felted Rug by Kay Gardiner and Anne Shayne.  It’s also on hold waiting for yarn.

That brings me to my frog pond.

Technically the Frog Pond gets its name from items waiting to be frogged.  While this could certainly happen to any item in my frog pond, for the most part, these are just projects that have been set aside to do at a later time or for my children to worry about after Idie (which may happen to a lot more projects then I care to think about).  So it’s not really a frog pond, it’s a hibernation pond.  Right now, I have 3 projects there.  They are not in danger of being frogged – but that could change at any minute.  There’s a purple shawl made with crazy thin yarn.  I have nothing against the pattern or the yarn, but they don’t really go together.  I found I dreaded this thing every time it came up – hence it’s in the pond.  Also there’s a shawl made with fingering yarn that is all garter stitch and made in waves (little shell pieces one at a time).  I have nothing against this one, except there are so many shawls I’d rather be making that it got squeezed out of the active queues.  Finally there’s a huge baby blanket I started years ago when I had nothing else to do.  It’s made by holding 2 pieces of yarn together and using “grannies favorite dish cloth pattern” I just kept getting bigger and bigger.  It’s the definition of mindless knitting.  It’s not in danger of being frogged because the yarn isn’t worth it (I started it before I discovered wool).

I mentioned that knitting should be enjoyable.  If a project gets naughty and needs a time out – I throw it in the frog pond.  That’s not a death sentence.  On the other hand, I’m not one that has to finish something just because I started it.  You may feel it’s giving in to something if you quit, I think just the opposite.  If a project has been bad and deserves to be frogged, frogging it makes you the winner – not the quitter.  If you frog something, even something you’ve spent countless hours on, no policeman will show up at your door and take away your needles.  As a bonus, if it’s very nice yarn, you’ll get the pleasure of making something nice out of it.