Monday, May 24, 2010

Coming at it from both ends

There was a time earlier this year when I was having a really tough time finding joy in knitting.

GASP! I know. Never did I think that would happen. I mean, knitting is my happy place. Playing with sticks and string brings me JOY...


Every project had lost its appeal. Total dullsville. In a willy nilly search for new projects I would cast on and still be unenthusiastic or I couldn't get gauge with the yarn at hand. One week I desperately cast on for three or four new projects in the hopes that one would renew my prior fervor but all it did was leave me feeling more frustrated and unmotivated. This was serious. This was a knitting depression.

This was not going to do. I needed my happy place back so I had to figure this out. After acknowledging that this was a significant problem, I gave my self a clean slate. Yep, permission to clear the mind, the ravelry queue, the ubiquitous stash and start fresh. Both the clearing the rav queue and stash are meant figuratively, of course. But does anyone else feel the pressure of their ravelry queue? 200+ projects all lined up for a rainy year or decade. Do you feel the pressure of using your stash in order not to be the next hoarder on Hoarders? Because stashing is just one more skein away from hoarding when your closets and garage are bursting with yarn already. Too much pressure from your hobby/love/joy really isn't about that specific thing least in my case, it was just a manifestation of other pressures that were happening in my life. But when bad things start popping up in your happy place, it is time to take action. Therefore, it was time for a fresh start.

The next thing I did was rededicate myself to the process of knitting and not the end product. It was time to start enjoying the journey and stop and smell the yarn once in a while. Sometimes I just want to wear the shawl or get the gift made in time or knit without thinking and I am jonesing for the rush of the bind off of the finished project. There is it. Attachment to the finished object. All the bumps, foibles, dropped stitches, following patterns, and crappy inexact gauges were giving me grief and standing in my way of said FO! Writing this I realize that I had gotten in a very bad habit of not wanting to think at all while knitting. I just wanted to float along on a row of stitches without engaging in the process. Escapist knitting, if you will. This worked well for me while finishing my dissertation. During those last few months, I made scarves which was all I could manage in the few stolen moments of knitting at the time. Now I had the mindless knitting habit, which was not working for the things more complicated than a scarf. It was time to reignite the flame of process and study the quirks of the journey and maybe learn something new. Whoa, what a concept.

Lastly, I asked myself what I wanted in a project and the answer was a simple cardigan. With this cardigan, my hopes were to engage in the process of constructing a sweater so that in the future I will be able to adapt/alter/make sense of other patterns in regards to my body. Also, I wanted a sweater I could wear all the time. A go-to sweater.

The easy top down raglan by Cosmicpluto aka Laura Chau was a good place to start.
top down cardigan ex
My general inclination towards yarn is the bright and colorful, but in an everyday sweater you really need something a little more neutral. The yarn is Noro Silk Garden in the two most neutral colorways available. The cream color is one of my all time favorite Noro colorways because it is almost the antithesis to the incredible colorways he is generally known for. The brown/black colorway was to add a little more interest to the sweater, although I debated about doing an all cream one with subtle stripes.

The body is finished and it worked up nice and easy from the top down. The tricky part is knowing exactly when to join the sweater under, what will essentially be, the underarm. It should be comfortable, not too tight under the armpit, but it's still kind of like diving into unknown waters and taking it on faith that it is going to work out. Trying to stay in the process, I reminded myself that I can always rip out a few rows if in fact it doesn't really work once I got further into the body. Being able to try on the sweater going from top down is another great advantage in getting the right fit.

Coming to the bottom of the sweater was a convergence of keeping my striping in mind, ribbing, the buttonhole placement and where to end the sweater. There was some anxiety as I negotiated all these factors but with a little bit of thinking things through and going with the flow I was satisfied with the results.

raglan sleeve
Now I am on the first sleeve. It seems to be taking so much longer than the body for some weird reason. The yarn is more easily tangling around one another and if you are familiar with Silk Garden it tends to stick to each other. Another cause of construction anxiety was the decreases. The pattern called for 10 decreases, every 5 rows, but I have spider monkey arms so I wondered whether to do the decreases every six rows or stop at 9 decreases. I went with the pattern and it seems to have worked out. It probably would have worked if I stopped at 9 decreases as well, but I have not finished the sleeve yet to make a sound assessment of it. Because of my long limbs it seems I have inches to go before I will bind off. When the time comes I am sure I will have another moment of anxiety in determining where exactly to bind of the wrist crease, a row or two beyond. Does anyone have an opinion on this? Please chime in if you have a preference. The 3/4 sleeve length, which I really like, was ruled out because I want this to be an all purpose sweater.

How often is it that there is only one project going on? Never. This means I have another cardigan on the needles. This one is Manu by Kate Davies. She is an amazing designer and you may be familiar with her Owls or Paper Dolls sweaters. This sweater is knit from the bottom up and is more complicated from the simple top down raglan sweater.
bottom up cardigan ex
Now the problem with knitting from the bottom up is it takes some time to get to something more exciting than stockinette stitch in the pattern. There are about 4 more inches to knit before any pattern changes take place. The yarn is Rowan Felted Tweed and a beautiful teal blue. There just had to be some color in this process. But have you maybe seen these colors before?

Like maybe in the last post?
Coinkidink or not? I wasn't aware of it until I uploaded my pictures and saw all the photos next to each other. Anywhoo...

By giving myself a fresh start and a couple of projects to compare and contrast techniques has allowed me to focus and enjoy knitting again. I declare the knitting slump officially over and I am glad for it. (picture cartwheels & split leaps through grassy meadows & brilliant sunshine)

Now, back to sleeve length, any thoughts? Where do you stop your sleeves?

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