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Yes! It's true. I knit something today. In fact, I knit an entire scarf!

*waits patiently for "OOHS!" and "AHHS!" and sounds of applause to fade*

*looks around shiftily*

Okay, so it's a "scarf" that fits one of Connor's plush toys, and a small plush toy at that, but whatever. It makes me feel better to call it a "scarf" than "ugly strip in the approximate size and shape of a bookmark," so there you have it. ;) It is real knitting, though.

I know you're just dying to read more about my knitting adventures, so here they are:

As a few of you know, over the years, I've had an antagonistic relationship with knitting. When I was a child, my mother taught me to crochet, and I liked that just fine. As a young adult, though, I realized that you could knit loads of cool things that couldn't be crocheted, so I thought I'd give it a try. I taught myself to knit, and proceeded to jump into a nightmarish project of DOOM: I made a Christmas stocking for my nephew. (Similar to this stocking, only with more rows, including reindeer, and his name across the top). It was SO MUCH WORK, and turned out about twice as big as the pattern said it would, but other than that, it looked really cute (he's probably still using it, although he's 18 years old now). Still, even though the project was a success (after all, being twice as big can be a good quality in a stocking - more room for candy from Santa, right?), I was traumatized. TRAUMATIZED! I decided that knitting was TEH EVIL and I gave it up, right then and there. Possibly I would have had a different reaction if I hadn't chosen something WICKED hard as my first project, but . . . well, that's not what happened. *sighs* So, no more knitting for me.

Since then, I've not regretted that decision too many times. Oh, occasionally I would look at sweater patterns and feel a twinge of remorse (knitting creates a different sort of "fabric" than crochet, and thus lends itself much better to a great many kinds of sweaters). A couple of years ago, when Mookie was born, I actually tried to knit - I wanted to make socks for her - but I couldn't remember how to do it from just pattern instructions, so I gave up.

So, why have I decided now - after all this time - to rethink my disdain for knitting?

Teddy bears.

Yeah, it seems daft, even to me, but it's down to teddy bears.

Okay, I need to backtrack a bit. So, not long ago, I decided to start crocheting again, after having taken a break from it for nearly a year. (And before I got into it in 2006, it had been about a decade since the last time I'd crocheted). Well, I've had fun making hats and scarves and various other things, and I'm nearly finished with my huge queen-sized bedspread. I decided that the next "big" project I do will be a sweater, for myself. I was planning to crochet it, and had found a few patterns, but I wasn't quite ready to start shopping for yarn. In the meantime, I decided to use up some of my stash yarn on making other little things - some amigurumi animals, and things for premature babies (apparently, hospitals are often in need of small hats and booties and blankets and things for preemies). I'm in the process, actually, of designing my own patterns for a preemie blanket and hat (more on that in another entry).

Well, on Thursday I decided to stop by my LYS (Local Yarn Store), just for the heck of it. I guess mostly I was looking for some yarn to make more stuff for preemies, as most of my stash isn't really appropriate for that. In the store, they have a whole bunch of knitted garments on display, and some of them were REALLY gorgeous. (Although probably the prettiest thing was a crocheted skirt - like a broomstick-style skirt with crocheted lace over the top of it; I am SO going to make one like this one of these days). So, lots of pretty things, but still I was feeling like sticking with crochet.

Then I saw the bears. A couple of dozen of them; the same basic bear, but all dressed in sweaters of various colors. They were SO FREAKING ADORABLE (similar to this) that I had a closer look, and it turns out that That Yarn Store sponsors a program where people make the little sweaters, which are then put on these bears and donated to the police department. The police keep them on hand to give to children who are in stressful situations. (Connor received something similar once; when he broke his arm at school in 2004, the paramedics gave him a little bear wearing a cast and crutches. It was super cute, and I really appreciated the gesture. Connor loved that little bear, too). Well, I asked if they have a crochet pattern to make those sweaters, but they don't. Only knitting. Well, I'll be darned if I'll let that stop me from making some tiny sweaters and donating them for bears for children who are having a rough time. So, that's why I've decide to re-learn to knit. And after I make a few bear sweaters, I figure I'll be ready to make a sweater for myself.

So . . . today, I read a bit more of "Stitch "N Bitch." At first, I was enjoying it as much as I did yesterday (when I read that stuff about feminism). Today, she was talking about her grandmother, and gave a short history of knitting (fascinating!), and information about yarns and tools of the trade, and it was all going swimmingly. I was feeling just great about this book. Until the moment when something she wrote stopped me cold:

"So pick up your sticks, and let's get started."

What? WHAT? I was enjoying myself! Theory, history, anecdotes about knitting - this was GREAT. I felt like I was learning stuff, but I hadn't yet needed to actually subject myself to the terrors of holding knitting needles in my hands again. To tell you the truth, I felt betrayed. I mean, really. Page 29, and already she wants me to, you know, start knitting? I thought I had at least 50 pages to go before that would happen.

Apparently not. *sigh*

Reluctantly, but with a determination that overrode any excuses I might otherwise have made, I found a pair of knitting needles, and some yarn, and I sat down on the couch to give it a try. The first lesson, HAH! I had it aced. I already know how to make a slip knot. GO ME!

Casting on was a bit more difficult, but after a minute I had it down. Well enough, anyway. I cast on a bunch of stitches (about thirty, maybe), and moved to the next step. The actual knitting.

Here's where I hit some problems. Apparently, there are two "styles" of knitting: English and Continental. I had no idea which kind I'd done in the past, but the author indicated that English is more common here in the U.S., so I figured probably that's how I'd learned before. In any case, that's where she suggested we start - it's the way she prefers, and she seemed to think it's easier.

OMG NO!!!!!!!! I was traumatized all over again. I felt completely uncoordinated, trying to skewer the loop with one needle, and then having to reach around and loop the yarn around the needle (but which way? WHICH WAY?), and then try and pull it through, and OH CRAP I just dropped a stitch, and this feels AWFUL! I felt like my hands were not connected to my brain, and nothing I did was working out right. *sobbing* I will never be able to do this! It's impossible!

Well, instead of having a tantrum (although I was sorely tempted), I figured I'd just ignore her "instructions" for now, and try and get the needles and the yarn to do the right things however I was able. Okay. That's better. I switched the yarn to my left hand (where I'm used to holding it for crochet), and look! I can use that hand to loop the yarn without any awkward extra motions, and all of the sudden, everything was going wonderfully well! I was knitting! I was feeling a bit bad about ditching the book, so I had another look at "English" style, shuddered, and turned the page. Well, what do you know? Turns out that the way I came up with to hold the yarn is Continental style, so apparently that's what I'd been doing all along. In any case, it sure felt right. (Also, I had to laugh when I saw a comment about "if you crochet, this will be easy for you." If I'd read ahead in the first place, I'd have just skipped the horror of English style altogether).

*sigh of relief* So, apparently, I can do this knitting thing. I went ahead and knit about four rows, and then bound off (which, urgh, kind of a nightmare in itself, but I'm trying to cut myself some slack. It will get easier with practice). And, voila! I found myself holding an actual knitted . . . thing. Made by me! I decided to call it a scarf, and wrapped it around Andromeda's neck:

My first knitted scarf!

Isn't it wonderful? (Okay, so it's not really all that wonderful. But it is real knitting, and proof that I will be able to do this. In fact, as soon as this is posted, I think I'll read the next chapter in the book).

ETA: I just read another chapter, and now I can PURL, too! I'm feeling so clever right now. (I'm sure that will evaporate the first time I try to actually *make* something, and it comes out all lumpy and the wrong size. But for now, I'm pleased with my progress. :D

Also, as a special non-365 bonus, here's a photo of a male California quail who was hanging around the yard today. A couple of days ago, Connor and I put out some food for the quail, in the hopes that they'd come around more often. It seems to have worked; while this male bird was standing watch, the female was under our rosemary bush, foraging for millet and cracked corn.

California Quail



( 15 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 31st, 2008 12:58 am (UTC)
Ah yes. I remember the joy of figuring out what the heck to do with your fingers and feeling like they're crooked claws while trying to turn and loop and whatever to knit! That reminds me, I never did finish the scarf that was supposed to be mine. It's a beautiful fuzzy warm PURPLE color! hee

What a great thing to be doing too for the preemies and scared kids!
May. 31st, 2008 01:48 am (UTC)
Re: knitting
Woman, get that scarf out and finish it! It always seems to be the projects we're making for ourselves that are the easiest to put "on hold" and never pick up again. (Then again, you've got time; it will be a few months before you'll have any urge to wear a scarf). It sounds pretty, though (PURPLE!); I want pictures when you've finished it! :)

Yeah, I like the idea of making things for charity. In 2006, I made about a dozen hats to give away to a church that was giving them away with a Thanksgiving feast that they hosted. When I found out about the preemie hats, that seemed like another really good cause. It's a good way to make things and know they'll be used - there is a limit to how many crocheted things I need myself, and there's a limit to how many I can give away before people start wishing I'd stop. :D Although probably this year I will make crocheted or knitted things for holiday gifts. Heh. If I start now, I'll be way ahead of the game come December. That's a good idea, come to think of it.
May. 31st, 2008 01:59 am (UTC)
I do love a good saga of doom.

I haven't crocheted for years, but I still like to do a bit of scarf knitting. When it comes to anything more complicated, though, I normally EPIC FAIL because I get distracted and mess something up then don't want to go back and fix it.

I think we should have a night of sitting around gossiping and knitting. I'm sure we can work out the geographic problem somehow. :)
May. 31st, 2008 04:22 am (UTC)
OMG I just had the best idea for a present for you. If I'm clever and figure out how to do it, I might be able to finish it for Christmas this year. (I actually have a project already started for you - which you know nothing about, because I DIDN'T finish it in time for Christmas last year. Maybe you'll get that one someday, too). Bwahahahahahaha!

Well . . . maybe we could put together a Skype chat? Can you do webcams with that? That could be a lot of fun . . . we'd have to figure out a way to get around the timezone problem, but I'm sure that's doable. We're clever. Seriously, that's a really cool idea.

Also, I am concerned about the EPIC FAIL possibilities myself. I haven't had too many EPIC FAILS in the past, but only because I don't usually start projects that can be too horribly screwed up (e.g., things like sweaters that have to end up the right size). That's the beauty of crocheting hats. If it turns out small, give it to a child. If it turns up huge, give it to a man. Hopefully the huge ones weren't crocheted in pink. O_o I'm a bit nervous about my ambition to do a sweater. It means I'll definitely *GASP* have to do a little gauge swatch beforehand (something I've never bothered to do before). So, we'll see. :)
(Deleted comment)
May. 31st, 2008 04:18 am (UTC)
Yeah, I know what you mean about instructions being written Greek. I've had that with crochet patterns before, and I have to be really motivated to struggle through. (Sometimes, I don't bother). So far, I'm doing fine with the knitting. Of course, I haven't got beyond plain old knitting and purling yet. I read some of the later sections, and decided I'd tackle those sometime in the future. :D LOL about the sock monkey scarf, though.

Have you tried crochet? I love it, and I personally think it's easier than knitting. I know people who feel the opposite is true, but since you didn't enjoy knitting, maybe you're one of the "crochet" people?
May. 31st, 2008 03:43 am (UTC)

I really have to take up knitting.
May. 31st, 2008 04:15 am (UTC)
OMG! You were right. I went outside a few minutes ago, and he was STILL there. Of course, I took the scarf (I promised Andromeda I'd make her a new one; she doesn't have a very good memory, though, so prolly she'll forget about it and I won't have to bother). The quail was THRILLED with the scarf! And look how jaunty it looks on him!


You should totally take up knitting. Or crochet. I still love crochet. But knitting is cool, too. :)
May. 31st, 2008 09:41 am (UTC)
He looks totally jauntily pleased with it. You're SO awesome.

May. 31st, 2008 10:05 am (UTC)
Yay for scarf! Andromena is the cutest dragon ever. :)

After 20 years of knitting like my mother in the southeastern Dutch way--needle in left hand, right needle tucked under right arm and right hand throwing the yarn--I wanted to "re-learn" knitting because holding the right needle in my armpit meant I couldn't use double-pointed or circular needles. Holy frickin' moley. What a palaver. I'm left-handed but have always knit right-handed, but I discovered the hard way that, like you, I couldn't hold a needle in my right hand and throw the yarn with same hand. So I switched the yarn to my left hand and it worked a treat. Two years on I'm perfectly comfortable knitting in the Continental style and am hopelessly addicted to knitting socks.

As for knitting instructions, thank heavens for the internet with Really Easy Instructions for Idiots Incapable of Abstract Thinking or I'd have never learned to do anything beyond basic knit and purl. I recently had to look up how to do p2tog tbl (purl 2 together through the back loops) because I kept coming up with an extra loop on the needle. Very teeth-gnashing.
May. 31st, 2008 12:21 pm (UTC)
Yay, continental style! (That's what all the cool kids do, you see.) If you ever run into problems again, knittinghelp.com is a *great* resource. She has videos for a ton of stuff there, both English and continental. (Though her purling is a bit wacky.)

On a different note - you decided that stranded colorwork would be a great first project?!? No wonder you hated knitting!!! It's not my favorite thing in the world, and I've been knitting for decades. :) Oh, and the thing about something not fitting so give it to someone else? That's totally how it goes in knitting, also. I have a pair of socks I'm working on right now, in fact, that I'm not sure whether they'll be my size or not. That's why I'm a process, not a product, knitter. :)

Oh, and it seems like you've got a bunch of people on your f-list that know how to knit. But if you have any questions, feel free to shoot me a line. I don't know if anyone lives closer than I do. ;) (And I'll try to talk loopylape into hosting another knitting party sometime soon...)
May. 31st, 2008 03:31 pm (UTC)
I'm you in reverse - I've been able to knit since quite a small child, but have never really bothered with crocheting. Which is something I should rectify, because I'd like to be able to do it. What I'd really like to make is one of those huge multicoloured crocheted bedspreads/throw things, but that's probably a bit ambitious to start with ;-)
Aug. 10th, 2008 05:51 am (UTC)
Actually, starting with a huge multicolored afghan might not be too ambitious - if you do it in squares. Because each square is just a tiny project by itself, you can sort of "sneak up" on an afghan that way. Then again, my square afghan project has been in progress for a year and a half now . . . but it is almost finished, and I WILL finish it one day soon. :D

(In fact, that's the afghan in my icon photo). :)
May. 31st, 2008 04:21 pm (UTC)
OMG! DragonDragonDragonDragonDragonDragonDragonDragonDragon
DragonDragonDragonDragonDragonDragonDragonDragonDragon OMG!

*ahem* Congrats on finishing your first knitting project! Well done indeed! *hugs*
May. 31st, 2008 09:20 pm (UTC)
*bounces up and down* A new knitter! Yay! Will you tell the Central Committee that I got you into it? They give gift certificates to yarn shops and a "build your stash guilt-free" card--much better than a toaster.

If you get stuck with something, you can bring it to me. I'm a bit awed by your ability to learn this stuff from a book. I do much better learning from another person. I'm going to learn sock knitting from a book for my next project, though, so we'll see how that goes.

Jun. 2nd, 2008 05:39 am (UTC)
Good for you! I, too, gave up knitting in favor of crochet a million years ago and have no intention of taking it up again. Crocheting satisfies me fine (and I'll bet you could find some little crocheted-sweaters-for-bears patterns if you looked).

But my main thought is this: Dragons breathe fire. Do they really need scarves? ;)
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