*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?
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:
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.