Saturday, January 17, 2015

The Power of Knitting

Before I really begin, let me just say, Knitting is my craft of choice. What I'm trying to say here, I hope applies to all craft: Crochet, Spinning, Dye process, and beyond into woodworking, etc. It may not sound like it because I'm speaking of my own experience and with my own comfort levels.

I've been knitting a stinkingly-good long time. I picked it up when I was a teen-ager, being a bit rebellious of my mom who crocheted. Not that I blame her, she was a single mom of 5 kids, I'm not sure I could have left my knitting alone in such a tornado either, where the simple act of pulling out a needle to use in a decent sword-fight would be devastating. (Pulling out a crochet hook would only undo a few stitches at most.)

I had not been afraid at all of yarn. All through our childhood, Mom would find an unfinished projects or sweaters with 'problems' in the neighborhood thrift store, garbage bags of knotted messes, and bring them home to for us to untangle. Great for problem/puzzle solving. She had in her stash a pair of brilliant kelly green plastic knitting needles and a book on how to knit, and one spring break, after I'd binged until sick of her romances, I went my own way with those pretty needles, that book and a ball of yarn and taught myself to knit.

I think at that stage, my knitting was for productivity. There were always new babies being born around us, we sewed clothes, made blankets and afghans. The feeling of accomplishment to someone not adult yet, can be HUGE.

I continued to knit, sometimes crochet, without stopping into my adult years. It had changed for me though, it had become my one skill that could possibly keep my family warm, a stitch at a time, was precious. To protect and comfort my family was an unceasing chore, as was laundry, dishes, vacuuming. But it was the thing that ONLY I could do. My superpower, to change the world one stitch at a time. Even if it was only MY WORLD!

Later, it became necessary to perfect my skills. My gifts of craft went generally unappreciated because they were viewed as homemade. I could estimate that by this time, I had achieved talent according to the theory of 10,000 hours or very  near it. So, I read everything I could get my hands on at the library or borrow from friends to make better seams, avoid seams, perfect cast-on and bind-offs. I had entered my product in the local county fairs, just to gain information. Still because of the area I was in there wasn't the availability for anything better, I was using acrylic. I had no idea that you could order things by mail, but probably couldn't have done that either, because I had wouldn't have known what I was doing. Or could have afforded it. I was still knitting for everyone else until just a few years ago. I found myself alone and finally began to knit for myself. (In some circles, this is disgustingly called 'Selfish Knitting' and really undeservedly so.)

Almost 40 years later, I find that my knitting fulfills other needs.

The Craft Yarn Council has shared articles on the Health Benefits of knitting, which range from physcial (keeping potential arthritis at bay) to psychological (being focused on something other than self, etc).

Heather Ordover, of one of my favorite podcasts, Craftlit, published a wonderful treatise on Cognitive Anchoring, which demonstrates how knitting improves your Mental Retention of potentially tedious information being heard. You really should try that one on your boss for the next meeting to come along! (I also think you should be free to knit during religious services. After all, another title for God is Creator, who else would understand that satisfying work of your hands and know best how to spiritually feed you?) I can attest to this working as I have always knit during television watching or at the movies, and retain infinite details that I will recall later, to which my husband will say, 'you are a plethora of useless knowledge...' in a loving way.

Then there is the Charity aspect. Nothing new, as socks and hats were knitted in a communal group during wartime as a way to support soldiers. It is beneficial to prison inmates. This article showed them working on hats for Shaken Baby Syndrome. Another recent news items shows a picture of purple hats that were crafted to bring attention to and assist in raising money for Shaken Baby Syndrome. (I admit, what got my attention was the sea of purple hats.)

Halos of Hope is an organization that collects and sends about 2,700 hats a month to cancer centers all over the US. I personally have knitted hats for Halos of Hope, dog blankets and sweaters for the local Humane Society, blankets for the Linus Blanket Project and Warm-Up America.

One of my favorite programs that I feel the little that I've done is not enough: Foster Care 2 Success is a program to support kids who've aged out of the foster care program and gone on to higher education. The Red Scarf Project sends the kids a package at Valentine's Day that includes among other things a hand-knitted red scarf. I have set aside some wool just for that, but have been too tied up with other things at the moment to get to it...

I don't know how my knitting story will end. I plan to knit till I can't, I will take my knitting with me everywhere. Literally walk around with it, except when walking the dogs. There's not a lot of purses or bags that work that way, that's my current desire. I do know that my knitting has acquired a communal note that is new and refreshing to me and fraught with drama. Technology has had some really wonderful benefits, as in finding materials, patterns, creative ideas which has had me wondering if I need an electronic tablet most of the day long. At the same time, tech has made a venue for those who don't have any other way to vent their frustrations to become quite nasty. Which seems to continue to perpetuate the ugly stereotype of 'knitting grumpy grannies'.

That may be the image of me after all this time but certainly NOT where I hope to end up. It is my goal to keep sharing what is sweet and good. To that end, I do have a Facebook Group called "Pursuit of Happy Knits" that I hope does this for me. Please consider yourself invited. If being happy is your thing, that is.

To close, here's a great video: Jimmy Kimmel has a conversation with a fellow knitting in his audience. I understand his name is Brad. Brad, if you're out there and see this, You Rock! You may be a soul cousin of mine.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Story of The Wanderer (my pattern)

So, after my Cloche pattern, I seemed to be on a bit of a streak.

I've seen it before. Sometimes Designers will create a totally new and wonderful idea and by the time they've worked it up and written the pattern, they will have a thought that becomes a variation of the first. It may happen several times before the Designer moves on to a new idea.

I don't consider myself a Designer. I like how Paula Emmons-Fuessle (Prairie Piper of the Knitting Pipeline Podcast) puts it, when she says she's not a designer either, but thought up a creative and interesting idea and wrote it down to share with others. Designers tend to create a new design every day, appear in all the magazines and every time they have a new idea it becomes the NEXT BIG THING.  Yeah, I think Paula and I are the same kind of people.

Now, back to the streak: After I created the Cloche, my dear sister-in-law who was fighting the fight against cancer, thought having a hat would be a good idea, but thought if it had a brim, that might work better for her. She lives in a rainy location, her thought was that a brim would keep the rain from splattering her glasses.

My earlier project, based on
Anne Modesitt's
pattern but with a few slight
I have wired a brim before. I knitted one of Anne Modesitt's patterns into a beautiful brimmed hat for my step-daughter's wedding a a couple of years ago (garden wedding, garden hat) and the yarn shop owner where I attended knit night ordered millinery wire and shared a bit of it with me. That little element was the trickiest part because she ordered it, then waited weeks (maybe just days, but hard to be patient when you're waiting for that crucial element) for it to arrive. Then to carefully crochet the wire in place...

When I thought about wiring the hat I'd just completed, it seemed like it would be very easy, as I had finished the hat with an i-chord ~ a built-in channel for a wire! However, I didn't have any millinery wire. What to do?

I had knit a Celtic braid once, and now considered that if I were a traveler, as I often dream, and could go to a country of wool, like say, Scotland, Ireland or the UK, perhaps, a hat with that braid might lead me to feel at home. Like the Cloche with a band that circles the head, I used the Celtic braid to circle the head this time. It's width would leave a need for a smaller crown and the brim could compliment it simply as well. A few more simple 'channels' for utility and decoration and my new 'idea' was complete.

And now, for a slight secret: I didn't have any of that brim wire that I had used before, also did not recall the name of the company it was ordered from, even though it was only the next state over. When I mentioned my dilemma to my husband, he went out to his handy-man supplies and came back with trimmer wire. That's right, the plastic cord used in weed-eaters. I threaded it through the brim channel (not i-chord this time) with a teeny bit of duct-tape to keep it's shape. NOTE: I tried a couple of things, like melting the two ends to each other, to no avail. The brim wire and the duct tape work remarkable well, and with the hat worked up in a heavy worsted or bulky weight yarn, is not at all visible through the stockinette no matter what color the cord or the knitted fabric. 

The hat is a couple of years old and this is still true, the brim wire has held it's shape and doesn't show through the knitting.

Small note: The written pattern doesn't give gauge but there is a spot in the instructions where the knitter is asked to stop and measure for gauge. The pattern also gives incorrect stitch count when picking up for brim. That is all the errata or other problems people seem to have had with creating it for themselves.

The Wanderer is available in my Ravelry store. Thank for reading my little story about it's creation. Happy Knitting!