Sock…fail?

I don’t want to jinx myself, but I am on the verge of producing two wearable socks. They are not the same as one another, but my diabolical plan to avoid SSS is going smoothly. I finished the first Jane last Sunday and immediately cast on a Francie. Aside from the cast-on being a shade too tight on Francie (it is not unwearable, but I wish I’d made it looser), they are both going incredibly smoothly. I’m really improving at picking up stitches and doing lifted increases. I’ve been knitting for over thirty years and it’s almost embarrassing to admit that I’ve been ashamed of my pickings-up for as long as I’ve been knitting socks (at least a decade now). I could just never figure out how to get it right. Other people would have gone into the yarn store and asked someone by now. I can be special that way. I’ve even been reluctant to ask my own mother. It’s possible my grandmother doesn’t know.

While all of this has been going on, I have been avoiding finishing the pinwheel blanket for two reasons: I have to graft garter stitch, and it’s awfully hot to have the thing on my lap. My cousin reports that she’s having some contractions, and I find myself unmotivated. This isn’t a pretty newborn blanket; it’s a play blanket for rolling around and looking at toys. That buys me another couple of months at least.

Update: In the very short time since I wrote this draft and edited it, my cousin had the baby! Welcome, Declan! Your blanket is…indisposed…and you will have it before you’re old enough to remember not having it.

Last Wednesday, I went in to the Historic New England archives to look at the Codman women’s knitting papers. There was far more than I could see in one visit, so I’m going to have to go back (I have an appointment on July 18). So far I have discovered two things: my French is only as good as my ability to read nineteenth-century handwriting (and vice versa), and grafting in either garter or kitchener is the perennial problem, since I found handwritten instructions for both (in English, thank goodness) among the papers. One thing I’m thinking about now is how to take what’s there and turn it into some kind of interesting story or how to explain its significance to the history of the family. I don’t want to get too esoteric. It was a time when a lot of women knitted; the fact that they did isn’t significant in and of itself. And a lot of women knitted for the WWI soldiers and collected garment donations to be sent overseas. It seems like a rather prosaic activity for such a well-known family. I wonder if there are journal entries that I’ve missed. I should look for that when I go back.

I’ve been interpreting that house for five years this year, and the experience of really knowing the family continues to elude me. It’s sometimes strange, trying to be a historian after many years of being a literature scholar. You can be much more free with interpretation in literature. The characters are fictional; you can’t offend them. But with real people, I’m much more concerned with fairness, and to some degree, with sympathy. I work in their home; I want to like them, or at least understand them. I’m very conscious of not projecting anything on to them that isn’t there. It’s difficult.

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And this is why you shouldn’t read (anything distracting) and knit.

So last night, in a fit of optimism about my ability to finish a warm sweater before the weather turns, I cast on for the ubiquitous Rocky Coast Cardigan. I would like to take a second and gush about how much I love Coastal Knits; it’s been a while since I fell in love with a pattern book and this is just so charming, and I want to make everything in it (and/or go hiking; whichever). I have the nice Organik yarn to make it, and I had the needles all ready, and because I have been knitting long enough to get cocky about these things, I cast on and off I went.

Until–and I must be fair, here: there is nothing wrong with the pattern at all–I realized as I was working along yesterday morning that I no longer had a symmetrical number of extra stitches on either side of the shoulder cables. That is bad. It means that somewhere in the first couple of repeats, I was zinging right along and forgot to do one of the mirrored increases. And in fact, I forgot it twice. I would love to be able to say it was because one of the shorter members of the household caused me trouble, but the truth is that I was knitting while reading a serial novel of the sophisticated woman-of-the-world variety, and I may have…forgotten…what I was doing. The sad thing is that even as far as they go, this wasn’t a particularly good one, and still. Forced to frog the thing because there’s no non-obvious way to make up for missing two increases several rows back, and I cast on again and have nearly gotten to where I was when I went to bed. Oh, well. I am being more diligent now.

Slight digression about trashy literature follows:

Lately even my brain-candy ladynovels are leaving me cold, and I think it’s because I’ve overdosed on the three most prevalent varieties: hot cowboys, hot soldiers, and hot wealthy Manhattan power brokers. They are also disproportionately set in the south or midwest, probably owing to a bigger audience there. I’d complain about being underrepresented, but a) New England does not have a reputation for being inherently sexy; and b) there was one about this so-and-so Cape Cod family, though I maintain that taking wealthy power brokers and putting them on Cape Cod instead of in Manhattan does not make them not wealthy Manhattan power brokers. Nevertheless, Massachusetts girls need love too. Ladynovel authors, take note. If I only messed up a couple of increases, the book wasn’t that good. If I knitted in stockinette for six inches and forgot to cable altogether, there’s your RITA award. Bonus points if you manage to include a knitting heroine without being patronizing.

You I can’t do that with garter stitch, apparently.

So I’m knitting along on the other BSJ, a few rows past the inc-10 at row 58, and notice a hole. This is not like the last time I noticed a hole, which was when I was nearly daft with finishing the thing and realized it was supposed to be there because it was a buttonhole I made on purpose. This was an untwisted M1. I picked up the stitch, but in my counting haze, forgot to knit it through the back loop. It left a very obvious hole in the middle of my garter stitch perfection.

My husband’s grandmother, who informed me last summer that she was taught never to leave a mistake in her knitting, would be very pleased to hear how that hole niggled at me. At the time, I pooh-poohed. I’d made a mistake in a lace scarf that I gave my sister, and insisted it would never be noticed. She was being stuffy, I thought. I’d ignore this little teeny hole. It would be too much trouble to be worth fixing. Finshed the row, turned, started knitting back. Looked at the hole some more. Well, I could fix it, couldn’t I? Drop the ladder and fix it? Then there wouldn’t be a hole and I could go on and pretend the whole thing never happened. It wouldn’t show at all. I’m a drop-and-ladder ninja on stockinette. I got out my crochet hooks. I’d fix that up easy-peasy.

Well. An hour later, after several times splitting the yarn, dropping the twist, hooking the stitches backward so they v’d when they should have purl bumped, I gave right the hell up and ripped six rows back, picked up all 114 stitches, and started again. And now there will not be a 5-mm hole in the back of a baby sweater, to be worn by a child who would have been lying on top of that hole for the entire time he wears the thing. Perfection in small things, perfection in all things. I’d call up my husband’s grandmother and tell her, but I can’t bear to give her the satisfaction. Someday, she will know her triumph–I’m pretty sure that’s the kind of thing St. Peter tells you right off when you’re at the pearly gates–and that will do.

Tonight, I start at the same place where I was when I ripped back last night. It took me the rest of the evening to get back there again.

Christmas Countdown: 45…wait, no…40…Days

I’ve gone and done it again: overcommitted myself to knitting for the Christmas season.

Cabled Snapdragon for someone!

The problem is that it worked out pretty well for me last year, and I had a newborn and a thesis to work on. So with one in school and one sleeping through the night, and the thesis off to my department for what I hope is the last round, I thought, I should be able to accomplish even more this year.

Slip-stitch something for a family memeber

In fact, I thought, still obviously in the grip of some delirium, I should be able to make just about everything for everyone, which will be much cheaper than shopping, and also more personal!

Note to self: do not leave amigurumi book lying around where kids can find it.

Mess o'kraken tentacles, which will become a toy for my older son. Probably remarkably true to life in this phase of construction.

I need to go and listen again to that Radiolab about thinking things through all the way to the end.

Still haven't decided the fate of these yet.

(I positively adore Radiolab. My sister tried to get me into it for ages and I blew it off, and she was completely right. I should listen to her. So should you. You can download them from iTunes for free, or from Radiolab.org.)

And the delusion here is not only that I can make that many things in time for Christmas, but that it will be cheaper to do so than shopping would be. I can hear the echoing guffaws and snorks of knitters everywhere, including those who own my local yarn emporia. They know me.

The real kicker is that I started this post in advance of the 45th knitting day before Christmas, hoping to post it on the 10th. Naturally…

Stymied

I’m so frustrated. I’ve been wanting to make a Lia sweater for the past year, ever since it was published in Knitty. But I took the yarn and needles out the other night, when I finally had a chance to work on it and it also wasn’t 110 out, and right out of the gate I’m stuck on the cast-on.

I watched that video about forty times. I don’t even make a slipknot like she does! My hands feel like meat tenderizers. I really could have used a win today, too. Now I’m browsing for other sweater patterns that don’t make me hate everybody.