Thursday, April 05, 2007


For as long as I can remember in my life I have liked to make things. Crafts, cut and paste, my mother still has some hand made Valentines that I did when I was about 8 that surprise even 23 year old me when I see them. My Nana (Dad's mom) sews and cooks and crochets and makes things, and she taught me to do all of those things. My mother also sews and cooks and knits and... well about 8 million other things (I have a wonderful Mom, but that's a whole other essay worth of writing) and she passed that gene on too. Sometime around when I was 9 or 10 I asked to learn how to use a sewing machine to make doll clothes.

That was, I thought, the beginning of the end. I made, and sold, Halloween costumes in college - the only person I knew in the dorms with a 30 year old belt-driven sewing machine (or any sewing machine) stashed under my lofted bed. I learned to draft historical patterns, to tell whether or not that fabric had any linen in it by lighting it on fire - really - and that no matter how much planning you do for an SCA event, *SOMETHING* will always be held on with safety pins.

And then, in the middle of all of this insanity, I decided I wanted to knit. I knew how to knit - or at least, I'd knitted a lumpy blue... something... at some point in my life and it was sitting in the drawer of my tiny sewing desk (and still is). But I wanted to really make something. I had a new pea coat - why not make a pretty scarf! So I went to the store, uninitiated, grabbed some cheap acrylic yarn (in heather grey and burgundy - at least I had color sense) and some needles that were within the range on the back of the yarn skein. Educated, I was not, but I do occasionally get lucky and read the directions.

So I made a scarf - my first knitted object - in 2x2 ribbing, with stripes. (Ok - so much for starting with the basics) And it was, and is, wearable and warm. But I had not yet found the beauty of wool. Or of sock yarn.

At some point I decided to try looking at knitting books, and knitting patterns, and then one of my roommates learned to knit from her sister (Amanda is one of the true Knitters I know, and she even crochets too!) and we started getting yarn catalogs, and... And so I bought something that looked like sock yarn, and some double pointed needles, and made a pair of socks. They are unwearable - not because there is something wrong with them, but because they are decidedly two different sizes. This was not intentional. I measured them. I held them up next to each other and was pleased as I worked my clever little toe shaping. But one of the socks fits my size 7.5 foot, and the other is 2 sizes too small.

So I continued, dabbling in knitting as a side hobby to my sewing fascination. I knit on cool evenings, or knit outside while studying; knit with my roommates (we taught the other one to knit too), and slowly... I turned from someone who knew how to knit into a knitter. (I'm still not a Knitter, not even close, but maybe someday I'll get there). People in the SCA introduced me to spinning (an art I have yet to learn, but keep looking longingly at drop spindles and spinning wheels at events) and I'm now living in a barony with a Laureled Dyer. She knits to support her dye habit.

Sometime in the midst of all of this, I discovered Stephanie Pearl-McPhee. The Yarn Harlot. A woman who knits, and then writes about knitting. Don't laugh - she's a bestseller, which means that I am not the only one that finds her funny. In fact, if you check out her blog ( you will find LOTS of people that find her funny. From her I learned that the term for a group of knitters is, in fact, a "whack". A gaggle of geese, a herd of cows, a murder of crows, a whack of knitters. I'm not sure if that's proper, or if "whack" can refer to any large group, but either way... it sounds kind of dangerous. From her I was enabled to accept that there are at least three yarns in my stash that will *never* get knit, because they are just too pretty, and that's OK. I stare at them lovingly, sitting in the basket on my living room floor (my husband is very patient with the yarn, even if he does occasionally hint that I should vacuum after I've been weaving in ends), and think of what pretty things they could make, but won't because I'm afraid to knit anything so beautiful. And, from her blog, I've learned that I am not alone - that there are lots of other people for whom knitting, even when you get frustrated with it and want to throw it down the john (oh woe to THAT plumber), is just as much of an itch. People that go into the yarn store and pat/sniff/hold/squeeze/carry around yarn that they can not possibly afford, certainly not without *something* to make out if it, just because they desire it. My willpower in the yarn store gets a workout. I cannot watch television anymore - not even Mythbusters - without needles in my hands. Several of my friends or people we know are having babies... so my coffee table was the permanent residence to a few different balls of baby yarn, soft and fluffy and warm, as bootees and hats were crafted to give away (I have one set left, I think...)

I laughed my way through The Yarn Harlot and Knitting Rules! and today I received her newest book - just published - a "travel guide" of sorts, to the world of Knitting. I had things to do today - the battle against Mt. Washmore, writing on one of several stories that I keep jotting notes down for but can't seem to get into any sort of cohesive form, running errands (ok, I did the errand running already). Instead, I am reading, giggling, and thinking about the sock yarn that I bought, wondering if I ought to try some cabling on the sides, or if the clever self-patterning yarn is already clever enough, without it.