Once upon a time, knitting was something of an oral tradition. You learned from your mother or grandmother. Or, if you took it up as a profession, maybe from your guild master. And there was no such thing as a pattern. Let me say that again. There was no such thing as a pattern. You learned the basics, then you freestyled. Mostly, you made it all up as you went along. If you saw something you wanted to duplicate exactly, you either figured it out on your own, or you went to the person who made it and asked how it was done.
The history experts tell us that knitting was invented…probably by men, probably in the middle east…a little over a thousand years ago. The earliest known written patterns didn’t come along until more than 500 years later. Even then, the instructions were not anywhere near what we think of as a pattern. Look at this lovely things from Godey’s Ladies Book from mid 1800′s. Can you figure out what they’re talking about?
I had a first class lecture on the evolution of pattern writing and how you can learn so much from reading contemporary books and magazines. But WordPress ate it. It was a little convoluted and hectoring anyway. So I think I will just content myself..and hopefully you…by giving you a few more “patterns” from Godey’s and seeing what you make of them.
Princess Royal would be one of Victoria’s daughters. Wonder if her mother or her nanny knit if for her.
It’s not you; this one is incomplete. The rest explains how to drop stitches in the cast off and pull them back to the cast on. Kins of like the Princess Royal scarf. It make s a kin of cheaters lace. In the shop we call it The Surprise Scarf.
This one doesn’t even have a picture to help you out. Flying blind? Apparently no problem for those mid-19th century gals.
I think I might actually try one of these to see if I am as clever as I think I am about figuring this stuff out. Want to join me?
So I finished Color Affection. You know how new relationships are. You get attracted to someone; something about them just begins to fill your senses. You start thinking about them all the time, and stealing bits of time away from everything else so you can be with them. Pretty quickly, everything about them seems prefect. Even their flaws seem adorable. Flaws? Did I say flaws? No, not really flaws…just adorable things that other people might find hard to accept, but that you find charming. I mean, nobody’s perfect, and you actually take delight in the quirky, or unconventional, or absurd, right?
Then you come to the time when neither of you are on your best behavior all the time. Mundane consensual reality begins to assert itself. You remember that you’ve missed deadlines at work, your home is a mess, and you haven’t called your mother in a month. And your beloved? Those flaws that were hardly worth the name seem to weigh heavier than they did a month ago. The teeth grinding or the fork squeaking on the dinner plate, the way the towels get folded or that thing with the radio volume in the car, gum chewing, rogue eyebrow and nose hairs, nail biting, snoring…the list of things that can begin to drive you crazy seems endless once you start looking beyond the new relationship pink cloud. And that’s when you start becoming increasingly aware of a thing I like to call FOREVER.
As soon as FOREVER enters the picture, all the little things begin to loom large. That thrilling drowsy morning grin gives way to funky morning breath. The disparity in your taste in movies is no longer about broadening your cultural horizons; it’s a reason for resentment. Then you start asking yourself, can I live with this FOREVER?
And what does this have to do with Color Affection, you ask? Well…let me tell you. You know I was falling in love. I was sure this was going to be the one. I was so on the rebound from my first disastrous color way, I got all caught up the shimmering delight that is Luxury Silk. I was so relieved, nay charmed, that the gold really did work and play well with others. “What’s not to love?” said I. Oh…let me tell you…
The edge stitches are too tight. There. I said it. Those pesky edge stitches are just too flippin’ tight. I can’t deny it any more. And tight edges mean it won’t lay straight no matter what I do. I mean, look at it!
Oh, sure the color works, but…ummm…It puckers and ripples and has weird curves in strange places. The silk is gorgeous and drapes beautifully around the shoulders, except for these places where it sticks out funny and doesn’t conform to any natural curve on a human body. Salvador Dali couldn’t have done a better job of completely rejecting the concept of a straight line.
So this is the place where I have to take a good hard look at what’s working and what’s not, what I really want and what’s really happening…and whether I can live with it FOREVER. This is the place where we have the conversation that begins, “It’s not you; it’s me. My tension was so strange in this project…even though I have had immaculately even tension in every other yarn I’ve ever worked with since I was, like, nine…I’m sure it’s something I’ve done.” All along secretly harboring the notion that it’s really not fair or right that silk doesn’t really stretch when you block it and that these edge stitches are stubborn and selfish, skewing and puckering little twerps that they are.
I can go back to Ravelry and look at all the pictures of everyone else’s Color Affection and admire their straight, even top edges and their flat short row transitions and try to figure out a way to convince my Color Affection to be more like the others. I could go looking for forums of other people having issues and start a support group for knitters whose Color Affections have done them wrong. I could even ditch this one like I did the last one. I could become obsessed with working on this relationship and “fixing” every quirk to the point where I drive myself crazy. Believe me; I’ve done it before, and I know I could do it again.
Or I could ask myself, “What do I want to do with this shawl?” And I could ask myself, “Will it do what I want it to do, just the way it is?”
The colors are still really beautiful. The drape is still exquisite. It’s still shimmery and soft.
It has a way of clinging to curves and adding textural interest. Hmm.
You can wrap it in a scarf-like way…and really show off the amazing color. Did I mention I sill love the color?
When all is said and done, the curvy lines are quirky…and perhaps charming. I mean, really…how many times am I going to lay it out flat on a table? So maybe I’ll never get to hold it out at wingspan length and go running up a wooded path while someone takes a picture of my perfectly straight top edge. What I really wanted was a pretty, silky, warm but drapey shawl with amazing beautiful color that’s easy to wear and becomes a go-to garment for casual, business and semi-dressy ensembles. I wasn’t really asking much, right? And guess what I got.
The honeymoon is over. I know my Color Affection has its faults. But I really love it, and it does everything for me that I wanted it to. I can live with the rest. Forever.
You know we have a great time making our Stitch and Spin reminder memes. There are very few places where part of ones job is to cruise the internet looking for handsome men, then fantasizing about what they might say to us about our yarn habits. But here, it’s a twice a week event. Several of us ponder, make selections, dream and finally select a beautiful guy and compose a sweet annotation. And we put them up on Facebook just for you all. We have a great time doing it, and most of our friends really enjoy them.
And then I got a funny kind of eye opener. It seems so intuitive and universal a thing to do. Everyone has dreams and fantasies, right? And externalizing them in visual form is fun and whimsical and maybe just a bit silly. Posting them on our Facebook page acknowledges the nature of an interior life and brings it into a sharable community experience. Right? Right?
I could go on a political rant about the over exposure of women’s bodies in the retail marketing industry and how there is no concomitant use of men’s bodies. Or maybe a liberal feminist lecture on turn about being fair play. But neither of these explains why we do it. We do it because it’s fun. Somehow we thought the impulse was self explanatory, until we tried to explain it to a couple of the men in the store. They just didn’t seem to understand. Why would we want to take a picture of a handsome man and put words in his mouth…and such ridiculous words?
We had our Cascade yarn rep in this week. He’s a great guy. He’s fun and smart and handsome in a tall, slender athletic way, and very knowledgable about yarn. He’s actually “Hey, Girl…” material himself. And he knits. He works with yarnies all the time and seems to have a great handle on how we think and feel. We started talking about our Facebook page and our thriving yarnie community, and how we do a great job of getting people to turn out for our community events. Then we got to our “Hey, Girl…” memes…and he didn’t get it. And we had a hard time explaining it him. We showed him some of our favorite “Hey, Girl…” shots and talked about fun and fantasy and our passion for both yarn and whimsy. He shook his head for a while, but finally kind of got the joke. Then, we showed him our final example…
You know his response? “Oh, yeah I kinda get it, but…who’s the guy?” Really? Maybe it’s just a woman thing. Or maybe it’s just a yarnie thing. Or maybe it’s just us few here at OTR. But seriously…don’t you all recognize this guy?
It’s really hard for me to imagine that a whole season has sped by since I was here with you last. I have had my head in a million other places, learning a million other things. When I hibernate for the winter, it seems I really do it up, dreaming away in my cave, mulling plans for the active time to come. Now the active time has come and, like a bunch of dropped stitches, there are strands of things left undone which have to be picked up and put in their proper places. Yesterday, I saw robins in my yard, and this week the summer yarns have started to arrive. These are the signs of a season changing once again.
As with any season change, it is also a time to assess our direction and see if the old plans are still the right ones. It’s time to take a look around and see what’s actually here, not what I dreamed would be here when I awoke from the winter. And you know what I see? Yarn! Glorious yarn! Such wonderful summer yarns that I am having all I can do to stick with my design plans and not go haring off into a serious case of startitis.
Um…actually…I have a confession to make. I have not been able to resist the startitis temptation. I have a darling skirt back from the test knitter, and a lovely shawl out to the test knitter, and two more concepts with swatches in various states that need to be written up into followable patterns. But they are old news. All I want to do is cavort with the Berroco Lago and Universal Bamboo Pop. I have visions of beach wear and flirty summer laces. To heck with heavy sweaters; give me mesh tunics that can be thrown over a short skirt and cami for a night of dancing. My crochet hook is smoking, my knitting needles are steaming, and I’m getting into the summer groove with two different versions of a sleeveless summer duster type vest thingy that can be worn over a bathing suit or can elevate a pair of capris and a tank top to an ensemble. One will be crochet in Bamboo Pop, one will be knit in Lago.
And I can’t wait to show you the finished products. The Game of Thrones folks have it backwards…the truth is, winter is over. Summer is coming!
So the last time we were here together was the day before Christmas eve, and now it’s New Years Eve. And a wonderful week it has been. On Christmas Eve I did something I very rarely get to do. I left at closing time, waving to my beloved Minions as we all made our way across the parking lot to our respective cars and headed into our holiday plans away from each other. I went to the grocery store to get a couple of last minute things for breakfast on Christmas morning. Then I remembered I had left something important at the shop. I came back and saw our shop as I never get to see it. It was dark and quiet. I was all alone and everything was…peaceful.
Now, around here, we are many things, but peaceful is not really part of our repertoire. We bustle and we dance. We sing and we rearrange. We knit and crochet and chat. And there are a lot of us. Ten people share our small office space. There is always someone coming or going through all of our doors. And then there are the customers and friends who come in to shop or just hang around. It is a humming hive of activity in here. But not on Christmas Eve. This is how it was on Christmas Eve.
I got the thing I came for, then I just sat in one of the chairs up front. And I drank in the quiet. At this time of year, I tend toward the retrospective, and I did a bit of that. In my retrospection it seemed strange to me that last year at this time, I didn’t know any of these people who now fill my store, my office, my days and my life. A year ago. It seems like forever. Really, haven’t I known these people for, like, ever? Last year at this time, I had an entirely different vision of what our shop would look like. Now it looks and feels so just right it seems impossible that I could ever have had a different notion. Strange how things come to pass.
But retrospection was only part of my reverie, the jumping off place. What really hit home was the future stretching before me. Looking toward future Christmases, I realized how very like a family we have already become and how we knit ourselves closer together all the time. And we are already creating the memories we will carry with us. We have our rhythms and we have our inside jokes. We know each other’s preferences and make room for each others’s moods. Each hand made ornament on this year’s tree has a story.
Jennifer’s Needle Felted Thumb Warming Kitty of Affirmation
The traditional Christmas Squid
Ruffle scarf garland…finally the perfect application for that stuff! And Kristin’s beautiful bell that she got done just under the wire.
Justine’s radioactively genetically modified Mothra Dove of Peace. Man, that thing is huge!
Corwin’s statement against consumerism and the corporate agenda and…something…umm…about…yeah. But it’s hand made, so it counts.
Allison’s cute little mitten. For such a humbug, she sure went traditional.
As I sit here on the edge of the new year and dangle my feet into the flow of time that hasn’t happened yet, I want to archive these moments. These will be the things I remember next year. And before I make the dive into the future, I want to pack up a few things to take with me. A backpack full of future memories to anchor me to this pivoting, swinging, revolving moment between times. These will all hang on our future trees, and we’ll remember. For now, looking forward and looking back, taking stock and making plans, I wish you all the happiest, fullest, most prosperous new year. I wish you peace.