August 12, 2006

Continuing Education

When people ask how long I've been knitting, and how I learned, I say that I've been knitting just a little over two years, and that I'm self-taught. This is mostly true. Actually, the very first thing I knit was a blanket for a baby doll I had when I was young, probably around 7 or 8. My father's mother spoke no English. During a rare visit I often sat near her, entranced by the deft and able hands that contrasted her otherwise frail body, and the sweater that flowed from the work of those hands. Though I'd never been fluent, I'd always more or less understood Korean when spoken to me, but my grandmother spoke softly and wasn't much of a talker anyway, and I think she felt bad that she couldn't speak English. She could however, show me how to knit and crochet since that didn't really require any words. I'd always been rather "crafty" and remember picking it up quickly back then; but I was also easily distracted so it was a passing phase and quickly forgotten, probably upon her departure. Even though both my mother and my maternal grandmother also knit and crocheted, I lost interest, and turned to other hobbies.

Almost two decades later, I picked up a temp job to earn some dough during some time off from student life. One of the ladies I worked with used to crochet afghans during our lunch hour, and I would watch her, much like I used to watch my grandmother long ago. She was amused by my gawking and offered to re-teach the skills I had duly forgotten. I showed up the next day with my mother's old hooks and some cheap yarn (my mother had long ago shelved her hooks and needles, claiming that raising her crazy kids was too time and energy-consuming). I was soon hooked (no pun intended). Despite my childhood lessons, none of it was familiar, and I literally learned it anew. My teacher herself knew only a few stitches, stuck to simple afghans and hated patterns, so I found myself eventually turning to books as my skills progressed and I craved "more." The books were handy as far as techniques went, but I was often frustrated by the lack of "modern" patterns/books on crochet, and envied the slew of publications that seemed to come out weekly for knitters. Forgetting that I had also knit those many years ago, I was initially intimidated by knitting -- two needles and no hook? That seemed too complicated.

On one of my braver days though, I picked up a copy of Stitch 'n Bitch determined to learn, only to be convinced that my gut was correct -- I'd never get the hang of it. I failed to grasp the concept of throwing the yarn and it felt awkward and unnatural. The book languished in a corner for almost another year. I picked it up again one day in a fit of boredom and on a whim tried the allegedly "lesser used" continental method of knitting. My fingers flew as if from memory -- this was how my grandmother had taught me so many years ago! Given my recent dabblings with crochet, this also felt more natural -- holding the yarn in my left hand.

The point of this rambling exposition? I enjoy knitting and crocheting, and I certainly choose projects with the finished object as the goal. But I've still got so much to learn and so even more satisfying is that whenever I finish something, I've either learned a new technique, picked up knowledge about a particular fiber or needle, or fine-tuned an old technique. That, more than the actual finished object, gives me this grand sense of accomplishment. I think it's the nerd in me.

That being said, my latest FO is the Trellis Scarf, from the Spring 2006 Interweave Knits. I worked it up on size 10 plastic needles - a generic pair of my mother's that I absconded with (admittedly, I took all her needles). While swatching, I found that the Blue Sky Alpaca alpaca/silk was too slippery for aluminum needles and my bamboo tips kept getting caught in the plies. I gave these plastic things a try -- had never used them before -- and discovered they were perfect. This only reinforces the importance of swatching. I also learned how to read and understand lace charts doing this, and for the first time, the slanting differences of ssk and k2tog actually sunk in.


As usual, the blocking thing just amazed me.

100_0999 100_1012

I used the larger needles because I wanted a really airy piece, and I wanted to give the pattern a little more width. It's a good thing too, because though I meant to add a lace pattern repeat for this very reason, in my scatterbrained-ness, I apparently neglected to do so.

Despite being addled with a nasty bug last week, I managed to finish her up just in time to gift away for a very special birthday. The pattern was easy as pie, and quick too. It took me a week, and that's only because I got sick during the process. This is the first time I've been hard-pressed to give something away -- I loved working with this yarn, and enjoyed my short time "modeling" it in an attempt to get some pictures. It drapes just so and it is the perfect weight for a summer wrap/autumn scarf. And the color. I. Love. This color. It is simply called, Blue.

100_1026 100_1024
Pattern: Trellis Scarf, Interweave Knits Spring 2006
Yarn: Blue Sky Alpaca Alpaca Silk (3 skeins)
Needles: Plastic, US 10 (straight)

No comments: