Let us put by some hour of every day for holy things...

Think on th' eternal home,
The Saviour left for you;
Think on the Lord most holy, come
To dwell with hearts untrue:
So shall ye tread untired His pastoral ways,
And in the darkness sing your carol of high praise.

--from Keble's The Christian Year, Thoughts in Verse



Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Needlework Confessions

I hope you who follow this blog realize that I am a needlework dabbler and not--by any stretch of the imagination--a knitting or crocheting expert. I am a hopeful wannabe, though, and perhaps my halting progress will be of some encouragement to others of you who, like myself, have a yen for skills that presently exceed your grasp.

I was introduced to crocheting as a young girl by a friend who had been taught by her grandmother to make Barbie dresses. Bobbie showed me how to make a chain, and when I mastered that, she went on to teach me single crochet. I made a series of bulky acrylic worsted yellow, blue, and pink dresses (the only yarn colors I had) and really didn't know much more about crocheting until high school, when someone gave me a ripple afghan kit. I didn't complete much of it; I didn't know about chaining stitches at the beginning of each new row, and the piece kept getting narrower and narrower so I eventually gave it up. But I did begin to realize there was more to crocheting than I'd realized. Somewhere along the line I came across diagrams for double crochet and triple crochet stitches and added those to my (very limited) bag of tricks. That was pretty much it for a long time.

Then, one day while I was about 25, I decided I wanted to learn to knit. I didn't have anyone to teach me, but I just got stern and lectured myself, "Hey, there are 5 year old children in the world who know how to knit! I can do this." And I got one of those Red Heart yarn "Learn to Knit" booklets and started in. I made a dickie (and if you don't know what a dickie is, it's because you are not a child of the mid-20th century) and then jumped right into a raglan cardigan, knitted from the top down. (Wish I still had that pattern!)

Unbeknownst to me, though, I did a number of things wrong. My idea of casting on was really goofy and, in consequence, the items I made had no stretchiness or "give" at the cast-on edge. I also twisted all my purl stitches by wrapping the yarn incorrectly, giving my stockinette stitches (one row knit, one row purl, etc.) an unusual textured appearance. It was kind of interesting, but not correct. One "mistake" I made turned out to be a blessing, though. Perhaps because I had first learned to crochet, I was used to handling the yarn with my left hand, and so I carried that over into knitting and inadvertently learned the "continental" or left-handed way of knitting. It's actually a more efficient way of knitting so I'm glad for that. 

For a while I was knitting like mad, trying new stitches and even designing a few sweaters for myself and my kids. But eventually, with four of them, needlework went by the wayside for the most part. It's hard to concentrate on a pattern when you face constant interruptions, not to mention the many projects that met their end when one or another of the children pulled the needles out and happily began unraveling my work while my attention was elsewhere! 

Anyway, in spite of having done a good deal of knitting overall, I've never felt like I did a proper job of much of it. I look at the incredible patterns in the magazines and on the web, and I'm overwhelmed with envy and despair. There's so much I still need to learn and so many things I need to improve and/or correct. The time has come!

I confess to
  1. hating to weave in ends of yarn and doing just about anything I can to circumvent the practice
  2. feeling mostly clueless and inept about properly blocking needlework pieces
  3. doing a bum job of joining knitted sweater pieces together
  4. keeping it a deep, dark secret until this very moment that I only learned to do a long-tail cast-on two days ago (It was strictly cable cast-on for the last few years, and before that my own freestyle, useless version)
  5. never, ever, crocheting a granny square in my life
  6. balking, balking, balking at making swatches to test for proper gauge before launching into projects
  7. knitting without bothering to make test swatches at all

Okay, that said, as contradictory as it seems, I still love the process of making a piece of fabric from a length of string. It's very satisfying. And I hereby give myself permission to be a second-rate (third-rate?) knitter and crocheter. I shall "just say no" to rampant perfectionism. As I read in one book, 


There are no knitting police!

So let us bungle along together and see what we can achieve. Let's just take baby steps...


Onward and upward! 

 

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