Arbutus Scarf

Right after publishing that last post, I ripped out the Gemini pullover and immediately started looking for another project that would make me feel like a bit more capable.

Since I was still in a Jane Richmond kick (Who can deny or resist those large doe eyes of hers?!) I decided to cast on the Arbutus pattern from her book, ISLAND.

Excuse the cat hair on this scarf.
Excuse the cat hair on this scarf.

Sometimes I think I just really need a break from all the pressure I put on myself, and take on projects that are more at my level.

I love how it’s turned out. I knitted two types of yarn together to give it a bit more depth. Super glad that the green and purple played nicely with each other. I knitted it while watching Breaking Bad and Cheers on Netflix.

While it’s a slippery, sloppy slope to constantly improve ourselves and our personal standards, sometimes it also really helps to remind ourselves of where we are and how far we’ve come.

At least that’s how I’m looking at this. A year ago I had no idea what half this knitting shit meant, let alone how to put together a garter stitch swatch. And now look at me, mum. I’ve made my share of terrible scarves and half-mittens and am now super obsessed with this new yarn ball winder I got. I’ve been winding yarn balls all month, guys.

I've been winding yarn cakes like nobody's business.
I’ve been winding yarn cakes like nobody’s business.

And of course I asked Trung to wear the scarf so I can take nice photos, and this is what happened:

I hate Trung
I hate Trung

 

What Knitting Has Taught Me About Quality and Patience

For the last two weeks, I have been trying to knit this Jane Richmond pullover.

Jane Richmond Gemini
Even this picture of Jane Richmond seems unimpressed with my shirt.

So far, it has not gone well.

All in all, I’ve totalled over six attempts at this damned thing and it’s really started to feel a lot like pushing a boulder up a fucking mountain. Please take a moment with me to actually understand what I just wrote.

I have knitted the same pullover. Six times.

As in, I will knit to a point, realize I’ve made a huge mistake, and then undo all the work I’ve done. And then redo it. Encapsulate this experience and multiply it by six. Times.

Considering that I am still pretty new to this whole thing, I decided to forgive myself for not knowing certain things, like reading or following instructions. Or knowing how to count. Or add. You know, it’s really good to cut yourself some slack sometimes. Hang on let me just make and eat a sad sandwich made of tears and bits of yarn.

At one point, I realized that I had set it up wrong and that I was actually knitting the two sleeves next to each other instead of on either side.

Back when I was even more of an idiot than I am now, I would probably have just gone, “Fuck this I’m blowing through this shit I’LL WEAR THE SWEATER WITH MY ARMS HANGING SIDEWAYS,” and would have kept going until I was done the whole thing. To be honest, I was tempted to do it again. I kept going for a few more rows and tried to fix or fudge my way through the ass-parts of the pullover. And then I stopped being stupid.

The main difference now is that I know what the consequences of this way of thinking brings.

I’ve done a similar lace pattern in the past, and while I knew that the stitches were starting to go to shit, I believed in my heart that my sweater would turn out fine, just like in the picture.

Suffice to say, it did not look like the picture.

Maybe here is a way to describe what it looked like—

Imagine Dorian Gray opening the door to his attic, and seeing the decrepit portrait of his terrible, awful, monstrous soul.

Now imagine his likeness wearing this sweater that I made.

That is how bad this sweater was.

One of the tougher things I find about knitting is that I don’t quite know what it will look like in the end yet. There is no preview button when it comes to knitting. You’d think the picture of the model wearing it would be enough, but those are all lies. LIES.

So once it’s done, and I see a tiny knot or a mistake actually WOVEN into this shit, really, it’s enough for me to flip a table and throw my TV out the window.

The immediate possibility of this scenario happening, as well as thinking about how much I spend on yarn (and how much I spent on that TV)… it all just adds up to me having to suck it in and strive on. Or commit a murder.

Similar to when I am coding websites, knitting can be just frustrating and time-consuming. The little mistakes you make eventually add up and things can spin a bit out of control. And the more you ignore it, the worse it really gets.

I’d say it was also similar to how I was approaching a lot of my projects in school/life. The idea where the end result didn’t matter, as long as you get to the end. While that may be true in some cases, I don’t think we really talk about how the aftermath of that feels. The scene always ends with the sigh of relief, but then after that, what really happens? Right?

If I had gone on with this shitty version of a pullover, I would have probably finished it, for sure, but then I would never have worn it either. That reminds me of another shirt I had just finished. It turned out great. But it’s about twice my size.

While I’m proud of making this awesome top, I don’t wear it because Trung and I can probably fit inside it and do lunges side by side at the same time.

I guess I’ve basked in the glory of finishing the pattern correctly. But now maybe it’s time to undo this sweater and knit it again properly so I can actually wear it, which was the original point of making a garment, really.

(Wait a minute… this means I need to re-do two fucking sweaters. Oh, great.)

Let the payoff speak for your efforts. This way of thinking then keeps me from being lazy. Not just physically, but mentally. It’s way harder to accomplish something when you’ve already checked out.

And I like that I am starting to see things this way. I feel like I am getting a better hold of how I should do things, and I like the idea that when I finish something, I don’t need to accept the fact that it is shitty.

Of course I shall need a few minutes to prepare and eat an angry sandwich and possibly cry into a plastic bag first. But after that, I can do it again, arm myself with the experience, and make it the way I want. Once I recognize the failure and find out the cause, starting back up again is just that much easier, that much faster. The mistake gets recorded in your brain, and muscle memory kicks in.

Suddenly I am not so scared to screw up.

I guess my point in all of this is that sometimes (not always), maybe effort is not enough. I think it’s important to keep moving towards a different standard, and constantly redefine what “enough” is. Because if it’s always judged at the minimum, then we all just go home with participation trophies and drink juice. We never get to change anything or make a difference. And I end up with a shitty sweater with both sleeves on one side.

My First Knitted Sweater

After a couple of scarves and some hats and an unfinished mitten, I decided to go for it and try my hand at knitting a whole adult-sized sweater. Thanks to some great needles I got from Anna at Baaad Anna’s, I was able to finally make this guy.

Here is a link to the free pattern from Pickles.

It’s a lot boxier than I had imagined, so I added the little pocket to offset it a little bit. I also made the sleeves a bit shorter. Definitely a house-sweater rather than a go out and party sweater (unless it is a sweater party, which I have yet to be invited to). I think it can also be one of those sweaters you wear with jam pants around the house and watch action movies in.

As with most things that we make for the first time, there are small bits and bobs that very much advertise this fact. The stitches are not perfect, the sleeves are looser than Rush Limbaugh’s idea of a free woman, and the pocket is actually shaped more like the top of my foot than a regular pocket.

I had also cast-off too early at one point, and ended up with an 80s off-shoulder look, as the neckline ended up being around 36″ all around. I had momentarily thought about keeping it that way, but later changed my mind. I had worked too hard to get to that point, and balls if I was going to end up with a sweater that made me look like Jennifer Beals. I can’t pull of that look.

However, the sweater, surprisingly, did not turn out to be stupid baby-sized and actually fit me well. The raglan increases are a lovely design (if knitted well) and I do really like the Sabrina-cut neckline going on up there. It’s also fantastically warm, as it is made from this roving wool material. I haven’t a clue how wool roves, or what that means, but I have an image of spools of wool roaming a British coast, grazing and rolling around on green, green grass.

Over all, I’m really excited about this thing. Guys, knitting is so fucking awesome. It’s so relaxing and so great for the evenings and fishing trips. If I can find a way to be on a treadmill and knit without killing myself, I’d totally do it. More soon.