Friday, October 30, 2009

Some Things Change

I was knitting on my blue cabled cardigan while we were on vacation, and really took a good look at how I was knitting. I admitted to my DH that the stitches were uneven and that I didn't knit as well as I used to. When I looked at Jordyn's pink elephant sweater, the same thought occurred to me. My stitches just weren't even.

I have been knitting for almost 60 years. I was 6 0r 7 when I pestered my mother to teach me and I have been knitting consistently ever since. There are patches of years where I knit less than others. There are some periods of time when I knit obsessively. But I was always knitting to some degree.

My first part time job when I got my last daughter into school was at a darling knit shop. This was in the mid 1980's. There were two owners who were very talented knitters and 4 or 5 of us mother-types who were part timers and we had a blast. (I still have sweaters I made while I was working there and I am working my way through yarn I accumulated during that time. The blue cabled cardigan is some of that yarn.)

I was one of the people who custom knit sweaters for customers. My knitting was so even that it looks like commercial knits. If I was working a pattern with the same yarn as the pattern called for, I could ALWAYS get gauge with the recommended needles, both stitch and row. I never had to block garments to size because they were always perfect. I'm not bragging, I'm just saying. It was effortless on my part.

Now, not so much.

This is a sweater I made in the 1980's for DD#2. Not sure if you can make out the details, but not only are the stitches even, so are the cables.

I think I am a better knitter, more technically better, than I was. I have certainly tried many more techniques and continue to challenge myself. But my knitting just isn't as consistently even. I have to knit gauge swatches and adjust needle size sometimes.

This is the current blue cabled cardigan I'm making.

I think the reason for this my lie in my fingers. Or the stiffness that gets into my fingers. They just don't work as well as they did when they were only 30 years old. And I can be okay with that.

I'm not in a competition. No one inspects my garments with an eagle eye and points fingers at me and laughs. Everyone I knit for is unfailingly pleased with my efforts and begs for more. I am the most critical and even I can just say "Oh, well I've got many more miles of living and knitting behind me, than I did then" and let it go.

When I was taking my first sock class, I was trying to knit them as quickly as I could to keep up with the class and knitting a few other things that had a deadline, so I completely overdid. I got cramps in my fingers and joints so sore that I thought I would never knit again. It scared me!

I rested my hands for over a week which meant no knitting, not using the mouse on the computer, generally becoming left handed as much as possible. Adding a few yoga stretches of my hands and fingers several times a day, I was able to slowly come back to knitting. I never want that to happen again so I have devised a strategy that has worked pretty well, so far.

I resist the attempt to "do too much". That means I am not joining knit-alongs that require a time limit. Trying to keep far enough ahead of the gift projects that I don't have to rush to complete. If I am going to miss a date, I give up and give it to them late rather than rushing to get it done. The thing that has been the most help is keeping a combination of projects going and alternating between them during my knitting time each day.
I have a sock going at all times, plain vanilla type for waiting and in between times. Then something with larger needles and yarn so that I am not cramping my hands on too small needles constantly. Right now it is the blue cabled cardi on size 8 needles. Something plain like garter stitch baby blankets may be part of the plan after Christmas knitting is finished. Knitting with cotton yarn is done in small increments and only if I really, really fall in love with the project, as cotton does an incredible number on my joints. It has worked so far and not slowed down my knitting time at all.

Can you see the joints of my index and ring fingers in the picture? Not at all the way they looked when I was twenty. But you know, I think I am a better person, mother, wife, friend, knitter than I was when I was twenty, also.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

What happened to the last two weeks?

Well, the wedding is over and Halloween is coming. It has been a very busy couple of weeks and I have just about caught my breath. We had the out of town group of 2 adults, 4 kids and a dog staying with us for four days for the wedding (which was wonderful
We had the kids after school for the past two weeks because of the wedding preps and sickness among the brood. Just coughs and fevers probably from all the contact with bunches of people and the unseasonably cold weather. The wedding went well in spite of the cold and now we get ready for the holidays. Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas.
It seems you don't have to travel very far from your own backyard this fall to see the most spectacular colors. The leaves haven't fallen yet and are turning the most beautiful colors of gold I have ever seen. The burning bush is vivid and the maple has yet to turn completely. I drive on my usual routes and keep finding myself distracted by the beauty. We haven't had the strong winds that are usual and that strip the trees bare in an afternoon so we are really enjoying a spectacle.
I finished Nathan's fingerless gloves that he wanted for his birthday in September but were pushed down the list by the Wedding Shawl. He patiently waited until I finished his sister's birthday sweater but has been dogging me to finish them so he can wear them on Halloween. So they are done and now I am free to pick up anything I want! What freedom.
Oh, yeah.....Christmas knitting. I am going to make hats for everyone, so I better start them soon.
When we went to Letchworth for five days, I really thought about the knitting I wanted to take with me. I usually overpack yarn and books, being overly optimistic about the knitting and reading time I will have. We are usually very active, walking numerous trails, so don't have a lot of sitting around time. I brought Jordyn's Elephant sweater, back and sleeves plain knitting, the green and purple socks which needed a heel turn, and the makings for my blue cabled cardigan. My plan was to knit the plain sweater in the car going down and back and on the trip to Hammondsport; turn the heel and knit the remainder of one of the socks and get the back of the sweater knit in the evenings when I could pay attention.
It worked perfectly. I got everything done I had planned and gave myself a great sense of accomplishment instead of being disappointed that I knitted so little, as had happened in the past.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Back From Letchworth

October 13th

We are back from our five days at Letchworth and back to our regular work week. DH is at work and I will go pick up the littlest school girl in a few minutes. Our stay was as peaceful as ever. Even though there were lots more people to contend with than we usually run into. The library was busy (and noisy) every night and the weather was just a little cooler than normal. The food was wonderful and the rest was just what we need about this time of year.
The color was spectacular. It rained all day on Wednesday but we walked our morning walk with our rain gear and were rewarded with the sight of a beautiful 6 point buck deep in the woods with about 10 members of his family. They are going to allow bow hunting in the park in a few weeks because of the tremendous overpopulation of the deer, but I hope he is spared!
We went to Hammondsport on Wednesday and visited a few wineries. We had an early dinner at Bully Hill and were treated to the spectacular sight of a rainbow below us over the lake. Notice the lack of pictures? Where is my camera when I need it!
These pictures of the park were taken on Friday when fog blanketed the ravine. that dot is a turkey buzzard circling.
(I wrote this on the 13th and left it to edit, but haven't had a chance to post since then.)