Knitting and Necessity

Two weeks ago, the jet stream dipped a little bit lower than it normally does this time of year and, in so doing, delivered near-record low temperatures to the Bay Area. It was a rough time for California: 75% of the citrus crop was destroyed, heating bills skyrocketed, and I lost my Halfdome hat somewhere between my car and the front door.

I realize that our spate of just-below-freezing temperatures won’t earn any sympathy from anyone living east of here, but my hairless head cannot go a single day without a hat this time of year. Oh, I have other hats, but I don’t . . . I don’t like any of them. We all have articles of clothing to which we get attached, and I am attached to that missing Halfdome. So, I did what any self-respecting knitter would do. I knit a new one.

It wasn’t getting any warmer outside, though, and I needed my hat sooner rather than later, so I whipped out my interchangeable circular needles, turned on National Public Radio, sat down in my comfy chair and overcame my abhorrence of knitting stockinette stitch in the round.

That was on a Friday afternoon. I wove in my yarn ends on Sunday morning. Stockinette in the round might be boring as all hell, but it is fast! Special thanks to Woolgatherer for showing me how to work the jogless color change. Now my head is warm again.

And the temperature is back up to normal. And my wife found my old Halfdome in the coat closet. Oy vey.

On Errata

How much the internet has actually improved our lives is a debatable issue. It has surely provided us with a multitude of ways to waste time (which you’re certainly not doing right now, no, certainly not), and it facilitates the propagation of lies, rumors, urban myths, financial scams and lousy jokes like no other medium. One undeniable benefit of the internet, however, is quick and easy access to knitting book corrections.

There was a time when these lists of corrections were distributed via slips of paper inserted, by the publisher, into the front of second, third, and fourth printings. If you’d made the dreadful mistake of buying a first printing, you were stuck with all of the originally published mistakes. Today, all you need to do is type “corrections” and (insert book title here) into a search engine, and all of your knitting problems are solved.

I’ve been thinking about this lately because I’m currently working on the Slouchy Cardigan from Greetings from Knit Café, and the pattern has a few errors. Like many knitters, my first reaction is annoyance. Some of the errors seem obvious, and my gut response is to wonder how they got there in the first place.

But I know better than that. Like anyone who is putting out a book, knitting designers face deadlines, and the rush to meet them can cause even the most conscientious editor to overlook mistakes. On top of that, it is highly unusual for the designer to have knit every single size of that sweater pattern that you’re following. Some errors can be caught by an editor with a calculator, but most of them only get discovered when the yarn is on the needles——in other words, they get discovered by you.

If I were very ambitious (and very stupid) I would organize a Chicago Manual of Style for knitting patterns. The lack of generally-accepted standards for knitting symbols and terminology is part of the problem——skp and s1k1psso are the same thing, after all——but I have about as much time for that project as I do for knitting all five sizes of Avast.

So, until that glorious day, we have the internet. If only I could look up errata without getting distracted by You Tube . . .

The Charm?

A week and a half ago, I began knitting a sweater for my wife. I’ve never knit with 100% alpaca before, and I have to say that it’s pretty special. It feels both warm and cool at the same time, thanks to the incredible hollow fibers that comprise the coats of Andean high-altitude llamas. Z is a very lucky woman to be getting a sweater like this one, if I do say so myself.

And if the sweater actually takes, then I am going to be a very lucky guy. Back in September I wrote a post about what’s really behind the sweater curse, and how it’s really just a bunch of hooey. I stand by that belief——the odds that Z and I would get divorced over a sweater are probably around zero——but in the interest of full disclosure, I should tell you that this is my third attempt at knitting a sweater for Z.

Attempt #1

“Merry” from Big Easy, a Rowan publication. I thought it might look good on Z because she and the model above have similar proportions. Well, there’s a reason that model is turned slightly to the side, and has her hair carefully “arranged.” Big busts are nice, and big stitches are nice, but big stitches and big busts together? Uh-uh.

Attempt #2

This is the Toggle Cardigan, a Reynolds pattern. In this case, the fault is entirely my own, and entirely avoidable. I wanted Z’s cardigan to come out exactly the way it appeared in the pattern photo, so I ordered the suggested yarn, sight unseen. Reynolds Lopi, Icelandic Wool. Icelandic sheep must have it in for the locals, because that yarn was both itchy and scratchy. Z made a good faith effort. She wore it to work twice. Then it went off to a yard sale, with my blessing.

Attempt #3

This is the current attempt. It’s the Slouchy Cardigan from Greetings from Knit Café. That fabulous alpaca that I mentioned is Classic Elite Inca Alpaca. What you see here is the completed back, the right front, and the beginning of the left front. It’s off to a good start, and Z has been eyeing it with Ooohs and Ahhhhs. The forecast for this sweater is pretty good. And if it doesn’t take, I’ll settle for the privilege of keeping Z’s neck warm and her feet cozy.