Joining the Ranks

A year ago this November, I joined two new clubs:

1. Parents

2. Parents of twins

True, group #2 is really a subset of group #1, but having multiple babies at the same time is so much its own crazy universe that one can really feel like one has left the regular one. But this is a knitting blog, and not a parenting blog, so what I really want to tell you about is the third club I just joined:

3. Geeky knitting designers

The sweaters you see on the left are The Fibonacci Twins, whose stripe pattern follows the famous number sequence. Sure, I could have just designed a couple of sweaters with regular stripes, but that would have disappointed my old college physics professor, who is single-handedly responsible for unseating my suspicion of anything mathematical, left over from a string of boring high school math classes. Not only did he unseat it, but he actually made me fascinated by mathematics. So much that I’ve spent some time calculating the odds of a spontaneous twin gestation. Pretty high, it turns out, when there are twins in your family and your spouse’s.

But this is a knitting blog, and not a pregnancy blog, so let’s get back to those sweaters. You can find the Fibonacci Sequence in all kinds of amazing places, like sunflowers, pinecones, artichokes, and pineapples. I’m currently working on a proof for finding the Fibonacci Sequence here:

I just know there’s an order to that swirl of hair on the back of Mr. S.’s head. He just won’t sit still long enough for me to count. But this is a knitting blog, not a baby blog, so let’s get back to that sweater he’s wearing. It’s my debut design for Knit Picks’s Independent Designers Program, which was just launched this month, and of which I’m now a proud participant. There’s some cool stuff over there, and the patterns are way cheap. I’ll have more designs showing up there before long.

Now, back to counting little hairs . . .

The Color Purple

There’s no doubt that the biggest reason for the three months of silence is little Ms. M and little Mr. S, who are now a year old (!!!) and will soon fit into the Angle sweaters that Z and I knit for them . . . oh, a year and a half ago. I thought I was busy and tired before I had kids. Clearly, I had no idea what I was talking about.

The second biggest reason things have been so quiet here is because most of the knitting I’ve been doing has been for publication. Most publications don’t like you to post pictures, patterns, hints, implications, or insinuations of what you’re working on. There are good reasons for this, but most of my ideas for this blog come from things that I’m knitting, so it limits what I’m able to publish here.

But since being a male knitter is such a charged and controversial issue, that leaves room for other charged and controversial issues. Today’s hot-button issue is running shorts.

This is a picture of me completing the 2005 Nike Women’s Marathon in San Francisco wearing my favorite running shorts. You might not be able to tell this on your computer screen, but those shorts are purple. Unlike any of my other running shorts, these are possessed of a magical power: they turn anyone who sees them into a twelve-year old.

My collection of running shorts includes three other colors; black, blue, and maroon. None of those other shorts have the same power as the purple ones. My purple shorts have inspired people to hoot, holler, forget what they were talking about before I showed up, or simply descend into babbling nonsense. On one occasion, they turned an entire schoolyard of girls into shrieking fools. I don’t think I could have gotten the same response if I’d run by wearing nothing at all. They’ve also caused people to call me a few names:

  • “stinking faggot”
  • “dirty faggot”
  • “god-damned faggot”
  • “faggot-assed faggot”
  • “faggot”

This raises an obvious question—aside from why so many homophobes are stupid enough to live in San Francisco—which is, what is up with the color purple? True, those shorts are cut rather high, but I show about as much leg in my other shorts, and I don’t get anywhere near the same reaction. I get similar responses when I knit in public, but nowhere near the same number, and never with as much virulence. What is it about a man in purple that inspires such idiocy?

This is not a rhetorical question. I would really like to know what you think. There is a lot at stake here. I love those purple shorts, but I love not being shouted at even more, so it’s likely those shorts are headed for retirement.

The Second Life of Halfdome

Of the patterns I’ve had published on knitty, the most popular, by far, is Danica. There are 1097 Danicas completed or in progress on Ravelry, and who knows how many out in the real world. (This sort of blows my mind, since Danica is really just a simple entrelac pattern, and I certainly did not invent entrelac.) Coming in second, with 339 Ravelry projects, is Halfdome. That might seem like a distant second, but in the three years since it appeared on knitty, Halfdome has acquired a humbling distinction that Danica has yet to capture.

Halfdome was born out of necessity. I didn’t like many of the hat patterns out there, as most basic watchcaps feature an arrangement of decreases that make the hat look as if a mysterious hand has reached down from above and given it a good twist.  Raglan-style decreases took care of that problem, and any potential scalp-itching was elminated by using a cashmere-merino blend. All of these considerations had to do with my own hairless head, and even though most of my hair loss comes with my Y-chromosome, the remainder comes from my Mach 3 razor. Some people, though, have lost their hair for other reasons, and when I designed Halfdome, I didn’t realize I was designing it for them, too.

At least once I month, I get an email from someone (usually a woman) who has knit Halfdome for a loved one (usually a man) who has undergone chemotherapy and/or radiation treatments. The hair loss that results from these treatments is often accompanied by increased skin sensitivity, and the folks who write tell me that Halfdome is the perfect hat for someone who has undergone therapy for cancer.

These messages make me wish I’d learned to knit when I was eleven years old, which is when my maternal grandmother died. The tumors started in her brain, and eventually made their way into her bones. This was my first experience of cancer-related hair loss—or cancer-related anything, for that matter. My final memories of my grandmother are tinted with the discomfort that any child would have at seeing his grandmother bedridden, bald, and unable to speak, but they also include a vivid recollection of her eyes, which never lost their depth or intelligence. What an amazing thing it would have been to be able to knit a hat for her. Or for my paternal grandmother, who also died of cancer, in 2002. I was already a knitter by then, but I was a newbie, and my needles just weren’t fast enough.

So, here’s a much-belated thank you to everyone who has written to me about knitting Halfdome for someone with cancer. I’m always thrilled to hear from people who have knit my patterns, but the knowledge that one of my designs is bringing so much comfort during such a difficult time is a gift I never expected to receive.

An Open Letter To Interweave Knits

Give us the pattern! Set it free! Free!
Copyright © Interweave Knits

Dear Interweave Knits,

I’m a really big fan of yours.  You’ve published some of my favorite patterns ever. The list is too long to get into here, so for now I’ll say that I’m particularly enamored of your summer 2006 issue. It contains the Mommy Snug, with which I knit for Z while she was pregnant with our twins. It also features the Cambridge Jacket, which I knit for myself and wear on an almost daily basis from November through April.

But let’s get back to those twins for a moment. They are eight months old now. Like any new parent who happens to also be a knitter, I can’t stop knitting things for my babies. I can’t stop looking at patterns and thinking to myself, “Oh my dear lord, Mr. S would look so cute in that pullover,” or “My stars, wouldn’t little Ms. M just be smashing in that cardigan!” I think I might have said both of these things, plus a few more, when I discovered the Pea Pod Baby Set on Ravelry. I may have even started jumping up and down. Imagine my disappointment when, my heart aflutter, I clicked on the link and . . . and . . . I can’t even write the words. The number 404 says it all.

I’m sure I’m speaking for many of my fellow knitters when I ask the question, what is up with this? Legal issues? Some obscure editorial policy? Did the pattern turn into a pumpkin after one month? Is Kate Gilbert trying to torture me? Sure, the pattern was free, but there are scores of us who wouldn’t mind forking over a few bucks for it.

So, Interweave Knits, how about returning the love? Tell me how I can get this pattern. I’m not hard to find. When you’re ready to talk, I’m all ears.

Very Truly Yours,

Yarn Boy