The Orphaned Project

My in-laws settled in with us on the sectional sofa in our beach house rental overlooking a grey, rainy oceanscape on a late summer afternoon. I pulled out a “safe” knitting project — one that I was making for myself, and not as a gift for anyone else. With pretty much my entire extended family staying in the beach house or nearby, I had to be careful about what projects I worked on outside my bedroom.

“That’s a lovely sweater you’re knitting,” remarked my mother-in-law, Vera. Vera knows how to knit, but is more of a crocheter than anything else. She has a great deal of respect for both crafts. “What’s the fiber?” she asked, reaching to touch the sweater sleeve.

“It’s a blend of wool, cashmere, and silk,” I replied. “I think it’ll make a fine sweater.”

“Oh,” said Vera, looking just a little sad. “I’m allergic to wool. And did I ever tell you the story about the angora sweater I had in high school?”

I knew that back when Vera was in school, wool sweaters with yokes worked in a fluffy, contrasting, angora color were all the rage. “Um, no, I don’t think so,” I mused, pulling out another length of yarn from the ball from which I was knitting.

“Well,” she answered, “Back then, every girl wanted an angora sweater. I finally got one and wore it to school, all excited. But by the end of the day, I had to take it off because it itched so badly. I’ve always had a hard time with wool and angora.”

Right then, one of my knitting projects was orphaned. Briefly, the only sound in the room was of the ceiling fan above us in the great room, whirring and softly clicking. Steve knew about the scarf I was knitting his mom, and jumped in to change the subject.

While we chatted, my mind kept going back to the scarf that was stowed away, out of sight in our bedroom nightstand drawer. I thought about how I’d found the yarn some months earlier, in winter, at my LYS. How I decided that its fuzziness and slight glint of silver would appeal to my mother-in-law. How well the yarn would marry up with the Orenburg lace pattern I had in mind. The yarn is a blend of mohair, silk, nylon, and sparkly stuff. It doesn’t appeal to me or to anyone else I can think of that I’d typically knit for, but based on what I’d seen my mother-in-law wear, I thought it would be perfect for her.

I know that mohair isn’t angora. They are two completely different animals yielding different fibers with different allergenic characteristics. Just because you’re allergic to one doesn’t mean you’ll be allergic to the other. I know that my mother-in-law finds wool itchy, and that itchiness may or may not be an actual allergy. I know that she therefore does not wear or crochet with wool, preferring synthetics instead. I also know that regardless whether a person has a bona fide wool allergy or simply an aversion, say, based on some misbegotten thing knitted for them when they were six years old by their great-aunt Martha, I won’t be successful in getting them to wear wool (or any other fiber) that they’ve decided not to wear. Knitter, know thy recipient. Knowing that she had a wool aversion, I’d chosen a wool-free yarn. I had no idea about her issues with angora, though. If I had any idea, I’d have made something out of silk or linen or cotton, perhaps. But not mohair, simply because it looks too much like angora: I figured that Vera would take one look at this fluffy scarf, remember her angora experience, and deem it unwearable, even if it contained zero wool and that mohair is different from angora.

I am more of a product knitter than a process knitter. I knit mostly because I want that finished product. While I’m knitting, I often imagine the products being used, either by me or by the intended recipients. I think about how much they will enjoy the things, how they may brag to others about how I made the items for them. It was those thoughts that had sustained me thus far into the project. I wasn’t that far along into it, having done the initial point and a bit of the scarf body.

Meteliza small progress

I thought about how Vera might wear it with one of her jackets to church, or on their many social outings. I thought about the sparkle of the silver and the fuzzy fiber and how great it would look with her white-grey hair.

But now? Now I had an orphan project — one with no recipient in mind. True, I could still give it to her, in hopes that she might wear it other than against her skin. Doing so risks that she’ll keep it stashed in a drawer, though, never worn. I’ll find it when I settle their estate someday, I thought. The yarn and resulting fabric are not my style, nor are they my mom’s or anyone else’s I can think of. I’d have to plod on or rip it out and stash the yarn until I could figure something else to do with it. Because this was my first foray into Orenburg lace knitting, I decided to plod on.

And what a plod it’s been! I’ve picked this project up and put it down many times, all the while thinking about what to do with it when it’s done. So, it’s been hard to gin up the enthusiasm to work on it, even though I’m liking the Orenburg style of knitting. As with most of my projects, I tend to plod on until I reach the halfway point, after which I can usually count on finish-it-up-itis to carry me through to the end.

This week, I finally reached that halfway point:

Meteliza halfway

Well, it was the halfway point according to the pattern, anyway. I decided it needs to be longer than what the pattern is calling for (or what my row gauge is coming out to), so I’ll add in a few more repeats. But I’m getting there.

And when it’s done? I’m still not sure. I’m toying around with the idea of giving it to her, anyway, and telling her that it’s mohair and wool-free, and hoping for the best.





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Members of the Club

I know all the standard ways to recognize other knitters in the wild: There’s the obvious — seeing someone other than me knitting in public. There’s the almost-as-obvious — spying a person wearing handknits. Then, there’s the less-obvious, such as watching for someone’s ears to perk up when I discuss knitting with someone else, or looking for knitting paraphernalia, perhaps commingled with a person’s carry-on baggage. This past week, I found yet another way.

The other morning, I was at a conference for work — the kind where continental breakfast is served, and there’s a row of coffee percolators and hot water for tea and such there to greet you in the morning. I’d come prepared with my own travel mug, and made my way down to the end with all the coffee condiments before adding coffee.

Most people (read: normal people) will fill up their coffee cups and then add the condiments. Not me. I prefer to put all the sugar and half-and-half in my cup, then swim upstream a bit to add the coffee. I’m usually the only person at any large meeting preparing my coffee in this bass-ackwards way.   But not that morning.

No, that morning, as I was finishing loading up my mug, another woman sidled next to me at the condiments station. “Oh, excuse me,” I apologized, “I do things backwards here. It’s a consequence of having OCD tendencies, although OCD does have some upsides, too.” I went to move toward the coffee percolators.

“So do I,” she rejoined. I noticed her nametag read “Alice.” Alice continued, “For certain foods, I have a very specific way of doing things. I always do my coffee condiments first, too.” She paused in her coffee preparation and looked at me. “Are you a knitter, by chance?”

“Why yes, I am,” I replied. “Are you?”

“Yes, I am, too,” Alice responded, smiling broadly. “I had a feeling you were. We’re all a little OCD-like, don’t you think?”

I laughed, and we chatted amiably for a few minutes about the knitting projects we were working on, in addition to work-related matters.   I should note that neither Alice nor I were wearing any handknits, nor were we carrying any project bags nor anything else that might give us away as knitters. We were just two professionally dressed women at the coffee bar. Nevertheless, she picked me out right away as a knitter — one more way to discover other members of our club.

In other knitterly news, when life gets as busy and complicated as it has for me the past few weeks, my knitting gets simpler and my knitting time more sparse. About the only thing I’ve been able to work on is a pair of plain socks:

Irvington Socks 1.5

This is Ann Budd’s basic sock pattern in Knit Picks Hawthorne, the Irvington colorway. The socks are for my older son. I managed to finish the first sock, other than the grafting, and started on the second one. I’m hoping to find time for other knitting in the next few weeks in between work demands, gardening, and other May craziness. And who knows? Maybe I’ll find more knitters in the wild, too.

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Yarn Fest 2015 Report

So, I’m back from Yarn Fest, busily doing laundry, unpacking, and dutifully taking photos of my new yarn to note in Ravelry. I have lots to relay and not a whole lot of time to do that, as I’m having to cram all of my usual weekend tasks into one day. Here goes:

This was my first Yarn Fest. It was everyone’s first Yarn Fest. Interweave has hosted other events, such as Knitting Lab, but this was their first multicraftual Yarn Fest. I was delighted that they held it in my own back yard, in Loveland, Colorado. As much as I’d love to attend VK Live or STITCHES or other big knitting events, I’m just not willing to pay the money for the event plus the airfare. If I can’t drive to an event, I’m not going, at least not any time soon.

Therefore, I was thrilled to find out that Yarn Fest would take place right here in Colorado. I also liked the format — a la carte pricing for whatever happened to interest a person. Some people came for the entire event and had classes scheduled all day, every day. Some people were there for days, but left plenty of free time to enjoy the Marketplace or other area attractions, or just to sit and knit. Me? I scheduled classes all day Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, and left after class on Saturday afternoon. That was a trade-off: I missed Linda Cortright’s keynote talk on Saturday night, and I missed out on what looked like some fun classes on Sunday morning, in order to salvage some of the weekend to take care of household stuff in front of what’s going to be a really busy week.

When I checked in on Wednesday afternoon, I received a goody bag so full of things that it took three photos to capture it all:

goody bag extras goody bag reading goody bag yarn

There were three skeins of nice yarn, some patterns, and three magazines, including the latest Knitting Traditions, which I was thrilled to have.

On Thursday, I took Galina Khmeleva’s class on Orenburg knitting. Galina is a walking encyclopedia of Orenburg lace knitting, and the class was fascinating.

Orenburg class

By day’s end, I had enough knowledge so that I could put together a lace shawl or scarf of my own. And I will, because I stopped by Galina’s booth, Skaska Designs, and loaded up on qiviut:

qiviut pyramid

I realize I went pretty nuts, but I had planned to buy qiviut if I could find it in the Marketplace, as it’s becoming harder and harder to come by. To me, qiviut is worthy to add to my long-term stash. Besides, now I have the skills to knit it into something wonderful.

Friday was Math Day. My morning class was Math for Knitters with Kate Atherley, which was very helpful and informative. In it, I found out that Kate had written a book about how to write good patterns:

knit design book

I made sure to pick this up before I left town. I need this book. I have designed several sweaters over the years, the instructions for which exist as a pile of notes with taped-together charts and graph paper, and I’d love to get them in a state where others could enjoy them, too. Now, Kate, how about providing some words of wisdom as to how I can find the time to do this?

In the afternoon, I took Sweater Design with Ann Budd. Ann has a very intuitive way of explaining difficult concepts, so I was not disappointed with this class. Really, I wished I’d taken it years ago, when I first began to heavily modify, then design from the ground up, complicated cabled sweaters.

After class I went back over to the Marketplace. I’d blown my budget (and then some) on the qiviut, but I did end up buying this delightful Mountain Colors yarn from Cowgirl Yarns:

Mountain Colors lupine

On Saturday, I took a class on buttonholes, zippers, and pockets from Nancy Shroyer. This class was helpful because I’m working on a cardigan for my mom, and I really want the button band to come out looking nice. After taking Nancy’s class, I think I can pull this off.

My last class was also with Nancy, on Fair Isle Knitting. We started a headband:

Fair Isle headband

The headband provides a good overview of techniques in stranded knitting, such as two-handed knitting and capturing floats. While I’m not much of a headband person, myself, this was a good teaching tool, and will make a nice Christmas gift.

I’m already looking forward to next year’s Yarn Fest. Maybe I’ll stay for the whole thing next time.

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