women of a certain age are like sunflowers; they know how to turn their faces to the sun.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Knit Where You Know

There is a hoary maxim that has hung around for years: write what you know.

Now I find it hard to imagine writing what I don't know. After all, if I don't know it, how on earth can I write anything remotely resembling a cogent sentence about it, whatever "it" is?

Perhaps, the sentence would look something like this:


I think it all boils down to three things:


It's not so much a matter of what we know, but rather where we know.

Margene writes about life in the mountains of Utah. She posts beautiful pictures of the view out her back window. I write about life in the flatlands of Indiana. I see corn fields out my window. (I haven't taken any pictures of them yet, but give me time...)

Jared wakes up in the city that never sleeps. I go to bed in the safe suburbs of what used to be called, "NAP" town.

Amy writes about the joys and challenges of raising two young children. I write about the joys and challenges involved in letting them go.

But whatever we write,we know the territory...intimately.

I find many parallels between writing and knitting:
  • Both are thoroughly engrossing enterprises
  • Both are generative, i.e. bringing something into being that was not there before
  • Both involve stringing together a series of small units, whether stitches or words, to shape a larger whole
  • Both are gifts: something to be thankful for rather than prideful of
  • Neither pays "real" money (unless you are Dan Brown and if you are...THEN WHAT ARE YOU DOING READING THIS? GO WORK ON YOUR NEXT BLOCKBUSTER! PEOPLE ARE WAITING!)

And lastly,
  • Both are the product of what and where you know.
My designs often have a sense of place to them: Morocco, Sedona (which is undergoing cosmetic surgery at the moment- needs more negative ease in the bodice and length in the torso) the cherry orchards of my beloved Leelanau. Even Drizzle reminds me of the particular quality of winter twilight found in my soon-to-be home state of Michigan.

Two projects came out of my territory this weekend and consumed all my time.

But they weren't the ones that were supposed to.

Once more Moroccan Days and Drizzle were consigned to the WIP basket (but only for the weekend. Fret not...)

I needed to figure out what I was going to make out of all that luscious "winter robin's egg" wool my dad gave me for Christmas. Not because it was urgent. My plate is rather full at the moment. The last thing I need is another distract...OOH! LOOK! SHINY!!!

But because it was expedient. Purl had three skeins left of the dye lot and I knew that the ten skeins I had might be cutting it close for the coat I planned to make. I needed to spend some serious design time, refining the project to get a better handle on my yarn requirements before they sold out.

It all started with these:

Six meltingly beautiful ceramic buttons from Briar Rose

I know. I know. Designing a sweater from the buttons out is sort of like buying a $500 dress to enhance your latest acquisition from Payless. On the other hand, I know someone who bought red satin pumps to die for at Nine West, and then purchased an outfit to match.

So maybe I'm on to something...

Anyway, swatching commenced on a hooded coat with aran cables in a robin's-egg-woodsy-garden-y theme.

But I kept seeing the fantastic shapes of the Lake Michigan beach in February, when ice castles snatch pride of place from the sand castles of July, and rise like abstract sculptures, heaved up by the tides and the pounding storms of winter.

I kept hearing the crackling and groaning noises the glaciers of Alaska make when they calve into Glacier Bay.

Gardens turned to ice inside my mind, and all that came before, went after.

I began looking at patterns with waves in them. Or sand. Or ice.

I even finalized a design.

A coat with an empire waist, diagonal cabling on top, opening up below the bust into a long stretch of stockinette, before ending in a bottom band of waves breaking upon the shore.

But something wasn't quite right. The gauge, the design, the yarn?


But what?

The yarn has a slightly rustic cotton-y feel to it, as well as the occasional slub. And it's on the heavy side of worsted. Hard to find a pattern that doesn't get lost.

Finally I realized I kept envisioning myself walking on the shore wrapped not in a calf length coat, but rather in a cozy, chunky, oversized...


But not lace. Lace couldn't stand up to Michigan winters. Something far more substantial is called for.

Worked most of yesterday (when I wasn't watching my Indianapolis Colts get pasted - don't even start - I am NOT a happy camper!) but didn't arrive at my happy place until this morning, when it all came together.

That's sand stitch in the middle, with a wave cable running up each side.

Two more rows and I will switch to a wavy rib pattern which will segue into an enclosed cable down the middle and side panels of a wavy stitch.

I'm really loving the way the sand stitch works with the nubbiness of this yarn. And the texture bears a striking resemblance to the ice at water's edge.

The other project that called my name this weekend was a little something that's been rattling about in the back of my mind the past few weeks. There's not much in there to begin with, and even less now that I am peri-menopausal. (That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it!) so the rattle was fairly deafening.

It didn't compare with the noise level at the RCA dome, but it was way louder than the fans on their way out (or should I say down and out. FRACKKK!)

I had a ball of Dream in Color Smooshy left over from a botched design idea. You so DON'T want to see the swatch. Trust me.

And I needed something relatively mindless to work on at our monthly Ravelry meet up.

So I whipped up this little project for all you lovers out there, who can't wait for Valentine's Day. And I'm giving it to you now, a month ahead of time so you have time to complete it before the big day. It would make a great little gift for someone or a lovely accessory for your own celebration. It would also make a great project for a breast cancer survivor.


See the X's and O's?

How about now?

The scarf owes its sense of place to Leland as well. When the boys were little and we said goodbye to the lake house at the end of summer, my stepmother Molly always ran outside and stood in the driveway, waving her arms about YMCA style, making "X"s and "O" s for the kids until we were out of sight.

Then she probably poured herself a stiff drink. (As you can see, I hold no misbegotten delusions as to the enchanting nature of my children when they were younger - or lack thereof.)

The kids picked up on it, and pretty soon we were "X"ing and "O"ing up and down the Lake Michigan coastline.

They knew it meant they were loved.

I knit my scarf in pink and cream, but it would be great in just about any red or pink combo, from fuschia to bubble gum pink to burgundy.

Go crazy.


Cast on 54 stitches.
Row 1: P1, *C4F, C4B, YO, SK2P, YO, C4B, C4F ,YO, SK2P, YO; repeat once from * to last 9 stitches, C4F, C4B, P1.
Row 2 (and all wrong side rows): K1, P52, K1.
Rows 3, 7, 11, & 15: P1, *K8, YO, SK2P, YO; repeat three more times from * to last 9 stitches, K8, P1.
Row 5: As row 1.
Row 9: P1, *C4B, C4F, YO, SK2P, YO, C4F, C4B ,YO, SK2P, YO; repeat once from * to last 9 stitches, C4B, C4F, P1.
Row 13: As row 9.

P - purl
K - knit
C4F - Cable 4 front: Slip two stitches to cable needle. Drop to front of scarf. Knit next two stitches. Knit two stitches from cable needle.
C4B -Cable 4 back:Slip two stitches to cable needle. Drop to back of scarf. Knit next two stitches. Knit two stitches from cable needle.
SK2P - Slip, Knit 2 together, Pass: Slip one stitch to right hand needle, KNit next 2 stitches together. Pass slipped stitch back over.
YO - yarn over: Pass yarn over needle from front to back.

Repeat these 16 rows until desired length or end of yarn. Bind off.

That's all there is to it. I made mine on size 5 US needles with sock weight, but you could really use any yarn you like from laceweight to worsted. Just adjust the needle size and number of repeats accordingly. You could easily make it into a shawl, or even an afghan.

The pattern is easily memorized and scoots right along.

So have fun, make sure to let your loved ones know how you feel about them (even if you don't want to go about waving your arms in the air like one of the Village People!)

And remember: Knit what where you know. That way, the work has heart.

Like you...


amy said...

Condolences on the football.

Very cute scarf!! And I like where you're going with the sand stitch and waves, although I'm not a shawl person. The other day, though, I was mystified to discover I had an urge to knit myself a poncho. Where did that come from? A hooded one. *Sigh* as if my queue weren't long enough.

Anonymous said...

what beautiful pattern! I just love it!

Pat K said...

Moving to Michigan, how wonderful! (Only a Michigan girl could say that.) And another scarf pattern to queue! Pictures soon of the progress on the sockret scarf. No need for errata there.

TheBlackSheep said...

Love the Robin's Egg! Nice stuff!

Moving to Michigan. How exciting. YOu'll let us know what it's like, yes?

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the pattern! I love the story as well!

Lucia said...

Beautiful pattern! But I want to make the cables reversible...

Opal said...

I think it's perfectly reasonable to design around buttons. I also think it's perfectly reasonable to buy an outfit or three to match a pair of shoes. But then I've never been one to reason with the masses. :)

La Cabeza Grande said...

Funny and touching and a sweet pattern to wrap it all up? You are amazing!

sharecropper said...

What great writing, and I love how the shawl is progressing. Intuition is a wonderfully creative process, and I think you've used it well. Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

This is so cute! I've been wanting to make something with hugs and kisses. Thank you so much for the pattern! So cute in that yarn too!