Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Loneliness of a Long-Distance Knitter

Olympic Knitathalon update: Day...whatever.

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Competition sucks."

There's that little voice that constantly nags: "Come on, you can't just give up; you can't be a LOSER."

Then there's that even smaller voice that cajoles: "Now, it's alright to change your mind. It's all about the personal challenge." Yeah right.

So the scarf bit the dust after the fourth try at making the design knit up smoothly without jagged edges. I have to adjust the pattern design somehow. I'll put the pattern on the blog next week and anyone who wants is welcome to play with it. It's an "unofficial" scarf design for Team Wales -- although any team is invited to substitute their name in the pattern.

After pulling out of the scarf event, I entered the felted bag sprint. Starting out with the "Fulled Lopi Tote" pattern from helloyarn.com, I changed the proportions so that it would felt into a bag sized perfectly for carrying around a 2- socks-on-one-circular project. I believe that I medaled in this competition! Tune in for the pic of this one.

And no Olympic drama would be complete without the "family crisis." Tune in for the details of Leo's series of unfortunate events....

Friday, February 10, 2006

Training for the Olympic Knit-athalon

Unassociated Press

3:29 pm EST, Philadelphia
Filed by DK Purlman

It's all come down to this moment. There's no turning back; however, frogging and tinking are still possible scenarios. She's sitting at the "starting line," ready to cast on. "I feel good -- my hands are a little cold and stiff, but I've greased up the needles to compensate. After all it's only in the 30's today (okay, 64 degrees inside). But snow is on the way and it matters."

She casts on about 20 stitches and starts to get into her rhythm. But an early glitch: there's a knot in the yarn! The US-made Coats and Clark "TLC" worsted has a KNOT right at the beginning and that would show on the edge of the scarf. Judy tries to go on, but she loses her focus.

"What were you thinking at that moment, Judy?"

"Oh gosh -- that I would hate myself if I continue on as if nothing were wrong. It's just too long a challenge for me to carry the burden of KNOWING that there is a blemish in the very first row..."

So she pulls off the stitches, cuts the yarn beyond the knot, and starts over. Steadily. Smoothly. With deep slow breaths, she casts on again and finishes the first stage cast-on at 3:34 pm.

Asked about her strategy, Judy comments: "I feel good about my decision; the end is a long way off and I think I can make up the loss."

"Your concentration is amazing and you look really confident with your start, faulty that it was - did you swatch in preparation?"

"Oh, yeah!" this newbie knit-athlete responds. "I'm not real good about that in general. But for the Olympics, you bet I swatched. I started with a size 8 bamboo -- wow, too grabby and the scarf would have ended up too wide. I swatched a garter edge but that looked too bumpy. So I swatched again with a really old set of size 7 Boye plastic needles. Easy on the hands and really flexible. Plus, they were my Mom's needles. I know she's rooting for me and using her needles will help sustain my focus and energy. I've decided to do a crochet edge all around the scarf at the end. And the illusion part of this project is just that....an illusion. That was much too difficult for me to handle for these Olympics. It's enough of a challenge to have designed the project and to implement fair isle technique for the first time. I can't imagine how I'd have managed if I hadn't swatched through all of these issues."

This dedicated knit-athlete has her heart and head in the right place. She, along with 4,000 other commitable, (sorry, that is "committed") needle-wielders, has taken the "Knitting Olympics Pledge" as articulated by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, the Yarn Harlot:

The Knitting Olympics Athletes Pledge

I, a knitter of able hands and quick wits, to hereby swear that over the course of these Olympics I will uphold the highest standard of knitterly excellence.

I will be deft of hand and sure of pattern, I will overcome troubles of yarn overs and misplaced decreases. I will use the gifts of intelligence and persistence (as well as caffeine and chocolate) and I will execute my art to the highest form, carrying with me the hope for excellence known to every knitter.

I strive to win. To do my best, and to approach the needles with my own best effort in mind, without comparing myself to my fellow knitters, for they have challenges unique to them.

While I engage in this pursuit of excellence and my own personal, individual best, I also swear that I will continue to engage with my family in conversation, care for my pets, speak kindly with those who would ask me to do something other than knit, and above all, above every stitch thrown or picked, above every cable, every heel stitch, every change of colour, I swear this:

That I will remember that this is not the real Olympics, that I'm supposed to be having fun and that my happiness and self-worth ride not on my success....
but on my trying.


The Games Have Begun!

Saturday, February 04, 2006

2006 Knitting Olympics

I've joined Team Wales! No, I don't LOOK Welsh. But I did learn how to make Welsh Rarebit in high school home-ec class. I'm planning to run with an illusion-knitted scarf. I thought illusion knitting would be very appropriate for these Olympic "Trials." The design is still to be determined.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

It All Started with a Knitting Machine...

As a college student, I learned to crochet in order to fit in with the other counselors at the summer camp where I worked. Over the years, I crocheted some squares for Warm Up America! but never did much more than that.

When we adopted Mickey, I learned that each kitty goes to their new home with a handmade blankie. There was only one left when we took him home; just an ugly brown thing. So I decided that I could help crochet blankets; I got one done -- hopelessly slowly. The idea of speeding up the process with a knitting machine spurred me on to enter the world of eBay. I bid on and won a Bond Incredible Sweater Machine. Two "easy" scarves later, I realized that machine knitting just wasn't for me, but in the process of "mastering" the machine, I'd learned the rudiments of handknitting so that I could understand what to do when I would drop those blasted stitches! My big realization: Knitting was different than crocheting. What I'd thought was going to be a more burdensome, complex and inefficient process turned out to be somehow more graceful and quite meditative. So I traded my knitting machine for oodles of yarn, and I began my knitting adventure. That was a year ago this past October.

My very first project was this cat toy, called the Wonton. I used skewers as knitting needles. Unfortunately, it came out a bit big; I hadn't learned about gauge yet and it was too big to be much of a mobile toy; that and I didn't put enough catnip in it.

Next, I moved on to knitting a wool hat for my DH, Mike. That went pretty well. I used "normal" needles and it actually looked like a hat! Unfortunately, my hubster is gifted with an incredibly LARGE head. He claims that he loves his hats "snug" -- they stay on better, he says...bless him. And he wears it too!

So, what else was in need of a warm layer? Ah, my Palm needed cozying. So, I summoned all of my artistic and engineering talents (paltry that they were) and designed this Palm Cozy/Carrying Case for the PDA that was already in a leather case. Frankly, I needed a way to carry it with me, leaving my hands free, as I listened to audio books. I love audio books and this was before I got my iPod -- which of course now has its own cozy carrying case.

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