## Simple math

A word problem:

If you start a sweater in March (say 3 months ago) and work on it just a little on and off between the other projects (say, 10 WIPS) as kind of a good “toss this one into the car, can work on it in the dark of movies and in meetings” sort of project, and you work on it until you hit row 52 on the cable chart that is so confusingly framed because it includes stitches that AREN’T in the cable panel even a little and yet, kind of makes them look like they are because of the way the decreases are done (factor in that you have tried to do this patten about 5 times before and gotten confused about this blasted cable layout every single time, and yet, this is the first time that you decided to actually mark off the stitches so that you won’t be confused next time) – divided by the fact that you needed to cast on 299 stitches initially (143 for the back, 78 for both front panels) and then multiply by the fact that you somehow only cast on 293 stitches and missed 6 on one of the front panels, meaning that the cable panels are in two completely different spots on your body when you finally have to rip back after making way too many mistakes knitting in the dark of the movies and it’s only when you’re putting the stitches back on the needles and trying to make sure you have the right numbers between the stitch markers – how many hours will you spend cursing that you began this project at all?

Wait, that’s pretty confusing – let me frame it a different way:

3 months sporadic knitting / 10 WIPs = 52 rows completed x 299 stitches (- 6 necessary stitches on Left Front Panel)

Yeah, this project.  This is going to be one of those projects that once I finish it, I am going to love wearing it.  It’s one of those sweaters that I look at and it instantly makes me want to curl up in a chair with a good book on a rainy day by a toasty fire.  The yarn is just a wee bit scratchy, the colour is so perfectly calming and relaxing, and there is nothing complicated about the knitting itself, just the wording and the charts…but for some reason, this is about the 6th time in my life that I’ve cast this on and I have nothing more than about 2 inches of knitting to show for it.

I know, I know, I could have just reconciled myself to the cables not being symmetrical…but I really just couldn’t.  Not after all this time.  Not after all this effort.

Let’s just say that for now, this sweater and I are both happy that it’s going into hibernation until the fall when I actually want to wear a sweater again.  Because really, if I had to look at this for much longer, I think I would shove it into the back of my yarn cupboard, rather than leaving it to rest quietly in my WIPs drawer.

I swear, I did learn counting at an early age, as well as the importance of double checking my work…

## Joining Can Really Kill You

For the second time in a row, I’ve tried to join the sleeves onto my Vivian sweater.  In part, it’s because I want to at least have the body and sleeves connected before I lay it aside for the season.  That way, it’s at a good stopping point and when I pick it up again as the seasons cool down, I won’t have to wonder where I’m supped to be beginning.  No matter how many notes you take on a project, if you give it long enough, you will forget what the scribbled note of “117 rows in, begin at second decrease” meant to you way back when.  My other reason for so fastidiously sticking to this project is that I feel like I’m scraping the bottom of the barrel when it comes to things I’m working on that already have a pattern.  I have 3 or 4 things floating around right now that I’m in the process of designing myself, but let’s face it, that can be an arduous process.  I need to pick those projects up, really study them and focus on them to figure out not only where I am but also where I need to be.  (It does not help that I have not been the most organized note-taker when it comes to these designs…I’m amazed I have *any* designs finished!)  Because those require so much energy, it’s just seemed easier to pick up the projects that have ready made patterns.  We’ve hit the point in wedding planning where I feel constantly busy with it, and so I want something a little more brainless to work on when it’s just me, sitting on my couch.

Yet this sweater, Vivian, is turning out to be anything but brainless.  It was already somewhat complicated – lots of cables = lots of charts.  But it had definitely hit that point where I knew what was coming next for each chart and could follow along without really looking.  Then on Wednesday, I finished the second sleeve and started trying to attach them.  First, I ripped back that night because I didn’t like what the pattern was telling me to do in terms of the right vs left sleeves.  I wanted the sleeve to be near the part of the body with the same cabling, and for some reason, the pattern instructions told me to do the opposite.  That sort of dissonance is not something I could handle, so I detached the only sleeve I had put onto the sweater to fix it.

Tonight, I picked it up again.  Now, I’ve done one other sweater pattern by lovely Ysolda, and I had this exact same issue back then.  I don’t know if it’s her instructions, or if it’s the editor describing how the joining and decreases should go, but somewhere in that equation is my confusion.  To start with, it’s not made clear at this point how many stitches should be on each front panel and the back panel.  (I know, this sweater is all in one piece and doesn’t actually have panels, but still, it’s about to get armholes at this point.  It would be nice if it would give a head count, as it were.)  I think that creates the initial confusion.  Then, somehow between the instruction to knit x number of stitches on the right front, then knit across the sleeve stitches to attach it, then knit across the back before joining the second sleeve and knitting to the end, everything just gets kind of messy.  It’s so hard for me to know where the issues lie – is it me, having not counted correctly?  Is it the wording of the pattern?  Is the description not setting me up well to complete this part of the sweater, so that by the time everything is connected, it’s already too late?  I just can’t put my fingers on it.  But I will say this – for most knitters, joining sleeves to a sweater is similar to dismantling a bomb.  (Ok, I’ve never actually done that, but humor me.)  It’s something that no matter how many times you’ve done it in you life, it still feels a little different every time.  Every sweater has its own personality, its own unique needs and requirements.  You have to be patient, to listen to the sweater.  It’s something that’s terrifying but also exciting and that you’ve been wanting to do – joining the sleeves is when the whole concept of the sweater becomes real.  And in both of these situations, the most helpful thing is to give the most information possible.  It helps me way more for a sweater designer to over explain these things.  You should have 53 stitches on both front panels and 106 stitches on the back.  You will be putting 5 stitches of the sweater on scrap yarn at each armhole.  After doing that, you should have 50 stitches on each front panel and 102 stitches on the back.

To me, that’s helpful.  Because otherwise, here’s what happens – I struggle.  I look at the pattern instructions when I get to where it claims my armhole should be and I wonder – did she really want me to chop a cable in half so that 2 stitches are on the body and 2 are on the sleeve?  I mean, I can do that but it seems like an odd placement.  Then I dither and try counting stitches and a few other things that are totally useless except to make me feel like I’m doing something.  Then I decide to just shut up and trust the pattern and keep going.  It looks pretty good, so I do another row.  And then, on the next right side row where I need to start doing centered double decreases to continue joining the sleeve to the sweater, it becomes obvious that there’s just something off about the sleeve placement of at least one sleeve.  Then I reread and recount and bitch and moan and complain because I know that once again, I am going to need to remove the sleeves to make this sweater work.

That’s my exciting Friday night – it’s been awhile since I was this low-key, and I’m enjoying it.  I just really desperately wish that instead of having a basket full of sweater that still needs to be tinked back so that I could fix it, I had a basket full of sweater with correctly attached arms that I was about to put away for the summer.

## Why Is This On My Needles?

We’ve hit that time of year, here in the MidWest, where the weather is positively unpredictable.  The morning will start out cold enough for you to wear not only a jacket, but a scarf and hat too, and by afternoon, you’re wondering how many layers of clothing you can strip off before you become indecent.  Cold and wet and rainy and gray, then suddenly blue skies and no jacket needed.

This is the time of year when I try to figure out what the heck I’m supposed to be knitting.  Right now, I have two sweaters on the needles, and I’m trying to figure out what to do next.  Do I keep knitting them, knowing full well that I’ll be thrilled to have them finished and ready to wear once winter comes along?  Do I set them aside and cast on something more springy, a nice tank top or skirt or short sleeved sweater?  I mean, I love this sweater that I’m about halfway through:

That’s Vivian, by Ysolda Teague, in MadelineTosh Vintage.  I swore after my hideous experience with that Little Birds pattern that I wouldn’t do an more of her sweaters, but I’d been wanting to make this one forever.  I really couldn’t stay away, and honestly, the pattern hasn’t given me issues this time around.  Well alright, the set-up rows were just kind of a mess to translate and get on the needles, which feels more like a few key words were removed in the editing process than anything else.  And I did wind up cursing up one side and down the other of those first half dozen rows or so, but that was really my own incompetence more than anything else.  I had somehow forgotten how to count higher than 8 – I hate it when that happens.  But that was totally my own fault, not the pattern’s.  Once I was about 10 rows in, I definitely found my rhythm.  The trouble is that with all of those glorious cables, it’s definitely slow knitting.  I need to follow multiple charts at any given time, which means that despite having started this on New Years Day, I’m still only about 50% of the way through.  That’s one completed sleeve that you see and what barely counts as a cuff for the other.  The body is completed up to the armholes…really, I’m sure that the sweater would just fall off the needles once the second sleeve is done.  I’ve been wanting this sweater for so long now – I bought that yarn about 3 years ago as a holiday gift for myself.  (This turned out to be a wise choice that year – it was a very hard winter, and I was happy to have that yarn to look at and plan for.)  But let’s say that I finish it in the next few weeks – highly unlikely since I’ve finally gotten the yarn I need for the chuppah and that now has my full attention.  Even if I do finish it – so what?  It’s not like I’m going to get to wear it.

By the time I finish this or that other sweater, full Cleveland springintosummer will be upon us, which means damp, humid weather, sunshine and heat.  The only time that you find yourself needing a sweater is when you go into one of the establishments that has the hideous habit of making the air conditioning so high that you forget why you bothered wearing that sundress out of the house.  Do I really want to finish a sweater just in time not to wear it?

Of course not – the joy of being a knitter is finishing a project and being able to immediately make it a part of your wardrobe rotation.  But do I really want to be so fickle as to set this beautiful project aside?  Come September, I would be happy to find it completed and sleeping in my sweater drawer, just waiting for the day that comes when I start to notice a chill in the air.

What about you?  Does it ever hit that point where the seasons make you want to abandon your current project of choice?  And if you give in, how do you deal with those feelings of guilt?

## Don’t Step On the Mome Raths aka Stop Choking Your Yarn

A few weeks ago, I started knitting a shawl for myself.  I’m making up the pattern as I go along, just kind of feeling it out.  I have an idea of what I want it to look like, but I know that sometimes what one sees in their head does not translate into something that one can actually create through knitting, so I’m definitely leaving myself open to changing this vision as I go.  The one thing I know is that this project will work with several different yarns and have STRIPES – after all, everyone loves stripes.

I’m working with a few different yarns, all the same base – Madelinetosh Sock.  I really adore Madelinetosh, and this is one of my favourite yarn bases.  It’s just the right amount of twist and sproing, without being so tightly twisted that it hurts to work with, as some yarns do.  I started by using this skein:

As you can see, it’s an older skein – just look at that tag!  The colour is Scarlet, and it’s just the right shade of red for what I have in mind.  I bought this off of someone on Ravelry, and it came to me in that caked form.  Now, I’m not a fan of yarn that has been previously caked by someone else for several reasons.  To start with, caking stretches out and stresses the yarn fibers if it is either caked too tightly or has been sitting in its caked form for too long.  I cake yarn just before I’m going to begin a project, and if it’s a project that will take multiple skeins, I typically only cake the first skein at the beginning.  I know that I can be easily distracted by other projects, the change in weather, or that I can suddenly realize that this yarn and this project are not going to work out at all.  If I had caked all 6 skeins that I needed for a sweater from the beginning, I would be left with sad little cakes that were slowly losing the bounce in their yarn.  In this type of situation, it’s best to reskein the yarn so that the fiber isn’t being stretched and stressed – my friend Sarah did this amazing post on how to skein your yarn for free, no equipment needed.

In this instance, I didn’t reskein that cake because I thought I was going to cast on for the shawl much sooner than I did…now I realize I probably should have just reskeined it because that cake was definitely wound too tightly.  This is something that I’ve seen people do before, and it always frightens me.  I’ve seen people choke up when balling yarn by hand, and I’ve seen people wind a cake of yarn so swiftly on a ball winder that the fibers have no choice but to be stretched by the process.  I’ve known people who wind the yarn *so* tightly by hand or by cake that you could probably bludgeon someone with their finished ball and do some serious damage.  Years ago, someone on Ravelry posted a fantastic picture of what happens to yarn when it’s been wound only once on a ball winder, and Sarah explained the differences beautifully:

“I know someone who has a trick for keeping her yarn caked but making sure that it is done loosely enough so that it doesn’t stretch the yarn. According to ______, you recake your yarn by first caking it on the swift and then you remove it from the swift and recake the cake. Wow. That sounds confusing. Here’s what she has to say about it:

Basically the tension it takes for the ballwinder to turn the swift around stretches out the yarn.  If you leave it caked in the original cake, the yarn stays stretched out – but will return to its original state once you wash it.  Which will mess up your gauge.  If you recake, you take that tension off the yarn and it’ll stay in good condition.  Once I finish the first cake, I take it off the ballwinder and rewind from cake to cake.

Here’s a picture of a two of her yarns, one caked originally and the other already recaked. Isn’t that CRAZY how tightly the first cake looks in comparison to the second?! The really interesting this is that the first cake isn’t badly done – it’s nice and squishy and seems nice – but it is actually too tight.”

Crazy, right?  Look at those two cakes next to each other – it’s like the one on the right has doubled in size simply by allowing the yarn to breathe.

I kept thinking of this image as I was starting to wind up the second ball of yarn at knitting this Saturday.  I like to handwind my yarn using a nostepinne - something that occasionally baffles the women in my knitting group, no matter how many times I do it in front of them or explain it.  I like to interact with the yarn before I knit with it – hand winding it gives me that chance to see what it feels like, how it moves, what the structure of it is like and how that might translate into a garment.  I like to see if there are knots or splits, is there a ton of vegetable matter, parts where the yarn things out….basically, what is this thing that I’m going to be working with.  I do have a ball winder and swift, and they’re both high level, professional grade items – but I don’t really like to use them that much because I love hand winding more.  I pull them out when I have multiple skeins to do for bigger projects – sweaters and blankets and the like – and have already gotten to know one of the skeins from hand winding and knitting it before.  After all, no one really wants to wind up 2000 yards of yarn, 100 yards at a time!

Personally, I always like to ball the yarn before I begin to wind it up on my nostepinne.  I’ve just discovered that I can wind it more easily that way.  Sometimes skeined yarn sticks to itself and then can tangle, and it’s hard to deal with all those little moments of strings crossing over one another when you’re trying to wind an even cake on a nostepinne.

(BTW, how pretty is this skein?  I love it – it’s the Citrus colour of Madelinetosh, and it just glows.)

Now, I knew that the Scarlet had been caked for too long and had probably been done on a ball winder – just look at these two cakes side by side:

Notice how much taller the Citrus is in comparison?  It also just looks more tidy, in my opinion, less likely to collapse in on itself as you work with it.  But it wasn’t until I started knitting with the two yarns together that I realized how stressed the fibers in the Scarlet had been – I had suspected that it was wound too tightly as I had been knitting with it already.  Every now and then, the yarn would get stick coming out of the center pull, trapped on the tightness of the inside of the ball, and then a huge yarn barf would pull out as it tried to release itself.  In my experience, yarn barf is generally a sign that the ball was wound too tightly.  But when I looked at the yarns side by side, I realized that the Scarlet was most definitely damaged:

Just look at how thin and stretched out the Scarlet looks compared with the Citrus.  It’s almost like I’m holding two different weights of yarn, isn’t it?  The big difference is that the Citrus still has breathing room, still has elasticity.  The Scarlet was wound too tightly and then held in that position for too long, so it’s elasticity has gone away.  I’m hoping this doesn’t result in something insane happening when it hits the water for the blocking process.  The crimping in the Scarlet is in large part due to it staying in the cake for too long – and really, who knows how long it was caked like this in the previous owner’s stash before coming to me – but it’s also a reflection of how tightly something was wound.  You want your yarn to draw easily out of a center pull ball – that’s one of the main reasons for making it into that form!  If you can’t easily put your fingers into the hole in the middle of your center pull ball, it’s probably wound too tightly.  You want to be able to be able to squish it, to feel the ball moving when you give it a squeeze.

So please, please please – don’t strangle your yarn.  Some people naturally wind tighter than others do, just as some people have much tighter tension.  If that’s the case, use props – wind your yarn around a ball, then pull it out, or use a nostepinne or lint brush or a ball winder.  All of these things are designed to help give your yarn space to breathe once you remove it from the tool.  And if you still wind up with a cake that’s hard as a rock, just rewind it again.  Re-caking yarn usually results in a larger cake the second time around…and really, who doesn’t want more cake?

## Mistakes That We Love

Sometimes, I think that non-knitters misunderstand what knitting is actually about.  I think that they look at what we’re creating and honestly believe that we are going to always create perfect finished objects.  That sweater we’re working on will always fit like a dream, the hat will be just the right amount of tightness, softness, and warmth, and the mittens will fit…well, like a glove. *Wink*

Anyone who believes that has probably never really created something by hand.  You know what makes perfectly sized garments every time?  Machines.  Machines can make the same socks in the same size with the same tension over and over and over again.  They will always fit the same way, always have the same thickness.  That’s what a machine is for.  When you make something by hand, you suddenly belong to the “good enough” school of thought.  As in, “Shoot, I don’t have enough yarn to do full-length sleeves on this sweater…oh well, I guess I’ll do elbow length sleeves…yeah, that’ll be good enough!”  As in, “Darn it, I made a huge mistake when I was reading the colour charts on this sweater, and now I have this wacky motif way down at the bottom edge…I guess I’ll just do it on the edge of the sleeves too, so that it looks like part of the design…that should be good enough!”  We have to constantly reinvent, tinker, riff like we’re scatting on a jazz melody in order to get our projects to work for us.  And sometimes, dear reader, we have to come up with that creative decision making only when the project is fully finished.

These socks are a perfect example of that.  These are my Jaywalker socks, and I love them.  I just love those colours, love that they look a little bit stripey but also a bit flash-y in certain spots.  The yarn is Neighborhood Fiber Co Watershed, and I love the way it wears, the way it was to work with it.

The issue with these socks isn’t in the way they fit, or the way they wear, or they way they feel.  They don’t do that obnoxious things that some socks do of falling down and pooling in your shoes.  No, friends, the problem with these socks is putting them on.  Many people before me have commented on the tightness of this stitch pattern.  Because of the way the increases and decreases work and line up, they make for a very tight fabric, very non-stretchy.  I had heard this before I cast on and started working on these socks, so I tried to be mindful as I was going.  I tried on the first sock several times as I was making it, but it all seemed to be going well.  The problem didn’t come until halfway down the foot part of the sock.  What has been going on easily up to that point suddenly became overwhelmingly tight.  Something about the combination of the stitch pattern, the non-stretchiness of the bamboo in the yarn, and the entire thing being joined into the 3D bend that is a sock suddenly made that tightness so obvious it wasn’t even funny.  I had worried about casting on 76 stitches, about that being way too many, but suddenly, it didn’t seem like enough.  For some reason, I completed both of the socks anyway without ripping back or changing it…I don’t remember why now, maybe I was just ready to be done.

In order to put the socks on, I have to do what I call ballerina toes – I have to point my foot down, perfectly straight, trying to make my heel vanish as much as is possible.  I have to inch that fabric up and over my heel a little at a time until it can slip on all of the way.  When I take them off, I do the process in reverse.

But here’s the thing…I love these socks.  They fit like a dream once they’re on.  They look fantastic with everything, and they’re usually at the top of the pile of socks that I wear after laundry day.  Would I knit them differently if I had to do it over again?  Totally.  I would probably bump up to a size 2 needle.  But would I ever rip them out or trash them or give them away for being difficult to put on?  Never.  These socks take me a full minute apiece to put on sometimes.  Think about the absurdity of that statement – when is the last time that it took you that long to put on a pair of socks, let along a single one of them?  But these socks are worth it.  They’re a little extra struggle in the getting on, but once they’re on, they’re just heaven.

These are the mistakes that we love.  These are the problems we have because we are not machines…but in my heart, I know that it makes me love these socks all the more.  These weren’t created by a mindless, soul-less piece of metal.  These were made by me, for me, out of yarn that I loved and petted and treasured.  These were socks that I was excited to complete and now, they’re socks that I’m excited to wear.  These are lovely, beautiful, durable, and imperfect – just the way a handknit item should be.

## Haven’t I Been Here Before?

I’ve recently picked up an old project of mine…I mean OLD old.  I haven’t counted it as a WIP in years because the last time I worked on it, I completely ripped it out.  The pattern is Ljod by Elsebeth Lavold.  (Sidebar – how much do you love the name Elsebeth?  I just love how it feels on my tongue.  Elsebeth – lovely!)  The last time that I worked on it, I was still in graduate school to get my counseling psych degree, and I have strong memories of it being maybe only the end of the first year or early on in the second year when I was working on this.  After that, I mostly did socks and hats in my grad school classes, for ease of carrying.  So if my timeline is correct, I believe I might have last worked on this sweater about 5 years ago…that’s a long long time.  My sister, Iselin, was working on a different pattern from Viking Knits at about the same time, which was how I stumbled across this one.  (I’m fairly certain that she never finished that one…I feel like she hated the way it looked when she was just about done, or maybe she was fed up with the yarn…)  I just loved the simplicity of the design and the feel that it would always be lovely and warm.

And yet, somehow, I tried to make this darn thing about 4 or 5 times before calling it quits.  I never got terribly far – I think I might have made it just about to the end of the cables, which finish just about 30 rows after the ribbing, and then I would rip out and start again, or try to ladder down to change things and wind up having to rip anyway because my Macgyver-ing skills were not what they are now, particularly with intricate cables.  I remember just hating how the cables were looking – with the transition from knit to purl stitches, they were just looking all ladder-y and gap-y, and I kept trying to tighten them to make them stop misbehaving.  But something about them was un-fixable – I think that it was the yarn and the pattern just not working well together.  I became frustrated enough that I just frogged the whole mess, put the yarn and the pattern into a bag, and shoved it to the back of whatever passed for my stash back then.  (This was long enough ago that I think I might have still been a monogamous knitter, with only enough yarn for the single project I was working on.  But it was also the time period that was the beginning of the end of all that.  I know this for fact because I remember where I bought the yarn from – Knit One in Pittsburgh.  And I remember who I was with – Sarah.  And I’m fairly certain this was one of the first if not THE first times that we went into a yarn store together….and that, friends, is the beginning of the story of how I acquired so much stash.)  But over the years, I’ve wanted more and more to use up all of those old yarns that beginning knitter me fell in love with and when the Start-itis hit the other week, this was one of the old projects I reached for.

To start with, I know that at some point, it will become mindless knitting.  Those cables are really the only difficult part of the whole sweater, unless you count increases and decreases as something you need to pay attention to and concentrate on, which I really don’t.  So once I clear those, I just know that I’ll be able to do this sweater in all the places where I can knit but need to be able to ignore the knitting – staff meetings, movies, as a break from the very intricate lace knitting I’m doing for the wedding canopy.  But also, I really hate the idea that this project would never be completed purely because I was unhappy with the cables.  5 or 6 years ago is a long time now…it’s very possible that I’ll be able to figure out a way to make this work that past Hester couldn’t figure out.  Or, at the very least, I can give up the idea that this yarn will *ever* be suitable for this project and let that dream go…although I hope not.

Speaking of the yarn…I can tell that early knitter Hester bought this particular yarn.  How can I tell, you ask?  Well, the pattern specifically calls for Elsebeth Lavold’s Silky Wool, which is a DK weight.  What did I buy?  I bought Simply Shetland Silk and Lambswool, which is most definitely a fingering weight yarn.

I can just hear past Hester’s thought process on this one.  “Well, it’s silk and wool, so it’s the right fiber content, and besides, the Silky Wool is fairly lightweight too…besides, if I can get the gauge, that’s all that matters!”  Now I still think that kind of thought process is fairly accurate.  After all, it’s not like you can’t make adjustments to make something fit the way you need it to.  As long as you can hit the gauge, or do basic math to do a size up or down depending on your needs, you’ll usually be okay.  But present Hester would probably never have bought a sweater’s weight worth of fingering yarn, somehow thinking that would be definitely workable for what is clearly supposed to be a heavier weight sweater.

But the moment that really hit home for me and made me realize that past Hester and present Hester still struggle with some of the same mistakes was one from today.  I’m sitting here, about to start the decreases that run up the sides of the cables to make that lovely little triangle panel…and I’m suddenly all flumoxed.  Which two stitches an I knitting together?  Which way should I move the stitch marker when I do that?  Why does it look so odd to have those decrease stitches right next to those purl stitches – and does it really want me to do k2tog and ssk as a decrease – wouldn’t purl 2 together be much less visible?  Or is that not what we’re going for here?  I remember this moment, coming to a standstill in the middle of a pattern that I thought I understood, and wishing that the writing on it were just a little bit clearer so that I felt like I knew where the pattern designer was coming from, rather than feeling like the one person who doesn’t understand it.  I remember looking at other people’s project pages on Ravelry, not finding anyone else having the issue that I was, and staring at their photos carefully in the hopes that I could get some sort of idea of what Elsebeth wanted me to do from a visual aid.

Bring it on, sweater…I’m hoping that older, wiser me can take it…

## Third Time’s the Charm

Sometimes, I just feel like I’m juggling things and not doing a great job of it.  Work, personal life, knitting, family time, all those good things.  These past few weeks have been really jam-packed for me, and that’s great in a lot of ways.  I’ve spent a good chunk of time visiting with various family members and doing fun stuff with them, wedding planning marathons with Joel as well as taking care of some of the bigger projects around our home, doing a really thorough cleaning to prepare for not only out of town company but also for having family over for dinner, game nights, and just general merriment.  We’ve switched over to a whole new database at work and I’ve been going all OCD with making sure that every single client I’ve ever seen is not only in the database but is also correctly listed – some of my clients that are open are listed as “do not serve” or “no-show” or “wait-list”, and clients that have been closed for years are identified as still active.  It’s one of those tasks that no one specifically asked me to do – going through old files and making sure they’re up to date – but that I really wouldn’t be able to feel good about not doing.  I think that if I had been with the company a few years longer or had a bigger and more unmanageable caseload, I would feel different.  But the purpose of the new database is to give a full view of the information we have on each person.  If a client from 3 years ago resurfaces, I want our intake coordinator to not only see that she or he came in for services before but that they worked with me as a therapist or no-showed 3 times before finally being closed.  That sort of thing.  It was slow going at first, but now the end is in sight (I’m fairly certain I can have gone through all of my files by the end of the day on Friday), and I really feel like I’m crushing it.

But I still just feel like I haven’t done the things I meant to or set out to do.  And that makes me think of those quiet periods that I adore so much, the ones where there’s nothing huge or pressing that I’m working on, not a lot of things scheduled on the calendar, and most of the items on my “do” list can easily be ignored until later.  The times when I relax on the couch with a book or my knitting or a movie and just enjoy the quiet.  I love those slow periods…but then I get into the middle of all of this busy-ness, and I think that if I had just crossed more stuff off of my “do” list during one of those moments, I wouldn’t feel the need to juggle so much.  I would have things accomplished and crossed off of the list already.

I’ve been doing this mindfulness exercise this week from this book that I adore, “How to Train a Wild Elephant: And Other Adventures in Mindfulness”, which is to leave no trace.  You pick a room in the house and for that one week, you try to leave no trace of yourself behind when you leave that room.  Now I’ll be honest, I haven’t really been focusing solely on one room in the house, mostly because I feel like I have my hand in so many pies right now.  But it’s been making me think of the deeper lesson of this exercise, which is all of those “little things” that you need to do but put off to do until the next day.  How often do I put something insanely simple on my “do” list, like “Email So-and-So” or “Send Thank You Note to Blah Blah”.  These are always tasks that it would take me under 10 minutes to do, but I just bump them to the next day.  I know that it’s not like I’m sitting on the couch, eating bon-bons and letting my brain melt with daytime television…but it sometimes feels like that when I start to question why I didn’t just put the skein of yarn back into the cabinet rather than letting it sit on the end of the coffee table for 3 days to “remind me” to put it away.  Writing a quick entry in this blog has certainly been on that list for several weeks now.  It should be something I can do in 10 or 15 minutes without even really trying, but it becomes a task instead.  I don’t feel like I do a lot of time-wasting activities – I’m not the type of person to spend hours on the internet or social networking sites, I don’t zone out in front of random television and actually don’t even really turn on the TV unless I have something specific to watch…and yet somehow, there are still not enough hours in the day.  Maybe if I can re-mold my brain into seeing what balance truly is and figure out what it means to me to “leave no trace” of all the half-started projects of one’s life, I can start to see the 24 hours of the day differently.

Speaking of half-started projects, I am now on the *third* casting on of a project.  What monumentally difficult project is causing me so much grief, you ask?  Is it the wedding canopy?  The latest sweater?  Something devastatingly amazing looking that involves colourwork, cables, AND lace?  None of the above.  It’s a baby hat. It’s not even an unfamiliar baby hat – it’s a baby hat pattern that I have used and successfully finished at least half a dozen times before.  And I’ve nearly finished it the first two times that I worked on it this time…but then, almost always a dozen rounds from the finish line, I ripped it back out.  Why, you ask?  Extra yarn.  I know, I know, my desire to use up every last bit of yarn on a project will surely be the death of me…but honestly, what am I going to do with 49 extra yards of some random fingering weight yarn that I was already trying to use up by making this particular project with it?  This hat comes in 3 different sizes – 6 month, 12 month, and 24 month.  It’s adorably cute, and small, and portable, and I’ve done it so many times that I don’t even really need to think about what I’m doing, I just do.  I needed a little project to take with me to the movies, so I snagged this yarn and the needles, tucked it into my purse, and by the end of the film had finished the edging.  I kept going through staff meetings, and breakfasts with Megan, and episodes of Homeland with my uncle…and then during one of those episodes I realized that I still had a pretty big ball of that yarn left and not a lot of decreases to go.  I had cast on for the smallest size, but clearly, I had enough left over to probably bump up at least one.  So I ripped back and started over with the 12 month size.  On Saturday, after an exhausting day with Joel of painting the sunroom (which looks AMAZING now), I was watching the movie “Mud” – absolutely fabulous and not to be missed – and again within spitting distance of finishing…when once again, I looked down and realized I still had a baffling amount of yarn left over.

So now I’m back at square one, making the size that should fit a 2 year old, and praying that when I get to those rotten decreases, I don’t once again have the urge to rip out and start over.  This project was supposed to be my travel knitting, a little palette cleanser while I work on huge and monumental projects like knitting a wedding canopy with laceweight yarn or knitting a sweater from a pattern that makes me wonder if the copy editor might have been hitting the sauce while writing up the opening instructions…and this hat, which will fit a wee little person’s head and should by no means be this difficult given the number of times I’ve successfully completed it, has been restarted more times than either one of those projects combined!

Ah well…at least I can cross one thing off of my “do” list.  Blog entry – done.