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.

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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 sitting down and trying to make this sweater again, I’m getting such a sense of deja vu.  Past me definitely took notes on the swatch and the needle size and went through the pattern, dutifully underlining the correct size instructions throughout.  But when I make a mistake or struggle with a direction, I definitely get that feeling of “Haven’t I been here before?” in terms of my thought process, and it’s weird.  I’m knitting the sweater body as all one piece, of course – it still never makes sense for me to do things in pieces if it can be helped.  Did past Hester do that?  I didn’t think she did, but I started to change that thought process when I was struggling to do the set-up rows right after the cast on.  For some reason, I was losing count of which sections were supposed to be k1p1 and which ones were straight garter stitch.  I finally had to write it all out in number form at the bottom of the chart page…and as I did that, I had what I think was a memory of past Hester cursing and writing out that same number combination on the bottom of a piece of paper with diagnostic charts on it, looking at the 4 quadrants of what can affect a person’s mental health.  It’s not anywhere on the pattern, but there it was in my memory.  And that mistake that I made and realized on row 5 of the chart, where I totally misread the number of stitches which are supposed to be purled in the 28 stitch section, thinking mistakenly that you k2, p24, then k2 to complete the 28 stitch section, only to realize when I needed to count to begin the increases that those two knit stitches on either side of the purls were actually from the stockinette section on either side of the 28 stitch section, and were only there to help you see the decreases…I know I made that mistake before and had to drop down those 2 stitches on either side of all those purls, to ladder them back up and create them as purl stitches…in fact, isn’t that one of the reasons that I ripped back and started over again?  Wasn’t I so irritated with how much laddering that created in that little section, since this yarn is *beyond* unforgiving in terms of hiding mistakes that I went back to the transition from the ribbed edging and started over from there?  I feel like that’s something I did then.  (I’m trying not to do that this time, that’s an annoying task I’d rather not do.)  Yes, this all feels very familiar.

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.

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

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