Monday, October 31, 2016

Nearly November

It's hard to believe that, in about 60 days, we'll be wrapping up 2016.

I enjoyed the Read-A-Thon this year. In a lot of ways, it was just what I needed--to sit and read until my brains fell out. I finished re-reading Morrison's Beloved, and actually came up with an idea for an article.

So this week I spent a little time researching and jotting down ideas for that. It's not like I have, oh, say, 3 other articles backlogged in various states of near-completion.

Seriously. I need to get on that. Right now, the reading (and other things) are going well, but the writing (sort of) continues at a bit of a snail's pace.

And because the reading has been going so well, there's this. I'm back working on the squares for the blanket.

That project has picked up a bit because last weekend, I learned a new skill: how to knit two-handed, two-stranded colorwork.

Although it sounds complicated--and sort of is--it's not something I'd ever suggest a beginning knitter contemplate, much less attempt--if you're a seasoned knitter, it's not so nutty.

When you knit colorwork, you have two colors of yarn (obviously). You knit stitches with one, carry the other behind the knitting and then knit stitches with the other when you want to include the second or contrasting (as opposed to the "main" color).

So, in the photo above, the really dark blue is actually the main color, and the lighter blues and green are the contrasting colors.

Normally, you knit either right-handed (English or American style--often called "throwing") or you knit left-handed (European or Continental style--often called "picking"). The difference between the two lies in the hand that holds the yarn.

Word on the street is, Continental style is faster, and that's probably true, although experts disagree about whether "faster" knitting necessarily produces more knitted items. Some studies (yes, they do studies about knitters and knitting) have shown that the most productive knitters aren't necessarily the fastest, they simply knit a lot. So every spare moment they have, they knit a bit. (I suspect I'm beginning to fall dangerously close to landing in this category.)

With two-handed, two-stranded colorwork, you knit both right and left handed, simultaneously. So, you hold one color yarn in your right hand, and one color yarn in your left hand, and you knit right handed when you need to knit stitches with the right-handed color, and you knit left-handed when you need to knit stitches with the left-handed color.

It makes colorwork a LOT faster. It's a slow and slightly cumbersome process when you first learn, but for a seasoned knitter like myself, it's actually sort of interesting to practice. I practiced a little with the colorwork square pictured above and I also just practiced knitting continental style separately, so I could get used to that.

You just need to develop muscle memory in your hands for the new knitting technique, and that will necessarily take a little time and patience.

So I simply set aside about an hour a day to practice, and if it got too annoying, I'd quit after an hour, but if it was going "okay" I'd keep going after an hour, until it... got too annoying. And then I'd just go knit something in my old, right-handed way, and be happy and relaxed.

In the meantime, after five months, I finished my first lace-knitting project-- a shawl.

As I commented to friends, I'm not really sure when I'm going to wear such a thing, since I have to keep it from the kitty cats (my Freya likes to chew wool, which is not a great habit to have in a knitter's home).

And I'm an introvert, so the whole glamorous night--on-the-town idea leaves me blinking and staring in slight bewilderment at the people who suggest such things, but as I told them, "I suppose I could give it a try."

In all seriousness, though, I do have a couple of nice summer dresses, and there's no reason I couldn't throw this on as a fancy kind of "jacket." I'll just have to adjust to the idea that I'm not wearing an actual jacket, and I'll be good to go.

So why did I make the blessed thing, if I don't wear shawls? Really, your question should be, why am I going to embark on making another one, if I don't wear shawls?

Because I like the way they look. Because they're cool and challenging, and sometimes a knitter likes a challenge, for no real reason at all.

And because in my mind's eye, I really can picture myself sitting out on my patio on a spring or autumn evening, reading a book and sipping a little tea with this wrapped around my shoulders.

And that, to me, is a little slice of heaven.

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