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June 23, 2008

When it is 113 degrees outside you need... a hand-knit mitten!

On Saturday it was too hot to leave the safety of the air-conditioned house. It was just disgusting outside. I love the Valley but this is the time of year I wonder why I don't live in Iceland. Anyway, I got up freakishly early to do laundry and clean house before it got up in the hundreds and by 10 a.m. I was done working on my list of house chores. I could have moved on to another pile of work (I have lists of to-dos that would make your toes curl) and I knew I should turn on the computer and try to get caught up (seeing as I am always about two weeks behind in life) but it was Saturday and the cats were so cute and I was so tired of working and ... it was REALLY hot. So I did something I never do -- I pulled the blinds down and cranked up the air conditioning and decided to have a completely lazy day.

I never have lazy days. I LOVE lazy days!!

For Christmas this past year I bought myself the biggest dorkiest gift ever -- the full season DVD set of The Pretender. I never watched that show when it was on TV but last year I found it through iTunes and got hooked. But iTunes only has the first season so come holiday time I went full-hog and bought the whole set.

Since December of 2007 I have only made it through Season One and the first episode of Season Two (I don't have a lot of free time, see: "crazy person.") On Saturday I pulled out the DVDs and put on Season Two and then I decided I would accompany it with a big glass of iced tea and some knitting. Yes, knitting! I do have three big scarves that are thisclose to finished and I could've finish them up. OR! Or I could start a whole new project, which seemed way more fun on a lazy day.

A few years back I wanted to make the Super Mittens pattern from the book Weekend Knitting. I never made them, though, just reading through the pattern was so intimidating I didn't want to start it! I think that I was afraid of making a mistake or getting stuck. And I find some patterns are so hard to read, I know now that pattern shorthand is always part of the knitting business but sometimes I think patterns use shorthand to an extreme when a few actual words thrown in could save a lot of confusion.

Anyway, I pulled that mitten pattern out on Saturday morning, dug up the recommended needle sizes and my notions kit and then I decided on some yarn from my stash. I like Paton's Rumor yarn, especially that pink color ("Duberry Heather") and I'd been making a scarf with it so I guestimated it would fit the gauge of the mitten pattern. I made no gauge swatch because I am a lazy and bad knitter, the kind your mother warned you about. I just cast on and started working away. At first I cast on and divided the stitches on three needles:


But it got awkward real quicklike so I switched to four needles:


Much better! Plus I got so much help while knitting:


I just sat there happy as a cat myself, knitting and watching TV and trying to keep the Bob from eating my needles. The regular cuff part was a breeze, just knit in the round for a while. Then you get to the gusset for the thumb:


It wasn't nearly as hard as I thought. You just place some markers and do little increases here and there to make it wider in one spot. I made the decision early on in the morning that this piece of knitting would be fun, not work, and if I screwed it up so what. It's just yarn. The world would keep spinning on its axis.

I managed to make the whole mitten to the top except the thumb and I was so pleased with myself. Then I got to the thumb instructions and it was like reading Greek! I couldn't understand a damn word of it. I got kind of mad, I admit it, because I just could not figure it out. I said some curse words. I declared that the lazy day of happiness had ended and thumb doom had descended. Then I got over it and called it a day.

On Sunday, Faith came by and I made her read the pattern for starting the thumb and she agreed it made no sense whatsoever. So we got in her air-conditioned car and went to A Mano Yarn Shop. I had a gift certificate for that shop and heck, it was my birthday after all and I needed 1) thumb help and 2) some double-pointed needles to replace the ones that an unnamed cat ("Bob") dug out of my bag and chewed up. That counts as necessary in my book.

And I am so happy we went to A Mano! It's one of those great yarn shops that has friendly, laid-back people that love helping you out with projects (they also have gorgeous yarn there!) And how can you not love a shop where co-owner Annette brings her puppy:


And co-owner Shannita was there, too, here she and Faith are visiting and check out the yarn wall:


But I am 100% crazy happy grateful for lovely Kim, who is a master knitter and just as nice and calm as can be and patiently showed me how to de-code the thumb portion of the pattern. She showed me how to pick up stitches and where to join and she was awesome, thank you Kim!!

Kim rocks.

I did it, I finished my very first mitten ever:

I swear I was happier with that damn mitten than if I'd made cold fusion. Nothing says "summer in Los Angeles" like a hand-knit mitten. If you come to Los Angeles this summer and want to do some yarn shopping I cannot recommend A Mano Yarn Center highly enough! They know good yarn. And thumbs.

This was the first time I'd really wanted to knit (and enjoyed it) in a while. I am not very good at being competitive with yarn. I know that many people take knitting very seriously and have goals and expectations and want to be The. Best. Knitter. Ever.

But me? Not so much. Honestly I took up knitting to keep my hands busy so I would not drunk dial a certain ex-husband. To me, knitting is a craft. It's a hobby. An activity. It is not fun for me when people get weird and competitive and try to put it on a schedule and judge you -- that is when it turns into a job and frankly I have enough jobs to keep me busy. I am just ornery, too, so if something starts to feel like work or pressure I will refuse to do it (since I already have work and pressure.)

When I started knitting a few years back, I had no goals. I could have cared less if I ever made anything functional or fancy or good. And sometimes I USE INEXPENSIVE YARN. Sure, I like big fancypants expensive yarn, too, but I'm an equal-opportunity yarn hoarder. But after a while all the enjoyment slowly got sucked out of knitting for me. It started to feel like an expectation and a job. Then a few days ago I found reader Sarah's Knitting Resolutions, which had me laughing out loud. And you know what? I remembered I used to really enjoy knitting, back before I felt all pressured to be competitive or right or good at it. And I do like knitting -- MY way.

I'm not fast at it, I'm not good at it and I make things that often don't work at all and that is completely 100% OK with me. I just knit for enjoyment and truth is I'm not ever going to be competitive. I hate reading patterns and I often get stressed out with knitting (I cussed over that thumb like you would not believe.) I can't count half the time and can't even remember to use the stitch counter. But I DON'T CARE! I just like doing it. I am not trying to be like any other great, famous, rockin' knitters. I have friends who astonish me with their precision and speed and ingenuity and I love them for it and at the same time I'm just happy to make a garter scarf. I am not trying to be anything knitty. I just want to hold some pretty yarn.

That is my story and I am sticking to it.



Posted by laurie at June 23, 2008 10:17 AM