Friday, August 04, 2006

The simmering on the back burner project

A number of years ago, my mother bought me a kit for a project. Now, I'm not usually one to go for the kit. More often than not I've got my own ideas about the colors, or the fiber, or something else. That is, if I see a kit project that I like at all. Generally speaking, I do think kits tend to be made up for not the most attractive projects. Why is that? Nevertheless, I have this kit, and I love it. I love it for several reasons, some of them completely mundane and obvious.

- I love the lace pattern. It's funky and delicate and not at all too froo-froo or hokey.

- I love the shapes. No granny squares here -- these are magic, organic looking hexagons, something I've not seen too many other places.

- I love the colors. The overall wash is of lavendar hues that bloom in each of the hexagons, looking almost tie-dyed but softer and totally flower-child but in a good way. As you're knitting, the colors unspool like a rainbow, individual shades arriving and changing and striking you anew over and over again. In certain spots, it's like knitting with Fruit Stripes Gum -- remember that? With the zebra?

- I love that you can make different things from the basic units. Right now, I'm just knitting hexagons to be joined later. Will it be a shawl? A throw? A blanket? Who can say? Who cares? It'll be whatever I want when I've got enough pieces.

- I love that it's transportable. Especially now that I've got the hang of the pattern (sort of), it's become the most perfect traveling pattern. Given that I'm on the subway nearly every day, I really need that.

- I love that the small pieces combined with the fine yarn make it a perfect summer knit. M. I's back deck? The beach? My own backyard? It's there, baby.

- I love that whatever else I'm working on and however crazy it's making me, I can always turn to this for a quick fix. One hexagon knits up pretty quickly -- even when I'm the one knitting! -- and even though that makes just one little part of the overall whole, it still feels like a finished object.

- I love that the last three things I said I love about this project make it a nice, comforting project that's always there when I need it. Just finished one project and don't have another ready to go? Knit some hexagons -- you always need more of those.

Most of all, however, I love the personal history I have with this project. When I first saw it, on the cover of which ever knitting catalog it came from, I had been knitting for maybe two years and had made several scarves, one dress that was really just a tube knit on circulars with ties at the shoulders, and, most recently, a real honest-to-goodness sweater with long sleeves and a cowl-esque neck for my mother. A lace-pattern shawl/throw/blanket made up of numerous hexagons knit with yarn as fine as embroidery floss on double pointed needles? Hey, why the heck not? Well, of course, I found out why not. I couldn't manage the dpns, the fine thread was a nightmare, and the pattern was full of terms I couldn't make head or tail of and couldn't find in the "How To..." booklet from 1950-something or the Martha Stewart article on beginner's knitting that were all I had in the way of knitting instruction. Still, I soldiered on, trying again and again to 'yo k1b' while needles were slipping out of yarn and stitches were slipping everywhere. The pauses between times when I'd pick up the project became longer and longer, until finally I'd stopped knitting all together. I didn't knit again for about two years.

Then one day, struck by the need for a gift, or maybe stumbling on some particularly delicious yarn, I picked up the needles again. As I recall, I made another scarf. Then a few more. Then a hat. Then a cardigan (a favorite that I'm wearing now). At some point, I made a pair of socks. There were those darned dpns again, but this time the yarn was chunkier, the pattern more straight forward, and I managed to turn a heel. I clearly remember feeling, quite suddenly, "hey, I'm a real knitter now -- I'm just turned a heel!" So sometime after that I picked up this project again. And, lo and behold, I could do it. It was a bit of a struggle at first, but nothing compared to the first time around, and it worked! I made a lovely, lavendar, multi-hued hexagon! The first of many, so that by now they're even easier than this time last year. It's a benchmark; a watershed. And it proves to me that no matter what else may or may not have been happening in the past few years of my life, I've been turning into a better knitter. I can do a project now -- and even enjoy it -- that seemed an utterly impossible mystery to me a few short years ago. That is a quantifiable, definitive good in my life.


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