Thursday, August 4, 2011

In Which I Show Off

I am terrible at most domestic skills. My grandmother baked and sewed and gardened and made lovely shadow boxes and wreathes from vintage notions and quilts. I always wanted to have a house like hers-- smelling of dinner and dried flowers, with treasures tucked into every available space.

I started art classes in elementary school and continued them all the way through college. I was decent but not great. Also in elementary school, I tried cross-stich and latch hooking, both of which were boring and inherently kitschy. In junior high, I tried sewing lessons, but it just didn't take. Later on, I tried teaching myself embroidery and got as far as creating a few gnarled flowers before deciding that the application was too limited to be worth all the effort.

At nineteen, I bought some cheap, shiny acrylic yarn, a pair of long metal needles, and a booklet called "10 20 30 Minutes to Learn to Knit." The woman on the cover of the booklet was smiling brilliantly, on her way to producing a scratchy sweater-vest or sock puppet.

The first few days involved a lot of stifled cursing and flinging yarn at the wall. Every ten minutes or so, I got up, stormed out of the living room, and found something else to do until I calmed down enough to return to the knitting. After a week, I had a slanting, lumpy blob of fabric about ten inches long. Eventually I made a series of errors that I wasn't equipped to correct, and I gave up on that blob and started another. Blob Two was more successful, running straight for nearly two feet until I was bored out of my mind and ready to try a scarf. I cast on, checking the booklet over and over, and made quick progress on a long, skinny K1P1 scarf. (I don't recommend scarves to beginning knitters. The length of the project makes a lot of people give up in frustration.)

After I had completed the scarf, and then discovered that something was wrong with my knit stitch and I had just completed a six-foot-long project in which every single stitch was twisted, I decided that I needed a challenge and bought a book of stitch patterns at McKay. Now this was great. Instead of a book filled with huge, daunting projects that involved seas of plain knit stitches, here was a book of tiny, complex repeating motifs that I could apply to anything. I created another series of blobs, these ones tiny patches of lace and cables. This is still my go-to book when I'm thinking of beginning a project.

Small and fiddly projects are the best kind. They require a lot of concentration and fancy moves. Walking around in public with multiple tiny needles flying around my hands makes people not just interested, but impressed-- it's extreme knitting.

So here's a showcase of some of my mad knitting skills:

Felted bag and cozy

Cabled stocking caps



  1. Tyrannosanta is the best thing I have seen in a while. It is how I will teach my kids about where they get gifts at Christmas.

  2. His bag is full of bones from a Visible Man model.