Since I got back from my work time in the mountains, just over two weeks ago, I have been unable to settle on a knitting project. I haven't been able to put yarn and needles, idea or pattern, and sustaining interest together and keep them there. Normally I have a pair of simple socks going, and that's what I worked on during odd moments in the mountains. I've finished two pairs I haven't even worn yet.
During the push for the final deadlines on The Project (in its expanded form), I still need knitting. I actually went to a meeting last weekend without knitting. This is unheard of, and not conducive to my comfortably sitting still. Fortunately, I made it through the meeting—not an occasion where I could be working on The Project (except during breaks, when, yes, I did pull out my laptop and make some progress).
The problem of No Knitting has been getting worse, to the point where I was edgy all weekend. Yet I have, scattered around the house, a number of things that I've started and been unable to keep going on. Among other ideas, I've tried starting another pair of socks (or two), an Estonian-style scarf, a lace cowl (that actually got knitted, but wasn't interesting enough and didn't last long enough). I normally plan, swatch, and start much more than I finish, but in this case energy was leaking everywhere without getting me where I needed to go: to a calm space.
By Sunday it was clear that I'd better figure out a knitting project or my sanity and health were going to be at risk. It's not like I have much time to knit (since every time I sit down at home I'm working either on the laptop or at the spinning wheel). But I do still need the comforting, orderly progress of stitches while dealing with the unruly hugeness of The Project . . . which I've been doing amazingly well with so far, in part because of ongoing knitting.
What I need in this situation is something that will be challenging enough to hold my attention (the reason those simple socks won't work right now . . . they're like finger exercises) and yet undemanding enough that it won't add any stress . . . or require much brain power. My brain is completely focused on The Project. Which currently seems endless.
(The primary text was turned in on February 1, with one significant hole—that I just spent two days filling. The supplementary text was turned in on March 11, with three small gaps, one of which has been filled. I have not prepared all the samples for the supplementary material yet. Until I needed to fill the text gap, I was spinning all day every day, and I will return to that now that I have the gap filled.)
So I got another idea that I thought might work.
When I attended Cat Bordhi's Visionary Retreat in February, my roommate, a fine knitting designer, wore a garment she had knitted as a sample for another designer. It was Ysolda Teague's "Vivian" hooded cardigan. The sweater looked comfortable, stylish, and practical. I looked it up, and found it at Twist Collective. The photography for the pattern shows a more form-fitting version than my roommate had made and was wearing—and the extra ease she incorporated made it look like a comfortable sweater I'd be likely to actually wear.
I pondered yarns. Requirements: (1) enjoyable to work with = good quality, (2) free to cheap, and (3) works up at a gauge approximately equal to that of the pattern (willing to recalculate for minor gauge differences, but not to completely redraft the pattern . . . which I normally do, but Not Now).
I remembered a stash of handspun that would work for the sweater, and even located it. However, to get near the pattern's gauge, I'd need to uptwist the two-ply and then cable it: a good, appealing move, and one that could be accomplished relatively quickly, but every spinning-wheel minute needs to be devoted to The Project.
I didn't have enough of any other yarn that felt appropriate, but I did swatch some Brown Sheep Top of the Lamb, which looked promising. I needed yarn FAST: I needed to have some knitting in the works. All but one of the yarn shops within twenty minutes are closed on Sundays, and most are closed Mondays. But a new one . . . a new one I'd never been in . . . had Monday hours and its web site said it carried Brown Sheep. I also knew that it carries very nice specialty yarns, likely to be outside my nonexistent budget (my reason for not visiting the only other quick-access yarn shop that is open on Mondays; nearly everything they stock is, while lovely, pricey).
Mid-afternoon on Monday, I stole time I couldn't spare and drove down there. No Top of the Lamb. A small, well-selected stock . . . but only two yarns with (almost) enough skeins for the cardigan. One of which would have produced fantastic results, and would have aligned very neatly with the topic of The Project, but would have required me to recalculate the entire pattern, moving it from 4.25 stitches/inch to 5 stitches/inch: a job for another mental state, my more normal mental state. That would also have cost more than twice as much as I was ready to spend (although for what it was, the yarn was very reasonable).
What I ended up with is Brown Sheep's Lanaloft, which looks to me like Top of the Lamb without the mohair. I probably have enough: I bought all they had, which was one skein less than my "safety" amount.
On Monday evening at knitting group, I cast on for a sleeve (which I'm using as a swatch; this, too, is contrary to my normal, swatch-heavy practice, but I'd already swatched the Top of the Lamb, and have I mentioned I've been desperate?). Within inches, I knew I had the right combination of yarn, needles, and design to keep me anchored in some semblance of mental and physical health while completing The Project.
- my roommate at the Visionary Retreat (for planting the idea)
- Ysolda Teague (for the pattern)
- Brown Sheep (for reliable, reasonable yarns in good colors)
- Your Daily Fiber (for being open on Mondays)
I may have been pulled back from the brink of both an ulcer (or other
stress-related physical malady) and wigging out.
When within reach of the materials for working on The Project, that's
still what I'm putting all my attention on. However, when I'm not
within reach of those materials, or can't concentrate well enough due to
life's other requirements, I can knit this satisfying yarn into these
satisfying relationships. It's complex enough to be interesting, simple enough to be do-able with a frayed brain, and it's finite.
The "finite" part is what I'm not sure about on The Project . . . and why I especially need a bit of just-right knitting NOW.