Okay, frantic paper-writing is complete (well, the paper isn't what I would consider done, but the time for writing it has ended, and it's submitted), so now that I'm back to frantic exam-studying, I can take a moment to catch up on some of these prompts. (Exam-studying is still frantic, but I can take breaks a little more easily than if I'm trying to finish a paper. Because studying is, by necessity, a somewhat more redundant process than trying to get ideas down on a page.)
Prompt: Make. What was the last thing you made?
What materials did you use?
Is there something you want to make,
but you need to clear some time for it?
How to answer this one? The literally last thing I made was breakfast, about 15 minutes ago (if you can call pouring cereal and milk in a bowl "making").
I made a 36-pp. paper yesterday (well, I made it complete).
I made a mistake on my exam Tuesday (not that I'm sure what it is, but I'm sure there's a mistake in there somewhere).
I made up my mind about what classes to take next semester. (Sort of. I might un-make it and make it up again.)
I made a classmate happy by sending her some information she needed.
But I am going to go with knitting, because that's one of the few things I do (sporadically) that really feels like making something. Okay, baking feels like making something, too, but mostly if it's a big, bravura baking project (I need one of those. I think I may make danish from scratch over break).
So the last thing I made is about 1/2 of the first scarf pictured in this nice blogger's post. I'm doing mine in red, and in a slightly different yarn (but same weight, so all's good). It's a bamboo-merino mix (but not the brand the pattern recommends), so it will be warm, but hopefully not too itchy. (My curse as a knitter is that I can't actually wear wool because it makes me itch.)
I can't remember when exactly I started it – a couple of months ago, I think? – and the project has languished on and off just because I don't always have time to pick up the needles in the evening. But at some point this semester I decided that I needed something to that was a true break from anything work-related. I have a bad habit of sitting in front of the TV with the computer on my lap, idly surfing, not really paying attention to that's on the TV, skimming from here to there to there on the web, never really engaging in anything. Which is fine as far as it goes. But I realized that for me, that wasn't really an effective break from work (school), because I wasn't actually doing anything else, which didn't really take my brain away from school. Plus, I'd often have the computer open intending to start something school-related, really I will, in just a minute, I promise! And a break on which I'm pretending to myself I really am working isn't really a break at all.
What's so great (for me) about knitting is that I have to pay attention to it. I can't just have it open, or on, and glance at it; I can't just react to it. If I want anything to happen with it, I have to do it, myself. And while there are stretches that I can work pretty much automatically (knit, purl, stockinette), I'm not a good enough knitter for that that to happen really often. (A wonderful former mentor of mine who is also a champion knitter often knits at conferences, wonderful complicated sweaters and the like, and pays attention, asking questions while the needles are flashing away. I can't do that!) Plus, I find auto-knitting fairly boring – I want to have to figure it out, and to see the results almost instantly.
I do knit in front of the TV most of the time – so I do multi-task to that extent – but I find the TV more becomes background. I think I tried to knit a little when we were watching The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, but I had to stop because, of course, the movie is subtitled, so I had to pay attention to the screen! (I think I don't realize how much of my TV watching is really TV listening, much of the time.)
The other great thing about knitting is that I can't pretend that I'm not really knitting and I really will get to my work in a moment; I have to decide that yes, I am not going to work right now, I am going to do something fun. And I think it's good for me to make those decisions consciously, and not just let time slip away from me as I dither and putz.
So, the thing about the scarf: I don't think it's at all hard (but I am a sort of odd knitter in that the second project I did after learning to knit as an adult was a pair of socks. It was a great "beginners' sock" kit, and wasn't hard, but I'm told that's not really very beginner-y. So my standards may be a bit odd). And I have decided that I really like knitting lace (not real lace with teeny-tiny needles – but knitting lace), because I like having to pay attention to which stitch comes next, and the glory of all these strange holes in your work falling into a pretty pattern. But I can't tell you how many rows I had to tink (un-knit) to back up to an error and start over again – I think because I kept picking this up at the end of a long day when I was tired, so I would make stupid mistakes. And while I know there are tricks for fixing mistakes (like dropped stitches) without having to rip everything back, I don't know how to translate them to lace.
But I duly tinked myself back to the problems, figured them out, and redid everything, so that it all turned out looking nice and right. In fact, I don't think there are any "errors" in it that I can find, so far – there were, but I went back and fixed them all. And I find that immensely satisfactory. I think for me, knitting is a bit like baking – they both promise that if you follow the directions exactly, you will end up with a result which looks like what it's supposed to look like. And I find that immensely satisfactory, too – that if you follow the rules correctly, good things result. (This says volumes about my psyche, I do realize that.)
The other thing about this scarf, though: I'm cheating. I have never ever figured out my gauge (for non-knitters: figuring out how many stitches to the inch you make on given needles with given yarn, so that you can know that the size of the item you knit on those needles with that yarn is the size it's supposed to be). Because on scarves (at least, the ones I've done), it doesn't really matter if your gauge matches the required gauge – so what, your scarf is bigger than planned! or smaller! It still works as a scarf! And the socks I've knit have been intended more as experiments, and I just went with big sizes on the theory that I could wear them as slipper-socks around the house. So while I've figured out this nifty lace pattern and figured out how to turn a heel, I've never made anything intended actually to fit me (or anyone else).
So that takes me to the second part of this prompt: I have decided that in 2011, I want to make a sweater. For myself. That actually fits.
There are a few rules involved here. I have to finish the scarf first. (I do have a couple of half-finished projects lying around, but I really don't have the money or time to rack up a lot of them, and I want to get out of the habit of starting something because its new, and then getting bored with it either when it's hard, or when the newness wears off.) I think I can do that over break without a problem, but I am not allowed to buy more yarn until the scarf is done!
So, okay, that's only one rule, actually, since the rest are kind of issues/questions to be resolved. I'm not sure what kind of yarn to go with – on the one hand, I want it to be yarn that I like and would wear, since there's no point in going through a whole sweater project to end up with a sweater I don't like the feel of so won't wear. On the other hand, I don't feel comfortable starting with something really nice and really expensive, because I've never made a sweater before, and what if I screw it up (as I probably will) and never want to wear it? Plus, there's no way my first sweater is going to be any good, so I feel like I should go with a sort of scrap yarn, just to test the waters and see how it all turns out. I mean, it's been one thing to use lovely, expensive yarn for a scarf, which only needs 1-2 skeins. It's another when you're buying double-digits of skeins for a sweater! That said, I don't want to cheap out entirely, because cheap yarn is nasty.
Then, of course, there is the issue of what to knit. I'm torn between a cardigan and a hoodie (or, of course, I could split the difference and go with a hooded cardigan…). This requires much poring over ravelry. (Which is quite fun in itself.)
If I do take on a sweater, I will definitely need to clear away time for it. I think the idea thing is if I could get the project set up and start working over break, when I will have bigger chunks of free time. Then I might have some momentum to carry me through next semester. If I have a project underway, where all I have to do is pick it up and work on whatever element is needed at that time, it might be easier to say, Right, I am going to knit for half an hour. Then I will have built-in break time, which I need to have anyway.
So that's a lot more than I thought I was going to say, all about knitting.