Well, I didn’t finish the sweater

Alas, my Sweater of the Summer Olympics did not get done during my 17 days of avid sports-watching.  Its cowl neck is almost finished, but it still lacks sleeves.  My husband semi-jokingly suggested that I turn it into a sweater vest.  

My updated knitting goal is to finish the sweater by the end of the Paralympic Games, which run from Sept. 8 to Sept. 17 and deserve far more TV coverage than they normally receive.  (Awesome fact: wheelchair fencing is a medal sport.)

On an entirely different note—if you’re reading this, please drop me a line to let me know if it looks OK, format-wise.  This is my first attempt at writing a post on the WordPress mobile app (because my only-two-year-old laptop is dying, ugh), and I am not entirely confident in the app’s abilities.  

Quick Olympic knitting update

We’re halfway through the Olympic Games, and my can-I-knit-this-whole-thing-before-the-Closing-Ceremony sweater is… not exactly halfway done yet.  But I’ve made a lot of progress:

The back piece of a hand-knit gray sweater, with additional knitting on top.

I’ve finished the back of the sweater, and am getting started on the front.

And, well, that’s all I have to say at the moment.  Time to get back to the needles!

Knitting through the Games

We’ve entered that two-week period when the TV is always on in my house, a time more commonly known as the Olympic Games.  We like watching the Olympics.  My husband is a particular fan of track and field, and I enjoy learning more about sports and countries that get little attention otherwise.

This year, now that I’m back into knitting, there’s extra fun to be had.  Ravelry, the yarn and pattern database / project organizer / fiber-craft-oriented social network, hosts an event called the “Ravellenics.”  The goal is to knit or crochet or spin something over the 16 days of the Olympics (presumably while watching the Games on TV, although that’s not strictly required).

I am not a fast knitter, so making something start-to-finish over that time is already a challenge.  But apparently I felt that wasn’t enough and decided to make a sweater.  It’s called the “So Easy Sweater” and is 97% garter stitch, so I have hope.

I cast on Friday night while watching the Opening Ceremony and trying not to cringe at NBC’s awkward and vaguely offensive commentary.  My cat helped me take some pictures of my progress on Saturday.

Knitting needles poking out of a bag of yarn.

Knitting needles! Yarn! And about an inch of sweater.

Some knitting on the floor with a brown tabby cat laying nearby.

“No no, I’m just resting here. Definitely not plotting my next attack on your yarn.”

It’s quite soothing and pleasant to just curl up on the couch and watch sports and knit.  And since my anxiety has been having odd spikes lately, soothing and pleasant is exactly what I need.

Are you watching the Rio Olympics, readers?  What’s your favorite Olympic sport?

Status: steam-blocking

Now that I’ve gotten back into knitting and am feeling a bit more motivated to complete things, I’ve pulled some old projects out of hibernation and am working on the finishing touches.  That means weaving in ends (soooo tedious), sewing pieces of an afghan together (even more tedious), and blocking.  Blocking means coaxing your knit piece into its final shape and dimensions, using water or steam; it’s basically the process of making everything look nice at the end.

Two pictures of a knitting afghan square, before and after blocking.

The whole pinning and steaming procedure is a nicely meditative thing to do while Little Boy takes his afternoon nap.

I made socks, and why that matters

My feet, in green stripey socks.

It’s self-striping yarn—they look a lot fancier than they are.

I learned how to knit socks about three years ago, not long after rediscovering knitting as a hobby.  (It’s a wonderful hobby for introverts.  It makes small talk roughly 87 bajillion times more tolerable.)  Socks turned out to be the perfect project for me: they’re wearable, yet a manageable size; challenging enough to be interesting, but not so hard as to frustrate; and there are only two yarn ends to weave in, if all goes well.  Plus, brightly colored socks have always been my thing.  Back in high school, I was known among my friends for always giving funky (store-bought) socks as gifts.

I cast on this particular pair of socks in May 2014.  I worked on them through many an evening night of television, and I brought them with me on our last big pre-kid vacation.

And then Little Boy was born, and I stopped knitting.

It wasn’t just the lack of time, although that was a big part of it.  It was the depression, and the way trying to figure out where I was on these socks seemed like an enormous and exhausting task.  I’d had some problems with the yarn on the second sock, and was worried about getting the toe in the right place, and about running out of yarn.  It just seemed so un-fun.  Why bother?

I tried, once, when Little Boy was three months old.  It wasn’t enjoyable.  I didn’t try again.

Finally, a few months back, I left this pair in a box, found a different pattern, and started a completely different pair of socks.  And all the fun I remembered came back.  Not right away, but it came back—the relaxing feel of having something to do with my hands, the pleasure of making something, the daydreaming of what to make next.

That new pair of socks isn’t quite finished, but I found myself suddenly motivated to pull these green ones back out.  As it turned out, there wasn’t anything complicated left to do at all, just a few rows of straight knitting and an easy toe.  All the ugh I’d imagined was just in my imagination.

Here’s why these socks matter: they’re another corner turned.  Another step back from depression.  Another step towards life.

P.S.  If you’d like to make your own pair of green socks, here’s the pattern on Ravelry.  (I love Ravelry.)

Encouraging diversity (and knitting!) through children’s books

Not long after I posted my thoughts on raising a boy in a world of gender stereotypes, I received an unexpected email.  Like everyone online, I receive quite a few unsolicited emails—typically spam-blasts offering fraudulent part-time jobs to students and equally fraudulent requests to attend fake conferences—but this one seemed more relevant than usual, so I took the time to read it.

The email turned out to be from singer Craig Pomranz, who is also the author of the children’s book Made by Raffi.  He’d seen my post and thought I might like his book.  He was right: I like it a lot.  So much so, in fact, that I want to tell you why.MadeByRaffi-small

(Full disclosure: When I expressed interest in writing a review, I was provided with a free PDF copy of the story.  I intend to purchase a physical copy of the book when Little Boy gets a little less vigorously interested in ripping pages.  All of the opinions expressed in this review are my own.)

Made by Raffi is the story of a boy who feels a little bit different.  He likes to hang out by himself at recess, preferring quiet solitude to rowdy games.  During one of these recesses, a teacher shows him how to knit.  Raffi’s classmates react to his enthusiasm for knitting in the way you might expect, until they realize that the ability to create beautiful costumes is actually pretty cool.

The message, of course, is that boys can and should be encouraged to be themselves and do the things they enjoy, regardless of gender stereotypes.  One part in particular stood out to me: when a concerned Raffi asks his mom if he seems “girly,” she doesn’t say, “Yes, and that’s OK.”  She says, “No, Raffi.  I think you are very… Raffi.”  Because knitting and sewing and arts and crafts aren’t girly, they’re just activities that some people like to do.  (Fun fact: at certain points in history, knitting was an exclusively male occupation.  The idea that it’s somehow intrinsically feminine is entirely a construct of modern society.)

There’s another message here, too, one that applies to kids of all genders, which is that it’s OK to sit on the sidelines and do your own thing.  Raffi’s happy ending isn’t about running off to play soccer with the other kids.  He continues to sit alone, knitting, now comfortable in his own interests and accepted by his peers.  As an introvert, it took me until my late teens to begin to realize that being mostly uninterested in social events didn’t mean there was something fundamentally wrong with me.  I still struggle with this feeling sometimes.

Major credit is also due to illustrator Margaret Chamberlain, whose bright, lively artwork is filled with a diverse cast of children and adults.  Knitting and sewing look like a lot of fun!  (Which they are, I might add, speaking from experience.)  When Raffi sews a cape, the text and illustrations provide enough detail on the process that I can just imagine a child jumping up from the book to make his or her own cape. 

I look forward to finding out what Little Boy thinks of Made by Raffi in a couple of years.  In the meantime, I highly encourage other parents and gift-givers to check it out.