Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Knitting as fast as I can

Today was marked by a blessed absence of major intestinal upsets, although the bath tub got quite a workout. Whenever any of us feel bad for almost any reason, we take a bath. Even Eric, who is generally a shower-only kind of guy, headed there once. I love baths, and have for as long as I can remember. Now I like them most when I get to take one alone, with a good book for company. I often get to take baths with other small people for company, though.

Instead of a bath this morning, I took a nap. That's right, I fell right back asleep this morning after the baby got up and she and I fell asleep together. I must have really needed it, because I didn't hear the cacophony from the living room. Eric felt bad enough to stay home a second day, so the Visigoths had someone to make breakfast for them while I was unconscious.

After that, the rest of the day felt as though I was running through molassas. The house seemed much more wrecked than one day of the Queen of Order being laid up should have rendered it. So I cleaned up what I could, while feeling rather faint and blowing my nose a lot. I had planned to spend the day knitting, but had to clear the area first. Then, of course, those children seemed to want to eat occasionally. And to talk. And to have books read to them. And to argue about pretty much anything ("I wanted to hand the phone to mama! Waaaaah!" "He licked my leeeeeeegggggg!").

Not as much knitting as I'd hoped to do, especially since I spent some of the time I did have to knit rectifying things like this.

That's right, I can't even make ribbing go in the right order.

Sometimes I wonder if I'm uniquely unqualified to knit, given my lack of attention to detail and enhanced skill at multitasking, also known as being a bit scatterbrained. It's useful dealing with four children, and it's useful if I want to accomplish anything besides keeping up with the random event generators and their messes, but I don't spend a lot of time in quiet contemplation or accomplishment.

[Unless I'm reading. I'm well into Clara Schumann: The Artist and the Woman by Nancy B. Reich. Schumann makes me seem like a complete lazybones.]

So. . . that knitting thing is frustrating. I knit for a lot of reasons. I learned (for the second time, the first one at 7 not sticking) when I was staying at home with my first child in a town where I knew no one. I like the look of knitted fabric, and I like that I could take out and redo any mistakes. I sew also, and knitting was more portable and instantaneous for me. (I have, however, sewn in sleeves upside down in both knitted and sewn garments.) I knit because I like the creation of something that wasn't there before; something that no one else can do, even if they use the same yarn and pattern. It's me. I like knitting just what I need at the time. A scarf? Sure! A gray sweater -- yes, that's what I need! Wrapping my children up in things I've knitted warms me as well as them. I knit so I can sit still.

But right now, I knit in the interstices of my day. Rows here, rows there, a bit at night after they're all asleep. At the park while they're playing -- IF the littlest Thing is asleep and not being held in arms. Not really the most conducive atmosphere for the kind of knitting I want to do.

I can knit almost any garment. Socks, sweaters, hats, little pants. I can follow patterns. But I can't focus my brain like a laser on my knitting, and I don't internalize patterns well. Perhaps because of the stop-and-go nature of my knitting. Perhaps because my interior is so crowded -- I don't know. My head knows more about knitting than my hands do. And, as anyone who does a craft knows, if the hands don't know it, the head can go soak itself.

I want to knit complicated patterns. Lace! Cables! Shaping with funky short rows! Faster! Faster! I want to drape everyone I love in yarny goodness, whether or not they want me to. I want to knit little home decor items. Actually, now that I think about it, I mostly don't want to do that. But I want the freedom that greater speed and concentration would give me.

Don't get me wrong. I realize that any minutes spent watching the littlest Thing discover things: "Hey. I have hands. I can move them. Look! They have another side. Ohmygosh is this the greatest thing ever or what?" are probably not better spent knitting, even if I have the cutest idea for a Fair Isle cardigan for a baby ever thought up. But I do struggle against what seems like painfully slow knitting coupled with an almost superhuman ability to make mistakes. Knitting everything I make at least twice, if not three times, if one counts all of the unraveling and redoing, definitely works against speed.

I watch friends effortlessly churning out cables and lace, no instructions in sight, and think, "Why can't I do that?" Despite the fact that I firmly believe comparisons are odious, when I read Wendy's blog or many other bloggers and see the sheer volume of what they're putting out, it's hard not to sigh a bit.

One day, I had an epiphany. I realized, after working on something, that it didn't matter if I knit faster if I wasn't spending any time knitting. Even slowly adding stitches to a garment grew the garment. So I do try to maximize my knitting speed, by using "fast" needles, by marking patterns and garments, by knitting Continental style, but when it all comes down, I just don't have tons of time. I knit what I can, when I can, trust that I'm learning not to make the same boneheaded mistakes over and over (like messing up the ribbing while increasing on that mittlet), and that I'll add knowlege as my overheated head can fit it.

So last night, I finished the first of the Cool Little Mittlets (which for some reason, like too much Black Adder, I keep calling the Cunning Little Mittlets).
And since I know myself, and more importantly, know my circumstances, I immediately cast on for the left one.

After all, it's going to be easier to try speeding things up with Combination Knitting with warm hands.

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