Weighty talk 

What weight yarn do you prefer? Do you have a favorite? Do you have one that you keep buying and then not using?

IMG_2037I am a huge sucker for lace weight yarns. They check a whole bunch of boxes for me:

• warm-weather friendly: they’re very lightweight and tend to be used for airy, almost weightless fabrics.

• economical: they often come in cones (as at left) or hefty skeins of 800+ yards for not much more cost, or even less, than their weightier cousins who show up in lengths of 400-ish.

• good knitting return on your investment: it takes quite a long time to knit 800 yards of lace weight yarn!

(These last two are not original to me; Elizabeth Zimmerman points them out in Knitting Without Tears. But I wholly agree with her.)

• frequent non-wool content: lots of lace yarns blend wool with drapier kinds of fibers like silk or alpaca, which is good if (like me) you tend to find wool a bit itchy.

• elegant: this is obviously subjective, and depends on what patterns you use. But generally speaking, the small diameter and significant drape of laceweight yarns seems to me to offer a more refined, formal, dressy look than heavier, more rustic yarns do. Don’t get me wrong, there’s no need to aim for a more formal, dressy kind of look all the time, and a good rustic wool has its own kind of elegance. But it’s a different kind of look, and I like the elegance lace offers.

HOWEVER…

I am not actually the best at knitting lace weight yarns:

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• it takes quite a long time to knit 800 yards of laceweight – which is great, until you get tired of the pattern, and of feeling like you’ve been knitting and knitting and knitting and knitting, and your fabric has grown two millimeters.

• the yarn is so light that the resulting fabric can lack structure. That’s great for flowing shawls, but not always flattering in other kinds of projects.

• knitting lace can be discouraging because it often looks terrible until blocked. Obviously this is the case if you’re knitting proper lace stitches, but even if you’re just doing stockinette, lace seems to show every last uneven stitch (unless done on truly tiny needles and then you really do take forever). Pretty much every project benefits from blocking, and if you can make it through a lace project and block it properly a magic wonder awaits you, but sometimes it’s hard to have faith that the crumpled thing hanging from your needles is going to turn out properly.

• I’m not really a lace shawl kind of person, so am usually trying to use it for other things – but there’s a reason so many designs for lace yarns are shawls.

• did I mention knitting laceweight takes a long time?

So, I keep buying lace yarn, but my finished objects have all pretty much been fingering weight, sport, or DK. I have some worsted weight that has been through various attempts at projects, none of which are yet finished, but I think the only thing I’ve knit out of bulky yarn was a hat for charity. (I think this is due to wool-aversion – many bulky wools are too warm/itchy for my current climate, but bulky cotton can get really really heavy, and I’m not a big fan of acrylic. There are a few bulky cottons of interesting constructions – tape or chain – that I’d like to try, but I’ve been too cheap to take the chance so far.)

I do have a couple of laceweight projects on the needles right now: The first is Carol Feller‘s Adrift in the pinky-maroon Misti Alpaca on the right in the picture above. I cast on at some point last fall, but it’s been languishing since I hit the short rows for shaping the neck – I really wanted some uncomplicated in-front-of-the-TV knitting, and kept screwing up the short rows in in the tiny yarn, so put it aside in favor of other projects and…well. (Nothing against the pattern, which is lovely, or the yarn, which is ridiculously soft.)

IMG_2050The second is Kate DaviesFrost at Midnight out of her amazing book, Yokes. I cast on a couple of months ago when I had been playing with the yarn, swatching and trying other projects for which it turned out to be unsuitable. It’s a heavy laceweight from Posh Yarn, 55% superwash BFL and 45% silk, and the color is amazing. That’s it to the left. I just ordered a bunch of different pinky and purplely beads to see which would work for the beaded yoke; can’t wait to see which are best!

(And oh, hey, it’s yet more brightly-colored variegated yarn! And more purple! The more things change…)

I’m not very far into Frost at Midnight yet; I made it through the provisional cast on and a few rows, but got distracted by baby gifts, Dalyla, and Stratum. Stratum had been going well, but I came to the end of the first skein of the gray yarn and didn’t want to wind another, so picked up Frost at Midnight again.

For some reason, this time I’m finding knitting lace especially soothing and meditative, and I’m enjoying the process almost more than the prospect of the final project. Maybe this time I’ll actually finish it, and acquire the knack for knitting lace? Maybe I’ll start using up my lace stash? Or, maybe this time next year, I’ll be talking about getting back to this project, and totting up how many more skeins of lace I own now (I bought two more last week…).

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The Love Your Blog Challenge: Ugly

A Playful Day

This is my response to the third prompt in A Playful Day’s Love Your Blog Challenge, which is Ugly. I’d been thinking about how knitters handle storage, which oddly seemed to sort of fit.

So many knitters I follow online take such lovely pictures of their projects and workspaces, I think sometimes it’s easy to believe that all knitters’ projects are so beautifully arranged and organized and stored. If you follow Stephen West on Instagram, for instance, he recently posted the most envy-inducing pictures of his yarn stash, organized by color in a free-standing antique cabinet with glass doors.

Me? My knitting storage is kind of ugly. I use a rolling three-drawer unit made out of plastic from Target, with a smaller, desktop-sized three-drawer unit made out of plastic (probably also from Target, but I can’t remember) stacked on top. It’s actually pretty well organized, it just doesn’t rate so highly on the aesthetics scale. The yarn that’s stored in the rolling-drawers-thingy sleeps safely in ziplocs. They’re not sorted within the drawers by anything other than “this is where this yarn fit,” but I did go through and Sharpie onto each ziploc how many yards are in it, at what weight. (If I know.)

My current projects all live in ziplocs as well:

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They’re not beautiful, but gallon-sized ziplocs are pretty much the most useful objects ever. I can fit yarn and needles and pattern together in one, and protect them all from the rising tide of cat hair and dust that threatens to overwhelm my home.

The ziplocs live in a a basket for my current projects:

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Stuffing it full of ziplocs isn’t that attractive, but it keeps everything sorted and from taking over the living room.

Hidden in the basket is this Chicken Boots circular needle case, which I love. It holds a surprising number of circular needles in decent order in a fairly small space. Before this, my circular needles lived in their packaging in a big padded manila envelope, so this is a huge upgrade.

IMG_2055It’s sort of a compromise between efficiency and prettiness. The fabric is pretty, and this is about the best way that I’ve found to wrangle circular needles, but they remain ungainly and awkward. Straight needles and DPNs can be very pretty, and look elegant stored in jars and vases, but circulars… not such much. But the thing is, I like knitting with circulars so much better. So I will stick with stuffing them in plastic dividers.

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My stitch markers and crochet hooks and needles and row counters and so on live in a couple of little plastic containers that some people might find ugly, but please my inner twelve-year-old.

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The whole setup is more pragmatic than enchanting, but it works for me based on what role knitting currently plays in my life and how much space and time and money I have.

If I could pick any way to store my yarn, ever? I’d have beautiful, beautiful things. I love the idea of a glass-fronted cabinet, or hand-crafted wood shelves, with cubbies. I’d love for everything associated with my knitting to be the most exquisite items possible.

But I don’t want to focus on how my knitting tools look at the expense of what I can do with them. Sometimes ugly is good, or good enough. Which isn’t at all meant to say that people shouldn’t care about how the items around them look; it’s just that sometimes we’re so surrounded by carefully crafted images of genuinely beautiful things, we can forget that not all of life is so pretty, and it doesn’t have to be. Sometimes useful is even better.

Stratum part 2: swatching

So, swatching:

I have, a little reluctantly, come to accept the importance of swatching. I say “reluctantly” because like all devotees of immediate gratification, when I decide I want to cast on a project, I WANT TO CAST ON THE PROJECT. I also tend to knit more to get a finished object than for the sake of enjoying the process, and a swatch is not a finished object that gives me pleasure. But since I’ve been knitting mostly sweaters, the amount of time and effort that goes into a sweater pretty much demands that you swatch. I don’t really mind erring on the side of something being too large, since I don’t favor the sweater girl look, but of course that’s when, absent swatching, the sweater invariably ends up too small.

I’m still probably not the world’s most responsible swatcher, though. My swatches are often a little too small, I tend to swatch knitting flat even when I’ll be knitting the sweater in the round, I’m lazy about even counting row gauge, and I can’t guarantee I don’t fudge the numbers (I’ll definitely measure in three different places and pick the number I like best). For my Dalyla sweater, I swatched on metal needles and then knit the whole thing on wood ones (from a completely different brand) because when I cast on the length of the metal needles just wasn’t right.

However, I do at least wash the swatch. Because before I knit a whole sweater, I really want to see what’s going to happen to the fabric once it takes that nice bath. And washing swatches is so much less effort than washing whole sweaters, and swatches dry quickly, too. (Well, here, everything dries quickly!)

For Stratum, swatching was a little different: not only did I want to figure out my gauge, but I needed to see all my different color possibilities together.

I had decided that for the main color, I was going to use a lovely gray hand-dyed sock yarn by Knitting Rose Yarns. I bought it at a yarn festival on a snowy spring day in Taos, NM, without any specific project in mind, but I had figured four skeins of fingering weight would be enough to make something wearable.

(That particular yarn festival makes me laugh because I was living in Albuquerque at the time, and I can’t remember where I saw the notice of the festival, but I did, and thought, “Great! A lovely scenic drive to Taos, good food, and an afternoon wandering through yarn stalls and the like!” So the weekend came and I got in my car and drove the couple of hours up to Taos. I made my way to the town center and was surprised at how little traffic there was and how much parking was available. I parked, got out of the car, went to the venue…and there was no yarn festival. I had got the date wrong. Thankfully I was too early, and the correct date was the following week. So I ate some fish tacos at the Taos Diner, then turned around and drove home, and came back the following weekend, when the clear sunshine in Albuquerque gave way to snow flurries up in Taos, but it was all a lot of fun anyway.)

Ahem. Where was I? Oh, colors. The options for the stripes were Cephalopod Yarn’s Skinny Bugga in Hawaiian Bobtail Squid (a variegated green-purple mix); a reddish-purple tonal sock yarn that I’d bought at a different yarn festival in Taos; and Madelinetosh’s tosh merino light in Georgia O’Keeffe (a greeny-black). I didn’t have enough of the light gray (tosh merino in Astrid Gray) to use for the stripes, but swatched it anyway out of curiosity.

Then I used the iPhone filter to switch the photo to black and white, to check the contrast.

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I think the monochrome trick is everywhere now, but I learned it when I signed up for – though did not complete – Stephen West’s most recent Mystery Shawl KAL, Color Exploration. That pattern uses four colors and there was very helpful discussion in the Ravelry group about how to choose colors with sufficient contrast to work together in a finished object, including the tip about checking how they look in black and white.

(I got really excited about the KAL and bought yarn and bought the pattern and cast on and enjoyed the first clue or so, and then I got bogged down in the brioche stitch section and remembered that I really don’t ever wear shawls and frogged the thing and made a t-shirt with the yarn instead. It is a lovely lovely shawl, though, and the pattern was great, and the Ravelry group dedicated to the KAL was very friendly, so I highly recommend the whole thing.)

Back to my swatch: the Astrid Gray (which I wasn’t going to be using) is sort of tolerable, the Georgia O’Keeffe is very high contrast, and the Taos purple is at least clearly a different color, especially in the darker places. But the Skinny Bugga was a wash, and in fact, I’m fascinated at how much it drops out of view entirely. The green and brown tones offer some decent contrast, but the dominant blue-ish purple is virtually invisible.

You can see the same thing happens with the narrow stripes – the Georgia O’Keeffe pops (though it’s mostly hidden in the folds at the top), the purple Taos is fine, and, again, the Skinny Bugga almost vanishes.

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The leafy green is Tosh Mo Light in Leaf, which, oddly, seems to contrast more strongly with the main color in monochrome than it does in color; there’s clearly some kind of contrast going on, but it just didn’t work for me as an option.

(Also, the top of the swatch is so messy because I was swatching in the round to do the single stripes, and leaving big loops of yarn in the back rather than cutting. I really like Ysolda’s tutorial here.)

Now, clearly contrast is better than the stripes vanishing into the body of the sweater, but the Georgia O’Keeffe just looked too harsh and high-contrast-y to me. I was hoping to end up with slightly more subtle stripes (I don’t really need to emphasize the horizontality of this sweater), so I started by using the Taos purple for the stripes.

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And that was…fine. (Please ignore the double row of purple above the garter stitch, which was an error.)

But I also have a couple of skeins of Georgia O’Keeffe from a different dyelot, which, like the skein I swatched, are a blackened-teal-green with hints of gray and brown, but are much lighter than the skein I used to swatch (which I had used because it was already wound and the other skeins weren’t and I’m lazy). And I kept wondering what those lighter skeins would look like.

So I gave in and wound one and did a teeny tiny swatch of single stripes, just to see how the colors worked, and decided that they looked much nicer – different enough to provide contrast, but a bit subtler. (This combo also received the spousal nod of approval over the purple.) So I ripped back the purple and tried again with the Georgia O’Keeffe, and ended up with this:

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So onward I travel with Georgia O’Keeffe. I am still currently plowing through the A-line skirt, working the decreases that give it its shape (I was going to say “plowing through the miles of stockinette in the A-line skirt,” but then, the whole sweater appears to be miles of stockinette, so that didn’t seem a very helpful description. That’s not a criticism; I love miles of stockinette).

Although I definitely couldn’t have got this far without swatching, I am still very curious to see the how the sweater will look when finished. Between the difference in scale between a swatch and a sweater, the shape of this sweater, and the changing width of the stripes at the yoke, the final result still remains a bit of a mystery. Swatching definitely helped me eliminate the bad options, but I’m still not sure that the result is a good option, or just the best of the limited options I allowed myself. Pulling this all out of my stash means there’s no guilt about having spent money on something that might turn out wrong, so if it’s not what I want in the end, all I’ve lost is time. And the anticipation is fun.

The Love Your Blog Challenge: Beginnings

A Playful Day

Here’s my second contribution to A Playful Day’s Love Your Blog Challenge, on “Beginnings.” Random philosophizing ahead.

So, this is kinda cheesy (and dates me), but I was living in the Twin Cities for grad school when Semisonic, a local band, had what I think is still its biggest hit, “Closing Time.” It begins:

Closing time
Open all the doors and let you out into the world
Closing time
Turn all of the lights on over every boy and every girl
Closing time
One last call for alcohol so finish your whiskey or beer
Closing time
You don’t have to go home but you can’t stay here

For some reason I’ve always really liked how the song turns that “last call” anthem into a metaphor for moving forward – or back – or at least, for the idea that life keeps moving and we can’t stay in one place, however much we’d like to. We have to keep starting anew.

I need to hear this every so often because, honestly, beginnings can be kind of exhausting. They’re exciting, but can be fraught – full of the unknown, often presenting a steep learning curve. That doesn’t always sound very appealing, so it’s good to be reminded that the alternative to beginnings is just staying in place, treading water.

To stay in theme, I think this is all true of knitting as well. Unless you’re Penelope undoing your weaving each night to keep your suitors at bay, you can’t really stay in one place in knitting. Sure, sometimes you go in circles (cast on… rip back… cast on… rip back… we all know how that goes), and sometimes you decide where you thought you were going isn’t where you want to go after all (I have exactly as many frogged projects in my Ravelry queue as FOs and WIPs). But to stay in one place really isn’t to knit at all. Even if you like to knit the same things over and over again, with the same yarn, you keep learning and getting better, and you keep creating new things.

Me, I’m still new enough to knitting that much of the time, new projects require figuring out new techniques, getting used to how different designers writes their patterns, and learning the qualities of new yarns and/or needles. That’s not so unnerving as, say, starting a new relationship, or a new job, but it can still be pretty frustrating when you first try a new stitch pattern, or method of construction, and find yourself near midnight staring at a pattern you’re convinced is written in Greek. But if I want to move forward, I can’t stay here.

The other thing about beginnings, though, is balancing them with endings. It’s no good to be scared of beginnings, but it’s probably also no good to be enamored of them to the extent you never get to endings.

Knitters know this. Knitters are often a little embarrassed to admit how many projects they have on the needles at any one time; some put limits on how many they allow themselves to start before finishing something; and some truly disciplined souls only work on one project at a time (a lot of knitters seem to regard these folks with a little bit of awe or disbelief, though). I’m definitely not here to put a number on any of this – some people get anxious with more than one unfinished project, while others are happy to strew WIPs all over their living space, always having something different to turn to depending on their mood. There’s no right way to balance all the things you want and need to do. But I think knitters do think about start-itis, and what they can reasonably begin, in a way that’s a reasonable metaphor for the rest of life, too.

“Closing Time” also has the line,

Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.

Wikipedia tells me that this line actually comes from Roman philosopher Seneca the Younger – and I get that it’s not exactly an original thought – but Semisonic is where I first encountered it. I like this line, too, because it helps explain why there can be some sadness in some new beginnings. Moving to a new city is exciting, but it means you’re leaving another city behind. Starting a new job is exciting, but it means you leave an old job and coworkers behind. Even if I hated the old city or former job, I do feel a little bit of sadness at the closing of a chapter, the recognition of change. But you can’t let that sadness stop you from making the new start.

(I don’t know if that’s so much the case for knitting, though. Finishing a project is usually pretty satisfying… except when it doesn’t work? Do others feel any kind of sadness at the closure of a big project?)

 My most recent knitting beginning and ending:
a quick project I worked up to play with some yarn. Longer post to come.

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Scenes from an alien planet

IMG_1353I find the desert beautiful, but I grew up in the deep dark fairy-tale woods of New England, and the desert constantly challenges my ideas about “nature” and “beauty” and the like. There are some apartment complexes around here with grass lawns, and every time I see those blankets of cool emerald green, I have the same knee-jerk reaction: “How pretty!” Then I remember that I live in a desert, lawns here are unnatural, and it’s a tactic to make an inexpensive prefab complex look appealing. It works, it totally works, and I don’t know if my gut will ever get over wanting to see green grass.

But there are lots and lots of other kinds of green in the desert, even if they don’t usually look at all like what I associate with “plant.” They look like they come from a faraway planet, governed by different rules. For that very reason, they’re fascinating, and I can’t stop looking at them, and looking, and looking again.

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More of how I got here: scarves, evolving

The next item I remember making was also a scarf:

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This was the Wisp scarf out of Knitty, so it’s an actual pattern, and it’s even lace (though very simple lace). The yarn is Rowan Kidsilk Haze, though I don’t know the colorway anymore.

I was visiting my mother, and had little to do, so went to the local yarn store. There I fell in love with the yarn, bought a ball, and decided I would make something, so went back to my mom’s house and searched the internet for free patterns. I completely can’t remember when I made this, but Wisp came out in 2007, so after that; the internet tells me it was probably right around when Ravelry was born, but I certainly didn’t know about it yet, and just googled free knitting patterns.

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I used a pair of aluminum straight needles borrowed from my mom (so probably dating back to the 60s or 70s, if not earlier). I’d never knit lace before – and I haven’t knit much of it since – but I just looked up the stitches I had to learn and plugged onward. I did ditch any idea of working eyelet rows and decided I would just skip adding buttons. This makes me laugh now, because the eyelets/buttonholes were simply yarnovers, which I knew how to do because I had to figure them out to work this lace pattern. But the idea of working eyelets every 5 rows while also following the lace pattern blew my mind, so I decided to ignore them.

I did block this (not brilliantly, a couple of years after I finished it), but without the buttons to hold it in place it’s still a sort of odd length/width for me – both short and wide. The mohair’s also incredibly itchy. To be honest, I don’t think I ever wore this scarf, and it, too, has been living in the laundry basket since we moved here.

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It’s interesting to see what’s similar to the previous scarf and what’s different. In both cases I fell for variegated yarn that looked so pretty and magical in the skein, without really understanding how it would look knit into fabric. This was actually fine for my 2×2 ribbing scarf – the stitch was simple and any appeal the final item had came from the look of the yarn, not what I did with it on the needles. But the variegated Kidsilk Haze didn’t do my second scarf any favors – the open lace didn’t show off the colors very effectively, and the color changes obscured the lace stitches.

I also clearly had a thing for fuzz, or to be more knitterly about it, yarns with a strong halo. Maybe this was just more in fashion at the time? Because I certainly don’t find myself reaching for fuzzy yarns now. It seems part and parcel of the impulse to choose variegated yarns, though – like the colors, the fuzz is very obvious in the skein; it stands up and yells at you to notice it; and both variegation and fuzz lend some distinctive quality to the final project that doesn’t really require you, the knitter, to know or do anything.

I think, at this stage in my knitting, before I knew how to do much more than stockinette, I relied on the yarn to make a project beautiful, and notable, rather than the combination of yarn and pattern. Kidsilk Haze is a beautiful yarn, still going strong, and many people use it to spectacular effect. For instance, I think each of these three projects takes excellent advantage of the yarn’s fundamental lightness and airiness to create exquisite but very different finished objects. But when I used it, I hadn’t yet moved beyond “pretty yarn = pretty item,” or realized the limitations in that blunt equation.

Of course, I’m still learning how to match yarn to pattern. But at least now I’m aware that doing so is a thing.

The biggest difference between the scarves is that I went from 2×2 ribbing to lace. It’s about as easy lace as you can get; you only need to know how to yarnover and knit two together. But it was new to me, and was a step away from the “knit a rectangle” scarf. I was also using a pattern. I think (meaning no disrespect to garter stitch or ribbed scarf knitters) that I wanted to make something that was a “real” knitting project.

I hadn’t realized till now that it was seven years between the two projects. Probably kind of useful to keep in mind that it took me that long to move from one step to the next.

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The Love Your Blog Challenge: Interactions and Community

Kate at A Playful Day has proposed a Love Your Blog challenge for April 2015. Throughout April, she will post a prompt to explore every Monday, to encourage people to fall back in love with their blog and think about what inspires them and find inspiration in others. The first prompt is Interactions and Community, and my response is below.

IMG_1348This is a very new blog, but I’m not new to blogging. My first blog was born in August of 2004, when I had moved to a new city for a new job, my husband was living elsewhere for grad school, and – though I didn’t realize it right away – I was desperate for community.

While aimlessly surfing the web, I stumbled on a few other people like me: recent PhD grads starting new jobs and figuring out how to negotiate an academic identity. I created my blog only because I wanted to comment on others’, and I thought it would be rude to comment without having an online identity/blog of my own. (I was completely wrong, but it was the early days of blogging and I wasn’t sure how the etiquette worked yet.)

That blog was a godsend precisely because it allowed me to join and participate in a community that I treasure to this day. Probably close to half of my Facebook friends are people I came to know through blogging, many of whom I’ve still not met in person, but would be happy to hang out with at any time. (And those of you who followed me here: so lovely to see you!)

As as important as that community was to me for a long time, much has changed since then, both in blogging and me. The biggest change in me is that I left academia to start a new career. While not everyone in my previous blog community was (or stayed) an academic, that space was particularly focused on negotiating professional identity in a field where the personal and professional are unusually closely linked. One of the things I don’t miss at all about academia is how you were never really not at work – you could always be thinking great thoughts! you didn’t have to be in an office 9-5, which just meant you could work anytime, anywhere! – so in a way, you were never not being an academic.

This blog is part of my current goal to carve out a personal identity that has nothing to do with my employment, and to be able to leave work at work. I want to spend my non-work time on activities that I value and take seriously for their own sake, not just because they will make me better at my job or fill up the spaces in between my work days. My self-worth needs to be based in something more than what my employers think about me. And I need to exercise those parts of my brain that love color, creativity, and visual expression, which don’t get used at all in my day job. Which all led me to knitting: color! creating things! looking at color and how to create things!

I decided to blog about knitting for a couple of reasons. First, my Ravelry project pages were getting ridiculously detailed, and I realized that blogging might be a better format for that information. But second, I valued my previous blog community so highly that I hoped blogging might be a way into a knitting community as well.

needlesI haven’t had much luck finding a face-to-face knitting community. As a beginner, I was shy of getting involved in knitting groups. Now that I’m maybe less of a beginner, I’ve moved somewhere that doesn’t have a really strong history of knitting. There are great Native textiles traditions around here, which I’d love to learn more about, but as far as I know, those traditions center on weaving rather than knitting. (Though I’m by no means an expert on this, and as a gringa I’m not in a great position to talk about truly local and indigenous traditions.) So I don’t think there’s as much visible interest in or support for knitting as you might see in parts of the world like northern Europe or the Andes.

It’s also a region heavily populated by snowbirds, and my sense is that most of the local yarn stores cater to retirees who are only here part of the year, and tend to knit for their grandchildren. That is absolutely a valid and wonderful knitting tradition, but it’s not mine, and it’s not usually the kind of aesthetic that appeals to me. (I’m much more drawn to the kind of aesthetic you find here, my favorite yarn store ever.) On a purely practical level, it means that most yarn classes and groups meet, say, 2 pm on Wednesdays, which means they’re not really feasible for people who work full-time.

But I miss talking to people about what I love to do. I adore that knitting is something I can do on my own, on my own time, that doesn’t require me to go somewhere or schedule something or depend on others. But that doesn’t mean I don’t want to interact with other people about it. So for community, I’ve been looking online.

The knitting communities I’ve found are amazingly vibrant, thoughtful, and accessible. Unlike when I started blogging originally, though, there’s an embarrassment of riches out there: not just blogs, but Twitter, Instagram, and especially for knitters, Ravelry forums and groups. When I blogged before, there were few enough of us that just being out there garnered you an audience. Now, the field is much more crowded, and how to find and get the attention of the people you want to talk to much more complicated. On top of that you have the commercial element of knitting communities, where designers and yarn stores have their own communities as well as mingling with hobby knitters.

It’s almost that blogging used to be like walking into a local coffee shop, the kind where people came to sit and read/work/chat for a few hours. Some coffee shops are bigger than others, but they’re still relatively small spaces, and everyone who enters has the same relationship to the space as every other, as a customer of the establishment. In such a space, it’s not hard to see what other people are doing (grading/writing/drafting a resume/playing chess/etc.), and to strike up a conversation if you feel like it. A small community can be a little stifling or homogenous sometimes – I think we’ve all walked into a small coffee shop or restaurant and immediately felt like we didn’t quite fit in with the tone or atmosphere. The plus, though, is that if you show up long enough, you become a regular without trying very hard.

Blogging now feels a little bit like walking into some kind of amazing yarn festival. It’s amazing and colorful and offers a gazillion resources, as well as access to some of the greatest knitting designers and yarn producers. It’s open to everyone, there’s something for everyone, and visited by people of all kinds of shapes, sizes, interests, tastes, and ability levels. But for the average person, it can be loud and crowded and a little overwhelming. And your position as a consumer is different from that of the people running the stalls, who are generally fascinating, kind, knowledgeable people who genuinely enjoy talking to you and want to support your knitting, but are also trying to make a living out of knitting/yarn and thus have different goals for the event than you do.

Don’t get me wrong – it’s not that one kind of community is better or worse; they’re just different. The nature of the community shapes the interactions that take place, but I still love how blogging makes so many different kinds of interactions possible. I feel a bit like a new kid to knitting right now, but am enjoying writing and thinking about knitting, and hope I will find others to talk to. Even if my interactions end up limited to reading others’ words, looking at others’ projects, thinking about and learning from others’ ideas, and writing here to process it all for myself, though, taking part in these communities will be worth it.

A Playful Day