Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Magnum Opus

I knew a woman named Jan who knit on
one blanket for almost a whole year. On the project page her notes
say that she took several "sabbaticals", so it's possible that during one of
those breaks, she worked on something else. If she did, I never saw it. The
blanket was so closely associated with her in my mind that once she did finish
and I started seeing her without it at Stitch and Bitch, I really did miss the thing
(and made sure to tease her about the lack plenty. "We won't even recognize you
without that blanket!")

The blanket was knit modularly, square by tiny squre. Primarily yellow, with
lots of other cheerful colors mixed in, it was just the kind of happy thing you
would hope to see a child wrapped up in. She chose to knit it with Cascade
Sierra, an 80/20 cotton and wool blend. That yarn really made the rounds at our
LYS, especially for baby things. It's heavy and tends towards splittiness, but
its durability and washable nature made it good choice for small people. With so
many color changes, Jan made the wise choice to weave in the ends as she knit.
As a matter of fact, I think I remember more of her weaving in ends than
actually knitting.

Slowly but surely, it came together. You can see in the picture that she was
rightly proud of her accomplishment. I don't know if she would have thought of
it as a magum opus- great work- but I certainly do. I'm always impressed with
knitters who have the capacity to see a Herculean project through to the end
(maybe because I'm not one of them.) I know that Jan was motivated by love even
bigger than the work itself, for the son of a good friend. How wonderful to have
left behind a finished object that wasn't so much a feat of knitterly skill as
it was a tangible act of devotion.

Jan passed away last weekend unexpectedly, leaving a hole in our little group of knitters. She will be truly missed. To me personally, she was very supportive of my many life changes, and attended my confirmation in the Episcopal Church last December, when I'm sure it would have been easier to sleep in on a cold Sunday morning. After the Knit Nook closed, Jan did much to keep us seeing each other often, . Plans had been made to go out for lunch this Saturday. Instead, we'll be going to her funeral. I knew that Jan was active in many other crafts prior
to knitting, including making jewelry, embroidery, counted cross stitch,
needlepoint, and even some sewing, but I was surprised to learn from Ravelry
that she only really started her knitting career in January 2008. Her neat
stitches and willingness to tackle a big project belied a more experienced
knitter. I felt like I knew her much longer, but not long enough. I guess there
isn't ever a "long enough" time to know someone you care about.

It's easy to get bogged down by the enormity of death. I mean, it is for me
anyway. My finite human brain has a hard time grasping things like "forever" and
"eternity" and "never again". Maybe it's better for us mortals to consider
instead the evidence of a well-lived life, like fun memories, good friends, and excellent handmade objects. I hope that Jan is sitting around the table in the big yarn shop in the sky, chatting with other departed knitters, and enjoying an endless supply of beautiful wool.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

(Belated) 2012 in Review

A couple days before NYE 2012, I started writing a post about my knitting year in review, as is traditional in knitblog land. Then I failed to get the post up on New Year's Eve, New Year's Day, or even the first week of 2013. As is typical of my self-imposed deadlines, once I fail to meet them and no longer have the pressure of a looming due date, all bets are off. So here we are, more than 2/3 of the way through January, and I am just now year-in-reviewing. 

Which is especially nuts when you consider that I don't have that much knitting to review.

1) A while before Easter this year, Allison sent me a link to Cassia, and I fell in love. A cute little girls' dress! And here I was with two cute little girls who needed Easter dresses! I started making crazy plans involving matching dresses. So like a really good friend, Allison talked me off the ledge. She volunteered to knit the larger dress for Iris, while letting me tackle Hannah's somewhat more petite dress. A very speedy knitter, Allison soared right through Iris's dress. I plodded along on Hannah's, but didn't make it in time for Easter. Or the month after that. Or the rest of the summer. Actually, it still needs to have the pockets sewn on. And some buttons. Iris won't even be with us this Easter, so even if I manage to finish up, they won't get to match this year. Alas!

2) I'm not really a variegated yarn person. (Not that there's anything wrong with that.) A couple skeins of Gnome Acres grabbed me at a knitting camp this summer though, and it didn't take me long to cast on for the Age of Brass and Steam, a very simple shawlette that I hoped would let the beautiful dye job shine through. It's still not finished, but it went a lot of places with this year and I'm sure the long (LONG) rows will eventually pay off. 

3) Pumpkin hats are mandatory knitting for babies born in fall. So I ended up knitting two this year, one for a co-worker and one for a friend. This is just a simple variation on the classic Umbilical Cord Baby Hat from the first Stitch and Bitch book, a pattern I have made approximately 50 babillion times.

4) This year, my most satisfying project was this Snappy Hat for Allison. It was the only Christmas knitting project I managed to complete, probably owing to the bulky nature of the yarn and fun nature of the cables. Allison is picky selective about her knits, so I went with the only safe bet and bought a skein of yarn I knew she already had and knit an accessory to match a cowl she already made herself and wears regularly. Actually, I bought it last Christmas, started two other accessories which didn't work out, and then frogged those projects to make this year's present. It's practically recycling. Doesn't my good friend look rosy in this picture? It's the glow of being gifted with quality knitwear.

My biggest project last year was my wedding, buying a house, and the subsequent formation of our new family unit. (Need I say that last one is ongoing?) It wasn't my biggest year for knitting, but it was without a doubt the best year I've ever had in so many ways. I hope to spend this year enjoying my wife and kids, good friends, and good yarn. And dispensing advice about the last thing via this blog.