Monthly Archives: March 2012

The Sweater From Hell

Like most relationships, it started out so well. We hung out together every day for several hours, we went on trips together, we made memories and watched movies and spent quality time with friends together. We were inseparable. But then, about five months after we met, everything went horribly, horribly wrong. I am speaking, of course, about this:

I hate you.

Let me back up. This time last year I was studying abroad in Dublin freaking Ireland, and it was amazing and wonderful and I miss it every single day (for more info, visit my other blog, The Fair Green Isle). When packing for my trip, the amount I could bring was very limited, so alas, most of my knitting supplies had to remain behind, scared and lonely in my childhood bedroom. But I was going to be there for four whole months; I couldn’t just NOT knit for that long! So one of my first orders of business upon stepping foot on the sweet, winding streets of Dublin City was to scope out a potential temporary LYS (Local Yarn Shop). And boy, did I strike gold. In the Powerscourt shopping center off of Grafton Street, there was a small yarn shop charmingly named This Is Knit. It was bright, cozy, and had very friendly and knowledgeable staff: I quickly made myself at home.

Doesn’t it look inviting?

I had an idea for a project while I was in Ireland: to make myself an “Ireland” sweater. Knit with wool from Ireland, needles from Ireland, I would make myself a long, thick, warm, cowled, cable-knit sweater, and I had found the perfect pattern several weeks previously in a European knitting magazine back at home. I was undaunted by the fact that the needles were from England. I was unphased by the fact that I had never attempted a sweater of such complexity before. I was in Dublin freaking Ireland, and I could do anything. How wrong I was.
By the time the semester was half over, I had the front and back of the sweater completely finished. It was a little odd with its variegated brown colors, but I was love with it, and I was euphoric in my triumph. Only the sleeves left to go! I would have it finished by the time I got home, and then have all summer to worry about blocking it and sewing the seams before it got cold again. Hooray! Then, approximately 30 rows in to the first sleeve, I did a small double take. There were five edge stitches on one side, and six on the other. How could that be? I went back through the pattern, scrutinized every stitch I had made. They matched up. But I MUST have missed something, so I frogged the sleeve, gave it a few days to give me fresh eyes, and tried it again. This time 18 rows in, I had seven edge stitches on the right, and eight on the left. What was going on? Five tries later, I had had enough. I was defeated. About the third attempt, I began trying to just fudge the pattern, make it work, cast on an extra stitch, something, anything, to get me through this stupid sleeve. It all ended the same way: a pile of crimped yarn, cruelly unbound, lying in a puddle in my lap.
The Debbie Bliss yarn, Glen, pre-puddle.
After I got home, I took this pesky pattern to my real LYS, Northampton Wools in Northampton, MA. The owner, Linda, sat with me for a half hour, looking it all over with a practiced eye. Eventually, she told me there was simply a mistake with the pattern and that I would just have to fudge it. A mistake! I’m not crazy! The person writing the pattern (upon whom I now wish great personal ill (just kidding)) made a mistake, and made me waste tens of hours on an asinine problem – but I’m not crazy! I quickly went to the magazine’s website to let them know of the mistake and see if there was anything on the forums for solving this problem – finally – FINALLY – I might get some answers! And then, after all my agonizing, all my searching, when I thought my pain was finally at an end, I got a tiny little email, letting me know ever so sweetly that the editor’s inbox was full, and my request for access to the forums could not be delivered. After much cursing and a small (read: large) temper tantrum that was awesome to behold, I threw the stupid thing in a bin and hoped to never look at it again. 
Early this semester, nearly a year later, I briefly picked it up again and tried to figure out where I was, remember the pattern again. It felt brand new again, and for a bit I thought I might actually make it. However, finding myself becoming immersed in the old frustration, I quickly allowed myself to get distracted by an awesome lace shawl (to be featured in an upcoming post), and here it lies, still, to this day, a sad little unfinished sleeve.
I still want to finish this sweater – very much so. Maybe some day after graduation, when things calm down a little bit (yeah, right), I will take another crack at it. For now, anyone who has any knowledge of the Charlotte pattern from Verena magazine’s Winter 2010 issue, please let me know.

What knitting – or writing, crafting, painting, etc. – skeletons lie in your closet? 

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Filed under Ireland, knitting, Northampton Wools, Sweater from Hell, This Is Knit, Verena Magazine, yarn, yarn store

In The Middle

I am familiar with being in the middle. Born the middle of three daughters, I am of the opinion that the middle is a great place to be. At the very time that I was driving my older sister crazy, I knew exactly how she felt because my little sister was doing the same to me. When I was a jerk to my little sister, I knew what she was going through because my older sister had treated me the same way. This has given me a unique perspective on life, and I feel it has made me better able to see different points of view, and has made me a more compassionate person. However. Being in the middle is not always the best thing.

Anyone who has ever undertaken a lengthy project can attest to this: the middle sucks. You’ve already figured out how to accomplish what you need to, and now you’ve lost interest completely. You’ve already put hours/days/weeks/months of work into it, with the same or more left yet to do. What once was exciting and new is now boring as hell, and the idea of stabbing yourself in the eye with a spoon is preferable to spending one more minute on this stupid godforsaken project that you never wanted to start in the first place.

I have now been working on my Capstone project for two months, and we have two months left to go. And it shows. Morale is low, motivation is even lower, and the stress and craziness of finishing school and finding a job is sucking up all the time and energy we have, leaving none behind to work on our project. As producer, I am tasked with getting my team out of this bog, while I’m drowning in it right alongside them. I’m in it so deep it’s hard to see the way out, and harder still to drum up the motivation to start the long, hard slog. So what’s a girl to do? As with most things in life, I turn to knitting.

Looking around my apartment, I see a dozen projects that are waiting patiently for me to finish them after I put them down for ‘a short break’ during that boring middle section. Here’s my wall of shame:

The beginning of a sweater.
A scarf I started last week.
A scarf to match some fingertip-less gloves I made.
Detail
A lace scarf I started in high school.
A lace shawl started several years ago.
A lonely mitten.
A silk scarf for my mother.
Same scarf for my mother.
Musical gloves for my mother – sorry Mom!
The sleeve from the Sweater from Hell – look for this
again in an upcoming post!
Had to bring knitting to see Star Wars
Episode 1 in 3D, and this was it.
I only got this far because I ran out of yarn 😦

So clearly, I have been defeated by the dreaded middle a time or two in my day – this doesn’t even cover the projects sitting at my parent’s house! So, here are my three tips for getting over the hump and actually finishing projects, knitting and otherwise:

1. If you can afford to, give yourself a break from it; however, avoid giving yourself an open-ended break. Set a time or date when you will get back to it, and make sure you stick to it.

2. Try to remember the things that you loved about the project in the beginning – make yourself fall in love with it all over again. Staying enchanted can help you finish it!

3. Try looking at it from a different angle. Sick of that stupid cable running up the front of your sweater? Put that part on a stitch holder and get cracking on those sleeves you’ve been dying to try. Getting bogged down in paperwork? Switch to a more hands-on part of the project for a bit until you’re refreshed and ready for another go. When becoming bored and/or frustrated, working on a different part of the same project can help to keep you interested and sane.

How do you guys get over that hump in the middle of a big project? I’d love to hear your ideas!

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Filed under Advice, college, Family, In the Middle, knitting, Management, projects, Senior Team, Thoughts, Unfinished Projects, yarn