Time freely spent

Perfection — minus 21 stitches.

Perfection — minus 21 stitches.

A few weeks ago, Mr Knitting Theologian requested a vest to wear over his shirts at work. He was rather specific about what he wanted : something relatively close-fitting, grey, in a non-scratchy wool. I spent some time on Ravelry and found a pattern we both liked (Aspen). On a work trip to a Real City (we live on the country), I took some time to stop at a yarn store where I found some gorgeous, squishy and very soft grey merino yarn — and Mr Knitting Theologian liked it very much. Then, on a quiet evening, I settled on the sofa, did some maths to knit the vest in the round as he didn’t want a front opening, and cast on. It was wonderful. The wool knit to a magnificent fabric. There was enough plain stockinette to be a quiet and meditative knit, and two nice cables on the front to keep it interesting. Very quickly, it became quite addictive. I spent every free minute I could find knitting on it. The more it grew, the more I loved it. A soft, cushiony wool ; a deep, not quite solid grey ; a dense, very even texture ; everything about it was pure pleasure.

On Sunday, I had knit enough of it to bind off stitches for the armholes and knit the front and the back separately. And that is when I realized there should have been 21 more stitches between the two cables on the front.

palm_sunday_cvetnica_orthodox_iconAt first, I was, of course, angry and frustrated. I think I even said something along the lines of “This knitting thing will make me crazy”. After a few moments, though, I remembered it was Palm Sunday, the day hundreds of people gave up their coat — their only coat — to pave the road into Jerusalem for Christ, out of sheer joy and love. Ripping thirty-two centimeters’ worth of perfect knitting wasn’t half as impressive a thing to do. What I remembered too, instants later, was that this was not just knitting. This was — this is — Pleasure. Doing it all over again would be more bliss than frustration, time spent not only creating a beautiful thing but also feeling that soft yarn between my fingers, pressing my cheek against that beautiful, smooth fabric, making stitch after stitch not only with a wonderful yarn, but with joy and with love, with joy at making something beautiful for someone I love. Because sometimes, knitting is that good.

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On Beginnings

Isn’t that a fitting subject for the first real post on this blog ? Beginnings — even new beginnings, fresh starts, first times — are something we are given everyday, if we know how to recognize the subtle signs that help us know them for what they are. But sometimes they are not so subtle. They are grand. They make us feel elated and so full of pride and excitement that we would like to climb to the rooftop and shout out to the world : “Isn’t that wonderful ?”

The particular beginning I’d like to tell you about is one of these grand beginnings. When I think about it, it unleashes in my head the full fireworks of the majestical opening of Monteverdi’s Orfeo (or, if Monteverdi isn’t your thing, this might do). It makes my heart sing and brings a smile to my face. And yet, to an objective eye, it probably is nothing to be excited about.

You see, when I was little, my parents sent me to the music school. There I learnt to read music and to play an instrument. But there is something I could never master : improvisation. Give me a score and I’ll play it for you ; I’m even rather good at sight-reading. But there has to be a score. Without a score, I am lost. I have no idea where to begin, how to place my fingers on the keyboard, how to pick up a theme and develop it into something that sounds as if it had been carefully written. That’s simply something I am unable to do.

So when I taught myself (from a book) how to knit and looked for the first time at a pattern, I thought : “There again ! Scores !” I was amazed by the sheer complexity of it. The first cardigan pattern I knit felt overwhelming. The first lace pattern felt even worse. I couldn’t see the underlying logic in it, let alone grasp how one could possibly design lace. I began to think : “Maybe that’s a recurring pattern (ha!) in my life. Maybe I’ll be a score-reader and a pattern-user for ever.” Then I noticed I was beginning to interpret patterns, exactly as I would interpret a praeludium or a sonata : changing ornaments (like edgings) here and there, modifying shapes and rhythms, twisting the genres. If I look back, there are few finished objects of which I could say : “Modifications : none.” This is, I think, because, as gifted as the designer may be, I need to put a little of myself in what I knit, a little of my heart and soul.

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You may see by now where all this is heading. One year ago, my grandmother gave me some yarn. It’s green, gorgeous, merino, and there is too little of it to make a pullover or a cardigan, but too much of it to turn it into a scarf or a hat (or it would have to be a whole collection of green scarves and hats). I first spent a lot of time on Ravelry looking for a short-sleeved pattern I liked (without success), then for a bolero pattern I liked. I found it. I knit the main part of it. Then we (Mr Brindelaine, the cat and I) moved to another country. When I got back to my bolero, several months later, I also got my senses back. What on earth would I do with a bolero ? A bolero is something posh and elegant. In the past, I have tried very hard to be elegant, but had to conclude regretfully that being elegant is not for me. A bolero usually doesn’t provide much coverage in the neck and back area, and being who I am and living where I live, I’d die for cold wearing it.

So I frogged it. I looked at that beautiful yarn, soft and springy to the touch, with its fresh green reminding me of tiny new leaves burgeoning on trees after a long winter. It said to me : “Short-sleeved top!” I took a deep breath and answered : “Then I’m afraid I’ll have to design my own pattern for you, my friend !”

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And that is the grand beginning. I didn’t dive head first into Designing World, though. I took my precautions and googled : “designing raglan sweater” (or something like that). I found this handy tutorial, did my math and cast on. By some miracle, it worked. Of course, it’s not perfect. I’m now past the raglan increases and I can see some mistakes : purled stitches which should have been knit on the sides of the raglan increases (because I’m using mock cables separated by purled stitches and it took me some time to figure how to integrate them, and because I’m not brave enough to do what I should : frog and re-start), cables beginning too early or to late.

But anyway, it’s working. The first thing I ever cast on without following a pattern is growing on my needles. And that, for me, is enough to summon all the trumpets of Monteverdi (or of a certain far, far away galaxy).