Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The Big Black Ugly

I try (honestly) to do good.

That comes as a surprise to some of my friends who have ridden in a car that I was driving and have heard the rage wating off toward other drivers.

Recently I picked up a project left behind by a knitter whose needles had fallen silent, and this is where our story starts.

I am not a knitter who works with acrylic. This becomes all the more evident when I look down at the finished project, waiting to be delivered to its recipient. Why?

  1. Acrylic, especially bad acrylic, feels nasty on the hands and gives me hives. Really.

  2. It doesn't come hand-dyed or hand-painted. It doesn't even have dye-lots. This yarn is made by machines.

  3. It is derived from petroleum. This means that Acrylic comes from the same place gas does. It does not come from warm, fuzzy little woodland creatures. It never appeared in a Disney feature length animated film.

  4. It, coming from petroleum, is flammable. That's right ladies and gentlemen, if you snip a length of acrylic yarn and light a match, it will go up in flames like Sadam's oil pipelines. Wool puts itself out when you try to light it. Don't ask how I know this.

Stephanie Pearl-McPhee tells us in her new book, if you start with crap, you end up with crap. I would use a different word there, but the theory is the same.

This project has made me cry. Knitting has never made me cry. But looking down at it in all its horrors, I knew that nothing I could do would make it pretty, and I cried.

I post this, now, to let the world know that I wash my hands of this project. Its ugliness is its own, passed down to me from other hands than mine. Nothing I could do would save it or redeem it. I feel like a surgeon, stepping outside the operating room and looking down at the anxious loved ones, passing on news that the operation had not gone as planned.

I chose, initially, not to take apart past mistakes. They were left behind by the other knitter. This yarn touched her needles. Taking apart her work would be like tearing out the mittens my Gran made me to reclaim the yarn for something else. It would be heresy.

I found, then, that lifting the blanket was too heavy to lift. So, I put the active stitches on a spare bit of wool and cast on for the other half, working backward toward the join which I planned to graft together (kitchner stitch, folks).

I quickly found that if the other knitter had planned to put the intended words on the blanket, she should have started earlier. I cried. As it was, I would either have to rip back a section or use duplicate stitch on part of the name and fair-isle on the other. I cried some more.

I chose the latter.

I had to stop knitting the second half between letters so that I wouldn't have to graft in two colors. After I finished the second half, I picked the other stitches back up and tried to finish the half-finished letter. By now I had stopped crying and cursing. Things were going okay.

But the half-finished letter wasn't worked the same way as the same letter had been earlier in the project. I ripped back the yellow letter and re-worked it without touching the remaining black background. More tears were shed.

With the letter corrected (more or less) I noticed that one side of the "U" looked shorter than the other--because I didn't yank the stranded portions as the first knitter had. Tears continued.

But I continued. Grafting began. The issue there was that there were tons more stitches on the end of the toes of my socks. My long thread kept tangling and tangling and tangling and I kept crying and crying and crying.

I poured myself a glass of wine and drank it.

Then I started on the duplicate stitch. Then the weaving in of ends began. Did I mention that this is acrylic. And I hate acrylic.

Now I must get it out of my house. I must. It has to leave.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

It's been a while...

I have a pathetic lack of commitment to things like this, I must say.

However, I do intend to keep you all up to date...something just keeps us apart.

It's not you, it's me.