Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Evenly Spaced

The pattern said I should mark the positions for seven buttonholes. It said I should space them evenly. That was all the pattern said.
I am hugely devoted to Gundrun Johnston. I am addicted to her patterns, partially because her designs are super cute, partially because no one writes a pattern better than she does.

That being said, when Gundrun Johnston wrote the evenly space seven buttonholes line, she triggered something in my brain. I don't think she could have possibly anticipated how one little sentence could make me so crazy. But it did.

Last night, I picked up something like 20,000 stitches around the front and neckband of my sweater. I'm making Shalder, from The Shetland Trader, Book 1 (without the pockets, because I think I would not use them and because I think they would only exist to make me look rounder at the middle than I am, or to make my torso look like a frowny face, depending on the angle).

The pattern said I should have a 32" circular needle, a U.S. size 7. This posed a few problems because I keep buying size 7s, but the second I shell out the money for them, they hit some kind of Hawking black hole in my room or my knitting bag or in that cute little fake luggage box thing I bought at Hobby Lobby that has all the other circular needles inside it. I should have at least three or four size 7s. When I started knitting I found only one, and it was a 16" (okay, maybe it was a 20-something-inch circular) and not a 32", which means the cable was shorter than it needed to be. But I shrugged off the difference, because I've made sweaters on that length before, and it all works out just fine.

I was proud of my picked-up stitches, even if they were crammed on my tiny cable so tightly, I could not move them around at all without dropping a few off the needle. No matter--I had picked up some good lookin' stitches. I was proud! So proud that I walked around the house and showed my family.

"Paul," I said. "Look at these stitches. Just look at them. I picked these up. See that nice, even line? And there are no gaps! These are the best stitches ever!" And Paul stared at them, stared at me, and said something or other about how I'd done a good job.

"Mom," I said. "I have to show you this, because you're a fellow knitter. You know what this means." I displayed my stitches. And then I may have volunteered to pick up stitches for her all the time. I blame wool fumes.

I had all 7 billion stitches picked up! This was great! And then I noticed the "evenly spaced buttonholes" sentence.

Really? Really? Had I actually missed that?

Of course I had.

I grabbed waste yarn. I moved one section of stitches onto the waste yarn, pinned the sweater with blocking pins, and stared. Then I measured. Then I stared.

I begged Twitter for help. Then I tried to do math. Then I begged for more help. And then I searched for help on the internet, because the internet knows everything.

Then I stared.

I did math in inches. Then I did math in centimeters. It didn't help.

I have to get this right, I thought. Because if I don't, people will know.

I envisioned myself standing at some kind of knitting mixer, holding a martini glass with yarn inside just like at a yarn "tasting" I went to when I first started knitting. Then I envisioned Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, the Yarn Harlot, coming up to talk to me. Then Imaginary Stephanie went over to Franklin Habit (also imaginary), leaned over, and whispered, "That girl's buttonholes aren't even. One space is giant, and the other spaces are tiny! What is that about?*"

I should probably tell you that, in my head, all the cool people of the Knitting World hang out together all the time, even though some of them live in different states or even different countries (Twitter feeds this illusion). Also, the Cool People of Knitting in my nightmare scenario were in some kind of Knitting Mafia, and I was there as some kind of dumb kid who was about to be embedded in the concrete supports for some kind of bridge.

Believe it or not, I have never watched a crime movie, nor do I know anything about the real mafia at all, or any other sort of organized crime family, except that in part of Italy, the mob stopped collecting garbage for a while, and it was gross.

Imaginary Franklin Habit looked at Imaginary Me in my Imaginary Completed Sweater with its Unevenly Spaced Buttonholes. Then he made a face.

Yes. In my scenario, Imaginary Franklin Habit made a face like the girl Willoughby ended up marrying in Sense and Sensibility, the movie version with Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet, when they're all in London and Marianne says, "Will you not shake hands with me?" And Willoughby shoots her down. Then he goes over and tells his new girlfriend some excuse, and she looks over at Marianne and makes a FACE. It's a "Look at the trashy country girl" face. Imaginary Franklin Habit was MEAN, which is not actually true at all, because I met him once, and he was REALLY NICE. He was knitting lace--a baby blanket, I think--and he'd designed the pattern. Seriously--he's super nice! No way would Real Franklin Habit make that face. NO WAY.

In my deranged, buttonhole-spacing mind, Stephanie Pearl-McPhee and Franklin Habit had become Evil. Which is especially crazy of me, because I'm pretty sure Stephanie has been through all this before with knitting, including the mini-meltdown. In fact, I'm sure she has.

But I had become convinced. The next time I go to one of her readings, I thought, Stephanie will pull out a tape measure, one she carries for this purpose and this purpose alone, and then she will measure my buttonhole spacing. It will be like a Knitting Exam, and I will fail, right there in front of all the knitters and spinners.

I ate another Reese's Mini. Clearly, Reese's Minis are some kind of drug that contributed to my meltdown.

Suddenly, I thought of Elizabeth Zimmerman. What would EZ do?

Just as quickly, Imaginary Elizabeth Zimmerman was in my head with Imaginary Franklin and Imaginary Stephanie, and she was raising an eyebrow, and she was taking a deep breath to start a knitting lecture.

Wait. I thought. Elizabeth Zimmerman is no longer with us--so how is she there making fun of my sweater? But then Imaginary Elizabeth Zimmerman became transparent, so I wasn't being lectured to by Imaginary Elizabeth Zimmerman, but by Imaginary Elizabeth Zimmerman's Ghost (you know, like Hamlet's father).

Meanwhile, Twitter was busy telling me that my scenario was covered in crazy sauce, and no way was Elizabeth Zimmerman's Ghost about to drop by my house just to mock me. Also, Twitter said, no way was Stephanie going to measure the spaces between my buttonholes.

Something finally clicked. Of course they were right. In fact, I thought, in Stephanie's books, she talks about how she can never find tape measures! So if she tried to measure my sweater, she wouldn't be able to...theoretically. Also, Franklin is NICE. And so is Stephanie! And even if Elizabeth Zimmerman happened to drop seems like she was nice too! So she wouldn't be mean, would she?

I relaxed enough to place the buttonholes. And yes, my cell phone camera makes funny pink-yellow spots in the middle of pictures. It's very flattering.

Who knows if they are even or not. I certainly don't.

But I'll be measuring the buttonhole spacing before I go to another one of Real Stephanie's readings, just in case.

*It is worth mentioning that Stephanie says the word "about" in a fantastic way, and I love listening to her say it. This was why I majored in English, and why I got an A in History of the English Language when we all listened to different people speaking English, then wrote down what they were saying phonetically. Because I am a Word Nerd.


  1. Ahh... the Canadian "aboot". Your sweater looks lovely, I'm sure the buttonholes are perfect.

  2. I love it. "About" sounds better when Canadians say it. The buttonholes seem okay...I think. I measured. They're even. Ish.

  3. They look very even!

    I often ask myself what Elizabeth Zimmerman would do. It's very helpful.

    It's a super cute pattern, but when I clicked over to the model shots, I saw what you mean about the frowny face thing. Ah, the power of suggestion.

  4. yeah, making even buttonholes and picking up evenly for neckbands are probably my least favourite thing, but I always like to tell myself that they add character to any knitted project.
    but the sweater looks lovely, buttonholes and all :D