There’s a disease out there folks, and it’s bad. It leaves you with an unsettled feeling, a vague sense of nausea, and at its worst can result in a splitting headache and high levels of anxiety. The medical term is “Finishitis” and I have it bad.
In the dictionary of knitting related illnesses Finishitis is described as follows: ” the inability to finish one project before beginning another, particularly as it relates to knitting. Reasons for this could range from the insatiable need for the thrill of the new to Attention Deficit Knitting Disorder (ADKD). Finishitis can be triggered by yarn trunk shows, fiber arts festivals and yarn crawls. People who work in yarn stores are particularly susceptible.”
I live in a perpetual state of Finishitis. Unfortunately I have the chronic version so that it actually applies to all other areas of my life so that everything gets about 75% done (well, except food). Laundry, ironing, cleaning, gardening all sort of linger in that perpetual state of unfinished-ness. And don’t even get me started on my other passion, painting. The only way I ever finish one of those in a timely fashion is if someone is waving a check under my nose. (Note: money is a powerful cure for Finishitis but doesn’t always apply.)
Now those of you who have been following the blog know how susceptible I am to “Finishitis”. It’s an outgrowth of a genetic disorder I have called “Procrastinatia”. Basically, that means I have trouble starting things AND finishing things.(How do I get through life, you ask. I don’t know. It’s a question that has been baffling science and my family for years.)
Unfortunately there is no known cure for “Finishitis”. It is spread easily through the arrival of new yarn and is the first known disease to be transferred through the ethernet, via Ravelry. Fortunately no one has ever died of this disease (although some, like me, have been threatened to be crushed by the weight of their own projects). So if you are like me, and you are faced with many unfinished projects on needles and are tempted by another, do what I do:
Buy more needles.
Let’s face it, there is not much that keeps me from knitting. In fact, knitting for me is not only the ends but the means (for procrastinating on doing pretty much anything else). What inspires you to knit? Do you see a gorgeous yarn and think “I have to find something to knit with that!” Or are you a project oriented knitter: you see something on Ravelry or in a store and think “I have got to make that!” and then you go out to find the perfect yarn.
I tend to straddle both worlds, although if I had to pick one, I would pick yarn first, project later. But how do you know how much yarn to buy, you ask? Well, you just have to think in terms of what kind of project would suit that yarn and then estimate the amount you think you may need, always remembering to overestimate so you don’t run out. And that is why my entire third floor is filled with bins and bins of yarn. But I digress…
Artyarns offers both gorgeous yarns and fabulous projects.
And the yarn you fall in love with can dictate the type of project project and vice versa. We always say there are two general directions in which to proceed: buy a gorgeous yarn and do something simple so that the yarn does all the talking. Or, do a complicated project with plain (not to say inferior quality, just not multi-colored or novelty) yarn and show off your knitting skizzles. I personally love colorwork and cables (although not together, obviously) so I save my love of flamboyant, variegated yarn for socks mostly. Wearing flamboyant socks is sort of like wearing super sexy lingerie: generally (I say generally because you may have a racier lifestyle than mine, but then again, most people do) only a couple of people might know what your wearing but it makes you feel all sort of tingly knowing that you are.
My most recent encounter with yarn-versus-project came up project. I walked in to the store one day and saw Pam’s Exploration Station by Stephen West and it was love at first sight. Even though I’m not a shawl person per se, I loved the use of short rows and different stitch patterns. So naturally I immediately searched out the right yarn (Anzula plus Koigu), dutifully ignoring the bins of yarn at home as well as the 20 some-odd projects already on needles. And the truth is, that when I am project driven I am very focused on finishing said project. When I am yarn driven, the yarn gets put away and may languish for a while (read: months, years, decades). However, I did just use up 22 skeins of Rowan Felted Tweed Aran (for my Rowe sweater) that I bought when Knitting Central was closing so I can pat myself on the back for that.
And yarn driven or project driven, it’s all knitting in the end. And that’s what matters.
Recently I have been doing a lot of traveling. Now, a lot for me may seem like nothing to someone else but when I find myself in Arizona one week, then Florida the next that seems like a lot. And it doesn’t take much to guess that what I’m doing when I’m going through a security line or I’m waiting for a flight or my flight has been delayed for the third time, or I’m sitting on the tarmac or even when I’m finally actually up in the air is knitting. And knitting when you travel can make you a lot of friends (except with the security people who scrutinize the bags going through the x-ray machine, they look at me as though I’m some for or fiendish mass murderer).
Small projects travel easily.
One of the things that I love to do when I am in a new place (or any place other than Westport for that matter) is go to the local yarn store, (yes, we believe in supporting ALL local yarn stores). I had just such an occasion when I was in Scottsdale, AZ. They have a wonderful yarn store out there called Jessica Knits. I chatted up the owner and we talked about yarns (she had just ordered Mykonos as well so I gave her my notes) and patterns (she too was displaying the wonderful Two Harbors poncho that so many of you have done). Then, as I was looking through her book section I started listening in to the conversation between a older woman and a younger customer. The older woman said that there were no yarn stores where she was from and she didn’t think there were any in the entire STATE. Then the younger woman asked where she was from and the answer? Connecticut.
Well, you KNOW I had to step in at this point. I said that actually there WAS a store in her state (and others, but I was going to plead our case first) and I knew because I worked there. And where was that, she wondered. When I answered Westport she looked at me incredulously, and said she lived in Darien. Needless to say I had to make her promise to stop by when she was back east. It’s not a stretch to understand that two knitters might meet and bond at a yarn store but the fact is that once you knit you have a immediate friend group of millions of other people who share the same passion.
Showing off my Exploration Station
In another example of knitters not being able to resist talking to other knitters, while standing in the security line coming back from Florida, the woman in back of me tapped me on the shoulder and asked if I had knit was I was wearing (I had on the Exploration Station by Stephen West). She was a relatively new knitter and had that feverish look of someone who had drunk the Kool-Aid. I said yes, I had in fact knit it and that I worked at a yarn store at which point she excitedly asked me if it was in Jacksonville (our departure point). She was disappointed to hear the answer (no, obviously) as she spent half her year there and had yet to find a decent yarn store. Not every town is as lucky as Westport to have a dedicated yarn store.
So always remember to wear your knitted garments and take out your knitting in public places. You will never be a stranger wherever you go.
Knitting makes friends all over the world!
I usually like to make these posts amusing or at least witty (let me live with my illusions) but for the purposes of this post I am taking a more serious tone.
For most of the past year my mother’s health has been failing. For those of you who have had an aging parent or a sickly relative you know that this can mean a lot of quiet time sitting by bedsides or in nursing home parlors or gardens. I found that my mother liked to sit in the courtyard garden in the sun, dozing or reminiscing. During these times I would take my knitting out, usually a project that did not require too much thinking so that I could respond easily. My mother used to love to watch me knit. Not a knitter herself, she would always marvel at the fact that my sister and I had taken it up with such passion. She loved it when I was knitting my “Trains, Planes and Automobiles” with Kid Silk Haze. She would reach over and stroke it as though it was a pet animal, marveling at its softness.
In the last year I had also knit a large cashmere shawl, originally for myself (I am at heart a selfish knitter) which I ended up giving to my mother. When her final day came, my sister and I lay the shawl over her so that I could feel that she was wrapped in love as she readied herself for her final journey. When she passed away I gave the shawl to my sister. I felt that it was my way of remembering our mother and passing along my knitted love to her.
Many things have been written of late about the benefits of knitting, both mental and physical. But to me, these past few months have really shown me the emotional benefits of knitting. All knitters knows the story of Madame DeFarge knitting her accusations into her work. For me, I feel that my knitting has helped absorb my thoughts and fears, love and, most recently, tears. It has comforted me in this past year, always there to take my mind off other things. I could reach for it when I couldn’t sleep or just needed something to do with my hands. It has been my comfort. It has been my solace.
So the next time you find yourself in a difficult emotional situation remember your knitting. It can truly be a friend in need.
In my experience in teaching and helping other knitters I have come to the realization that a) there is a learning curve to becoming a good teacher and b) we, as a society, should be throwing money at good teachers, wherever we find them (note: I didn’t say I was one but I am always open to having money thrown at me). In any case, I have learned that reading is as essential a skill to knitters as it is to every learner. One of the most common questions we get asked in the store is “Can you tell me where I am? I lost my place”. With a little effort you need never ask that question again (however, we still value your visits).
Now we all like to get wrapped up in reading through patterns, conquering charts, and measuring gauges and these are all important “reading” skills for advancing in knitting. But truly the most important skill is learning how to read the knitting itself. This can be as basic as knowing when you are looking at a knit or a purl stitch or as complex as knowing that you should be twisting a cable or whether or not there should be a yarn over. It should become instinctual, so that when you pick your project up after a hiatus (and that hiatus can just be dinner or even a trip to the bathroom if you have as short a memory span as I do) you can look at your knitting and look at the chart or written directions you are using and know where you are. This will also help if you have a mistake, for example “Ooops, I should have a knit stitch over this purl stitch, let me read back across this row to see where I went wrong” or “I think I should be crossing a cable here so where is it?”
To take your reading to the next level, and this is especially true of cables and lacework, lay out your work and follow where your cables/yarn overs have occurred and when they will be coming up next. Simultaneously read the stitches you just did and the stitches you are about to do. You should also be aware of the rows below if you are in a more complicated pattern. It sounds like you need three pairs of eyes but really you don’t.
This all comes in time if you make the effort to learn as you go. Do not be a slave to just following the pattern blindly: READ what you are doing as you do it. Do a row and then stop and look at it, see where the stitches change up. If you are doing something in a pattern, stop every couple of inches to look at your work and figure out where you are without referring to your notes. I promise that eventually you will be doing this without even thinking about it.
Listen to Teacher and you’ll be graduating to the next level in no time.