5 Ways to Show Your Knitting Who’s Boss

5 Ways to Show Your Knitting Who's Boss

Project funks are a fact of life. Sometimes work gets busy or life gets life-y and you come home and mind meld with the couch. Even the comfort of knitting is no fun if you have a lot of stress in your life and the self-imposed deadline to finish that hat before your friend’s birthday is just too much. Or knitting while laying down is just too uncomfortable (I’ve tried!) and horizontal wins yet again.

Why should your hobbies stress you out?

Well, that’s a question for philosophers to debate. I don’t have all the answers.

Sometimes you get in a funk because every project around you seems to fail. Your WIP pile is woolly madness.

Be the Boss of Your Knitting

Elizabeth Zimmermann taught me to be the boss of my knitting and now that’s my motto.  It’s just yarn. You can get frustrated. You can throw that POS in the corner when you find a glaring mistake 14 rows down and you don’t know how to fix it. Or you don’t want to.  Or you just want to be petulant for a while before you go back to being an adult and fixing the mistake.

You can cry. You can give up. But remember: you are still the one in charge, not the twisted hair of farm animals dyed in luscious colors that you can’t resist touching, much less buying.

Here are five options to consider when the wool doesn’t go your way:

Get Help

Be the boss of your knitting by getting help at knit night

Sometimes a pattern isn’t working and a second set of eyes makes all the difference. This is one of the awesome aspects of Knit Night!

Put It in Time Out

Be the boss of your knitting by putting it in time out

Out of sight, out of mind for a day (or more…) will help reset your expectations, or give your unconsciousness a chance to work through a problem so you can suddenly stand up and say “Ah ha! I’ve figured it out!”

I often go from Time Out to the next option…

Rip It Out

Be the boss of your knitting by ripping it out

Knitting is your hobby, not your job (probably). If what you’re making isn’t bringing you joy, make yourself a comforting beverage, sit down in front of your favorite TV show and rip, rip, rip. It might seem scary at first, but it is VERY cathartic.

Give It Away

Be the boss of your knitting by giving bad projects away

If you can’t bear to look at it, give your project a new home, finished or not. There are always knitters grateful for something new to play with, or non-knitters happy to score a handmade item.

Get Creative

Be the boss of your knitting by getting creative with things that don't work out

That hat coming out too small and you’re not sure you like the yarn anyway? With a sewing machine and some moxie, you can turn that . . . thing into bean bags or microwavable hand warmers or cat toys or . . . well, if I gave you all the answers, there’d be no room for creativity.

Be Sentient and Proud of It

I am a big fan of #2, time out. My WIP basket is currently at ## projects — and that’s just the knitting.  Once a year or so, I take an inventory and discover what I’m ready to let go of and what I still love and want to finish.

What are your solutions to misbehaving projects?  Share in the comments!

Surprise, Baby!

The Baby Surprise Jacket in Happy Fuzzy Yarn Superwash Sport

The Baby Surprise Jacket was the most fun thing I knit all year.  Bold statement considering we have three more months to go, but I’m sticking by it.

This is probably one of the world’s most famous knitting patterns, first published by Elizabeth Zimmermann in 1968. The knitter just knits along, tracking some not-complicated increases and decreases, and when you bind off, you are left with an odd blob, but with a quick fold here and there, the garment’s shape is revealed. A couple quick seams later and you have a really cute jacket.

This pattern has spawn child and adult versions and is a favorite for those who want to use scraps and handspun because the geometry of this pattern shows off stripes and multicolored yarns to great effect.

I was able to see all this for myself in Ravelry under the projects tab for this pattern. Armed with that knowledge, I chose a gender-neutral green and yellow multicolor from Happy Fuzzy Yarn called “Colorado River” in the Superwash Sport base. This yarn is incredibly squishy and dyes up vibrantly thanks to the superwash quality.

It knit up quickly and when I was near the end, I puzzled out the folding just to see what it look like.

The Baby Surprise Jacket in Happy Fuzzy Yarn Superwash Sport

It took my breath away, it was soooo adorable. I think the Baby Surprise Jacket, done up in a sportweight yarn, makes a sweater that fits a 3-6 month old — well, based on standard clothing sizes for babies. YMMV.

If the pattern weren’t awesome enough by itself, my son FINALLY learned to knit one night on a weekend trip by working a couple rows on this sweater.  Yes, I left them in.  His stitches were fine! (Those are his hands in the action shot above.)

The Baby Surprise Jacket in Happy Fuzzy Yarn Superwash Sport

This sweater was a gift for our newest nephew, born at the end of August.  He’s a little bean now; we can’t wait to play with him when he gets a little older!

I can’t recommend this pattern highly enough. It kind of makes me want to go on an EZ pattern bender. Have you made any of her patterns? I’ve knit a few and enjoyed them also; I think it’s time to discover others by her.

Bumpy Road

Mitered Mittens

Sorry to myself for not writing more.  I actually think about the blog every day but am usually up to my elbows in small children and mundane household needs.  I think the real kicker was Elinor started walking in December and now I am like a circus conductor with the 1 year old, 5 year old, 2 year old GSD, and 2 cranky cats.

In the past two months I have knit myself a pair of Elizabeth Zimmermann’s mitered mittens, finished my Jaywalkers, finished the entrelac scarf (today!), and ripped out the green socks for Elinor, who is growing faster than I can knit.  And walking, so she needs non-skid socks.

Jaywalker socks

Mitered Mittens

(I’ve screwed up my camera card and so pics of the scarf will have to wait.)

I also took part in the Knitting Olympics (Yarn Harlot and Ravlery).  I wanted to make my Ribby Cardi finally.  I cruised along for the first 14 days or so. I wasn’t going to earn the gold because work was jerk again and a project overran (and is still overrunning) its schedule, eating up a lot of my personal time.  But I was having loads of fun watching winter sports, rooting for various people, kvetching about NBC’s broadcast, and knitting when possible.  I knit the back of my sweater and half of one of the front pieces.

Then disaster struck.  And I do mean disaster.  As in airlifted off the ski-run.

Two of my adult sweaters – the Must Have Cardi (my first adult sweater) and the Urban Aran Cardi (Matt’s birthday sweater) – were felted in a tragic dryer accident.  I discovered what happened right before I went to bed and so cried myself to sleep, I am not ashamed to say.  There was a lot of work and love in those sweaters.  For three-quarters of the next day, I was just flattened, numb, mourning.  It felt weird to hurt so much because ultimately these things are replaceable; they’re not living creatures.  As deeply as I sank in sadness, I did bounce back quickly.  The kids got me laughing late in the day and we played a silly game (omigod, watching Elinor try to do the same things her brother was doing so that she could play too!  Priceless!) and after that it wasn’t so bad anymore.

Unfortunately, I could not find solace in my Ribby Cardi in progress because I had some doubts about the fit but kept telling myself, “It’s not your only handknit cardigan so it’s okay.”  Oops.  I went for a smaller size so that all of my sweaters would not be huge and swimmy on me.  But the gauge swatch lied to me and the sweater came out even smaller.  I am going to rip it all out and restart.  It’s a relaxing knit so I don’t mind redoing but I always need some distance before a big frogging.  I spent the remainder of the Olympics tinkering away on the scarf and a (another!) birthday gift.

I did get a beautiful Smartwool henley sweater from Matt in condolence for my loss.  And the weather is warming. The bulbs are beginning to peek out of the mud.  There is so much to look forward to.

The Urban Aran Cardigan warms yet another body


After swearing up and down and back and forth that last night was the night that I was going to go to bed early (ie, on time), I sat down for an hour to sew some more on the zipper of Matt’s Urban Aran Cardigan.

Wait, back up.

On Thanksgiving, Matt drove us to my parents’ house and I started sewing down the zipper.  My hand sewing is not the best but I am capable.  I decided back stitch was the way to go.  Strong, uses twice as much thread, and even I can’t screw it up.  Or can I?

The thing I was doing didn’t look like back stitch but I could not fathom what I was doing wrong.  So I stuffed the sweater back into its tote and talked to my husband for the rest of the car ride.  Maybe, just maybe, I saw a tear in his eye?  He’s been waiting a long time.

That evening, back at home and kids abed, I did some research online.  Looks like I had the right method but was, um, going backwards.  Sigh.  I was sewing back stitch left to right rather than right to left.  I don’t know how it could make that much difference but, oh, it did.

Sunday was another trip, this time to Matt’s dad’s house.  In half an hour (before the edges of car sickness snuck up on me; a legacy of my pregnancies that sometimes haunts me) I managed to sew down about half of one side of the zipper.  Yey!  Measurable progress!

So last night, with an hour to go until my 10pm bedtime, I figured I would get the other side sewn down.  That plan went so peachy and my back stitch was going much faster so I started in on the other side and willfully ignored the clock.  I was also listening to Elizabeth Zimmermann’s Master Classes on the Knitting Workshop DVDs.  In the end, I stayed up until midnight with Matt who, when he realized sweater was about to be finished, decided to stay up and keep my company.

At about 11:30pm last night we pranced around singing “Happy Birthday” and snapping pictures.  The strange glow in the photo above is my Ott light, which was necessary to see the dark brown thread against the dark brown zipper and dark brown wool.

So that’s the good news.  Ten months later, the birthday cardigan is done and I am free to start my own new sweater: Ribby Cardi.  Of course my mom mentioned to me on the phone last night that she needs a wool sweater for her office.  Was she fishing?  If so, I didn’t bite; not yet.  She knows how to knit and I need a cardigan!

The bad news is that our dog, about an hour ago, jumped up on a window and broke it.  After cleaning up the glass, I was able to wrangle the storm into place (our windows are old) so that I am no longer heating my front yard.  I am awash with ugly emotions.  Luckily both children are asleep and I can hunch over some knitting and distract myself for a bit.  This post is part of that distraction so let’s just move on.

Ribby Cardi calls me like a siren but I am going to put her off for a few days or weeks.  I’d like to wrap some of my other projects.  Nevertheless, I did cast on something entirely new this afternoon.  Zander’s winter gear was next most important on my list because he is playing on the playground at preschool three days a week, at the very least.  I started a Toasty Topper today with Cascade 220 Heathers in a blue color.  Hopefully there will be enough leftover that I can also make him some mittens.  If not, I know where to get more.

There is more to tell you my pretties, but I’ll save it for another day.  I need to go do some knitting.


Around the World crochet afghan

What is this?

Around the World crochet afghan

Crochet?!  Not just crochet but a giant granny square.

Not just a giant crocheted granny square but I am watching Elizabeth Zimmermann‘s PBS series Knitting Workshop while I work on this!  The granddame of knitting – ha!

Oh and I am breaking my no-TV resolution to boot!  Ha HA!

And what happened to the Lace Ribbon?  Oh yeah, there it is, next to the oft-neglected Jaywalker

Lacey Ribbon Scarf and Jaywalker Socks

Enough with the sins, now for the graces: I am putting a dent into my basket of Wool-Ease!  In addition to this new project, I have also given away a couple of skeins to a friend.  Abbey is not just any friend but a crocheter whom I have recently brought over to the knit-side.  That was a few weeks ago.  Fast forward to today: Charlotte and I were knitting and chatting and I showed her this pattern (scroll down to see a few examples), deciding on the spot that I would make this blanket per pattern, but I would challenge myself to only get yarn for it by trading or buying inexpensively via Ravelry.  No going to the store, not even for a sale.

Charlotte then left and I was alone with these threads of ideas swimming around in my head.  In a flash, the basket was out and yarn was lining up on the table.  It all happened so fast, almost of its own accord.  I quickly perceived that I had a veritable rainbow of partial skeins.  I made one or two adjustments and then, simply, began.  I won’t lie; it may only be a granny square, which I have made before, but it was slow-going for a few rounds because I had to relearn how to double crochet and how to create a granny square.

Granny square: NOT like a bicycle.  But still not so hard at all.  Just as happened gradually with knitting, I find I am able to “read” my crochet better now that I have been playing with it for a few years (two, I think).  That’s exciting.  It’s progress.  It gives me hope that I may someday have a decent grasp of this.  But I can never be brilliant at crochet because that is my sister’s domain, you understand.

My other grace?  After much hawing and heming, the zipper has been ordered for the Urban Aran Cardi.

And to close with wise words from EZ herself: “This just goes to show you…people will wear anything on their heads!”

"This just goes to show you...people will wear anything on their heads!"

(Matthew in his ubiquitous Greek fisherman’s cap and Elinor in a cotton cap knit by grandma with yarn she dyed herself.  This is a much cuter picture than the one I considered of Zander wearing his underwear on his head.)