Sunday, January 22, 2006

Old and New Year's Res

I've always been a somewhat crafty person. In my childhood, my godmother taught me how to do basic cross-stitch, my elderly neighbor taught me basic knitting, and my mother taught me basic crochet. I've also done a fair amount with cooking, and I've got five years of soap-making experience under my belt.
Last year I didn't make any New Year's resolutions because I usually end up not sticking with what I resolve to do, but at the end of the year, roughly a week before Yule, my trip to the library resulted in an explosion of craft activity (see previous blog entry on Madam Mao Librarian). Mom has a copy of a Reader's Digest Needle Craft book -- knitting, crochet, cross-stitch, needlepoint, and who knows what else -- that I'd also been working from to learn a bit more to round out my knowledge of the basics. The book's project patterns included socks, which I've since become fascinated with.
During the month of December I made a handful of scarves from yarn I got at Michael's and Walmart, and then began using the books I'd gotten from the library to learn how to do things like cables and different types of textures like seed stitch. Also during the month of December, I bought enough yarn to fill a 50 gallon Rubber Maid tub... and then some. Yes, I've been using it, but knitting is an addiction. I wonder if there's a twelve-step plan for addictions to buying and hoarding yarn.
Anyway, shortly before New Year, I started working on a simple hat -- a two-needle watchcap -- and found it to be not as daunting a task as I'd originally expected. This led to my decision to learn how to make SOCKS and sweaters in addition to the hats. One of my close friends liked the idea of the watchcap and asked me to make her one that will be highly visible at night since she has to walk home from work, so we settled on white with some lively yellow stripes. For some reason the hat reminds me of lemon meringue pie. After I finished her hat, I decided to move on to socks.
Socks, for anyone who's never knitted, look like a horrendous amount of work. Some people prefer to use circular needles while others prefer to juggle a set of four or five double-pointed-needles. The prospect of using anything other than two knitting needles seemed scary, but I broke down and bought a set of double-pointed needles because all the circular needles I've seen are 29 inches long... and no one I know has a 29 inch ankle. After assembling the materials -- including more acrylic yarn! -- , I googled sock patterns and, after much searching, found one that claimed to be "Basic".
The instructions for this supposedly basic sock contained such arcane language as "turning the heel" and "divide for heel flap", neither of which I understood, and since none of the library books in my care had anything to do with socks, I began to lose heart. The ribbed cuff and the leg of the sock went fine, but once I got to the heel flap, I was lost. The instructions said "Slip first stitch and purl to end of row. Row 2: slip, knit to end of row." I took this to mean slip the first stitch and knit to the end of the row, which ended up being wrong. I think I unravelled my heel three times before giving up and going in search of a sock-knitters' forum on Yahoo. I found one, and the people there have been very, very helpful and encouraging.
The second attempt at knitting a sock wasn't a total success, but it ended much better than my first attempt. I bought some cotton yarn at Walmart; this stuff is about the texture of cotton gardening twine, but is a little thicker and comes in lots of pretty colors. As it turns out, this cotton yarn has very little elasticity, which makes it less suitable for socks than I had hoped.
The yarn in question is called "Peppermint", and the sock was a bit of a struggle to knit because of the yarn's texture. It's a pretty sock, but it's quite small, making it impossible for an adult with size 8 feet to wear. My solution to this problem is to leave it as an individual, and use it as either a Valentine's gift or Yule gift by filling it with candy or something similar. I could probably make more of them for that very purpose, rather than use them as actual footwear.
Additionally, up to the point where I was knitting my friend's hat, I'd only been using acrylic yarn. For my birthday, mom ordered some un-dyed wool yarn from a site called the Wool Peddler, as well as some raw silk yarn. I used Black Cherry Kool Aid to dye the wool, which came out a soft coral with dark red patches where there was undissolved powder in the bottom of the pot. Next stop will be sweaters, hopefully...