Saturday, December 10, 2016

Juno, or Knitting for relaxation

Do you knit for relaxation? Do you, really? Honestly?
I know quite a lot of knitters who not only don’t get more relaxed while knitting but for whom knitting is one of the major sources of frustration in life. Haven’t you heard from some people that knitting makes them angry, or nervous, or angry AND nervous, that they have no patience for knitting?
I don’t knit for relaxation. Actually, it is hard to explain with one or two words why I knit.
It all started long ago (34 years ago to be precise), in a faraway land (former Soviet Union), when I first made myself an object of clothing from a ball of old, recycled yarn. My grandmother taught me how to knit when I was 8, but I didn’t really knit till I was studying at Moscow University.
One of our professors required mandatory attendance which meant that we couldn’t skip his lectures if we wanted to pass his class. 
Those lectures were incredibly boring and I don’t like to be bored, it is my least favorite pastime. I began looking for possible useful things to do while sitting in the class and pretending that I was listening to him. I couldn’t read – he would’ve noticed, and his monotone voice was extremely distracting.
At the time a friend of mine got a new hat handmade by her grandmother. The hat was adorable and warm, and you’ve probably heard that winters in Moscow are long and cold. I found a ball of bright blue recycled yarn in my mom’s stash, took a pair of her needles and decided to make a copy of my friend’s hat. Believe it or not but I figured how to knit in the round on my own, without Internet. Those old day, when we had to use our brains instead of the shiny new “prosthetic  brains” in our pockets!!!! Alas, they are gone… Nevertheless, I figured that if I would go in the round I would be using only knit stitch, and I didn’t have to look at my hands too often. So one day I brought my knitting to the boring lecture and by the end of it made a lot of progress on the hat. Actually, I finished the hat in no time and wore it for several years.
The sleep-inducing professor was teaching us 19th century European literature – and there was a lot of literature in 19th century in Europe, lots and lots of it. So we had this professor for the whole year. By the end of that year I finished a scarf and a sweater. And I got hooked on knitting.
My life was rather difficult then and not only I don’t like to talk about those times, I try very hard not to think about them, to forget as much as possible about them. Knitting helped me to survive. It gave me something to look forward to, dream about, control, and enjoy.
And this is why I still knit. For enjoyment. And I am constantly looking for a pattern that would make me forget about my day to day life and completely captivate my attention. A pattern I could “dive into”.
Can you call it relaxation? I wouldn’t. To me it is similar to some sort of trance or meditation, when you are focused and concentrated on one thing – and you absolutely cannot put down your knitting.
Not all projects are the same. Sometimes I get tired of a project before it is finished and then I have to trick myself into finishing it no matter what (I’ve got quite a few tricks up my sleeve!). Or unravel it. However, I am always looking for excitement, fun, something unusual and experimental to try. There are several requirements though for these unusual and experimental things before I start making them:
1)      they have to be practical (i.e., I have to be sure that myself or someone else will be using it)
2)      they have to fit (e.g., I never knit using entrelac technique because I don’t find clothes made in this technique flattering and would never wear them)
3)      they allow me to be creative, to bring something personal to the pattern.
When I first saw Juno, a free pattern by Natasja Hornby, I was drawn to it because of the fit. Have you see the pattern photos? It fits like a glove. Stripes are my favorite, so that also helped. And then I saw another variation of the same pattern made by the author. The original Juno is figure fitting, with waist shaping  and darts. The second version is more streamlined, without waist shaping or darts. But it also looks amazing. Because of the fit. And if you go to Natasja Hornby’s Ravelry pattern page and look at her finished work, you’ll see that this person really understands woman’s body and knows how to make clothes fit well. This is a rare skill even among professional designers.
So I knew that this pattern would probably fit me well if I did the math right and measured my gauge properly. And I knew that knitting it would be pretty exciting because of many different techniques used. 
What about practicality? Actually, for a while I was looking for a short jumper/sweater to wear with a skirt and so popular now high waisted pants (I love them because they make me look taller). Juno seemed to be precisely what I needed.
In Florida inspiration is everywhere: ocean, trees, birds… Sometimes, you walk on a road and find something like that right under your feet. Just look at these colors!
That is why, even though initially I wanted to use white as one of the main colors for Juno because I had 6 balls of Rowan pure wool 4ply in white, and only 3 balls in each light blue and verdigris, I ended up using light blue and verdigris for the stripes all over the sweater. It seemed more appropriate in these surroundings. And the argyle pattern has been in my plans for a while and when I figured out that I could use it here my hands started itching. It looked like a perfect project – practical, well fitting, and creative.
Now, Juno is finished (more details and pictures on my Ravelry page) and I can tell you that it didn’t disappoint me. The jumper is short and fits me well but the most important part were the happiness and joy that I felt while making it. This kind of magic is rare and it doesn’t happen to me with every project no matter how much I try.
A couple words about the yarn. It is discontinued (naturally!) but I liked working with it and wanted more so I bought some odd balls that I could find on the Internet. We'll see what happens when I get them.


  1. loved your text! You have capture the true reason why i knit! the challenge, the pleasure, the mental work. And especially, the escape, and the multitasking. I'm planning to start my juno any day, and hope it ends as nice as yours.

  2. Wow! Loved your post. My husband and I read it. We have friends in Russia who are being persecuted for their religious believes and I find it so sad. But, I'm glad you live in sunny Florida. It is a happy place to be. I will check out other projects you've made in Ravelry because I like your input on the patterns. I'm new to knitting, but already made socks for my husband, baby sweaters - hats- and rompers for some friends and scarfs. I have plans to make a few more things. I truly enjoy it. Have a wonderful day.

    1. Thank you very much for your feedback! I wish you the best with your knitting - there are so many possibility for our creativity, and I am sure you'll find your specialty soon.