Monday, April 6, 2020

Hunkering down

Here is my list of favorite things to do for the times of stress (besides sitting idly, looking into the void while contemplating the end of the world):
1. Eat as many sweet things as I can stomach – chocolates, dried fruit, candy, jam, honey (this time my absolute favorite was Nutella because it comes in big jars and is really fulfilling).
2. Read mysteries or non-fiction books. I prefer traditional, Agatha Christi-like whodunits. They are like fairy tales – there is always a happy ending with an evil genius either dead or imprisoned.
3. Watch mysteries or documentaries on TV. Same reason – happy endings, plus, since I watch mainly British mysteries, the acting is always superb.
4. Maintain my usual routine as much as possible (really hard to do because of the sitting idly, looking into the void while contemplating the end of the world which is exhausting).
5. Dive into a difficult, time-consuming knitting project, preferably in fairisle technique.
Well, this time I did all of them except for the last one. I couldn’t possibly start a new fairisle project because I had two very slowly going monotonous projects on my hands and a swatch for a fairisle designer knock off that looked overwhelmingly difficult.
You see, before everything around us started crumbling in pieces, I decided to be more practical and efficient with my knitting and picked two projects that, if finished one day, could be easily worn in South Florida all year round and at the same time would diminish a bit my huge stash.
The first such project was a simple ribbed cardigan from the leftovers of Rowan Calmer that I used for the Fisherman sweater. I wasn’t sure how much yarn I had left since several balls were not full, so I figured that I would start with sleeves and, when they are finished, guess the total length of the cardigan.
I picked “fisherman rib”(aka “patent rib”) as my main pattern because it is very stretchy (to compensate for the yarn shortage) and because it doesn’t “eat up” as much yarn as any other “fancy” ribbing (definitely not as much as brioche stitch).
The “patent rib” is very simple to make:
Row 1: 1 knit, *1 knit, 1 purl* till the end of the row, 1 knit.
Row 2: 1 purl, *1 knit below – knit into a stitch below working together a stitch on the needle and a stitch below, 1 purl*, 1 purl.
I really like how this ribbing looks in Calmer. Working on it was an ordeal though. First of all, ribbing with Calmer was hard on my hands and I had to experiment with several different needles (bamboo, metal, circular, straight) before I settled on a pair that was the least painful to work with. Plus the ribbing was so monotonous and repetitive that I would fall asleep after 2 or 3 rows. So the progress was extremely slow, and at some point I didn’t even want to pick up this cardigan because there was no joy in knitting it.
My second sleep inducing project was a simple t-shirt based on the pattern Simplicity that I already made and liked a lot. I had a cone of silk from ColourMart in a nice sandy color with only 870 m in it. Combined with another yarn from ColourMart – Silk/Wool Laceweight – it knits up at a bearable gauge of 23 sts x 32 rs.

Instead of making a short silky sweater with long sleeves I opted for a longer one with short sleeves and a V-neck. Working with these two yarns wasn’t painful at all but still slow going. Apparently, I rarely get excited about working row after row of stockinette stitch. Yet, it was a good TV-watching, speaking with friends project and was moving much faster than the ribbed cardigan.
And then our lives changed, we had to stay home in quarantine with some vague perspectives and no coherent plan of actions. Did it make you anxious? I bet it did. As for me, I am anxious by default, so yes, no surprise here, I became anxious, worried, scared, depressed, restless, uneasy etc. (if you want more synonyms, go to
So I went through my TO-DO WHILE STRESSED OUT list (see above) and got stuck on the last point – I couldn’t start a new project when I had two unfinished ones on my hands already. That would have brought my level of anxiety to an unthinkable high and I couldn’t even start contemplating the ramifications. Yes, I have to tell you my dark secret – I cannot stand an unfinished thing, an unfinished project in particular. Here, I said it in the open and I already feel better!!!! Psychotherapy in action!
This time I decided to funnel my restlessness and agitation into finishing both the t-shirt and ribbed cardigan as soon as possible. It was not an easy task but I accomplished it and am very proud of it since it took pretty much all my willpower and self-control.
How did I do it? Using my love of numbers and counting. Many years ago I noticed that a difficult, sometimes seemingly impossible task becomes manageable if divided in small parts that can be counted. For example, when I swim, I have to count my lapses. If I do, I can swim for an hour without a problem, if not – I get restless and tired after 15 min. I’ve got a small lapse-counter that I wear on my finger like a ring and an electronic lapse-counting box that my husband custom-made for me so I can always see how many lapses I swam already.
When I knit, I always count the rows with a row-counter (I’ve got several of them, mostly like this one, because I think it’s the best). Therefore, after each part of a garment finished, I have an exact number of rows needed to make it. As you know, all parts in knitting (of course, if you don’t work in the round) come in pairs. One sleeve finished, I knew the number of rows to finish the second sleeve. The back finished – I knew the number of rows for both fronts up to the armholes. And so on.
This way, I managed to finish the cardigan (took me 2 months!) and t-shirt in about 10 days. I was rather worried about the finishing process. As you know, I take my finishing very seriously. I think that it is the most important part of creating a garment and it can make or break it. When you finish a project in a hurry being mortally tired of working on it and impatiently anticipating casting on for a new project, it is easy to botch it up.
As a result, I deliberately slowed myself down, checking and rechecking the results of my work. I spent a day finishing the t-shirt. I used an I-cord finishing for the V-neck and had to unravel my first attempt, because the needles I used were too small and the front started puckering.
More details of my Ravelry project page.
And I spent two days finishing the cardigan, making sure that it would look neat and polished, with right buttons, tubular cast off on all the ribbed borders, and well sewn pockets.
Again, go to my project page for more details.
Boy, this was tough! Yet, somehow, it helped to calm down my feverish anxiety and add some serenity in my daily life.
As to my third project, I finally started it when parts of the t-shirt were blocked and drying and worked on it just for fun when Nutella would stop helping.
Again, my inspiration came from Pinterest. I saw this sweater – Ami Paris crew neck with Nordic jacquard pattern - in bright red and just couldn’t help it.
One day I sat down to experiment and managed to knit a swatch looking almost like the pattern on the designer’s original. I used cotton yarn for my swatch because, again, I was trying to be practical and make something that I could wear here and now.
I like my color combination even though it is not as vibrant as in the original. Yet, after hours of sitting in front of the computer and constant unravelling, the pattern didn’t look easy to me and I was reluctant to make it. I even started looking for other, easier patterns with 3 colors, preferably ones that were already written, so I wouldn’t have to improvise.
Eventually, I decided to make this fairisle crew neck. Desperate times require desperate measures, right?
This is where I am right now.
The work on this sweater has been surprisingly quick. As a template I decided to use a pattern of a sweater that I’d already made with the same gauge, so I don’t have to improvise too much. And, since I am using leftovers of cotton from this sweater, I am not sure that I have enough yarn for long sleeves which would be OK with me (however, in this case I’ll have to work out how to use up the leftovers of my grey cotton yarn later – go figure!).
Oh, and among my other stress-reducing techniques are:
1. Don’t watch news, read a bit of news in the morning when still strong and optimistic, and then stop doing it.
2. Don’t “educate” myself about the problem (meaning, don’t read the endless articles on the Internet that “explain” everything because they usually make things less clear and even scarier).
3. Don’t go on Social Media (well, I go but rarely and for a short amount of time, trying not to get stuck there).
Do you have anything else to recommend? I would love to try something new. Let’s help each other, after all, we are in the same boat right now!

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