Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Go after it with a club!

Over the holidays I was trying to remember the last time I knit a sweater for myself.  I dug around in my closet and found a little brown summer cardigan that was completed 2 years ago (and I wear the heck out of, by the way).  I also found the lacy, red tunic-style tank top I knit around the same time for my daughter, at her request, that ended up in my possession (another story altogether).

That's it.  2 little items 2 years ago.

My knitting bags and baskets are always full of works in progress (WIP), but evidently I do not find much time to plan and knit for myself.  In the last 2 years I have finished countless projects for the store, for gifts, for classes, and so on.  And I feel quite satisfied with that part of my knitting life.  Yes, in fact, things have been rolling along nicely.

The searching in my closet, however, was precipitated by a deep, down gnawing feeling that my knitting work has really become, well, WORK.  And I am in it up to my eyeballs. 

Knowing myself like I do, that's a dangerous place to be because when my passion, my creative outlet, doesn't feel passionate and creative, well, it isn't gonna be pretty, that much I can tell you.   It's something that I worried some about when I first made the career change.  I remember Phil asking me on more than one occasion whether I was getting tired of it or if it was feeling like work.

And always I would answer, no, absolutely not.  I love knitting for a living.

No really, I do...but, life has a way of changing directions on you before you even realize it.

Not all at once, but slowly, I have been able to feel the shift in my thinking and in every stitch I take.  I ignored the feeling for some time, but then owned up to the reality of the situation.  It happened. The needles became heavy.  The patterns all seemed to be the same.  The colors felt dull.  The yarn was lifeless.  My knitting world started turning very gray.

I was heading for knitting purgatory!  You know the place I speak of?

For some beginning knitters it may mean knitting too many scarves or dishcloths; for others it could be that you are forcing yourself to use up yarn in your stash that is full of colors you can't even imagine why you bought, or a fiber that doesn't feel good in your hands.  And still other knitters may be stuck in knitting purgatory thinking they have simply lost interest when what they really need is a challenge, an inspiration to spark the flame.

Think I am being a bit melodramatic?  Well, maybe. :) The process and condition I describe is fairly accurate though.

The trick is not to panic and don't dwell on the negatives of the situation.  Just figure out what needs to be done and do it.

So..........

What do I need?

Inspiration?  New ideas?  Time?  A vacation?  A quiet space to figure it all out?

How do I breathe new life into my hands and my needles from time to time?  How do I prevent burnout?  How do I find time for my own designs?  How do I find time to further my education and skills?  When do I get to work on projects that challenge me and in turn inspire me to want to keep teaching and pass the knowledge along?

One of my all time favorite quotes about creativity comes from Jack London:  "You can't wait for inspiration.  You have to go after it with a club!"

And that's just what I have decided to do.

A couple of weeks ago, Phil watched me carry out of my studio at home a stack of books and magazines that I could hardly carry up the stairs.  I wanted to spread them out on the sectional in the living room and see what might happen.

I believe he said something like: "Wow...planning on doing some serious knitting, are you?"  Yes indeed, honey.  Some serious knitting.  (Like I'm not ALWAYS seriously knitting!)..but anyway...

I needed to take immediate action and this was the fastest way to do it.   

I spent the rest of the evening pouring over every pattern I had marked in every magazine and book I had bought in the last 4 or 5 years, determined to find the perfect sweater project to make for myself.

I read articles on yarn and color and new techniques.  I delighted in getting reacquainted with the simple pleasure of sitting down with a warm cup of tea (or a very cold beer ;) to sip on and a knitting magazine.

And the goal was simple.  Relax.  Enjoy the process.  Find something to knit, just for me.

I actually came away with TWO sweaters that I was very excited about.   I was not surprised, nor was my husband at the number--TWO .

I am a woman of excess, for sure.  If some is good, more is better.  If one is satisfying, two will be exhiliarating!  (This is my subconscious mind at work.  I have become very familiar with my subconscious.  We don't always agree, but we have come to an understanding:  I don't get in her way, I listen to her, and all works out fine in the end.)

Here's the first one I chose:


My knitting 'funk' seemed to be subsiding already.  I was remembering why I loved to knit in the first place.

Finding just the right project(s) that I was anxious to try....first step done.

Next step in the creative process...Selecting the color(s) and type of  yarn...Swatching and figuring out my gauge...What needles do I use?  Bamboo?  Metal? 


For the Arching Cables Jacket I went with my Addi Turbo Lace tips and this rich, pumpkin color in Brown Sheep Nature Spun N17 called French Clay.
What interested me most about this sweater was the construction of it.  The belt is knit first and then you are to pick up stitches from the top of the belt and knit the top of the sweater and then again pick up from the bottom of the belt to finish the bottom of the sweater. 
The second pattern I chose was this lovely little number:
It calls for 4 strands of lace weight in the bottom, sleeves, and collar, and two strands for the lace panel across the back.  I was especially drawn to the shaping of the garment with it's tucks in the back, the half length bell sleeves, and the crocheted edging to finish it off.
I went with Wildfoote Luxury Sock Yarn, fingering weight, (which is like a double strand of lace weight), just to cut down on the number of strands and possibility of tangling.  The cones are wonderful to work off of as they tension so nicely.  And a deep, shiny, blue called Navy Royale was my color choice paired with Crystal Palace bamboo needles.

This is the beginning of the bottom panel done in twisted rib.  I think it's going to be luscious to knit and to wear.
Now how did this pic of Cotton Fleece get in this post?
Oh yeah...did I mention I found a 3rd sweater that I just HAD to cast on for?  Yep, it's true.  (Told you I was a woman of excess)

I was rummaging around in our trunk shows downstairs at work and found the Chris Bylsma box.  She does a lot with cables and drop stitches in her designs and this one is very dramatic when you see it all knit up.



I tried the sample sweater on and it fit me like a glove.  The large, flowing cables are fabulous in this one.  I promise, it is unusual and interesting in it's design.

What else was I going to do but immediately run back up to the store and find the color I wanted?

I believe I will keep this one to myself though, except for a few sneak peaks every now and then, just for fun.

Maybe a little 'fashion show' will be in order when I get them all knit up.  I am not fond of publishing pictures of myself (in fact, let's be clear, I do not like my picture being taken, period.)  However, since I am working on new challenges just for me, that might be one I will tackle.

Guess I got my knitting mojo back for the moment.  What do you think?  Too much?  Are they doomed to become UFO's in my closet?

Not a chance!  I've got a knitting fire in my belly and I am going after that inspiration with a club!

How about you join me?

Until next time...

Knit on,

Donna