Monday, October 18, 2010

Each One Teach One

Well, I'm exhausted. This is generally not the way I prefer to begin my week, but I think the weekend was worth it, so I'm going to try to keep the complaining to a minimum.

This week was busy, but I mostly worked on my Bluebird shawl. Then - I mostly un-worked my Bluebird shawl. I had a little "failure to read directions" incident (to be referred to hereafter on this blog as a "FTRD incident"). See, I have this weird blind spot with patterns that instruct you to do x number of repeats and then a partial repeat. Invariably, the number for the full repeat sticks in my head, and then I knit that number of repeats and go straight on to the next chart, forgetting that I was supposed to do the partial repeat.

This particular FTRD incident was particularly egregious because I stopped and went back to check the directions before I proceeded from Chart B to Chart C, just to make sure I wasn't supposed to do something in between (since that frequently trips me up also, just moving from one chart to the next without reading the 'knit three rows of garter' or whatever that I was supposed to do in between them). Yet, somehow, I missed the instructions written RIGHT BELOW THE CHART which said to repeat Chart B 4 times and then repeat rows 1-12.

I knitted all of Chart C and half of Chart D before I realized what I'd done. Then I looked at the picture on the front of the pattern, for some reason I cannot explain. And I counted the points on the little wing motif that I was supposed to repeat 4 times. And I counted 5 in the picture. I counted again. I counted again. I counted mine. I counted the picture again. I went back and read the directions.

Then I went to bed. A couple of busy days went by before I was able to do anything about it. Friday night I prepared myself, sat down, and began ripping. I rarely use lifelines - frankly, I find that I rarely need them - and I didn't have any in this project. As I sat down to rip I took out an embroidery needle and some dental floss, but quickly concluded that I probably wouldn't be patient or skilled enough to pick up an 'afterthought' lifeline through all that lace. Easy as pie in stockinette, but not really in lace. However, I knew from experience that if I just ripped and then tried to pick up all those stitches, I was going to end up having to do a lot of repairs.

I considered this for a moment and then I started ripping. I ripped back to one row before where I wanted to stop. Then I took my needle and floss, and as I pulled the working yarn out of a stitch, I picked up the newly freed loop on my embroidery needle. By using a tiny needle and doing this one stitch at a time, I was able to do it without pulling neighboring stitches out prematurely. I ended up with a near perfect result, all the stitches neatly captured on my floss, which held them in place while I picked up the loops with my working needle.

I worked a few rows of the missing repeat, and then I went to bed. Saturday, I got up, packed a bunch of stuff that I didn't really need in the car, and drove to my old college town. My best friend is going through a rough patch and so we decided to meet there since it was halfway between us, and spend the day together. I took a bunch of knitting, since I wasn't sure what she would want to do. We met up, we had lunch, and then she wanted to go to a particular shoe store in town that carried a line she was interested, and I agreed as long as she would let me stop by a local yarn shop on the way.

Well, we talked knitting all the way to the yarn shop, and we wandered around the shop, and she was asking me questions, and I told her to pick some yarn she liked and I would teach her to knit. She ended up with a lovely alpaca silk worsted weight (thank goodness, I was afraid I was going to have to talk her out of some fingering weight she was eyeing, because I knew it would take her forever). She picked a light grey, which was perfect, since it's much easier to teach somebody when they're working with a light color and can see what they're doing. I got some yarn for myself, of course, and I bought her the yarn she picked and an Addi Natura circ. I prefer sharp points and metal needles, but for a beginner I thought we should go with something blunter and not so slick as the addi lace or turbos. I debated for a while on tip sharpness but the yarn she's using is fairly loosely plied and from our lesson experience, I'm glad I went with the blunt tip.

Anyway, we finished at the yarn store, went to the shoe store, and then went to the bookstore, where I got her a couple of beginner books on knitting. Then we went to a Starbucks and I taught her how to knit. She picked it up very, very quickly, I was amazed at how well she did. Maybe all those years of musical training gave her exceptionally nimble fingers, I don't know. I taught her how to cast-on, knit, purl, increase, decrease, yarnover, how to knit or purl through the back loop - and I taught her what mistakes look like. I watched her knit and purl and stopped her as soon as she switched from one to the other without moving her yarn so she could see what an accidental yarnover looked like. Every time I saw her do something wrong I made her stop and look at it so she could see the difference. I showed her what a stitch looks like when it's backwards. I told her everything I could think of that I wish I had known early on.

Once we were through the basics we pulled out the swatch she had done and she got started on a scarf. One of the books I got her had a basic stitch dictionary in the back, and she picked a basketweave stitch for her scarf, which I thought was ideal since it would give her practice with both knitting and purling. We talked a little bit about gauge and yarn weights, but I mostly told her to read about those in the books I gave her because they'll probably explain it better than I could. She asked questions about the sock I was making; I showed her how it was constructed and how I picked up stitches for the heel. I didn't teach her how to knit in the round, but I figured it out from a book and I'm sure she could too. Anyway, we looked at the gauge on the ball band of the yarn, figured out how wide she wanted it to be, and worked out how many stitches she needed to cast on. I think we overshot a little bit on the width, but she was okay with it, so I let her keep going. This morning she posted on Facebook that she had hand cramps from knitting all day on Sunday, and posted a picture of her scarf, which has grown rather significantly. Oddly enough, her cat is scared of the yarn. Go figure.

It was really an amazing day, I got to share something I loved with someone I loved, and she really seemed to enjoy herself. I think the knitting will be good for her. I also, to tell the truth, found I was really emotional about going back to my old school, even though we were only in the town and we didn't make it up to the school grounds (homecoming weekend, very crowded). Though I've been back in the area a couple of times since I graduated, I've never gone alone, and I was rarely driving. I had plenty of time this time, however, to think about all the other times I drove that route and all the good and bad experiences I had on that campus - and there were plenty of both. There are things I miss about college and things I would just as soon forget ever happened. I found myself getting teary-eyed more than once, and I think I would really like to go back and walk around, and just take a little time to remember.

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