Too Many Projects, Not Enough Knitting

I’m currently working on at least 4 projects:

  1. A pair of socks for Eva.
  2. A pair of socks for me.
  3. A blanket/bedspread.
  4. A shawl.

Two of these projects are “large” (blanket and shawl) and two are relatively small (socks). I figured having projects of various sizes would be a good thing. It would mean that I would have a portable project when I needed it, a project that involves virtually no pattern work when I need brain-dead knitting, and good projects to get buried under when I’ll be sedentary for a while.  But a problem has arisen.

It’s been a while since I’ve finished a project. Like over a month, I think. Which for me, is a long time. I finished one of my pair of socks, but then before I could start work on the mate, I wanted to get Eva’s socks out, because they are a birthday present for her…which was about a month ago. And the big projects are moving, just very, very slowly. All the more slowly because I have other projects going at the same time.

I knit, at a fundamental level, for the joy of the knitting itself. I do it because it relaxes me, because it helps me focus and because it helps me think. Oh, and because I like yarn.

I don’t knit for the finished object (for the most part). So I find it curious that I’m having this sense of wanting to finish an object. Nonetheless, there it is.

I could, of course, cast on a quick and dirty project just to do something I could knock out in under a week, but somehow starting a fifth project as a response to having too many projects going at once seems like the wrong answer. I’m not saying I won’t resort to it, just that I’m not resorting to it YET.

In the meantime, I’m about to the point where I get to make the short-row heal on the first of Eva’s socks, which suggests I’m making real progress on them.

knitting Rabbinic

Back in the Swing

I am beginning to be recovered from last weekend. I feel significantly more functional than I had been, which is good because tomorrow begins another full weekend. This time, a bar mitzvah Friday night and Saturday, followed by religious school and adult education on Sunday. But it’s not nearly as draining as it was.

Things are adequately back to normal that I’ve had some time to do some knitting. My primary project at the moment is working on Eva’s socks, which  are good, but a little bit fussy. I’m working from the toe up, and the top of the foot as a k6p3 ribbing pattern that I’m going to turn into a spiral once I hit the leg. At this point I’m about half way up the foot or a little more.

These socks have taken a while because I had to rip them  out the first time once I was about 3″ in because I didn’t like the fabric: it was a bit too tight, and thought it might stand up on its own without a foot in it. That seemed bad.  So I upped my needle size from 00 to 0, and I like this fabric much better.

This pattern is basically my own, and once I have it a bit better established, I will probably go ahead and post it (assuming I like it once it’s done).

In other news, I’m distinctly pleased to be feeling human again, to have a little bit of time for knitting again, and to have the brain power to be knitting something other than straight stockinette.  I’m even back to using polysyllabic words.


Work is Cutting into My Knitting Time

I hate it when this happens. I had two hours blocked out for knitting last night. In fact, I was going to work on the socks I had started yesterday. In order to create these two hours for knitting, I’ve gone so far to create a Knitting Night at CubeSpace on a weekly basis. And I’m about to begin knitting, when Eva says to me, “Can you finish writing this proposal for me?”

Now, the real answer to that question happened to be “no.” Not that I wouldn’t, rather that I was not capable of doing so at that time. Nonetheless, I did give it my best shot. I spent about two hours trying to reorganize the text, write transitions, answer questions and the like, all about something I know very little about. To make it worse, my brain was already a touch on the toasty side by 6:30 last night when I began.

On the bright side, Eva tells me what I did was useful, and got her to the next step. On the brighter side, this could result in money coming. I am fond of money, or at least of its uses. We approve of money coming in. Anything I can do to facilitate money coming in is a good thing. Yet trying to kick start my brain into gear last night was extremely painful. I tended to have 15 productive minutes followed by 15 minutes of staring at the screen trying to figure out what those little marks on it represented.

All of this is to say, that I didn’t get to knitting last night.

Today I am down in Salem at the congregation. Some days in Salem are slower than others, and today is not a slow one. I walked through the door planning on spending half an hour writing a different proposal for CubeSpace (which I felt guilty about, until I remembered that I spend at least 4 or 5 hours at CubeSpace a week working on congregational business, so turnabout seems like fair play). But the phone was ringing from the moment I walked through the door. In fact, pretty much as soon as I put down the receiver from the first call, there came a second call (which was great, because it was the necessary follow-up to the first call, completely coincidentally) but between the two calls it was pretty much an hour before I got to the proposal. And all of a sudden, the day is beginning to get a little squeezed with meetings.

On the bright side, tonight is a Temple Board Meeting. And one of the functions of Temple Board Meetings is to provide an opportunity for the rabbi to knit on the congregation’s time (I’m pretty sure that must be one of the functions of Temple Board Meetings, even though it never gets explicitly stated, I think it goes without saying). So tonight, I’ll get a chance to get some knitting done. Which will be a good thing.

When I go too long without knitting, I begin to notice a certain tension in my life, a certain trembling of the hands. Withdrawal doesn’t begin particularly painfully, no deep headaches like caffeine withdrawal, but over time it builds. Eventually, I start noticing everything that’s longer than it is wide and thinking, “I could use that as a knitting needle.” Anything that is vaguely fibrous begins to look like yarn. Pens, chopsticks, scotch tape. . .

And that’s when you know you have a problem. Addicted to the yarn. But I could quit any time I wanted. Really.

knitting spirituality

Yarnia Part II

I’m beginning work on a new project: Eva’s Birthday socks. Here’s how they look so far:


This is the project I alluded to earlier when talking about the yarn I “might” have bought when visiting Yarnia. And this is when I will do a little more talking about the yarn I purchased.

What I bought is 4 strands of wool: 2 green, 2 purple. They are not plied together, but are simply combined. I brought it home on a cone, straight from the machine:


I’ve now divided this into 2 evenly sized amounts of yarn (1 ball, and the rest still on the cone). And I’ve started knitting with it.

The yarn knits very easily. The multiple plies are easy to work with and don’t separate much more than a plied yarn. It feels great to work with, even if it is a little less elastic until it is worked into the fabric.

Regardless of the yarn being used, there is always something exciting about starting a new project. I know there is a lot of knitting ahead of me (which is a good thing), but I don’t really know how it will turn out, yet. I have a plan, and a sense of what I’m aiming for, but I know that the reality may look different from my expectations. Often, the reality is way cooler than my expectations. Almost certainly, it will be better than it looked while it was in process. Starting a new project starts this process.

So, tonight, I am beginning this process: evas-sock2.jpg

And I suspect that I will be continuing on this project for the next few months. Mainly joyously, occasionally dragging myself through it, always waiting to see what the socks will be.


Knitting the Same Thing Twice

I was getting ready to knit a scarf for a friend, and I had a great skein of yarn to use, and a pattern that I’ve used with that yarn before. I was all set to go, until I realized, I’d given away that first scarf as a present also. All of a sudden, it felt wrong to be doing the same pattern for someone else in the same yarn…like I was giving away something that was inadequately unique.


I don’t quite know what this is about. I don’t think it’s just about the fact that I was giving the same item to two people, because I think it fits both of them quite well, and if I were buying it, I don’t think I would have that problem. I think somehow, the fact that I am making the scarf means that I need it to be more unique. Somehow, repeating the pattern and the yarn makes it feel like it is repeating the sentiment behind the gift.  As though I’m not uniquely considering each individual to whom the gift is being given.

In years past, I would have held myself to a higher level of rationality, and if I couldn’t make sense of why this was a problem for me, would have gone ahead and knit the same gift twice. Now, being more willing to accept that human beings are not entirely rational creatures and that we should not aspire to be entirely rational creatures, I’m willing to accept that, for whatever reason, it feels wrong, and therefore I need to find another pattern for this yarn.

And the opportunity to find another pattern is also a good thing, pushing myself to become a more adventurous knitter.


I Know I'm Sick When I Don't Knit

I spent the weekend sick. I’m feeling better now, but all weekend (except for when I was teaching Sunday School, or meeting with people at the congregation) I was lying down and sniffling. I used 1/3 of a bottle of Purrell hand sanitizer during that brief period on Sunday while I was up and about. It became a regular rhythm: sniffle, grab tissue, blow nose, toss tissue, sanitize hands. Repeat ad nauseum.

Worst of all, it was Eva’s birthday yesterday. Fortunately, she was gracious enough to suggest that we reschedule it for a time when I’m doing better. But I was planning on starting work on her socks for her birthday (made with the yarn I had created at Yarnia). But that didn’t happen, because I felt too sick to knit.

Besides feeling awful, one of the things about being sick is that it makes me not want to knit. So much of myself goes into whatever I’m knitting, that I don’t want to imbue my knitting with my sickness. I don’t worry about this at a literal level, but more at the metaphorical level. I figure the germs won’t survive the washing I give a garment when I block it, but I want the garments I make to be filled with good feelings, and positive emotional baggage, not the weight of germs overwhelming my system.

So it was a weekend when I mainly lay still, and got zero knitting done. On the bright side, I’m feeling better now.

knitting spirituality

Mesmerized by the Pattern

One of the things I love about knitting is watching the patterns develop. Circular patterns with variegated yarns are my favorite. I get to watch as the colors line up differently, pooling at times, at other times just blending together. dsc_1994.jpg

The pooling of the colors isn’t something I can control, but I can (and do) watch it develop. I can even “root” for it to develop in certain ways (not that it does much good).

There is, of course, a certain logic to the ways the color pools. When working in the round, in a concentrically expanding pattern, every so often the colors will line up for a while…first when they line up once a round, then twice a round. As the circle gets bigger you get colors repeating three and four times each round.

If you are doing something like socks or mittens, the pattern is somewhat different:dscn0870.jpgThe colors tend to pool for longer periods, more consistently (or they won’t pool at all, and they’ll just stripe as around the cuff).

Watching these patterns develop is one of the things that intrigues me so much about knitting. It seems like the knitter is fully in charge, controls what is happening, but really, we are sort of following along the pattern, and waiting to see what develops.

When I knit a sock, there comes a moment after I’ve turned the heel and either finished the gusset (if I’m working a heel flap) or finished the long rows (if I’m doing a short-row heel), and all of a sudden, I have an incipient sock, rather than a somewhat amorphous tube.

As a knitting project grows, you see more and more in it. The pattern becomes more clear, the structure becomes more clear, the object moves progressively from a piece of string to a series of stitches to a piece of fabric all the way to a finished garment. And as I make it, I get to watch it happen.

Knitting is a great exercise in trust. In believing that somehow it will all work out, if you follow the directions, even if you don’t understand how it is going to work out. There are times when this trust is misplaced. Projects that somehow don’t come properly to fruition. Patterns that stubbornly refuse to produce something that looks anything like the picture. But by and large, the trust placed in a pattern turns out to be well-founded.

Watching knitting develop has some of the same wonder for me, some of the same spiritual satisfaction, as watching a garden grow. I have something to do with how this happens, but it does seem like it mainly happens by itself. And that’s a part of the wonder that is knitting.

knitting spirituality

Hat of Healing

I made a hat for a little girl this weekend. jesses-hat.jpg

She has a brain tumor (actually, she had one, it is now removed and she is recovering). Her mother works at CubeSpace, which is how I know her. She has a generally positive prognosis, which is great, but we want to do all we can to support the family through this tough time. So I do what I can. I pray and I knit.

I’m not sure how much I believe that prayer has the power to make a difference in the material world. I’m pretty sure it helps the sick person to know that someone is praying for them, but I’m not sure I believe that God will send more or less healing to an individual based on my prayers. I’m not sure that God won’t either. So I pray.

And I knit. I knit because it is a concrete act of caring. Making a hat for a little girl out of the softest yarn (alpaca, merino and silk blend) feels like a concrete way to help. Eva bakes, I knit. And as I knit I think about how I want the hat to warm her as she heals, and on through her life. It’s a knit hat, and children’s heads aren’t that much smaller than adult heads, so I’m hoping it will continue to fit her into adulthood. As I knit, I wondered (hoped) it would become a favorite, something that might see her through good times in life as well as this tough time. It’s blue–maybe she’ll use it for her “something blue” in a hypothetical wedding at some point in the future.

As I knit the hat I tried to knit in all the good thoughts I could. I tried to knit in prayers for healing. If will alone could make a hat an instrument of healing, this hat would be one. As it is, this little girl and her two mommies have lot’s of will, and I hope that the hat will keep her warm, feel like love, and, maybe, convey a little of the Divine presence.

Jewish Spirituality knitting

Ripping Back the Knitting

Last week, I stood on the bima (the raised stage at the front of the synagogue) on a Sunday morning, in front of the Sunday school, during our weekly religious school prayer service, ripping back a shawl I was about a third of the way through with. I was ripping back dozens of hours of work. And I asked the kids how they thought I was feeling.

Fortunately I got the expected responsese: “I bet you feel lousy.” “You must be really sad.”

I proceeded to explain that, in fact, I felt quite okay about it. I knit not because I am so invested in the finished garment, but because I like knitting. I was bored with this project, and didn’t think I would find it interesting as a piece of work once it was done. So I was ripping it out. The key aspect, however, is that I knit for the sake of knitting, so by tearing back and using the yarn  for something else, it provided me with even more opportunity to knit.

The reason I was explaining this during a prayer service is that prayer  is just like this. I pray not to get to some desired goal. I do not expect God to directly answer or “grant” my prayers. I do not do it so that I am suffused with a sense of peace and spirituality (though often I am). I pray because I enjoy praying, which is the best reason to pray. When you pray with some other goal in mind, there is always a significant chance of being disappointed. But when you pray because it is something you want to do, even if you don’t get a sense of peace from praying, it has not been wasted time. And even if I don’t enjoy every moment of prayer, like knitting, I continue because I know that, overall, I enjoy it, and sometimes you just have to push through the boring to get to the satisfaction. When you’re knitting a sock, there will be some 2 x 2 ribbing. When you pray, there will be times when it’s going through the motions. But you have to go through the motions to get to the times that you enjoy.

General knitting

A New Relationship With Knitting

I’ve come to a point in my life when I’m realizing I have to admit to something of a problem. I, like many knitters before me, have a yarn problem. I must have more of it. Unlike all too many knitters, however, I lack a huge stash of yarn (as of yet). But I have a plan.

I am a process knitter. I knit because I enjoy the act of knitting. I don’t have a huge attachment to my finished pieces, but am happy to give them away (for the most part). But…there is the little detail of buying the yarn. So, I’ve concluded that it may be time to begin to make my yarn habit more sustainable.

I’m beginning to make items which I will sell. Now, as any knitter can tell you, selling handknits is no way to make money. A pair of socks can take 20 hours or more to knit. The yarn often costs $15 – $20. No matter how lovely those socks are, you cannot sell them for an amount that will compensate for the work that goes into them. Therefore, they must be made with the understanding that they are being made for their own sake, and then sold not as a way to make money, but rather as a way to support a yarn habit.

I, as most knitters I know, believe that we imbue the objects we make with something of ourselves. That the intentions and moods with which we make the objects is in some way inherent in the object. That when we are making an object for someone we love, we are filling the object with love…if only to the extent that when the person we give it to wears it they will feel loved by us because they know we knit something for them. The most explicit example of this is what is called in the (non-Jewish) knitting world a prayer shawl in the Jewish tradition, a prayer shawl is an object worn while praying. In the knitting tradition, a prayer shawl is a shawl made while praying…often made for someone who is sick, and the idea is that the prayers and good thoughts are conveyed to the individual when they wear the shawl.

What, then, is the intention around items intended for sale? I’ve been working on a pair of flip-top mittens for sale. As I’ve been working on them, I’ve been noticing what I’ve been thinking and feeling. It has not been excitement over the money the mittens will bring in. It has not been disappointment over having to give up these mittens. There has been some sense of enjoyment of the yarn itself, and some sense of excitement about the yarns this will lead to in the future. And a sense of curiosity over who will wear my work. (Okay, admittedly there is a little stress over the fact that I’m getting ever nearer to making the mitten shell which requires US #2 DPNs (double pointed needles) and I haven’t made it out to the yarn store to purchase them yet–but without that bit of worry over something knitterly it wouldn’t be knitting, would it?).

So, as I continue to knit on this project, and as I get ready for some larger projects I’m hoping to sell, I’m so far feeling good about this, and looking forward to see where it goes.

Oh, and because you can’t blog about knitting without pictures: Broad Street Mitten

And the pattern is the Broad Street Mitten at