I don’t enjoy shopping. Whether it’s for clothes, food, or even books, I’m just not that into it.
However, as I’ve moved further into the knitting world, one form of shopping has become more of a pleasure than a chore.
That is: yarn shopping!
What is it about Yarn?
Yarn is so full of possibilities.
An unwound hank of yarn, twisted into a skein, sparks the imagination. Whether it’s the color or the texture, with just a little creative thinking, it can become a luxurious cabled sweater, a drapey shawl, or a cozy hat.
The thing is, I’m not talking about just any kind of yarn.
The Kind of Yarn Matters
When I first learned to crochet, I would use whatever yarn was available and affordable. Mostly, that was 100% acrylic yarn.
Acrylic yarn has its uses and I don’t want to knock it. But when we were living in Montreal, I joined a Stitch n’ Bitch knitting group.
Through the Stitch n’ Bitch ladies, I succumbed to the love of fine yarns.
Once you knit with these (or a combination of any of them!), you’re done. It’s really hard to go back once you get used to the feeling of these yarns in your hands.
How Temptation Arose
You guys know I knit a lot. I really like it. As I’ve written here before, it’s a big part of my mental health regime.
I usually buy yarn with a specific project in mind. It’s true that I don’t always end up knitting what I had planned with the yarn, but that’s beside the point.
It’s not like the yarn is going to go to waste! But it’s true that I have accumulated a healthy stash of nice yarns.
While we were on vacation, I finished my “dotted rays” shawl by Stephen West. Foolishly, I had not considered the possibility that I would actually finish it, and failed to plan for another travel project.
What to do??
At home, I have patterns. At home, I have yarns for those patterns.
Unwisely, I made my way to the internet, where luxurious yarns are readily available for purchase.
Any yarn I ordered online would not be available to me until I got home!
And yet, I ordered it.
Hence, my guilt.
Why I Feel Guilty
Partially, it’s the the fact that I already had plenty of yarn.
But it’s also an insidious phenomenon that many people (especially women) suffer from: namely, feeling guilty for spending money on something that is purely for pleasure.
It’s ironic: so much of what is marketed to us involves pleasure. Food that tastes good, amazing vacation destinations for travel, etc.
But when you think about it, most of what is marketed to women as “pleasure products” are self-care products like soaps, shampoos, spas, manicures, makeup…
All things to make ourselves look more appealing to others (read: men).
When women choose to spend money on anything that isn’t for our families, or to make us more attractive to the men in our lives, we are taught to be ashamed.
We can even feel guilty for purchasing books, for goodness sake!
Swallow the Guilt
Unless you are spending money you cannot afford to, I say: swallow the guilt.
We need to get over it. As long as our spending isn’t irresponsible, why should we feel any guilt on the score?
Okay, so admittedly I probably should not have made the purchase I did. I didn’t need the yarn, it wasn’t cheap, and I had other projects ready.
But I will not beat myself up for giving into temptation and indulging in an impulse purchase.
(Really! I won’t! Or at least I’ll try not to…)
What Are Your Impulse Purchases Like?
What do you spend money on and then feel slightly guilty about later? What are your indulgences?
It has come to my attention that there are knitters out there who are still unaware of Ravelry.
WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN? Do you live under a ROCK??
Not to make you feel bad or anything, but you are missing out on so many wonderful features that will add to your enjoyment and delight in knitting!
Ravelry.com is a magical combination of social media platform and mega pattern & yarn information database.
You must create a username and password to access the platform, but it is completely free to do so. Once you’re a member, you have at your fingertips a library of hundreds of thousands of knitting and crochet patterns.
Many of them are free to download, and others you have to pay for. The staggering number of over 500,000 patterns can be a little misleading because they’re not all necessarily available to download. Anyone can add a pattern to Ravelry, even if it’s a pattern from an old magazine for instance. But mostly, you’ll find a pattern that is at least available somewhere online, even if not directly on Ravelry.
Some of My Favorite Ravelry Features
Aside from the enormous list of available patterns, there are many features I love on Ravelry.
1. Advanced Search Filters
First, I love the pattern search filter options. When you’re looking for something to knit, you can search by almost any possible category you can think of.
The Advanced Search option lets you choose by craft (knit, crochet or both), category (garment, accessory, toy, home decor), whether it’s available to download, yarn weight, design attributes… SO MANY OPTIONS!
I love using this when I have some yarn and I don’t know what to do with it. I’ll search by weight, yardage and how many colors I have. Though I’m not usually a stasher (I buy yarns with a specific pattern in mind), when I’ve had a stray skein or two this has been so helpful.
Though this requires a bit of input, I love the option you have to add projects to your profile. You create a project and you can include so much information: the yarn you use, the needles, who you’re making it for, sizing, etc.
If the pattern exists on Ravelry, you can automatically populate a lot of the details in your project. As soon as you link your project to a pattern, it is then visible from that pattern’s Ravelry page.
I always try to add photos (because it’s one thing to see the designer’s photos of the pattern, and it’s another thing entirely to see how the piece looks when other crafters knit it).
You can also write notes, which I always try to do. Why? Because I LOVE it when other Ravelers write detailed notes on their projects. When I’m thinking of knitting a pattern, I’ll comb through others people’s projects and read their notes.
You can even search through projects linked to a pattern and filter your search by whether or not the project has notes, and if other Ravelers (yes! That’s what we’re called!) have identified them as helpful.
In my notes, I’ll include links to videos I used for techniques, or to blog articles I found helpful. I’ll also make a note of changes I’ve made in the pattern, or issues I encountered. A couple of my projects have been added to peoples’ favorites because of my detailed notes, so that’s great!
3. Yarn Reviews
Especially when I’m shopping for yarn online, I don’t like to buy without first checking out the yarn’s Ravelry page.
There are SO many yarns listed on Ravelry, that unless you’re talking about a really small scale dyer, or someone who simply isn’t online, you’re pretty sure to find your yarn there.
You can search by fibre, by weight, you can look up your local yarn shop (assuming they’re on Ravelry!)… There are just so many options.
Most importantly, I look at the ratings and the comments (if any). People will give feedback on how the yarn feels, how it holds up after washing, whether it pills or splits, and more.
If you’re looking to try out a new yarn, the Ravelry yarn database is a good first stop for info.
This also requires a lot of input, but it’s worth it if you take the time. If you keep your stash updated on Ravelry, you can more easily search for patterns to match your stash. You also don’t have to go pulling out all your yarns every time you’re thinking of what to knit.
Simplify your life, add to the power of Ravelry and stash your yarns!
I’ve also actually managed to buy and sell leftover or unwanted skeins by listing it in my stash as “will trade or sell.” If you’re suffering from stash guilt, I suggest you give that a try…
There’s So Much More
There is a whole lot more to love about Ravelry. I don’t use the forum feature much at all, but that is a huge part of the community for many people.
You can also join groups of your favorite designers and sign up to do test knits of new patterns. I follow many designers, but since I don’t spend time in the forums I never learn about a potential test knit in time.
Lots of people make heavy use of the queue feature (basically, listing what you’re going to knit next), but again I haven’t been very good about that. It is a nice thing to use, especially if you keep your pattern library and your stash up to date!
I strongly recommend you check out Ravelry if you haven’t already. Play around with it, because there are so many ways to make it work for you!
It will add to your enjoyment of knitting or crochet, and it also helps to foster a sense of community. You can add friends on Ravelry (careful! This is not like Facebook where you have to approve friends–you can be added by anyone, so be aware before you put too much personal info in).
Look me up: I’m thebraininjane and I’d love to see what you’re making!
It’s time for another knitting post! This time, I have knitted what might be called a “medical accessory”: Knitted Knockers!
Knitted Knockers are knitted breast prosthesis, designed to be comfortable, lightweight and soft. The Knitted Knockers foundation registers medical providers to sign up to receive knitted prosthesis for their patients. The foundation also gets the word out to knitters and crocheters all over the US to invite them to make and donate knockers.
Makers can choose from several different approved knockers patterns: click here to see all the different pattern options! The foundation also provides a list of approved yarns. The yarns must be cotton–no wool!
Once you’ve made your knockers from approved yarn and the official pattern, you mail them to the foundation (unstuffed) for quality control. They’ll take a look at the sizing, at your gauge, and at the quality of the knitting. If they meet the foundation’s quality standards, they’ll stuff them and get them out to medical providers and clinics who need them.
There is very high demand for these, and when I first heard about them I thought it was a brilliant idea. I didn’t realize how soon I’d need to make them for someone I loved.
In December, we learned that a family member needed to have a double mastectomy. Always a scary prospect, we were especially worried about her going into hospital due to Covid (this was before many people were vaccinated).
Thankfully, all went well, and once the procedure was over, the prognosis was very good. Of course, recovery wasn’t easy and naturally the scars from the procedure are significant and uncomfortable.
That’s when I thought of Knitted Knockers. Of course, offering to knit someone breast prosthetics isn’t covered in any etiquette guidelines I know of. I wasn’t sure how to proceed and I didn’t want to be indelicate or offend.
Thankfully, this person is a crafter herself, and we have always enjoyed chatting about knitting, crocheting and other crafts together. So I decided to make the offer in the most straightforward and friendly way possible.
My offer was well received, and it was taken absolutely in the spirit it was meant: with love.
For the pattern, I chose the latest version of the knitted pattern: Bottoms up in the round on DPNs. The original pattern started at the front of the knocker (at the nipple, essentially), with only three stitches cast on, and increased from there. Many knitters found that to be difficult and fiddly, so the pattern designer, Claudia Barbo, wrote a new version in which you knit the knockers from back to front. In this version, you cast on 15 stitches, which is a lot easier to manage than just three!
My yarn was a DK weight, and the pattern called for 3.75mm needles. However, I didn’t have DPNs in that size, and since my gauge tends to be tight anyway, I went up to 4mm.
I have to admit that I am not crazy about working on DPNs. The pattern tells you to divide the stitches by three and always keep them on the same needles. This creates a gap between the stitches on each end of the needles. Usually, when I’m knitting on DPNs, I rotate around so that my needles don’t always change at the same spot.
I followed the pattern, and here’s the result:
The Knitted Result
Though pretty, I was not crazy with the unevenness of the stitches. Also, the decreases on the front of the knocker (what you’re looking at in this picture) created ridges which met in the middle and formed what looked like a “nipple”. Washing and pinning it out to dry helped to reduce that, but still. It could have been smoother.
Also, it was too small! When the knockers arrived at their destination and were stuffed, they were about two sizes too small.
No problemo! That’s an easy one to solve: just make it bigger!
The issue of the “nipple” created by the decreases required some trial and error.
There are several different patterns available on the Knitted Knockers site. I decided to try the original pattern, starting with just 3 stitches and increasing from there.
However, it was really fiddly. I had trouble keeping my needles straight and making it look any good.
Then, I tried using the pinhole cast on:
It’s a beautiful cast on, but even doing this there were ridges that wouldn’t have been smooth enough.
I tried a few more times, but I really wasn’t happy with how it was turning out.
Then, I had an epiphany:
I Know How to Crochet!
That’s right! I know how to crochet! And the crocheted knockers looked fantastic!
And so, I dusted off the ol’ crochet hooks. They haven’t seen daylight in quite a while, and I had to re-learn how to hold the yarn in my left hand. But muscle memory kicked in really quickly, and before long I had cast on using the magic ring and was chugging along.
Using the same yarn and a 4mm crochet hook, I whipped them up pretty quickly:
I was SO happy with how these turned out! Though denser than the knitted version, they are far smoother. I washed and dried them and they came out very soft.
Crocheted Knockers (not as catchy…)
So they’re not knitted, but they look great. They’re on their way to their recipient, and I’m awaiting feedback on these. Hopefully they’ll be as comfortable as their knitted counterparts!
I finished my own Weekender last year, and as soon as it came off the blocking mats I knew it was something special.
I wore the thing all winter and didn’t put it away until only about ten days ago. (Full confession: I washed it when I blocked it, and then didn’t wash it again until just before I put it away for the season. Wool really is a wonder fabric.)
As soon as I finished my own version of the Weekender (by designer Andrea Mowry), I knew I wanted to knit one for everyone I loved. Everyone should be this comfortable and cozy all winter long!
Yarn Choice: NOT Superwash!
My Minnesotan sister-in-law was top of my list, as I had not yet knitted her something. I turned to trusty Knit Picks for yarns, and sent her different color options.
I made the mistake, however, of suggesting a superwash yarn. I realized later that this would simply not do!
Why not, you ask? Superwash yarn is so convenient! It’s machine-washable! Perfect for gifts!
Each strand of wool yarn has little scales or fibers that stick off it (imagine those little amoebas with the flagella that help them move–kind of like that). Those scales are what cause yarn to felt to itself when agitated (aka thrown in the washer).
To make a yarn “superwash” it is treated with chemicals to strip those scales, and then coated in a resin to make it super smooth. Great! You can now machine wash your knits without worry!
Aside from the environmental concerns some have over this treatment, removing those little scales also has its drawbacks. Those little hairs, when not agitated and felted together, help a knitted fabric to hold its shape. By removing them completely, the yarn doesn’t stick to itself at all.
What does that mean? Well, when you’re knitting something small and rather light, it’s no big deal. Shawls and scarfs are fine, even mittens or a hat. But something larger and heavier, like a sweater, will simply STRETCH OUT.
Sweaters knitted with superwash wool are famous for being ENORMOUS once they come out of the machine. Some people insist you must also tumble dry the sweater for it to regain some of its shape, and I’ve heard people have had success with that. However, the idea of tumble drying wool is just too terrifying to me.
And so, despite having ordered a lovely batch of superwash wool from Knit Picks, I sent it back and instead ordered this:
Swatching & Gauge
The Weekender is knit in worsted weight yarn. However, the City Tweed Aran yarn I used is a “heavy worsted” or aran-weight yarn.
I have a somewhat tight gauge, so I cast on for my swatch using the needle size recommended in the pattern. For my own Weekender, I had used regular worsted weight yarn and I had had to go up a needle size. This time, I got it right on the first try!
The Weekender is knit in the round, meaning it’s knit on circular needles and you’re always knitting, never purling. Therefore, your swatch should also be knit this way. However, casting on a little tube of knitting is really annoying. So here’s a trick:
I knitted this swatch flat in the round. Whaaaaat?? you say? Yes, it’s confusing. No, it’s not difficult. Check out this video from VeryPink Knits and skip to minute 3:05. She’ll show you how to do it.
I hit gauge bang on the nose with 4.5mm needles.
Cast-On, Ribbing and Joining in the Round
Andrea Mowry has you do a tubular cast-on for the Weekender. It’s a lovely cast on and definitely worth the trouble. However, I couldn’t make heads or tails of her video. So I went back to my trusty knitting teacher, Staci Perry of VeryPink Knits:
I cast on 55 stitches to get the required 109 stitches for my pattern. After chugging along happily on my ribbing (front and back), I was ready to join to knit in the round.
Now I am convinced there is an error in the pattern. Andrea says to finish the back and front ribbing with a RS (right side) row, and to then start your stockinette stitch. However, when you do that, the “seam” stitch that runs up the middle of the front and back of the sweater doesn’t line up with a knit stitch in the ribbing. It lines up with a purl stitch.
That bothered me to no end. At first I thought I had misread the pattern. But this had happened when I knit my own Weekender last year, and a girlfriend had also had the same problem.
So I will add this correction to the pattern: Finish the ribbing on a WS (wrong side) row, and then join to work in the round and start your stockinette.
Body & Shoulder Shaping
The only modification I made in the body was to make it about 5 inches longer, as per my SIL’s request.
Before casting on, she had provided me some measurements from a favorite sweater of hers. Based on those, I’d selected which size to knit for her Weekender, and then planned some changes accordingly.
After chugging up the main body, I separated for the front and back. I always realize, when switching from knitting in the round to knitting back and forth, how much I dislike purling. Luckily, this pattern doesn’t require much.
Then at the shoulder shaping it was time for… SHORT ROWS! Some people love them, some hate them. Ever since discovering German short rows, I have grown to love them.
German short rows are simply a way of avoiding doing the traditional “wrap and turn” short row, which then requires you to do a fiddly move to “pick up” the wraps when you’re done with your short rows. They can be substituted in any pattern.
Here’s Staci Perry’s very helpful video:
When I had first finished my short rows, I looked at the purl side of the work and was a little nervous about how it looked. The Weekender is knit in the round on the “wrong side” and then turned inside-out when you’re done with the body. So it’s actually the purl side which shows on the finished sweater.
Luckily, blocking worked its magic as usual, and all the bulky wonkiness of the short rows vanished after my Weekender had had a good bath.
I did the shoulder ribbing as per the instructions. However, I did not use the tubular bind off as suggested by Andrea Mowry for the neckline.
When I tried the tubular bind off on my own Weekender back in 2020, I followed the written instructions in the pattern and found it way too tight and very uncomfortable. According to Staci Perry’s video, it’s supposed to be really stretchy, so I must have been doing it wrong. Perhaps another time I’ll try it again.
In any case, I successfully managed the 3-needle bind off for the shoulders (after dropping a stitch and having to work it back up nearly half the body of the sweater–but never mind, it all worked out), and I was ready for my sleeves!
Hooray for Sleeve Island! To fit with the measurements my SIL had given me, I went up two sizes for the sleeves. I found the sleeves on my own Weekender a little snug, and according to the schematic, they would not have been comfortable for my SIL. Instead of picking up the number of stitches for the size 3, I picked up the number for the size 5.
I knitted the sleeves for my own Weekender at the same time using magic loop. This time, I decided to knit them one at a time, and I was glad I did!
When picking up stitches for the first sleeve, I made the mistake of not picking up a stitch right at the edge of the 3-needle shoulder bind off. The result was an unsightly bump at the end of the shoulder:
Thankfully, I hadn’t gotten very far down the sleeve, and I was only knitting one at a time. I quickly ripped it back and tried again. The result was perfect:
After that little hitch, all was smooth sailing down the sleeve. I kept meticulous notes as to the number of rounds and decrease placement, so that when I knitted the second sleeve, they’d be exactly the same.
Here’s me, very excited about finishing the first sleeve, modelling it for my SIL and being a goofball:
Blocking and DONE
I was so excited to bind off the second sleeve that I did a little jig. The best part of this yarn, is because it is NOT superwash, it can felt to itself. That makes changing balls of yarn a breeze. I simply spit-spliced them together!
(If you’re reading this Sudha, yes, that does mean that I slobbered all over the yarn as I was working it, but in all fairness I gave it a good wash before sending it to you.)
Thanks to the magic of spit-splicing, I had very few ends to weave in when I finished. Then, after a little lukewarm bath with some Eucalan, I blotted it on towels and pinned it out according to the requested measurements. Here it is:
Sending it Off
I forgot to take a photo of the personalized label I sewed into it. It says, “Handmade with love by Jane”. And it’s true. I really loved making this sweater. The entire process was a joy.
I also love the way it turned out. The tweedy yarn is delicious, and since it’s a blend of wool and alpaca, it’s wonderfully soft. Perfect for snuggling up on a cold Minnesota day in midwinter.
Tucked in tissue paper, placed in a pretty box, I wrapped the whole thing in parcel paper and mailed it off with a kiss (and very detailed care instructions: DO NOT PUT THIS IN THE WASHING MACHINE!!).
My SIL’s feedback was exactly what a knitter loves to hear: “It’s perfect!”
As are you, my love. Wear it in good health and with great joy.
Then there were all the things that I started doing again that I hadn’t done in a long time: tennis lessons, playing piano, writing on the blog…
But this latest development has taken me so far back into the past that I could almost feel at home in one of the Barbara Pym novels I wrote about last week.
Yup. It’s true.
I have taken to darning socks.
Not just any old socks, mind you. I’ve darned some fancy Smartwool socks. The kind that you’re not supposed to need to darn. DARN THEM!
The act of threading the needle in and out, back and forth, focusing on keeping my shoulders relaxed and my back straight… It’s meditative.
The pandemic has been anxiety-provoking for most everyone. For me, stitching helps to calm my mind and soothe some of that anxiety.
Honestly, it also helps to stave off feelings of boredom, uselessness and inactivity.
Loved Clothes Last: Added Bonus
I haven’t been shopping much during this pandemic. I’ve avoided my bi-annual clothes shopping excursions. I’ve tried ordering some clothes online, but the waste of having to mail so many of them back is frustrating.
I’ve participated peripherally in the slow fashion movement by making myself some sweaters. These I wear all the time.
Okay, to be fair, it’s not a question of right or wrong. It’s a question of ergonomics, and balancing productivity, efficiency and safety.
A Balancing Act
In his book, Demers makes it very clear that there is no incorrect way to knit: no one method that is superior to any other (though there is one he pooh-poohs).
How we knit is a balancing act, and he uses the image of the 3-legged stool to demonstrate. Ergonomics (or comfort) is the seat, and the three legs are what I mentioned above: productivity, efficiency and safety.
He then breaks down the elements that contribute to each of those three aspects of ergonomics and addresses them in relation to knitting.
My favorite part of this book is that Demers is himself a knitter, and truly understands how much knitters love their craft. He is just as passionate about yarn and patterns as the next knitter is!
He pairs his understanding of the knitter’s psyche with his expertise in ergonomics brilliantly, and the result is an engaging, clear and easy to understand (and apply!) book.
Applying the Concepts
You can start applying the concepts from the get-go. He begins with a discussion of posture, which (according to the physical therapist I saw back in early 2020) is the source of my problem.
What the physical therapist could not tell me (because she is not a knitter and didn’t even pay attention when I showed her how I knit), is exactly how my posture was causing me pain.
One chapter into this book, I already had significant changes I could apply. And since I had been on complete knitting rest for 10 days or so, I was starting with a clean slate and could gingerly experiment.
Here’s where the old dog factor comes in.
Old Dog; New Tricks
I learned to knit in 2012 or 2013. It’s not like I’ve been knitting forever. But once you get comfortable with it, it then becomes very hard to change how you knit.
I had already made an effort to change the way I tension my yarn (you can see my video in this post). However, that wasn’t enough to remove the pressure from my shoulder.
More drastic changes were clearly in order.
In addition to changing where I knit, I have to change how I hold my knitting. Up until now I’ve tended to hold my knitting up to look at it more easily, but doing so pulls my shoulder forward and puts pressure on both my shoulder and my elbow.
What I need to do is lower my knitting into my lap (or to a cushion on my lap) and try and keep my forearms parallel to the floor. It’s not easy to do this, as my arms have a tendency to creep up as I keep wanting to look down at my knitting.
But part of the exercise is to learn to trust that my hands know what they’re doing, and that unless I’m working a complicated stitch pattern, they can be left to their own devices, with only an occasional glace.
It needs practice, and I must constantly check in with myself to see how my shoulder is handling it. So far, so good.
Don’t Overdo It
Another change is a behavioral one: I mustn’t allow myself to sit and knit for long stretches of time. We’re always told that sitting for long periods is bad for us.
But that’s so easy to forget when we’re doing something as enjoyable as knitting!
I need to set a timer, or simply stand up to knit. I’ve got to remember to give myself plenty of breaks and ease back into it.
Not Just About Knitting
Demers’ observations and advice apply not only to knitting, but to any sedentary activity (think: using the computer, poking at your smartphone, or driving).
All of these activities involve neck strain (looking down), pressure on wrists, elbows and shoulders, and awkward postures.
So this information is not only valuable in the context of knitting, but also for computer and keyboard use, smartphone use and driving.
Don’t buy this book unless you’re a knitter. I don’t think it would even be that helpful for crocheters (though you could definitely get some useful information from it).
But if you ARE a knitter, no matter whether you’re experiencing discomfort or not, YOU SHOULD READ THIS BOOK.
Not only will it help you improve your knitting comfort immediately, it will open your eyes to some potentially unhealthy habits that can endanger your long-term knitting ability.
Don’t risk it. It’s not worth it. If you love your knitting as much as I do, you’ll want to make sure you can keep knitting comfortably for as long as possible.
Click here to visit Carson’s website and order your own copy. (I have not been paid to write this article, and clicking this link doesn’t give me–or Carson Demers–any money. Unless, of course, you buy his book, which would give him money. Not me. But if you want to send me money, I am on PayPal. Just saying.)
All that Election Day (and Election Week!) stress knitting took its toll.
I was already starting to feel some twinges when I finished the Bear’s Flax Lite sweater (it’s now blocked and BEAUTIFUL!), but the flurry of knitting I started on Election Day seems to have been too much.
I don’t feel the pain while I’m knitting. That’s the problem. It’s once I stop that I feel an ache in my shoulder and pain just above my elbow.
It gets to the point where my shoulder and the spot above my elbow become sensitive to the touch, and the whole area is generally achey and uncomfortable.
Before the pandemic hit, I did consult a physical therapist at a practice that is supposed to specialize in hand, arm and shoulder care. However, I was disappointed that the therapists didn’t ask to watch me knit, to see what movement I was doing, or observe my posture while I knitted. As a result, they weren’t able to pinpoint the source or cause of my pain.
I went frequently and did the exercises they gave me, but with very limited success in managing my discomfort. When the pandemic hit, I dropped my visits altogether.
More Knitting = More Pain
In periods of less knitting activity, when I’m picking something up and only working on it occasionally, this isn’t really a problem.
But when I’m working on a project I really like, or am trying to finish something by a certain date, I tend to knit more. That’s when the pain and discomfort flare up.
Everything I’ve read says that one of the biggest mental health benefits of crafting is the sense of purpose, the objective you have to work towards. Whether it’s a hat, a sweater or some baby booties, you have delayed gratification while you work towards the final product, and the anticipation of enjoyment once it’s done.
Right now, that feeling of having a goal to work towards is huge for me. With life in limbo due to the global pandemic and my career/job prospects on hold for the time being, knitting has been a beneficial creative outlet.
And now I cannot knit. As I wrote back in February, my productivity and motivation are low, and I feel very little sense of purpose.
That’s not to say that being able to knit solves all problems, but it certainly helps.
Fearful of My Needles
Also upsetting is the apprehension and worry I feel about picking up the needles again once my arm feels better. Will I just hurt myself again? Why am I doing this so wrong that it hurts?
I learned about him on the Fruity Knitting podcast, and I am hoping that his book will help me answer some of these questions. I’ve also reached out to contact him and ask if he knows any physical therapists in this area that he could recommend. It’s a long shot, but there’s no harm in asking.
Here’s hoping that with rest, icing, warming, massage and then with the help of this book, I can get back to knitting without worrying about injury.
I love this pattern from Tincanknits. I made one for the Bug years ago, one for a wee babe born in 2019, and now one for the Bear.
I used KnitPicks Stroll Tonal in color “Eucalyptus”. I like this yarn because it’s a superwash merino (very soft) blended with nylon (very strong), and can be thrown in the washer.*
*Not that I’ve actually blocked it yet. Oh no no no, that would delay the gratification of seeing it on my child!
I used my wooden Knitter’s Pride 16″ circulars for the body. I liked knitting this wool on wood, as it’s quite slippery and the wooden needles are just slightly sticky, helping to keep stitches from sliding off.
For the arms, I used my trusty Addi Clic 32″ interchangeable knitting needles. I used a longer cable and knitted the arms at the same time on magic loop. I’m not crazy about this method, but I like it better than knitting one sleeve at a time.
My gauge probably changed while working on this project. That is because I realized that part of the problem I was having earlier this year with discomfort in my shoulder was probably caused by how I tensioned my yarn!
It was such a small thing, but I thought it might help others, so I made a video and put it on YouTube:
I didn’t bother to start my project again, and was rather cavalier with the gauge. However, it seems to fit the Bear more or less, so let’s not worry about it, shall we?
I am quite proud of how neat the line between my knit and purl stitches is on the sleeve garter stitch panel. That’s thanks to a technique from VeryPink Knits (my knitting guru!).
(If you don’t feel like watching the video, here’s the rundown: whenever you switch from knitting to purling, stop after the first purl stitch. Yarn back, give your yarn a little tug, and then yarn forward and continue purling.)
I may need to unpick the bottom hem and bind it off again, as I bound off a little too tightly. I learned from my mistake and bound off with a needle TWO sizes larger on the sleeves. They’re perfect.
Really, it’s just one modification, singular.
I wanted to make sure the neckline would be as comfy as possible, so I used the VeryPink Knits tutorial below to make it double thick at the collar. It provides a little extra warmth and structure at the top.
I remembered I had purchased this pattern along with several others in the TinCanKnits ebook “Heart on Your Sleeve.” It was a campaign to raise money for malaria research, and I bought the ebook with all the wonderful patterns and PROMPTLY FORGOT ABOUT IT.
Now that I have remembered, I’m going to knit ALL THE YOKED SWEATERS!
This may not make any sense, but I’ve never thought of myself as creative.
Sure, I write. And I knit. And lately I’ve been playing the piano. I acted in plays and musicals for years as a teen and young adult. I’ve even dabbled in drawing and painting.
Not Much Spark
I just don’t consider myself creative because I always follow some kind of pattern or model.
When knitting, I follow a pattern. I always drew best when I was looking at something, rather than from the imagination. Even in teaching, I would hash out ideas for lessons and activities with colleagues, or search online for inspiration.
But it’s the execution I’m pretty good at. And it’s the act of creating that I enjoy.
Creativity in Pandemic
Since the pandemic started, I’ve found it helpful to add creativity to my daily life.
I set myself this writing challenge, which, though sometimes a bit of a pain, has also been a fantastic exercise.
Since we got a piano, I’ve been sneaking in about an hour of practice each day. I’ve been slowly plugging away at my knitting (though the warm weather slows that down).
It’s turned out to be hugely important for keeping myself sane.
For the short while that I’m writing, knitting or playing, I am taken away from the reality of confinement and the anxiety of this situation. When I’m writing, knitting or playing, those things don’t matter.
I’m an extremely social person, this is true. But this pandemic has helped me find resources within myself for coping with the isolation.
I’m tapping into a creative energy I didn’t know I had.
I’m far from being 100% okay in this situation. There are days when I’m practically climbing the walls.
But having a creative outlet has been wonderful. (It also helps that I’ve added exercise to my daily routine.)
So often we’re told to cut something out to feel better. Cut out sugar, alcohol, Facebook or TV. Sure, sometimes things do need to be cut out.
But what about the benefit of adding things in?
Tell Me About It
What do you want to add to your daily routine? What would make you feel better? What would make you feel more like yourself?