I remain unable to knit; the RSI remains a problem that makes that once-fruitful indulgence impossible. By God’s merciful and gracious provision, I am able to write and continue blogging with handwriting input technology, using a stylus to input text to my Samsung Slate computer. I continue to blog about diverse observations, faith, challenges, endeavors, and life events with my comprehensive genius husband, our cat, and a neighborhood cat on whom our favor also rests. You may arrive on active blog terrain by simply clicking here. Thanks; I hope to see you there. –Lauren Bottomly
I accumulated a severe chronic repetitive strain injury this year, and have been unable to knit, type, write with a pen, or even hold up a book. I am fortunate to be in an elite minority that is able to use Dragon NaturallySpeaking voice-recognition software so that I can dictate into my computer and keep writing, maintain household things online, and stay in touch with people. I have a book stand that holds my book. But I have no way to hold needles and knit. I don’t know whether or not I will be able to knit in the future. The last time I tried was in April, and my fingers promptly turned to wood.
Last year, I knit a sweater and 15 pairs of socks. I’m gonzo; that’s how you get these sorts of injuries — that, and being somehow naturally susceptible. I’ve had every test and every sort of appropriate physical therapy; I use ultra-strength Tiger balm and take ibuprofen. But grasping knitting needles and other thin objects repeatedly is too painful.
I don’t blame knitting, but typing too long without breaks for the injury becoming chronic; but my worst mistake was failing to observe my own limits with enough diligence and discipline. I’ve had RSIs off and on over the years and they have always cleared up within a few weeks to a couple of months. I thought this one would too, back in March. But it hasn’t, and from what I’ve read, I may be dealing with a lifelong limitation. I have to realize that, compared with the sensation of wire brushes putting out the fire in my hands and arms, store-bought socks and sweaters look okay.
But I miss knitting a lot, and I wish you all joy who continue to knit and to love the fruit of the lamb. Just please, please take care of your hands!
The Puget Sound sky is my favorite fall color: pewter, and foliage rustles briskly, asserting a promise of rain. I have beans cooking on the stove and just finished cooking a batch of brown rice for several meals. Laundry is in progress, and I’ve hauled the yard waste and trash out to the front curb. I completed chicken chores early, and the Cat sleeps, no doubt dreaming of getting even for something. Amidst this flurry of profound domestic significance, I just finished my 16th pair of socks: my 16th pair this year and my 16th pair ever.
I had been knitting a pair of socks about every two weeks, but I began this pair in August, and unaccountably picked it up with less compulsion: in fact, at infrequent intervals. I like them, and they complete the last pair afforded by the stash funded by my first dozen pairs.
The friends who began this blog with me remain in touch; one even remains actively knitting but not blogging. The others remain blogging in their own spheres but not knitting, except for one, who like me, now likely knits from time to time as need and motivation might inspire.
Knitting is something I will always be glad to know how to do. I will probably knit a pair of socks from time to time just so that I remember how; it is not something I would like to have to relearn. But I hope it isn’t like riding a bike: that could mean being grounded by arthritis. Happily, that seems unlikely. My hands tighten but unfold with rest, and I am no longer compelled to knit to the point of carpal tunnels or knitter’s elbow.
Full drawers of handknit socks do bring satisfaction and sensibility to life. I will continue to chronicle my knitting projects here. I am a homekeeper and writer. My primary writing outlet continues to be my eclectic blog, Oikos mou, which means simply, “my house.”
A yarn shop visit should reward the knitter on every level: social, sensory, and a sense that a practical outcome is underway in the gathering of materials and tools. I usually relish yarn shop expeditions. But lately, although I’ve been knitting nearly every day, I find myself buying less yarn and spending more time on a project. I’m going through my stash before buying more yarn. A scarf that a few months ago would have taken me a couple of days to knit now satisfies my need to be “working on something” for a few weeks.
Our household has skimmed the tidal fluxes of the economy. Gas costs more than it did a year ago of course, and my husband commutes 80 miles a day. Due to some changes in our health insurance coverage, we have more out-of-pocket expenses for certain services. But looking around, we can feel grateful my husband has a job to commute to, we have health insurance, our neighborhood has had no foreclosures, and our life is largely unruffled by the economic turmoil roiling around some outer periphery known as “the news.”
So why am I stalling between yarn shop visits?
It isn’t that I have a fixed yarn budget; I never have. I have always been able to have whatever yarn I have wanted. My husband insists nothing has changed. But it’s as though the “what ifs” volume has somehow been turned up.
One of my neighbors has lost two jobs in a month. She just returned to the workforce when her husband became disabled, and was “last hired first fired” twice in a row because of business slowdowns. They have three kids and no health insurance. Fortunately, they also have a strong “onward” attitude.
But seeing them, and so many others like them or worse off in “the news,” I now find myself spending more time on a knitting project. I like picking it up and working on it in bits. Somehow I’m less eager to finish something, make the twelve-mile round trip (over half a gallon of gas), and spend money on yarn for something for which I have no real, urgent need.
I’m knitting, but I’m also reading a book I borrowed from the library instead of buying from Amazon. I could buy the yarn; I could buy the book. But the “what-if” tune simply seems more conducive to conserving than to spending right now. After all, what if…
So I decide value is at stake. Knitting remains affordable recreation; my modest craft is the production of perhaps not necessary, but desirable goods, like beautiful handknit merino socks. What I produce has value. And I see gifts as necessary, as well as desirable and enjoyable to make.
I live 10 minutes from two excellent yarn shops and 15 minutes from a third. One of the nearer ones has the best selection and the best prices. But I enjoy going to the other nearer one the most. I enjoy the ladies there, the feel of the place despite its tight space, and the sound of the place. Because of the closeness of the quarters, no one speaks too loudly. It’s in the part of town I most enjoy going to. It’s also the shop that offers the best advice, and there is never a trace of mercenary tone in its overall timbre.
My favorite is also the most expensive of the three, but we’re talking so few dollars, really. So it adds value for me to go there, even if I spend a bit more money. Value is complex: price is one element, and every element is important.
Limitation, real or imagined, calls us to discernment and offers the opportunity to make decisions. Once we decide what we can have, we can distill the prospects into what provides us with the greatest sense of overall value.
But still I wonder: is there a knitting slump in the air because of the downturn in the economy? Is it just my over-strong what-if? Or is it simply summer, and too hot to knit?
It’s cool in Tacoma; actually, it’s honestly cold for July, scarcely topping 70. My mission at my LYS was to procure a single ball of sock yarn. I think the skein of Pace in Denim will complete two more pairs with what remains in my stash.
I scanned the shop while waiting for YSL Roxy to finish her phone call. The grey, cool day outside reminded me that I wanted to make a new scarf for winter. My eyes alighted on this La Gran pearl-grey mohair/wool/nylon blend. Roxy finished her call and I checked out, three times heavier than I’d planned; this is not unusual.
I designed my scarf while running other errands at Trader Joe’s and the library. It will have seed stitch end-trims, with the length in a 4 x 4 rib that will enable the yarn to speak for itself and me to others while knitting it. It will go with everything I have, and of course, most especially the Cat. Softness he takes for granted, and grey he supposes superior. I don’t know how else he would ever approve.
My Cat’s favorite toys have always been catnip pillows–simple squares are fine with him. Knitting a catnip toy with some leftover sock yarn seemed a good way to take a break after 15 pairs of socks in a row.
Figuring out my method as I went along, I realized it would make a great project for a knitter approaching her first socks: you get practice on double-pointed needles, and you learn the Kitchener stitch you’ll use to graft the toes of your socks.
If you need a demo of how to get stitches onto dpns, click here.
I cast on 28 stitches–you can vary the size any way you like. I was knitting 8 sts/inch. I wanted a tube that would be about 1-3/4″ wide when flat. I figured that was bite-size. Coolidge likes mouseules–small mouselike objects he can carry off. Larger toys intimidate him.
I divided the stitches among three needles, 9, 10, 9.
I knit the tube up about an inch, and then grafted the bottom opening, using the Kitchener stitch, which makes a good, tight, nearly invisible closure of an open knitted tube. You can graft the opening at any stage of the project.
You need two needles for the Kitchener stitch. If you have a set of 5 dpns, just finish a round on your tube, and you have a free needle, plus you have another needle. Terry Royea has a good demonstration of the Kitchener stitch here.
To graft closed the bottom of the tube, tie about a yard of yarn through a stitch at the cast-on edge. Pick up 28 stitches, starting with one of your free needles. It’s easiest if you pick up about 17, then slip 3 onto the second free needle. Now the circle will flex so you can pick up the rest of your stitches with the second needle. You want to have 14 stitches on each needle. Graft the opening. Now it’s done, and you don’t have to do it later.
I knit my tube to 4-1/4 inches, just because that looked like the right size for my Cat.
Once you’ve knitted your tube the desired length, distribute your stitches evenly onto two needles, ready for grafting. Don’t graft yet….
Next, sew a pouch slightly smaller than your knitted tube, using cotton or cheesecloth. Sew it together on three sides. Fill with catnip. Insert filled pouch into knitted tube, which is still on two needles. Stuff down out of your way, and use the Kitchener stitch to graft the opening closed.
Your Cat has a new toy and you have had fun making it and used up a bit of yarn. Maybe you’ve also mastered dpns and the Kitchener stitch as well, which really is all that’s likely new if you haven’t made socks before. If so, be strong, and take heart, and knit a pair of socks for your Cat to lounge against.
The particular challenge was grafting the catnip-stuffed toy closed while Coolidge was nosing around my tapestry needle. The particular reward: ecstasy.
When my friend Janet knitted me a beautiful pair of butter-yellow Regis silk socks for Christmas, I knew I would become a sock knitter and knit a whole wardrobe of socks. I never wanted to buy another pair of Smartwool socks, as devoted as I’d been to them. And I had no idea how to knit a sock, or anything on dpns.
Now, seven months later, I have completed my 15th pair of socks: five pairs for my husband, seven for myself, and three for friends and mum-in-law.
This is a stash pair, and so another fabulous freebie, knit from yarn left over from five other pairs. This time, I chose to use colors up rather than matching the pair.
Now I begin to contemplate life beyond socks. I actually could use a pretty scarf this winter, and might simply knit a scarf with some merino left over from gloves I’ve made, and some mohair I’d need to buy. I really don’t need another sweater right now…maybe I should design a line of cat toys….
Obviously, Coolidge has no interest in any of this.