A confession

I have a confession.  Oh God, I’m not even really sure how to say this, so I’ll just have to come right out and say it: I’ve been cheating on my boyfriend’s scarf.  It doesn’t mean anything and I don’t even really know why I did it.  But you were away and I was online, just having a look and all ready to carry on with the scarf and then I saw this really easy pattern.  For a hat.  I’m so, so sorry.

At first it was all new and exciting because I was knitting in the round and I’d never done that before.  One minute I was casting on and the next minute I was looping the magic loop like there was no tomorrow.  And it was wonderful, odd baggy ladder stitches aside.  Within days I had something resembling a hat as it took shape in front of my very eyes, as the scarf lay abandoned at the end of the sofa, all straight and ribbed and scarf-like.

But I’ve ended it.  I just couldn’t take the deception any more: the endless lies and cover-ups as to why the scarf wasn’t getting any longer despite my feverish knitting episodes; the guilt of secret post-work trips to Peter Jones to buy a second skein of Rowan Cocoon in Bilberry; the knowledge that my boyfriend was so looking forward to the scarf that I’d cast aside in fickle pursuit of a slouchy hat.  I’m done.  It’s over.  And rather pretty is it too.

Slouchy HatSlouchy Hat 2

Keep it simple, Dunderknit

Having heeded Wikipedia’s warnings, I’ve started on a simple 2×2 rib stitch scarf for the other half. The simplicity of this was actually at his request; having knitted a swatch of the stitch used in the Sinful Ribbed Scarf by Classic Elite Yarns, he took one look at this and declared it was a bit ‘girly’. So rib stitch it is.

Ribbed Scarf

After hunting around for some suitable yarn, I stumbled across a few scarfs knitted in Lion Brand Wool Ease (Oxford Grey) and found it was a fairly cheap buy from online shop Café Knit in NW London. The other half agreed that this was an appropriately manly colour and upon its arrival was satisfied that it would provide the requisite masculine warmth and (ahem) softness.

Having already done one project in 2×2 rib, I’ll confess it’s starting to get a little dull. Still, I shall stick with this project and hope to avoid any of the Sweater Curse pitfalls, including the dreaded aversion. Here’s hoping.

Avoiding The Curse

Without wishing to sound overly slushy, I love my boyfriend.  I really do.  In what may be one of the only successful speed-dating experiences the world has ever known, we had each attended the event with low expectations and – in my case at least – a healthy blood alcohol level to discover that amidst the social oddities, overly-keen and unfortunates (complete with actual hunches), there was someone there with whom we shared a bit of a spark.  Good albeit brief conversation was had, smiles were exchanges and ticks were added to the box.  Almost a year later, we’re happily ensconced in a South London flat, littering the rooms with toolboxes, yarn and duplicate books.

He has been nothing but supportive since I took on The Knit, though I suspect this is in no small part due to an Xbox-shaped Christmas present that has successfully managed to divert a fair whack of his attention.  However lately there have been suggestions that he might be interested in benefiting from my new ‘skill’.  Having recently completed my first small project and therefore naturally harbouring ambitious aspirations of full jumpers, dresses and knitty world domination, I was quick to suggest possible patterns and even began scouring Ravelry for a suitable offering.  Which was when I discovered The Sweater Curse.

Wikipedia – the source of all online knowledge – describes The Curse as follows:

Knitters use the term Sweater Curse or the Curse of the Love Sweater to describe a situation in which a knitter gives a hand-knit sweater to a significant other, who quickly breaks up with the knitter.  In an alternative formulation, the relationship will end before the sweater is even completed.  The belief is widely discussed in knitting publications and some knitters claim to have experienced the Sweater Curse; a recent poll indicated that 15% of active knitters say they have experienced the sweater curse firsthand, and 41% consider it a possibility that should be taken seriously.

Cripes.  The entry goes on to point out that a huge amount of effort, time, money and indeed “romantic imagination” goes into each Jumper knitted in these circumstances, all of which could suggest the application of additional stress on The Jumper as it becomes less about the garment itself and more about its conception as a declaration of love.  I have therefore obviously underestimated two things: firstly my hitherto unrealised need to confirm the depth of my emotions in garment form and secondly how much effort it takes to knit a freaking jumper.  Sorry, Jumper.

Wikipedia goes on to suggest the ways in which such an endeavour may bring about the end of your relationship:

  • Unlucky timing. Knitting a sweater takes a long time, and the relationship dies of natural causes during its making.
  • Rescue mission. The knitter senses subconsciously that the relationship is about to end, and knits a sweater as a dramatic gesture to save it.
  • Catalyst for analyzing the relationship. Giving or receiving a significant gift such as a sweater may cause either the giver or receiver to evaluate the relationship. For example, the gift may seem too intimate, too domestic or too binding to the significant other. It can be seen as a signal that makes them realize that the relationship is not reciprocal, prompting them to end the relationship before it involves obligations.
  • Aversion. The significant other may simply not want to wear anything hand-knit.  A hand-knit sweater can also subject them to ridicule, either because the sweater looks bad (i.e., poorly made or unfashionable) or conveys overly domestic connotations.
  • Misdirected attention. The knitter loves their sweater a little too much, and pesters the significant other about the sweater instead of working on their relationship. Alternatively, the knitter loves to knit too much, and spends too much time with their knitting instead of with the significant other.
  • Delusion. The knitter imagines incorrectly that their significant other likes them, and is not disillusioned before knitting the sweater and giving it to them.

Unlucky timing is understandable; you don’t see it coming and as a result your efforts are laid to waste.  The rescue mission concept is somewhat worrying in its Brangelina-like efforts to save the world’s children by adopting them, though I suppose if you were a particularly good knitter with an entirely shallow other half, you could convince them to stay by dangling cashmere in front of their moisturised refueled complexion.

Gender stereotypes aside, I’ve never been prone to over-analysing a relationship.  I understand how it can happen and have been present at many an emergency wine-fuelled summit where female friends have converged, seeking to understand more about a man’s desires, impressions and intentions from his eight word text message.  It’s just never really occurred to me to think “I had fun” means anything other than “I had fun”.  I therefore fail to understand how any garment could be a cause for analysing your relationship, but there you go.

Misdirected attention and delusion are both rather sad to be honest, though I mean that in the sense of ‘upsetting’ rather than ‘lame’.  It paints knitters as people so devoted to their craft that they become somehow detached from reality and seek to impress others with what they can knit rather than simply be who they are.

Of all of these options though, I fully understand the dangers of aversion; it could be rubbish, he could hate it, he could refuse to wear it and I’d end up grumpy.

A scarf it is then.

Phone home

Having practiced my rib stitch to the extent that most household surfaces were showcasing bumpy coasters, I thought it was about time I started an actual project. Nothing too big; a scarf seemed rather too long-winded while anything cylindrical was out of the question, after a four minute YouTube video on circular knitting left me thoroughly baffled. So what to do?

A quick search on Ravelry (favouriting patterns and ideas that were far beyond my meagre skills) suggested I attempt an iPod sock: a simple, no-nonsense knit in 2×2 rib stitch with a contrasting band at the top that would keep my phone safe and cosy. The excellent Texere Yarns yielded some lovely King Cole fingering yarn (in dark blue – shocker) as well as a pretty sparkly glitter yarn in a similar, but suitably sparkly shade (Midnight). Within days the yarn arrived and I was underway.

iPhone Sock

All in all, it was remarkably quick and simple. There are some uneven stitches, a few holes and let’s not begin to mention the dodgy seam down one side but it fits my phone and manages to look suitably impressive as very novice efforts go. I’ve even had a request from a friend to make one for her iPod, though you can bet I’ll be practicing a little more before I let any of my concoctions leave the house. So project number one is done and dusted. And it’s not too bad.

The interwebs is my oyster

I realise anyone reading this is probably all-to-familiar with the wealth (and dearth) of stuff there is out there but bloody hell there’s a lot of information online.  In the last two days, I have – with the help of the internet – managed to learn two different cast on methods, understand where I was going wrong with the bind off (far too tight), order needles and yarn in all different shapes and sizes and read umpteen excellent knitting blogs and guides.  And I’ve barely even scratched the surface.

I shouldn’t really be surprised.  After all, I work in digital communications and technology and am reasonably tech-savvy.  But still, the thought that the internet would prove to be quite such an epic source of knitting information had never really occurred to me.

Of all of my discoveries, Ravelry was by far the greatest revelation.  If ever I am asked to name a site that exemplifies a social networking community, I’ll be there in seconds and damn the knitting-revelation consequences.  In fact, it’ll probably already be open in a Firefox browser in the background, hiding behind my work and whispering sweet yarny nothings to me when no one’s looking.  It’s astonishing.  For anyone still unaware, imagine an online forum with tens of thousands of members, all able to befriend and talk to each other across multiple boards, topics and specialist groups.  Then add a library with tens of thousands of patterns, many of which are free and posted by individuals willing to share hints and tips to anyone who gets stuck.  To that add a yarn search engine worthy of Google-like godliness that allows you to match up a yarn with a pattern and watch me melt into a happy puddle of social media serendipity.  And on that note… *sigh*

The beginning

Much as I’d like to have chosen a less obvious and clichéd post title, it does sort of sum up where I am at the moment.  I have started to knit.  Literally in the last week.

After a weekend spent clearing up the spare room that we’ve somehow managed to turn into a chaotic lair of boxes in the two months that we’ve been here, I picked up my Stitch ‘n Bitch book (by Debbie Stoller – awesome) from under a pile of coats and started to flick through it.  Then last week I stopped off at iKnit in Waterloo on my not-so-direct way home from work to buy some needles (uh, wood) and yarn (ummm, it’s blue?) before plonking myself down onto the sofa.  According to my other half, I then spent the next three hours muttering to myself while flicking through various pages of my book and stabbing at the aforementioned blue wool with the aforementioned wooden needles.  All while wearing what he likes to call my ‘angry-concentratey face’.

All very valid points.  To my mind though, I was learning how to cast on and cope with some simple knit stitches, back and forth along the needles and slowly but surely creating a small blue swatch.  All before buggering it up somewhat with a dodgy bind off, but that’s beside the point.  I had created something; it was little and it was blue and decidedly lumpy in places, but it was an achievement.

Since then, I’ve become mildly obsessed.  I now have five small, blue swatches, each in a different type of stitch: garter, stockinette, 2×2 rib, purl with a colour change (also blue, I’m afraid) and even an attempt at the heart patterned swatch from my book.  It’s amazing (I mean The Knit; the swatches are far from amazing).  I can make something from wool and sticks.  Surely world domination is only a few more swatches away?