19 February 2009

Accidents Happen

So, Husband and I were supposed to go to Boston this past weekend, but Sister called on Sunday after church to say "I'm sick. Nephew's sick. Don't come."

So suddenly we had a free two days that we weren't anticipating. We were bummed, because we really want to see Nephew, but we didn't want to be a burden on Sister and didn't want to risk spreading the germs anyway. So we stayed home.

I'd planned to go to my Sunday afternoon knitting group, but took a nap that went a wee bit too long, and just couldn't motivate myself to get out of the house. Besides, the knitting that was tugging at me was something I've been wanting to learn for a while -- and not something I wanted to learn while sitting in a coffee shop with my 4-12 closest knitting buddies. You know what I mean. I love you gals and all, but learning something new requires a kind of focus I'm just not going to achieve in that space.

I'd looked it up on Ravelry, this thing I wanted to learn. I've seen a few mittens lately with a beautiful vertical-stripey cuff, and (a) had no idea how to do it, and (b) had no idea what it's called, so didn't really know how to ask. Turns out, it's called the Corrugated Cuff, and someone who claims to be an expert says it's a traditional Norwegian thing -- although, Selbuvotter doesn't mention the Corrugated Cuff or show any pictures of it at all. That kind of has me wondering.

Let me back up a minute here. Selbuvotter is, in the words of author Terri Shea, "a research project that [she] accidentally over-achieved." Really, it's a book about Norwegian mittens, particularly from the region/town of Selbu, and the economy that was built on the backs of the women who knit these particular mittens. And then it has a ton of patterns!

Anyway, I bought this book in the KnitPicks book sale, read the whole thing on the airplane to DC two weeks ago, and decided that a stranded mitten project was just the thing for my personal Lenten Discipline. (The book in the photo above is Mason-Dixon Knitting's second book: really good section/instructions on beginning Fair Isle technique.)

Lent is the six-week period leading up to Easter. Traditionally, it's a time when Christians give up something they like (maybe a bit too much) -- something like chocolate, or red meat -- something that is perhaps a bit of an indulgence anyway. It's a good time to think about what's really important in our lives, why we make the choices we make, etc. It's a time where we focus on self-discipline.

And, in the self-discipline mode, there has been a newer movement in the last, ohhhh, maybe 10-20 years? that suggests we take on a discipline for Lent rather than give up something. In years past, I've carried around a bottle of water and been very intentional about drinking a certain amount every day -- normally, I forget to drink water, and generally tend to ignore my body and its legitimate basic needs (sleep, food, water). For several years, Lent was a time when I'd focus on my physical well-being through simply making sure I wasn't dehydrated.

Well, I'm totally still dehydrated. But I needed something new for Lent this year, and I figured that a knitting goal to learn something new would be just about right. I've known theoretically how to do stranded knitting for several years -- but knowing theoretically how to do something and actually doing it are two different things. This year is the year I actually do a stranded project, dammit!

I like the Corrugated Cuff, I wanted to learn how to do it, and yeah, Lent is still ten days away or so (it begins on Ash Wednesday, which is February 25 this year), but I'm between projects and kind of chomping at the bit on this thing, so I figured I'd just learn how to do the cuff. That would take a while, right? And meanwhile I could think about what other project(s) I'd like to do.

Weeeeell, it turns out that figuring out the cuff was easier than I thought. Looking it up on Ravelry helped, of course, but I thought I might have a harder time than I did. I cast on 54 stitches, knit one solid round, and began a k2, p1 rib (on a corrugated cuff, you knit with the main color and purl with the contrasting color -- a very cool effect). The next thing I knew, I'd made a good 2.5 inches or so, had gotten the hang of it, and was ready to move on. Out comes Selbuvotter!

I figured that, since this is my first stranded project, I'd try one of the simpler, symmetrical patterns -- one I liked enough to wear, but not so much that I'd be heartbroken if my tension was all off and it looked funny. I settled on Annemor #2, figured out how to fudge some of the math (the pattern calls for a ribbed cuff of 40 stitches -- I started with 54!), and found an America's Next Top Model marathon on TV. In other words, I settled in.

Um, the mitten didn't quite take as long as I thought it might. I did modify the thumb-hole a tiny bit, in that I did a tubular cast-on rather than a backwards loop cast-on for the top stitches. (That way I could alternate the colors and carry both strands more evenly.) Husband made dinner, I knit. I got to the decrease-for-fingertip part and went to bed -- at a reasonable hour, even!

Monday, we got up and I finished the fingertip. Then I talked Husband into accompanying me to a local coffee shop, where I proceeded to cast on for the second mitten. Five hours later, I'd finished that fingertip, too. We went home, we ate dinner, I knit a thumb, we went to bed.

Tuesday after work, I finished the second thumb and wove in the ends. I... accidentally made a pair of mittens. And accidentally did my Lenten knitting project before Lent started. Whoops!

So I guess now I have to figure out what my Lenten Discipline is going to be. Hmmm.

(Yarn is Blue Sky's Alpaca Silk; size 4 needles. I used almost a whole skein each of the gray and the white -- I only had one skein of white, but two of the gray, which is why I made gray the main color. Just in case I ran out of that first, you know. I'm kind of amazed at how little yarn these mittens used, really. Or how much yardage comes in a single skein of Alpaca Silk.)

Not perfect, but pretty anyway!

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