ravel

The Stanley Cup has been awarded and the summer deepens. I won’t pretend I’m not upset about the way the Final went down (anything that might make Marc-Andre Fleury sad is Not Okay, let alone the Capitals, anathema of the Metro, taking home the Cup), but the official end of the NHL season is a big part of putting the last year to rest. (Because, as we all know, I work in academic years, not calendar years.)

One of the things that happened as the Final progressed was that I knit. And as I knit, it became clear that two things were not working: the Las Vegas Knights’ defense, and the sweater I was making. Las Vegas surprised me. The sweater, not so much. In the roughly eight months I was throwing yarn, I had a sneaking suspicion for about four of them that the sweater was not going to be big enough. But I kept going under that knitterly delusion that the problem might block out.

Turns out I missed a very important “switch to larger needles” after knitting the collar (somewhere in December, probably, which is why you should never mix Finals Week with anything else that requires a functional brain). There’s no fixing such a thing. The only options are a) finish the thing and give it to someone much smaller b) rip it back, start over, pretend that the first attempt never happened. Yarn, unlike cut cloth, is very forgiving in this way.

I went with option b. If you’d like to experience the process for yourself, here you go: Eight months of knitting with sock-weight yarn reduced to two minutes and change. Here’s the Weezer song you’ll want to listen to as you watch.

I thought, as I turned roughly 800 yards of interlocking stitches back into a center-pull ball by hand, that I would be upset. I wasn’t. I was actually pretty happy, already thinking about the new pattern I chose (because it wasn’t enough to scrap the progress on the sweater, no), how differently it would wear. The scrapped project was a long cabled cardigan, the new one a plain pullover, one I am intending to knit loose, comfortable. No matter how I spin it, though, it was a lot of hours I re-coiled, and there are a lot of hours between me and anything that seems again like a garment.

I wonder a little why I wasn’t upset at all that lost time, especially because it was absolutely my own fault: I failed to follow the very clear instructions. It’s the writer in me, maybe: I’m used to drafting and throwing a lot away. I’ve written a lot about that here. But I also don’t think the writing and the knitting overlap that much as a metaphor. Any drafting I do (and the hundreds of pages I throw away) are necessary to get to the pages I keep. Knitting is not, generally, like that. My reading comprehension failure in Pattern A is not going to pave the way for success in Pattern B. I just like knitting, the physical act of it, the repetitive twitch of muscle and bone that turns loose string into something else. I’m far more wrapped up in the final product of my writing (something publishable, I hope) than in the knitting, even when it’s far more physically possible to be wrapped up in the knitting. I have a finished sweater, lacking only blocking and buttons, that’s been sitting on my filing cabinet for more than a year. Two lace shawls join it. I could soak and pin them out this afternoon, but I probably won’t.

(I’ll probably go finish Pachinko, because its an excellent novel.)

Knitting also provides a certain kind of permission: when I’m knitting, I’m not doing nothing. For someone who really enjoys watching sports (and who averages 3-4 hours of baseball daily, as often as they can manage it) and who also feels incredible guilt about not working all the time, this is important. I’m not doing nothing. I’m knitting. I’m thinking. A lot of the time, I’m thinking about what the next morning’s writing will bring.

I’m in a place where I’m incredibly excited about what the next morning’s writing will bring. That feels good.


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