18 February, 2008

Garter Stitch Appreciation

In 1997 I pulled out some old knitting needles (old yellow plastic ones with metal tops) and some yarn (a skein of burgundy 100% no-name acrylic) that my grandmother had given me, and taught me to knit with, when I was probably about 8 years old. Somehow I still had this yarn and these needles 10 years later, and somehow they made it with me from D.C. to Chicago, where I was going to school. I remembered how to cast on, the e-loop kiddie method, and that was about it. For a few days I just cast on stitches until the needle was completely full and then took them all back off again. There must've been over 200 sts on those 10" needles. I really packed them in. It sort of started coming back to me and one night I tried remembering how to form the stitches. I knew I was supposed to put the right hand needle into the stitch on the left hand needle and then do...something. I tried a few goofy things and then succeeded in forming some kind of...something. I ripped it out and put it back under the bed until the next night. At this point in my college career I had broken up with my alcoholic boyfriend and moved out of our amazingly cheap and large apartment in the Ukrainian Village--for you Chicago-ites it was on Oakley between Division and Augusta, 2 bedrooms for $550 a month. Yeah, that was reasonable then and now I sound old ("back when I was a kid, sonny, you could get a loaf of bread and a nudie magazine for a nickle!"). I moved into a studio above a sex toy store on Milwaukee Ave just south of Division (rent? $400). My bedroom was jammed into this little hallway that led from the big main studio room onto a roof deck. There was a little window in it so I decided it counted as a "bedroom." The kitchen was also a separate room, not just a strip with a stove in the living room, thus, to my mind, turning my studio into a real one bedroom apartment. The bedroom/hallway was probably 5x7 feet. I had a twin bed and it fit in there with no room at the head and a bit at the foot for me to keep a teetering pile of clothes. It was just wide enough for the bed and a person to squeeeze past on the way out to the roof. I loved this room. It was my very own bedroom in my very own apartment. And here I learned to knit. Sort of. I did get it one night, after many false starts where I couldn't understand why this length of yarn between the needles kept getting longer and longer as I knit off the cast on, and when I realized that I didn't need to FILL the needle with stitches and 20 or so would do fine, I produced garter stitch. And decided I MUST be doing something wrong. It didn't look like knitting at all. It was all bumpy and wavy and even with the holes in it it was just all wrong and didn't look anything like my sweaters, which I knew were knit. Screw it. I gave up for another few months or so. I picked it up again a while later after getting a Reader's Digest how to knit book from a thrift store.
I learned to knit and purl and use double pointed needles and all sorts of things from this amazing book. I learned to create beautiful smooth and lovely perfect stockinette stitch and decided that garter stitch was horrible and ugly and useless and a total waste of knitting. Until now.
A simple shawl, all in garter stitch with a little picot edge. It couldn't be simpler. I am totally obsessed with it, even it's little imperfections. If you look very closely at the left side in the photograph I ran out of yarn about 15 stitches before casting off and used a bit of Scottish Tweed 4 ply in the color Sunset to finish up. It's a nice contrast will the blue-y gray of the main color, which is Jamieson's DK in the color Eucalyptus from the dawn of time area of the stash. I love it. It is simple and I didn't need to pay ANY attention, except every 3rd and 4th row I made a little picot. Check the website (hopefully!) later this week and I'll add it, nicely formatted, to the "free patterns" section. This pattern is so mindless it deserves to be shared.


Anonymous said...

It's amazing to hear that such a talented designer such as yourself started out like many of us knitters with a pair of old needles, a skein of no-name acrylic (in a gawd awful colour no dobut), a simple beginners book, and determination. You inspire me all the time and I cannot wait to see the shawl in person one evening at knitting circle. Keep it up!


Lisa said...

That is my all time favorite reference book...and for a long time, my only one.

I love the description of your old apartment. There is nothing like your first me-only home.

Judy Boddy said...

Love the shawl , Is the pattern coming soon, ~~~~ Judy

Mrs. Rooney said...

I love the shawl and would like to make one. Is the pattern posted somewhere?