Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Addiction has her in stitches

Some people’s addictions are of the chemical variety; my addiction is yarn. My latest project is a cardigan in my “school colors,” House Gryffindor, that is. Once completed, I’ll embellish it with the official Hogwarts crest.

There’s something almost magical about creating something from yarn. I begin with raw materials and the item slowly takes shape one stitch, one piece, at a time.

I date my addiction to a visit from relatives almost three decades ago; my aunt taught me how to crochet. By the time my aunt and uncle left, I was making outfits for my Barbie dolls. In adulthood, I progressed to making afghans in varying designs that quickly filled my house. The first afghan I ever made has been unraveled, however; I decided that I wanted to attempt making a human-sized sweater.

My husband joked that he wouldn’t wear it if it ended up with three sleeves. He was just kidding, however, and it turned out to have no such thing – only the usual quantity in the customary locations.

Each garment I’ve made since then has been marked with increasing proficiency. My favorite projects are crocheting socks, which I think of as wearable sculptures. By decreasing stitches in the designated places I create three-dimensional objects that are shaped to the human foot.

It really is a form of magic!

There is an entire industry involving people’s hand-made socks – yarns in self-striping colors that mimic Fair Isle or Jacquard.

One of the most novel accessories is a pair of see-through boots. The boots aren’t very comfortable, however; they have no arch support and there’s a ridged seam that cuts into my skin because my socks aren’t high enough. I really wish that Birkenstock would make a line of see-through Birkis.

One of these days, I want to learn how to knit. There are beautiful folk designs that I would like to try that aren’t available for crochet: sweaters, hats and socks in intricate Fair Isle and Scandinavian designs.

I can cast on and I can clumsily knit but cannot yet form the purl stitch. I need to know both and alternate them to achieve the smooth chevron-shaped stockinette stitch.

Aside from books, I observe other knitters who make knit stitch and purl seem so easy. An afternoon at Perlz Beads & Yarns in Kelseyville, at a drop-in knitting class, was a great opportunity to observe other knitters at work.

Knitter-author Sally Melville said something that surprised me in her book, The Knitting Experience:

“Research has shown that 80 percent of people who knit a given garment do so in the same color as the model garment. This means that only 20 percent of knitters can imagine it in a different color. So, if you are part of this vast majority, and you don’t like the color in which the designer shows the piece, you won’t knit it!”

I was incredulous that this could be true because it seems natural for me to substitute colors of my choosing – or even alter the pattern in some way. Sometimes I work with no pattern at all but instead crochet to an existing garment’s shape.

Why would knitters let a little thing like color come between them and a flattering design when there are so many other colors to choose from?

Knitting and crochet are truly diverse media for giving expression to creativity – and you reap the added benefit of wearing what you create. All you need is imagination and the technical proficiency to put your visions into shape.

Published March 17, 2009 in the Lake County Record-Bee

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