Best Laid Plans

Lila

Readers, I am in the middle of a frustrating creative slump. It seems that, lately, I can’t do anything right despite my best intentions. That sweater you see, for example. Isn’t it gorgeous? The pattern, Lila, by Carrie Bostick Hoge, is exactly the sort of simple modernity I’ve been craving in my wardrobe for a long time. The yarn, Malabrigo Rios in the Pearlten colourway, was a dream to work with. I’d heard that it can grow a lot when you get it wet, so I diligently swatched with a few different needle sizes to make sure that I got a perfect fit. Looking at this picture makes me feel both proud and deeply saddened. Why? Because the sweater is too small!!!!

I know exactly where I went wrong with this one: I did the wrong kind of swatch. You see, when you knit a flat swatch for a garment  that is made in the round, you’re bound to run into trouble. In this case, my flat swatch told me that the smaller needles were the ones to use, which turned out to be the wrong decision. The worst of it is that I pressed on with the work even as I worried that it would be too small, ignoring my better instincts. Now, I’m the unhappy owner of a beautifully made sweater that just doesn’t fit. The one smart thing I managed to do was not sew up the arm pits and weave in the ends, so at least the unravelling will go smoothly.

Unfortunately, readers, that’s not the end of it. Assuming that the best way to shake off my failure was to jump back in the saddle again, I decided to cast on a lightweight cardigan. After all, it won’t be winter forever, and it would be great if I could turn some of the raw materials I already have in my possession into a new spring/summer wardrobe rather than buying things that don’t quite fit. After hemming and hawing for a few days, I settled on Jane Richmond’s Grace, a simple top down cardigan with some easy looking lace at the yoke. What could be more foolproof?

Grace Fail

 

Well, as it happens, lots of other top down sweaters. Because, unfortunately for me, the simple lace in this cute little number actually requires some attention to detail rather than the autopilot I set myself on. I’ll concede that maybe I’m just too picky, but those mistakes in my lace, starting about a quarter into the yoke, are too much for me to ignore. So, I’ll have to start over. I really would like to finish this cardigan eventually, but we need a bit of a break from each other until I can get some of my confidence back.

In the meantime, I’ve decided to focus on socks:

These are what I’m calling my Antidepressant Socks. I bought the yarn, Phildar Folk 100, at the height of winter when I was feeling as though a burst of colour would be just the thing to break me out of the winter sads. The colourway (Perroquet), however striking in the skein, turned out to knit up into some pretty ugly fabric, so I let these languish for longer than I should have. They’re done now, though, and they actually photograph much better than they look in person. And, like all hand knit socks , they’re pretty darn cozy, so I suppose I don’t have much to complain about.

And, what am I working on now? Well, this amazing shawl for one. I’m nearly at the end, about a quarter of the way through the cabled border, but I’m taking my time with it in an effort to not screw it up. I’m also making a pair of fingering weight Rye socks for Keith’s Dad, just because. The yarn is Knit Picks Stroll Tonal Sock in Constellation:

Rye

Sometimes it’s nice to make things for others for no particular reason. And, who knows, maybe the good karma will break me out of my sweater slump!

Fellow knitters: how do you deal with your knitting when it seems like you just can’t do anything right?

Making Time

I think it would be something of an understatement for me to say that I’ve found regular blogging to be a challenge since before the new year. The truth is, this is all my own fault. I really, genuinely don’t enjoy being a “busy” person but, despite my better instincts, I have a habit of signing myself up for things I think I “should” be doing instead of doing the things I want to do.

Part of this is very much the old baggage of grad school. I haven’t yet given up on the possibility of finding a job in academia even though I know that it’s becoming nothing more than a pipe dream. This isn’t me being hard on myself–I know I’m a clever and capable academic who has done some compelling and orignal research, and I know that there is some genuine interest in seeing my work be published. In fact, if all goes to plan, I will have two articles published by the end this year, and one of these is an invited publication, a real boost to the ego. But, can I be frank? The more time I spend outside of academia, the less I feel I want to be there. The job I thought I might get after I finished my PhD no longer exists, if the Chronicle of Higher Education and others are to be believed. I have no interest in doing contingent work. My student debt will not allow me to work a low wage job with no benefits and protections, and it certainly wouldn’t be fair for me to expect my partner, lovely and understanding as he is, to shoulder the financial burden of supporting me while I jump from short term contract to short term contract in the increasingly vain hope of securing a tenure track position in any university. This is an approach to the academic world that will work for some, but I know it won’t work for me.

So, what does this mean, my small cabal of readers? Well, it means that I’m starting to cut back on the “shoulds” and beginning to focus more on the “wants,” which, increasingly, are starting to feel more like needs. Last week, I quit my job at the spin studio. I truly enjoyed working there for as long as I did, but I had begun to feel a mounting resentment towards the place related to how much of my time this job demanded of me for the small financial return it offered. Because the class was on Sunday mornings, I was never able to plan an evening out on Saturdays. At about 3 PM the day before, like clockwork, I would begin fretting about what kind of class I was going to teach, constantly mindful of the fact that the class needed to be challenging and different from the week before. Then, I would wake up early on Sunday to make sure my playlist was in order and that the technology was working (ipod failures became a regular occurrence, always keeping me on my toes). Then, there was travel to and from the gym, which would eat up another two hours of my day on top of the time it took to get set up and teach the class. By the time I got home, half my Sunday was gone, and it wasn’t long before I felt like my heart just wasn’t in it anymore. When Keith asked me last week if I would return the $35 I was paid to teach the class in exchange for all of those hours, I knew that it was time to leave. I don’t need the money anymore, but I do feel more and more like free time is something I need.

This is just the beginning. After I finish my other voluntary academic obligations this year, I have decided that I will start saying no. I will only do what I want to do with my free time from now on. I hope this will leave me with more time for my friends and for my hobbies. I want to knit more, bake more and, now, sew more. Yes, I’ve done a small amount of sewing recently. Toiles only until I figure out how to properly adjust a garment, and the only way I’m going to figure out how to do it is by making time for it. I also hope that, by freeing up more space in my brain for myself, I can start blogging more regularly. Because, despite it all, I continue to love writing. Without making any promises or putting too much pressure on myself, I hope to be in this space more frequently in the future.

And, because this is a blog about making stuff, I’ll leave you with a poorly lit picture (maybe I will spend some time developing some photography skills this year) of gift I finished yesterday for my friends Chris and Amy. The sweater is N E O N by Lili Comme Tout, and the hat is Purl Soho’s Garter Ear Flap Hat, both knit with the last of some Knit Picks Swish DK that has been taking up space in my stash for over a year now. I think they make a fetching set, and I hope they keep C+A’s little guy warm.

Neon:Garter ear flap hat