Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Waimea Knitters

First re-grouping of our small band of well-armed fiber artists met tonight for our first of 6 weeks. Since losing our fearless leader Wendy to the wooly wilds of Oregon we have drifted in knitterly solitude. But no more! We showed off our works-in-progress, caught up with each other's lives, and planned world domination. There was weaving, felting, knitting, and weaving in of intarsia ends:

You are welcome to Join Us!

Sunday, April 16, 2006

It would all be worse without the knitting.

I have finished the first sock, and have completed about four inches of cuff on the second sock. Not because I am fast or dedicated, but because I needed something to occupy my mind. Without knitting, my mind is left to spin out of control with anxiety, worry, paranoia...
I had a fight with him last week Thursday, maybe because my mind spins out of control, maybe because his silence is torture to me: Whatever, it doesn't matter.
So tonight I sit with my knitting and wait for him. I finished the toe last night, not knowing if he was working or at home, until far into the night. I cast on the second sock this morning, wondering if my parents saw him in Church for Easter services. Finished the cuff ribbing as they came home without him. Worked the bar and diamond pattern wondering if he would stop by before work. And tonight I finished the zig-zags as I waited to see him: The time when he is usually off work came and went. Maybe he stayed late. Maybe he went home first, maybe he had a shower and something to eat. Maybe he didn't get my text messages, maybe he fell asleep... As I made the white and blue yarn swing up and down in zigzags, my brain went back and forth:
How pathetic is it to wait for him, one eye on the door, one eye on the pattern? Shouldn't I be mad? Shouldn't I stand my ground, ignore his text messages? All I want to do is see him, hold him, forget the fight. But shouldn't we pick apart every word so as to understand the miscommunication and avoid this silence again?
As much as we want to believe that knitting is the new yoga or some meditative lifestyle, I am here to say: knitting isn't life. With this sock, I rip back and tediously fix the tiniest of errors. With him I can't rip back, I can't obsess on one tiny stitch until it is fixed. With knitting, my crazy, obsessive maze of a brain has an outlet where it can swing around the most complicated two-handed fair-isle pattern in Arabic and perhaps leave him alone. With him, all the complex branches of thought can hurt.
So I sit with this pattern, these two balls of yarn on either side of me, both hands wrapped in a strand, chart close by, cat on legs, book open, laptop open, and sock number 1 in view for comparison... I have filled my bed with this knitting project in an attempt to fill the emptiness. I have filled my head and hands with these complex strands to keep myself from obsessively ripping back the fight.
I wish he would show up. Catch me unawares with this mess of two handed yarn. It would not be a "Let me just finish this row" situation. I would push the book, chart, sock, laptop, and cat to the floor. I would throw down both balls of yarn, untangle my fingers, and toss the project and all five needles away. I wouldn't care if my carelessness tangled or ruined the knitting: I know how to fix the damn sock!
Just let my fingers be knotted in his hair, just let me be lost in the tangled un-fixable mess of being with him.

Monday, April 10, 2006

The Cat Won

Remember those yellow socks? The ones that I knit from light yellow cotton and darker yellow merino for the toes, heels, and cuffs? Remember how you read that and thought "uh-oh: Why is she knitting with 2 different yarns? Doesn't she know they won't wash evenly?"
Well, I should have known better: You were right.
My first mistake was in the original thought: It was only my second pair of socks ever, and I thought "Why not mix up this yarn? It's donated yarn, and I am a beginner, and it will be an interesting project".
My second mistakes landed the socks in the UFO pile (see below).
My third mistake was re-knitting the socks, worrying about the perfection of a tiny decrease (again, see below) or a kitty-chewed strand (ditto), instead of taking the opportunity to remove the yellow merino altogether. Maybe the kitty was trying to tell me something...
4th mistake was faith in my laundry skills. I blissfully maintained that I would handwash in cold water and the cotton and merino would be fine. I don't know what made me believe I could maintain such discipline.
So I wore them last week.
Oddly enough, the cat was still oddly attracted to the merino, and attacked my feet several times.
And I washed them. In the machine. In hot water with the towels. Figured they would be fine as long as the blowing trade winds didn't blow out the pilot light on the water heater. Which the wind did. In the middle of the towel load.
Hot water plus cold water plus machine agitation plus merino wool toes, heels and cuffs equal...
Or maybe they equal a much loved pair of catnipped stuffed kitty chew toys.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

In Dreams...

I had a dream wherein I broke one of my bamboo #2 double pointed sock needles (currently engaged in the Mamluke Socks).
The wood was jaggedly splintered and snapped right in the middle. This dream comes straight from my anxiety over my tight knitting on smaller and smaller needles. Like perhaps the tighter and smaller my hold on things, the more control exerted over craft and life, the more tension and less breath... Can only lead to the snapping and destruction of all my work.
I need to relax.
I also noticed yesterday that I would only take a deep breath after each needle (20, 20, 20, and 10 stitches each). I don't think I was holding my breath as I knit, but if I was breathing, it was shallow. A looser hold on yarn, looser stitches, looser breathing... I am, after all, knitting the name of God.
Perhaps it is genetic: In my dream, my father recommended wood glue, a vice, and sandpaper to repair the needle. My mother suggested tossing the bamboo and using aluminum needles. My friend suggested:
Your father believes more in fixing what is broken, whereas your mom feels that if something fails once, it is doomed to fail again, so might as well start over with something better suited to the task.

My mother doesn't enjoy frogging her work back at all. My father will doggedly pursue a task to completion, not sleeping, swearing a blue streak the whole time.
Can we have both forgiveness and perfection?

Photo is Mom's dpn's (metal, background) and my dpn's (bamboo, foreground).

Monday, April 03, 2006

Walking With God

Beginning new socks, the beautiful "Mamluke Socks" from Nancy Bush's "Folk Socks". Link to book can be found HERE.
I knew I had to make these socks the moment I saw them on Yarn Harlot: HERE. Ran out and immediately bought this wonderful book. While there is a photo of a similar sock in a textile museum, there is no explanation about the pattern's history. But being a fan of woven Fair Isle, repetitive Islamic geometric patterns, and the art of Arabic Calligraphy, this pattern is a revelation. Suddenly the possibilities of knitting in Arabic and copying architectural arabesques and geometric patterns in yarn exploded in my mind. Started them on Saturday morning.
One thing that made me question:
The Arabic on the socks reads "Allah" over and over in a circle on both the ankle and the heel. The other repetitive geometric patterns are common patterns found in the stone, tile, and stucco work of Mamluk mosques. I have seen whole domes covered in zig-zags, and tiles and screens in the diamond patterns. This, along with the photo of the disintegrated sock in the textile museum, makes me believe that this is indeed a historical pattern. So my question: Was it acceptable to copy mosque patterns, including the cursive script name of God Himself, for use on a sock that would be worn on the sole of the foot? Would one be, in essence, trodding upon the name of God? In this day and age, where people are killed in rioting over an offensive caricature in an editorial cartoon, it is nice to see that people hundreds of years ago may have seen things in a more forgiving light.
My mother suggested that perhaps this specific pattern was a Mosque-Sock. Maybe a prayerful Mamluk would come to the mosque, perform the ablutions, and after removing his shoes, would slip on the socks to warm and decorate his feet while he prayed. The pattern of the sock would mirror the beauty and devotion around the prayerful. The rows of kneeling prayers in back of the wearer would also see the pattern. And as we knitters know, somewhere there was a knitter who lovingly and meditatively reproduced the name of God in her stitches as a devotion to the comfort of the wearer, a tribute to the architect, and the holy name of her God.
I am even reminded of the generations of women who have decorated churches by embroidering altar cloths and robes for their priests. Perhaps these socks were a gift to the Immam, and warmed his feet while he did his sacred work.
Instead of my modern pessimism immediately thinking about trodding upon God, I am reminded of all the devotion that is evident in our little meditative craft. These socks are a sign that knitters through history have felt the link between repetitive meditation and the sacred. That we have shown our love for our family and community by embracing them with the warmth and labor of our needles. And that appreciation of the grand art and devotion of sacred spaces is reflected in the small womanly craft of knitting.
I think about all this with every stitch of this pattern, and this women's history, mosque architecture, and the faith and devotion of people who lived years ago in a far off empire perhaps can be conjured and appreciated through the work. I haven't been this excited about a pattern in a very long time.
My mother had another suggestion. With their feet encircled and protected by the name of God, perhaps the wearer is reminded that with every step, he walks with God. He is protected by God, and walks in the path chosen by God. Perhaps we would all choose our steps more carefully if we wore such socks as these.

Update: This page has more fun with Arabic patterns, including a more authentic redesign of this historical sock.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Finished Object! Mom Socks!

After a few experiments with binding off loosely, finished pair of socks for Mom. Even wrote down the toe-up variations I used. Nice to knit something requested, chosen, and very much desired and appreciated.
Socks modeled by an appreciative Mom with newly warmed feet!