Friday, March 8, 2013


Knit two together.
Knit sixty-four. Oops, mistake.
Un-knit sixty-four.
Un-knit two together.

It’s a twelve hour drive from our farm to St Louis where our newest grandson lives. That gives me lots of knitting time, or in some cases, un-knitting time. I had just finished a sweater with five color changes and three separate cable patterns before Simon was born. That project stretched me a lot. I couldn’t fudge anything. Every mistake had to be taken out and reknit. It took me the entire back and half the front of the sweater (approximately two years) to learn to write down four things at the end of every row – yarn color, place in cable A or B pattern, place in cable C pattern, row number. Once I learned that I needed all those reminders of what I was doing, the knitting progressed rapidly.

I also learned that those twelve hour drives were the best times to knit on that particular sweater. If I tried to talk, watch television or listen to an audiobook, my mind got distracted in the middle of a row and I lost track of what I was doing. In the car, with Dave listening to music, I could concentrate well enough to keep the pattern in my memory. He even learned not to ask me questions in the middle of the row.

Just before Simon was born, I found Knit, Swirl, a new pattern for a beautiful sweater by Sandra McIver. It was advertised as being “so easy that it’s almost boring.” That’s the pattern for me, I thought. I really need some mindless knitting. Normally I knit socks for mindless knitting. Everybody I know has enough scarves, another potentially mindless project, and mittens to last for years, so I am supplying them with socks which eventually wear out. I can knit socks forever. But socks really are mindless once you learn the pattern. I wanted something a little more challenging. An sweater sounded wonderful after three years of concentration.

“Cast on 513 stitches” the pattern began. Piece of cake. “Place a marker every 64 stitches. Purl the next seven rows.” This is easy. “Continue in Welted Stripes stitch pattern throughout remainder of garment.” The welt pattern had me decrease a stitch on either side of my markers on the last row of the pattern. Yup, I can do that. Welt number three was the last one for which the pattern noted number of stitches at the end of the row, so as we started home from St Louis, I counted to make sure I was on track.

I was off by 36 stitches. Not only had I missed two entire rows of decreases, but I seem to have misplaced one of my stitch markers and therefore not done the proper number of decreases in several other rows either. Perhaps it’s my age, or perhaps it’s working with 513 stitches, but obviously even on “easy” patterns, I need to keep track of what I am doing.

I began un-knitting the sweater, stitch by stich, back nine rows. On a smaller project, I might have pulled out the needles and ripped out the yarn, planning to begin all over again. But having carefully cast on 513 stitches, joined them into a circle making sure the circle wasn’t twisted and then spent twelve hours working on the patterns, I wasn’t interested in starting over. I spent the next twelve hours un-knitting nine rows. 

After all, if I can spend three years working on a sweater, I am obviously more process oriented that product oriented. I am in no hurry. Un-knitting is intrinsically as satisfying as knitting if I don’t think about the tangles of un-knit yarn at my feet. And the pattern is beautiful. When I’m done, I’ll have a wonderful sweater, hand knit by me. What more can one ask of time spent in the car.

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