Friday, May 19, 2017

"X" Marks the Spot on a Knitting Chart

In days gone by it seemed that most patterns consisted just of row-by-row instructions that you followed along from top to bottom on the page as your knitting grew below your needles, usually from the bottom of a project up. Nowadays it is common for a chart to be included that helps the knitter visualize how the pattern will look when the work is completed. I normally use them for reference only, but some people find it easier to follow a chart when overwhelmed by the complexity of detail given in row-by-row directions. One the rare occasions that I've designed my own patterns, I've drawn them out on graph paper, making an easy-to-follow chart in the process.

When looking for a chart to include with this post, of course I couldn't find one that used an actual “x” for any of the stitches! Any symbol works to indicate a kind of stitch or knitting process; charts are filled with dashes and dots, circles and filled squares, arrows and other symbols, all of which are explained in the associated “key” somewhere on the pattern page.

There are a couple of rules to remember when following a chart in your knitting progress. One is that you are working from the bottom of the chart up, rather than reading from the top down. It's helpful to have the row numbers marked to the right of each row to help you follow along. In addition to that I've taken to putting a “<” or “>” symbol in front of the row, to remind me whether I'm working from right to left across the pattern (the “right side” of the project) or left to right (the “wrong side” of the work). I've learned the hard way that the finished product won't look anything like the design on the page if you're not careful to remember this important point. And even though the rows are numbered, it is sometimes easy to lose yourself in the mass of symbols on the page before you, so I place a ruler under the line I'm working on to help prevent mistakes, sliding it up a row at a time as I go along.

It's okay to lose yourself in your knitting; just don't do so on your chart!

Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, 'This is the way, walk in it,' whenever you turn to the right hand or whenever you turn to the left.”
(Isaiah 30:21)

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Always Worried About my WEIGHT

When I started knitting so many years ago, there seemed to be just two choices when it came to yarn weights; worsted or fingering yarn, thick or thin. Since then the yarn world has seemingly exploded with yarns of varying thicknesses, and it can be hard to determine which to use for a project at hand.
A safe bet is to simply use the yarn recommended in the pattern, but if you have a closet full of accumulated leftover skeins, it's helpful to know if you can substitute something you already have for the yarn in question, and still have the knitted piece end up the right size.

One simple way to determine this is to check the WPI (wraps per inch) of both types of yarn. Simply wind the yarn around an object such as a pencil or a ruler, and count how many wraps occur in a one-inch space. If the numbers match, the yarns are the same weight.

Another easy way is to simply count the stitches and rows in a four-inch square knitted with the yarn in question and compare it to the gauge listed in the pattern or on the label of the yarn to be swapped out. If it is bigger or smaller than needed you can sometimes substitute smaller or larger needle sizes to correct the sizing. While most of us want to just jump into the project, it is wise to take the time to check the gauge if there is any doubt at all about a suitable yarn weight.

Each of us carries a different weight in the spiritual realm, as well, influenced by the length of our walk with God and the experiences we have had with Him. The Bible says we each have a measure of faith, but that initial amount can be expanded as we learn to trust God more and more each day. It is not a good idea to compare oneself with others in this arena, however, as we are likely to become either puffed up or pushed down in our Biblical self-esteem as a result, both of which can lead to problems on down the road. It is best to simply concentrate on making our own spiritual experience the very best it can be, that our lives turn out to be exactly what God intended them to be.

Therefore, my beloved...work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.”
(Philippians 2:12-13 NKJV)

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Versed in the VOCABULARY

Like so many other hobbies, knitting has a vocabulary of its own. Words that are common in other interests often have a somewhat different meaning when used in connection with the craft. A cable is normally a strong cord or wire made out of rope or wire. In knitting it's used in reference to a certain type of twisted stitch pattern. A ladder is a tool for climbing up or down and consists of two sidebars connected by metal or wood rungs hung at regular intervals between them, but in knitting it's the gap in a knitted piece left by a stitch that has dropped several rows down into the work. Garter is a type of stitch, not something worn around a leg.

Abbreviations for certain actions often only add to the confusion, and are often unique to the pattern itself. Sk2p, wyif, m1p, and pfb are not typos that somehow slipped through the spellcheck on my computer but common knitting techniques or yarn positions used in many patterns.

When I first started knitting, such uncommon words and strange abbreviations intimidated me to the point that I wisely would not even attempt a pattern if I couldn't decipher the directions. Today there are so many internet helps and videos that trying something new is much easier, fun and educational.

Communication with others about one's current passion is difficult if they aren't versed in the vocabulary that goes with the territory. It's especially common among Christians who try to talk to unbelievers about their faith. Terms such as born again, slain in the spirit, anointed, and speaking in tongues rather than with tongues can be confusing and may cause the listener to abandon the subject completely rather than struggle to understand. Communication involves more than merely talking; it's connecting with another in a way that gets an idea across rather than sounding like so much gibberish.

If then I do not grasp the meaning of what someone is saying, I am a foreigner to the speaker, and he is a foreigner to me. So it is with you. Since you are eager to have spiritual gifts, try to excel in gifts that build up the church.”
(1 Corinthians 14:11-12 NIV)

Hidden UNDERNEATH

I used to think that the back of a knitted piece was unimportant; it was only the front that the world could see that mattered. Surely I didn't care if the other side of was a mess of crisscrossed yarn, ends woven in without thought to color blends and the like. I was more interested in having fun with a project than making sure both sides of the work were picture perfect.

Then my sister started entering stitchery projects into her local county fairs, and visiting the needlework barn became a part of my regular summertime fair experience. It is one thing to put a finished item on display; it is another thing completely to have someone judge the work, to actually pick it up and examine it closely, and yes, to look underneath to see what lies behind the front that is on display. Even though I haven't yet entered the local competition and have no plans to do so, our discussions on what the judges might be looking for remains in the back of my mind and impacts the care with which I knit and finish a project.

Some of us live our lives the way I used to go about my knitting; making sure everything looked fine on the outside and thinking that what lay underneath the front I presented to the world was unimportant. Then someone mentioned to me the concept of a Judge Who looks behind the visible facade and sees the contents of the heart inside. Thoughts I would never have voiced are audible to His ears; sins hidden from others, He sees. Intentions, motivations, cut corners...nothing escapes His eye, His ear, His heart. And while He loves us, forgives us, and works with us to change, there will be a day on which the the way we've lived our lives is exposed for all to see and judged. It will not matter then whether we have believed and intentionally subjected our life's work to His scrutiny; our first breath was our enrollment and early withdrawals are not an option nor exempt from consideration.

This revelation is not to inspire fear, as surely if we have accepted God's offer of salvation, the future for us holds no fear. But rather it should inspire us to live the very best life we can, to live carefully and remember that even the smallest details matter to God. When we hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant...”, we will know a joy that no blue ribbon on earth can provide.

Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.”
(1 Timothy 6:18-19 NIV)

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

THUMBING Through Reasons to Knit

There it is in the photo to the left – the reason I picked up my knitting needles again after laying them down forty years or so ago. Do you see it?

It's not the multitude of beautiful yarn available, the abundance of fun patterns to work up, or even the joy of passing on a beloved hobby to a new generation of needleworkers...wonderful though all those things are.

Nope...it's the phone lying face down on the table, ignored for the moment in the midst of colorful skeins of wool, attention focused on something other than Facebook, fingers and thumbs busy with with actions other than tapping, texting, scrolling and sending for a minute or two.

Don't get me wrong; I love my phone. It's my constant companion, the answer to my many questions, my entertainment when I'm bored... my connection to the rest of the world. But it was becoming my world, and I didn't like the way I reached for it every time I sat down, woke up, or a commercial break interrupted the program I was watching on TV. I needed to make a change.

And suddenly I got the urge to knit. I remembered the comfort of relaxing with the latest project, the satisfaction in seeing the work grow underneath the clicking needles...the freedom to let my mind wander while my hands remained happily employed with knit and purl stitch counts. Now I problem solve, I dream; my mind is free to set its own agenda instead of constantly searching other people's posts for something new to think about.

But what to knit? Pairing purpose with the pleasure I found in creating items added excitement to this venture; couldn't I make things other people could use? The ideas started flooding in. Of course, there were the obvious; little gifts for Christmas, seasonal items to decorate the home, baby items to give as shower gifts or donate to needy mothers. My sister mentioned a group of knitters in her area of the country who were making scarves and gloves to hang on park fences for homeless people to find and use; soon I found a local group I could contribute to who were doing the same. Now I find I can't knit fast enough to finish all the things I want to make before one season ends and another arrives with a whole slew of new ideas of its own.

It turned out I had it partially right. There was a human purpose to pursuing a passion...but what if there was a divine connection, as well? For no apparent reason I selected a snuggie as my first project, one of those little baby sacks or “cocoons” in which to cuddle a newborn, and did it up in blue, even though nobody I knew at that moment had a pregnancy nearing its due date. As my knitting grew, so did a friendship with a coworker who was new in town and who soon found out she was pregnant...with a little boy. It eventually became obvious to me who the snuggie was to be given to, especially since the project on my needles and the baby in her belly were “done” at the same time. But it was as I was writing a note to go with the gift, that I felt a nudge from God to write a few words from His heart, as well as my own. It wasn't anything mystical or deep, just a few lines of light and love spoken into the life of a young woman at a special time in her life. And suddenly it hit me that that was why I had picked up my my hobby again after such a long period of time...to deliver that very message at this particular time. The pleasure I found in the action was beside the point.

A light bulb turned on in my head. What I thought was my need to knit again was actually God's need for me to do so, that He might deliver a message of love to a daughter I “happened” to be connected with. What if God had me learn to knit forty years ago just so that He could call that skill into play decades later and use it to bless a girl who wasn't even born at the time I began? Could it be that many of the details of our lives that we thought originated from our own thoughts and desires are really planted inside of us by God to bud and bear fruit in the time of His choosing, in ways we couldn't have imagined originally?

Looking back, I realize now how many other passions in my life have come and then seemingly gone, only to be resurrected and given new life at a later point in time. How good of God to replace the sadness when a particular season ends with an eager hope that it may roll back around again on down the road! And, oh, how the joy we find in them is multiplied when those interests are used for God's purposes rather than just our own!

And my social media addiction? I still use my electronic devices plenty...now mostly to find patterns on Pinterest or check in on the picture posts of my knitting buddies' current projects. The internet lists a host of physical and emotional benefits that come from picking up a pair of knitting needles; for me the best was the spiritual blessing that came with the excuse to put the phone down.

...make it your ambition to live quietly and peacefully, and to mind your own affairs and work with your hands...”
(1 Thessalonians 4:11 NIV)

Slip into some SLIPPERS

I have an ongoing love affair with slippers. I love the cozy warmth on feet that seem perpetually cold. My feet slip into them constantly from mid-October through mid-April. Such use results in a lot of abuse; they rarely last more than a season or two before there are holes in the soles or worn places on the sides and they are begging to be replaced. So it shouldn't have been a surprise that patterns for knitted slippers would catch my eye.

What a delight to find that they abound these days! When I first picked up a pair of knitting needles it seems like there was just one kind that could be knit for men, women, and children alike. They featured a garter stitch body with a few inches of ribbing at the top; two single-stitch strips of stockinette stitch (try saying that five times fast, lol!) made them fold naturally in thirds to fit around a foot. They were easy and fast, and my siblings and I made them by the closetful.

It was only a matter of time before I would have the urge to knit a pair when I came back to the hobby decades later. Deciding to make a pair for my husband in his favorite football team's colors, I tried in vain to find the pattern that I knew I had kept even after casting the needles aside, a handwritten memory from my youth. Thankfully Pinterest came to the rescue once more; the only issue was adjusting the pattern for size. I simply guessed on the stitch count. Later, while gathering dirty socks for the load of laundry I was starting, I just “happened” to catch a glimpse of some bluegreen wool in the back corner of my husband's closet. Instantly I knew what it was! I was still knitting in the days I started dating him; I had forgotten that I had made him a pair of these very slippers 37 long years ago! And he still had them!!!

The trouble with knitted slippers is that they don't last. Unless a sole of leather or suede is attached to the bottom, the yarn wears through after constant contact with carpet and other flooring. I could see why he didn't wear them anymore; the slipper I found sported a big hole, the yarn unraveling around it. But the fact that he kept them anyway touched my heart (and explains why we have a clutter problem in this house!); I was thrilled all over again to be making him a new pair. And the best thing about finding this treasure was that I could easily count the stitches to see if I was making them the right size!

Nowadays there are an abundance of interesting patterns with which to decorate one's feet in knitted warmth! I fell in love with one such pattern I discovered at my favorite yarn shop; it was another instance of falling in love first with a certain kind of yarn and then wondering what I could possibly make with it; the store owner had wisely placed a finished slipper underneath the bin and offered the pattern for free! I bit on the bait, bought my yarn and made the first on a long football-filled afternoon with the family. The pattern was quick, fun, and taught me some new techniques – what's not to love?! I knit the other a day or so later and then discovered that the way the variegated yarn had worked up made one slipper look mostly gray and the other blue! The happy solution was to make another set the same way, then match the blues and the grays; I doubled the fun and got two pairs instead of one!

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor...”
(Ecclesiastes 4:9 NKJV)

Friday, April 21, 2017

Remembering the ROWS

I have nothing against flesh-and-blood humans, but when it comes to knitting buddies, my best friends are circular bits of plastic. They are my row counters, those tiny trackers of the rows knit behind me, so that I can always find where I am again in a pattern after setting a project down for any length of time.

Many was the time I was called away from my knitting and thought to myself that I would easily remember where I was, the pattern being so obvious that surely I could just pick up where I left off and be on my way. But too often I'd come back to it and struggle to remember how many repeats of a certain row or a segment I'd completed, and have to resort to counting stitches to try and find myself once more.

Now I use row counters and I have them rolling about everywhere; I need one for every project and slipping one on my needle first thing is as necessary as casting on the first stitch; I simply can't start something new without one.

Counters come in all sizes and styles; there are some that can be worn around one's neck and are advance by a click of a button rather than the turn of a circular end. Trial and error determines what works best for each individual. Inexpensive and easy to use, they have become an indispensable part of a project's success.

In life apart from knitting I live by lists. Pen-and-ink notes have become a necessary part of my life success. They help me keep track of what I have done and what I have yet to do. Actions I need to have completed by a certain time or date have little chance of getting finished on time if they are not noted down on paper that I view on a daily basis. My lists include everything short of taking a breath,including exercise regimes, cleaning routines, letters to write, things to do on my day off...I simply write everything down. The emotional satisfaction of marking something off as completed is (almost!) as wonderful as turning the counter to show another row completed.

Knitting reminds me that no matter how big the task in front of me, if I tackle each step one by one, the project gets done.

So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”
(Psalms 90:12 NKJV)
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