Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Mythos Collection by Fiddle Knits

For those of you who have been following any of my posts, or that of my daughter's (Erica over at Fiddle Knits Designs), you'll know that I'm learning to knit. My very first project is a shawl. Erica "designed" a very very simple pattern for me to follow, and I'm not sure it can get much simpler, but I'm still making my share of mistakes. I'm calling it a mystery shawl, since it's a mystery as to how it's going to come out in the end. The learning process has been so much fun, though, and I'm so excited about actually learning to knit that I'm wishing I could go faster, learn faster, understand faster, so that I can actually follow and make one of the seven beautiful shawls from Erica's Mythos collection.

I'm lucky because I often get to hear about her pattern ideas before she starts the knitting process. She runs these ideas past me, explaining how the pattern will look and the connected meaning (in this case Greek & Roman mythology). Sometimes asking for input or feedback, sometimes just wanting to work it out in her own mind before she starts. I've always been amazed at how her mind works. She seems to effortlessly pull ideas out of the air. She was always like that. Brilliant, really. And it's that inquisitive nature of hers that finds another voice with all the anecdotes she attaches to her patterns. Mythology was always one of her favorite subjects, so this collection proved interesting to see how she matched the various gods and goddesses to each pattern, and then chose the colors for the patterns.

The whole family gets to watch Erica's creations come to life as she sits in the car, being dragged all over for band performances. Or while sitting in hotel rooms between shows. Or while sitting at the farmers market on Sundays. Once she's done knitting, we then see all her creations in their finished form when she comes over to have Annalee model.

Sometimes something she's created just speaks to me. Everything she does is beautiful, but sometimes I just really want, need, have to have, one of her creations. You know, it's like seeing something in a store and you keep going back, and then back again, to look at it until you finally just have to buy it. There's a connection at some level that tugs at you. On those occasions I subtly (or maybe not so subtly) try and wheedle her into giving it to me. 

Annalee modeling the Harvest Shawlette
In the case of the shawls in her Mythos collection, I really really want the Harvest Shawlette. I would take any of them in a heartbeat. They're all gorgeous and I would jump up and down in total excitement and sheer joy if she offered me one, but there's something about the Harvest Shawlette that keeps drawing my eyes to it. A close second in the yearning department is Underworld. I can envision myself wearing them and feeling young and happy and carefree. An illusion since I fall into the middle-aged frumpy category, but anything that can make me feel chic and in style is a must have.

So, with Christmas looming on the horizon I could leave hints. I could maybe whine and plead, hoping to receive one as a present. But I'm learning to knit. Sigh. If I continue at the speed I'm going I will probably finish my "learning" shawl by the end of the October. At least that's my goal. As an added incentive, Erica has offered me some of her beautiful hand dyed yarn when I finish. She assured me that I can follow her Harvest pattern. She will help me. The skill level is marked as easy, although she warned that making it past the first three rows can be a challenge. Assuming all her helpful advice and teaching tips take root, my days of wheedling finished projects from her may be over. But the satisfaction of making it myself might be a good substitute. Do I dare jump from my very first learning project—a shawl that's knit on one side and purled on the other, and whose only design feature is holes going up the center created by two increases—straight into the Harvest shawlette? The temptation to try is mighty strong.

One of Erica's strong points is her ability to convey her meaning, to teach, to make you understand. She was a fantastic dance teacher, an even better violin teacher. Her patterns follow suit. Her charts and written instructions are clear. Her layouts are always neat, the designs appealing, and her color choices always beautiful. The ultimate test might be my ability to follow them, but from what I can tell at my newbie knitting stage that doesn't look like a problem since Erica is always concise and includes everything you need to know.

My 1st project—a simple shawl with center
holes. Dare I attempt Underworld instead?
If I do try, another problem will be which yarn to choose. The color she used for Harvest is stunning. All her colorways are fabulous really. For this shawl I would love something deep and rich and vibrant. So here's to finishing my first shawl (and let's hope it turns out wearable!) and attempting a second. I'm sure Erica will continue to post updates, as will I, on how I progress with learning to knit. I'm wondering if my second attempt ought to be another simple project, though, but a pattern from the Mythos collection—most likely Harvest—is definitely in my future.

Underworld Shawlette
You can find the entire Mythos collection for sale on Erica's Web site. At $20 for seven projects it's well worth it. And all her fabulous hand dyed yarns can be found for sale on her etsy shop.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Learning to Knit

Well, I managed to mess up several times so far in my first attempt at knitting and I have so much further to go! I had [daughter] Erica fix my mistakes twice, ripping back a few rows each time. But one time I messed up and wasn't planning on seeing her for several days, so I just ignored my mistake and merrily kept going. You can see it pretty easily—I forgot to do the increases in the middle—so my nice little row of holes going up the center has a slight break in it. Rick said I should make the same mistake every so often, just to be consistent, but Erica told me not to pay attention to him, to do it correctly from now on or else the shawl wouldn't shape up properly. I figured I ought to listen to her. She's been trying to get me to learn to knit for quite some time now, but I never listenined. Since I'm making shawl pins now, I thought it might actually be a good time to start, that maybe learning about different yarns and how they knit up might help when designing my shawl pins.

Leaving a mistake in your art is often done on purpose. Around the world, countless cultures have left these deliberate mistakes in their art. Turkish carpet weavers fear the evil eye (God's wrath) if they don't leave in an imperfection. Quilters have the humility block, since a perfect quilt is prideful (although there's some dispute over whether quilters of the past, specifically the Amish, actually made the mistake on purpose). And I think most of us are familiar with Navajo weavers who are said to intentionally leave a mistake in their weaving to prove they are not perfect. The Navajo say that's where God's spirit moves in and out of their weaving. Another explanation is that the mistake allows the weaver's Spirit a path of escape, since they put their soul into it as they go.
My recently sold EarthSea bowl.

If perfection is achieved what is there to strive for? Mistakes help you learn and lead to greater creativity. I read somewhere that what makes artwork beautiful is not its perfection, but the way the artist works his way out of a problem. The perfection of imperfection. I went to school for art and was always taught to rethink my way around a mistake since it's not really a mistake, but a path to another outcome, a different perspective on what was originally envisioned. An example is a recent gourd I did. I burned a line around it, then stood back and realized it was not straight by any stretch of the imagination. Rick looked over and said, well, I guess it'll be a practice gourd. But I was determined to create something even better than I had originally intended. I was pretty pleased with how it ultimately came out. I let the "mistake" lead me and enjoyed the process.

A simple shawl. My first attempt at knitting.
I'd like to say my knitting mistake was intentional, too, that I was showing my humility and that I would be creating something of far more beauty and creativity because of that mistake. But knitting is way too new for me and mistakes just keep happening whether I want them to or not. I'm still lucky if I remember to check if I'm on the knit or purl side. I have no clue if I'm keeping my stitches even. I thought I was, but Erica told me I went from loose to tight to loose and back to tight. Who knew? I'm basing success at this point on the fact that my shoulders, arms, and hands feel relaxed and that I'm not clenching my jaw. The shawl is getting larger, slowly but steadily. I'm certainly not fast, but at least I'm making progress. Erica has promised me more yarn when I finish. I hesitate to pick my next project, thinking it will deter me from finishing this one. It's too early to tell if knitting will actually help design shawl pins, though, but I'm sure it eventually will. Meanwhile, I hope this is wearable when I'm done. I'll keep you posted!