I am not very good at sitting around and doing nothing.
And yet that was the top priority for a big chunk of the vacation I just took with my husband. We rented a lovely cabin on a beautiful lake on Vancouver Island for four days, totally off the grid--no Internet, no cellphone reception, no civilization within easy reach. "We will just sit and be and do nothing at all," my husband enthused as he finalized the arrangements on Air B&B.
Yes. That is all very nice. But if I'm doing to sit around and do nothing, I need something to do. So in preparation for this trip, I went out and bought materials for a knitting project.
This is what my sweater will look like when it is done:
HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA
No, it won't look anything like that. My sweaters always come out somewhat mis-shapen; they have that unmistakable look that my friend Jennifer describes as "made at home with loving hands." Here's one:
Not awful; but it's way too big, and it sheds and it pills and it is extremely itchy. Here's another one:
You may not be able to tell from the picture, but the sleeves are WAY too short. It's wool, rather thick wool at that; so you really only want to wear it when it's very cold--when you want to cover your ENTIRE arms, and not just 3/4 of your arms. But the pattern produced 3/4-length sleeves, which I then tried to lengthen by adding some really large cuffs. It didn't work out particularly well. Plus, it's really itchy.
This one looks almost normal, and it actually kind of fits:
But is it ever ITCHY! I can barely stand to put it on.
To make matters worse, it is expensive to make these mis-shapen, itchy sweaters. Usually the yarn and the patterns and such come in north of $100 a pop. So why in the world would I keep doing this over and over again: paying a bundle to make sweaters that fit poorly and itch?
Because, you see, I am not very good at sitting still. Nor, perhaps, at learning from my mistakes.
The yarn for this new project comes in looped, twisted skeins, 475 yards each:
You can't really knit from this kind of skein, because it will get hopelessly tangled; so the very first thing you do is to roll it into a ball. I started the process on first plane trip of the journey, on our way to visit our older daughter in St. Louis. Alas, things quickly devolved into a tangled mess. Here's what it looked like after the first three hours of effort:
My daughter Rebecca, who is a way better knitter than I am, saw the mess and said, "MOM: you're supposed to loop those skeins around your neck when you wind them, so they don't get tangled."
Excellent advice, dear. Next time I will be sure to take it.
St. Louis is a very vibrant city, very much on the grid, with lots and lots of interesting things to do. And Rebecca had picked out a whole bunch of them for us: we would go to the botanical garden, and to blues clubs, and to the museum, and to explore hip, artsy neighborhoods, and to a late-night movie screening in the park. Awesome plans, all of them.
But here's the thing: once you are in the middle of unraveling a mess like this one, it is almost impossible to stop. I listened to Rebecca's plans with great interest, and then I said, "you guys go on ahead. I'll join you after I finish untangling this yarn." At one point, Rebecca found the other end of the skein and started winding. "I don't think this is going to work," I told her. "We can't really be pulling at the same knots at the same time."
"I know," she said. "But this gives me something to do. I can't just sit here doing nothing." Where do you suppose she gets it?
I managed about three hours of unraveling time that second day in St. Louis.
On the third day of my vacation I got up before everyone else, as I often do. I took my yarn mess to a coffee shop around the corner. Two hours later, right around when Steve and Rebecca were rolling out of their respective beds, I untangled the last knot:
It took only a few more minutes to finish the job:
That's eight hours of work over my first 2 1/2 days of vacation. And I had yet to knit a stitch.
At that beautiful house on the lake, I did no knitting at all. During our four days of Sitting Around and Just Being we took five hikes, went spelunking through some nearby caves, rented a canoe, explored four adorable coastal villages, baked a pie, visited two farmer's markets and an arts festival, and took long, daily after-dinner strolls. I believe I am beginning to see a family pattern.
Now I am thinking that I won't even bother knitting the sweater. My ball of yarn is not mis-shapen at all; it's lovely and round, just as a ball of yarn should be. Perfect. Why mess with success?
And best of all: it doesn't itch.