Archive for August 2010

We can make it if we run

August 14, 2010


Pattern: Waves Scarf by Vanessa Hailey
Yarn: Red Heart Super Saver Solids (100% acrylic), colorways Cherry Red and White
Hook: J/6.0 mm

In some ways, life is all about confidence. We all have moments when we’re not sure of what we’re doing. It doesn’t look or feel like we expected. There’s ambiguity that makes us wonder if we’re on the right track.


Counting crochet stitches is like that for me. As I get to the edge, I start getting anxious. Did I start in the right place? Is it all lining up right? Is that last bit a stitch I should work, or the turning chain? As I turn and go back the other way, I can see if it is making sense. Soon I’m on my way again, with a little more experience, a little more understanding, and a little more confidence that I’ll do it right the next time.


This scarf was an exercise in that wavering conviction. Each edge required the right decision so that the foothills of the next stripe would occur precisely above the valleys of the previous one. Every time I saw it come out right, I felt more sure that I was reading my stitching correctly and comprehending the structure of a turn.


I imagine that the athletes of the Special Olympics Winter Games in Washington, where this scarf is bound, have a similar experience as they learn their sports. Over and over again, moments of crisis resolve into incremental success. And while skill grows with practice, what’s more important is that confidence, too. That confidence is the most important outcome of the Games for these athletes. They will take it with them far from the slopes and rink, into every part of their lives.


Back in the arms of a good friend

August 10, 2010


Pattern: Zipper Scarf by Vanessa Hailey
Yarn: Red Heart Super Saver Solids (100% acrylic), colorways Cherry Red and White
Hook: J/6.0 mm

“Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be strong in the attempt.”

That is the oath the athletes take at the beginning of each Special Olympics tournament. These intellectually disabled individuals gain dignity through competition, and become visible as human beings to their communities and governments.


In 2010, a project to provide a scarf in blue and white to every athlete at the Boise, Idaho World Winter Games set a goal of 2000 scarves. Months later, the organizers had been inundated with more than 60,000 scarves, all hand-knitted or crocheted, all using the official colors and yarn, from crafters all over the world. People clearly hungered to provide something special, to be a part of something special, to contribute a personal touch to an athlete far from home.


Sending a scarf is sending warmth. It’s more than a souvenir; it’s a message that the recipient is valued — is worth the giver’s time. The time I spent crocheting this lengthwise scarf was minimal, maybe two or three hours over a couple of days. Through it I was given the chance to practice a new craft, a new stitch, a new skill. It’s a privilege to pass that gift along. Craft is all about being strong in the attempt. I hope this scarf delivers that message to someone who needs it.

Sending all my love on the wire

August 8, 2010


Pattern: Box Scarf by Vanessa Hailey
Yarn: Red Heart Super Saver (100% acrylic), colorways White and Cherry Red
Hook: J/6.00 mm

It’s been a weekend of unprecedented productivity. I finished a garment. I started and progressed to 50% on a secret baby gift (in reward-myself Malabrigo worsted, no less). And I finished what I think of as beginner’s lesson number three in my crochet odyssey: this granny-square scarf for the 2011 Special Olympics Winter Games in Washington State.


The yarn and colors are dictated by the event. Every participant will receive a handmade scarf. What better excuse to advance my skills, get in some practice, and make something that will go to an athlete and a winner?


I learned so much making this scarf. Where the first stitch should be placed after a corner cluster. How to join a completed square to one with its last round still being formed, adding each square to the scarf as I went. How to seam the gaps between the joined corners with a slip stitch.


Most of all, I learned confidence. Round by round, stitch by stitch, join by join, I felt the movements becoming natural and automatic, the logic of the squares, corners, loops and hook becoming more ingrained. I wish the same confidence for the Olympian who will receive it. And just as he or she will move from that moment to the next life challenge, on I go to the next Special Olympics scarf with a new stitch, a new shape, but the same clarion colors, bright enough to see all the way across the country.

Up where they stay all day in the sun

August 7, 2010


Pattern: Braided Hood Tunic by Carol Feller (Interweave Knits Spring 2010)
Yarn: Moda Dea Washable Wool (100% superwash wool, discontinued), colorway Lake Blue
Needles: U.S. 6 & 7 36″ Harmony wood interchangeable circulars

Becoming a knitter has changed the way I think about clothes. If you have been around me over the last four years, maybe you’ve noticed it. The insight has a name: negative ease.


Ask most women my age (mid-forties) whether they want their clothes to cling, and they’re likely to recoil in horror. My biggest fear when I started knitting sweaters was that they would be too tight — either unwearable, or unflattering to my bulgy, middle-aged body. But knitting stretches. Knitting can be shaped to stretch in the places where curves are appropriate, and streamline the places where they aren’t. I still tremble a bit when I begin to knit something designed to come out an inch or two smaller than my measurements, but I forge ahead. And look what happens: Perfect fit, perfect shape, perfect length, and there’s nothing “relaxed” or “roomy” or any of those other clothing retailer euphemisms about it.


The secret is in the design. Cables draw knitting in naturally; stitches are subtracted in between them gradually to form a lengthy concave silhouette at the waist. Throw in the knitted fabric’s inherent give and stretch, and the garment flows over the bustline as if custom tailored.


Once you see that clingy is not necessarily a bad word — that negative ease can be your friend, can make you a bold knitter, less fearful about fit, and can reacquaint you with the figure you long ago resigned yourself to fight — your whole attitude toward clothes can change. It’s not just the clothes I knit for myself that prove the point. The evidence of the lesson appears in my wardrobe every day.