The fine line between tenacity and insanity

As I mentioned in Friday’s post, our city became a lot more exciting on Saturday:  Stephanie Pearl-McPhee was coming to St. Louis! Right here to the armpit of the Midwest!  On her book tour!  And I was lucky enough to attend.

When Rachel told me on Friday morning, though, that she wouldn’t be able to make it to the signing – and could I pretty please pick up a book for her? – well, I decided that wasn’t good enough.  I mean sure, I COULD get a book.  But what if I dialed it up to 11, and was able to bring something along to represent Rachel and her awesome dyeing skills?  Something like the knitterly version of a life-sized cardboard cutout to pose with the famous knitting humorist.

Well, I don’t have a life-sized cardboard cutout of Rachel (which she is glad of, I’m sure).  So I decided that I needed to knit something of her yarn, instead.  Something bright and visible; something that wouldn’t require me to pull off a cowboy boot to show off: a shawl.

But – again, as I told y’all on Friday – I didn’t have anything that would fit the bill.  What I DID have, though, was this:

Which is one skein of Rachel’s Strong Arm Skinny in the steampunk’d “Dance Mistress” colorway.

I also had these:

(Here is where I start singing, “These hands were made for knittin’, and that’s just what they’ll do…”)

And…I’ll stop there with the stupid photos.  But imagine here a photograph representing the Traveling Woman pattern, my complete lack of regard for the constraints of the fourth dimension, and a nice splash of insanity.

That’s what I had.  And I had to combine those tools in a way that I might convey to the Yarn Harlot herself a representation of my friend Rachel.

A long discourse followed via Twitter and G+.  Could I do it?  Should I do it?  Kara tried to talk me out of it.  Rachel poked the crazy.  Monica quietly encouraged me.  Even Morgan (who’s a muggle, but I also believe she’s a Knitter and just doesn’t know it yet) pitched in:  not only did she say it was OK for me to knit during her husband’s birthday party which we were attending that night, but she also gave me permission to just lurk quietly in a corner and avoid socialization entirely.*

It was all falling into place:  literally my only obligation between 4:00pm and 2:00pm the following day was to shout “surprise!!!!” sometime around 6:00pm, and probably get a few hours of sleep.  And maybe eat.

So yeah, I had it under control.

I knitted from 4:30 to 5:45 (1.25 hours).  Then I knitted quietly in a corner at the party, pausing only to occasionally glance about awkwardly, chat with the two other people there who I knew, and eat a vegan bratwurst.  Altogether, let’s call it two hours.  (3.25 hours).  I finished the stockinette portion at the party and decided to go home before diving into the lace bits, but then once home I knitted nonstop: I was a whirlwind.  Jeff kindly took over dog potty duties for the whole evening, and provided me a steady stream of tea and Diet Cokes (alternating, for chrissakes. I’m not a barbarian).  He turned in around midnight (7.25 hours), but not before queuing up a documentary for me on Netflix, kissing me on the forehead, whispering “you’re crazy” in my ear, and turning off all but the reading lamp above my chair.

And still I knitted.  I’d finished two full repeats of the lace chart, and flew past the halfway mark of a third.  I stopped every hour or so to stretch my hands.  The documentary ran out and I threw on one quick episode of Doc Martin – I was nearly done with the fourth and final repeat of the lace chart, and wanted to get a start on the 19-row edging chart before I slept.  I finally called it a night around 1:15, three rows into the edging (8.5 hours).

I recklessly – and deliberately – declined to set an alarm, so sure was I that my eyes would pop open at an unconscionable hour anyway.  And just over 5 hours later, that’s exactly what happened: I was up and breakfasted and back at my knitting by 7:00am.  From there it was really a blur.  The edging chart is a lot of “yo, k2tog, yo, k2tog, yo, p1, yo, ssk, yo, ssk” stuff: slightly slow going.  I knit faster and faster as the sun rose.  By 10:00, I was binding off (I’d elected to end a row early because the webby remnants of my yarncake were looking suspiciously short).  But no, I was wrong: I’d had plenty of yarn to finish that last row.**

You know me, I can’t just leave well enough alone, so I tinked out of that bindoff, knitted the final row, then bound off again.  I finished at 10:30 on the nose.

12 hours.

I threw the shawl in for a nice soak in tepid water (against the advice of my Twitter cheerleaders, who unanimously told me, “steam block! steam block!”), and posted a triumphant TwitPic of my remaining yarn:

Yes, you can make a smallish Traveling Woman from one skein of sock yarn: that’s easy.  But if you are lucky, you can juuuuuuust eke out a 4-repeat size, instead.

It didn’t take too long to dry in our sunny, airy craft room (the ceiling fan and floor fan helped, too), and by 1:00 we were out the door:  plenty of time to spare!

At this point I was only barely aware that the shawl draped around my shoulders was the very one I’d started knitting the previous afternoon.  I hadn’t had time to get used to the rhythm of the color repeats, or get sick of that one row with all the “yo, k1, p1, k1, yo”s, or daydream about eventual outfits to pair it with.  The shawl was a stranger.

A gorgeous stranger, yeah, but a stranger nonetheless.

I got that out of my system about two minutes later, though, after just a little bit of “holy shit! holy shit!”-ing and tooting my own horn via Twitter.

The event was a lot of fun:  so many gorgeous knits to be seen, Stephanie was super funny, and I really enjoyed getting to catch up with Vickie (hi Vickie!).

But you know me.  You know how I am.  You know I’m capable of turning any situation from awesome to awkward in three seconds flat.  And, of course, you know that this time would be no exception.

When I finally arrived at the front of the signing line, clutching copies of All Wound Up for Rachel and myself, I’d already sort-of practiced what I’d say: I’d tell Stephanie about how this was my friend Rachel’s yarn and how she couldn’t be here today but the shawl was to be there in her stead, and how I knit the shawl just as fast as I could, and then I’d make a brilliantly witty remark about something-or-other, and then everyone would say, “Oh, Kate? I love Kate! She’s so funny, and awesome, and poised.  The very picture of elegance and wit.  A modern-day heterosexual female Oscar Wilde.  With great boobs.”

Yeah, that’s pretty much exactly how it went.  Except with more stuttering, and also I’m not entirely sure I managed to convey everything I wanted to tell Stephanie, though I did manage to blurt out the word “Dyeabolical” and something about “12 hours” and then there’s this picture:

So you know it really happened and that I’m not making it up.  You also know that I’m chronically incapable of smiling when it really matters.  No, they don’t call me “ol’ grimace face” for nothin’.***

What have I learned from this experience?

1)I’ve learned that if a nincompoop like me can knit a shawl in 12 hours, so can you.  And that maybe you should, just for funsies.

2)I’ve learned that I will never, ever, ever be suave when attempting to speak to a knitting celebrity, a non-knitting celebrity, or a knitting non-celebrity.  I may as well give up now.

3)I’ve learned that my friends are very kind and patient, but are also damned dirty enablers.

Thank you to Rachel for making such gorgeous yarn and giving me a purpose to knit it up so fast, thank you to Stephanie for coming to town and not mocking me when we talked, thank you to my friends for egging me on and letting me hide in corners to knit, and thank you to Jeff for fetching tea and not laughing at me too hard.

Sooooo….any ideas for the next self-challenge? I’m thinkin’ socks in a day… 😀


*I mean yeah that’s what I’d be doing anyway (the lurking bit, not the nonstop knitting bit) but at least here it was sanctioned.

**There’s a trick which I use frequently, in just such occasions (don’t ask why I declined to use it yesterday. I couldn’t tell ya.  But this is so simple that there’s no reason NOT to.  When you’re wondering about if you have enough yarn left for two rows, or even for one, simply double up the remaining length of yarn and put a loose overhand knot at the halfway point.  If you reach that knot before the halfway point on your row, then you know you won’t have enough to finish the row (thus, you only have to tink half a row rather than 95%).  For the two-row test, if you reach that knot before finishing the first row then you know you don’t have enough for the second.  I often use a variation on this method when it comes to binding off, too: I divide the yarn into thirds.  One third for my final row, two thirds for binding off.  If I use more than a third on the knitted row, then I just tink back and bind off at that point instead.  But again, I didn’t do this yesterday, because I am an idiot.

***No one really calls me “ol’ grimace face.”  And please don’t start.  Please.  I’ll knit you a shawl if you promise not to.


18 responses to “The fine line between tenacity and insanity

  1. De-lurking to say how I awesome I think this is/was!

  2. You ended up on Yarn Harlot! She thinks she can compete with a twelve hour shawl (I predict something more like a fourteen hour shawl, as she does have issues with following charts and making things up quite often)

  3. You ended up on Yarn Harlot! She thinks she can compete with a twelve hour shawl (I predict something more like a fourteen hour shawl, as she does have issues with following charts and making things up quite often)

  4. Theyalwaysputabandanaaroundmyneckaftertheycutmyhair

    “a nice splash of insanity” = new blog name?

    I promise never to call you “ol’ grimace face”, but I do feel the need to tell you that I sometimes see a similarity between photographs of you and Grandma. (You are much younger, of course. You know what I mean.)

  5. This is amazing!! You should send it to her…THAT would truly convey all you wanted.

    But really….at the edge of my seat over knitting…that’s good stuff 🙂

  6. Way to go! I was so excited to see you on Yarn Harlot, and I love the finished shawl!

  7. I’m so proud of you. I also promise to never call you “ol’ grimace face”, and my birthday is in December. :oD

  8. This is an awesome story. Sorry I missed the unfolding… Bring it Wednesday. Promise? I’ll be there unless there is a game.

  9. What a story… congrats on the shawl and for getting a shout-out from the Yarn Harlot herself!

  10. I read Stephines post about your shawl, was curious about the pattern & looked it up on ravelry, where i found you and your awesome tale. I’m offically inspired & its next on my list!

  11. Whoot! You made the YH blog!

  12. Fantastic!! The shawl is gorgeous and you are famous!

  13. First: Your shawl is gorgeous! It looks amazing.
    Second: If you want to try the socks-in-a-day challenge, I am so in.

  14. Wow. A shawl in 12 hours and featured on the Harlot, it doesn’t get much better than that!!!

  15. First of all: kudos to you for finishing that amazing shawl in such a short time! I will look to you for inspiration once the pre-christmas knitting frenzy comes around and I realize I need to finish four pairs of socks in a week.
    And congratulations to your appearance on the Yarn Harlot blog – that surely must be among the best moments in the life of a knitter!

  16. I saw you at the book signing and wanted to ask what yarn you used for that beautiful shawl. I didn’t find out that you speed knitted it until I saw it on the YH blog. Excellent! I was modeling a little of Rachel’s yarn as well with my jaywalker socks. See, you wouldn’t have had to work so hard! Seriously though, way to go. I’m friend-ing you on Rav. 🙂 -baconfairy

  17. Beautiful shawlette!! And you must knit a lot faster than I do!

    If you are going for socks in a day, I’m a big fan of STR Medium Weight. It takes me about 8 hours to get through a size 7.5 sock on 2s so it would be doable I think….

  18. Pingback: Y is for Yarn Harlot | lilspydermunkey

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