Back to The Sweater

For the past couple of months, the cabled sweater I left off designing has been sitting on the other half of the white loveseat in my office, trying to make eye contact with me. I’ve owned dogs, so I know how to avoid those pleads for attention, lest the dog become excited and insistent. But after a very long intermission that had me swatching and slaving and submitting tee after tank top after vest to knitting magazines, my own eyes had no other place to land.

It feels good to get back to it (in a spiritual “catching up with an interesting friend” sort of way, not a physical “knitting a 100% wool sweater in 100º heat” way).

Red badge of courage.

When I design anything, I take notes as I go, but I also keep a lot of stuff in my head, like decisions I’ve made and the reasons I made them, or decisions I still need to make that I, of course, put off as long as I can. If I go too long without working on something this complex, I lose the plot.

It’s the equivalent of getting halfway through a big novel with lots of characters like The Lord of the Rings* and setting it aside for a couple or three weeks to read a few amateur sleuth mysteries. When you pick it back up again, you don’t remember where you are in the story, so you have to start over from a place that seems familiar, which more often than not is four chapters back, but then you come upon the name Boromir, and is he the brother or the dad, and is Éomer good or bad? Which sends you scanning through earlier chapters for their names.

That’s what happened here, except I’m not sure which cable combination I decided to go with, and there was something having to do with the sleeve decreases that I needed to figure out, and why did I write “I don’t grok that”? Oh yeah, that was a good quote from The Rockford Files.

RIP James Garner.

With as many designs as I’ve worked on over the years, I still haven’t learned the lesson to write down every thought for every design, no matter how insignificant. (Using complete sentences would help, too.)

I actually did that on a project once, and I was so happy I wanted to high-five myself.† I wrote everything down, including notes about design elements I considered and then rejected, and I even explained why I rejected them so I didn’t reconsider them. And I thought, I have lots of paper and many 0.5 pencil leads, so there’s no reason I can’t do this for every design.‡

(I also think that there’s no reason I can’t take my vitamins every day, especially when they’re all meted out in one of those little daily pill keepers, but here we are on Monday, and last week’s Thu/Fri/Sat compartments are not empty.)

Part of the reason I don’t take better notes in the first place is because I’m always sure I’m going to finish one design before I start on another. I believe this even though it never happens. E.V.E.R.

Even when I do take notes, I need a Navajo Code Talker to grok them.

My foolishness optimism can be a good thing, because—and I’m not just saying this—when I come back to something after a long pause, I don’t remember what the issues were, so I just read my knitting and go with what seems right, and everything usually works out.ф

This is not one of the those times.

I well remember what the issues were.

I’ve knit 90% of: both sleeves, the front, and the back, and now it’s time to decide how to do the neck and sleeve caps. Those aren’t much of a challenge in and of themselves, but remember that I’m seriously picky and a) cables must flow into other cables, and b) there is no way I’m allowing the main cable to be chopped off in the middle of a repeat to make way for the neck band, and c) I want to trick out the saddle strip that goes across the shoulder with a repeat of the main cable (although I’m rethinking the saddle shoulder entirely).

After working on The Sweater for a couple of days, I’ve mostly crypted out where I am and where I need to be. And I may have even figured out how to keep the main cable intact to the neckline, but it’s only for the size I’m test knitting. I’ll have to stand on my head to do it for other sizes.

Good thing I do lots of yoga.

*I’ve never read LOTR, but you get the idea. How do I know those character names? Wikipedia, of course.

†Actually, I wanted to high-five Keanu Reeves.

‡It would also talk me down from the momentarily satisfying but long-term imprudent decision to just frog the whole bleetin’ thing and start over.

фJust like if you kept reading LOTR, you’d eventually figure out that Boromir is the older brother and Éomer is good.

To Ponder: There’s no such thing as a creative type. As if creative people can just show up and make stuff up. As if it were that easy. I think people need to be reminded that creativity is a verb, a very time-consuming verb. It’s about taking an idea in your head and transforming that idea into something real. And that’s always going to be a long and difficult process. If you’re doing it right, it’s going to feel a lot like work. |Milton Glaser|


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