Saturday, December 14, 2013

It Fought Back

To expect the unexpected shows a thoroughly modern intellect -- Oscar Wilde
Being a chronic over-thinker means that:
  • I spend a lot of times planning things out
  • When things don't pan out, it upsets me
  • Surprises are often unpleasant for me
Therefore, it is a rare thing for me to throw caution to the wind and just pick up yarn and start knitting with it. I mean, I've done it before, but it usually entails a lot of wrestling around with the project, a lot of restarts, and a lot of mid-project research before I get something I like. That all kind of cancels out the spontaneity of the whole pick-up-and-knit thing.

But that's what I did with my most recent project. I took two skeins of yarn off my shelf that I thought would kinda go together, found a stitch I thought would work with them, and started knitting myself a cowl.

I wanted a big, comfy cowl: one that would wrap around my neck, and that I could sink my face into when the wind stung my face during chilly walks. I wanted to wear it at work in my office, which is not always the warmest, and where I often find myself wrapping myself with my knitted objects. It was a nice idea...

Except, knitting this thing was awful.

It became a chore, something to avoid. I distracted myself by looking through knitting and crochet magazines. I flirted with other projects, thinking I might stray and start another one. And I found other distractions:

I baked stuff, like these cinnamon buns:

I played with bread recipes:

But I had to finish what I started. And finish it I did.

I was fully prepared to hate this thing. I hated it as I knitted each slow, irritatingly awkward stitch. I hated the uneven look of the ends of each round (which I was probably doing wrong, but was too lazy to figure it out), and I hated the look of all the ends I had to sew in. The crinkly, foldy-upy edges annoyed me, and they annoyed me even more as each method I tried for flattening them down failed one after another. As I weaved each of the scraggly ends into the scarf, I said to myself, "I'm not sure I'm ever going to wear this thing."

So, I did what any person in my place would do: I tried to destroy it.

I brought it over to the sink and soaked it in mildly soapy, tepid water as per usual to block it. I let it soak until it was really, really wet. Then, I went over to my kettle and filled it full and set it to boil. As it bubbled away, I drained the sink, then shocked it with the hot water. I stirred it around with a wooden spoon, then I drained that water and shocked it again with cold water...

This is one of many processes for felting wool, and I thought that it might make this cowl better. There were a couple of problems with this idea, however:
  1. I'd never done it before, and therefore had no idea how long it would take.
  2. I have zero patience for this sort of thing.
After a half-dozen shocks, I got bored, let it cool, then wrung it out. I folded it and let it hang in the bathroom to drip dry, then unfolded it took it out and let it dry completely.

I forgot about it for two days.

Then, I looked at it, and realized that all that shocking, while unsuccessful for felting, actually caused the yarn to bloom in such a way that was so pleasing that I found myself... liking it. The pinky hand-dyed skein had mellowed into kind of a salmon tone, with spoldges of darker colours throughout to give it depth.

When I took these photos today, I luxuriated in the cushy warmth of it.

Even the curly edges ceased to irritate me. The cowl destined for destruction seemed to fight back for itself, and I think it has won. I already know I'll be wearing it to work on Monday.

Well then, knitted thing, you win. I guess I'll have to love you, you annoying, pretty object. I'll admit defeat this time.

Good sportsmanship, that's what I'm all about, eh?


  1. Love, love, love your post. So very glad it turned out so beautiful :) I can relate!

    1. Thank you, Jolene! I'm very happy with it!