The Life and Times of Florence Knitingale

Friday, November 09, 2007


First things first (which is a goofy expression when you come to think of it. When was the last time you heard someone say "7th things 7th...." or "first things 12th..."? ): Jenn, you almost made me snort hot tea up my nose--a blanket with boobies...I'm still giggling! Thank you so much for that! But no, I really don't think I want my blanket to be curvier than I am.

Anyway. Here's today's odd saga (frightening, isn't it, how I always have one?): It all started a year and a half ago, children, shortly after Ms. K had returned to knitting after a brief (but far too long) hiatus. I was enchanted by all the lace knitting going on (they didn't have that sort of thing back least, not in my local yarn cave. Mind you, the dinosaurs might have eaten the laceweight.), and I wanted to try it. But I was a bit afraid of laceweight yarn, and not just because I'd seen it referred to as "cobweb" yarn (although that didn't help--note to marketers: you could be selling a 30 carat diamond for a buck-fifty and if you associated it with spiders, I'd still be doing the spider dance and jumping up on a chair squealing like my tail was just stepped on).

No, I was afraid of laceweight because it seemed so darned delicate and fragile--like knitting with angel hair pasta or something. I feared I would sneeze and destroy the whole skein. And you know, you don't have to look too closely at my life to realize that graceful isn't usually a word applied to me. I am, after all, the one who dropped an entire strawberry pie face down next to my neighbors mailbox when I was a child. And broke my toe doing a cartwheel in the bandroom just to prove that I could (I couldn't, as it turned out). And hit a boy in the stomach with a thrown baseball bat when I quite unexpectedly HIT the ball with the bat and my brain sort of left my body and...well...let's just say that crouching behind me when I just made contact between a tiny white ball and a narrow stick of wood is just a stupid place for a catcher to be. I mean, really. So, yeah. I was afraid of the laceweight, and I think we can all agree that yarn smells fear. It smells fear and then delights in forming knots, breaking into pieces the length of rice grains, and otherwise being decidedly unpleasant.

With that fear in mind, I purchased a large amount of frog tree alpaca fingering weight in deep teal and started a shawl in a bell pattern. It was quite lovely and soft as the underside of a bunny's belly (I really don't know what that would feel like...but it's fun to say, plus I've never seen any bunnies with belly stubble or anything) and I was just ticking right along when I realized two things.
  1. Knitting a complex pattern that gets wider with each row until you have hundreds of delicate stitches is perhaps not the best FIRST lace project in that it is an endeavor that demands significant amounts of uninterrupted time and no small amount of patience. Oh, and a smidge of whacknutishness. I had the last in spades (extra, in fact, should anyone be in need of some), but neither of the first two in spades. Not clubs, hearts, or diamonds either, for that matter.

  2. The end of the pattern stated merrily that I could "put a border on it if desired". The picture that made me love the shawl showed a border but the instructions for it were limited to that one sentence, which is about as helpful as a cake recipe that reads "bake cake. put frosting on it." Apparently this shawl is part of a covert fiber operation and, if I needed to know the border pattern, I would already know it.

Since then, the shawl has sat quietly in a knitting bag, utterly neglected, for so long that even in my most optimistic moments I cannot honestly say I believe I will ever pick it up again and finish it. I've made some lace socks that I quite like and have now developed a fondness for the the rhythm of lace knitting, but the shawl and I just have too much history. Time to take it apart and move on. But the problem (and getting at least within spitting distance of the point of this story) is now what to do with all that lovely and not inexpensive yarn?

I might have gone a bit nuts when purchasing it and there just might be four unused skeins of 230 yards each in addition to the three or so already knitted. In other words, it is possible that I am the proud owner of enough fingering weight yarn to make a polar icecap hat and thus slow global warming. More or less. The only thing I could think of first was socks and, true enough, fingering weight is my favorite for sock knitting. But considering the well over 1200 yards of the stuff I have, I could be a giraffe on stilts and not use all the yarn making socks.

I thought of a scarf or hat...but same problem, really. I suppose I could make the scarf 75 feet long but there's that whole giraffe thing again--in that I'm not one. What to do? So I started cruising the internet for patterns made in fingering weight yarn. I mostly found socks and shawls and scarves and baby items. Then I found a site that listed several patterns for frog tree alpaca, including one entitled "olives". I considered this for a minute....and figured that it was probably a sweater with an olive branch sort of pattern to it, or a sweater or hat or scarf in shades of olive green or something of that ilk. So I clicked on it. And you know what? It was olives. (Seriously--click on it. I dare ya.)

And they're kind of cute and all...but knitted olives? Really? 'Cause, I can kinda see making knitted cupcakes and stuff (after all, you could always stuff 'em and use them for pincushions if you wanted to....a dessert bristling with pins being such a delightful image), and even little baby hats that look like apples and pumpkins (because every mother should have a picture of her child dressed like a fruit or a vegetable to hold over his head and embarrass him with at his wedding). But olives? About the only reason I can think of to knit a bowl of olives would be if a relative I really didn't like much was coming over for Thanksgiving dinner and I was hoping to give him wool block or hairballs. ("Really, Uncle George? The olives taste funny? I think it's just you...have another one. And yeah, they're a new hybrid so it's normal to have to chew them longer. Yeah, half an hour's pretty typical for this species.")

Since I found the olives, I've been combing the internet for knitted turkey and stuffing and cranberry sauce...I figure I can have this whole Thanksgiving dinner thing whipped out in no time without even heating up the kitchen. Anyone want some angora mashed potatoes?

Failing that....anyone know what I can knit with a bazillion yards of fingering weight yarn?


  • At 7:38 PM, Blogger Lynn said…

    My friend Jeri made her Swallowtail from KnitPicks Gloss, which is a fingering weight yarn. Hers is stunning! So there's one option.

    What about a nice pair of gauntlets like I made LittleBit from Baby Cashmerino? Are they about the same weight of yarn?

    Or you could do a lovely and delicate Clapotis.

    What about that lovely sweater in the new IK that has Feather and Fan at the hem? [I forget what weight of yarn it requires, but I would probably knit it for myself at a fairly loose gauge from fingering yarn.] If you didn't want to buy more of this alpaca in other colors for the contrasting bits of Feather and Fan, you could use up other yarns.

  • At 5:42 AM, Blogger yakiduk said…

    You could give it to me....

  • At 6:02 AM, Blogger ~Tonia~ said…

    Ummmm the olives are just wrong.

    How about knitting a hat, scarf, mitts, and socks. ;)

    There are also the destash sites if you don't want to knit it all.

  • At 2:05 PM, Anonymous MonicaPDX said…

    A blanket?

    ::runs like the clappers::

    More seriously... [g] Um, would you ever wear knitted lingerie? No, not a thong! I'm thinking of things like lacy little camisoles, which could be nice not only for pretty, but for our raw, wet days up here when you could use an extra layer that's warm without being bulky. Also second the gauntlets/fingerless mitts idea Lynn had. It'd use up at least some of it, LOL. Would Judy like some fingerless mitts? And there's moebius scarves, those are great in lace, and if you make 'em big enough, are wonderful to go around your neck and head... And the Sleeves in Your Pi shawl pattern looks like a great one. (First appeared in Knitter's #61, Winter 2000 - but I bet they're selling it separately somewhere, so you don't have to try and track down a back issue. Google to see samples, it's a popular pattern.) Check out for good lace patterns - more than shawls and scarves; and for utterly gorgeous lacy sweaters of all kinds...and lingerie. ;)

    Or there's always swapping it for some other yarn!

    (Whoo - wordy today. I'm still winding down from the Blue Moon sale. [veg] Man, I wish you coulda been there!)

  • At 9:15 AM, Blogger Marianne said…

    Oh... that's kinda sad... I saw that shawl in progress, fondled it, loved it, you won't reconsider?
    Mmmm... a camisole though... wouldn't THAT be yummy!

  • At 4:57 AM, Anonymous chemchik said…

    Dude, I could totally take care of that for you . . . 1200 yards of alpaca? No problemo, hand it over ;). If you're in a big-project/sweatery mood, though, many vintage (20s-60s) sweater patterns involve DK or fingering weight yarn, and usually use lots of shaping rather than patterning (as in lace, cables, etc), although you could always add some. Or that camisole sounds lovely--drapey and soft :),


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