Thursday, April 23, 2009

Momentum

I seem to have some knitting momentum going with this little shell I'm working on, which is nice. I've been wondering lately why it is that I seem to have this overwhelming need to have at least one simple stockinette (with maybe some ribbing for variety) project OTN at all times, when up until now I've rarely focused on plain knitting, and, in fact, have mostly not enjoyed it (hence the lace obsession). It occurred to me (after spending far more thought on this than it's worth) that there are probably a few things going on. At a background level, I think that part of it is that I'm finally competent enough at the two basic stitches of knitting (that would be the knit and the purl) that I can consistently do them without looking at my hands. I can even start new rows or change needles without looking, for the most part (how long did this take? best not to ask, I must be a slow learner). So stockinette, far from being the slog that it once was, is now something that I can do anywhere, anytime: while reading, watching movies in the dark, sitting through kids' concerts, etc. That makes it soothing. Of course, you can remind me of this when I turn into a raving lunatic, gibbering about boredom and demanding triple yos and p2 tog tbls.

I think that there's another reason, though, why stockinette is particularly appealing this semester. During a normal semester, there's all kinds of craziness going on (as I know you know), but there's also a routine to it. I know what classes I'm teaching, and in most cases, these days, they're classes that I've taught before. I may be changing them around a little, or adding new material, but I have a sense of where I'm going and how to get there. Grading is most definitely rote, and after a while, even stressful budget meetings have a certain sameness to them. At times like that, lace is a blessing, and the more complicated, the better. It takes one's mind off of things, allows the ol' brain to work in different ways, keeps me from fretting over the stupid thing I said in class, or the stupid thing someone else said in a meeting.

But this semester, there is no routine. I'm working on some hard research, and trying to start some new research, and none of it feels easy or routine. It's not boring, by any stretch of the imagination, but it's also not easy. Nice plain stockinette, then, is a way to reset my brain, to give it a break, let it wander a bit; no concentration necessary, thank you very much. All of the swimming of laps I've been doing lately (2000 m today, and wow am I swimming faster than I was three months ago) feels the same way: 25 strokes for this length, two lengths to this lap, three more laps to this set, and now freestyle... On and on and on. Nice. Soothing. A great resting place for the brain.

Of course, the one thing about cruising along on the stockinette highway is that it makes for boring blog fodder. This is where lovely surprise packages from friends come in handy; not only are they such fun to receive (and why is it that they always seem to come just at the right time?), but I can show them to you and you can share vicariously in the pleasure of them. I found just such a package from Stella waiting for me when I got back from our trip. When I opened it up, look what was inside:
It's a project bag, the perfect size for a pair of socks or a little lace scarf. I adore this fabric -- it reminds me of river stones, all rounded and smooth, and the drawstrings close veryvery tightly, which I like (that way my little boxes of stitch markers can't fall out). She even has her own label on the inside, which I love. She's made quite a few of these, and every one of them is adorable (the bottom of each bag matches the outside, too).
And what's that down there inside? Why, it's a skein of the most gorgeous charcoal-gray yarn. I wish you could pet it -- it's soft and smooshy, and it's going to be my next pair of socks (stockinette, how else?) just for me.
Thank you so much, Stella! What a perfect package!

More knitting tonight, and then maybe something to show for it soon? We'll see...

14 comments:

Gwen said...

I realized the other day I'm not doing interesting lace because I no longer sit and knit in the bathroom with the kiddo while he takes his bath. Instead, I sit and 'coax' him through his homework, which requires knitting that can happen while I'm otherwise occupied. And bathtime is usually for folding and putting away clothes. Or getting the junk mail into recycling/shredding. Or washing dishes. Or...

EGunn said...

I'm the same way; it's complicated and lace all the way, until things get crazy. When I'm too busy or my creative energies are required elsewhere, plain, mindless stockinette is what sees me through. Isn't it nice to have a hobby that does both? =)

Lynne said...

A lovely gift.

I'm going to have the same problem - finding blog fodder - while knitting mum's sweater! I won't have time for other knitting but I can't write nothing until after June 4! Hopefully I'll get some good knitting-related objects for my birthday this weekend! And then Mother's Day in mid-May! Just as well I have a KAL going!! LOL

twinsetellen said...

It's all balance, isn't it?

Miss 376 said...

I find it gives you a chance to unwind and still be soing something productive. I love the label in that bag. Hopefully it will be the only frog you see!

Rachel said...

I am on a stockinette run too and I love it :)

KnitNana said...

It's a lot easier to handle challenges with a bit of stockinette. And yes, the fly-along-without-looking is helpful, too.

And I don't know, somehow, when I can say, "Wow, I finished a pair of socks in how long?" and know the sense of accomplishment, it toss a bit of "success-feeling" into the realm of challenges - even if I might not be as successful there - so ... I can say to myself, every little success breeds a little more of it...
And there's hope I'll master the challenges at hand...
:)
(((Hugs)))

Mary Lou said...

I like to have a variety of challenge levels around. I have to say I am a fairly lazy knitter, though. No Sharon Miller masterpieces for me, I'm afraid. Stockinette seems a better option than the danged black lace stole, though.

Alisha said...

What a sweet gift.

I like knitting I don't have to think about and I think your right that it calms the crazy times. For me it does.

Stell said...

I agree with the need for a mindless project, some thing where my knitting can provide some zen or meditation in the midst of busy nothingness (yes those things are important - but some times they require my body not my being). I'm so pleased you like the bag and yarn :-0

AlisonH said...

Walking away humming "I get by with a little help from my friends..."

Alison Boon said...

"Nice plain stockinette, then, is a way to reset my brain, to give it a break, let it wander a bit; no concentration necessary, thank you very much" it's as though you read my mind

Wanderingcatstudio said...

That's a great little present - the perfect way to brighten your day.
I love being able to knit without looking, and often astonish people when I do it in public places.More complicated work is nice, but its always nice to have at least one mindless project on the go.

Helen said...

I don't think I'll ever be able to start a new row or change needles without looking; that sounds too daring. But I do like to have some vanilla knitting to hand: I think the sad truth is that I can't sit still any longer :)

Do I recognize the pattern from Anne Hanson's latest cardi?