Wednesday, January 6, 2010

What Doesn't Kill Us....

For several years I was a member of a local re-enactment group, of which I spent many happy hours living part time in the 18th century.  When I finally got a real job working for an 18th century tavern the need to both play and work in the same field lost its appeal.

 Sadly I am no longer a member of that group but hold fond memories of it- both good and bad.  One of the most striking was the weekend I spent in Williamsburg, in a tent, in the rain.  It was my first trip down there in many many years and I was exciting to be there.  Then the rain started.  And boy, did it rain. I remember walking all the way from the Capitol building to the DeWitt gallery to watch a concert.  About half way through I felt an odd sensation...could it be?  Was I actually DRY for the first time in three days?!  Ah, the memories.

Then there was the memory of the first day I showed up in camp in one of those lovely 'French' bodices. You know those vests which try to pass as jumps, be we all know they are just a vest.  In fact, mine was a vest!   Now in my defense this is almost 18 years ago before I knew better.  I had seen enough of these men-like garments on camp women before actually joining a unit myself, and let's face it, it was the Battle of Monmouth- or for those of you who aren't familiar with it, the Hotter Than Hell weekend.

So I dragged out an old 70's man's vest pattern and made myself a yellow linen bodice.  At least it was hand sewn.  Anyway, the women in the unit nicely tried to explain to me about the bodice and all its horrors.  I pooh-pooh them out of embarrassment.  But what it did in the end was to make me interested, truly truly interested in the proper garments and how they were worn.

But that's not what this blog is about.  This blog is about knitting.  You see one of those very same women, in another happy memory, actually challenged me in a way that I still apparently struggle with today.  The ladies were knitting in camp and I was admiring their work.  I myself did not knit.  When I said I always wanted to learn but never did she said "oh, you can't learn as an adult".  Oh really?  was my thought.  I promptly went to the library, got every book on how to knit and, damn it, if I didn't teach myself to knit.  Now, she wasn't being mean in any way.  She is a lovely person and it was just a passing comment.  But boy did it spark the competitive side of me.

All I have to say is thank god for Stitch and Bitch or I would have given up.  But I didn't and I can passably knit.  Made a really nice huge stocking which I now use for Christmas (I don't recommend that for a second project by the by).  Made several pairs of fingerless mitts where one is always a little bit bigger than the other (why count when you can guess?).  Made my two sons Harry Potter inspired scarves (Hufflepuff and Gryffindor).  I even attempted to make a shawl but sadly gave up when I couldn't fit anymore stitches onto the needles (circular needles?!  Scary). Needless to say, like their creator, they are not perfect, but perfectly accepted by their recipients.

I bought this beautiful book on shawls a few years back.  I long for one of those lacey, warm, dreamy creations wrapped around me (when I'm not dying from a hot flash).  So last week I took up a new pair of circular needles, bought the correct weight red yarn and started in on a Victorian Peddlers Shawl.

How hard could it be?  Knit one, yarn over, knit a bunch, yarn over, knit 1, yarn over, and knit some more and so one.  Ha.  I had to restart the darn thing nine times. Yep, nine times.  I can whip together stays that will last a lifetime, spin the most beautiful yarn, but knit without mistakes?  Nope.  Not me.

I became obsessed, like a crack addict.  Mistake, rip out, mistake rip out, mistake rip out.....finally I swore that if I made one more mistake I'd stop and just buy one on Etsy.  You know what happened right? Mistake. But I continued, after all it was for me and don't the Amish make mistakes on purpose?  One must rationalize when in compulsive frenzy.  Finally one more mistake.  Several years ago I would have cried. But not this time.  My American Girl Doll sitting on my dresser.  Why, I thought, she looks cold. and so now my dear dolly has a new shawl. So you see, whatever doesn't kill you, or defeat you, will make you stronger. I am a stronger person to accept that I will never be a perfect knitter. But that's okay. It's okay not to be perfect.  It's time we all realized that.  My doll and I are very happy....and who knows, maybe it’s a new niche on EBay?