Go Team Wales!

A few weeks ago, a woman named Stephanie Pearl-McPhee (a.k.a. “The Yarn Harlot”:http://www.yarnharlot.ca/blog) posted the idea that during the Olympics we all can be Olympiads, in our own way–for us, it’s the “Knitting Olympics”:http://www.yarnharlot.ca/blog/olympics2006.html. Each of us sets our own goal, to be a knitting challenge for the individual, to be cast on sometime on February 10, 2006 (the day that the Olympic Torch is lit) and completely finished and ready to wear by the day the torch is extinguished, February 26.

Seems like a silly idea?

So did I, and so do a lot of people, but it kind of grew on me, and I finally gave in and signed up. What got me? “Team Wales!”:http://www.cast-on.com/teamwales.htm Oh, Team Wales, you call to me. I don’t know why–it’s some kind of emotional, land where hills are green and sheep dot the hillside thing. And I fit the criteria.

What’s the prize? Only the warm glow of setting oneself a really challenging task and (hopefully) meeting it within a given timeline–and doing it in the company of others who are doing the same crazy thing. Some are knitting full-on sweaters. One woman is arthritic and is knitting one stitch per day. I am knitting a pair of socks. You are here to watch me. Keep me on track. You can all be my pit crew (or whatever it is that they call those people in matching track suits who bring the athletes water and rosin powder and rub their shoulders. Ah. Chris is my pit crew). You get to laugh at me if I fail fail FAIL.

So, unlike our normal, everyday posts of world import and philosophical significance, for the next two weeks I will bring you updates on my progess in the 2006 Knitting Olympics. (Um, you’ll still get the politics and religion and sex and food and all for which you rely on this site. Or something.)

While it all began on Friday, I am two days late in getting this post up due to this being a home for the sick and deranged this last week. So bear with me. Today I bring you Friday and Saturday’s posts. With no further ado…

*Knitting Olympics journal – 10 February through 26 February, 2006*

Project: Embossed Leaves Socks, design by Mona Schmidt, Interweave Knits Winter 2005
Yarn: Fleece Artist, 100% Merino, color 211 (a beautiful gold/orange blend)
Needle size: 2.75mm/size 2

The plan: I have sixteen days (mostly evenings and naptimes) to work on these socks. My plan is do finish one sock per eight days. The cuffs will each take a day. the leg two each, the heel two each, the foot two each. That should put me at 14 days, with a little wiggle room.

Why? Why not? There’s something compelling about pushing myself further than I have gone before. I’ve never finished a pair of socks in less than two months, and I’ve never finished a pair that fit on the first try–every pair has had to be ripped out, in large part or in all, and redone. So this is, really, insanity for me. But I’m in good company–there are 4,000 knitters worldwide pledged so far. (Seriously.)

*10 Feb – Day 1*
*The Fires Are Lit*

Today, I cast on.

But not much more than that. All week Chris, Ben and I have been sick with Bad Colds, the kind with phlegm and noses that drip unbidden onto your shirt, with no warning. Chris had it bad at the beginning and by the end of the week he is now nearly well, with only the occasional hoarse cough. I, however, began exhibiting the warning signs on Wednesday and by today am hacking and dripping with practiced abandon. I have wanted to pick up needles, but have had a) no energy, b) no time, and c) other deadlines (specifically, a baby blanket for Deb).

So, tonight, while Chris prepared dinner, I cast on. And fell in love with my project. The yarn and the cable cast on create this vibrant gold thing on the needles that I am excited about and intrigued by. I can’t wait to continue. I think we’re going to watch Red Dwarf tonight; my plan is to finish the cuff and begin the stitch pattern.

*11 Feb – Day 2*
*The Yarn Spit*

The Yarn Spit

It’s morning, the guys have left for the park, and I am going to pick up where I left off–after the cast on.

Last night, after dinner, I helped put Benjamin to bed, came out, picked up my needles… and fell asleep.

So, I’m already behind my planned progress. But I will persevere!

I don’t think I’ve yet mentioned the handicaps with which I begin this project. I was completely jazzed to start with–I’ve had this beautiful soft yarn playing with me for months (“Socks!” they sing in their soft, yearning merino yarn-song), I love knitting socks, it’s a pattern, for goodness sakes, something I have heretofore never used (hence the ill-fitting prior socks, you mutter? Bah!). But then, yesterday, it was zero hour and I realized that the yarn had not yet been wound into a ball, that I don’t have a ball winder (like I had to realize that. I knew that. I am _achingly aware_ of that) and that I had 4 out of 5 sock needles of the right size.

Hah! I said. I can deal with 4 needles until Tuesday (the next day I can buy knitting needles). And I Will Merely Use My Bobbin Winder To Wind This Ball Of Yarn.

For those reading this who might not be laughing yet, I will explain. A ball winder winds yarn into a lovely, lofty, organized, regular-sized, center-pull ball of yarn. Its only purpose in life is to perform such an act. A bobbin winder, on the other hand, is used to wind yarn onto a bobbin to be used in a shuttle for weaving. It is a very different tool. But it goes around and around! I figured I could just wind it on, pull the yarn from the center (that I so thoughtfully pulled out and attached to one side, so it wouldn’t get gobbled by the growing yarn -beast- ball).

So all was going great, and Ben was helping, turning the handle, and then he’s turning it faster and faster, and back and forth, and snarls are procreating, and the ball is beginning to droop little loops off of the end of the long rod holding the ball and spinning, and the center piece of yarn that was secured off to one side had been twisted so tight that it sprang free and zigzagged and bounced like an errant child’s corkscrew curl and barely missed being caught up in the yarn-ball several times.

And then it was done. And I had a ball. It looked good.

I took it off the rod of the winder and tried to pull. It wouldn’t pull.

The ball was so firm and so large that it had crushed down in the center and resistance meant No Yarn For Me.


I took out a handled paper bag and put the ball in and, against every knowledgeable advice to the contrary, pulled the outer end up, taped the top but for a hole, and began knitting with the outer end. I just couldn’t stand it any more. I wanted to _knit._

So, this didn’t last long. This morning, as I noted earlier, I began knitting the cuff and it is beautiful, stitches defined, interesting; but the ball is snarling like my cat after catnip and so… a little more effort was warranted on my part. I dove into the box stash.

(Come on. Everyone has box stash. Those nifty boxes that your checks come in, or CDs in the mail, or shoes–the ones that are interesting sizes, or flatten down and have interesting shapes and slots so you can put them back together? You know you do. If you don’t, you should. Better yet, send them to me.)

In the end I reconstructed a box to the right size and stuck a very long straight knitting needle through the center of the ball so that it wouldn’t roll around, but rather turns like a chicken on a spit. It’s working beautifully.

So far.

Knitting Olympics - Day Two
Progress at the end of Day Two.