In Which Anne Makes A Knitting Analogy

Starting a new knitting project takes a fair bit of concentration, especially when the project involves new-to-me techniques. After I finished my niece’s baby sweater, I wanted to start on a similar sweater for me but had to order needles. In the meantime I started another baby sweater knitted entirely in garter stitch. Very simple. Good for brainstorming and thinking through book problems. Busy hands free up the subconscious to send up ideas, if not answers. Sometimes I get snippets of dialogue. Washing dishes has the same effect.

The second project I started was a maybe for me. It’s Lucy Neatby’s Sea Lettuce scarf. When I travel I like to buy yarn and patterns from local shops featuring local designers and fiber artists. Some people buy snow globes. I buy yarn. In Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia I got a skein of Handmaiden sock yarn and Lucy’s pattern. Despite the pattern picture, which looks like the test knitter used leftover baby sweater yarn (so pink! so blue!) I took a chance on a “spiraling, frilly, short-row extravaganza”.

Just because I buy a pattern or yarn doesn’t mean I’ll finish the project. Sometimes you get into the pattern and you hate a) the work involved b) the way the yarn looks as you knit it or c) both. Here’s the Sea Lettuce scarf:

Sea Lettuce scarf

When I finished the setup wedges I stopped to consider whether or not I wanted to continue or if I’d turn the yarn into socks instead. Good news: I like the way the short-row extravaganza’s turning out. The colors are dark enough for fall/winter, which is when I’m most likely to wear it, but that little splash of electric blue would work well in the spring and summer, too. It’s an interesting knit, with colors changing within the rows and enough complexity to keep my attention but not stressed about working on it.

I do the same thing when I get an idea for a story. I work with it a little, knit up a swatch, so to speak, and then step back and think about it. Do these characters have enough color and complexity to keep me (and readers!) interested? How are they coming together? Good tension? What about secondary characters and subplots? Sometimes you’ve got to rip back rows you’ve already knit; sometimes in writing you throw out whole scenes, whole subplots, whole characters. Sometimes you need a break from a project in either medium.

Keep working. Keep a project with you at all times and knit a few rows in your down time. Do the same with a notebook or voice recorder, and your book will move along, too. Books, like sweaters (or spiraling, frilly, short-row extravaganzas) take time and perseverance. The end result, however, whether the perfect, soft scarf to wear with jeans and a white T or a book you’re proud of and can’t wait to share, is well worth the effort.

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