Well, I tried.
It took me a year to whittle my out-of-control knitting hobby down to just one project. You’ve read the argument fifty times by now: I wanted to know what it was like to have just one project on the go. I wanted to feel like I had my hobby under control instead of it taking over my house like a soft spiderweb. I think I repeated myself so much because I needed convincing.
I finally did it. When Evenstar was bound off, I had nothing else going. M’s elephant (which was my only Christmas project, hooray!) had my undivided attention. Christmas was still approaching at the time, starting to surface like a hideous festive kraken, so I decided to cast on something simple. I may have overcompensated.
This year, instead of knitting Jared a hat, we decided I would knit him one of his sweaters. Jared went through a rather intense yarn-buying phase, but never really got that intense with the actual knitting. As a result, he has more sweater-quantities of yarn than I do, but he knits about half an object a year. I had been gently suggesting for a while that maybe I could knit one of these sweaters for him. After all, why should I try to come up with something that I hope he’ll like, when he’s already invested in the materials for something he wants? That was my logic, anyway. He took some warming up to the idea; after all, he wanted to knit the things for himself. But when a whole year passed with him losing more stitches to attrition (thanks to leaving his knitting bag out near a toddler) than he actually knit, he decided to let me at his stash. He chose the yarn and pattern, we packed it all up with our belongings, and shipped it up to the Great White North.
I was all ready to cast on; I wound some yarn, and started hunting for the book so I could do a gauge swatch on the correct needles – and we couldn’t find the book.
We shipped up 50 lbs of knitting books and magazines, 12 skeins of hard-to-find discontinued Japanese luxury yarn, and we couldn’t find the pattern.
It’s not in his knitting bag. It’s not with our other books. We even had my mom hunt through the stash we left at her house. It’s gone. It’s not purchasable online. It’s not at the library. (I put in an ILL request at our beloved Iqaluit library, but it probably won’t arrive before we visit the US.)
I was thoroughly and hilariously thwarted.
(By the way, if you own a copy of Knitting with Balls by Michael de Veccio, please feel free to send me a copy of the “Knee-Length Coat.” We own it with complete legitimacy, I just can’t… find it…)
I then set to work on Jared to let me knit the one project he’d brought up for himself to knit – another sweater, one he’d already started. I tried hard not to wheedle. (Why did I persist? It’s not as if I didn’t bring up enough things to knit for myself. I guess I feel better about my habit if I occasionally devote it to clothing the most important person in my life.) Eventually he relented, and I cast on the “Ski Sweater” from Knits Men Want, which had not disappeared from Jared’s possession in the meantime.
I treated this simple project with the greatest care. I tried continuing on the piece he’d started, but couldn’t get a close enough fabric. I swatched. I experimented. I ripped back. I measured his favorite sweaters. I practically redesigned the thing to be more like the sweater he was verbalizing, instead of the sweater in the pattern. (He kept saying things like “I don’t want another big slouchy too-casual sweater that I can never wear.” When the picture above is of a drop-shoulder, large-collar, relaxed-fabric sweater that’s about as metro-casual as you can get.) I recalculated. I frankenstined other patterns from the book. Finally I was content that I would get the size, sillouette, and fabric that would best meet his stated preferences, while still producing a sweater that resembled the one pictured.
The knitting was boring, but for a while, boring was what I needed in a knitting relationship. I cranked through the back while juggling Christmas planning, though by the end of it I was starting to feel the tedium. But I controlled myself, and tried to think of the endless ribbing as “meditative.”
It was when I started a sleeve that was I was confronted, mercilessly, with the undeniable fact that I was going to run out of yarn.
Curse you, fisherman’s rib! This stitch sucks up as much yarn as if I were crocheting. It makes a wonderfully cushy fabric, but I was obviously a few balls short. The yarn had been discontinued for years, and with a sweater so plain, I would want to get the same dyelot anyway.
I’m not sure if it was the despair of running out of yarn, or the ebbing of the Christmas crazies, or the lure of lace after such a run of ribbing… but it was a moment of weakness. I strayed.
Oh, Dwarrowdelf! The next Lord of the Rings project was calling my name, probably the one I have been looking forward to most out of all the fourteen or so patterns in the first series. I tried to wait. I printed the pattern, and waited a day. I wound a ball, and waited a day. But when I dug out my chipped pair of 3 mm Addi Turbos, I knew I’d gone too far. I cast on, telling myself that the blue sweater was a lost cause. I was a widow, not an adulteress.
At the same time, my conscience could not entirely rest. I had not yet pursued all avenues. I got on ravelry and started searching. Berroco Pure Merino, Cadet Blue, dyelot 8022. Nothing explicitly for sale, but after hunting and hunting, I found one person, a woman in Oklahoma, who had three balls in the right dyelot. I sent her a desperate, apologetic message, not expecting to hear back, but feeling I had done my duty.
A few days later, she wrote back! She would be happy to send me the yarn, as she thought she’d already given it away; its only flaw might be a few bits of lavender from being stored with a scented sachet. (I am not the sort of knitter who is responsible enough to store my stash with scented sachets. I was impressed.) I begged her to let me at least pay for shipping, but she said it was on the way, with a Merry Christmas.
So there I was. A simple project back from doom, with still ten good balls of work to go before I’d be stuck waiting for Canada Post. And a zippy lace project, with action on every row, requiring and rewarding all my attention.
That was when I accepted the fact that, really, I have at least two kinds of brain space for knitting. I am not continuously knitting like I was in past years, so as to reasonably have four or five projects on the go, but even though my knitting time is limited, one project really couldn’t meeting my needs. I need a project simple enough that I can read and work on it, and I need a project complex enough that I can be read to and work on it without being bored. This isn’t falling off the wagon; it’s retaining reasonable limits. Two projects. That’s my new limit.
I’ll settle for bigamy.
To quote my husband, “There are worse kinds of monogamy to fail at.”