Yes, that’s right! I’m part of Team USA – Freakin’ Steekin’ division. The Knitting Olympics are set to start in two days time, at 2:00 in the afternoon. I find it somewhat awe-inspiring that there are now more participants in the Knitting Olympics than the actual Olympic-Olympics – last time I checked, the Yarn Harlot had over 3,000 knitters set to go for their personal bests for the 16 day duration of the Winter Olympics!
For yours truly, I am attempting to knit a sweater designed by Alice Starmore. From the Celtic Collection, I am going for the Armagh sweater.
I have dutifully purchased the yarn – a ‘substitution’ yarn because naturally the yarn she designed the sweater with is no longer available for love or money. Well, I take that back. I could have gotten it with money. But the amount of money I’d have to pay for this now rare yarn would be more than enough to buy, say, a Cooper Mini. And I’d have to go into dark alleys to darkest building where you have to whisper the password to a pair of gimlet eyes peering through a metal slot, then slide a locked briefcase full of cash into the other metal slot, at which point they slip the goods back to you and you depart, being careful to take a different route home…
…oh. Wait. That was getting tickets to Cats. Sorry, wrong scenario. Anyway…
Item of difficulty #1: I have tried to purchase a yarn with approximately the same characteristics of a yarn I have never actually touched with my hands. Hmm. May I just state for the record that I have never once been able to match Starmore’s gauge even when using the yarns she used? How I think I’m going to be able to do it with a substitution yarn is truly beyond me. (But honestly: the Merino I got is very nice and only cost me $45 from KnitPicks.)
But, undaunted! We carry on…
This sweater has two colors. A modest number of colors. It isn’t like, you know, one of those twenty-seven color Fair Isle monstrosities I’ve looked at in admiration (tinged with terror) and walked away from. Two colors shouldn’t be that hard. Of course…my color work to date has consisted of two colors in a baby sweater, which turned out…um…well, mostly
OK. A little lumpy here and there, maybe a gap or two where I forgot to do that thing with the passing the yarn under itself, but mostly OK.
Item of difficulty #2: Attempting stranded Fair Isle-style color, even with only two colors. With most of the knitting being done in a moving vehicle. **sigh**
Undaunted!! We say this is not enough of a challenge! No! So let’s throw in the subject of this post: steeks.
Steeks are one of those things in knitting that I think separates the men from the boys; or, as the Yarn Harlot puts it, knitters from Knitters. For the uninitiated, what you do when steeking is merrily knit a round tube for the body of the sweater, then get a pair of shears…
Sorry. Sorry about that. I had to go put my head between my knees and breathe into a paper bag for a minute. It’s just that putting ‘body of the sweater’ and ‘shears’ in the same…
OK. I’m back. Whew. Heh heh. OK. I can do
I’ve never done steeks. Seeing the word ‘steek’ in a pattern has been enough to make me put even the most astonishingly gorgeous of patterns gingerly down and back away, as if expecting an explosion. The very idea of steeks gives me a stomachache. Like I don’t have enough stress in my life, you expect me to take a pair of scissors to the same knitting that, given a single dropped stitch and the slightest of tugs, may unravel back to a pile of yarn? Surely you jest…
Item of difficulty #3: Steeks.
I have sixteen days to knit the entire sweater, including the freakin’ steeks. While I can ‘train’ by doing my gauge swatches and committing as much of the pattern as possible to memory, I am not allowed to cast on the actual sweater until 2:00 on February 10th. It must be completed by February 26th when the torch goes out at the Winter Olympics.
It seemed a lot more doable back when Stephanie first tossed off the suggestion a few weeks ago. When the box of yarn arrived in my house, I looked at all those balls of black and white Merino and thought, Boy. That’s a lot of yarn, there.
The enormity of knitting up all that yarn hit me, but I pushed the thought to the back of my mind. Twenty balls of yarn, use up two balls per day, I’m golden
Of course, the last time I got through two 50 gram balls of yarn per day was when I was on bedrest with Danger Mouse and had nothing whatsoever else to do, but we’ll just gloss over that fact, shall we? I refuse to allow mere reality to interfere with my ambitions.
And then I suddenly realized that, um, the 10th would be…this Friday
. I looked at the pattern again and realized…that’s a lot of stranding. A lot of pattern to pay attention to. Fraught with peril for the commute-knitter. And did I mention the sheer volume of yarn we’re talking about here? Twenty balls of black and white Merino, to be knit in sixteen days, plus the steeking and the sewing up and the running in of all those ends…
What was I thinking? I asked myself. I pondered ways to weasel out of it. I’m a very busy person, I said to myself. I don’t need ‘challenges’ right now, I insisted. And furthermore, I pontificated firmly, I do not need validation
of my knitting skills. I know what I’m capable of, and what I’m not capable of…maybe if I just don’t say anything else about it, if I master my blank ‘what Knitting Olympics?’ stare in case someone I’ve blabbed to asks, if I just tuck the Merino at the very back of the craft closet and ignore it…
…but then again, I do
love a challenge…
…and it’s only sixteen days, you know; surely I can focus on a hobby for sixteen days without too much effort…
…and furthermore!, I have wanted to knit that stupid sweater for about ten years now, but have always put the book down and backed away from the freakin’ steeks.
Am I really going to let myself be defeated by a sweater
? Which, all difficulty points aside, is nothing more than a bunch of string looped together with a pair of pointy sticks using one (1) of only two (2) stitches: a knit, or a purl?
C’mon. Who wants to admit they got their butt kicked by a bunch of string?!
So. Undaunted, I am putting away my in-progress socks this evening, taking out the substitution yarn and my #5 circulars and attempting to match the gauge of the Armagh sweater with them.
For the glory of knitting – I am Freakin’ Steekin’!
I take it we will not be seeing any posts from you between the 10th and the 26th then?
I don't understand why you do this to yourself, but I hope you kick some fanny!! And please post a picture when you're all done!
Good luck Tama! You're a braver knitter than I am. I looked at the Yarnharlot's olympic challenge and sprinted in the opposite direction!
- Pam (how many hours do you spend on a train each day?)
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