Ravelry, my exercise in detachment.

It’s been established that I like to knit.  And in all the quiet spaces that leave me thinking of ways to put words one after another, I often think about sharing my knitting with the little blog.  And then, I don’t, for the simple reason that when night comes, and the Geeklet is abed, if I am awake, I want to knit.  Preferably, I knit while sitting next to my dear Chris and watch Endeavour, or maybe some Doctor Who.  I try not to do anything on my own computer after 10 pm.  It’s difficult to catch up with email sometimes, and I’m months behind on cool-beans articles and posts and XKCD, but it does seem to be the only method that keeps me from staying up until 2 in the morning.


And then?  I have a sweater done, and I haven’t shared it with you.  It becomes a little soft puddle of potential postedness.  It lays folded in my arms, a project completed, and it is a thing which I can use to put here!  If I post it… then it has been posted.  And there is no more potential posting.  The potential is spent, gone.  So sad.


However, letting go of things is important.  It’s called non-attachment.  I used to frown at the idea.  “I like my teapot,” I might muse.  “I like my son.  I like that quilt I just made.  And I feel unapologetic about liking those things.  So might I be bad at Buddhism?”  I’m not a Buddhist, as such, but like many I find the teachings to be good and useful things.  I like to think of Buddha as a big brother, the one who finished college while you were in high school, who disappeared into his room with a girlfriend and closed the door and you hated her, because when she wasn’t around he would show you his new CDs and photos of his hiking trip and you’d think he was so sophisticated, and you’d be so proud to be his sister.  So that’s kind of how I think of Buddha.  Wise and experienced, and well out of the whirlwind, and proud of you when you made grown-up choices, like being okay with giving up your teapot.


Then I saw, in a roundabout way, that it’s not about having to give up the teapot.  It’s about being okay with being separate from the teapot–in a different room, in a different house, in a different state of energy–because you and the teapot, you’re not really two separate things anyway.  If I close my eyes and envision the teapot filled with a gently steeped Darjeeling, the pot just too hot to touch, steam issuing from its wee spout, if I envision placing my hands around the pot so that a little pocket of air between my hands and the pot–remember, I’m not touching it, it’s too hot–becomes warm and a little damp, and I can taste the potential tea on my tongue and feel how relaxing and soothing that would be:  this experience can be as relaxing and soothing as the real thing.  And the teapot is not actually in my presence.  The teapot, and the entire experience, is not actually there with me, and yet I benefited from it.  Wild, no?


What does this have to do with Ravelry?


When I pick out a sweater I want to knit, these days, I go check it out on Ravelry.  I usually have the information on hand (sizing and whatnot), but what I want is to see it on bodies that are not models.  (I have a great deal of admiration for models.  They tend to be on the lovelier side of human, but even they must know deep down that they will forever be faced with the challenge of comparing themselves to their most beautiful, as well all do, really, except that the public will help them, like small children will help you paint the bathroom, only snarkier.)  I try to look for bodies that kind of look like mine, so I can see that the sweater I really liked, drapey and luscious in the photos, might actually look semi-luscious on someone whose shape resembles my own.


They never do.  Never.  Almost always, the lovely woman (men on Ravelry rarely have my curves) wearing my sweater is wearing a sweater that is not all that flattering to me.  She looks nice, she’s trying to take good and useful photos, but I’m momentarily despondent because the sweater won’t make me look like the model in the knitting magazine.  Not any more than it did for the Ravelry knitter who posted.  It will only make me look like me, in a new sweater.


And here’s where the detachment comes in:  I knit it anyway.


Wait!  I’m not stupid!  There are reasons to knit the sweater.  It’s a beautiful garment.  It’s a style that will go well with other things I wear, with my lifestyle and activities.  I have the skills, and maybe it will stretch me to learn new ones, sometimes.  I will finish it, and write about it (erm, sometimes), not because the sweater will change me physically but because it will change me inside.  I did this thing, and it was an awesome thing to do.  Even more awesome, if I use some of my newly-practiced skills at fitting and shaping garments to help it fit me well.  If I feel good wearing it.  Even with my eyes closed.  Even with no one there to tell me I look pretty.  I can give the sweater away and I will still have knit something that makes me feel good.  Like my virtual cup of tea, the experience of knitting the sweater is mine and not separate from me.  And my wander over to Ravelry will remind me of that, every time.


Here’s a sweater I knit this spring.  It’s the Jackaroo cardigan by Amy Herzog, from Knitty‘s First Fall 2013 issue.  (Sorry for the blurriness!)





I love this sweater.  I knit it with yarn a beautiful friend gifted me from a sheep she knows, a mostly-Wensleydale in shiny black-brown wool.  (I made a lot of Wallace and Gromit jokes while knitting it.)   It was spun fine, so I doubled it to get gauge, fully intending it to be heavier than the original garment.  Living in San Diego, I could see it becoming my coldest-weather outerwear, and its slight scratchiness didn’t bother me at all because of that.  Being an Amy Herzog sweater, the shaping was excellent, and I have come to understand how to make the necessary changes so that the torso fits well and the shoulders and arms, even though the shoulders and arms are generally two sizes smaller on a given pattern, for me, than the torso.   I’m very happy with it.  And it has pockets.
















From London to Wales, Day 4

Yesterday was mad and too busy to write. I missed my train! I did. I was awake on time, but somehow misjudged the timing… and at 7:47am arrived, ticket printed out and in hand, at platform 4 from whence my 7:45am train had departed. Having no phone that works in the UK, I used a payphone to call my ride, Josie, in Cardiff, who was absolutely sweet and offered to meet me an hour later when the next train got in. I gamely purchased a new ticket–ha! So much for buying in advance!–and (this makes no sense, I know) went in search of the one thing that would give me solace:

The new Terry Pratchett book.

So, ensconced in my non-reserved train seat, bag of almonds by my side and knitting in hand, off we rushed through the English countryside, which is, of course, beautiful and looks exactly as the English countryside should, which is to say, English. No wonder everyone wanted it. Romans, Saxons, Angles, Normans… oh, and the Celts too, of course.

It seemed only a short time before we arrived in Cardiff. I battled my way upstream of a million frustrated Wales Rugby fans, a sea of red and black and green coming from the nearby Cardiff stadium that shares the parking lot with the train station. Wales had lost, but they gamely sang and made plans in Welsh to drink lots of beer anyway. I know this, because they sang, in Welsh, and held up boxes of beer to one another.

I found Josie and our fellow knitter, Lian, from London, and we piled into Josie’s car and were off. I had forgotten what it felt like to drive motorways in Britain, being on the left and using roundabouts, and it was so interesting that I refrained from knitting. Josie told us a lot of the history of the area (how one port town had crashed and currently was dealing with a lot of poverty after an industrial boom; how smaller Welsh towns can be difficult to live in if you are a minority, like Chinese or Indian, lesbian or English). We arrived at Beggar’s Reach Inn famished and excited, because the whole landscape is beautiful and the hotel looked to be an old, large white country house. The inn staff are friendly and bewildered by us. They bring us food and beverage and give us a giant room in which to knit, and in return we buy cider and tea and Felinfoel Welsh Ale, and we don’t bite too much.

Much knitting was had by all! This trip is officially called Plug and Play in Pembrokeshire, or P3 for short, and it officially started at 3pm. Officially. Unofficially, it began as soon as we arrived on Saturday. We claimed a table and ate sandwiches on wholegrain bread and drank tea and ate biscuits until Brenda and Amy ushered us into a large, light-filled banquet room that was to be our hive of activity for the weekend. And! They gave us presents! More on that later. The room grew bright, then shaded and then bright again with artificial lights as we learned all kinds of interesting lace-type things and ate very, very good food (like fried brie with cranberry sauce and baked aubergine, or eggplant, and creme brulee). As the world outside grew dark, hidden lights circling the large skylight began to glow red, yellow, green, blue, red, yellow, green, blue…

Now I prepare to sleep, with the disco lights of our gathering room shining right outside my window.

It is absolutely dark now. The disco lights have gone away, and my sky is velvet black with no stars. The cows were lowing earlier, but I scared them away with my cry of delight and rush to the fence. Funny cows, so big and yet so fraidy. Even the cows are covered in darkness, and sleep.