Best of Intentions

Jessie: In NH, where Christmas is sure to be white.

‘Tis the season of gift knitting in my world. Which is to say, nothing is going the way I had planned.I have projects on the needles and others stretched out on racks still damp and drying into shape. I have balls of wool and alpaca and silk rolling round the floor near all my favorite knitting spots as I consider how best to use them.

But mostly I have re-starts and surprises. I love to gift knit for people who value such offerings and I set out to create such tokens every season. One of my sons loves to open such packages. One of my sisters does too. A few friends and even friends of friends are on the list. So each fall I sit down with the best of intentions.

I search for just the right pattern, pick out the ideal yarn and reach for what I hope will be the correctly sized needles. Then I cast on and begin to play with the project by swatching. For those non-knitting readers, swatching is simply knitting a small piece of fabric to check that the needle is the correct size and that the knitter likes the fabric produced. More often than not the needles are too big or too small and the fabric is not at all what I had imagined. So, I start again with different needles. After a few tries it often occurs to me that the pattern is not correct for the yarn or the yarn is not right for the pattern and I go back to the drawing board.

Eventually, if I am paying attention to how the yarn behaves once unwound from the ball and formed into stitches, I manage to match a pattern and yarn in a way that pleases me. I knit along happily, usually at a good clip, and before long I have a completed project in my hands. Which often leads to another problem. I am forever knitting things for the wrong person.

This year I thought a neckerchief of handspun, hand-dyed Blue Faced Leicester wool was for my son’s friend. But the color is more green than turquoise with a defiant tendency towards yellow undertones. I despaired of it until I realised I had been making it for another son’s girlfriend all along instead. It looks perfect for her. I have a sumptious alpaca cowl I thought was for one someone when really it is for another person on my list. I thought a third person was going to receive a hat. They ended up with a scarf instead.

Some of me is aggravated and befuddled by my inability to make plans that don’t go awry. The rest of me is pleased to see how it all works out in the end. It is a lot like writing a mystery. You try out some characters, some scenes and some motives. You end up with plot twists you didn’t see coming and a satisfying ending!

Readers, do you have projects that seem to have minds of their own? Do your gifting plans always go the way you imagine that they will?


20 Thoughts

  1. There are some of us that just do the next thing that comes to hand, to the despair of our friends who keep insisting we CAN write an actual story with a beginning, middle, and end, but we are conscientiously opposed to imposing order on anyone or anything other than ourselves. Follow a knitting or crochet pattern, yes; pray for a good end to what looks like a disaster in the making, yes; outline a plot, etc., no way, Jose.

    1. That plotter vs. pantser thing is deeply ingrained, isn’t it, Barbara? Even when I outline I find I am praying for a good end because you never know until it is all done!

  2. It’s the surprises in our writing that are the best! Glad the knitting eventually works out for you, Jessie. And I know you get so many other benefits from it, too. When I cook dinner it often surprises me, since I rarely follow a savory recipe to a T – usually in a good way.

  3. Hand knitted “When I cannot be there and you need a hug” shawls are the best invention ever.

  4. Last time I checked, I had three unfinished knitting projects stashed somewhere in the house. I know I started one of them in 2002. Great track record, eh? I have to laugh every time I go into a crafts store these days, because they’re offering knitting yarn large enough to rope an elephant and needles the size of broom handles. I guess today’s knitters are impatient and don’t want to spend more than 15 minutes on a project.

    1. I’ve noticed that too. There is even a sort of knitting that people do on their forearms now that I have not learned. It seems like a sort of wrestling to me!

  5. You are creative in so many different ways, Jessie. I love buying vintage tablecloths (although I bought more in the early 90s before everyone jumped on them). Every once in awhile I look at one and seems like it says, I belong to so and so. Then I give it to them.

  6. I often think writing a mystery is like the argyle socks I watched my mother knit during my childhood. I am not so much about projects that do whatever they want. I have enough unpredictable people in my life to prefer order and obedience in my projects.

  7. Well, evidently the yarn picks its partner and you along for the ride, are a good listener 🙂

  8. This is great, Jessie. The only thing I have to compare is writing, and I agree – some books just don’t get written the way I originally planned. And they’re usually the better for it.

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