Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Knitting and crocheting

Did you know that the term "hooker" probably comes from the fact that in the early 20th century, lace makers were expected to turn tricks on the side because the employers didn't want to pay them a living wage? I didn't either until looking through the beginning of my (falling apart!) copy of "Stitch 'n Bitch: The Happy Hooker" last night. Crocheting was originally a way for women to make cheap copies of lace, which was expensive to buy, but because of the ill-repute of the lace making industry, for a long time it had the stigma of being something that only poor or disreputable women would do.
Knitting and crocheting are also two activities which closely follow the economy. When it's down, more people are interested in making things themselves at home. During boom times, not so much. (Can I feel virtuous because I've been crocheting since I was 9?) In the winter, I love to knit and crochet. It satisfies my desire for a creative outlet, gives me a fantastic excuse to snuggle with the animals, and it's easily put down and picked back up again. The only downside is that it can be rather pricey. Apparently, crocheting can use about 1/3 more yarn for the same amount of material compared to knitting, but they both go through incredible amounts of yarn. They're also useful for different things. Despite the cost of using that much yarn to make something big, I will crochet a blanket every time over knitting one. It's just easier. No worries about dropping stitches, you don't have to use certain-sized needles, and you can easily change the pattern if you think of something else you want to do instead. (One of the first things I did was to make blankets for each of my brothers. Apparently, they still use them. :) For little, close work, knitting wins out every time. You'd never make socks by crocheting them, and while you could make a sweater it would be full of little holes and you'd have to wear something underneath. You can fall into crafter's paradise and combine the two (I've seen several beautiful items that were knitted and bordered in crocheted lace) but I've never attempted that myself.
As for the expense, the only reason I don't go for local yarns is that they're just so darn expesnsive. (Yes, that needed emphasis.) I can't spend upwards of $15 on one skein of yarn! So this is one area where my sense of frugal outrage has topped my desire to spend local. Even at the big box stores like Joann's and Michael's, a very, very small ball of "sock yarn" can cost over $10. I would love to get to a point where I could just pick yarns based solely on what I like, but for now I'm still having to look closely at prices. My recent glut of yarn-buying was partially funded with a gift card wedding present.
Because it's so expensive, I try my best to make the most of my yarn. If I have leftovers from one project I set about thinking what else I could make out of that yarn. (One popular thing is to make scrap yarn hats out of the leftover odds and ends from other projects.) Two of my ongoing projects fall nicely into this frugal category. I love making baby blankets for friends and family. It's easy, it's fun, and there's something special about a handmade blanket. But I also enjoy making a second blanket "for" that baby. The second one gets sent to charity. There are lots of groups that take donations of warm baby blankets, such as this one for babies in intensive care (can you even imagine what a horrible time that is for their families?!), this one for seriously ill or traumatized children, and this one which accepts donations of all sorts of baby supplies for hospitals and medical clinics in developing nations, to name just a few. Local women's shelters and homeless shelters are also usually happy to take donations of warm blankets.
My cousin and his wife recently announced that they're due to have a baby boy in April, so I'm busily working on two blankets, both in granny squares. The donation one is using pink yarn I have leftover from a different baby blanket. I need to buy a little more to make it larger, but it'll be very pretty when it's done. The other one is using some leftover granny squares from a blanket I made for someone else. My original idea for that project was to just make a rainbow colored blanket for her, but it evolved and I ended up using only a few of the colors. So I had some leftover orange and red squares, which I've now surrounded with and sewn together with yellow. It needs more bordering to be big enough for even a baby's blanket, so now I'm wondering: should I continue with just the red, orange and yellow? Or should I add some green and blue around the border to make it more rainbow-y? I'd have to buy more red and organge (and remember which kinds I used!) but I'd only have to buy the green for the other idea. I might also make a little hat to go with it, though....
I'm also working on a little bolero jacket for myself. (Pictures of someone else's here, but I'm doing mine in blue because I couldn't find a red I liked as much as the one recommended.) I tend to get warm at work in the winter because of my long underwear (and I'd feel silly taking it off then putting it back on) so I like to wear t-shirts and tank tops. But I often need a light little something over my shoulders/on my arms, so I'm hoping that this will fit the bill. I've already had to restart it once, though! I guess I didn't read the pattern as well as I should have and even though I started off making the small, I somehow ended up making the extra large, only wonky because of the small start. I'm doing much better now, since the restart fits what the pattern says should be happening.
When these are finished (or when I run out of yarn and have to wait before buying more) I'm going to try knitting myself some socks. I've never done that before, or knitted anything beyond hats and scarves actually. In fact, I'm a really recent knitter so I feel like a beginner still. I need a project that will expand my skills, however, and I thought that this one would make something both useful and beautiful while utilizing existing skills and at the same time pushing my boundaries. I was going to make something like this, only mine won't be so fancy. She used the same pattern, though. I have four colors for mine and since the balls of yarn are big, I might be able to make as many as four pairs of socks! Or more?
It also helps that my brother-in-law is an amazing knitter. (Yes, it's unisex! In fact, for a long time it was considered a man's task.) If I run into trouble, I can talk to him. I'm hoping that I can work on the socks over one of the upcoming holidays so that I can have him around.
When I'm done with the socks, I'm hoping to be able to make a sweater. I have several promising patterns picked out. After that, who knows?

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