Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Skills +1UP, or 2KCBWDAY2

So, here we are at Day Two of Knit & Crochet Blog Week, and I'm actually posting. Whee! And while the instructions said to look over the last year's projects to gauge progress, I have to go a little further back. You see, over the last year, my projects have been of roughly the same difficulty (except for the Estonian Lace scarf, which was definitely challenging). The real dividing line in my knitting skills was my discovery of Ravelry. No joke, seeing the kinds of projects other people were making inspired me to take on projects I would never have considered before I joined the Rav.

I don't remember how it was I discovered Ravelry. It might have been after having purchased Jennifer Stafford's Domiknitrix book. I bought the book for the Bob Dobbs vest, and kept it for the additional charts and technique tips. I vaguely remember being curious about her Elfin Bride sweater, the pattern for which was only available on her website. I started there, looking at all the great photos, and then I think I kept getting directed to this Ravelry, of which I wasn't a member, and I decided I should join.

It was a revelation.

Patterns. Yarn. Message Boards. It was a complete and utter time suck. And I loved it! Here were patterns by the score, with pictures of what regular people done with said patterns. There was information about yarns, how they behaved, how they laundered and how they felt. Many of them were yarns I'd never heard of, much less gotten my hands on. And the message boards! I think I was pretty overwhelmed at first, but I loved being able to have conversations with people who were just as nerdy about knitting as I was.

Before Ravelry, I had knit a garter stitch scarf in an awful white, acrylic boucle; a 4x4 basketweave scarf in an alpaca fingering weight yarn; and the same baby hat many times over. I also made the Alligator mittens (funny, I didn't make a project page for these) from the Stitch 'N' Bitch Nation book, which were the ugliest mittens ever seen and a complete waste of what I think was Malabrigo worsted.

After Ravelry, the knitting world, in all its glorious possibility, opened up to me. Double Knitting? Bring it on! Lace? Sure! Fair Isle? Nothing to it! People were posting all their gorgeous projects and I couldn't wait to try them. But the single biggest thing that changed my life was socks. I had no idea I would be one of Those People. You know, a Sock Knitter.

Before Ravelry, I would never have considered making my own socks. Before Ravelry, socks were things you bought at the mall, in packs of three. I mean, really, who knits their own socks? Well, now I do.

The first pair pooled dreadfully, which I have documented in an earlier post. The second pair were CookieA's Monkey, which I had to do toe-up, with contrasting toe, heel & cuffs. Two at a time, I think. I always seem to have to do things the hard way. After that, I was off and running. I bought the Sock Innovation book and decided that the Bex socks looked like the most interesting ones in the book. I would guess that they're probably the most challenging socks in the book, but now that I've done them twice I feel like I can do anything. And after my truck got smashed up near the end of that summer (I wasn't hurt, but the repairs would have cost as much as the truck was worth. So much for liability-only insurance.), I started riding the bus to work every day, which gave me all kinds of time to improve my sock-knitting skills.

Last year, I even worked up the nerve to enter a few of my projects in the Kentucky State Fair. I did pretty well for a first try - I earned ribbons for each of the projects I entered (though none were for first place). It was so exciting! And a bit of validation. This year I'm going full steam ahead for the fair. I'm not saying yet what I expect to enter, because I haven't quite decided. I would like to get at least one first place.

So, there we are. I can thank Ravelry for my improved knitting skills. It's made all the difference. Until tomorrow, then.

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