“… sleep that knits up the ravelled sleeve of care…”

Hello and welcome to Library Life Hack, the Week 8 edition. This post borrows its title from Act 2 of “Macbeth”, Shakespeare’s creepiest play. Today, we’re entering the world of extreme knitting. Can an inexperienced knitter turn out a good-looking sweater in a weekend? You’re about to find out.

Don’t Know Much
I learned to knit as a child and picked up the sticks again briefly in my 20’s. But when I sat down to tackle this project, I hadn’t knit anything since 1986. Luckily, my home library was full of books for novice knitters. I found a cute funnel-neck sweater pattern in “The Yarn Girls Guide to Simple Knits”. It fit the life hack bill: practical, didn’t look like a box made of yarn and I thought I could complete it in a weekend without intervention from someone craftier than myself.

A Yarn About Yarn
Finding yarn turned out to be trickier. I wanted something that was at least 50% natural fiber, would look good, and hopefully wouldn’t cost more than buying a sweater at retail. I hit River City Yarns, where I got an education in working with gauges and understanding yarn terminology. What I didn’t get was yarn. They just didn’t have much selection in the “bulky” I was apparently looking for.

The next day I stumbled onto knitpicks.com, a Washington-based yarn seller. I was overjoyed to discover their bulky “Wool of the Andes”, a 100% Peruvian Highland wool and available in a rainbow of colors. Enough yarn to complete this project plus shipping set me back only $42.73 US ($43.93 CDN).

The Adventure Begins …
Friday night rolled around and it was time to start my knitting engines. The project began with a test swatch to make sure I had the gauge right. (Every knitting pattern and every ball of yarn in the world will give you a gauge that reads something like “X number of stitches to a 4-inch swatch, when knit on X size needles”.) “The Yarn Girls Guide to Simple Knits” stresses the absolute importance of testing the gauge, and as it turned out, my first set of needles was actually a little too small. I got larger needles and tried again. This time, the swatch was perfect.

I cast on and started knitting! And about an inch in … I decided that I didn’t really like the way the cast-on edge looked. (I’d followed the book’s instructions instead of using the method I already knew.) So, I called it a day and started from scratch again Saturday morning. This time, things went very well.

I took a break in the early afternoon for a dental appointment to patch up a tooth I’d broken earlier in the week. Things started to go a little off track at this point. My appointment turned into a surprise round of dental surgery when the tooth in question blew apart during patching and needed to be extracted. I valiantly resumed knitting in the evening. But I’d definitely lost a little bit of momentum.

Sunday, I started again, buoyed up by Tylenol and some very funny episodes of “The Vicar of Dibley” on DVD. (I do think that a knitting project is helped immensely by the right playlist of movies and TV shows.) I knit through the afternoon and into the evening. Now, normally, Sunday night marks the end of a weekend. So right about now, you’re probably wondering “Did she get finished? Was she able to knit a good-looking sweater in a weekend?”

The Answer Is …
The answer is yes … and no. As of right now — Tuesday night — I’ve finished the back of the sweater and about 4” of the front. Once that’s done, there are still sleeves to knit. I’ve invested exactly 14 hours and 21 minutes and I think there’s at least that much to go. My best guess is that it would take someone of my skills (and level of fussiness) about 37 hours to knit and assemble this sweater. To build that much knitting into a single weekend, a person would have to be a complete maniac. (And risk ending up like Lady Macbeth — totally bonkers.)

Ah, but I also answered “yes”. Remember, there were two parameters here. The first one was “good-looking”. And the finished part of this project thrills me! I love the way this wool knits up. The stitches look so even and lovely. It’s beautiful, and I can’t wait to have the sweater done and wearable.

And In Conclusion …
To conclude: no, a novice cannot knit this particular sweater in a weekend. But (and this is the joyful part) YES, armed with a good pattern and the right wool, a novice can indeed make a sweater that looks great. Even if one of her teeth blew up in the middle of the project.

This Week’s Book
Here’s the knitty gritty details on the book I used:

The Yarn Girls Guide to Simple Knits
Written by Julie Carles and Jordana Jacobs
Published by Potter Craft
Released Sept17, 2002
ISBN 0609608800

Now, The Numbers
“The Yarn Girls Guide” sells for $28.35 on amazon.ca and $24.99 on chapters.indigo.ca. That’s an average of $26.67 saved by borrowing the book. Do you save money by making your own sweaters? That’s debatable. Certainly, I considered $43.93 a bargain for a pure wool sweater. But how much value do I place on the time? If I were to only wear sweaters that I had knit myself, I don’t think there’d be very many of them in my wardrobe. But as an experiment, this has been kind of fun so far.

Have you got a good knitting story to share? Leave a comment or drop me a line at LibraryLifeHack [at] gmail.com.

That’s it for this week. The next life hack we’re going to tackle is beef jerky, in response to a request from reader Stackë Peaumonde. I’ll leave you with a quote from British knitting revolutionary Elizabeth Zimmermann:

“Really, all you need to become a good knitter are wool, needles, hands, and slightly below-average intelligence. Of course, superior intelligence, such as yours and mine, is an advantage.”

Have yourself a fabulous week!


2 thoughts on ““… sleep that knits up the ravelled sleeve of care…”

  1. I love knitting, but have discovered that although the front, the back and the sleeves turn out great, it’s the putting it together part that I am never thrilled with. On the other hand knitting blankets, scarves and shawls are very easy!


    • I know. I’m kind of nervous about that part too. The book has a very extensive set of instructions for how to sew a garment together — perhaps that will take care of my worries. : )

      Thanks for the comment!


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