Chessboard Design in Progress

Well, so much for my own personal NaBloWriMo… I should have known: November is the absolute worst month for a college teacher to take on new goals. OK, maybe December is worse, but November is a close second.

Anyway, enough self-flagellation… today I’m updating you on all the progress I’ve made towards completing one of my goals, arranging for a model stitcher for my cross stitch chessboard design. (By the way, does anyone know why spell-check doesn’t like the word “stitcher”?) The design is a basic chessboard with sashiko-style squares and borders. Here’s a sample square:

Craft Month Challenge Sashiko Box Cover 001

I’ve been working on this design on and off for ten years. Seriously. Ten frickin’ years. But now I’ve decided that it’s time to stitch or cut floss, as they say. Well, nobody actually says that but me, but you get the gist. I realized that if I waited to do the model stitching myself, it might be another ten years before it gets done.

Last year around this time I did some research on how to find model stitchers and I discovered a couple things: first, stitchers are among the kindest and most helpful people in the world (a special thank you to Jo Gatenby of X’s and O’s who not only responded to me personally but also took the time to give me lots of really specific tips and insider information); and second, there are basically two places to go if you are a newbie looking for reliable model stitchers. The first is the Yahoo group (I know, I know, aren’t Yahoo groups so 2003?) Model Stitchers International, which is where I “met” Jo Gatenby and other designers who gave me a lot of helpful advice. It’s pretty quiet most of the time, but I did get an almost immediate response when I posted my questions.

The second is the Facebook group, Embroidery Model Stitchers and Designers. It’s a closed group of 500+ members, but you can ask to join or ask a member to invite you. It’s very welcoming as long as you stick to the rules (like no advertising, no off-topic conversations, treat everyone with respect, compensate everyone fairly) and moderately busy. There are about 1-2 posts per week calling for model stitchers and about 1-2 updates every week from model stitchers doing work for designers in the group. Don’t worry, it won’t clog up your feed.

If you know any other resources for finding model stitchers, let me know. I’d be happy to test them out and pass along what I learn. Thanks!

So, long story short (too late!), I’ve sent out feelers to both groups and I’ve already gotten a couple nibbles! Yeah! I’ll keep you updated on the design. Wish me luck!

Tips for Knitting at the Movie Theater

Let’s all knit at the movies, let’s all knit at the movies…

Like many knitters, I like to knit while watching TV or listening to an audiobook or podcast. In other words, I like to have something else to occupy my brain while I knit. Also, of course, knitting is a great way to pass the time when you’re waiting somewhere, having a conversation, traveling or, depending on your work environment, attending a meeting. I haven’t done any official research but I suspect it’s the rare knitter who regularly knits without doing something else at the same time.

But, unlike many knitters (again, going by my completely informal assessment of “things I’ve seen while in public” and an equally unscientific survey of my friends and acquaintances), I knit at the movies all the time. Just yesterday morning, I knit Jen Reilly’s “Super-Fast, Ultra-Cozy Scarf” while watching Murder on the Orient Express:

Super-Easy Ultra-Cozy Scarf
This scarf is so much prettier in person. Big purple shadows courtesy of my photography skills, not the yarn.

I actually cast on during the previews and bound off just as Hercule Poirot was telling the police who the murderer was (spoiler alert: read the book). It was the perfect movie knitting experience.

Knitting at the movies takes a little planning and I wouldn’t recommend it for every beginner. You should be fairly comfortable with touch knitting before you try knitting at the movies since you will be working largely in near total darkness. Ask yourself how comfortable you are knitting without looking at your hands. How often do you need to look down at your knitting while you work? Can you tell the difference between a purl and knit stitch by touch alone? Can you count stitches on the needle in the dark? How adept are you at fixing minor boo-boos and how comfortable are you living with the minor errors that will inevitably occur at some point?

Here are my tips for making your knitting time at the movies more productive and enjoyable:

  • Choose your project carefully. I cannot emphasize this enough. The movie theater is not the time to do your intricate cabled sock pattern on Size 1 needles, or, on the other end of the spectrum, that big afghan project you like to do in front of the TV. Pattern: choose a pattern that is easy to memorize or has a simple stitch repeat, one that calls for thick yarn–the bulkier the better–and big needles. I recommend at least size 11.  Cabling can be done at the movies, but it does require a lot more attention (don’t forget you’re there to watch a movie!). Yarn: your entire experience will be a lot less stressful if you choose a light-colored yarn (easier to see in the dark) and if you avoid novelty yarns which can make counting stitches and differentiating between stitches more difficult.
  • Keep it small and relatively shapeless. This is a good time to make an accessory like a scarf, cowl, hat, whatever–anything that doesn’t require a lot of sizing or shaping. Try to use circular needles or 10″ straight needles so you won’t be bumping elbows with the people next to you. For example, this “Snow Cowl” by TenTen Knits is one of my favorite movie projects:
Snow Cowl by TenTen Knits
Snow Cowl by TenTen Knits
  • Make sure you are well into the project before the movie begins. Get to the theater on time and do a little knitting during the previews. You should at least have cast on and worked a few rows before the lights go off. By working a bit of the project first, you’ll have worked out most of the kinks (we hope), including any problems or confusions about the pattern. It’s the rare project that you can cast on during the previews and just forge ahead without any unexpected issues. Personally, I tend to do the same tried and true patterns over and over again.
  • Avoid attempting new techniques for the first time. If you haven’t ever knit in the round before, for example, it’s probably not a good idea to start with a project you’ll be working primarily in the dark. Again, it’s a good idea to get quite comfortable with knitting by touch before you try knitting at the movies.
  • Choose an appropriate movie and seating location. Some movies are better suited for knitting than others; some require constant attention to every detail and a lot of “mental and emotional space” in order to fully appreciate them. This can make it hard to pay attention to what row you’re on or what stitch you’re supposed to work next. Personally, I find it nearly impossible to knit during a film or television show with subtitles. If possible, try to find a seat a little distance from others so your knitting doesn’t create a distraction. I’ve never had a real problem with this, but I can imagine that some people might find it annoying to hear the click-click of needles or whoosh-whoosh of yarn being pulled out of your bag. Expert tip: aisle seats have little guide lights on the floor that can give you some illumination should you need it. Also, you have more room to move your arms.
  • Make sure you have all the gadgets and tools you’ll need: scissors, tapestry needles, stitch markers, whatever. I bring my Knit Kit everywhere; they’re even TSA-approved. (Seriously, I love these little kits and I’ve already worn through three of them. I’m a little worried because they seem to be having some trouble with their web site. You might want to grab one while you can).  Expert tip: cut an emery board into a piece small enough to fit in the Knit Kit just in case you need to file down your nails during the film.
  • Be prepared to stop if you need to. Inevitably, even with all this preplanning, something may go wrong. You could lose count, forget the pattern, drop a stitch, run out of yarn, have a popcorn- or soda-related catastrophe…  Don’t attempt to fix the problem during the movie. Unless you are willing to take the knitting out into the lobby (and I’m the kind of person who hates to miss anything), just listen to what the song says and let it go. Wait until the film is over to deal with the problem. Likewise, be prepared to stop if the movie becomes really engrossing–after all, that’s what you’re there for.

And most of all, just enjoy the show. The knitting is merely the frosting on the cake.