January 06, 2006

THE SYMBOLISM IN STEEKING

For the first time in years, Scott and I didn't go out for New Year's Eve. Instead, we spent a quiet evening at home, watching movies on TV. First we watched Groundhog Day. Then we watched Cinderella Man. If I had that evening to live over again, I'd watch those in reverse order.

Groundhog Day is one of Scott's all-time favorite films. So much so, that whenever it's happened to be on tv in the past few years, he's had to drop everything and watch it. This habit of his didn't escape Allegra's notice. On her own initiative, she put a copy of Groundhog Day into my shopping cart on Amazon.com so that I could buy it on her behalf so she could give it to her dad for Christmas in 2005. (Ain't online shopping grand?) So we were primed to watch it for New Year's Eve.

I settled in with my Level II vest knitting to watch Groundhog Day. We've had the movie on so often around here in the last few years that it had become sort of background noise. But this time I watched it more carefully, even while knitting.

This movie turned out to be an excellent choice to fit the mood of New Year's Eve. Bill Murray plays a tv weatherman who's assigned to cover the annual appearance of the groundhog in what he considers to be a real podunk town. If the groundhog sees his shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter. Of course, the groundhog does see his shadow, and there are six more weeks of winter. Bill Murray's character is, in Jungian terms, full of shadow -- he's egotistical, cynical, he uses people. And he becomes trapped in that town, doomed to relive the same day over and over and over again, until he confronts his shadow and reforms into a virtuous person. His transformation is slow, but he does eventually become someone who does good deeds and wins the heart of the girl.

And the movie is full of witty and wonderful dialogue about the nature of Time:

"Well, what if there is no tomorrow? There wasn't one today."

All in all, very fitting for New Year's Eve, as we make resolutions to become better people, as we consider the passage of time.

I can sum up Cinderella Man much more briefly. We'd heard it was inspirational, so we rented it for the evening. It's the movie where Russell Crowe plays the boxer who becomes world champion. Yeah, it was inspirational enough, if two hours of guys pummeling each other can be considered inspirational.

I hit a milestone in my knitting, that evening. I started out the evening by knitting a couple of rounds on the vest, which was about 10-1/4 inches long. Then I realized, Hey, I'm at the center round of the repeat -- this would be a great point to start the armhole and neck shaping. I put all the stitches on a string so that I could take the needles out of it and try it on -- and that confirmed my hunch that the length was not too long and not too short, but just right. I've been on the fence as to whether I would steek the vest, or simply break and work the fronts and the back in rows back and forth, and the determining factor was how much yarn I'd have. I started with a total of 5 hanks of this purple dye lot, and wouldn't want to use up a lot of yarn in a steek if I thought I might run out of yarn. But, I've used only about 2-1/2 hanks, so I decided to go for the steeks.

After trying on the vest, I put the stitches back on the needles. Counted and re-counted stitches to ensure that I'd set the steeks in the right places. Referred to Maggie Righetti's Sweater Design book to refresh my memory about shaping. And then, with much sense of accomplishment, put my underarm stitches and center neck stitch on holders and cast on for the steeks:

steek.jpg

Knitting two rounds, then setting steeks may not seem like very much knitting to get done in an evening, but I considered it highly symbolic progress, good for my psyche. The vest has progressed from Phase I: The Ribbing, through Phase II: The Lower Body, and arrived at Phase III: The Upper Body Shaping -- and just in time for the New Year.

In other knitting news: I've been making lots of notes about projects, with an eye toward my New Year's Resolution to keep a knitting journal. I believe the knitting journal will serve a purpose similar to the kind of journal that dieters are sometimes asked to keep, where they have to record what they ate, how many calories it was, where they were, and how they felt when they ate it. I imagine that the benefit of a journal like that is that the day comes when you look at the piece of fudge and ask yourself, Do I really want to record that I ate that? And you can forego the indulgence. The journal helps keep you on track. Similarly, with the case of startitis I've been feeling recently, and how vulnerable I feel when faced with the prospect of a knit-along, and how many knit-alongs are springing up for the New Year all over the place on the internet, I expect the knitting journal will help me to focus on the projects that are already on the needles without starting a gajillion things willy-nilly.

In addition to the Level II vest, and finishing Level II in general, here are a couple of my current projects:

The Feral Knitters are doing a knit-along of the Floral Fair Isle gloves. I've been working on my first glove, recently, and having fun choosing the colors for it. I've tried to get a good photo to show here, today, and it's just been a blur. (It's a trick to take a photo of something that's on your own hand.)

The Feral Knitters also have going a Challenge Project, the deadline for which is the Scottish poet Robert Burns's birthday. (Actually, the Feral meeting closest to the birthday, which will be January 23.) The challenge is to see how much Fair Isle knitting you can get from just one 25-gram hank of a main color and just one 25-gram hank of a contrast color of Shetland jumperweight yarn.

With the deadline fast approaching, I've been considering colors for this Challenge Project.

Some colors enliven each other:
projects 002.jpg
like Mulberry paired with Amber.

I also think Mulberry paired with Rye are really effective:
projects 003.jpg

And I'm loving how Sapphire, when paired with Black, just glows:
projects 001.jpg

What would you choose? Leave me a note in the comments -- you're not limited to the three choices, above.

Posted by Karen at January 6, 2006 03:05 PM
Comments

Karen:

Well, considering I don't have every shade of yarn at my disposal (like someone I know), I am going to have to say that I really like the black and sapphire.

Posted by: Jewel at January 6, 2006 04:10 PM

I don't know about the color combos, but I'm totally with Scott on the movie--I *always* enjoy watching Groundhog Day, too.

Posted by: Kit at January 7, 2006 12:18 AM

i like the mulberry and rye. and i don't care for russel crowe period.

Posted by: vanessa at January 7, 2006 04:03 AM

I enjoy the choice behind door number 2.

Posted by: DD#1 at January 8, 2006 12:07 PM

Choice #2 quickly followed by choice #1 for stranded knitting. Choice#1 followed by choice#3 for fair isle! I wasn't too terribly thrilled with Groundhog Day, after all I live 50 miles from (the real)Punxsutawny Phil; and, Gus, the second most famous groundhog in Pennsylvania is on TV constantly (Gus is not a real groundhog, he talks or sings the ads for the PA lottery).

Posted by: Nancy J at January 9, 2006 07:27 AM

I like the Mulberry and Rye. I even like the way it sounds out loud. The colors make a very crisp contrast, and I like that. :)

Posted by: Patti at January 10, 2006 01:24 PM

Like your analysis of Bill Murray's Groundhog character. Those of us with a penchant for Eastern spirituality would say that it's a marvelous example of Reincarnation. Just as Bill Murray got to live the same day over and over again until he "got it right," we keep coming back lifetime after lifetime until we finally learn our lessons.

And yes, the Black + Sapphire, altho it doesn't have the contrast of the other pairs, is just wonderful.

Posted by: Diana at January 13, 2006 10:21 AM

Diana -- Thanks for chiming in on the Groundhog and color choice discussions! Another friend told me that Groundhog Day is sometimes used as a springboard for discussion on reincarnation in college religion classes.

Posted by: Karen at January 13, 2006 10:42 AM