Knitting the Ball at Both Ends

This morning was a little rough. I stayed up last night till around 2, knitting on my blankie and watching the first disk of Season 1 of Weeds on DVD. I was just a little tired when Julie and Sophie woke up at 7, and Joe was clearly wanting some more sleep. Since I got to sleep in last weekend, I dragged my hiney out of bed and took the girls downstairs. I’ve been skimping on sleep all week, and I promised myself I’d go to bed earlier tonight, but I’m just starting this entry at 12:30. At least I got a nap in this afternoon.

Anyway, it’s really hot here this weekend, so we sat around and played in the living room all morning. I kept glancing out the window waiting for the mail carrier to show up, to no avail. Finally, around 2:30, I dragged both girls upstairs to take a nap because we were all getting irritable. Amazingly, everyone went to sleep and I got a little snooze in. When I came down, there was some mail on the shelf where we toss it, but no packages laying around. Joe confirmed the unfathomable: I didn’t get any packages today. After a momentary disappointment, I resigned myself to waiting for Monday and started getting the shish kebabs ready to go on the grill for dinner. I popped open the back door, and along with a huge blast of furnace-hot air, in poured three packages that the mail carrier had stuck inside the screen door. My husband gave me the “I married a crazy woman” look when he saw my little happy dance involving a spontaneous song about yarn and waving of packages.

This one came from Donna in Apple Valley, a suburb of the Twin Cities, so we’re practically neigbors. What appears to be a full ball of Fortissima Socka in a beautiful purple-pink, and two little balls of Koigu. Donna, I love it that you told me what I was looking at – a girl can’t always tell.

Elaine from Berkely, California sent me this package – an almost-full ball of Socka Color, a skein of Rowanspun 4-ply, and three little chunks of some merino/nylon that is so smooth and soft I wasn’t even sure it was wool at first. She also sent me a little baa baa black sheep card and some coupons for free naps – somebody has another hobby besides knitting I see. Very cute, Elaine.

Finally, Rebecca from Seattle sent me this huge pile of schwag. All perfectly suited for the blankie, even one with bits of glitter in it. That one is making it in the blanket – the glitter yarn was something that intrigued me, but that I didn’t have the guts to buy for myself.

Thanks to all three of you for generous contributions to my project! I know this is just the beginning, but I’m already overwhelmed with gratitude. I feel (and this is going to sound very cheesy, but I mean it) very responsible for making sure your yarn finds a good home. Accepting a gift from someone else’s stash is a serious thing. Especially looking at that pile of yarn from Rebecca – every single one of those balls spent some time in her work bag or basket, doled out the yards as she knit stitches one by one. There’s some magic in that.

Okay, and now a brief intermission from the knitting before I talk about weaving in ends to show you Sophie sitting in the high chair. (I do have two daughters, but Julie wasn’t doing anything this wildly cute today. A picture of her next time, I promise). Sophie doesn’t eat food yet, but she does enjoy sitting in the chair watching us eat.

Now, if you’re still with me, it’s time for a brief lecture on weaving in yarn ends. This should probably have its very own blog entry, but it’s after 1 in the morning and I don’t have the patience for the three extra mouse-clicks that would take me. So let’s take a look at the back side of the blankie as it looked around 8:30 this morning:

My, that’s a lot of ends. And those are just the ends since I last wove them in a couple days ago. You can ignore the white ones with pastel flecks hanging from the bottom – those are scrap yarn holding the live stitches from my provisional cast-on. The rest need to be woven in.

Now, I don’t think I know a single knitter who just looooves weaving in ends. I don’t love it either, but I’m not going to avoid a project just because there are a lot involved. We could talk all day about all the reasons why weaving in ends is an abomination of an activity, but let’s try not to talk ourselves out of getting the job done. I’m only going to say one thing about why I think many people hate to weave in ends. I think people are afraid they’re not doing it right. For the longest time, until I gained some experience and confidence, I sat there weavig in my ends wondering whether it was going to hold; wondering whether my friend Jean would approve when I showed her my project and she turned it over to look at the back side; whether I would be satisfied with the way it looked in the end. It takes time to get over that, and I think I’m finally there. The good news is that if you’re not over that fear yet, you’ll get lots of practice by the end of this project.

Here’s how *I* am weaving in my ends for this particular project. The seam-looking ridges created by picking up stitches are perfect hiding-places for yarn ends. I just go up one side of my seam and pull the yarn through,

then back in the opposite direction for about an inch or so each way. Trim that puppy off and you’re done. The whole process takes about 30 seconds per end.

As I sat there this morning catching up on my end-weaving, I thought up lots of positive things to say about the activity, in the hopes of convincing you that it’s not all that bad – in this project and in any project where the finishing is the only thing holding you back.

1. If you tackle the ends regularly as you work on your project, you won’t be faced with a huge, time-consuming mess at the end, and you won’t have to deal with all that spaghetti hanging off your project as you go along. I’ve been known to weave in the cast-on end for a sweater after knitting only a few rows just to get it the heck out of my way.

2. There’s no law against leaving a slightly longer end in the first place – say about a foot – than what most directions suggest. Threading a short little bit on the needle and keeping it there while I run the needle through the stitches in the back is much harder than a nice, long bit that won’t run away if I sneeze. Go ahead – waste a few extra inches of yarn. It’s liberating.

3. While it may be tempting to tie a knot and call it a day, and there are certainly no knitting police to come arrest you no matter how you finish your ends, weaving in is more secure and less unsightly. If you’re going to bother knitting a blanket out of freakin’ sock yarn, take the time to go ahead and do a good job weaving in the ends. Then you can proudly submit it to the State Fair and expect a better chance at a ribbon.

4. My friend Jean likes to leave the trimmed ends out in her yard for the birds to collect and use in their nests. I think that is sweet, but I like to stuff mine into a Ball jar that serves as a freaky knitter decoration.

5. I can think of about a million things that are less fun than weaving in ends – washing dishes, any form of cleaning, but especially scrubbing toilets, dealing with a screaming toddler who doesn’t want her teeth brushed – and those are just the easy, daily things. I can sit there on my couch weaving in ends and be glad I’m not – well, insert your horrible tragedy nightmare here.

6. I can download books on tape from my local library, put them on my MP3 player, and listen to them in order to make the time go faster.

That will have to be enough for now, ’cause it’s way past my bed time. I’ll leave you with a view of the blankie after the end-weaving session. I didn’t weave in the ones on the top row because there’s no handy seam nearby to weave them in yet. Their day will come. The blanket has several more squares since this picture, but I figure if I wait a day or two maybe you’ll be able to see the actual growth.

11 Responses to “Knitting the Ball at Both Ends”

  1. Ellen says:

    More yarn is–even as we speak–on its way to you, Shelly.

    Tomorrow and Tuesday? My prediction?
    Le deluge!

    Happy package-opening and continued blankie creation!

  2. Meg in Alabama says:

    Hi Shelly — I’m having great fun watching your progress on this project. It has inspired me to drag out all of my fingering weight odds and ends and start a blanket as well. Thanks for the inspiration!

    About weaving in the ends — I find it easiest to weave them in as I knit the first right side row. Fast and easy and I never have to think of them again.

    Happy knitting!

  3. sopranospinner says:

    I have one little lone square knit (I’m SO not supposed to be doing this right now!) but it will soon be joined by more. This is such a fun project. A great place to put tiny handspun samples where they won’t be forgotten! Thank you.

  4. Kate says:

    I wish I knit socks so I had something to contribute to the cause! Do enter it in the State Fair some year. (no pressure to finish, SOME year)

  5. Dorothy says:

    Your blanket is looking so great. You are inspiring me to finish my first sock so I can send you some sock yarn. I deal with many of the same things you do everyday (except two of them aren’t mine, they’re Mon-Fri homecare kids) and I hear you on the teethbrushing.
    My daughter and I play a little game. She loves Dora the Explorer, so I say abrete (a-bray) and she opens her mouth really wide like she’s a clam or a fish, I brush the bottoms quick, rinse the toothbrush while she closes her mouth tight, then I say abrete again and do the tops. She thinks it’s great and I don’t get as much fussing at bedtime.

  6. kelpkim says:

    I’m so glad that you got the yarn! this is the ultimate in knowing a package got to its destination!

    the blue/green variegated yarn bits i sent you are from Tess’ Yarns (in Maine)–it’s their SuperSocks yarn 80%wool/20%Nylon. it’s such a great yarn…you should google them online and look at their other colorways. they are a great company.

    also, the fortissimo sock yarn is a full ball–i tried it out for a project but decided against using it so that was why the label was off. Just wanted to send you this note in case i forgot to send you the info in the package.

    happy knitting! love seeing all the packages you’ve been getting!

  7. Wannietta says:

    I don’t mind weaving in ends – it’s kind of relaxing. Hey, no one has ever accused me of being normal!

    I save all my ends up in an empty Kleenex box and send them to my daughters school along with paper towel rolls, styrofoam trays, juice can lids and other stuff for crafts. Teachers love it.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Shelly, I have some questions about your blanky project. Could you please email me at j.t.laurie@gmail.com? thanks so much.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Shelly, I have some questions about your blanky. Could you please email me at j.t.laurie@gmail.com ? thanks

  10. Susan says:

    I am enjoying weaving in my ends- yes enjoying!! It has coma as a welcome relief to sewing on name tags to every stitch of clothing my daughter owns in preparation for boarding school. Even the bras & knickers and tights. I am seeing name tapes in my sleep.

  11. Carol says:

    I love my blankie! I knit and knit until I have to wait for more yarn. I love love love it.

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