Sometimes a little project works out so well I feel a real buzz of pride. It doesn't happen all that often, I can easily get caught up in the comparison game and find my work lacking when it stands next to what I had pictured in my mind or the outstanding work of others. But this week while making a real effort to churn through a few of the things on my to do list in preparation for a big upcoming milestone of mine (hello middle age!) I finally finished the baby blanket. A little bit about how it began. My friend the communist is about to become a parent. I have planned a number of baby projects for his about to be youngster but everything has gone wrong with them from materials supply to seasonal requirements to gender considerations. I was hitting dead ends and the clock was ticking on arrival time.
Quite some time ago I was bequeathed a hand knit jumper made from undyed wool my sister in law's mother had spun. It had a lovely lustre and was actually plenty big enough for me (miracle!), though the sleeves did come down to my knees (clearly it wasn't made for a short fat girl but rather a very large and tall man) and the drop shoulder box shape was not exactly flattering. For ages I contemplated dying it. Then trying to alter it. Then at last I decided to frog it. I just couldn't go past the divine wool and what with my dying obsession, well, it was a marriage made in heaven. first I unpicked it all which was not an inconsiderable job. Next I started to unravel the sleeves which was a total bitch of a job. The wool is a bit fuzzy and slubby and caught ever 5 stitches and kept breaking. As I was pulling and swearing and untangling Amy (who was sitting beside me) complained of being cold and pulled the as yet not unravelled back over her knees. The moment she snuggled down it was all too obvious how I could make use of the beautiful work that had already been put into the jumper but give it my own spin too and make sure it would get the visibility and use the gorgeous fibre deserved. So I finished frogging the sleeves and skeined out the balls I'd made and Amy and I dyed it in stunning shades of red (as befits the son of a communist). Next I picked up all the stitches on three sides of the back, leaving the bottom rib band as the blanket's top edge, and knit a mitred gartered stitch border. Lastly I embroidered a little Ee on the bottom for the intended recipient and posted it off to a far away place where it is cold.
This project is, to my mind, darn near perfect and one of the very few I have had real trouble parting with. I have no need for a baby blanket, and if I did I would always pull out of the cupboard the snuggly alpaca cable my mum made for Wil. But nonetheless. I want to have it around to stroke and look at.
And such success has been most timely. It has been a week in which I have had cause for much self-reflection, not all of it in a good way. A long standing stressful situation came to a (for me) dramatic and abrupt end and it has really given me pause for thought. There have been a couple of times in my life when I have stayed in a situation long beyond when I instinctively knew nothing good was coming from it, but still I persisted. And every time I have ended up doing things I'm not proud of. I've lost perspective, become frustrated, behaved badly.
We've been re-watching our DVD collection of West Wing and in light of recent events I have acutely felt the trade offs that get made in the political cut and thrust. I've always felt that injuries inflicted and hurts received were an inevitable part of not just big P politics, but in all realms where people come together and do big and messy work. Crosses to bear or something. But something in how I regard this kind of work has shifted this last week. I think it is no accident of circumstance that I am not Josh Lyman or CJ Craig and right now I feel immensely glad of that.
So it's nice to stand back and admire a spot of knitting and feel like I've got some things right.