As I believe I’ve mentioned here before, last spring I took up knitting in an attempt to entertain myself during my ex-tre-me-ly lengthy (and currently still ongoing) recovery from The Attack Of The Hostile Alien Bacteria. It has also proven to be an excellent distraction during all the times I have wanted to throw myself in front of a bus, given that my contribution to the world over the past year has pretty much consisted of participating in the conversion of oxygen into CO2, limited as I have been, to lying on the couch and breathing.
(A friend of mine who has been dealing with her own chronic health challenge over the past 5 years summed up this situation quite well when she was commiserating with me and was all, “Oh man, I know. It’s like, ‘give me a purpose or gimme a gun!’ “)
Right now I am working on a simple pattern that basically consists of the following three steps:
1. Cast on 108 stitches
2. Knit every stitch for 72 rows.
3. Bind off all stitches.
As far as difficulty level goes, this is pretty much the knitting equivalent of “falling off a log”.
But knitting patterns are not always so easy, or so enjoyable, and this is due to the unfortunate fact (about which I was grievously uninformed ahead of time) that knitting involves copious amounts of math. And math? Is pretty much my mortal enemy.
Now for some people (and here I’m specifically thinking of my mother), this is not a problem.
A while ago my mom inherited some yarn from a knitter who was moving overseas, and when said knitter then became pregnant, my mom decided to use that yarn to make her a baby blanket. The only problem was that her pattern called for 1,000 yards of yarn, but her skein only consisted of 600 yards.
“That’s no problem,” she thought. “It’s just a baby blanket, so I’ll just make it half as big.” (She thinks these kinds of thoughts because she majored in math. We liberal arts majors know better.)
Such was her dedication to this project, and her belief in the power of numbers, that she then performed an extensive series of mathematical computations including (but not limited to) the formula for finding the area of a rectangle, square roots (SQUARE ROOTS!!), rewriting an entirely new chart of the pattern, and something involving multiples of 7. She then took the revised pattern into work to consult with her other knitting friends, and they all agreed that this project was a go, because-AND I QUOTE-“The math was certainly there.”
And of course, that is the exact moment that, despite her meticulous calculations, despite all her years as a math educator, and despite her devotion to the pursuit of higher mathematics as evidenced by the attainment of her Master’s Degree, math laughed manically, spit in her face, and then flipped her the bird.
Can you see where I’m going with this? That’s right. After all that, it didn’t work.
I don’t remember what happened after that, because all I could think about was the fact that her story did not end with the words, “and then I set myself on fire,” which is exactly what I would’ve done when, drawing deeply on my skills as a liberal arts student, I interpreted the inconsistency of math as an existential comment on the ultimate meaninglessness of life itself. As would you.
But she was surprised that it didn’t work. I think it’s because she is still laboring heavily under the delusion that math is true whereas I, who was smart enough to major in languages, know that math is, in fact, just a giant illusion, designed specifically for our torture.
Because, oh yes, math has played its sick jokes on me too, most recently when I decided to learn how to knit socks.
I played it fast and loose with with the math on my first attempt, which left me with one sock wide enough to fit both of my feet at the same time. While this was quite efficient, it was also extremely impractical, and so I decided to buckle down and measure for gauge on my next attempt at creating knitted footwear.
I had reached the point in the process where you are knitting the piece between the end of the heel and the beginning of the toe, and I wanted to know how many more rounds I had left to knit, in order to increase from 3.5″ to 7.5″.
I dutifully measured my work after knitting 6 rounds, and found that I had increased from 3.5″ to 4″. “Great,” I thought, “Apparently 6 rounds=1/2 of an inch.” I thought I was set.
Here are my results.
1. After knitting 6 more rounds I was at 4.5″.
2. After knitting 12 more rounds, I was at 6″.
3. After knitting an additional 6 rounds, I was at 7.5″.
At which point I decided, “Screw it! I’m just gonna do this however I want!” Which is exactly why I majored in words.
Because, when it all comes down, my training as a language major has given me the only two skills I truly need in order to succeed at knitting:
The ability to interpret things freely and fluidly, and the ability to curse in many different languages.