“Most of all, he saw her waist, just where it narrowed, before the skirts spread. . . . He thought of her momentarily as an hour-glass, containing time, which was caught in her like a thread of sand, of stone, of specks of life, of things that had lived and would live. She held his time, she contained his past and his future, both now cramped together, with such ferocity and such gentleness, into this small circumference.”
— A. S. Byatt, Possession: A Romance (You can use Search Inside on the Amazon page linked here to read the whole passage.)
The scene this quote is taken from is quite possibly my favorite passage of all time, in my favorite book of all time. Maybe not–there are plenty of other wonderful books in competition with this one, after all. I have yet to encounter anything that sent chills down my spine quite like this, though. The way the timeline and plot of the entire book swung around this pivotal scene on the beach; the way the symbols, images, and linguistic references fell so neatly into place, like the pieces of an intricate and wonderful puzzle; the way Byatt captures that wonderfully bittersweet feeling of being gloriously happy, but knowing the feeling cannot last.
With that in mind, I bring you the Hourglass Pullover, finished at last.
We walked downtown on Saturday, clad in handknits, and admiring the glistening sculptures of ice-coated bushes here and there, watching squirrels and the first early cardinals searching for food in the melting snow, breaking off icicles from car bumpers and fencing with them before throwing them down on the pavement to shatter.
These photos were taken on the Indiana University campus, which was quiet and peaceful, it being the first weekend of Spring Break. We stopped again, a bit further on, and took pictures of ourselves in front of the Sample Gates, the iconic entrance to campus, at Kirkwood and Indiana.
We enjoyed some of our favorite Bloomington pleasures: going to the public library to get our fix of free books and DVDs, stopping in at the yarn shop and bookstores downtown, having lunch at Roots, the vegetarian restaurant on the square, buying beer and chocolate at Sahara Mart.
While we were at Roots, I spied something interesting across the street–sadly, didn’t get any pictures of it, but it turned out to be a big brown falcon that had caught a pigeon and was perched in a tree outside the courthouse, eating its lunch as we ate ours. It was our second interesting brush with birds that day: I woke up to the sight of two fat, fluffed-up mourning doves perched on my bike basket on the balcony, directly outside the French door to our bedroom.
We saw our friend Jeff on our walk home, just as it started to snow again, and he gave us a ride the rest of the way home. At home, we watched about 20 minutes of The Motorcycle Diaries before switching to a documentary about three-toed sloths (both courtesy of the Monroe County Public Library).
And yesterday, Sunday, we rode our bikes out to run errands in the cold, and later, went to a jalapeno-filled potluck dinner at our friends Steve and Jeanne’s house, with their friend Dan and our friend Charlie, and had drinks and Girl Scout Cookies and played Super Smash Brothers on the Wii (I’m abysmal at it, despite usually liking fighting games).
On balance, we’ve been very happy in Bloomington. We’ve had so many wonderful, simple pleasures to enjoy; our town is peaceful, quiet, small, easy to navigate; best of all, we’ve made great friends here, whom we run into randomly around town, or with whom we can make last-minute plans without the transportation/logistics issues of a larger city. I get to work at home at the moment, doing useful work for a company with wonderful, interesting, intelligent coworkers. It’s been a real pleasure making friends with local knitters through the internet and meeting up every couple of weeks to knit and chat and admire each other’s projects.
It’s been bittersweet, though, because we know it can’t last. Rahul is wrapping up his MBA, and even if we stay in town longer (a possibility, since he’s applied to a Ph.D. program here) it won’t be the same, since our best friends here are all, or almost all, moving away at the end of the year. We’re going up to UW-Madison later this week–another possibility for a place we might be in a few months–hopefully stopping in Chicago to see some museums and/or drink some green beer on the way back. I don’t know where we’ll be in a few months, or what we’ll be doing.
Again from Byatt:
“Let us not think of time.”
“We have reached Faust’s non-plus. We say to every moment ‘Verweile doch, du bist so schoen,’ and if we are not immediately damned, the stars move still, time runs, the clock will strike.'”
Here we are, then, in the narrow waist of the hourglass, watching our days slip by, with such ferocity and such gentleness, as the snow melts and spring edges in.
Whatever we do next, I’m sure it will be fine, as well, but I can’t help but look around, and think of how lovely it has been to be here, now.
Pattern: The Hourglass Sweater, from Last Minute Knitted Gifts
Size made: Small (33 inches)
Yarn used: Fleece Artist Blue Face DK, a 100% bluefaced Leicester yarn, in Periwinkle. I bought this on sale–30% off, I think–from Ram Wools. I used perhaps 1.4 skeins of this, or about 700 yards (it comes in a giant put-up, 250 g/450 m)
Needles used: US size 7/4.5 mm and US size 10/6.0 mm circulars
Date started: November 14, 2007 (cast on as an airplane knitting project for my trip back home for Thanksgiving/San Diego)
Date finished: March 3, 2008 (it took me ages! All that stockinette, and the never-ending giant skein of yarn, was disheartening)
Mods: My main modification was the gauge: I got 19 sts and 23 rows to 4 inches, so I had to adjust the number of rows throughout. 7 rounds between body decrease rounds, 11 rounds between body increase rounds; 30 rounds between sleeve decrease rounds, 13 rounds between sleeve increase rounds.
I didn’t adjust the even/decrease rounds in the yoke, but I did work 2 extra sets of decrease/even rounds to reduce the neckline size, winding up with 10 sts at the top of each sleeve instead of 14.
I knit the sleeves first, magic-loop. I used a provisional cast-on for all lower hems, and knit them up into the live stitches. I used a size 10 needle to do this for the sleeves, but forgot to bring it with me when I was knitting up the body hem, so the body hem was knit up with a size 7. My reasoning for this was that the hem always tends to pull in the row of stitches where it’s been knit up, so using a larger needle size would allow for more yarn in that row of stitches, compensating for the additional length the yarn needs to go through the hem stitches in addition to the body stitches. It seemed to work fairly well–you can see in the pictures that it seems like the sleeves have pulled/ruffled less than the lower hem on the body of the sweater.
For the neckline hem, I figured it would be too fiddly and annoying to sew the live stitches down to the body, so I just bound off using *k2tog, place st back on left needle* and then used the long tail from the bind-off to loosely whipstitch the neckline hem down to the inside of the sweater.
The pictures above aren’t great, but they’ll do, unless I get the urge to do a new photoshoot.
Check the errata (PDF) for the sweater before you begin. If you follow the directions as written, the increases and decreases won’t stack up on either side of a central stitch, but will migrate to one side or the other.
The yarn did pool quite a bit, and as I’ve mentioned in previous entries, it turns out I’m not crazy about the hand-dyed, variegated aesthetic when it comes to sweaters, but I love this pullover anyway. It’s very comfortable and soft, with a slight shine to it almost like unbrushed mohair, and from what I know about BFL, the yarn will probably wear well, with minimal pilling. I think the overall shape of the sweater–boatneck raglan with waist shaping and bell sleeves–is pretty flattering, and the boatneck is just the right size for me, not too high, so it’s comfortable to wear, and not too low, so it doesn’t slip off my shoulders. Along with the Leaf Lace Pullover, it’s a useful, casual pullover that will make a great addition to my wardrobe.
I started using a new technique to count rows on this sweater. I find it less obtrusive than using a row counter and easier and faster than stopping to write down hash marks on a separate piece of paper–my two other usual techniques for counting rows. (I also sometimes use a row counter made of a piece of waste yarn tied into loops, one for every row I want to count, and move down one loop as I finish each row, but that technique doesn’t work well if you have, say, 10 even rounds to every decrease round, because you need such a long, dangly row counter.) So this method is incredibly simple, but somehow it had never occurred to me before. Here it is:
Counting Rows with Two Stitch Markers
Place one stitch marker at the beginning of the round as usual (the pink pearl marker in the picture below). Now place one more stitch marker next to it. Every time you come to the end of the round, move the second stitch marker (the blue glass/pearl stitch marker in the picture below) one stitch to the left by removing it, knitting one additional stitch, then replacing it. When you’ve completed the appropriate number of even rounds, work your increase or decrease round, remove the second marker altogether, work back to the beginning of the round and place the second stitch marker back in its starting position next to the first one. To figure out which round you’re on, count the number of stitches between the first and second marker. No stitches means you’ve just completed an increase or decrease round and you’re currently on the first even round. One stitch means you’ve completed one even round. And so on. So in the photo below, I have completed 4 rounds even:
I knit one more round and move the second stitch marker to the left: five rounds completed:
And so on. The first marker never moves, and your increases/decreases will still take place around that marker (the pink pearl marker, in this example). And, my demo photo aside, this method of counting will most likely not work if you’re working lace or cables in the zone between the markers. But it’s simple, you don’t have to pause to pick up a pen or fiddle with a dangly row counter, and it works well for plain stockinette.