Greetings from the parallel universe of Vienna, where COVID-19 appears to be beating a retreat and things are slowly getting back to normal – plus those masks and minus any travel outside of Austria. The horse chestnut trees are in full bloom, branches and leaves rustling in the wind. It’s cool outside, and as much as I would like to let the fresh air in, a chill comes along for the ride too, so the windows have had to be shut. Today it is still wool weather, but by the weekend, linen may be welcome.
I was so pleased with the pigeon v-neck after I tried on the body. It would be loose and roomy but who wants a skintight pullover on a hot summer day? The neckline also turned out quite nicely, and I like the eyelet detail. Things fell apart when I finished the first sleeve. When I tried it on, the sleeve was too short and more importantly too tight. The proportions were jarring: loose billowy body plus fitted sleeves. Either everything should be close fitting, or everything should be loose; this is not a maternity sweater. (And while I am on my soapbox, I do not find that A-line tops flatter all women.)
It became clear I needed to frog and start over. My frustration was incredible since I have already tried out three or four different projects with this beautiful yarn: Sparrow. I love the color and struggle with how it is taking forever to find the right pattern. The silver lining: the linen has started to soften from being handled so often. I also know how it looks at different gauges because I have tried with U.S. sizes 3, 4, and 6. I was quite upset over the weekend. But all emotional drama eventually subsides. When it did, the only thing to do was to start over again. Now I am using a pattern I tried knitting years ago in cotton but abandoned when the armholes became too batwing for my taste. The chest circumference is smaller than that of the previous pattern and there are instructions for long sleeves, so I hope it will fit better and be more my style. I plan on incorporating eyelet rounds too.
It is common to need two different needle sizes when you knit with linen – one for knitting back and forth and one for knitting in the round. I knew this when I knit the red linen tee a few weeks ago, but I didn’t have the right circular needle so there is an abrupt change in gauge that looks like a design element (I hope). Pigeon v-neck 2.0 looks good so far. I started on a size 6 for the v-neck section and switched to a 7 when I joined to knit in the round. A part of me doesn’t like the looser gauge of this pattern, but I contradict myself: a week or so ago in a moment of weakness, I cast on for a crewneck sweater in laceweight linen. That sweater – should I complete it – will definitely have a loose gauge.
Linen starts out crisp then softens as it is used and washed, becoming better with age. Isn’t that a good image for how we are as human beings? We start out crisp, perhaps with rigid ways of seeing the world and great expectations. We peak physically some time in early adulthood, and then it’s on to worrying about skin, sarcopenia, and bone loss. As we become more experienced and go through the wringer of life, we soften and become less judgemental and more understanding of others. We eventually realize that there is more we don’t know than know and appreciate all gentleness and kindness that comes our way.
The grass just got cut and the starlings appeared shortly afterwards, looking for a snack. Many people do not like starlings, especially in the US where they are a non-native and invasive species. Yet they sing beautifully, as I have recently discovered by listening to them outside my window. When Mozart lived in Vienna, he had a pet starling. If you’re interested in a good story, check out Lyanda Lynn Haupt’s book Mozart’s Starling or this article on why we should learn to live alongside these underappreciated birds.
Wishing you a soft and gentle week with birdsong!