Some Stones Unturned

Knitting, Biking and Some Sober Second Thoughts

Archive for the tag “being wrong”

Face, Meet Pavement

I’m fine.  My Mom told me once when I phoned her to pick me up early after a fire at the gym that you should always open these sorts of stories with that so: I’m fine.

Bike crash injuries

My bike and some streetcar tracks had a disagreement about whether my face needed more colour.

I was trying to get a headstart a sort of on time-ish start on Christmas shopping and took a bit of a tumble off my bike.  I was moving to change lanes to go around a large parked truck and my wheel got caught in the streetcar tracks and I went into a skid and ended up on the pavement.

I credit a generally clumsy nature and several years of gymnastics training when I was younger for my being a good faller.  Seriously, the art of getting your hands underneath you and twisting to avoid major organ and bone damage is underappreciated by many, but is a valuable skill.  However, I don’t have quite as much practice with falling while a 40 pound bike limits your ability to move.  I am taking that as the explanation of how I must have contorted myself to end up with a scraped pinky, swollen thumb and small bruise on my knee on my left side, but two cuts on my face on the right side.  That and about four layers of winter padding protecting my rib cage.  Although how I ended up scraping my pinky through thick mittens will remain forever a mystery.

I’m sure that most folks would tell you that if you fall off your bike on a major city street and all you lose is a couple chunks of skin and some patellar capillary integrity, you should count yourself pretty lucky.  And I do.  You know, thank goodness there were no cars coming behind me.  Thank goodness I wasn’t going that fast.  It could certainly have been worse.  So I do feel very lucky.  But there is another feeling that people don’t seem to talk about quite as much.  Not directly.  Not as loudly.  The other thing you feel is this: incredibly stupid.

I’ve listened to friends and family who have been in car accidents tell their stories over and over.  A friend took a turn onto a gravel road too fast and the car spun out, causing her to warn everyone she saw for the next while about slowing down on gravel.  My Mom went into a ditch after hitting a patch of black ice and she swore over and over she “should have known” it was there even though it is the nature of black ice to be invisible.  A friend got rear-ended in a lineup of stopped cars on a bridge by someone who just plain wasn’t paying attention and caused a domino effect of three or four cars being jolted into the car in front of them.  They all got charged with following too close and the nature of this law and the inattentive driver were subjects for many discussions that followed.  I never really understood the tendency to relive these terrible moments repeatedly.  Until now.

I wish there was someone or something I could blame.  I’ve tried pretty hard to find one, replaying everything that I remember.  It’s not just a cliché that “it happened so fast”.  Everything before the accident, the warning signs you saw or should have seen, the ways you could have been more prepared, those are all burned into your brain, but the moment from when my tire went into the track until I ended up on the ground is pretty unclear.

I wonder if this is why tensions run so high on the road sometimes, especially after accidents and near-misses.  Of course people react to the danger and potential damage, too, but if you’ve been in an “accident” like this that was avoidable, but you’re confused about what exactly happened and you felt stupid, you want someone or something to blame.  I know the dangers!  I’m a good cyclist!  I’ve been riding over three years here accident-free!  It can’t possibly have been my fault.  And so if there had been a moving car around, or an illegal parking job or a poorly maintained road, I am certain I would be hurling many insults at all of them.

I tried being angry at the truck for being so wide (the width of an entire lane?  Really?).  And I tried being angry at the streetcar track with its need to be all tire-sized (what is with vehicles that move large numbers of people efficiently requiring wheels?).  But in the end there’s only my own stupid, idiotic self to blame.  I know those streetcar tracks are a death trap.  I know they have to be crossed at an angle.  Add to this the fact that I probably shouldn’t have been out in the first place since I’m sick (good news: I bought the Christmas presents before crashing and they survived intact.  The art of falling well, I tell ya) and I seem even stupider.  I saw the truck in plenty of time and checked the lane was clear.  And yet I still ended up on the pavement.  I just somehow didn’t get the wheel turned quite enough.  Or something I guess.  I’m still not sure.  It happened so fast.

I jumped up after the crash.  A fellow cyclist happened to be travelling the other way and asked me if I was okay.  I assured her I was, but in the way you sort of do when you’re in shock and embarrassed and just want to hustle off the road.  Not sure if she was experienced in such things, but she crossed the road and asked again if I was okay.  I peeled off my left mitt since it felt like my fingers might be broken, but there were just the cuts and I told her again it was fine, muttered about the “stupid streetcar tracks” and made some excuse about not being used to riding downtown.  She told me about crossing at an angle and I said I knew that but I guess I just hadn’t managed it.  She asked again if I was okay (why so awesome #bikeTO?) and said I had dirt on my face, although it turned out there were cuts underneath that.  Assuring me that it was totally normal to be shaken up from the scare, she eventually rode off.

I got on my bike and realized the chain had fallen off.  I fixed that and then realized I’d lost my mirror.  So I went back and grabbed that off the road, remounted and discovered the cockpit was completely crooked.

handlebars misaligned

When the handlebars are lined up, the wheel is off about 15 degrees and vice versa.

I must have yanked really hard on the handlebars when I got stuck in the tracks and twisted it, but whatever strength I’d called on when trying desperately to get out of the skid along the tracks was no longer with me and I couldn’t straighten it up without tools.  I actually tried to ride it in a “get back on that horse” attempt at courage, but holding the handlebars crooked to go straight goes against everything in your brain and I gave up after a block, figuring there was no need to compound stupidity with more stupidity by doing something unnecessarily dangerous.  I did the walk of shame onto the subway, and was reminded of how long it’s going to take to get places now as we waited for quite some time at Bloor.  In fact, we waited long enough that my face began to thaw and the cuts there started  to sting.  But eventually I made it home and for that I’m grateful.

Cyclists in Toronto are very aware that if they get in an accident on the road, it’s their fault.  The mayor, back in the days he was still a councillor, made that very clear to them.  And yet even in cases like this when it’s true, it’s completely unhelpful.  One could say the same about many car accidents I’m sure, but I’m not aware of any politicans who do as a general statement.  We are all responsible for our own safety and need to be aware of the risks any time we choose to get on the road, of course.  We should ride and drive responsibly for our own sake.  But we should also do it for everyone else out there.  Because if you spend any number of hours on the road, at some point, you will mess up.  You will do something stupid, something you should know better about, even if only momentarily.  And that moment of stupid could be trouble.  Or maybe, like me, you get lucky.

Please ride and drive safely as things turn colder and slipperier.  Your extra attention could compensate for someone else’s momentary lapse.  Help make the world luckier.

Rock Island Shawl: Islands Complete

Rock Island shawl

Getting closer. Rock Island chart is complete now.

I got cocky. After the last post, I messed up somewhere one row after my lifeline and could not figure it out. So I ripped back. Suddenly one of my islands was unravelling. I hadn’t strung the lifeline through it properly. I grabbed it desperately, pinching so hard my thumbnail left an imprint in my index finger, while I dug around in my supplies for a crochet hook. I know I just saw that hook; how could it have gotten so buried?!

Anyway, I managed to catch the right stitches and stop the unravelling, but I must have scooped in the wrong direction at some point. You can tell I’m not a true blogger yet because it did not occur to me during the panic to photograph the carnage. Here it is after-the-fact:

Twisted stitch

Right in the middle of the photo. Averted immediate complete disaster, but created permanent less-significant disaster: a twisted stitch.

I noticed the twisted stitch a couple of rows later, but I didn’t bother trying to go back to fix it. I am terrible at dropping stitches down if it’s anything but stockinette. If my inexperienced eyes can barely see it, hopefully most other people won’t notice. Also it’s near the edge. Also also, I will just tell them it adds character to the shawl.

After that, things went pretty smoothly. I started to get “Oh, ssk always should start on the yarn over from the previous row,” which I had kind of seen before, but suddenly it just became really clear and I could spot where I had missed the yarn overs on the previous row (which was by far my most common mistake). The pattern is actually really straightforward looking at it now (I can say that because I’m officially done with that part of things). Perhaps a little ambitious as a first lace project, but totally do-able. I think the size of the piece is more of a barrier than the lace pattern in terms of making and tracking down mistakes.

Now the real question is when will my blocking wires get here? Soooooooon I hope.

Skew socks: What was I thinking?

I’ve gone astray askew. I’m so weak. I started a new pair of socks even though I’m not even done the Rock Island shawl border.

I started them because I needed something to photoshop into the apocalypse picture. I couldn’t use the things I already had on the needles because they weren’t bright enough. I wanted a smoking crater with bright pink yarn being knit in front of it. I had bright pink yarn lying around. So I cast on. But I didn’t want to look like I had just cast on so I could take the picture (even though that is totally what I was doing). So I decided to start a pair of socks and I have a little bit of an obsession with this Skew pattern.

I’ve knit it before and it’s addictive. You think you’ll just cast on and then you figure that the first part of the toe is not very long, so you’ll just finish that section. And you finish that and decide that the mid-toe’s not very long either so you’ll just finish that section and once you get to the foot, well, that’s pretty straightforward repeats and before you know it, you’re halfway up the foot. More than that because it’s knit on the diagonal, so the far part of the foot is nearly to the start of the heel gusset. You only have to knit a couple of inches straight. And that was how I ended up with half a sock knitted that looked like this.  Are you ready?  No, you can’t possibly be.

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Skew socks

There is no ready.

What was I thinking?

  1. Firstly, let’s just say it: I should really be focussing on the shawl. Yes, I need something simpler to knit when I’m on the phone or don’t have the attention for the pattern, but I already have a felted bag project I’m working on. I am still working on the shawl, but I can feel the socks calling.
  2. This colour. I can’t…I think it’s even slightly muted in this photo. I bought this yarn because I wanted something bright. I am normally a pretty straightforward blue and grey kinda girl, but I sometimes like to have a little fun with the socks because, well, who’s going to know? So I bought this yarn thinking it would lead to some madcap fun (assuming a knitter’s definition of “fun” here). I started a pair of cuff down socks with it previously, but they weren’t working. I thought that maybe it was just the combination of the pattern, which was ripply, with the Jacquard, which was bright and patterned, but it’s pretty clearly the yarn itself. It’s just too much even in simple diagonal stripes.
  3. I’m actually getting slightly larger gauge than normal and I think they might be a bit big.

Is any of this stopping me? No it is not. I am just keepin’ on keepin’ on. Rationalizations:

  1. I’m still working on the shawl.  Really, I am.  Just slower. I knew I was going to knit Skew again at some point and why not now?
  2. The colour of the yarn isn’t going to change. Given that, socks are clearly the way to go with it. I suppose I could try to knit some colourwork in combination with a plainer yarn to dilute it down or something, but I’m not sure that would help. Worst case scenario, they will make a glorious pair of springtime/Easter socks, all yellow and pink and periwinkle.
  3. They’ll fit. I can totally make them fit. I’ll make the foot a little short to compensate for the extra width and then do extra decreases on the gusset to make the leg tighter. It’ll be fine; have I ever been wrong before (hint: yes)?

Winding a Hank of Yarn using your Bike

Here is a story that I feel is a decent introduction to me.  As indicated by the title

1. I knit and

2. I bike.  Not seriously in races or anything, just around the city.

At first these two activities might not seem to go together and that is what I would have said a week ago too, but as it turns out that would have been due to a lack of imagination on our parts.  Don’t worry; I wasn’t riding around the city whipping up a sweater or anything (That would be ridiculous.  It hit -20 with the wind chill here last week and it’s too hard to knit with mittens on).

No, instead what happened was I got a hank of handspun 100% silk from my sister for Christmas.  It feels like amazing.  It feels like expensive.  So expensive, in fact, that I have never bought yarn that nice for myself.  I buy the kind of yarn that comes in skeins and balls, ready to knit.  Fancy yarns come in hanks that have to be wound into balls before you can start using them.  There are ball winders and other equipment that you can buy to aid you in this task, but something else worth noting about me is

3. I’m cheap.

My Dad is too.  It’s in my blood.  When will I have another bunch of yarn fancy enough to come in a hank?  I would never buy such yarn for myself, so not until at least next Christmas.  And one use of a swift and ball winder per year (maximum) is just not enough to invest in them.  I mean, sure, there are 1000 m of yarn here, but I’m not in any rush.  I don’t need no fancy ball-winder.  As you may have deduced

4. I’m stubborn.

What does a swift do that cannot be done by just winding the yarn carefully and slowly by hand?  Well, I’m not sure, but somehow I made a huge mess.  The yarn kept sticking to itself and I tried to have faith that it would come untangled, but things kept getting worse.

Mess o' yarn

See the scissors poking out on the right hand side? Yeah, I used those a few times.

I must have missed something obvious.  I consider myself reasonably bright.  There must have been some trick in starting the winding that I missed.  So I did what anyone would do.  I asked the Google, but it couldn’t help me.  All the videos made it seem so straightforward.  No one else’s yarn was sticking together or getting tangled.  It must have been my yarn particularly.  Yes, that must be it.  I’m going to make a beautiful shawl with this gift from my sister and if I’m really really careful and don’t waste any of it, I might have enough left to make a second thing.  I can’t waste any of it.  I really needed this to work well, so it couldn’t be my fault.  When Google fails you, there is only one recourse.  I made tea.  Oh, right,

5. I like tea.

I drank the tea and I looked at the mess.  I willed myself not to cry over tangled yarn because, apparently, some people have even bigger problems if you can imagine.  I considered that it might be a little bit my fault.  Maybe I let some of the loops get pulled into the wrong spot and that’s why everything was now a disaster.  So, I cut the yarn, pulled the end out (a longer process than I can really convey interestingly) and I started again winding a new ball.  And again I couldn’t manage to pull the yarn free from neighbouring loops.  I didn’t seem to have enough hands to hold the ball, wind the yarn and detach the strand I was winding from the ones I needed to stay put.  I needed something to hold the extra loops in place.  I looked around.  It’s not a big apartment.  The largest nearby object in it was my bike.  And part of it appeared to be just about the right size for…

Tangled Mess on a Bike

Cushions the blow when your wheel gets caught in the streetcar tracks

Yarn around the bike handlebars.  That I was willing to get lace silk yarn near the greasy, gross gears on my bike must tell you how desperate the situation had become.  Although, as it turned out, the bell was the object more in the way.  I’m sure my neighbours were thrilled by the repeated accidental dinging.  So I set about winding.  It was going a lot better…at first.

Start of a ball

Yes, I occasionally sat on the bike while doing this.

I got a rhythm going.  When it appeared to get tangled, I kept pulling, confident that no loops were getting pulled anywhere they shouldn’t.  It was working!  Well, except for the fact that I kept dropping the ball on the floor and it would roll under the couch and I would have to use a knitting needle to scoop it out and re-roll a bunch.  Another person might move the whole enterprise away from the couch, but when you’ve got a rhythm and a bunch of silk yarn near a lot of moving bike parts with sharp bits, you don’t tempt fate like that.

About 1/3 of the way through, it got tangled in a way I couldn’t fix and I ended up going to bed before I could finish, but one more cut with the scissors and a couple of days later

Four balls of yarn

Finished! I have completed a task that takes under a minute with proper equipment in a mere ~12 hours.

I am so stinkin’ proud of these four little balls of yarn.  To put it in perspective,

6. I’m working on a PhD.  I’m almost finished (I swear Mom and Dad), even though I’ve been almost finished for a year.  I am on my sixth thesis draft, have had the requisite argument with my supervisor about it and just handed it to my committee members for review.  So I have summarized 5+ years of work up into a 140 page document that took me over 6 months to write.

And these balls of yarn are the thing from the last month that I’m most proud of (granted I was on vacation over Christmas for a couple of weeks).  Which is probably not that strange, I guess.  I’ve found people have pretty much the same reaction to finding out you knit as finding out you’re working a PhD: “Wow.  That sounds tough.  I could never do that.”  This never makes much sense to me since my impression is none of these people have tried either thing, so they couldn’t really know what’s involved.  Some days it’s tough and everything goes wrong, sure, but some days there’s a real sense of accomplishment and you remember why you love this thing.  I think really what they mean to say is “I don’t want to knit/do a PhD, so I don’t.”  And you know, fair enough I guess.  I think they’re missing out (at least with the knitting; my opinion on the PhD thing varies depending on when you ask me).  If you don’t want to knit, then don’t.  But if you do want to knit, you absolutely can.  Most of it’s not really that hard.  Except sometimes, when you get a hank of yarn that you have to wind into a ball and you are too stubborn to buy yourself a ball winder.  And since the answer I found on the internet when I tried to Google was inadequate, let me try to help out future hand-winders who get off to as poor a start as I did: how do you wind 1 km of yarn from a hank into a ball by hand?  The same way you end up doing pretty much everything else you don’t know how to do: persistence.

Well, persistence and creative use of your bike handlebars, apparently.

Beginning of shawl

And so the shawl begins. If you look closely you can see the humbling effect of the ball winding incident: not one but two lifelines in a piece of knitting 12 stitches wide.

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