akamai, silk, and knitting slowly

As you may already know, my frequent co-conspirator Mel has been showcasing great ways to get more out of the patterns you already have with clever yarn substitutions.

Mel asked if I'd be interested in creating an "alterknit" version of her pattern Akamai. "You could probably knit it in a weekend" she said, and I said "YES!" and than dove into my stash to find an appropriate yarn. 

Akamai (in its original form) is a delightfully simple sweater with sweet details, worked in two colors of a linen yarn for a light, drapey summer look. I love linen for weaving, but I've never done a big knitting project with it: I generally avoid inelastic yarns as they tend to aggravate my elbow. 

Long story short, I have gone through periods of cray-cray marathon knitting in my life and paid the price: I acquired an angry elbow. There is something up with my right arm that gets ornery and painful if I stress it or knit too much. It's been diagnosed as all sorts of things at one time or another: carpal tunnel, nerve impingement, tendonitis, tennis elbow, and a repetitive stress injury.

Against medical advice, I kept on knitting through it all - but I finally taught myself how to knit with my left hand, conserving as much motion as possible. I've developed a knitting style that may not be super speedy, but at least I'm not in pain. 

That is, until I try to knit something inelastic. Like the gorgeous recycled Thai silk yarn I was using for Akamai. Womp womp womp.

akamai, silk, and knitting slowly

I paired the silk with Penumbra (65% mohair / 35% nylon) in order to go up a needle size (which works better for my elbow), and to give the silk some much-needed stability. Recycled silk is generally a very dense and heavy yarn, and Penumbra is ultra light - they balance each other out nicely, and using two yarns together helps make the color look more even. The swatch looked and felt great after blocking, and I couldn't wait to rock out the project.

Except that I couldn't.

Already irritated by a recent rush project, I could only do three or four painfully slow rows on Akamai before the angry elbow chimed in. My plan for a super-fast, flies-off-the-needles sweater was meeting reality and unraveling rapidly. 

But then something interesting happened: I started slowing down, taking my time with each stitch.

By being just a bit more present with each stitch, my yarn tension relaxed imperceptibly, and suddenly I could do five or ten rows without aggravation. Now I have a mostly finished sweater - one small neckline adjustment pending, and it still needs to be blocked and have the ends woven in, but it's quite close to completion.  

It's surprises like this that keep me excited about knitting and working with fiber. Something unexpected happens, a project takes an odd turn, and suddenly you make a discovery. 

Sometimes, you even end up with a finished sweater, too.