Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Knitters' School

WARNING: This post contains material of a highly knitty nature. If you're not a knitter, you should be...but until then, you might not be interested in this post...unless you just really like my writing, in which case I'm very grateful to you. You have been warned!


So, I get home from work tonight and am eating my dinner when I get this idea, more of a vision actually. I'm lying in bed with the lamp on my nightstand turned on. In my lap is a book, open to a certain page and a skein of yarn, some previously used and rewound skein of so-so yarn from the stash and I'm holding in my hands my favorite set of bamboo US 9s. This is knitter's school.

From time to time (and especially now that I'm the midst of large knitting projects only), I like to teach myself something brand-spankin' new. I'm not talking about having to re-teach myself the damned Kitchener stitch every single time I finish a sock; freshening up on the details of a long-forgotten lace chart; or looking up how to do that one finishing edge you love to do as often as possible but not often enough to remember. No. I'm talking about something you have never, ever done in your whole, entire knitting life: a new stitch...how daring! A new picot edge...bold and, well, edgy! A new yarn, a new color, a new needle...anything brand new! This is knitter's school.

Tonight's little lesson, should you choose to follow along: Herringbone. Specifically, I'm referring to "Herringbone I" from The Harmony Guides: Knit & Purl by Erika Knight, page 32. If you have the book, run and look it up. If you don't have it, why not? It's a superb resource to have if you're into improv knitting. Remember, patterns are only guides and are always ready for a little improv-ing. In any case, if you don't have it, I'm including the stitch below**:

Herringbone I - Multiple of 2. 1st row: K2tog tbl dropping only 1st loop off L needle, *k2tog tbl (rem st and next st), again dropping only the 1st loop off L needle*, k1tbl. 2nd row: P2tog dropping only 1st loop off L needle, *p2tog (rem st and next st), again dropping only 1st loop off L needle*, p1. Repeat forever...or until you're done.

And to think I despised the linen stitch, with its back-and-forth slaloming yarn in and out and around each stitch. Compared to this, linen was a walk in the park. I cast-on 34 stitches and knit 1 row, you know...just to set up the stage, so to speak. Knit two together...through the back loop...okay, no problem...got it. Drop only the first loop off the left needle...okay, I...whoop...caught it. Yeah...that's going to be the challenge with this stitch, fellow knitters. K2tog tbl isn't a problem when the combined stitches get slipped at the same time...but when you have to stop and split them apart after you just bound them together...

Just be careful to not drop a stitch. I also learned, the hard way, that herringbone does not tink so easily. It's a lot like tinking an ssk, wherein you not only transfer the stitches from right back to left, but you also have to reverse the twist on each stitch...except it's nothing like that. Tinking herringbone is like trying to solve the Great Puzzle Knot of Egypt. It simply cannot be done by mere mortals...though Elizabeth Zimmerman probably could.

After 30 minutes and 3 failed attempts, I put the lesson down, but not before I saw what was supposed to happen. I just needed a break, so...I came out to the dining room and I'm telling you all about it. In my first attempt, I was just dead wrong in my execution; attempt two was a dropped, though recovered stitch; and the third involved a dropped stitch, the Great Puzzle and much furrowing of my brow. I wish you the best of luck on your attempt. I'm going back to try again. I'll let you know how it goes.

UPDATE: After another hour and 4 perfect rows, I've decided that I love the effect and finished look of herringbone...but the amount of finagling and canoodling needed to achieve those results is just preposterously absurd, truly. I've put everything away and I think I might be ready for an early bedtime.

**"The Harmony Guides: Knit & Purl" by Erika Knight, page 32. This book contains several "public domain" stitches: garter, stockinette, linen, etc. As such, I don't have any qualms about reproducing the text of this one page here in my blog. Not only to I believe this stitch to be a "public domain" stitch, but I am also using it for educational purposes.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Gypsy Caravan

So, that last blog post was suuuuuper heavy on the text. Consider this its photo-centric brother. Less text, more eye candy. The subject? The Gypsy Caravan, an annual event put on by the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra in which people bring their wares from all over to sell in the blazing heat and sun of the Missouri summer. Megan and I went and my poor friend Daniel actually worked the event.

We founds hats.

We found more hats.


This is as close as I'll ever get to military service.


Its historical significance is its only redeeming quality.


You don't wear them, your shoes do.


I love classic tins like this one.


Oh yeah, more hats.


There were cocktails...


...and disco lunchboxes.


And still more hats.



So...what treasures did I take home from this swanky yard sale?

I don't have to explain the funny.


Softens like a powder; protects like an oil.


The Official Boy Scout First Aid Kit...


...complete with some of the original supplies!


Thank you, that is all. Carry on.
Play by FoxSaver®

The Dusty Wasteland

There is no way you're going to get me to apologize for taking so long in between blog posts (not that anyone asked me to). I think it's silly that so many of people whose blogs I read do such a thing and I will not be party to it. This is my soapbox, my bully pulpit, my photo album...I'll be damned if anyone tells Baby how to run this blog. So there!

By the way, the lavender is blooming. You know what that means? Yep...time to go to the lavender farm.

With that being said, I recognize that it has been a bit since my last entry. What can say? Sometimes, I don't feel like writing. It comes in a missive (I like to think it's my prose-muse) and then I write. There is no missive this time...this is just me making myself write. This is an update blog entry...you will find no Pulitzer-worthy writing here. Or will you?

A partial explanation for my lack of writing can be provided by my presence in the Twitter-verse. If you're a user and not already following me, you can find me at @knittaprince. I do not claim to fully understand the mysterious draw that Twitter has...but has it, it does and I readily admit to enjoying the challenge the 140-character limit has presented me with on more than one occasion. So yeah, Twitter's been stealing some of my mojo...

The other explanation is that there hasn't been much going on knit-wise lately. Okay, that was a bald-faced lie...I have been knitting as much as ever but I find myself mired in the dusty wasteland that I like to call the...it's called...it's not called anything yet. I thought I'd have a stroke of brilliance and a truly clever name would come to me but it didn't...which only serves to reinforce what I said earlier about muse-less writing. It happens...I'm coping, so should you.

The Dusty Wasteland is that period in a knitter's existence when, though there be projects in progress, each project is slightly larger in scope than your run-o-the-mill gloves or socks and, though progress is being made on each project, the knitter in question hasn't had the reassuring satisfaction of having completed anything in quite some time. This leads to a feeling not unlike that of a tractor pull in which the further one progresses with a project, the harder and harder it is to keep going with it. Enough already...jeez! Can't you just be done already...like NOW! Ugh!

In my case, the project implicated is Dame Grandma Snyder's lace scarf with its 28-row pattern repeat. I enjoy(ed) the pattern and have learned much about lace knitting from the exercise, but, as every knitter knows, scarves are always longer than you think and, if you're at all like me, about two-thirds of the way though, you begin to curse the day you ever decided to knit the damn thing. This scarf has the advantage of a particularly long pattern repeat, which serves to stave off boredom and mental fatigue for a bit longer than your simpler 2x2 rib...but eventually, the staving is insufficient and you...just...can't...

But you do. You push on, like a brave frontiersman ('cuz I'm a dude...insert your own intrepid icon here) pushing through a blinding snowstorm, like a marathon runner whose own body has turned against them, you push on! You make deals with yourself...at least 1/2 of a repeat...at least 6 rows each night...at least purl the row you just knit. You come up with any strategy, any motivation you can to push forward even a little. Thus far, I've been able to add another 2 repeats in the past week.

To my non-knitter readers, I know that this must sound perfectly neurotic and, though I am admittedly a neurotic individual (but in the fun way!), you must understand that for us, we Knitters, this, this is what we Do. I'm reminded of my good friends Madge and Megan who are currently in attendence of TNNA trade show in Columbus, OH. The National NeedleArts Association is a trade organization and this weekend, there's a show with thousands of vendors and thousands of attendees...and although it covers more than just knitting, in a very real way, it's all about the knitting. Madge and Megan are in a unique experience which could be described as the equivalent of getting to go backstage at a Rolling Stones concert (insert your favorite band or artist's name here)...they see all the swanky swag, they meet the producers of all the finest yarns (and some of the less fine, as well), they meet our version of celebrities (Ysolda Teague and Stephen West were specifically mentioned). I'm excited for them and wish I were there, though I'm fairly certain my bank account wouldn't last ten minutes.

Anyway...it's a passion. If you have it, you have it. If you don't...keep looking 'cuz everyone's got a passion for something!

PS - Whaddaya know? Looks like I got a little scoot from the muse after all.