Sunday, March 28, 2010

Blogging at 10am...

In truth, I am usually awake at...let's see...10:20 in the morning, so this is nothing new. Were this a normal Sunday morning, I would have probably just gotten up, made coffee and fed the cats. For some reason, however, this morning of all mornings, Team Feline banded together and roused my sleep bright and not-so-early at 530am. By 8 or 9, it was time for a mid-morning nap. It's a rainy day here, the windows are open and the air has a spring chill in it and I really wanted to take a mid-morning nap while listening to the soft sounds of rain falling and birds singing.

Benson, however, is an asshole. Benson, for those who don't know, is my orange tabby, an adolescent in every sense of that stage of child development and quite possibly the feline incarnation of my emotional self, I haven't decided. To get to the point: cute as a button I would usually find the act of curling up next to my head and purring, like one huge furry headphone and the soundtrack is your purr. Normally, it'd be cute; this morning, it was the mosquito buzzing in your ear. Plus, too much coffee and cocoa...equals no mid-morning nap. And so, I blog...

(Even as I write this, Ben has parked himself in the corner of the room by the far bookcase, under the papasan, to wail quietly in his boredom. Woe, is me...he seems to say. Someone get a small hankie and a sofa. I think this belle's about to faint.)

The good news is that certain projects have been finished. Many of these had been in the hopper for a pretty long time: the Swallowtail shawl finally reach completion after sitting on the needles for...a very long time. The Three Sisters Scarf has only a few rows of garter left before the cast-off. Eva's long-ago requested, oft re-started due to gauge problems, reversible cloche is also done, though I am certainly not at all thrilled with the result. Have you ever felt just completely done wrong by a pattern? No? could just be me. No pictures on any of the three yet, two of them are lace and will need to be blocked. Aha! A blocking blog post...

What this means, however, is that I can finally start work on Grandma Snyder's Lily of the Valley scarf from "Knitted Lace of Estonia," by Nancy Bush (p.90). This is a special project and I wanted to be sure I could focus and give it the attention it would deserve and require. It's not a terribly complicated lace pattern but I want it to be perfect, without missing stitches at the end of a row or a last-minute YO to make the count right. Nope, Dorothy Snyder is a special lady and Courtny's grandma, an amazing painter and world traveler and she deserves something special.

"With double strand of yarn and using knitted method (see page 23), CO 63 sts. Drop the extra strand and cont with a single strand only."

The knitted method, or the knitted cast-on, is a cast-on method so simple that it's often (but not always) the first cast-on method a new knitter learns, because it introduces the knit stitch immediately. No complicated ins and outs like with the long-tail cast-on, just simple knit and place on needle. Repeat 62 more times. It's pretty amazing then, huh, that I didn't know this method until last night, when I started this project.

In the process of following the cryptic instructions and the hieroglyphic diagrams, I had a moment wherein I rediscovered (again) why I love knitting. It happened again when I learned that slipping 2 sts as if to k2tog (k1, psso) will give a double-decrease that looks slightly different than if each stitch had been slipped one, then the other (k1, psso)...which, in turn looks slightly different than if you only sl 1 st, then k2tog after (psso). Don't get me started on the sssk...which is really hard to do with bulky yarn and US6s, by the way.

I suppose had a been studious and thoroughly prepared, I could have studied up on decreases and known all these varieties and their differences well in advance of any lace knitting...but the brilliant and revelatory moment that came with both the new cast-on technique and the new double-decreased serve to remind me why "self-taught" is often the best method. Sure, it might be slow going, maybe even frustrating but the moments of discovery are incomparable.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Gams and the Quest For Identity

Astounding is the moment you realize that you're self-identifying as something: I am a Knitter. What are you? More on this in a moment...

I can finally share with you all the secret test knit I've been mentioning. Craig H., an online knit bud of mine, has a brand spankin' new pattern in the latest edition of Knitty, just released online! For those of you who aren't in the knit know, is an online quarterly knit magazine-type thing, full of FREE patterns that don't suck. Alright, not every one has ever tickled my creativity or drive, but by and far, we knitters look forward to and anticipate each new issue.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Craig had a pattern for these great boxer-brief-esque dude shorts. I had found them on either his Ravelry profile or on his own website and expressed great interest in them...and kept expressing my interest until...tah-dah!...

And that's how ya do it, folks. Bam! If you remember those gauge issues I was having not too long ago, one of the troublesome projects was this one. The picture of the ring almost as big as a toilet seat? Yeah, that was supposed to be the leg. Mmm, no...not even the waist. I remedied that, however, using Cascade Rustic (a 79/21 wool/linen blend), a US 9 (I think) 24" bamboo circular and a lot of perseverance.

There was only one instruction in the pattern I couldn't abide by and it had everything to with sewing elastic into the waistband. The problem? I'm no sewer...I'm a knitter. Plan of attack? Improvise and make something up. The solution? A series of yarn-overs in the knitted columns of the waistband ribbing, coupled with a contrasting color I-cord. See? I didn't need to sew anything. Brilliant...what a relief.

The pattern itself? Really quite simple. It's written quite well and I had absolutely no trouble following along. The great thing is that the cable pattern gives you just enough variety to keep it interesting while the rest of the circumference, with its plain stockinette, satisfies the desire for some simple, mindless knitting as well. It's the perfect project for watching movies and television. The new Doctor's coming soon...knit these while you watch. The actual pattern of the cabled section could also be changed out, subsituted by a pattern of your own devising (provided, of course, that it was still approximately the same width).

Speaking of patterns, I'm renewly intrigued by the geometry of nature, brought about in large part by the re-emergence of everything I planted in the gardens last spring.

It's really quite amazing to see everything that had previously turned brown and dead begin to creep out of the soil again. The oregano, anise hyssop and catmint have new growth, tiny leaves growing up out of the middle of dead branches. The contrast is appreciated.

The daffodils happily survived the transplant and, though somewhat smallish, are coming up in droves. There will be crocuses to keep them company next year. That's all for now. Many thanks to my friend Danny for modeling the gams. What a peach...

"...and then I told that old snapdragon
just what I thought of him!"
"Oh my..."

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Sock Yarn Blanket: 2010-02-27

I know. I know I've taken an inordinate amount of time between this post and the one preceding but that's my prerogative, I guess. In truth, I just haven't been gripped by the drive to write about much of anything. I thought for a little while that I was going to embark on a series of autobiographical explorations but that seems to have not panned least, not yet. Instead, behold the Sock Yarn Blanket!

In truth, what I really want to blog about I cannot. You see, I test knit something for my friend Craig (Etsy shop HERE) and it seems his pattern is about to go live in a place where you will all be able to see it. As such, he's asked me to not post photos of or blog about this item, though I can assure you, my version of it turned out to be the most rockin' thing ever in the history of...well, in the history of my knitting. I hope to reveal it to you soon enough...

I also hope to write more, among other things.

Oh! So, spring is here! That's exciting, right? The windows are open and the kitties are planted on window sills throughout the apartment, watching the goings-on of my street. My bulbs are coming up beautifully, having survived the transplant that took place last summer when I built my gardens. The daffodils are lovely in their early morning yawn and stretch. Only three have thus far bloomed but their bedmates are budding and will soon follow suit.

I'll also take this opportunity to throw out the same call for plant samples as I did last year. If you have a garden that needs a wee bit o' thinning, drop me a line. I could use some perennial greens and blooms and am certainly not above digging them out myself.

What else? Oh yes! Yarn-Over 2010! This non-event event continues, having started in December for a month-long trial, then whipping into full swing on January 1. The object: purchase no yarn for whole year of 2010. The purpose: to use only yarn already stashed in a budget-balancing, stash-busting maneuver to benefit both my bank account and my storage totes.

How's it going? Great! Thus far, I've not bought any yarn whatsoever...except that one time. But, wait...I can explain! It was the reversible cloche I've been knitting for my friend Eva. She lives in Germany and, during her last trip Stateside, asked me to knit her a hat with a brim. After deciding upon the pattern, I started this damn hat three times, encountering a bevy of gauge troubles each time. You can ask Megan (if you know her) and she can attest to the itty bity cloches I would have ended up with had I not re-started again and again. After finally solving the problem by holding the yarn double, it became clearer and clearer as I knit that 2 skeins would simply not be enough to complete the hat. So...after much internal wrangling, I order ONLY 2 additional skeins. I justified it to myself (and Megan) by pointing out that it was needed for a requested project that was already in progress before Yarn-Over 2010 actually started.

*Sigh* It felt good to get that box in the mail, exciting even. And even though I knew I had only ordered 2 skeins, I hoped and crossed my fingers that perhaps there would be a sample of something, some fiber, some soak or maybe a stitch marker, something exciting and surprising. But no, only two skeins and a pick slip. The good news was that the dye lot was identical to what I needed, a sure sign from above that my transgression would be overlooked.

Thanks, I appreciate that.