Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Local Custom

The Pirate is on Spring Break this week. There are certain traditions that must be maintained. The first day of Spring Break requires lunch at Wendy's (double order of chicken nuggets, a Frosty, save the fries for the Lord Protector), and visits to Michael's to pick a craft project for the week and The Yarn Store to replenish his Rainbow Yarn. His Regia sock yarn has already been absorbed into his stash; I have no idea what the colorway was.

And I think I know what I'm getting in my Easter basket this year.

Dream in Color's Knitosophy in Be your own Superhero. Lantern Moon crocheted flower stitch-markers.

Unless, of course, the Easter baskets are still barricaded by the (stalled) Spring construction project that followed the great Autumn plumbing reconstruction. I think they might be. Maybe I should check on that. Maybe the new local custom will be Easter plates.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Did I Mention It Was My Birthday?

It was. Last week. I got a present.

Then I picked out another one.

Have You Any Wool Luxe Worsted in Rage.

And I decided that by hook or by crook I was going to get an Absolutely Fabulous Afghan that I absolutely loved. So I went out and got still another one. Or eight.

Colinette Mohair in Velvet Damson and Copperbeech; Classic Elite La Gran Mohair in Claret; Mountain Colors Moguls in Sunburst; Colinette Skye in Velvet Damson and Tapis; Muench Yarns Touch Me in Redwood; Misti Alpaca Hand Paint Chunky in Red Rover.

I just love birthdays.

Friday, March 26, 2010


First off, Sarah Peasley is brilliant. I went into the "Basic Intarsia Techniques" with mixed feelings at best. I didn't want to be converted. I didn't want someone up there burbling on about how adorable those animals in colors never found in nature on little kids' sweaters are. Sarah Peasley is not a burbler. She didn't get good at intarsia because she's devoted her knitting to it. She got good (if I'm remembering the story aright) by knitting through a vast number of intarsia kits for a friend who couldn't knit them anymore. She might even have gotten paid for it. She got good at intarsia because she had to. It was sort of self-preservation. This attitude toward intarsia I could get behind.

I had an arsenal of reservations about this technique. Intarsia is fiddly. Intarsia gets tangled. Intarsia leaves you with lots of ends to weave in. Intarsia can leave you with holes in your knitting. Three out of those four are unavoidable, but can be rendered bearable if you want the end product badly enough. The fourth, the holes in your knitting part, is completely avoidable if it's done right. If it's done right, it can even leave the back of your knitting looking extraordinarily presentable.

Fiddly? Undeniable. You're juggling awkward lengths of yarn in however many colors required for your pattern. You have to hold your yarn a certain way when you change colors in order to "lock" them. See the little vertical dashes of color on the wrong side? That's how your knitting should look if you're knitting along a straight line and have locked your color changes. Those diagonal lines on the picture below? That's how it should look when your knitting a pattern where the colors shift.

Tangled yarns? Well, yes. So you stop and untwist them periodically. Not actually all that big a deal.

Ends to weave in? That, too. One of the best things I got out of this class, though, was how to weave in ends. I'd always done it by guess and by golly before. The only rule I knew was to go in the direction the yarn/knitting was going. So beginning ends should be woven in going back and ending ends should go forward. It never occurred to me to go down or up on the diagonal, and then to double-back parallel to the first line of stitches. It's astonishing how much more endurable a task becomes when you're confident of the technique you're using.

Sarah also recommended this little gem from Sealed With a Kiss.

There's a whole intarsia sample in there. Not unlike the band sampler's worked by embroiderers in the 17th and 18th centuries (I used to do those, too). I've got quite a ways to go, but I expect I'll enjoy the getting there.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Into Intarsia

You know what? I never told you about my Stitches class.

It's going to take a couple of posts. To begin, as sort of back-story, let's review my attitude toward two-color knitting. While I remember that I liked it while I was doing it, the fact remains that one of the longest running UFO's in my knitting repertoire are Eunny Jang's Endpaper Mitts, dating back to when See Eunny Knit was an active blog and last mentioned in this blog here.

Second, how about my expressed attitude toward argyle? (Read the comments, too.) Not promising, is it?

Lastly, I associate intarsia with Annie's Attic, Herschnerr's and acrylic, which conspire to foist truly hideous sweater's on children. Kay says it so much better than I, so let me quote from MDK2: "Intarsia is a big offender, and not just because it so often portrays our animal friends. . . . . I can hear you saying, 'But what about knitting a groovy catch phrase . . . - wouldn't that be super?' NO. That would not be super. Stop it RIGHT NOW."

Why then, did I take a class in it? Not because it was the only thing available. I registered early enough to get the early bird discount.

I took it so I could learn to knit argyle.

Excuse me. What was that?

I said, "I took it so I could learn to knit argyle."

I'm sorry, I still can't hear you.


There, was that loud enough for you?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Closing Ceremony

I meant to write this last week, or the beginning of this at the latest. Except I mistook feeling better for being well and lapsed back into whatever bug it was that made things miserable during the Olympics. Here, then, is the final post on the World's Ugliest Gold Medal Winner.

I came up with some survival techniques. First, a cheat sheet. A sample of each yarn with it's corresponding color code. It meant I didn't have to keep track of which yarn was Fandago or Wigwam or Zanziba (Colinette is not so good at the giving their yarns meaningful names). I didn't have to label the yarn or keep the ball-bands with me wherever I was working. I didn't have to keep flipping the pattern pages over to check against the yarn list. Saved me time and infinite annoyance.

Lantern Moon small taffeta bags. The three mohair yarns lived in these throughout the project, color-coded, thus saving my sanity and themselves from annihilation. Mohair is really, really sticky. It's a parasite and will latch onto anything like a lamprey - all those teeth.

Post-it notes. Worked even better for keeping my place than the highlighting thing I did for the Not-Quite-A-Blessingway Blanket. Since the repeat was 56 rows long, this kept me on the right row until I could read the pattern from the throw.

General Observations -

The pattern just isn't that hard. I could be over-committed the first week and sick the second and still finish in a timely fashion. Granted that Friday and Saturday were intense, but that's two days out of 17.

Mohair is deeply annoying to knit with, and I will probably impale myself on a set of dpn's before I knit with it again, but it's not particularly difficult.

I have knit Art and I don't want to ever again. There is such a thing as too much. Too much texture (although that's the only thing The Princess likes about it). Too much color. Too much novelty yarn.

With all this dissatisfaction, perhaps you can understand why I felt a little queasy about claiming a gold medal.

I earned it for the discipline I didn't know I had before this project. I made very sure to keep track of the pattern so I wouldn't have to rip back. I marked off the repeats with stichmarkers and I devised systems to make the knitting more coherent. If I learned nothing else, I know how to count to 17, which was the number of stitches in the pattern repeat. I counted it so faithfully and with such consistency that I never want to see the number again. The Lord Protector will have to go from 16 to 18, bypassing his 17th year entirely. So will any grandchildren I may have.

I earned it for my persistence. By the time I reached the last repeat, the only thing keeping me going was a kind of grim determination and the knowledge that I wouldn't have to knit with that particular yarn again. By the time I knit the last 12 rows, it was the knowledge that with each row completed, I would only have so many rows left to knit. By the time I reached the last 4 rows, it was a matter of counting down the stitches. By the time I reached the last bind-off stitch, the only yarn I ever wanted to knit with again was the Skye.

I earned it for what I think of myself as a knitter now, as opposed to when the Olympics started. Maybe the knitting was that simple. On the other hand, maybe I am a better knitter than I thought I was. Maybe I am even a good knitter. And maybe the next time someone, with a faintly kindly patronizing smile, tells me that that pattern, that book, that technique is probably a little too hard for me, well, maybe I just won't believe them anymore.

Pattern - Scallops from Colinette's Absolutely Fabulous Throw Kit.

Yarn - also (mostly) from Colinette's Absolutely Fabulous Throw Kit, approximately 4 years old and therefore with some discontinued yarns. One skein each of:
Color A - Mohair in Renaissance.
Color B - Skye in Copperbeech (Substituted for Velvet Bilberry).
Color C - Mohair in Copperbeech (Substituted for Mist).
Color D - Zanziba in Autumn.
Color E - Wigwam in Lichen (Should have been substituted. The yarn that killed the project. I hated knitting with it more than any of the other fibers. And that's saying a lot. And I hate the way it looks in the finished throw. Completely and utterly, color and texture.)
Color F - Fandago in Venezia.
Color G - Mohair in Tapis.
Color H - Zanziba in Jay.

Needles - Addi Turbo's, US 11/8 mm.

Finished size - 42" by 55".

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Got There, Except . . .

So, where were we? Ah yes. Friday. When knitting was fun again and I was still in love with the project.

By the time I went to bed Friday, I had actually finished with one color, had only the last 38 rows left to knit, and was beginning to fear that my Olympic Project was destined to be the single ugliest piece of knitting I had ever accomplished. Will I, nil I, I had entered a fourth event - the Relay, a.k.a. How Fast Can I Get Rid Of This. Completion of this event only required me to continue knitting with my eyes closed and I had gotten pretty good at that.

The plan for Saturday was to finish the knitting and start the blocking. If I missed that deadline, I knew there was no way I'd get the tassels made and attached by the time the torch was extinguished. Despite my increasing dislike of the project (and it was increasing exponentially with every row), I abandoned all my other responsibilities, put my head down and doggedly stuck to my needles. I may have gotten to bed a few hours later than I meant to -- and that may not have been the wisest decision I ever made, since I wasn't exactly at peak performance in the first place -- but I finished. I Soaked it and left it rolled in towels, hoping it would look a lot better to me in the morning.

It didn't.

My family tried to be tactful. This involved a lot of silent head-nodding because they couldn't think of anything actually pleasant to say. The Princess broke first. Silent head nodding gave way to silent head-shaking followed by a quietly apologetic, "No." The Lord Protector, with all the brutal honesty of a 15 year old, observed that "You know, it hurts your eyes if you look at it too long." The Pirate looks at it only to look away very, very quickly; I don't think he actually winces. Their Father has maintained his silence, in itself a very bad sign indeed.

My only consolation is that I dislike the Ab-Fab's in the Versace colorway on Ravelry (which kept to the all the original colors) even more than I dislike mine.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Getting There

It would be untrue on a massive scale to say I'm not glad to win my personal Knitting Olympics. It's just not what I expected. Not the winning part. I was pretty determined. The knitting part.

Let's go back to where we left off. When I was looking at 6 days to finish an afghan that had haunted me for 4 years. When I had decided I had had enough of regretting that I hadn't signed on for the first Olympics. When I decided that I wasn't going to make excuses and, even if I had serious doubts about the project, that I was going to commit.

Up to that point, I had been hedging my bets. Making alternate plans. Telling myself I didn't need to finish before the Olympic Torch went out. I know I was, because I didn't cut the yarn at the color changes. I was planning on giving up, ripping out, and salvaging the yarn. To prove my new-found determination to myself I used my scissors for something other than holding down the pattern.

That was before I got sick. In retrospect -- and more accurately -- that was before I realized I was sick. I just thought I was tired. Okay, tired and cranky. Fine, I was tired, cranky and achy and looking back the part about not being able to get warm was probably chills. I make this diagnosis because, when the possibly that all was not well in a not-normal sense finally flitted across my brain I dug out a thermometer and discovered I was had a temperature.

I found this hard to believe. I wasn't sick enough to run a fever. I didn't think I felt nearly awful enough. Except my knitting needles were way too heavy, and I don't think it was just because the pattern called for US 11/8mm. Except I slept through Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Except that night I let The Boys talk me into a DVD even though it was a school night. Except that over two days I knit a total of 8 rows, tops. Running in the Viral Dash lifted my Olympic challenge to a whole new level.

For the record, the difference between 101.2 and 99.7 is more than 1.5 degrees. 99.7 means you can knit more in two hours than you have knit the previous 3 days. 99.7 means you remember that the way to deal with that ache in your throwing arm (English-style knitter, here, remember?) is to stretch it out and rest it periodically. 99.7 meant that by Friday night, I had one 56 row repeat left to knit, instead of only one repeat done.

99.7 meant I was back in the running.