Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Looking for a Happy Ending

The good thing is, once I had the afghan off the needles, I could actually see it, something I hadn't been able to do in its cephalopodic state.  The further good news is that I don't like the eyelash yarn knitted up any more than I did during the knitting process. Theoretically, this should mean that I'm okay with ripping it off and binding off with the previous yarn.

The bad thing is, the afghan is paradoxically bigger than it seemed while I was knitting it, but smaller than I expected it to be. Furthermore, I really, really wish the colors were deeper, like the center square. Since they're mostly not, the center square is an uneasy occupant at best.  It looks like an alien.

This leaves me with choices. I could:

1) Let it go, slip the stitches back on the needle and bind off.  I learned a lot and I can just order up another Big Bundle or plan to pick one up from Rex and Bjorn when they come to Stitches Midwest. This has the advantage of a certain elegant simplicity, not to mention I could chalk one up in the Finished Object column. Furthermore, I would have been true to the project and the pattern.

2) Continue on with the plan A as outlined above, that is, lose the eyelash yarn, bind off and call it done.  This has pretty much the same advantages as Number 1.  I don't have quite the same degree of project integrity, but then again I don't have to look at eyelash yarn for the rest of my life.

Neither option addresses my color and size issues which lead me to:

3) Buy more yarn. Specifically, another skein of the yarn in the Super-wash Merino, the same yarn that now stands out like the proverbial petunia in an onion patch. 

Which means: 

I would have to keep the eyelash yarn. I'm pretty sure I won't want to take advantage of the rolling propensity of stockinette stitch with a smooth yarn.  Ergo, the Super-wash would have to be a seed stitch section and the eyelash yarn would have to stay as the dividing line. 

I wouldn't be able to call the project done for a while.  It takes a lot longer to knit 120 yards worth of yarn when each side is over 150 stitches than it did when the sides were shorter. Plus I'm pretty sure I would want to knit the entire 200+ yard skein.  I mean, what would I do with the less than 100 yard remainder otherwise?

My color and size issues, however, would be addressed.

Is anyone really surprised to learn I've already placed the order?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


It's very sad. So sad. So very, very sad. You know how things seem to come in waves? Or maybe it's that I get caught up in enthusiasm. I was, well, still am, mostly, so excited about my current knitting. This particular project is large, so there's not a lot to say, even if I had the time to post as often as I want. "I knit another 120 yards and changed skeins again" is not going to grab the reader after the ninth or tenth time you've written it. Bumps in the road, snags in the project, now, those make for blog fodder, so here I am.

First, let me state, unequivocally, irrefutably, categorically, that I despise novelty yarn. It's a pain to knit with. It's near impossible to read. And just try finding a couple or five lost stitches in this -

when your combing through 664 of them. Or maybe it's 665. Or 668.

One might be justified in wondering how I, the queen of stitch markers, tumbled into this pit of despair. Too clever by half, that's how. That, and a complete refusal inability, oh, let's be honest, refusal to heed the tell-tale signs of imminent disaster.

The Princess and I are knitting up semi-matching afghans a la the Lorna of Lorna's Laces Book. When I last posted about this project, I determined to finish it off. I was so close, just that last bit of one and then the eyelash yarn. I figured it wasn't ambition, it wasn't that competitive streak, it was a slam-dunk.

Like all primrose paths, the going seem sweet and easy until I got through several rows of the (now known as) Truly Deeply Annoying Eyelash Yarn and began to consider how irked I would be if I ran out before finishing the bind-off (yes, that's how close I was). Which is when I remembered an old Yarn Harlot post on -- at about the same time HRH proposed -- the no-additional yarn crochet cast-off. Basically, all you do is pass the stitches over each other using a crochet hook.

Except I'm a tight knitter. A very tight knitter. I doubt I was more than twenty stitches into it before I noticed a complete lack of elasticity. No give whatsoever. Another twenty or so and I noticed the afghan seemed to be puckering. At either of these points, I could have easily reversed direction, but no. I had to decide to finish an edge. Then I had to decide to round a corner. Then I had to hide from myself for a bit before I could acknowledge that I had to go back and undo.

I found it a lot harder to reverse that bind-off than seems reasonable. It was so simple to perform it in the first place (I'm blaming the yarn here). In a flurry of dramatic activity - truly, it took forever, but in retrospect it's all a blur - I ended up with between one-third and one-half of the stitches live. With what I thought was exquisite care and patience, I replaced them on the needle and then I counted.

Well, there we are, back to the start of the story, with possibly 664 stitches, but more likely 663, or maybe 667. I sat down with it again this morning and all I know for sure is that I do not have the same number of stitches on each side. Really, I don't think I have any option now but to frog all that eyelash yarn and re-knit.

Or I could frog it and just use it for the bind-off.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Into Trouble

Ha! Hahahaha! What, you may wonder, is the excuse for this excessive glee? It doesn't take much. My teleconference for today got cancelled, so here I am.

If I see a yarn I love, I tend to but large quantities of it. I hate the idea of the yarn speaking to me of afghans and sweaters and finding I have only enough for a scarf and hat. This acquisitive disposition of mine gets me into trouble sometimes often usually.

My greatest downfall is hand-painted yarn. I'm a repeat member of the 10K club at Eat.Sleep.Knit.'s Yarn Marathon. I get a visceral sense of satisfaction when I've made the half-marathon and thus achieved free shipping for the rest of the year.

This is all a lead up to Yarn Pr0n disguised as epiphany.

I bought this yarn, Sweet Georgia Knits Superwash Worsted in Cypress from the aforementioned Eat.Sleep.Knit.

I want to knit it up. Into something. I just don't know what. I set out to do a gauge swatch, a simple little 6 inch square. Then I started thinking. I hate when I do that. Thinking about how this is superwash yarn and can be expected to expand under the influence of blocking. Thinking about the nature of hand-dyed yarn, where even the same dye-lot can mean variations between skeins so great you wouldn't even call them the same colorway. Thought about the lines of demarcation that can result between such skeins in long stretches of stockinette. Thought about circumstances where I could live with that and where I couldn't. Realised I wanted to turn this yarn into a sweater, which behooved me to take my swatch a little further.

Did I say a little?

A tour seems called for.

Bottom section - done before thinking started. Straight-forward stockinette stitch from a single skein of yarn, really just testing out needle size. This marked the moment when I strove to get the recommended gauge, but not the moment when I thought about the superwash aspects of the yarn.

Next section - ribbing. Ribbing makes me think, perhaps because I get so little satisfaction out of knitting it. It made me think I probably ought to try to mix up the skeins if I wanted something resembling a homogeneous product (yes, you can use "homogeneous" for something other than dairy products; I looked it up).

Which brings us to the next section and this is all mixed up. Toward the bottom, I'm alternating two skeins of yarn, knitting two rows from each. Too stripy. Then I added a third skein and knit one row from each skein, just like the Island Embrace Blanket. This left me with an almost overwhelming desire to stab myself with my knitting needles and I still didn't like the look of the fabric. I went back to knitting from one skein on larger needles, taking refuge in trying to get gauge.

Shortly after which I put the swatch away and tried to pretend I didn't want to knit with this yarn anyway. See Aesop and the Fox and the Grapes.

I was going to stop the story there, but I won't. Time passed and I kept ignoring the yarn and the swatch, until this week. This week I remembered the lost Scribble Scarf and how Kay and Ann set up the pattern to produce stockinette stitch, even if you only use one row of a contrast yarn. It all hinges on circular needles. With circular needles, you knit across, slide the row back, and knit the next row.

Okay, this is the epiphany part, the top section of the swatch. On circular needles, I can knit from two different skeins of yarn and get a fabric that preserves the subtle variations in color without getting all stripy about it and without engendering a death-by-knitting-needle-wish. I knit one row from the first skein. Slide it back. Knit a row from the other skein. Turn the work. Purl one row from the first skein. Slide it back. Purl one row from the other skein. Ta-da and repeat Ad infinitum.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Not Here

I think I might be playing hooky. I could be wrong, but I sat down at the computer this morning and realized I didn't have any deadlines until Saturday, no meetings until tomorrow, and that my prep work for both is pretty much done. I sat here and stared at the monitor for a bit, completely at a loss; if I'm not scheduled, I don't seem to know what to do with myself.

That said, it shouldn't be a surprise that knitting has been pretty thin on the ground. The latest afghan grows apace, but since it's knit in the round, it's not exactly photogenic. Observe.

Then again, it's not every knitting project that can serve as it's own knitting bag.

Once I finish the last 120 yard skein and bind off, I expect a transformation not unlike straw into gold, but for now to me it looks like an octopus minus the tentacles. A colorful octopus, but an octopus nonetheless. (Now go back and click that link. I had no idea how cool octopi are.)

I'd be done now (that sounds so Firesign Theater, "Antelope Freeway, if you lived here you'd be home by now"), except that I'm opting for a slightly different finish than the pattern calls for. At one point I thought to use my Giant Skein for an AB-Fab afghan and ordered extra yarn (lots of extra yarn) to accommodate the plan. I'm using a small part of it (the rule, set by the contents of the Giant Skein, is 120 yards of any given yarn) to expand this afghan by one more section. Yes, I know that means I'll end with a stockinette section instead of a seed stitch section and that stockinette stitch will curl. That's the idea. By ending with stockinette in the feathery yarn, I (hope) I'll get a narrower edging, while knitting the last seed stitch section in worsted weight yarn will keep the afghan flat.

In fact, maybe I will try to use some of this loose-ends time effecting that transformation. That will give me a good excuse to browse the website looking for a new colorway so I can knit this again.