Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Post bird.

I just spent the most relaxing thansgiving weekend ever, without straying more than a few feet from my house. I stuffed myself beyond silly on turkey thursday and "deep friday", and I've been spending almost every spare moment since knitting and sewing*, and have hardly stopped to eat or take progress photos. So to make up for my lack of visual interest, I give you instead a few of my current etsy favorites:

1 2 34 5

*I ended up telling The Lady about the quilt because I came to grips with the fact that I'd never finish in time if I didn't work on it in front of her. Cutting is done and piecing is going faster than I expected. I think it's the ironing and quilting that's going to kill me.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Completion, rejuvenation.

It was a busy, difficult weekend with a handful of unignorable upsides, the most notable of which is this:

apologies for the flash. winter in portland...

Pattern: Leaf Lace Shawl, by Evelyn Clark for Fiber Trends
Yarn: KnitPicks Gloss in "Dusk", a little less than 3 skeins
Needles: Inox US 6 circulars
Start to Finish: Mid September to November 19, 2006 (with several breaks due to mishaps, travels, and a short attention span.)
Firsts: Lace. And oh, how I love it.

This is the project that taught me that becoming a better knitter, at least for me, is more than anything about learning how to fix my mistakes. (Sure, my tension is getting a little more even, and I'm a little faster, but those changes don't make nearly the kind of tangible impact on my actual experience of knitting.) I don't necessarily make any fewer mistakes than I used to, but I can often fix them now without tinking or ripping, and that makes all the difference.

When i finally got this thing pinned out I was positively giddy. I made that. Two months of intermittent wrangling and suddenly there it is. The last 20 rows flew by, and a good thing too, because the recipient (The Lady's mom) was in town this weekend and I may not see her again before Christmas. Luckily I got a chance to make her model it for me.

She was thrilled, and I was thrilled that she was thrilled... but it feels a little strange to give it away so soon. Suddenly it's not in my home anymore, after spending so many hours in my hands. Which, by the way, was a lovely experience. I've been leaning on KP a little harder lately than I generally like to, due to the slenderness of my wallet, but I have few if any complaints about Gloss. The silk content really does the trick. It's soft yet well defined, and the color is incredible. I was hoping for a nice deep blue, but this has a slightly purplish tone to it as well, and it's deeply saturated without getting anywhere near garish or bright. I love it.

My knitting brain is rejuvenated. I highly suspect I'll have another little FO to show off tomorrow.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Winter and the Bridges of Konigsberg

I love Portland. I love it in more ways that I have time to detail for you right now (I'm on my lunch break), but I'm not sure that I can settle down here because the winters just kill me. My whole soul feels damp and deflated when the sun doesn't come out for days on end, and I am not generally a damp and deflated sort of gal. To wit: This summer? Illness of a loved one, parents' divorce, other crazy family shit, and the usual business of earning a living and trying to be a good human. And I was fine. I was great. Now? I realize I'll have to rip out my sideways scarf because I miscalucalated the row length, and suddenly I don't know what I'm doing with my life.

So. Given that, I have to be, I require myself to be, deeply grateful when the sun does show its face, which it's done now two days in a row and maybe three days this week. It gives me the push I need to try something new, like printmaking. Thus I give you my very first Eye Candy Friday:

This is my backyard, folks. How lucky am I?

I'm pretty happy for my first attempt.

As for my knitting life, it was by no means safe from the giant hole that winter dug. First there was the dog incident. I came home one day a couple of weeks ago, to find this:

...along with Sebastian, the lovable but not terribly bright greyhound, greeting me cheerfully as though nothing had happened, and Maya, the lab/shepherd that could probably get into Harvard looking at me with that "I swear I tried to stop him, Mom" look of equal parts sheepishness and disdain.

Sigh. Swear a bit. Thank Sebastian for not attacking the the actual knitted portion, as he and I would still not be on speaking terms if he had. Sigh again, and put the whole mess away for awhile.

Then one morning I woke up with the words "Bridges of Konigsberg" on my lips. This is a little nugget of elementary graph theory that you can go read about if you like, but the relevant bit is that it saved me from being totally overwhelmed by the task of untangling my yarn. Let me demonstrate:

The yarn has only two ends, one of which is obviously in the shawl itself, and the other is somewhere in these tangled islands. Starting from the shawl end, the yarn first travels through the big clump at the lower right, and since there's only one strand between them, it never returns to the shawl. From there it travels to the pie-shaped clump to the left and the big messy one up top. But because there are 2 (an even number) of strands between these bottom two piles, I know the yarn returns to the first clump again and never goes back to the "pie". That other trip, you will notice, is marked with a "5". There were an odd number of strands between those two piles and no other two, so the free end had to be in that largest pile. Who knew discrete math would come in so handy?

(Um, I shouldn't imply that finding the free end ended world hunger or anything. I still got horribly frustrated and ended up handing it to The Lady who very patiently undid the whole thing -- which pretty well illustrates one of the key differences between us. I'll analyze something to death before I actually dig in and do it, and she's happy to work things out with her hands.)

So, very long story short, I'm finally working on the leaf lace shawl again and fully expect to finish it this weekend.

And then there was the Print o' the Wave stole that had to be started over, the super secret project that's languishing untouched, and the scarf that was supposed to be a mindless distraction from lace and ended up eating up two full evenings and much of my presence of mind... but then I did some yoga and ate some fruit and the sun came out. Just you wait and see what I have for you on Monday.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

inner knitter

you know what carolyn says about listening to your inner knitter? she's right. specifically, if you're undertaking a lace project that you fear may be a bit beyond you, and that little voice cries "lifeline! everything's going far too well... wouldn't you like to preserve it?? lifeline!". you should listen. is what i'm saying. *sigh*

Thursday, November 09, 2006

What lazy perfectionism really means

This, folks, is my first real sock. I did some fuzzy feet for my dear friend Chet last spring, which taught me the basic construction of a sock, but nothing of what it means to knit with itty bitty needles. I'm planning to do a pair of pomatomi for my mom for Christmas, so I thought I'd do a practice pair for me and/or The Lady first, just to get the hang of it. I also decided to do one cuff-down and the other toe-up to decide which I prefer. (This is the cuff-down twin.)

Somehow, however, my own need for "interesting" knitting turned my practice sock into a crash course in design...

Attempt #1: I cast on god knows how many stitches (too many) and off I went in stockinette. Soon realized this was too big, too ribless, and too deathly boring.

Attempt #2: Decided I liked Eunny's Bayerische sock but didn't want quite that much of a challenge, so I'd just use the twisted stitch cabled rib instead. My judgement left me briefly, and I put one single, lonely purl stitch between each cable. It was holey and terrible.

Attempt #3: Put a couple of ribs between each cable. Forgot how much cables and ribs would draw the fabric in, and i couldn't even get the thing over my toes.

Attempts #4 and 5: Frogged for less interesting reasons... just plain old mistakes, I think.

So after two weeks of working on this fairly consistently, i had nothing but a cuff. I took it on the plane with me to Chicago in October and finally it all came together. If I had it to do again I'd use smaller needles -- it's rather loose and lacy at the gusset. Here's what I mean about lazy perfectionism though: I'm more than willing to rip anything I've only been working on for a day or so. It seems totally worth it if there's anything that's just not happening right. Once I'm into a project, however, it takes a pretty major gaffe to make me go backwards even a couple of rounds. Witness the little lump near the ankle where I knit into the stitch below and didn't catch it until about 6 rounds later.

I would love to subscribe to Grumperina's maxim: "If it can be fixed, it must", but once I've invested a certain amount of time I just can't make myself go back. I hear someone in my head lecturing me on the sunk cost fallacy or something like that, but that's just the way it is. Now, if I were knitting a gift for a fellow knitter it might be different...

Incidentally, this is also the project that (forever?) re-converted me to combined kniting. But more on that tomorrow. Instead, I leave you with the state of the leaf lace shawl, which is currently stalled due to one Very Bad Dog. (Again, more on that soon.)