WIP Wednesday 5/7/14 — Vacation Knitting

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Silly startitis. (I stole that word from the blogosphere… not that clever.) I didn’t want to lug my lovely almost-sweater around with me on my trip down to Dallas, so I packed a skein of sock yarn and my size 6 needles. I cannot seem to stop with the triangular shawls. Three stitch cast-on for that much loveliness? Yes, please! This is (Michael’s brand) Loops and Threads luxury sock yarn; I bought it quite a while ago, unable to resist the colors and softness. It is 10% cashmere, so it seemed shawl-worthy as opposed to sock-worthy. I was trying to create a pattern, and I have this lovely idea in my head. However, I didn’t want to do the math or use that much concentration without my notebooks and computer and stitch pattern books and favorite pencils. After starting three different projects two rows long, I gently ripped (’cause cashmere = clingy), then used my dependable tab cast-on to start the flow quickly. I wanted to visit with my friends and stitch along in an absentminded manner, not count and worry.  The worst mistake I can make in these shawls is missing a yarn-over, and that can easily be corrected on the next row.  I like to throw in a row of k2tog, yo every once in a while to add some interest, but for the most part I just knit and knit and it grows and grows. Non-stitchers always seem to think I’m making a hat at first.

Game in progress: I discovered a video game that stitchers and artists might like as much as gamers! It is called Blendoku. The point is to put colors in order. For example, one level shows a bright blue square and a grey-blue square with spaces in between, and the player must correctly place five blue-ish tiles on the board. That description should either sound really exciting or really pointless, and I am in the first camp. (sidenote: I recently upgraded phones, and now my Playstation trophy hunting has been lacking thanks to my endless desire to download casual games.) Most levels I am racing through, but every once in a while there is a level I cannot wrap my brain around. I have now been paying a little more attention to subtleties in colors. Such as how the shawl colors are as cool as the shades of pool water and capris, yet the army-green of the shorts contains much more brown and grey than the Kelly and hunter green shades in the yarn. Fascinating!

V

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Fennel Ale – Part 1

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My first sweater. (I hear a chorus in my head sounding in a crescendo of amazement.) I love it.
I received a book on knitting sweaters for Xmas, but reading through the instructions I was a bit intimidated. The steps weren’t technically unfamiliar, just overwhelming put all in one project. So, when I heard about the winter sweater class/knit along at my favorite LYS, it seemed the next logical step. I was nervous about my skill level and speed and general awkwardness, but it turned out none of these things were of concern.
The awesome instructor Ann (here is her blog ) picked the Pumpkin Ale pattern by Ysolda Teague (Rav link). I am not into orange, yet the shaping on this sweater seemed perfect for my (or any) figure. When I signed up for the class, the sweetly sassy shop owner raised an eyebrow at me, “Have you made a sweater before?”
“No.” I mumbled. A worried asymmetrical expression crept upon my face.
She mirrored my concern, “We want everyone happy with their projects, and even Ann says it is challenging.”
“Hm.” My brain then went into data listing mode, “Well, I’ve done cables, shaping, short-rows, and picked up stitches. Just never in the same project.”
She waved her hand, communicating that I needn’t worry, and grinned, “Oh! You’ll be just fine.”
I only sort-of believed her, and therefore prepared (over)extensively for the first meeting. (I detailed the swatching on my Rav project page in case anyone else geeks out on such things…) I mentally picked my yarn, printed the pattern, practiced the cables, steamed the swatches, brought my highlighter, color coded pens, my needle set, and even arrived a few minutes early. Which is weird. Though I do often start things nice and well-organized before I putter out…

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I ended up using Berocco Vintage worsted in the color Fennel; I love the subtle flecks of yellow throughout the yarn and how the cable stitches pop. The super-fuzzy photo above seemed to be the best depiction on the actual color (at least on my screen). In class we read over the pattern practically line by line which gave me a much better understanding of how to tackle the sweater. I believe I would have been reading the pattern eternally rather than actually knitting it without the demonstration and translation! We were all assisted in choosing our correct size sweater and needle, discussed pattern errata, and started, steamed, or measured swatches. I was able to discuss all my overly thought out tidbits with a room full of like-minded women. I have stitch n bitch sessions with my best friend who crochets, but I had never been to any kind of knit night or knit along before. It was kind of great, a Socratic support group.
The back panel was first, complete with shaping built into the garter section between cables. I cast-on at the end of class but then continued at a local bar. It sounds strange but felt right sitting with friends in a large straight back armchair in an old Tudor-style hotel.  Plus it made the charts easier after having done set-up rows under the influence of whiskey sours.

Instead of looking at this post in my drafts for the next couple months, I think I’ll just publish it in parts. Perhaps the sweater will have sleeves during its next photo shoot!

V

 

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Think too much Thursday

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Sweater swatches

Started this post months ago, and you know what? It is done enough. To distract from it not really having a conclusion, I have included swatch pictures…  Ooooh, pretty. A preview of my first sweater, from the Pumpkin Ale pattern! (Which is currently a lovely vest, in other words, has no sleeves…)

 

I’ve been Writing Things Down rather than Typing Things Out lately. I love the sound, the smell, the feel of a pen’s scratches on paper, and I sometimes need it as an outlet. Words feel overly official once typed out, so I have this weird fear of acceptance when thoughts aren’t a mere scribble. Books and journals and binders provide me a sort of tactile comfort, much like yarn.

The notebook I use as a knitting journal is well labelled and organized; the start date and purpose printed clearly on it’s cover. It supplements my ravelry project pages with details of swatches, yarns, needles, gauges, equations. I expect it will be the first of many, though future ones will probably be in a binder and include the swatch squares. It fills me with glee. I have turned 33 since my last post, and feel like I am finally unlocking this girly, organizational skill-point that many women have inherently. Admittedly, this organization has become a requirement, what with the extra books and the yarn and project explosions.

The writing journals have an entirely different fate, a purposeful disorganization. I’ve been filling pages with a deluge of thoughts for most of my life, and for a long time I thought I was writing what equated to letters to no one. I have referred to my journals as a junk drawer rather than a diary. Thoughts get thrown in when I really don’t know what else to do with them. They can’t be neatly categorized, only grouped haphazardly, a collection of dejected associations. As a teen, thought-flow filled cheap, spiral bound notebooks while any hardback journals were saved for my more poetic musings. (Which are, for the most part, terrible, but have a few surprises.) I later started to collect so many beautiful books that I couldn’t write in just one; now I have one or more in almost every room. It seemed random until the realization struck that I have been writing to myself – my future self – all along.

Whenever the need to write strikes, I find the nearest journal or notebook, and look at the last entry. It has sometimes been years since the last entry (all are dated), yet I usually find the words I need. Whatever my struggle, my thrill at the time of writing, it ends up being topical for the future writer. I suppose it makes sense. If one keeps putting stuff in junk drawers all over the house, there is bound to be something helpful when the nearest one is opened.

to be continued…hopefully…🙂

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Finished Object (FO) Friday 1/17/2014

cabled dishcloth

My very first cable in the convenient form of a dishcloth; took this picture almost exactly a year ago. The gauge is goofy because a needle broke about 1/3 of the way through. The pattern can be found on Ravelry – Cable Spa/Dishcloth.  Dishcloths are my favorite way to learn a new stitch pattern. It works just fine even if a couple rows look screwy.

I’m currently working on some toe-up socks on carbon fiber dpns. I bought Ann Budd’s video on sock knitting during the holiday Interweave sale, and was fascinated watching her do the Turkish/Eastern cast-on. Tried it (without re-watching!) a couple days later, and got it on my first attempt! One of those things that just made sense in my brain immediately.

Gaming-wise I am just sticking to casual and trophy-hunting at the moment. Finished Ni No Kuni last week, so I am stuck in that grind-to-plat or start a new game dilemma. In the meantime I’ve been playing Sonic & Sega All Stars Racing on the Vita. So much fun! More Mario Kart than Wipe-out which is good for me….Racing games are a blast, but not exactly my forte. I still haven’t finished Last of Us, nor played Burial at Sea (which is already bought and downloaded). I may have to schedule caffeinated gaming binge in the near future!

To Literary and Beyond

Astounding Science Fiction March 1956

To Literary and Beyond

The well is running quite dry today, but as I’d like to continue to write something every day, thought I’d at least post an update. There is a new addition to the Essays page! (Though I suspect it may just be my mom and Mr. Gamer reading the essays..) This one, about my love of the Dune and Foundation series, contains what might be my very favorite intro paragraph.

WIP Wednesday 1/14/2014

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I love triangular shawls. And kitchen cotton. I started this lovely before x-mas, and have yet to complete it. My mom-in-law requested a big cotton shawl to throw around her shoulders in an off-white shade, so I am hopeful this will fit the bill. The three-stitch garter tab cast-on started things out; after that I could just knit mindlessly, as a couple yarn-overs are the only slow to the stockinette flow. I would like to do some kind of (very basic) lace edging to finish off the piece.

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This, on the other hand, is not mindless. The inner voice has nicknamed my version of Ashley Rao’s Biarritz Cloche “The Princess Frog.” I used Aunt Lydia’s Fashion 3 crochet thread and eventually found a needle to work – Skacel’s lace tip US1 (which is 2.5mm unlike every other “size 1″ needle I own!). The pattern called for double-pointed needles, but I found a 20″ circular to work best since stitches were jumping off my dpns. (Too many stitches for a 16″ not enough for a 24”.) I swatched, downsized needles,  and therefore did not cast on enough stitches initially. I SHOULD KNOW BETTER… I should have started over at that point.

Sooooo, do I frog the entire thing? The cloche intended for my dear sister is NOT going to fit her normal-person sized head. It is snug on my youth-sized head. This is my first color-work, my first slip-stitch pattern, and the smallest needle I have ever used. I think it is beautiful. My extremely stylish sis would probably like anything I knit for her, so I am quite tempted to just keep on chuckin and wear the cloche myself. Wise knitters say, “Don’t worry about a swatch. Your sweater will fit somebody…” Think I lucked out that my screw-up at least fits me!

A p.s. to the post from yesterday: I totally tried it. I hit publish, stood up, threw my arms over my head like I just won the 100-meter dash, and even pranced about a bit, bragging to the cats that I had finally finished a post. I’m going to do it again in a minute. I’m also going to try and keep Amy Cuddy and Elizabeth Zimmermann as mentors in my mind – just fake it until I become an opinionated knitter in my own right!

The Multi-tasking Snail

Elizabeth Zimmerman Quote

I am, at times, annoyingly slow in my progress. (This is attempt-at-writing-this-post #4. OK, now attempt #5..)  At some point, I became accustomed to multitasking, and now have a difficult time doing anything else. The issue with being able to walk, talk, and chew gum while carrying a 7lb purse, a giant cup of coffee, and a knitting project is that none of those things are being done particularly well. It all seems perfectly fine to begin with, but everything has a way of proceeding quickly to overwhelming. It begins simply with a stroll and a conversation over coffee. My purse starts to fall down my arm, so I hoist it on my shoulder; it lands on my hair which is then pulled along with my concentration. I trip on a crack in the sidewalk since I’m no longer looking in front of me and fling four dollars worth of latte all over my (hopefully cotton) yarn. My face screws up into a look of disappointment  just as I look up and realize my companion must have asked me a question of extreme concern I didn’t remotely hear, and the only response given is that horrid look on my face. Multitasking fail. The example is wacky, but not really an exaggeration. In my ambitious attempt to concentrate on everything, I lose focus on all of it. I have the motivation of beginning, yet can’t muster the enthusiasm needed to follow through. This translates into a bevy of unfinished posts, games, projects, unread books, and half-organized rooms, as I  try to make progress on all the things.

I found some inspiration in the quote pictured above from Elizabeth Zimmermann’s digressions in Knitting Around; if even she fell prey to the beginnings-only bug, it can’t be all bad.  Apparently people either love or hate the Opinionated Knitter, and I think I must be in with the former bunch. Her tone could be interpreted as condescending, I suppose, but I prefer to look at it as proper. I haven’t tried any of the patterns, just read through most of the instructions and the digressions. I am a bit fascinated by her life and her words as well as the patterns, and have even imagined what a conversation might be like. She might scoff at my (obviously inferior) throwing way of knitting until I explained I could purl almost as quickly. (I did learn them at practically the same time…) I’d chuckle at how much of a mad genius she is, even in little things like capitalization. Like her, I want to continue to Write Things Down; it might be important for me. When I held needles in hand I felt My Life Was Starting.  Unlike her, my habit of fizzling out cannot really be blamed on genetics, but on a self-imposed barrage of distractions.

I have recently started to notice where this focus fizzle begins. A lull, a rut presents itself, and I’d like to figure out how to push through. Video games may turn out to be my inspiration for a method.  I finally finished the RPG Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch. (Well, no plat trophy, but I beat the final boss…) RPG’s generally take me f-o-r-e-v-e-r for a few reasons. I am a video game snail (and not the only one according to fellow gamer/blogger Astro Adam’s post); I linger playing games in the same way I savor a piece of chocolate, as I don’t want them to end. I play too many games at once because something new and awesome came out or dropped in price while I was savoring, so I end up playing them all, progressing in none. (Just like WIPs! And reading blog posts instead of finishing mine!) The last thing that keeps me from actually finishing games is the point-of-no-return. Unless I’ve played the game before, I don’t quite know what lay in store for me in that final dungeon. Is my level high enough? Do I have enough potions, arrows, companions, spells?  How long until I am over-encumbered and cannot run? I end up grinding and researching for so long I lose excitement over the game. I never fight the final boss. I put off seaming, blocking, darning. I hesitate to press that little blue Publish button. My enthusiasm dwindles; the project at hand has lost its luster.

Victory is the key. There is resolve, accomplishment, competition, aggravation, yet the need to thrust hands in the air in that V of victory tends to outshine those other feelings. That pose is a major part of Amy Cuddy’s TED talk on body language. It can be used to communicate celebratory feelings to the world, or ones own brain. It is so universal a power pose that even humans born blind throw their arms up, their head back, face to the heavens, basking in victory. I did the pose, almost unthinkingly, after beating the third final boss in Ni No Kuni. Cuddy suggests to hold it for a solid two minutes, thereby shaping thoughts into confidant ones. I think I need to do this more…. So, in a minute or two when I hit the Publish button, again when all my ends are sewn in, and again when the house is vacuumed, I am going to stand up and reach for the sky and grin like an idiot, reign victoriously over my to-do list. If (and when) I get stuck in the lull, the grind, when the well runs dry,  I think I’ll try the Wonder Woman pose instead…