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February 26, 2003

Madhouse

Last night's Knitting-N-The-City was a madhouse, I tell you, A MADHOUSE!!! Actually, it was a lot of fun, there was just a lot going on.

First of all, they were alpacas, not llamas. We had a visit from a former group member, Cindy, who chucked city life last year to move to the country and raise alpacas. They are still getting things going, but you can see the animals and read about their business at Shepherd's Purse Alpacas.

Also, the Savory looks to be under new management and were some changes in the cafe including free massages. Apparently, they are now there every Tuesday night, although I don't know if they will always be free. A bunch of the knitters took advantage of the opportunity to have a massage. I didn't because I was so busy talking and because I was wearing Checkers?I don't really want somebody rubbing that much on my new sweater. Truthfully, I'm not that likely to consent to a massage on any given day, I have a thing about being touched by strangers. [My personal space is enormous]. Any time I have had a massage I've enjoyed it immensely, but my threshold for considering it is very high.

The Knitting-N-The-City meetings have a set format. The meeting is called to order and then there's a 'show and share time' where we go around in a circle and talk about what we are working on. Sometimes I find this restrictive but it does make sure that everyone will have a chance to participate even if it's just to say their name and tell why they are there. It's great to see what everyone is working on and to see the projects of the returning attendees grow and to 'ooh' and 'ah' over all the completed items. After this, things are thrown open and the meeting basically morphs into a knitting free-for-all. People change seats and tips and techniques are exchanged. Last night the group was particularly boisterous. [Think slumber party].

The K2P2 group meetings are very different; they are entirely free-form, but very low-key. While the ostensible reason for gathering is knitting, the topic of discussion can be almost anything from political policy to popular culture. However, if you do have a question or need some advice, there is an amazing wealth of knitting knowledge seated around the table. I bring all my particularly knotty knitting problems there. I was very disappointed that the weather precluded this month's meeting.

I like having the opportunity to attend both of these groups with their very different temperaments. Sometimes you want to jump around and shout and sometimes you want to just hang out and knit.

Finally, I made a date last night with Jennifer to meet this Saturday and sew the steeks on Kilim. I'm very excited; by this time next week Kilim could be done. Yay!

08:00 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 23, 2003

More gloves

Still knitting gloves, not sick of them yet. Here's one from the latest pair.

newest glove

I'll probably wear these the most because they coordinate with my winter jacket. Also, they are knit out of Plymouth Encore (75% acrylic/25% wool) so they can be indiscriminately machine washed unlike the pair out of 100% wool Plymouth Galway, which I know felts very well. I'm also going to knit a couple pair out of some Lane Borgosesia Knitaly, which is 100% wool but is superwash and, hence, machine washable.

I've knit several afghans out of Encore and have been pretty pleased with it. I think I like it better than the other popular acrylic/wool blend, Lion Brand Wool-Ease. It's been a long time since I've knit with Wool-Ease though. It used to be a mainstay of my knitting back when I was in school in Texas because it was relatively inexpensive and fairly accessible from local craft stores. [Not much call for 100% wool in TX]. Of course, I eventually learned the joys buying yarn online and that opened up a whole new world of yarn delights and horrors.

Alison asked about the sewing on the gloves. My answer was that I haven't minded the sewing so far. Part of the reason for that may be that I also enjoy making things like this.

Santa ornaments

I haven't done much cross-stitch recently; but when I have in the past, I've made a lot of these little Santa Claus ornaments. They are stitched on perforated paper then meticulously cut out with small scissors. So far, I've completed 54 assorted Santas, beaded Santa heads, and snowmen. I've given them all to my mother and she decorates her entire Christmas tree with them. I have another half dozen around here that need cutting out and a half dozen more kits I haven't started. Maybe I'll get back to them this summer when it get too hot to knit. [Come on, is it ever too hot to knit? Crank up that A/C!]

05:54 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 20, 2003

My Latest Obsession

Talk to the hand!

Work was cancelled Tuesday due to the snow. No more snow falling, but plenty on the ground, and more importantly, in the streets. I decided to take a little break from Kilim after three days of marathon knitting on it. I thought I'd try out the Sideways Garter-Stitch Gloves from the Winter 2002 issue of Spin-Off.

Spin-OffHow to make garter stitch utterly fascinating? Add provisional cast ons, short rows and garter-stitch grafting. The short rows and grafting were part of the pattern, I added the provisional cast ons because they seemed like a good idea given the grafting I'd have to do later...lots and lots of grafting.

Since it's a pattern in Spin-Off, it called for so many ounces of wool at so many yards per pound and wraps per inch. But, not being a spinner and not having some quantity of beautiful handspun yarn lying around, I used what did have?the Plymouth Galway that I had left over from my felted purse. I wasn't sure that I'd have enough for two gloves, but I just wanted to try this pattern out.

I am hooked. I made one glove on Tuesday and started the second which I finished last night. [Enough yarn, yay!] This was really engrossing considering it required so much counting and fiddling and sewing/grafting.

Folks, give the little lady a hand!

The first half of the glove emerged pretty quickly and then the real fun began as each new finger popped into existence until I was grafting the final seam along the thumb. And then...POOF...a 3-dimensional object the shape and size of my hand. [Isn't that similar to what makes knitting socks so fascinating?] The fingers seemed a tiny bit short at first, but the garter-stitch is so stretchy that all they need is a little tug and they fit perfectly. Also, while it might take a little concentration to make the hand wider, it wouldn't take very much to make the fingers longer if you really had to.

I stopped on the way home tonight to get yarn for several more pairs in assorted colors. [I got one pair out of a 210 yd. ball of yarn]. I've already cast on for a new one. I don't know how long this new obsession will last. I don't know if I'll keep them all or start giving them away. I'm bound to tire of all the grafting eventually. [I did discover though that I can sew equally well with both my right and left hand].

06:08 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 17, 2003

Serious Snow

As a native Wisconsinite, I am impressed. This is some serious snow.

Here's my car yesterday before I spent almost an hour clearing around it. I spent another hour at it today with help but it still looks like I'll be taking public transportation to work tomorrow if I go at all.

it's under there somewhere

Along with shoveling massive amounts of snow, I've been using this snowbound time to get a lot of knitting done on Kilim?the body is done.

There's still the hurdle of assembly to overcome, but it's amazing to me that I've made it this far. Undertaking this project was a big step for me and has required some major stretching of my creativity.

My strength is mostly as a technical knitter; I'm pretty much a pattern follower. I don't follow patterns blindly?I try to understand them and will make changes if they lead to technical improvements?but I don't often try to make creative modifications. Heck, sometimes I even have trouble knitting something in a different color than the original.

So, this project has been a challenge for me. Although you are given all the yarn required and the nuts and bolts of construction, there's very little guidance regarding the colors. The yarns are divided into lights and darks and the pattern has suggestions for where color changes may occur, but those changes are supposed to be more or less random.

CHAOS!

No real pattern to follow. No real guidance. In fact, almost as much resistance to providing guidance as insistence that I required it. I've met Ann and Eugene Bourgeois of Philosopher's Wool several times. They are very nice and very encouraging about knitting their designs, but they are not about telling you exactly what to do when it comes to knitting. [Especially Eugene]. They seem to take the view that almost whatever you do is OK and some of the best designs come out of not always following the directions. So, pattern-follower that I am, I was stuck.

After more than a year of having the kit for this sweater mock me from the back of the closet, I decided to take the plunge. This thing wasn't going to defeat me. I wound all the hanks from the kit into balls and started off with the first sleeve. The cuff was pretty straightforward and went by quickly. After the cuff, however, I was in uncharted territory. [Ouch, bad, bad pun]. Still, I was doing pretty well choosing the color changes in a pseudo-random fashion and blending from bright to dark in a way I found pleasing.

Nevertheless, while the result looked good, the process was agonizing for me. With each row, I pondered a little too deeply the decisions about whether to change colors and which color to use next. I don't 'do' spontaneous all that well. The final straw came about nine inches up the first sleeve. I didn't like the last three inches of my knitting and I didn't know how I was going to get through the entire sweater with this much introspection on every row only to find out hours later that I didn't care for the results. Part of the problem was that I couldn't see the outcome of a color change right at the needles, I had to knit a few more rows before I knew what the effect would be. Obviously, not every one of my creative impulse was a good one.

gratuitous cat pictureAt this point, I decided since my strengths were technical that I would come up with a technical solution to my problem. I'm a researcher so I started with research. I gathered all the examples of Kilim and other PW sweaters that I could. I had pictures from the kit, the book Fair Isle Sweaters Simplified, a yarn catalog, and the website. The truth was that even though the patterns in the kit and the book had diagrams that suggested points of color change, none of the example sweaters seemed to be knit according to the diagrams. Moveover, some had narrow bands of color and some had wide bands. In some, colors blended seamlessly; and in others, they changed abruptly.

[Insert large, forehead-slapping epiphany here].

So, now it dawned on me, I could still knit according to rules, if that's what I was comfortable with; but they could be my rules. [Yes, I know that it hardly should have taken me this long to figure that out, but it did, OK?] I decided I wanted narrow stripes and I set up loose rules for the color blending based on the rows of crosses in the pattern. For every row of crosses, the colors changed in the order: transition band, bright band, transition band, dark band, and so on.

Ann and Eugene would probably laugh at what I did next [you might too]. I used MS Excel to chart out all my color changes. I changed the cell size on a spreadsheet to roughly match the dimensions of the knit stitches?slightly wider than tall. I then used the cell fill feature to fill in the 'stitches' with the colors I had so far. I had to make some custom colors to match the colors of my yarn. I didn't worry too much about getting an exact match to the colors, just something the matched by my eye on my monitor. I charted the color changes that I had made already and then began to play around with the colors for the rest of the sleeve. I filled up the screen with the whole pattern so I could get a feel for the overall effect of using a particular color in a particular row. I guess this was the point that I got creative. I played with the colors and the color combinations and eventually charted out enough color changes for the sleeve and the body, never repeating the same pattern twice. It was fun.

screen shot

Now that all these decisions were made ahead of time, I found the knitting much more enjoyable. I've made alterations to the plan along the way when I didn't feel that what I charted originally was working, but for the most part the uncertainty was removed and I could just knit without all the agonizing.

The assembly will be a whole other adventure, but that's in the future.

03:40 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

February 15, 2003

Weather on the Way

The weather isn't too bad yet, but I've decided to stay home and cosy with Molly instead of going to K2P2. The next meeting will be Saturday, March 15th. See you then.

Have you listened to Wallace's interview yet? You should, he told the story he told to us at K2P2, 'Knitting My Father's Breath'. It's a moving story that tells how Wallace kept vigil at his dying father's bedside while knitting the vest in which his father would eventually be buried.

Finally, I was unhappy with my last inch of work on Kilim, so I ripped it out and I've been knitting like a maniac all morning to get back to where I was. Maybe a little crazy, maybe a little obsessive; but I'm more satisfied with it now.

Stay warm, stay safe.

11:18 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 12, 2003

Wallace meets Kojo

Tomorrow (Thursday), a great knitter and fabulous storyteller, Wallace Boyd, is scheduled to be on the The Kojo Nnamdi Show at 1pm ET. If you live in the DC area, you can listen live over the radio on WAMU 88.5 FM or you can listen anywhere live or later via the Internet.

I usually see Wallace at the Knitting-N-The-City meeting, but last month he showed up at K2P2. He honored us with a telling of a very moving story based on a personal experience. It was wondrous to sit at a table with a group of knitters?sitting silently, knitting, and listening to a sad and beautiful tale unfold.

Speaking of K2P2, this Saturday is once again the the regular meeting at the DC/Friendship Heights Border's Books at 4:30pm, barring bad weather and acts of terrorism.

06:42 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 11, 2003

Kilim Progress

Lots of work on Kilim tonight. I'm about halfway up the armholes and moving into another bright band. I like knitting with the bright yarns better, it seems to go faster.

Kilim progress

08:52 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 10, 2003

Postcards from Shetland

The pictures from Ron Schweiters Postcards from Shetland are now available on Yarns International. The prices for the kits are higher relative to the designs from the previous books. I think this is due to the inclusion of Shetland wool that has been overdyed with plant dyes by LaLana Wools. I'm going to have to think about how, or if, to fit at least one of these sweaters into my yarn budget. In any case, it probably won't be until next year.

Still chugging away on Kilim. Six inches to go until the shoulder.

07:05 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 08, 2003

Online Knitting Bozo

Why do I call myself an online knitting bozo?

The origin of this particular epithet is an editorial that appeared in the November 2002 issue of the online knitting magazine KnitNet?in the original version of this editorial, that is, before it was modified to remove the terms "fool" and "bozo" in reference to people who provide guidance about knitting through the Internet. [They are lucky they are not a print medium or they wouldn't have had the option to seamlessly replace such immoderate statements, only retract them in the public record]. The language in the editorial has now been toned down but rereading it still raises my blood temperature by a few degrees.

Part of the reason I still get so het up about this is that I've gained some valuable knitting information, entirely without obligation, from some online sources: Bonne Marie, Clara (Knitter's Review), Flor, Kim (wiseNeedle), Sarah, and Wendy just to name a few. I own many knitting technique, reference, and pattern books and I can assure you that the information you find in these free, online resources is of the same (and in some cases, a better) caliber as you will find in most commercially published resources. [Of course, you have to take that as the opinion of an online knitting bozo].

I'm not trying to diminish the importance of the editorial review process. Indeed, I'm a member of a profession that relies heavily on evaluation and review to ensure that only the highest quality work is distributed and preserved. However, I also know that this isn't a perfect process; worthy research is occasionally passed over and some real dreck is allowed to pass into the canon.

Ultimately, it's the responsibility of each seeker of knowledge to evaluate both the source and the information provided. Information from a trusted source may still be flawed.

I'm not trying to instruct anyone here. I'm describing my own trial and error experience with a craft I love. I make mistakes and do stupid things. I've been doing that since I started knitting, now you get to have a front row seat to it. [Lucky you]. I'll present my work here the same way I would if I met you at a knitting group in real life?honestly and without any delusions of being an authority. I'm an online knitting bozo. Take my advice and opinions with an open mind. Evaluate them relative to your own experience and to other sources you have access to. Use your intelligence and your creativity the best you can and take pride in the results.

That said...

Alison and Melissa had some questions about yesterday's post. To clarify: I didn't add extra stitches to the steek at the front of the cardigan because I was so excited to start the body that I forgot that had I intended to do so. [Whoops]. I did add extra stitches to the arm steeks (even though the pattern doesn't call for it) because I remembered to and because of the advice I received from a much more experienced knitter who has made a number of PW sweaters and has found it useful to do so. I've never attempted a Dale sweater, but when I do I may add extra steek stitches even if they aren't indicated because it's reassuring to have that extra buffer and additional bulk can always be snipped away.

For Melissa: In every row, the middle stitch is purled with both yarns held together. I tried to take a picture of the inside of the arm steek, but the yarn there is too dark to really see what's going on. Here's a picture of the inside of the steek up the front with all the ends where I change colors. [Wendy showed the inside and outside of her front steek on Friday].

behind the front steek

I'll probably give more information about my Philosopher's Wool experience as I go along, but for now I'll say I'm enjoying the process.

05:21 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 07, 2003

Nascent Steek

Three and a half inches of progress on Kilim since last Thursday?about an inch and a half of that is after the armhole steeks.

The pattern tells you to make an single purl steek stitch on each side of the body at the armhole location. Instead of that, I'm doing a steek more similar to a knitted steek you would find in a traditional Fair Isle sweater. At the armhole locations, I made a stitch and placed it on a coil-less safety pin. On the next round, I cast on three new stitches. I thought about having a greater number of steek stitches, like you might see with smaller weight yarn, but things are already pretty bulky and I'd probably end up trimming most of that away anyway.

I cast on an odd number of stitches because one of the knitting goddesses at K2P2 taught me to purl both strands together at the center steek stitch. Doing this provides a nice little ditch in the middle of the steek that gives you a clear guide of where to cut later. [The Philosopher's Wool directions also tell you to purl the single steek stitch]. If you cast on an even number of steek stitches the little ditch won't be centered in the steek.

Here's a nascent steek. [As usual, the colors aren't very accurate]. Seven and a half more inches and the body will be done.

a steek is born

I'm going to need help when it comes to sewing the steeks (and I really do think that these steeks are going to have to be machine stitched). Lucky for me, there is another knitting goddess from K2P2 who has knit several PW sweaters and has promised to help me when the time comes.

More on my steek (mis)adventures another time.

07:15 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)