Sunday, December 23, 2007

Christmastime Is Here

All right--I have gotten over my Calmer tizzy (that statement is loaded with irony) and I am quite pleased. Seeing the Fiery Bolero finished, tiny as it is, somehow made all the stress, the entire days and late nights spent finishing it, the feeling that my triceps was going to peel itself off the bone in protest of its abuse worthwhile. Debbie Bliss is an amazing designer, and thanks to Theresa Vinson Sternson , I got the ribbed bands picked up so tidily, they look like they grew there. (Her Knitty tutorials are truly incredible.)

No pictures yet, though: it my Christmas fervor, I wrapped it up with the rest of my gifts. Maybe we can do a Christmas morning photo shoot.

Over the years, I have lived out many a gift-knitting saga. At one part, one begins to doubt one's sanity. But I am not alone: Stephanie Pearl McPhee's army of gift socks makes my paltry three gifts look like nothing, and Blue Garter has captured--with photos!--the pride of a gift well-finished. Seeing what they, and many others, go through for the thrill of giving a homemade gift has reassured me. Knitters are givers. What better time to give, to push our skills (or at least our patience), and even to show off, than Christmas?

The tree is up, all my gift knitting is done. I am chock full of holiday cheer. Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Brain Break

I can't take it anymore. I have been home sick all day (thank you, Hermanita), and in an effort to feel useful, I have been working on the Fiery Bolero. As of right now, I could die, be reincarnated, and live out that life without ever seeing a single milligram of Rowan Calmer, and that wouldn't be long enough.

Exegesis: I have substituted the Debbie Bliss Cathay (Big surprise~Debbie Bliss designed the pattern) with Rowan Calmer in Coral.

It's horrible. Torture. High-quality, yes, but ugh--sticky, and stretchy, not at all like worsted *ought* to be. This summer, mi familia y yo happened to be going past Chix with Stix, which is an awesome little store, so of course I had to stop. (Incidentally, I was sick then, too.) I only bought the stuff because I knew I needed a cotton blend that knitted at 22 sts over 4 inches and the ultra-cool, ultra-helpful woman behind the counter suggested it, and I was being rushed.

I did not do any of my homework on this one. I did not check to see what size needle was recommended on the label. That would've set bells ringing. Cathay gets 22 sts over 4 inches on U.S. size 5 needles. Calmer? 21 sts over 4 inches on U.S. size 8 needles. Their site hints at its bizarre texture--in an oblique, all-our-yarn-is-wonderful sort of way--but once I had the yarn in hand, I didn't think to check what the manufacturer had to say about their product. Finally, I didn't even wind the yarn into handmade balls. For big projects, I usually don't. Unless the yarn comes in a skein and must be wound to avoid distressing snarls, I figure that it's not worth the effort. Usually, it's not. In this instance, that first acquaintance with the yarn might have saved me some undue distress and frogging.

Thank goodness I did a gauge swatch. That, at least, told me I had to go up to a size 7 and use metal, not wood. I invested in an Addi Turbo. I'm not really into metal needles--that incessant clicking annoys me and all the rest of mi familia, and this particular circular was ridiculously expensive. But I must say--it is oh so shiny, and the vile Calmer doesn't drag along it like it did on my bamboo needles.

Even still, trying to get gauge is murder. I detest gauge--it has lied to me on many a project. Whenever I can, I say to heck with swatches, jump into the project, and figure it out from there. Because I rarely knit things that have to be just so, this approach works quite well. But this is a sweater, a gift sweater, and a gift sweater that must fit snugly.

All day, I have been closeted in my room, sinuses pulsing (again, thank you Hermanita), knitting. I knitted through 100-odd pages of a new book. I knitted through Fables, Definitely Maybe, a Concretes single, and one of my own mixes.

And I've gained about 4 inches in length.

Oh, the agony!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

I Just Don't Know What to Do With Myself

Like the Burt Bacharach song (but the White Stripes' cover). Back in the throes of the semester, I was sure that when I reached this point, I would feel like walking through the streets of Paris singing We're Here like Fyfe Dangerfield. But that's not the case at all. I've spent the last three days on quotidian tasks: cleaning, organizing, et cetera. It's quite perplexing.

Why don't I cut to something interesting: last weekend. The trip was just what I needed to take my mind off my Spanish final. Somehow, not knowing how to talk about paying import and export taxes in Spanish just doesn't seem that important when you've just discovered you're on the road to Ventura and you're about to be run down by an H3. We got lost to varying degrees every single day we were there, and at one point, I just had to toss Mapquest's directions out the window (figuratively), backtrack to the last Barnes and Noble we'd passed, and get a LA area map.

We learned about one of Mapquest's least enchanting features the night of the Nutcracker: end at. Reading that, it sounds as if, after traveling x miles, one will be beamed up out of his or her car and beamed back down right in front of his or her destination. Ha. In the pitch black, in speedy evening traffic, it took us three tries to get into the theater we were supposed to magically "end at" to see the Nutcracker.

But the show was so worth it. The scenery was awesome, the dancers were incredible, the choreography was stellar. The whole thing was just fun to watch, and I'm not just saying that because Hermanita was in it. Among the most impressive dances were Snowflakes, which is all corps dancing in perfect synchrony with not a spangle out of place, and Arabian. I took just enough ballet to know how hard a slow dance (adagio) is, and this adagio blew my mind. The whole thing was a masterpiece of balance and control.

And what about the sweater? I wore it. In a moment of panic, I envisioned myself freezing to death in a crowd of high-powered stage mothers in nothing but my plaid miniskirt and my beloved but decidedly low-key Tokyo Police Club shirt, and so I dragged the sweater out and finished it the night before we left. It was marvelously warm without being suffocating, and quite adorable if I do say so myself. Here's a picture, taken on my bed because the light in my bedroom is atrocious and all my attempts at photographing myself sans flash with the sweater on blurred.

The specs are as follows:

Pattern: The Fitted Ribbed Turtleneck from Hollywood Knits. Suss has terrific design sense, but a) she is OBSESSED with knitting flat, which is anathema to every knitty principle I hold dear, and b) her instructions are spare, to put it mildly. Check out the bottom of the sleeve on the front cover of the book. That's a tubular cast on, but nowhere in the pattern does it tell you to use a tubular cast on. I would not take exception to this except for the fact that the entire book is marketed as a treasure trove of patterns for *beginning* knitters. I have been at this 9 years now, and if it hadn't been for my last fiasco--I mean sweater--I never would've thought to use tubular cast on. At Monita's urging, I used tubular bind off for the neck, which meant going back four rows to do the setup, but as she pointed out, it makes the whole thing look very finished. My final tweak was to move the raglan shapings in one stitch from each edge so they made a nice line down from the neck.

Yarn: Just under 16 skeins Meunch Goa, as called for in the pattern. It was muy caro and I had to special order it from my LYS, but after the above-mentioned fiasco, I didn't feel quite up to a yarn substitution. The yarn does have an unusual texture, as Suss noted, but I really enjoyed working with it: it wasn't inordinately stretchy, and the pieces worked up incredibly fast.

Needles: I cast on with a straight size 10, then worked the pieces on a size 10 circular. I admit to a Zimmermanian fondness for circulars, but think--between the bulk of the yarn and the width of the pieces, doing this on straights would be quite unwieldy. That, and you would run the risk of disemboweling anyone seated nearby with the ends of your needles.

Seaming: I used mattress stitch, which was a bit bulky. However, it is essentially like doing one of those laceup toys, especially at this gauge, which is about the extent of my sewing capacity, and I didn't have the vim to search for another seam that was both invisible and doable.

Weaving in: DO NOT weave the ends in before you seam. This is another thing that goes against everything I hold dear, but I tried weaving in some ends before seaming, and it was a mess. Grit your teeth, do the seams, and then hide the ends by running them through the seams.

In sum, a fast, functional retro piece that anyone *ought* to be able to whip up in a few weeks, 2 months max. I will be the first to admit that I have a terribly short attention span when it comes to sweaters. I usually get in over my head, and it's so unbearably hot here 8 out of 12 months, I don't have anything to push me along.

Here's to a holiday full of successfully completed projects.

Friday, December 7, 2007

So Close!

And this weekend I'll be far away. Santa Monica, to be exact. I *love* traveling to California. Firstly, it's usually a roadtrip, which gives me hours of scenery watching, knitting--whatever. Secondly, our California trips are usually undertaken at transistional points in the year. At semester's end, they're a celebration of freedom. At semester's start, they're one last hurrah in the Land of Excess before reality hits like a full cement mixer. No matter that this is not officially semester's end--I still have one final after we get back on Monday. But I'll have a nice long ride in which to study verbos y cultura y vocabulario, and...


Previously known as the Fitted Ribbed Turtleneck. But it was knitted for Velma in the live-action Scooby Doo movie, so it really is the Velma sweater. I'm quite excited: that thing has been collecting dust behind my bed for ages, and now I will actually have it off my FO list. There is no doubt about it being finished. We are going to see the Nutcracker one night, and I have nothing else to wear there. If I do not finish it, I do not go, but because I must go, I must finish the sweater. That may not pass for standard logic, but it makes perfect sense to me.

The finish-or-freeze tactic is how I finished my last sweater, too. That was a gray argyle cardigan, my own pattern, that I called the Black Arrow Cardigan. I was very proud of myself: I did all the finishing on a bus, and was didn't have to redo any of it after I got home.

*Sigh* Days like today make me wish I could knit at work. It's gray and wet outside, warm and quiet inside. No people, no fiddly work. The desks are perfect, too: super-high, more counters, really, so I could sit with my knitting hidden discreetly in my lap as I worked and drop it to the side if someone came up with a question. But no. But what would people think if they saw you knitting? That was how I was told "get your needles in your locker." I really, really wanted to ask what people would think if they saw me with my head on the countertop, drooling slightly as I dozed. But I refrained. And so W is for Wendolene who died of ennui

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Rome is Burning

If one is trying to highlight the Roman emporer Nero's insanity, the anecdote about him playing his fiddle while Rome burned is a good one. There are lots of others, but this is the one I remember. It came to mind today in particular. If ancient historians had not left ample evidence that Nero was a bubble off, I would say that he fiddled as Rome burned as a means of not freaking out.

Let me set the stage: I have a take-home Linguistics exam due Tuesday. I have part one of my Spanish final in class on Tuesday. Osteology's final is Thursday, Death and Dying in a Cross-Cultural Perspective on Friday, and next Monday is part two of my Spanish final.

And what have I done today? I cleaned out my knitting bag, unraveled a stash blanket that's been sitting on the needles for over a year, cleaned out my armoire, gathered some items to put in the charity drop bin at the library, dusted my room, and even cleared out some old magazines I haven't touched in ages.

All while the proverbial Rome is up in flames around me. Thank goodness I don't have a fiddle, because I'd probably find an entire symphony that I needed to practice right now.