Saturday, January 26, 2008

Little Things

The minute, the curtailed, the packable seem to be taking over my life.

Lunch fits in a box.

My working memory is about the same capacity as a floppy.

And any knitting larger than a washcloth seems an insurmountable task of Hurculean proportions.

Why? Because it's back-to-school time. Not the rejuvenated-by-summer, won't-this-be-fun, brand-new-clothes fall back to school. The back-to-the-grind, when-will-it-all-end, at-least-it's-not-500-degrees-yet spring back to school.

However, I take the bus to school, and many semesters of experience have taught me that doing homework on the bus is futile until Panic Time. Binders have a tendency to slide onto other riders' laps (or worse, dig into their legs) as the bus swings around a tight corner, and my multitasking skills are not so developed as to allow reading and people-watching all at once.

Knitting would be the perfect solution to this dilemma, and I've got a small project in the pipeline that may perk up the bus ride, make me feel productive, and use up some stash yarn.


SAS made a really elegant version. That was part of my inspiration, but I happened to have some Crayola colored sock yarn in my stash that has been causing me no end of grief every time I turn it up in my rummagings. These two partial skeins have been in there so long, they're starting to stress me out. Do you have yarn like that?

On a more somber note, tonight two pairs of handknit socks bit the dust. They the first two real pairs of socks I knitted, and Hermanita had to steel me to do the deed. I was seriously debating darning up the worn spots on the toe decreases of my absolute favorite pink pair, but then I discovered that the place under the ball of the foot was going, and so was the base of the heel. I keep telling myself there was nothing I could do. *Sigh* Such is the fate of hugely functional items.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Final Installment

Here it is: the long-awaited, much belated final installment in the saga of the skirt.

My unofficial completion date was the day before school started. After my previous post, I realized that I was getting down to the wire; school started the 14th. The knitty powers that be were on my side, though, and I finished side two on the 11th, exactly two weeks since I started. At this distance, both sides appear to match perfectly.

With so much at stake, I actually blocked the pieces before sewing them up, and was rewarded with the illusion of wonderfully even gauge. Sewing up was tedious as expected, but I got through it, and *gasp* I had a skirt.

Had? Past tense? A collective jump, popcorn goes flying-- Yes. I had a skirt. The ribbing stretched to fit past my widest dimension, but it did not, unfortunately, stretch all the way back. I'll be the first to admit it: lack of elasticity was among the crimes leveled against alpaca by the Experienced Knitter.

I had gone this far, I had extra yarn, and I wasn't going to be beat. So I experimented, and came up with this:

A handy dandy extra piece of ribbing. I'm calling the seam (sewn with thread because sewing up with alpaca stresses me out) a Decorative Element. And it holds.

The finished product, sideways because I have forgotten the code for picture tweaking:

This picture was only taken yesterday (Forgive my knees. I know my patellae are wonky, but there's nothing I can do about it.) because I was so afraid to actually assess what I hath wrought. The skirt looked good laid out on my bed, it went on and stayed on, but what would a careful scrutiny reveal?

Even after shuffling through all my photos, viewing them a dozen times to make sure they were all named correctly, I am pleased with the way my skirt looks on. There is definitely a better side, and there's a little bimp at the side marking the Extreme Decrease row, but alpaca has a beautiful drape, and the design is pretty classic.

Emboldened by the results of my photo shoot, I decided to test drive my creation by wearing it to work. Alack. After an evening of trucking about between counters and registers, the hem did creep closer to my wonky knees while the ribbing retreated from natural waist to low rise--slightly. I would like to blame the tights I was wearing below, but I know that it was the not-so-elastic alpaca. I shall need to experiment further.

The curtain falls, the lights fade on. Not a perfect ending, but certainly not as bad as the end of The Lifeboat (If you haven't seen it, spare yourself and watch Foreign Correspondent instead).

I feel that I have proved my point, and the Experienced Knitter can still inform all and sundry that she did warn me about the elasticity.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

More Pleats

Few things are more distressing than trying to get some blogging done in the quiet of early morning and discovering that the Internet is down. Not permanently down: down until the power strip that the router is plugged into gets switched back on. Por desgracia, the router and its power strip are in Hermanita's room, which has a squeaky door, which means I had to sit and wait and knit until I could resurrect our network.

But sitting and knitting isn't such a bad thing. Side two (the piece that was knitted in the correct dimensions the first time) finished without a hitch.

I surprised myself with a moment of perspicacity: measure the ribbing on the first (wrong dimensions) piece--stretched to its greatest horizontal reach--then measure my own greatest horizontal reach and see how the two match up. Yes, this seems elementary. No, I don't know why I hadn't thought of doing such a thing until this project. Good thing I thought of it now: I discovered a shocking discrepancy in the two dimensions (we won't go into exact amounts), and went up a needle size for the ribbing on the second, correctly knitted piece.

That pitfall avoided, it was time to rip into side one. For those of you who have never tried it, sewn bind off takes eons to pick out, and if you discover a need to do so it in black mohair, don't. After the BO, ripping back went quickly, and I was further surprised by how little remorse I felt as I pulled out a solid week of work. The yarn is looking a little frail and bedazzled by all the wear

Luckily, it's knitting up OK. Here's where I am as of this morning:

Handy-dandy sheep gauge/needle measure thrown in for scale. (I love that thing. It is worth every penny, and like all the best knitting tools, can function as a weapon in a pinch. Check out the feet.)

Where is the anticipated conflict? Right here

The use of twice-knit yarn and adjusting the tension of one's hands to the tension of stitched roughly roused from their repose has resulted in a rough gauge. The picture hasn't caught the worst of it, but it's there. I see blocking on my horizon. Bleugh.

Things are looking up. The outlook is quite rosy. If this were a Jonathan Stroud novel, you would read those words with a sinking in the pit of your stomach, knowing that the mere fact that a character has thought that will doom them to tribulation in the following chapters. Despite just having finished Ptolemy's Gate, I still have my sights set on a Jane Austen ending.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Fresh Out of Words

So here are some pictures of Monita in her bolero.

And there you have it, the world's crummiest knitblog entry.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Need More Knitting Time?

Get a stapedectomy. This ingenious operation will leave you flat on your back, with all the normal dexterity in your upper limbs, alert enough to follow an intermediate-level knitting pattern, and has the added bonus of preventing further ossification of the bones in your ear, thereby improving your hearing! The strong of stomach can view step-by-step illustrations here.

Oh--did I mention that you won't be able to move without experiencing extreme dizziness for a solid five days, that you won't be able to hear out of the ear in question for the same amount of time, and that you will consume more Advil in those five days than you did in the past five years? Minor details.

Yes, this is how I have spent my post-Christmas break. I have torn through about four solid books and completed one and a half sides of this:

And still managed to fit in time to be a bit bored.

Every project I embark on has a Story. Empirical evidence gathered from other blogs suggests that this holds true for many knitters. Except Brooklyn Tweed, who seems to just bang out masterpieces, without patterns and without batting an eye, at the speed of light. But I digress. I fell in love with the pattern--Pleated Skirt by Blue Sky Alpaca--first, after seeing an ad in Interweave Knits. It's clean, classic, and knit in one color. I wanted the pattern, I needed the pattern, I had to have the pattern for that skirt. My mania was such that I committed my first act of online shopping to procure it.

Yes, the pattern was simple. The sizing was a bit wonky--cast on the same number of stitches for Extra Small, Small, and Medium, and vary needle size to vary the gauge and therefore the fit. And another factor: there were two lengths. But it was still Quite Simple, and I was still going to knit it.

In my local yarn store, while getting advice on yarn amounts for Velma (this all went down last spring), I showed the pattern to an Experienced Knitter. I had discovered that Blue Sky Alpaca yarn is not sold anywhere nearby, and to put it mildly, I have had some unpleasant experiences with yarn substitutions. This Experienced Knitter was only too happy to offer me advice on yarn substitution, but she took exception to the pattern. First was the way different sizes were achieved, second was the fact that it was a pleated skirt. Some negative attributes were ascribed to alpaca yarn along the way. She seemed to have quite a vendetta against pleats (perhaps a project had once gone awry for her), and did all she could to dissuade me from knitting this pattern without actually crying out "Don't knit this abhorrent object!"

A note: Empowerment and diligence are both good qualities. In moderation. In larger qualities, they are expressed by negatively-shaded adjectives such as headstrong, mule-stubborn, obstinate, refractory, etc. And then there are those horribly self-righteous phrases, "pride comes before a fall", and "I told you so." I mention these things to explain why, after a knitter with honorable intentions, and whose years of experience far outweigh my own, offered me myriad reasons why knitting this skirt was without a doubt a bad idea, I made up my mind that I was going to knit this pattern, and I was going to make it WORK.

I bring this up to give you all ample time to get your popcorn. Nine times out of ten, this plot line ends with a project crashing and burning, and I'm sure the aforementioned Experienced Knitter would like to be on hand for the climax.

I found the yarn called for in the pattern at the same store I got the Calmer (ooh--that could be a sign!), and last Friday, I began. Here's where I currently stand:

Add that with the side photographed beneath the pattern, and you get three quarters of a skirt. However, this is where we reach the first plot wrinkle. The first side is knitted in one length. The second, incomplete side is knitted in another. Pause to ponder the wisdom of choosing your desired final dimensions before embarking on a project.

So the suspense builds. I have completed half a side in the correct measurements without a hitch, I have established that I will have plenty of yarn to finish the project. But--I have to rip side 1 back to the first 2 inches to adjust the length. Will I complete it successfully? What's more, will I complete it with my sanity, or will the curtain fall on a gibbering mess entangled in yards of frazzled, twice-ripped alpaca?

We will return to our presentation after a knit break.