Friday, June 27, 2008


Knitting has taken a turn for the dull here (not for long) so in the meantime, here's a short list of my favorite summer diversions so far:

Lean (Read)
To Kill a Mockingbird topped my list of Books That I Ought to Read list, partially because it won a Pulitzer and partly because I'd seen the movie and couldn't stand the thought that I know half of classic literature via Hollywood. It blew me away. I picked up The Scarlet Pimpernel because I had a vague idea that it involved swashbuckling. As it turned out, it had suspense! intrepid ladies! daring exploits! chapters titled with exclamation points! and, better yet, I didn't have to look up every other word.

Miren (Watch)
In my convalescence, I discovered that watching movies with the sound off and the subtitles on is like the next level of experience of your old favorites. In Corpse Bride, I had never noticed how perfectly the animators were able to capture Johnny Depp in Victor. Minute things, like a turn of his mouth or the angle of his slouch. At one point, it kinda started weirding me out. Spirited Away has always intrigued me because I feel as if I'm watching the tip of an iceberg, and when I turned the subtitles on, I discovered that this feeling was not entirely unwarranted. The subtitle translation is not the same as the script translation. At certain points the difference is very subtle, but in others, there is a complete divergence (and now I get those parts).

Escuchen (Listen)
Everybody do the happy dance, I can listen to my iTunes again. Among the newest additions to my CD collection is The Age of the Understatement, the Last Shadow Puppets' new album. You might recognize one of them as Alex Turner from the Arctic Monkeys. All his clever lyrics are here, tidied up and made subtle to fit the Sixties spy vibe of the album. To my surprise and delight, the album is brilliant to knit to, but with this as your soundtrack, you could just as easily put on your giant sunglasses, turn up the collar to your jacket, and slink around corners.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Knock Me Over With a Feather

Some of you may be wondering whatever happened to the Icarus I kicked up such a ruckus over. It never did get immolated, or reknitted. In the end--my grandmother's birthday being around the corner--I decided to make the best of a bad situation and block the beast.

Thinking of albatrosses as a very fitting metaphor, I washed it, firmly.

I dumped it on the bed and took a dead jellyfish picture.

I blocked it, very firmly.

Taking a panoramic shot, I decided that what I was seeing was achieved only by the fact it was mounted tighter than a kite on five blocking wires and two sets of pins, and that the top edge would immediately collapse back into its Eurofighter outline the instant it was released.

I was wrong.

Guess it's a good thing I decided not to frog it.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Dos Caracoles

(Two Snails)

I have hit my stride with the Norwegian Snail Mittens, and I'm totally obsessed.

I never would've thought I could get this into a pattern involving Fair Isle--the epitome of fiddly knits. But there's something addictive about doing just one more row to see the pattern progress. Then another, and another...

I've even worked out a little system for myself to mitigate tangles:

On the back (snail) chart, I twist over at each color change

& on the palm, I twist under at each color change.

This balances just about every twist with an un-twist. Although you can't see it in the picture, twisting the yarns in the same direction every time on the palm creates an adorable candy-cane stripe that just thrills me to death.

(the palm also looks pretty good on the outside, too)

See that little off-white bow at the top of the inside palm picture? That marks where the thumb will go, and the first pattern hiccup. It had occurred to me the other day to match the mitten schematic up against my own hand's dimensions. I was doing this to check the width of the cuff (as if I would rip that out anyways), but in the process, realized that knitting the thumb in where the pattern directed would leave enough space at the fingertips for not only the traditional pennies, but probably the rest of the contents of my wallet, too.

I agonized over making the change for quite a while--doing it wrong would mean ripping back a lot of mitten--but in the end, my phobia of too-long mittens, like too-long socks, won out, and I moved the thumb up an inch.

Note on colors: they're not that retina-searing in real life. I forgot about picture taking until the sun had started setting, leaving my room dark as a tomb and Hermanita's (where I was photographing) blindingly bright. I'll work on that one...

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Happy Thoughts

I've got my happy thoughts:

1. The new Knitty is up. Yes, it's been up for like a week now. Humor me.

2. I have a cool bag to carry my knitting out and about in. Technically, it hasn't been out and about yet, but it will be. Right now, I'm using it to keep my current projects all in one place so I don't have to go digging around in my invalid state. It was a happy-birthday-to-me gift, which normally I don't do, but we were at a local museum gift store (I love museum gift stores), and it's exactly what I've been looking for without realizing it for months now.
Specs: Vy&Elle Kit bag.
Big enough to carry 2 small projects (in this case, mittens and a square) and an extra skein of yarn, but
Small enough to fit in a backpack or tote bag so your binder doesn't eat your knitting.

3. The mittens are going better. I won't rush out and say terrific, but better. Hermanita took a picture for me:

(Of course, immediately after that picture was taken, I finished the final tuck.)

If nothing else, I really like my color scheme. I'm using the Dalegarn the pattern was designed for (good omen?). The gray and black are leftovers from my all-time favorite sweater (the one I could not get finished until it was the only sweater I had with me in freezing wet Michoacan), and you saw the red just the other day. Week. Whatever.

Tell me I've been brainwashed by the White Stripes, and I will not contradict you. It's a good color combo. Doing the first tuck in black definitely does not rank among the Most Brilliant Ideas of All Time, but as evidenced above, it's doable.

4. All of Blogland has turned out in full force to entertain me. I was closeted at home on WWKIP day, which totally bummed me out. I would've been inconsolable, however, if it hadn't been hotter than the dickens outside (we are now living Dante's Inferno), or if I had lived in Toronto, where SPM (who else?) organized a WWKIP/birthday extravaganza. But since everyone assures me that being outside is absolutely brutal, and I don't live in Toronto, I can enjoy reading about everyone's exploits.

Not a bad list for being two days out of a funk. Now cross your fingers and hope I can keep my momentum.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

In a Funk

And not the dance floor kind.

This entry began as a bit of a mind dump, and more than a little bit of a downer, so I'm going to condense and hopefully not bring everyone down with my bad karma.

1. The Internet, I've discovered, is like an illustrated supplemental index. In addition to Adrian's entry about her Snail Mitten pattern, searching "Norwegian Snail Mittens" on Flikr turns up a bunch of cool pictures. I am always intrigued by other knitters' colorway choices...

2. Speaking of which, the mittens did not develop into the all-consuming, can't-put-'em-down-till-they're-done project I expected. Mitten #1 is just over an inch long. This has a little bit to do with my gauge issues (on all levels), a little bit to do with the fact that this is a thinking pattern, and a little bit to do with the fact that sitting up for too long wears me out.

3. Normally, I would solve this funk by a. riding it out with Kharma Police or Plans, b. cranking the Pumpkins, or c. perking things up with Mr. Pitiful, but none of those is an option right now. I haven't listened to a single song since last Wednesday, people, not a single thirty-second morsel, and I'm in withdrawal!

That, in sum, is where I'm at right now. All you Shiny Happy People go listen to Mr. Pitiful, and I'll work on collecting positive thoughts for my next entry.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Puzzle Conundrum Enigma

The GRE is over (everybody laud the heavens), I am in bed recuperating from ear surgery (see item two on this post), and I am faced with a new conundrum.

What do I do with all this time?

My convalescence is not such that I am in a continual haze. I'm awake most of the day, coherent, and able to do as much math as normal (add, subtract, multiply, divide)--I just can't move.

In the past three days, I have torn through three and a half books, lost numerous games of solitaire (Ok, so maybe I'm not that on it), and polished off a couple stashy projectlets.

Here's the conundrum: do I keep tossing off mini-projects left and right, reading as I go, or do I dig in to one really big project that will occupy most of my waking hours for the next two weeks?

(that would be the snail mittens)

On one hand, I've gotten used to candy bar projects: quick, simple, with near-instant but short-lived gratification afterwards.

Occupying the other hand are the German chocolate cake projects: slow, complex, with delayed but relatively long-lasting gratification. (Note on German chocolate cakes: I really like the recipe in this book, but be prepared to spend a solid four hours in the kitchen and to dirty every bowl and kitchen utensil you own)

*Long pause of deliberation*

German chocolate wins out. Of my unreasonable fears, I think fear of being bored tops the list. With three colors, charts, welts, and little snails, I don't think boredom is a possibility on this project. Gauge swatch first (I learned my lesson on the Icarus), and then, into the labyrinth of Fair Isle.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Seeing Red

This weekend was a somewhat rocky one in project-dom. I attribute the trouble to my setting out to complete things. Why else would not one but two projects--in as many days--conspire against me?

First there was a recycled t-shirt project that I've been working on, literally, for months. It began as a little seam-sewing exercise and almost immediately transformed into a battle of wills between the sewing machine and me. The thread got stuck. I unstuck it and rethreaded the needle. The feeder ate the fabric. I tugged that out. The thread contrived to jam itself under the bobbin housing. I pulled everything out and started over.

And then the machine began to work a stretch stitch. Spontaneously. I don't know how it did that--I didn't even know this machine had a stretch stitch on it--but I couldn't get it to stop. End t-shirt project.

(Adding insult to injury is the fact that I was not outwitted by a professional-grade machine, or one with a redoubtable name like Husqvarna. It was an Elna Funstyler.)

Moving on, I thought I could make progress on some spinning.

This post on Brooklyntweed's blog had inspired me to give spinning another try. I had some red wool fiber from a Christmas felting project (note the unusual hue of red) in my stash, and so I started drafting.

That was the easy part. Spinning was something akin to pulling teeth. The yarn came out thicker than I've ever been able to spin, which is something, but it was completely unbalanced and flagrantly thick and thin. I'm sure there are myriad things that I did wrong, but I would like to note that the fiber was very low-grade fiber.

The project I had the most success with was the one I didn't actually start.

I received Clara Parkes' Book of Yarn for my birthday, and decided that snail mittens in gray and red (with black accents) were a must, particularly because it won't be cold enough to wear them for another 6 months at least, giving me plenty of time to circumnavigate the impediments that seem to be inherent in all my recent projects.