Thursday, January 31, 2008

Pentagon, Schmentagon

Screw pentagons, I'm in the mood for entrelac.
Now to pick the rest of the yarns.  Some are nice:
But some are naughty. Blue, I keep finding blue, what was I thinking - I really don't like blue and I most certainly don't like those blues. Smokey blues, ok. Turquoisey blues, on occasion, but not these almost-primary blues. Not to mention the My Little Pony variegateds, but that wasn't my fault: I went to a dye day at my friend's guild in Indiana, and the person in charge of buying dyes went with magenta, turquoise and violet. A bit of yellow (cool, naturally) which ran out very quickly as everyone tried to get more earthy; no black, no warm red, no warm yellow, so we all ended up with Easter Egg Barbie Barf.
I know about inducements to good behaviour - I can be quite persuasive:
And then those naughty yarns get to join the nice pile.  There's nothing like a bit of scarlet, red and gold to get them to behave well enough to join the party.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Purple Rain

Nubby purple kitchen sink blend on the bobbin:
Purple wool and silk next in line:
Purple wool, silk, cashmere and whatnot last in line:

Yup, the next whingefest has begun.

Acid Rain

Yes, my yarn did so enjoy its overnight warm acid bath. The water was clear in the morning, and the pesky excess navy dye did excellent magic for me: it blended and muted the multitudinous colours into an interesting, complex whole that's not too overwhelming. Screams multidirectional knitting, if you ask me. Plying's quite pretty too, even if I do say so myself.

Lest you wonder, this is by no means the first skein of this size and grist that I have plied; it is merely the first time I've actually bothered to pay attention to just how long it took, and it was certainly surprising to me. 

Next time someone looks disdainfully at my socks or sweater in progress and asks how long they take, I still won't have an answer beyond "it depends", but if ever again I do a spinning demo and happen to have a twelve-ounce three-ply sportweight-to-dk-weight merino skein on hand as a sample, I'll be able to tell them that the plying took about seven hours.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Blue Mooooooon

I thought I'd be smart, so I found Season One of Prime Suspect but it still took about three and a half episodes to finish plying this big mamoo. I got a bit sloppy the last few yards as you can see. And I still treadled slowly, except when I remembered to speed up.
The yarn isn't done yet, but it looks pretty good unwashed all the same:
Aren't the colours fabulous? I don't have a washed and finished picture, because of my hands (they ought to be closer in colour to my leg):

which are a bit blue, so I'm thinking this yarn will do well in a nice warm acidic overnight bath.

I still have episodes 6 through 9 of Grey's Anatomy to watch (knitting being a more suitable accompaniment), and I did the pathetic loser thing: I requested seasons two and three through inter-library loan, but seriously, I can't be as pathetic as all that, as I'm number 22 on the list.

And what's more, I have most of an awesome top-down knitted-in sleeve cap in progress, which I'll photograph another day.

Just Get Me a Thriller Next Time

Apparently, I'm able to pass myself off as relatively uninconvenienced in the realm of the intellect, but next time, I need to pay a little more attention to the way I do things, specifically to my usual treadling speed.

So, my three lovely colourful bobbins which will become lovely yarn (pay attention and admire, as this is the best picture this blog entry):
It seemed that my daughter's favourite Hanukah 2006 present was Season One of Grey's Anatomy, bits and pieces of which I have occasionally watched in the interests of companionship and bonding with one's offspring, but we're talking a matter of minutes total, so in my weakened state, happy with the world, enjoying my creative mojo again, it seemed that Disc One (Episodes 1-5) would be more than sufficient to three-ply around twelve ounces of what currently looks like it's fingering weight, but after some severe abuse may end up close to dk weight.

You'd think.

But you've never seen me spin, have you?

They all laugh at me, my spinning friends, because my preferred whorl on my Schacht is the stupidly high speed one, or the ridiculously high speed or whatever it's called, ultra, super-duper, exceptional, something like that, because I treadle as though I'm about to pass out. To be sure, my favourite spinning is fairly fine yarn, so I do need a faster whorl but still, I treadle like a B movie actor walking in fake outer space.

And oh yeah, I'm plying this on my Lendrum, the one with the humungo plying head that rotates at parity with the drive wheel, even on the smallest whorl, or so it seems. Witness FIVE FULL EPISODES of Grey's Anatomy, a charming, fluffy, sweet show. Not All Plied. Not Even Close. Bobbins Barely Emptied.
I took a break to eat what used to be in here, because my strength was flagging (this was the last of the food we brought back from Oz in July. The Crunchies went really quickly):
And still, FIVE EPISODES LATER, I might be about halfway through. In my defence, it's very pretty yarn, though I can't figure out how to get the flash to cooperate.

The overall colour is pretty true, and I will eventually take a picture which proves I'm right, that those bobbins are perfect for each other, and luckily there are still four more episodes of season one, by which time I'd better be finished, and by which time I'll probably be addicted to the show, resulting in my issuing pathetic inter-library loan requests for Seasons Subsequent, however many there may be.

But I'll tell you this: I'll KNIT through the rest of Grey's Anatomy, and next time I decide to ply this much, this fine, I'm renting all the Halloween movies or something else that'll scare the crap out of me and make me treadle as though whatshisface is actually after me and not Jamie Lee Curtis.

Sunday, January 27, 2008


My usual wintertime wake-up is strong coffee (current favourite beans: Safari Blend from Trader Joe's), hot from the French press, but today, bursting with a lightness of spirit evocative of warmer weather, I decided to indulge in my other caffeine bliss.

1.  The little metal thingie - $1.25
2. Cafe du Monde, 3 heaping teaspoons
3.  Almost an inch of sweetened condensed milk - I like Longevity brand, the one with black and white cows on the front, because it's super-smooth and never gritty.
4. Hot water in the metal thingie. I do it twice for maximum whatever.
Stir well, ensuring that all the condensed milk is incorporated. Scrape the bottom!
Lots of ice.

Mmmmm. Priceless!

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Willpower Isn't The Problem

It's won't-power, as in "I won't start another project". Hah!

It's not as though I haven't been a good little multi-tasker and made all sorts of progress - I have! I'm almost at the shoulders on my cardigan, 
and more than halfway to the centre front knot on the pullover - and I'm so loving the yarn.  It's all I want in a wool yarn: soft, spongey, lofty and knits up evenly. 

Actually, I rather like the pattern too, as I think it's fairly forgiving. (Confession time: I didn't swatch. I guessed. This is not uncommon for me). If my gauge were too small, I could easily add a border along the bottom for length and extend the vee neck, making it deeper, to ensure that the cable/knot which lies front and centre is positioned correctly. Since the width is controlled by working outwards toward the side seams, that's easily adjustable too. Obviously a hugely large gauge is rather more limiting, but from the photos, this is intended to be a fairly loose sweater, and anyway if I had serious gauge doubts, I might have swatched. Probably would have. Perhaps.

The thing is, I'm tired of cables and I need colour.  Yes, I know, the sludge thing and all, but sludge absolutely does not imply either absence or singularity of colour, it merely indicates the type of colours I like. Sometimes you just need lots of them. This I learned from Deb Menz: there's no such thing as too much colour. She's right, you know.

You certainly can't have too much colour in a single yarn. More is definitely better, and right now, I'm going to go into the Madame Futura business: I predict that these bobbins, when plied, will make a yarn that I will want to knit with, and you might too.  Want to knit with. (Yes, I dangled both of them on purpose).
Here's my thinking.  The two complete bobbins were spun from pencil rovings dyed by Judy Jackson. In the skein (pencil rovings often come in skeins, hanks, or whatever you prefer to call those twisty things), they both looked murky, edgy-cool with a bit of fire. The first turned out rather bluer than I'd expected, less purple (the purple was on my hands. For a day or two. I don't believe it's a Bad Permanent Crocking Issue so much as an over-saturation issue that will resolve when I finish - i.e. wash - the yarn). The second turned out to have more white on the bobbin than I'd have guessed, or desired, come to that. Also orange, which paled in the spinning, and greenish, ditto.

So given a bobbin with lots of white and a bobbin with lots of dark, the perfect bridge will have some colour, not too saturated, not too pale, containing at least some colours from each of the two existing bobbins and a few extra for interest, right? What on earth possessed me to buy merino roving dyed easter egg colours (as usual I'm suffering from Poor Photography, so what you see as blue is in fact lavender, and the orange is more, as is the green. More orange, more green, respectively), I'll never know, but I'm glad I did and am betting on my imagined excellent colour sense that this will work. Of course, if it doesn't, there's no defeat of any sort because I Can Always Dye.

Anyway, back to my weakness. The latest weakness.

A swirly pentagon. Soon I'll have five more. Then I'll knit on a collar that is higher in the back than in the front, and then I'll start working ziggy-zaggy in the round, increasing at an appropriate tempo until I reach a suitable armhole depth, at which point body and sleeves will go their separate ways. I will probably not even shoot for any sort of colour congruity after The Great Divide, because I'm aiming for, quite frankly, a mess of colour. If I'm in the mood (read "bored") I may insert some squares in the zig-zags. It'll be fun.

In reality, I'm going to rip this one out because the yarn around the outer edge is a tad too thick and crocks badly (I should only ever indigo dye with professionals, no matter how much fun I think I'm having with with my friends), and I want to do something more organic with the colour striping. And I haven't blocked and measured but it might be too big. It's my swatch, dammit!

At this point I should say that my delusions of grandeur extend to multiple self-styled titles of royalty: I'm also The Queen Of Small Amounts. I'd rather sample than rule out or make large commitments, so I'm perfectly happy buying single ounces of fiber. Sometimes three oddies might conjoin to become a 3-ply yarn, but I have no problem ending up with one-ounce balls of yarn either. I also hate to waste all the yummy samples from SOAR workshops, which (if they're really tiny and in unspun format) I might combine on the carder, or else just find a use for those few odd yards of silk boucle or navajo-plied soy silk or Judith's Very Own buffalo or that nasty ingeo by which I will NEVER EVER be tempted again. For example.

What this means is that I have a goodly selection of small amounts of coordinating yarns that will get thrown into the mix randomly, leading to the above-mentioned mess of colour.

Unless I change my mind or get distracted, of course.

Don't laugh.


Well, a tempered imperative, anyway.

If you like dance, and even if like me you feel that your heart will forever and exclusively belong to classical ballet, even as your steadfastness is tugged by such dance companies as Pilobolus, if ever you have the opportunity to see the Tania Pérez-Salas Compañia de Danza, then without pausing for breath, buy the best tickets you can afford, and prepare for an otherworldly experience which will captivate you utterly.


Other people think so too:

And more, so you don't have to take my word for it.

If seeing this performance had meant another week of lying face-down to avoid back pain, it would have been worth it.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Oh Yes I Did

I went and started the Architectural Rib pullover, with some short-row shaping to compensate for the front dip, and a cable up the centre six-stitch panel, and after only a few inches (two episodes of Chuck and an old Law & Order - but Matthew Modine is so worth watching twice: I think he's sexy even as a serial killer and I don't say that about too many people, even though what I find attractive has been known to lie a bit on the outskirts of the mainstream bell curve) I'm delighted with my progress and my yarn choice.
By the way, I only ever knit while I'm doing something else. I think I'd go insane with boredom if I didn't multitask, unless perhaps I was making little leaves like this crazy Canadian I met at SOAR. TV works well, as I don't LWK (look while knitting), but as mentioned previously, good radio will do too. I once knitted on socks at the movies. I didn't knit in labour. Either time. I have knitted in the dentist's chair.

I think I mentioned that the yarn is handspun: two plies Beast, one ply Something With Colour. I say "Beast" as though it's as well-known as say Red Heart, which it used to be among spinners some years back. 
Brown Sheep brilliantly found a use for the stuff that remained in the various carding drums or fell onto the floor or somehow didn't get to make it into actual yarn, and would sell this waste, in a somewhat unstructured but carded form to spinners. Some of it might actually be roving, some clouds, and it was mostly medium-fine wools of the Corriedale ilk in shades of grey, with varying (where "varying" runs the gamut from "none" to "some") amounts of mohair and occasionally silk. Great for new spinners as it was easy to spin, most batches were soft enough for next-to-the-skin wear (some were not. I have one very scratchy sweater), and of course, being a somewhat variegated grey, dyed up beautifully. And oh yes, everyone on eBay was selling it for cheap back in the 90s.

I believe Brown Sheep updated their carding equipment and Beast became rare, if not extinct. I think I still have a pound or so left.

I made a gansey out of singles for an ex (I want it back; he's not worthy) and what I refer to as my Garbage Sweater (for good reason; I'll describe it another time) using a darker batch, and then there's this dk-weight 3-ply on which I did a really nice job, even if I do say so myself. It knits up beautifully, and the coloured ply gives a lovely subtle hint of colour, but not too much - after all, I am the (admittedly self-styled) Queen of Sludge.

When I say "sludge" what I really mean is that class of colours that may not be readily describable. They're certainly not primary colours, not even true secondaries, and they lie in odd corners of the colour wheel that defy description, or at least incite disagreement. In yarn these colours are generally not entirely solid, but when examined closely may reveal a myriad of surprising range (think Seurat and Pointillism), and in beads have some element of multi-layering, iridescence, oil-slick, or some equally complex finish. At first blush, or from afar, my favoured colours may even read as grey, but as you close in, more is revealed.

I'm not sure I should call myself the Queen of Sludge, as I'm probably more a Slave to Sludge really, or part of the Borg of Sludge, as I just can't resist, but I'm not getting Queendom anywhere else, so Sludge is where I'll stake my claim. I'll share the title if need be, so fellow sludge aficionados, please don't get all hissy-fit on me.

And to see why I wasn't all that upset when I had to start again on the mauveish cardigan, I've made great progress (not quite caught up, but I like v2.0 much better than v1.0):

(Excuse the background; it's outdoor furniture, and even so, not big enough. We have no snow and the grass is sad, but at least the contrast isn't horrible).

So as I'd decided, I replaced the 3x3 rib over oodles of stitches by a 3x3 garter rib over the same number of body stitches for an analogous bit of vertical interest, and carried the theme into the scarf section, replacing reverse stocking stitch columns with garter stitch. I also shaped the main scarf section by short-rowing to start, as I didn't like the way the cable drew up and distorted vertically. (Sorry, the left-side scarf section is hidden underneath the right side). The body is also somewhat longer than the original plan (cropped isn't utterly flattering when you're on the short-waisted side) and the scarf sections aren't as proportionally long either. As you can see, I'm also knitting all the pieces as one; it's what I do unless there's no alternative. My scarf shaping is also more extreme, as my decrease rate on v1.0 was too slow and I was going to run into difficulties around the neck. Here I'll reach parity sometime mid-armhole, resulting in a flattering neck opening, I hope.

I'm also noodling on closure ideas along the lines of shawl pins, but I'm undecided. What I do is beadwork, but it's awfully snaggy around yarn, and besides, some amount of metalwork absolutely can't be avoided if you're set on the word "pin". You can't exactly poke with beads. I might have some PMC hiding somewhere (with the Lack Of Job and concomitant Austerity Measures, purchasing same is out of the question), but I'm not certain that the blowtorch method would be suitable for a piece of the necessary size I don't have [free] access to a suitable kiln), hence the word "noodling" as opposed to "planning", "sketching", "implementing" or any other word similarly implying actual intent. To tell the truth, it might look a bit odd pinned closed, but that's all future speculation anyway.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Something More

I was working on this when I got distracted by kumihimo, and then my back crapped out so I didn't take a picture, but I'm rather pleased with the outcome.
I didn't have a big enough white background, hence the sadly-distracting wood-grain of my TV tray table originally purchased for lampwork when I was in an apartment without a workshop and needed to be able to stash the work area when not in use, now repurposed as photography surface, though usually covered in white cardstock, which in this case wasn't quite big enough.

Gorgeous dichroic cabochon by Jeanine Glaves, a quiet genius (she's quiet about her brilliance, to be more precise and less misleading, as she does decidedly not disappear in a crowd. Few spinners do) who gave this to me in exchange for a beaded bead. The other cabochon from the exchange is even better.

This is one of those pieces I totally owned in the making: had to make it, had to work on it, had the vision, was compelled to execute, but now that it's done, I'd part with it in a heartbeat (for the right price). I didn't know that when I started it, because most of what I make for the sake of making (i.e. because I'm driven to do so) is for me, but that's OK.  Happens occasionally, like here:
Ask Amy, I always want to make floral stuff, and she laughs and laughs, but she's right: I'm just not a floral kinda girl. It's pretty, the colours pop (in a good way) and blend, it sits nicely around the neck, but on ME? Probably not.

Some Unoriginality

So, flat on my back (which is a whole lot better than it was, which is to say "I Can Do Stuff Without Focusing On Pain"), almost done with Morning Edition online (I love NPR, and I love that I can listen to their programs at my leisure), I decided to give in to my desire for a 50% WIP increase and start on Norah Gaughan's Architectural Rib Pullover, because as it happens, I have some well-aged handspun in the stash, originally scheduled for a cardigan requiring gobs and gobs more than I have, and in which of course I lost spinning interest some time ago, so it sits in the stash. It's older than any romantic entanglement I've maintained, but younger than my teenager who will legally be able to drive later this year. Almost 600g worth of 2 plies Beast/1 ply handpainted silk, each of the three humungo skeins using a different silk ply. I like big skeins of handspun, I do. And I'm shooting for the 50% increase because (duh) I like the design because I love the way this woman's knitting mind works and because if I want to be Norah Gaughan when I grow up (even though I suspect we're not that far apart in age, in fact who knows? She might even be younger than me, though I don't think so) I'm going to have to work with a lot of her designs, and so far it's way in the single digits, so I have a ways to go.

Anyway, I thought I'd look around to see if I could find any bloggers who'd actually made it, in part because the neck is sort of wrong and ugly and besides I won't wear turtlenecks, and the most details I could find were here, but of course the story has no end and I can't tell just what went wrong exactly, but I'm not discouraged. I have two alteration plans, because I can't resist messing with a good thing; it's what I do (except when baking, as I don't have perfect pitch when it come to messing with proportions of fats, raising agents and the like):

(1) Short-row the bottom edge to avoid the dip in the middle of the hem. I'm all for creative hem shaping (one, hmm, no TWO of my favourite sweaters have zig-zag hems formed by garter stitch triangles), but I've been less than satisfied with sweaters with interesting travelling ribs that distort the hemline in arbitrary (and by that I mean "for no good design reason which in some way flatters") ways, such as this in which the model's hands disguise the fact that the hemline dips up foolishly.  I could have compensated with short-rows if I'd have thought it through OR SEEN A PICTURE BEFORE, but I didn't, and am instead left with an otherwise flattering tank in a yummy coral cotton-silk yarn that has saddlebags over my hips. Which naturally don't need them.

(2) Get rid of that crumpled turtleneck.  From the schematics and descriptions, it seems that the front neck opening actually does form a vee, but from the directions for the side sections which are knitted hem-to-hem over the shoulder, nothing is done to maintain the lateral spread, hence the wrinkles in the turtleneck. Perhaps. I'm pretty sure this means (and what else is new?) a protracted bout or two of what I really ought to call knitting experimentation or creative swatching or learning by doing or something that makes it appear that this is more than incompletely and only shallowly conceived plans, but hey, to quote someone more famous than I, I yam what I yam. 

And I do love yams, especially roasted with the skins on, but really any way, except with marshmallows and maple syrup. Here's something quite good: cook up a few yams and about half as many granny smith apples. Puree them with butter, some sort of heavy dairy liquid (the original recipe called for evaporated milk, but I bet cream or half-and-half would be great too) and salt and white pepper to taste. Nutmeg would not go amiss. Or alternate layers of sliced sweet potatoes and sliced turnips, adding the usual butter, cream and parmigiano, baked covered until cooked through, and then browned for yumminess.

(Sometimes I just have to indulge in my love for word association football. Now is such a time).

Although I've been trying to maintain my horizontalness for healing purposes, and although being vertical while standing or walking doesn't appear to exacerbate that nasty bulging disk in my back much, I might chance it to photograph the yarn of my plans (and I'm serious in my plan, as I've already wound one skein into its ball), but no promises. I will edit this later if so (or not. No rules against two same-day entries, is there?), but I had a screw-up which initially resulted in an empty entry which I can't abide and which I am attempting to rectify in a timely manner, except that for some reason I have verbal diarrhoea which means it's taking longer than it should.

[Edited later: see? I added the picture after all. The wound ball's extra ply is a Lambspun wool/silk blend, the extra ply in the front skein may actually be rayon, and the skein with the nasty blue acrylic tie is the only Truth In Advertising skein with an extra ply of handpainted tussah - with the extra extra (yes, I do mean to have two "extra"s) navajo-plied after I ran out of Beast.  But the plan here was to use handpainted silk as all the extra plies, only there were no extra skeins].

So the reason for the title of this entry was a mini-vacation at The Knitting Curmudgeon, another person I might like to grow up to be in terms of attitude, though it won't be as long of a journey as being Norah since I'm pretty much there anyway, just a little more circumspect in public, but I really wanted to quote her, apropos of absolutely nothing except the fact that I agree:

I hate the cult of "crone," by the way. That's even stupider than the Red Hat nonsense. 

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Just Barely Alive

OK, so I'm being dramatic, but that's a mangled quote from one of my favourite authors ever. Here's a hint, the complete line is "When I was five I was barely alive". Personally, I'm hoping to get to six sometime soon, as that seems quite idyllic.

My other favourite author originating from the same time of my life and enduring equally faithfully is Lewis Carroll.

Monday all I could tolerate was lying face-down; every other modality hurt. Being vertical long enough to drink a cup of coffee (I like it piping hot, but I may have a layer of asbestos in my mouth, which might be a clue to approximately how much time I'm talking about) made my back spasm such that any bendiness at the hips was excruciating. I had to waddle/shuffle as though I had an extra 30-40 years and some ungodly number of extra pounds. Not pretty, especially with the tight-lipped grimaces at which I have become so adept. Most likely not my best look.

Eventually, I got the goods, by which I mean more and heavier drugs and now I can locomote without [much] pain, sit in a chair for long enough to eat a leisurely meal, and lie on my back while I knit to This American Life. The steroids (no, not that kind, there are absolutely no competitive endeavours which would incite me to that) give me insomnia while the muscle relaxants make me drowsy enough to nap during the day, which I guess does ensure a modicum of rest.

Today I made a couple of batts on my baby. I love this toy almost better than all others. Not sure I could actually sit comfortably and long enough spin them just yet, but I'm knitting and making progress: less than an inch from the armholes on the cardigan v2.0, but now progress must be delayed, as I discovered that I was one stitch off over about 10"on the very last row of my 3x3 ribbing 7" ago. Luckily it's 3x3 rather than 2x2: 1/3 fewer stitches to ladder down and ladder up, and luckily it's all stocking stitch, so the re-laddering is faster and easier. I like to tell myself that this business of continually having to fix my blunders is probably good for whatever passes for my soul (or facsimile thereof, not having anything but skepticism for the notion of a soul, but it's a convenient and widely-understood metaphor), but the truth is, it's a bit annoying all the same.

I didn't have any backtracking whatsoever with this sweater at all
which is a strong and clear message that I should completely and totally ignore designs which are not absolutely 100% my own, or else follow other people's patterns to the letter and use the recommended yarn. I think I did that once, back in high school, except as it turned out, there was an error in the pattern, so one of the stripes was the wrong width.  And oh yeah, I chose to make a crew neck instead of a cowl, but I think I did actually use the specified yarn, Patons Kismet, now sadly discontinued lo these many decades (at least two) so it can be done by me. Sort of.

Onward anyhow though, a little chastened, albeit temporarily.

I'm in love with knitting and spinning all over again, have been since the last SOAR. Don't get me wrong, I'm jazzed after every SOAR, but since I started beading obsessively, the fiber high would subside to take a back seat to beading, but this hasn't really happened this time. Every sweater I see causes me to plan wildly and furiously, emptying various stash tubs over the floor, dividing yarns suitable for the latest brilliant idea into their own piles, seeing other groupings of yarn which suddenly and obviously require their very own dose of my obsession and so get piles too.

I go back to one of the current projects (numbering two. I'm fighting against a 50% increase) and then after a while, depending on the resilience of the special yarn piles, either put them into their own super-large ziploc with a sketch, or tumble them back into their stash bin along with the other contenders who didn't even place this round.

I love it, I really do.

So what am I to make of this: someone whom I know somewhat, but not extremely well, on being informed by me that I don't care for games, not card games, not board games, no games, immediately chuckled and said "You don't like to lose, do you?"  Of course that's true. Another truth is that I'm not only a poor loser, but a really obnoxious gloating-type winner unless I exercise extreme self-control. The biggest truth is that I don't care who takes over the world, gets closest to 21 points, uses up their letters first, or hits the stupid ball over the stupid net. I just don't see the point of it all. Still, the losing thing was somewhat insightful all the same, as I foolishly imagined I had some mystery. Well, perhaps I do, but not that mystery.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

I'm Not Dead Yet

About thirteen years ago, in excruciating agony (isn't all agony excruciating?) an MRI diagnosed a herniated disk. I was on bed-rest for a week (one morning was really fun when I couldn't support my weight when I tried to get out of bed), and since then I baby myself when I feel twinges, and I'm generally not too inconvenienced, certainly not enough to have the surgery, which anecdotally as well as statistically is of dubious benefit.

Eight days ago we had glorious weather and I persuaded myself to do some yardwork which I'd somehow glossed over in the fall, clearing leaves from the beds, cutting back dead stuff. After squatting and reaching for an hour or so, I couldn't quite straighten. Yup, my friend, L3-L4. I tried to tough it out (and by that I mean "keep horizontal and not exert myself") but when I awoke in pain, unable to get comfortable enough to sleep, I called in the big guns (and by that I mean "saw the doctor who gave me drugs"). Sadly, the firepower has had only limited efficacy. The pain status has been downgraded from "crippling" to "debilitating".

So if I sit for more than a few minutes I hurt (and I must love you to be sitting here and typing for more than a few minutes). I can stand and cook, and I've done some superb cooking while in this state. Rogan Josh, typically made with lamb, is wonderful with venison. I have a friend who gave me a quarter of a deer. Yes, dead. Yes, dressed. Although I'm not a huge meat-eater, I do enjoy venison, which has the benefits of beef (iron) without the disadvantages (fat and - depending on source - hormones).

What I do instead of sitting and spinning or sitting and knitting or sitting and beading (not to mention sitting and getting my resume in order and considering the future direction of my work life) is lie down and read a book (science fiction, thanks for asking) or play Sudoku or Descender (a tetris variant) and bitch about how bored I am. 

What I'm trying to tell you is that I have nothing to tell you, no progress reports on the sweater that got ripped and is being reknitted (yeah, now which sweater is that??), no photos of brilliant beadwork occasioned by my copious free time, nothing at all, but I'm not dead yet.
But I can dig up something from my personal archives for you.
I bought this agate slice at Paddy's Markets in Sydney on my first visit.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Dirty Pictures

If I were not such a confident knitter, this picture:
would mean that I was ready to shape the shoulders, then join them, complete the neckband and start on the sleeves, trying to knit as fast as I could so that I finished the sleeves before the yarn ran out. 

Unfortunately I'm so self-assured in terms of my knitting that there are times when my planning is based more on boundless optimism than on anything useful such as actual gauge and measurements and stitch counts, which is all very well when I'm doing something modular or measure-as-you-go, but I get into trouble when I'm actually trying to duplicate a design and instead the only next step is this:

Sad but true.  

This is what those with a more puritanical bent than I might rightly call "yarn pornography". An uncomfortable picture. Shameful. No one should have to see this sort of filth, let alone pose for the pictures.

Of course this means that I can tweak the design to make it work better for me and my yarn.

I did learn that this handspun wool-silk blend knits up really nicely and that my dye job was pretty decent, although it's a bit, um, twiggy.  Lots of stuff no doubt fell out during processing, more fell out as I spun, and I'm having to pick out bits as I knit too. No matter, a small price.

The pattern instructions have you knit a longish 3x3 ribbed section for the body on the usual smaller needles, and then decrease radically (about 1/4 to 1/3 of the stitches) before starting on the stocking stitch section.  The reason for this must be that the ribbed section is a stylistic rather than a functional choice: it's not supposed to affect the shaping of the garment at all.   This is all very well and good, but it uses up a boatload of yarn which I can ill-afford.

My solution? Work a garter rib or a moss rib over the after-decreasing number of stitches for the same effect but more efficient yarn use.  I can carry this design element over to the cabled section as well, which has the additional benefit of avoiding the unevenness in the purl sections often emphasized by cables.

It's not as though I had absolutely no plan when I started (unlike my friend Pnina the techno-peasant from college days who decided to knit a dress and didn't count or even consider stitch counts or gauges but just cast on willy-nilly.  She appeared to have serious overcrowding issues on the needles, so I persuaded her to measure the width of her dress.  It was about the size of a luxurious bathroom with whirlpool bath and separate shower for two.  She was a size 4 perhaps) - after all, I did calculate widths and stitch counts, but did not seriously think about rates of decrease. With things like sleeves and body shaping, you often don't have to adjust the rates, as the rate of decrease (say every six rows) tends to give the same shape at different gauges - you just do more of the decreases or increases with thinner yarn than with thicker yarn, but 1:6 is the same ratio no matter the units.  

This principle didn't work so well here, especially since I gaily started increasing later than I should have, made the length disparity less extreme, and had to fudge the width due to the size of the repeat.  The thing is, the fat scarf-like section that gets decreased away to match the other side looked kind of clunky and awkward, probably in part due to the difference between my yarn and the original pattern yarn, which had more drape, so that this part should hang in folds rather than maintaining its width.  Not really all that attractive.  I think it might be better one repeat narrower, so that the decrease rate can be gentler, and if the bottom edge were angled too, that would make it more interesting and would de-emphasize the fact that the bottom edge actually doesn't hang entirely straight.

If you're the kind of person who checks the keywords at the bottom of blog postings, you'll see that even though I did have to rip out the ENTIRE thing, I did not include the word "failure" as a keyword.  This is because I don't actually regard this as a failure.  I wasn't entirely happy with all aspects of the project, so this very large, um, swatch has given me the insight I needed in order to obtain something that'll satisfy me.  Besides, it's thickish yarn and it's only a couple of weeks of effort.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

How Bad Things In Threes Can Lead To A Clean Slate

So last week I was sick as a dog, which, when you think about it, isn't that sick. Dogs always seem to be extremely well and perky, or well and belligerent, or well and coddled, but rarely sick. Still, I was very sick. With a fever sick.  Too sick to knit sick. Coffee tasted bleah sick.


By Sunday I felt halfway human, and then, while eating a very tasty sourdough baguette sandwich, I felt a crunch, and spat out a piece of tooth.  (*) And I wondered, what's the third thing?

(* Let me digress lest you are besieged with visions of some shuddersome creature ignorant and lax in the habits of dental hygiene. I grew up in the days of treating tonsillitis with tetracyclene, which we now know does bad things to the permanent teeth still in the gums. Water was not fluoridated.  And then I was doubly blessed with a butcher of a pediatric dentist who liked BIG fillings.  This trifecta of tooth-unfriendly circumstances [see next paragraph regarding the number Three] led to my mouth containing weak things which are more filling than tooth).

My father, currently and forever under the dank fog of dementia, was a generally intelligent, pragmatic man, though apparently not entirely immune to the lures of some few superstitions and karmic ideas, and strongly believed that bad things happen in threes. One hundred percent.

(1)  Sick as the proverbial but mythical dog.
(2)  Broken tooth.
(3)  Well, what?

I had less than twenty-four hours to find out.

Rentrenchment. Layoff. Redundancy. I find myself jobless in the new year.

The company which used to ensure that I had adequate spinning fiber, yarn and beads, but no longer gives a damn, has been on a steady downward spiral.  

When I first started working for them, their shares were trading at around $30 and life was good. Within six months (and I know this, because this is when I was eligible to buy into the employee shares program) shares had plunged down to $8 or so.  Not encouraging.  Within a couple of years we were haemorrhaging money and there was talk of selling ourselves.  The company, not our actual selves, though it feels a bit like the same thing now.  We bled more money. A year ago we were sold, but not everyone was invited to join the new company.  We were regaled with promises of profitability and bonuses initially, but as the months passed, we lost people, some voluntarily, mostly not so much. 

A year ago we were about 145 people worldwide; today (well, Monday, actually.  I may not be in the loop anymore) we're probably close to sixty, so it's a numbers game, no more no less. If management is throwing darts at a list of employees (and they had eight darts on Thursday.  I was out sick Thursday and Friday), an employee has a better chance of being hit when not in such a dense crowd.  I don't believe it was personal. I don't believe it's a message (though in theory layoffs never are).  It's just business.

And business leaves me with a clean new year, full of possibilities.

And because I know I check some blogs only for the pictures, and because I'm certain I can't be the only one who does this:

Thursday, January 3, 2008

A Wee Drappie

So you know how when you're under the weather, everything's all topsy-turvy?  You don't feel wrong wasting time in front of the tv without knitting, not even slightly guilty, though you do realise that it's highly unusual.  The usual foods just aren't appealing (I've had no coffee today) and sometimes you just have to eat Cape Brandy Pudding for lunch:

From Pam Hirschsohn's Treasury of Recipes, first edition, published by Don Nelson, Cape Town, 1988, I offer you Phyllis' Cape Brandy Pudding (serves 8-10), transcribed here without permission:

3T butter
1C sugar
1 egg
1/2 t salt
1/2 t baking powder
1 1/2 C flour
1C chopped walnuts
1C boiling water
1/2 C dates, broken up
1t baking soda

Preheat over to 180C/350F

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg, salt, flour, baking powder and nuts and mix well. Pour boiling water over dates and mix in baking soda. Add to flour mixture and blend well. Bake in a greased 12"/30cm dish for 30-40 minutes until golden brown.

1 1/2 C sugar
2t butter
1C water
1t vanilla
1/2 C brandy

Bring sugar, butter and water to a boil, allow to cook for 5 minutes.  Remove from heat and add vanilla and brandy.  Cut pudding into blocks and carefully pour syrup over, until all absorbed (I poke holes with toothpicks in lieu of cutting).

Serve warm.  Goes well with ice cream, unwhipped or whipped cream.  You can always use more brandy.

Pam was a friend of my mother's; I never really knew her, though I was slightly friendly with her daughter.  Pam finished writing this wonderful cookbook, illustrated with her own sketches, as she was dying of cancer, too soon, too soon.  I think of her every time I open it.  I guess she was about my age.

I could also try my dad's cold remedy: tea, honey, lemon with a good dollop of brandy, though you can leave out the tea if you like.