Thursday, March 30, 2006

More observations on the Wedding Ring Shawl

I can’t begin to convey how delighted I am with the Wedding Ring Shawl. But before you get too excited on my behalf, I’ll deliver my caveats: 1) this is just the beginning of what I am expecting to be a two year project, and 2) I have completed a mere 2.7% of just the center section alone.

I’m starting to see the delicate pattern develop beneath my hands – what a thrill! I’m also becoming more comfortable and therefore more confident in knitting from a chart (having never done it before). I do study each row before beginning it so that I know what needs to happen with each stitch and, as pointed out by the brilliant Eunny, I also look ahead a few rows to see what is being set up by the various yarnovers and decreases.

Besides not breaking the gossamer silk (see previous posting on tragic fiber breakages), one more benefit to not knitting so tight as I normally do is actually/apparently an absolute must when knitting with such a fine fiber. The silk is so teeny tiny that I can’t use the needle to slide under the stitch as I do when knitting with anything sock weight or bigger. I’m finding that I must gently pull stitches down or away from the needle in order to slide the needle into the stitch. This is especially challenging when performing a slip 1, knit 1, psso. The slip 1 pulls the next stitch to be knitted taut against the needle so the fingers have to be nimble in manipulating the stitches into submission. Hence the reason why it took me two hours to knit Row 3 of WRS center.

I am knitting very slowly and deliberately. I’d rather take extra time to knit a row than to make a mistake that would in the end take longer to fix than it would had I taken my time with the knitting.

I’ve promised pictures before and I must extend the promise! A computer meltdown has me searching for the camera software before I can download the photos.

Friday, March 24, 2006

It’s best to learn lessons early

I should know better by now.

I am a tight knitter. For example, the instructions that accompanied the GarnStudio pattern that I knit for the Knitting Olympics state that most American knitters need to increase their needle size. Apparently Scandinavian knitters have a loose gauge due to the way they perform their purl stitch. The instructions recommend going up a size or two to get the correct gauge. I went up three sizes.

When knitting the Birch finished in early February, I had a tragic fiber breakage. I was well into the second ball of Kidsilk Haze when I had difficulty bringing the final stitches in a row back up off the filament of my circular needs and onto the needle. I was kicking myself when I realized that I had cranked so much on the yarn when I originally knit those stitches that they were now too small to fit back up on the needle. I tried for quite some time to very gently coax the stitches into obeying, but no to avail. The stitch broke and I had to graft a small length of KSH to repair the break.

I should have remembered the lesson.

So I had knit the first two rows of the Wedding Ring Shawl and was working on the third when disaster struck again. Yes, I had cranked the gossamer silk when knitting the first couple of stitches of row 2 and couldn’t get them over the join and back up onto the needle. The silk is far more fragile than the KSH and broke much sooner, even though I had been handling it with an exceptionally light touch. It’s a good thing I learned this lesson right away at the beginning of the project than having to kludge together a repair somewhere in the middle.

After ripping out the rows of silk back to the provisional cast on, I picked up the stitches of my waste wool and started again, this time being mindful to keep those stitches loose! I’m pleased to have (re)finished the first three rows since the disaster yesterday evening.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Farewell to a dear and trusted friend

Dear Bluey,

I don’t know if you saw me last night as I drove off but I was crying. It wasn’t easy to let you go after all that we have been through together.

I remember when you came into my life in October 1997. I knew you were perfect the moment I set eyes on you even though I thought you were more than I needed. We got along well from the outset and you quickly became an integral part of my daily life. You were there through all the pediatrician visits, through the vacations back home, the trips to the vet, the shopping sprees when we carried bags and bags of goodies home. You took it all in stride.

But we really bonded four and a half years ago when my marriage started to crumble. Remember when we went on that driving trip across the States when I was deciding if the marriage could be saved? Remember how excited we were to drive down to Dallas and then over to New Mexico? (I still think the Texas panhandle is some of the most boring driving to be had.) Remember climbing up the mountains when we crossed the border into Colorado? It was the first time either of us had been in the Rockies. I recall the difficulty we had getting up to our friend’s house in the Utah mountains! There was so much snow and we were slipping and sliding…I was so worried about the drive back down the mountain. And then the race back east trying to get home before the mid-year ballet recital, eager to see the little dancers but dreading the confrontation to come because I knew the marriage was over.

I couldn’t have left a miserable marriage if it hadn’t been for you. Without the support and the independence that you encouraged in me, I wouldn’t have been able to stand on my own. You were faithful through the awful year to follow when I lived in a permanent state of fog and you were there when my life started coming back together. You went with me on a couple more trips back home to visit and reconnect with the family the ex- had surreptitiously pushed away during the married years.

But we all get older. You were already two years old when I found you. Back then, gas was cheap. It used to cost $25-$30 to fill your tank up. Now it’s $40-$50. Eight years ago you had 50,000 miles on the odometer. Now you have 150,000. You need new tires, new brake lines, a new blower module, your air conditioning doesn’t work, and there’s a problem with your braking system which causes the brake lights to stay on all the time and drain your battery. You know that you are a luxury vehicle and it never costs less than $400 for the mechanics to even start looking at you. Though it breaks my heat, I couldn’t afford to keep you any longer. And truly, for all your long years of service, you deserve to have a good long rest now.

Thank you, dear Bluey, for all that you have done for me. You won’t be forgotten. Ever.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Photographic evidence forthcoming

My intention of snapping some photos last night of the current works in progress fell by the wayside when I was called upon last night to perform clerical duties for my daughter's book report. I sure don't remember having such an involved report and oral presentation when I was in 4th grade! Education sure has changed in the past couple of decades...

As promised, I cast on the Wedding Ring Shawl last weekend. I knit the three provisional cast on rows in waste wool and knit the first row with the silk. The first six rows are plain knit and then the pattern starts, so I have a good long practice run before the real fun begins. Not coincidentally, I think, was the arrival in the mail last week of Sharon Miller's Heirloom Knitting. Something about having that book at my elbow removed the last bit of apprehension and I was itching to start the casting on process on Sunday.

Progress continues with the Jaywalkers socks -- I'm knitting the ribbing on sock #1 -- and the Pinwheel Baby Blanket. I picked a border from A Gathering of Lace (note to self: order copy from Amazon before returning book to the library) and starting working around the edge. I've knit only two repeats of the border but so far I am pleased with the results.

Speaking of the library, I picked up an Alice Starmore (am I allowed to type her name??) book on Aran knits for children as well as a No Idle Hands: The Social History of American Knitting by Anne Macdonald. I think I am starting to geek out on knitting...

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Here we go again

Once upon a time in a not-so-distant past, I operated a successful website focused on fiction for women which obviously centered primarily on romance novels. Also obviously, the main audience was women but there were a handful of intrepid men who weren’t afraid to publicly admit they read romance novels.

This website had a bulletin board which invited readers to come and share their thoughts on the books that they were reading and to make recommendations to other readers. Inevitably, as authors discovered the internet as a great way of connecting with and growing their readership, they joined in the discussion with the unintended -- or in some cases, intended -- effect of stifling negative comments about their books by readers who weren’t comfortable in calling a lousy book a lousy book in front of the author. Also inevitably, when a reader wouldn’t be shy about criticizing a book, the “fangirls” would bombard the board with indignant and sometime downright personally hostile responses. As someone who tried to foster open dialogue about reading material, this was entirely frustrating. No personal attacks of authors were allowed; comments had to be confined to the books themselves. Even still, the fangirls couldn’t see the difference between critiquing a creative work and a personal attack. Certain authors made it worse by taking the position that each and every book was their baby and it is “so hard to see [their] babies trashed”.

(Remind me sometime to tell you about the author who masqueraded as a reader for the sole purpose of promoting her books.)

The website also offered book reviews. As with the bulletin board, 100% of the people couldn’t be pleased 100% of the time. You had the high dudgeon critics who thought all the reviews were too positive. You had the fangirls who wanted nothing but glowing positivity about their cherished author’s books. Authors jumped in if there was any tiny thing that could be perceived as a slight to their creation. I even had one instance where readers were saying that a certain review was unrealistically positive and the author complaining that it was a cruel attack. Go figure.

Now, I think that everything about a book is fair game. Cover art, editing, plotting, characters, research; if it’s in the book, prepare for criticism. If I pay good money to read a book, I also bought the privilege of having an opinion regarding all aspects of that book. However, beyond saying that author so-and-so’s writing isn’t to my taste, I draw the line at making personal comments about the authors.

The website is no longer in operation due to personal circumstances in the not-so-distant past but I must be honest in admitting that I don’t miss the juvenile behavior that would flare up amongst grown women who ought to know better. I got tired of having to babysit people’s behavior on the board.

So now I find it eminently interesting to have discovered a similar dynamic in a different group with similar demographics. The knitting world is comprised mostly of women with some brave men who aren’t shy about admitting they like to knit. This is great! One small change is the decentralized commentary to weblogs instead of congregating at a bulletin board.

What isn’t so great is to see similar downsides. I shouldn’t have been so naïve but I’m fairly new to serious hobby knitting and even newer to the knitblog world. I had no idea that designers were getting feisty if a knitter dared to negatively critique their work (or in the case I have in mind, two knitters). I had no notion of the She Who Shall Not Be Named controversy. The whole s**** and b**** copyright infringement thing is beyond the limit. Or how a designer gets her knickers in a twist if anyone dare use the same adjectives she chose to name her newsletter. Then there are the inter-blog flame wars. Cripes.

I can take the heat. After all, back in the not-so-distant past, not only was I targeted by a competitor who felt threatened by my success, but I actually inspired an entire bulletin board for the sole purpose of trashing me personally. I try to practice what I preach by taking the high road during these occurrences.

But I surely didn’t think that I would encounter the same dynamic and I’m not sure how I feel about it. What I do know is that my viewpoint hasn’t changed. Designers: if you can’t take the heat, either don’t design or stay away from the knitblogs. Please let the knitters express their thoughts. Knitters: Keep it confined to the design and don’t make it personal. Please respect the creative process. And a special note for those designers and publishers who have gotten too big for their britches: get over yourself.

Monday, March 13, 2006

I have issues

Well, darn. I hadn't anticipated that it would be a week in between postings! I hate it when life and computer problems interfere with knitting and blogging.

During times like these it's best to work on projects that don't require a lot of brain power. Hence why I haven't cast on yet for the Wedding Ring Shawl. Okay, this is my issue. I'm weak. I'm still a little intimidated by working with the gossamer silk. I'm procrastinating. I'm afraid of making a mistake.

It's time to get over myself.

I have promised myself that I will spend some time this weekend casting on and I promise you, dear reader, that I will report good news come next Monday.

Part of the fun of procrastinating is working on those mindless projects like the Pinwheel Baby blanket:

though it looks like a shapeless bag right now! I'm knitting this one by the seat of my pants. I don't know how big around it will be when I decide to finish, and I want to put some type of border on it. Just binding off and leaving it as is doesn't feel "finished" to me. There's a camisole pattern in the current issue of Interweave Knits that has a hem which looks particularly promising. We'll see.

The other current work in progress is the Jaywalker socks. I'm still working on the first one as my attention has drifted over to the baby blanket. I want to knit a Kitty Pi for the feline resident and I need those needles freed up.

I checked out the library's copy of A Gathering of Lace this weekend and was captivated by the Frost Flowers and Leaves pattern. I'm thinking that my Misti Alpaca laceweight might be just the thing. I'll have to check with the LYS and see if they still have the pink colorway in stock. Hopefully it will be in the same dye lot because I need a couple more skeins to work this shawl.

Also burning a hole in the stash is my Helen's Lace in Old Rose. I haven't found the right pattern for this yarn yet... *sniff* ...but I'm up to the challenge!

Monday, March 06, 2006

Yet another Oscar opinion

I’m not a fashion expert but I don’t let that stop me from having an opinion and expressing it! I know what I like and I call ‘em like I see ‘em.

Red Carpet frowns: Naomi Watts (far too much fluff), Ziyi Zhang, Jennifer Aniston (the material and the neckline looked so wrong), Helena Bonham Carter (scary!), Michelle William (wrong on so many levels), Lauren Hutton (can someone explain the dangly bits, please??), Sandra Bullock (bland bland bland).

Somewhere in the middle: Jennifer Garner (looking great three months post-pregnancy but the color wasn’t right), Reese Witherspoon (again, color wasn’t right and I couldn’t warm up to the fussy beading), Keira Knightly (stand up straight, girl!), Queen Latifah (the flounces competed with her full figure), Meryl Strep (love the color and the bodice, lukewarm on the skirt).

Unqualified successes: Hilary Swank (marvelous), Jennifer Lopez (never disappoints at the Oscars), Rachel Weisz (fantastic! becomingly radiant), Uma Thurman (looking luminous and lovely), Nicole Kidman (shares ranks with Charlize Theron in the glamour department, though I am concerned about how monochromatic Nicole is becoming over time; please, put a little color back in your hair!), Judi Dench.

Now for the best and the worst.

Biggest disappointment: I love
Charlize Theron. She’s gorgeous and so stylish and my replacement for the red-carpet Sharon Stone but I was so disappointed in her whole look last night. The dress was a shapeless mess of too much material and the hair was dreadful.

Best couple: Hands down
Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith. These two always look marvelous together. I’ll be disappointed if this marriage doesn’t stand the test of time.

Best dressed:
Jessica Alba. It was tough to pick between Hillary Swank and Alba, but Alba got my nod because she had the whole package: dress, hair, make up, jewelry.

Progress on the Jaywalkers continues. I like this pattern; it's simple and fun and I think just the thing for this Christmas's sock gift pattern.

The short-row heel proved to be no problem. The only minor snag came in when joining the instep back into the round. I like to pick up a few extra stitches into the joins where the instep meets up with the heel, but it was tricky to pick up yet maintain the slipped stitch that makes up the outside ridges of the pattern. I fudged, and it came out okay. I've also got to increase three stitches on each of the heel and am doing that one stitch at a time on the pattern rows (instep) before starting in on the pattern all the way around. I'm looking forward to the finished product.

Friday, March 03, 2006

"The ritual abuse of passengers"

Work on the Jaywalkers has commenced. The toe has been turned and I've done two pattern rows as of last night. The toe-up pattern I found through Grumperina's website has heel flap instructions; I don't like heel flaps but much prefer a short row heel. I'll forge ahead with a short row heel when the time comes and make any necessary adjustments on the fly.

Now on to some non-knit topics. Specifically, airport security. You may have noticed the Benjamin Franklin quote in the sidebar to the right. I discovered that quote shortly after 9/11 and with each passing day my passionate belief in that statement grows.

This morning I read an editorial written by Peggy Noonan for the Wall Street Journal on her recent experiences with airport security. It reminded me of the changes in my traveling since the so-called increased security measures have been instituted. Does any of it make me feel safer? No way. It all smacks of window dressing to me.

I remember returning home from a European vacation in October 2004 when it became obvious to me that I was being specifically targeted for extra searches again and again. My carry-on baggage received extremely thorough searches by the screening staff at Marco Polo airport in Venice. I was selected for a "random" jetway search during the boarding process. Again at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris I was selected for a jetway search. I was quite consternated at all this attention as my previous post-9/11 trips hadn't generated any additional searches. If memory serves, there was a snippet on the news a few days later about a threat involving Chechen women. It wouldn't surprise me if the two events were related.

Just a couple of months ago my husband and I were traveling the week between Christmas and New Year's. We were flying out of Green Bay through O'Hare on our way back to the east coast. It just happened that, due to the high winds and poor visibility in Chicago, our departing flight from Green Bay wouldn't land in O'Hare before our connecting flight left. We had the option of staying overnight in Green Bay and catching an early flight in the morning or fly that evening to O'Hare and stay overnight in Chicago. Given a choice, I'd rather negotiate the hotels around Green Bay than around O'Hare.

The next morning we got to the airport dark and early. We checked in and everything was going along smoothly until we were escorted to a special holding pen at the security zone. (Note: after receiving your boarding passes, check them for the "SSSS" that might be printed on them. If you see the quad S's beware: you've been selected for the TSA anal intruder.) I quizzed the security staff about why we'd been selected for special treatment and came away with the idea that we'd been flagged because of the flight switch.



Didn't TSA think to tell the computer programmers that people forced to make flight changes due to bad weather aren't a risk group? Oops! I forgot about that diabolical weather creating machine created by Dr. Evil! Silly me.

One of these times they are going to catch me in just the right mood. As I stand in the line for the x-ray machine and metal detector and remove my shoes, jewelry, watch, belt, coat, scarf, etc etc, I am going to do a Flashdance and pull my bra off through the sleeve of my shirt. Just in case the underwire sets off the metal dectector, you know.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

In support of Franklin

The Kiss by Auguste Rodin

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

These socks are made for walkin'

Yet another pair of Wendy's Toe-Up socks has made it off the needles and into the realm of the Finished Object:

I just love this pattern -- it's so simple and easy and I can just about knit it in my sleep now. I haven't done anything more adventurous than a plain 4x4 ribbing for the leg but I'm starting to feel the itch to branch out into something a little more complicated. The problem is that I really don't care for top down socks, which is how most of the fun patterns are written. I'd really love to knit the Jaywalker socks toe up, which JennyRaye performed for her Knitting Olympics, so I know it's possible to adjust the pattern accordingly. I'll figure it out sooner or later.

About the yarn...Socks that Rock in Iolite. I love Socks that Rock. It's 100% superwash wool -- I'm not a big fan of any man-made fiber content in my socks thought I do admit to lusting after the Liberty Shepherd Sock that JennyRaye used for her Jaywalkers -- and I love the stitch definition. The colors are delightfully vibrant...but the yarn I received in the mail is nothing like Iolite swatch displayed on the website I bought the yarn from. On the website the colors are deep purple, royal purple, and deep green. No blues. Lots of deep hues. I decided to keep the yarn and knit up the socks anyway even though I'd have preferred the jewel tones I thought I would be getting.

So now it's time to select yarn for the next pair of socks. The stash is currently holding the following selection:

From left to right: Socks that Rock in Scottish Highlands, Sock that Rock in Sapphire, Knit Picks Sock Landscape in New England, Knit Picks Sock Garden in Star Gazer Lily, and Knit Picks Sock Landscape in Grandma. Star Gazer Lily got the nod.

I started practicing for the Wedding Ring Shawl with the gossamer silk yesterday. What a pain in the ass. It's so hard to see the stitches! Casting on is tough, but thankfully knitting is much easier. I suspect a good part of my trouble is that I like to knit with bamboo or wood needles which has very little slip (save me from Addi Turbos!) and allows me to keep stitches close to the points without fear of them slipping off. I need to adjust to using metal needles before starting the real deal.

Edited to include: Woohoo! With a minimal amount of digging, I discovered the toe-up version of Jaywalker on Grumperina's website! Star Gazer Lily, meet Jaywalker.