Saturday, August 26, 2006

Pretend it's Friday (time to fix Kiri)

I should have posted this yesterday, but I was working. So pretend this is yesterday and the exciting yarn-related stuff that happened today will appear later. Friday, er, today is hectic at the best of times because it's preparation for the weekend. I do the weekly food run, I try to vacuum some of the house, clean the bits we'll be seeing most of (the front room), that sort of thing. Plus cook a nice meal. Today I had to do all that plus get some help from the Geological Museum in Cambridge to identify a troublesome rock. This is a place I would normally go out of my way to AVOID on a busy day because geology eats my life even more effectively than yarn. I have spent hours staring thoughtfully at a rock face and today was no different. Perhaps it's something about Deep Time: I lost two hours instead of what felt like 10 minutes wandering around mumbling 'oooh' and 'aaaah' under my breath. I mean, they've got a mobile shaped like a giant anglerfish with a tiny school of prey fish suspended in front of it in what should be a state of permanent funk. But they seemed pretty relaxed, just spinning in the breeze; perhaps they knew the anglerfish had holes in its flanks. I'd have taken a picture, but my phone camera is rubbish, as revealed by this shot of my socks. Note that this animal (Iguanodon) would not have been able to knit. Perhaps if it had it would have been able to survive the KT boundary extinction wearing warm sweaters. If plant fibres were warm enough. If enough plants survived. OK, it was just a stupid joke.

The following sequence of photos showing how I corrected an error in Kiri might be more useful.
First I work to a point to one side of the error, then take the stitches above the error off the needle and pin them out nicely on the (well-lit) arm of our couch. To the left you see the mistake (a); to the right the next repeat down (b) is correct. The line of stitches in 'a' should have begun growing out of the central 'rib' further down. I don't know precisely what I did wrong (other than fail to pay attention to the work), but I'm going to try to correct it.
So, what went wrong where? Comparing a and b, it seems that the base of the line of stitches should 'grow out of' the central rib in the gap just above the bottom-most red dash. Just compare the two bits of lace sitting in front of you stitch by stitch until you grasp the relationships. A crochet hook is useful to pull on threads to see where they come from/go to. The openwork to the left of the erroneous line are stitches and yarnovers; it's useful to think about how the structure pinned on the couch relates to what I actually did: 1. yarnover (right side); 2. purl (wrong side); 3. slip, knit, psso (right side), where step 3 unites the yarnover with the line of stitches to its right. The error/gap may have been created by incorrectly bringing a stitch based on a yarnover into that line; the two above the gap seem to come into the line rather close together. So I'll try bringing that stitch (the one currently in the gap between the 2nd and 3rd red dashes, counted from the bottom) into the next stitch down in the line. As it were. (This would be easier with more pictures. Maybe next time.)

Here I've carefully unravelled all the stitches that lead directly to the error. This includes some yarnovers, each pinned neatly at the point that the stitch from it was knitted into the line of stitches containing the mistake.

Using what I've learned about how the yarnover stitches are constructed and brought into the line, I've moved one down as discussed above. Now I'm just working my way back up the line of stitches, bringing the other yarnovers in to the line in turn. The end result is not perfect, but a bit of tweaking will improve the stitch spacing and blocking will make it even better. Now, another repeat into the pattern, I can't find this repair myself.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Pointy UP, pointy UP...

I'll explain that in due course :-)

First, I thought I'd show you why my sister deserves 1000m of Sea Silk. Some pre-wedding photos are up (scroll down to August 9). See?* And Jonathan deserves the alpaca/silk scarf. I'm enjoying the Kiri; it's pleasantly almost mindless. I have to make some more stitch markers, though: if I don't pay some attention I'll have do a lot of this
and although I do in fact enjoy doing that, I'm now on the 5th repeat and I'm willing to bet it's less fun the further down I have to rip. Lifeline? Might be worth doing.

I have been good this morning. Been to the gym and my duff knee was fine; sadly it is now objecting to kneeling to edge the path after cutting the grass (I can feel it heating as I sit here. I think I'll ice it after I finish this, just on principle... hurrah, more knitting time!). Printed out what might be proofs for a leaflet. So I cut lunch short to work on the Shell Tank. Pick up 102 stitches from right front around back... OK. I counted first to see how many stitches already existed in the garment and depending on how many I fudge on the vertical bits (I grafted the shoulder!) it's not far off 102 if I pick up every second stitch. So there I sat, muttering "Pointy UuP, pointy UuuuP, pointy UuuP" where 'UuuP' marks the crochet hook plunging into the next pointy-up stitch to pick up the yarn to go onto the needle. I'm glad no one was there to hear me except the Knitting Supervisor.

The Knitting Supervisor.

I've already done one 'pick up and knit' for the rib on the bottom of the right front. This was one of the details that enticed me to knit this: the shape of the right front makes the stitches run at an angle, and the ribbing comes off at a slightly different angle. I like that. I'm even happy with what I've achieved because the ribbing stitches (well, most of the stitches) seem to flow properly out of the stockinette. As Alice said, "Sometimes when we expect less we seem to end up with more".

* Some of you may have noticed we don't resemble each other. That's because technically she's my half-sister. But I'm so proud of her (she's witty and funny as well as beautiful) that I claim closer kinship in the hope that something will rub off :-)

Monday, August 21, 2006

It's not so bad

For me, a knitting project always has a promising start. The yarn sits there, immaculate balls (I don't spin yet) alive with possibility. It could be almost anything, why not this? The needles gleam, and me? I can do it. After all, whatever it is, it's only combinations of knit/purl/yarnover, repeat until done. I plunge enthusiastically into the work but alas, as it progresses, it NEVER meets my expectations. My tension varies through each session. Stitches ignore my disciplinarian nature. Some escape into thin air, or perhaps they were virtual stitches that only ever existed in my mind, never made it to the needles. A few succeed in breeding, resulting in more stitches than should have existed. Perhaps these are someone else's missing stitches, or those I lost in a previous project. Inevitably at some points I misread the pattern, panic a bit, frog 20 rows, realise I'd done it right the first time and re-knit the rows with a distinct sense of self-loathing: how could I be so stupid again? As the knitting grows I become disheartened, resign myself to the fact that, whatever it is, it's probably not going to look good when finished. Nothing like the picture. sorrowful sniffle. Clearly I'm not yet good enough to have attempted insert technique here.

I think this is part of the learning experience, or at least my learning experience. WHY on this earth (or any other) do I honestly expect to be able to produce something very nearly perfect the first time I try something? It never happens. I draw well, it's one of the things I do to earn a living. People frequently say to me "Oh, I wish I could draw like you do" and my reply is always what I regard as unvarnished truth: "You can. You just have to practice, to acquire the skill". I've been drawing since before I could read, and I learned to read before I was 5.

Anyway. The Shell Tank was at this stage don't ask me to tell you about the frogging, because I won't. I'm too embarrassed. I finished the last piece on Saturday evening, hung it off the long safety pin (I have this turnip cunning plan to graft the shoulder seams), and then just glared at the huddled mass of cotton cowering on the footstool. I had to do the ironing Sunday morning anyway, so I included the pieces, the pattern measurements and my trusty tape in the basket. Arrayed the first bit on the ironing board and... guess what? It was very nearly the right size even before blocking. A bit narrow, but then I know I knit tight. I cannot tell you how much that raised my spirits. I'm improving, I'm not completely incompetent.

And I'm half-convinced that the unruly stitches aren't as noticeable as I thought they'd be. Definitely worth continuing; perhaps even my body shape will be less disastrous than I feared? :-)

And there's more, too. Isn't this pretty? Kiri in Ivory Sea Silk on Inox 3.75mm needles, just onto Chart 2. I have no idea whether I'm using the stitch markers properly (I've never used any before), but they do look decorative. I'm sure THIS time the end result will be perfect.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

28 years and counting

Friday was our 28th wedding anniversary. Objectively, it seems like A Very Long Time. Subjectively? I haven't really noticed it passing (save the odd 10 minutes or so), despite this being more than half my life. The Anti-divorce wine* was discarded some years back with no ill effects, so we've decided to try for 56. Why Not? Alas, Dyson is not impressed.

Knitting occurred during the celebration. (We and the cats were the only ones invited to a lively evening spent watching Hayao Miyazaki's Nausicaa of the Valley of the Winds. I prefer Spirited Away, myself.) The pink socks are noticeably longer now that I've stopped ripping back every evening to try to correct one particular cable. When he couldn't spot the error, even when a prize was offered, I decided I could live with it. I want to get them finished as I have more socks to knit and, now that there's a chill in the air, I want to try to turn that purple Cash Iroha into the elbow-length fingerless gloves in Alter Knits (or something similar). I've decided that the 1000m of Ivory Sea Silk will be a Kiri Shawl (thanks, Polly!) for my sister. Which means I really must finish that Shell Tank, which means I have to sit down and work out why, if I continue with my interpretation of the pattern, I'll end up with 5 stitches fewer than it says I should. Taking time to do that will be my reward for doing some (paid-for) work this morning, so I'm off.

* This was, for us at that time, a very expensive bottle of wine bought during our first holiday in France. Far too expensive to drink, it became a (humorous) reason to stay married: we couldn't afford another bottle, and it seemed likely that we'd be disinclined to be willing to share it if we were to split up. So we had to stay married so we could share it in the fullness of time. Clearly it lacked character capable of dealing with this weight of symbolism: when we finally decided to try it, it was undrinkable. So now we rely on the knowledge that no one else knows all the right jokes.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

I vote we teach them all to knit.

Warning: this isn't about knitting. Or weaving. At least not directly.

I spent lunchtime sitting outside - it's just warm enough - eating pecorino and tomatoes and balsamic vinegar, reading, ripping out an error in my pink socks and intermittently casting loving glances at my own tomatoes and the french beans, which might yet have more beans if I cherish them diligently. A slightly-better-than ordinary lunch, by my standards, but a far, far better lunch than a large proportion of the world's population enjoys. Especially those whose lives have been torn to shreds by wars inspired by others with political axes to sharpen and temper in blood. It's happening across the globe.

I now know more about the situation in Israel, Palestine and Lebanon, thanks to From Beirut to Jerusalem and Covering Islam, my 'holiday reading'. The antics of Bush and Blair (With apologies to anyone who actually respects those rather dangerous clowns. You're entitled to your opinions and I to mine.) are usually well covered in the media, and their primary motive - to retain power - is clear. And it occurred to me that the people who start these wars by covertly shifting money and arms while trumpeting their ethical and moral principles, who claim their scraps of mouldering parchment or ancient wrongs are worth more or hurt more than those of any other -- they've forgotten, if they ever knew, just how precious our lives are. We have so little time, and there's so much that we can do and see without hurting anyone. So many things that we can make and be remembered for instead of spending money and lives to gain and retain power for its own sake. Perhaps they've never found anything they want to do with their lives, other than pursue power. So. Let's teach them to knit.

Let's show them how an idea can grow to beauty in their own hands, requiring nothing but their own time and care. Let them learn from experience that skill increases over time, that the old men and women whose lives are cut short by bombs or starvation were more than 'collateral damage', they were human beings shaped by life and love, full of skills that will never now be passed to others. Let them realise what has been lost to the world with the lives of the children killed or maimed, mentally or physically, by childhoods spent in war zones. Take them to yarn shops, show them the tangible, fragile and lovely fruits of other people's labours, the farmers, the spinners, the dyers, those who invented the machinery and chemicals to bring such wonders within reach of our hands. If they don't want to knit, show them pencils, paints, paper, canvas. Give them hammers and chisels, wood and stone to make their ideas concrete, to stand alone in the world to be compared and evaluated against the world itself. Let them learn winemaking, brewing, the art of cooking. Perhaps they love music -- show them how to make it, alone or in harmony with others.

But never, ever give them power.

Sorry about this, but sometimes... well. I have to say it, but you don't have to read it.
Normal programming will resume shortly.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Was that a holiday?

I didn't notice. This certainly isn't, well, writing this is, but it's a break from frantically trying to bring work up-to-date. At least I've done the washing and the ironing! We've been in western Canada aka Home for 10 days, attending The Wedding and visiting almost every relative we could think of (and fit into the schedule). The experience was both more and less stressful than I feared. For nearly 30 years (my word I'm old) I have avoided going back, partly because I miss the landscapes so deeply that the thought of what I've missed by not being there still brings me to tears, and partly because I find it difficult to be with one particular and very significant member of my family. This trip has allowed me to understand this division more clearly. I've spent more time with the family member and it's bearable if we're out and about doing stuff that distracts him/her, inspires more interesting, less painful conversations. I don't want to do it, mind, but I can if I have to. For a while. I was grinding my teeth after two days! As for the rest... dammit, now I miss people as well as the landscape. My brother S is an interesting person: I'd like to get to know him in person, not just via the rather impersonal medium of email. I didn't see much of my sister K after we left when she was about 4: she's grown into a woman of stunning beauty, intelligence and wit. Seemingly well-matched by J (OK, he's not stunningly beautiful). And their friends: what an awesome group of people. I am torn between joy, wonder and jealousy that I never had that companionship; I'm just not that good at people. Reason to hope for reincarnation? I wonder.

The cashmere socks apparently fit perfectly (I await photos). They were the stars of the shower, passed from hand to hand, at one point disappearing into someone's cleavage in a fruitless attempt to smuggle them out of the venue. Three bosoms were a bit... obvious. I was prevailed upon to pass out several sock tokens, so I'm not short of things to do. And I have the wherewithal, if I can bear to part with any of it. I'm not certain I can, you know.

I had the chance to see and fondle yarns I'd only read of. You North Americans, you don't know you're born. Really. Imagine a *wall* covered with a frozen cascade of skeins of Fleece Artist and Handmaiden yarns (including the blanket kits!) with more of them stored in cubbyholes nearby. I have touched Muench 'Touch Me' and managed to leave without it only because I heard the Laines du Nord 'Mulberry Silk' singing to me. Racks of Cascade yarns, bins of Berroco, oh, the array of Manos del Uruguay... the softness of the suri alpaca lace, the colours, THE COLOURS! And the people. My husband sat in wonder as I bonded instantly with other knitters to wander around the shops inciting purchases and assisting in decisions. On second thought it's just as well I don't live anywhere near yarn shops like Beehive Woolshop (Victoria), Knit One Chat Too and Gina Brown's (both in Calgary). Man cannot live on yarn alone and we'd have no money left for food.

Psst. Wanna see some yarn porn?
That's Mountain Colors Bearfoot Sock Yarn, that is. 60% Superwash Wool, 25% Mohair, 15% Nylon in the Ruby River colourway. The photo doesn't do it justice: it GLOWS in the sunlight, and it's as soft as, as a very soft thing. Order yours from Caryll :-) Note the needles: I had to start some socks in this, no matter that I've another pair to finish. After talking to a nice person at Beehive about my tension problems, I decided to try bamboo circs. She's right: they feel so fragile that I've automatically slackened my tension. I've got to get more of these because I'm bound to break them before they've taught me to loosen up.

And that is tangible evidence that I like purple. And grey, and blue (the nice knitters in Beehive helped me realise that, largely by piling wool in 'my colours' into my arms). From left to right, Fleece Artist Kid Silk, Handmaiden wool/silk, Noro Cash Iroha, Handmaiden Ottawa. mea culpa. I admit it. I don't have a project in mind for everything in that picture, but I don't care, I love it all and I never, ever want to part with it. Ever. I wonder if I can bring myself to knit that hat for a friend with the second-from-left? The Ottawa might be a Clapotis, but while I was cuddling it a simple twill with that as weft on a cream silk warp sprang full-fledged into my mind. Oh, my. Perhaps I should have bought two?

This? This is sheer, decadent self-indulgence (as if the rest wasn't). Rogers Chocolates Victoria Creams. If I have to have fondants, these are the fondants I'll have. We are sharing them, I swear it. At least so far. Unlike yet another self-indulgence I haven't bothered to photograph, my box of Red River cereal. Mmmm. I'm looking forward to cold weather.

Last but not least, a problem. At least I think it's a problem, even if it blocks out. This is part of the Shell Tank, showing how some rows, or even sections of some rows appear twisted. They're not. After stretching the fabric the twist is corrected and the stitches appear normal, but they gradually re-twist. I'm not aware of doing anything 'different' in these sections, and am wondering whether it might just be something to do with the twist on the yarn. Advice would be welcomed. I'm not really enjoying this knit, which is a shame: not only am I not certain it will suit me, I find the cotton is unforgiving of any variation in tension (and my tension varies frequently because I have to start and stop so frequently). And the Jaeger 'Aqua' has knots in it, up to three per ball. Bad enough in wool where you can cut and felt joins, but cotton won't play that game at all. Bah, humbug. Never mind, I'm just off to stroke the Bearfoot.