February 28, 2010

Who Says Corporal Punishment Isn't Effective?

Remember this, the zombie rose that tried to eat my brraaaainnnzzzz? Apparently it has forgiven me for hacking it to pieces, tying it to a wall, and leaving it to freeze in 13-degree weather:

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The dahlia tubers, which I also hacked to pieces but much more tenderly, are also doing well. Too well since, technically, I can’t plant them for another 1.5 months and yet they’re rarin’ to go. Ack!

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With the closing ceremonies looming, I could've won no medals or, continuing to bend the rules in the self-defined Knitting Olympics world in which I am Empress of All I Survey, I could've done what I did which was award myself three silver and one gold. Want to see them? Here:

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The logic goes something like this:

Event: Choosing the pattern

Already had it, didn’t have to pay for it; had been avoiding it out of abject fear, an important factor in its selection; but am missing half of it, forcing me to leave important elements out of the compulsories. Silver medal.

Event: Choosing the yarn

Attempt 1: Bit it. Did a complete and total face plant down the entire length of the hill, leaving my skis hundreds of yarns behind me. Practically had to be airlifted off the mountain. No medal.

Attempt 2: Found almost-perfect yarn, lighter weight, softer, pleasant to knit, but too dark for the pattern. Silver medal.

Event: Casting on

Attempts 1-5: No medal, but I insist it was the fault of the course designer pattern which has the craziest cast on I’ve ever seen.

Attempt 6: Realized that the cast on was like turning a sock heel in that you just have to follow the steps, go with the Zennish flow and Believe, something akin to doing the slalom with your eyes closed and praying all the way down. Thus, won a gold medal, but only with the help of this online coach, who proved that the cast-on is, indeed, as wacky as thought but also doable.

Event: Reaching the goal

Went from being afraid of to scoffing, even jeering, at the pattern. By repeat six, I wasn’t even using the pattern, a miracle in itself.

Took good notes for the first time ever in my knitting history, including tracking where I left off.

Kept all the parts and pieces and tools together.

Worked at the project determinedly without drifting off to some other event like, oh, bobsled.

Got to 8 repeats out of 11 but didn’t finish. Silver medal, mostly for miraculously growing a knitting spine when I most needed it.

Hoo-ah!!

Posted by Ryan at 03:43 PM | Comments (2)

February 21, 2010

Half-Way Up the Mountain

So, here it is, the Flower Basket Shawl four of eleven repeats in:

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Impressed?

Yeah, me neither.

Despite my best efforts, the yarn I chose is too dark and you can’t see the pattern, except maybe if you squint and look at the left side of the photo. But it has all the right holes in all the right places and I suppose that’s 95% of the battle with lace. Knit a couple of wonky holes, and you’re screwed. Who knew it wasn't the yarn, but the air that mattered?

All in all, considering I chose this for the challenge factor, the knitting is going laughably well. I’ve reached a gold-medal-worthy milestone, at least by my definition of gold medal (that’s the benefit of not joining any of the knitting Olympic groups—you get to make your own rules, and no one can say squat). 74 rows in, the project has gone from being intimidating and insurmountable, my knitting Everest, to—there’s no nice way to put this—a bit of a yawner. Methinks I could finish the rest of this project standing on my head. Of course, I could have a karmic, neener-neener comeuppance waiting in the wings once I scrounge up the missing insert; who knows what lurks. (None of this is meant to take away from the beautiful, well-written pattern, by the way.)

P.S. Just finished watching a movie with Dame Judi Dench and Dame Maggie Smith called “Ladies in Lavender.” Not life-changing, by any means, but a sweet, quiet, slightly sad, evocative British effort. Most importantly, though, Judi Dench knits a lot. Granted, it’s a pair of drab grey socks but we'll take what we can get, eh? You should watch it if for no other reason than to see the curious basket she uses to store her yarn in.

Posted by Ryan at 07:21 PM | Comments (10)

February 18, 2010

We Do This Why?

The “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” socks are lying inertly by the wayside as I half-heartedly engage in some Olympic knitting. “Half-heartedly” because I never signed up for any of the various and competing incarnations of Olympic knitting events but am still picking away at a project (on the days when I remember not to leave the pattern at work).

Despite the fact that, yonks ago, I was able to knit a Faina scarf—with its astounding 78-row lace repeat—with nary a hiccup…

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...fine lace knitting has been my bête noire ever since. I’ve made my peace with the fact that I can’t knit a stranded sock in the round; couldn’t nine years ago, couldn’t four years ago, can’t now. So be it. But lace-knitting? I’ve done it! Successfully! And yet, the last time I tried it I threw the project across the bedroom, got out of bed, and stomped on it. A low point in my knitting history.

So, in keeping with the Olympic-knitting theme of challenging oneself, lace knitting it was, the Flower Basket shawl specifically, in part because I already had the pattern (well, part of the pattern; there’s an insert that goes with it that’s gone AWOL. Dunno what I’m going to do 'bout that.) and in part because I’m cheesed by how many knitting cohorts have churned it out, seemingly as easily as one would knit a garter-stitch dishcloth, while I have been reduced to petulant, late-night stomping.

Things are going well-ish if not fast-ish. First, I decided to use a light but still somehow horsey worsted in combo with equally horsey needles to better see the pattern and to prevent the stitches from falling off the needles So. Damn. Often. The end result was fabric thick enough and stiff enough to be used as armor, the Kevlar of lace, if you will. Well-nigh unbendable. Knitting chums who saw this first attempt tried to be diplomatic and encouraging but couldn’t maintain eye contact for more than a second. Very telling. Then they would go all, “Yeah. Sorry. Don’t want to hurt your feelings but that’s some damn ugly knitting.” And we would have a giggle.

So, at Madrona I went in search of a replacement for the horsey yarn and found some lovely lightly variegated laceweight in green tones, from a pale lime to a dark pine. I would love to tell you the manufacturer, fiber content and colorway but therein lies a tale. And you know me and tales.

The yarn comes in a skein of 1050 yards. As much as I enjoy winding yarn by hand, with a mofo as big as that, I would’ve had to change my Olympic goal from “finish knitting a Flower Basket shawl” to “wind the yarn for a Flower Basket shawl,” a big come down. Fortunately, Elaine offered me the use of her swift and winder, wherein lies a story of its own.

For the most part, the swift and winder worked well except every so often the spool and yarn cake would become disconnected from the winder and get catapulted forcefully across the room. Because it was being wound rapidly in a circular motion, and all sorts of G-forces and physical laws were in play, it was anyone’s guess which direction it would go. Up, down, left, right. Pretty funny. I did finally get it wound up without concussing Elaine or any of her pets, but the result looked like the yarn cake equivalent of Quasimodo, sort of squashed, twisted and hump-backed. Still, I estimate Elaine had saved me a good five hours of winding time so I thank her for that.

Back to the main side story and why I can’t tell you anything about the yarn. In order to wind the yarn, I took the label off but left it at Elaine’s by mistake. When I emailed her to ask her to hold on to it, she said she had found something label-like but it had been washed in the water bowl by one of the cats. So, tomorrow night, when I visit, I shall see what information I can glean from it. I suspect it will look something like 10 0 y rds, dy lo nu ber 2 65, col r g een, lac wei  t.

Long story long, I’m pleased to say I am actually churning out a Flower Basket Shawl. Have finished the 34 foundation rows and am 1.5 repeats into the 10-row section you knit over and over until you have a shawl the size you want. I figure it took me 1.5 years to finish my last Olympic project; surely I can do better than that. Can I get an “amen?!”

Posted by Ryan at 12:04 PM | Comments (11)

February 09, 2010

I'm Officially an Old Fart

My apologies for the radio silence but I’ve been busy doing something. Well, as much as “busy” can be applied to something that requires only that you (a) be born and (b) keep breathing for 18,250 days (give or take, darn those leap years):

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If you need another gentle hint…

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Not-so-subtle aquamarine duct-tape embellishment courtesy of 11-year-old nephew; not-so-subtle bright-pink tiara courtesy of sister, who insisted I wear it everywhere, even doggedly retrieving it from places where I had “forgotten” it. (Thanks to the tiara, I was serenaded by a large number of complete strangers in a supermarket, including the ringleader, a supermarket employee who was old enough to know better yet who deliberately sang so loudly and in such a shrieking yet somehow still manly falsetto that his voice cracked, veins bulged alarmingly on his face, the rafters shook, and produce and products wobbled violently. He was quite pleased with himself when he was done.)

To put things in perspective, when I started this blog, and when some of you first “met” me, I was 43. Holy Toledo!

Inside the green box, these hand-painted wine glasses, “blue flowers,” “R” and “sunflower” by sister, “candles” by niece:

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Each glass has "RRM 50" painted on the bottom, and a tiny ladybug painted somewhere on the surface that I had to find like a Hirschfeld "Nina." Love. Them. All.

Besides being treated to scrumptious Thai food by, from left to right, Elaine, Leslie, Linda and sister...

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...sister and I also hied ourselves over to Bainbridge Island for a couple of days so I could take Janine Bajus’s “Personalized Fair Isle” class, in which she teaches you how to pull color choices from a picture, how to "read," understand and select colors through swatching, and how to use what you've learned to design a finished pattern. Great class; more like an interesting, instructional, friendly round-table discussion than a formal "class." Thank you, Janine!

While busy marking my half-century, I also started knitting a pair of socks out of the brown/gray “Starry.” Since the knitted fabric comes out looking like military camo with a bit of sparkle, they have officially been named “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Socks” (imagine a swishy finger-snap and coy sideways look here).

Posted by Ryan at 01:00 PM | Comments (31)