Thursday, March 29, 2007

Isn't he a doll!?

I have now entered a new odd phase in my knitting life where I buy patterns if I think that the baby on the cover is cute. I am not currently pregnant, have one friend who is, and am 41. You could say that that fertility train is leaving the station, and you would be right. As my beloved friend Phil says, "that pasture gate is OPEN". So why am I buying baby patterns? I am not old enough to be
oohing and aahing over babies in a grandmotherly way, but old enough to know that my own chances are dwindling by the minute. Is this baby pattern frenzy some pathetic attempt to conjure up a baby in my life, à la if you build it they will come? (That was Babs' hilarious line). But look at that little fella on the cover of the Nashua Bloom leaflet, is he not the cutest little thing ever? I know I am attracted to him because he looks like a baby version of my dad, as everyone knows that old men and infants look very much alike. Baby projects are enthralling because they are also a. inexpensive to make, b. mico-versions of adult projects that take f-o-r-e-v-e-r and c. so dang cute! So the one baby in my life will be getting "Baby's First Aran" made out of Nashua Creative Focus. Could that yarn be more appropriately titled for this here A.D.D. Knitter?

While I was at Kathy's Kreations buying the yarn (only two skeins! what a deal!) for the above mentioned project, I got into an interesting conversation with Kathy Zimmermann (the shop owner, designer and all around fantasic yarn impresaria) and Lisa, the designer of the well known and beloved Lisa Knits patterns. I had printed out my copy of Glee and was looking for some yarn to make it with, that is before I came to my senses and tapped back into this whole baby garment mania. They wondered where I had gotten the pattern as they were unfamiliar with Zephyr Knits as well as the other designers that sell their patterns via pdf downloads. The two were somewhat shocked to know how widespread the practice is among internet knitters and designers and expressed concern regarding piracy issues. Both had been ripped off before and found their patterns posted on listserves and sites without their permission. My impression is that knitters who are heavily into the knitblogosphere and buy a lot of patterns on line really value the work that these independent designers put into their patterns and tend to support LYSs over big box stores anyway, so would most likely be more careful to respect copyright. They weren't so sure. They felt that the electronic format lended itself to people more readily sending it to their friends and disseminating copies illegally. The discussion was very lively as it was interesting to see the issue from their perspective. Part of me wonders whether it's a generational question, or if it has to do with a shop owner's legitimate need to have knitters dependent on patterns from a brick and mortar store. I'd be curious to know what other knitters thought about the issue...(hint,hint)!

Saturday, March 24, 2007

'Tween scene...

The Darling Resident Marxist Curdmudgeon vehemently objects to the use of the word
'tween. He feels it to be--oh how does he so lovingly put it?--an example of the "junk language of the corporate boardroom. Terminology developed by advertising drones to be used on focus groups and then adopted by the masses as naturalized and normal." (Seriously, this guy is a riot). Whatever you choose to call the state of hormonally-induced hissyfitdom and general malaise that (mainly, primarily) girls of the 11-13 age group experience, it's a challenge for all involved. For those of you who don't know the thrill of riding this daily roller coaster of joy, I am here to tell you that it ain't easy.

Note the facial expression in the bottom photo, it seems to suggest a feeling of utter disdain and 'I'm so over you'ness. Am I contractually obligated to continue knitting a sweater for someone who says, on a daily basis, 'I hate you', 'Why does your hair look like that?' and, my personal fave, 'Those jeans make your butt look puffy'? Wow. And I thought I put my mother through the ringer with my incessant demands for Sean Cassidy albums and rides to the roller rink. Sheesh! In any case, the daughter involved is (so I'm told) an exact replica of me in general sassiness and overall pill factordom, so it's no wonder that she can get under my skin. But hey, she's my girl...Luckily she's much thinner that I was at that age (husky jeans department, anyone?), so knitting her a sweater was a cinch!

The specs:

Pattern: Knitting Pure and Simple Neck Down Children's Pullover

Yarn: Cascade 220 Quattro

Needles: Addi Turbo no. 9

The only modification I made was to do a seed stitch at the edges. I believe the sweater might be slightly too short, but since this generation has never seen a 'belly shirt' that it didn't beg for, I'm sure that won't be a problem.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

More pooling and a parcel!

Believe me, I'm not a difficult person. I am not this persnickity in real life. I do not send overly salted or cold food back in restaurants, even when I probably should. I have been known to wear two completely different shoes to work and not notice until well after lunch. I do not register complaints at hotels in the hopes of getting a free upgrade or a fruit basket from the general manager. Upon entering my house, you would in no way utter the words 'perfectionist' or 'neat freak', unless of course you happen to pop over on the second or forth Thursday of the month, right after the cleaning lady has just left, in which case you might be under the mistaken impression that I pay very close attention to detail and that everything must be just so for me to be happy. The only area of my life where I seem to care enough to exert that little extra effort it takes to fret about everything being just right is knitting. Can you tell where this little post is going? After all of your sage and very welcome advice, I frogged those pooling socks like there was not tomorrow. With great abandon I ripped them mercilessly. Thinking that I had found a clever solution, I cast on my tried and true el-yawn-o sock on a different size needle, and knit for about 6 inches. Can you guess what the result was?

Yeah. Not much better than my first attempt. More dastardly pooling, people! So apparently the STR powers that be are trying to tell me something: do the pattern that the yarn was originally intended for.
Hélas, pour moi...penis socks here I come!

In other exciting news, that living doll The Lone Knitter sent me an extra special parcel today. I ordered a ball of sock yarn 'Wisteria', from her Etsy shop (don't think of it as buying yarn, think of it as supporting an artisan, k?). It is even more luscious and gorgeous in real life than in the photos. The blues, greens and lavender were an instant salve to the drudgery of my day. As a very special enclosure she also sent me a signed, dedicated copy of her book, [one love affair]! 'Wisteria' is inspired by a passage from it. The book itself is a small fetish object that I have been fondling ever since it arrived. Can you stand it? I am touched beyond belief by the unexpected gift of this slim volume and all of the excitement that it has created. Recently I had been on the look out for something new to read, so this book is coming at the right time. So, yes there was pooling and knitting related tedium, but this parcel reminds me that I am still living a charmed life...thank you Lone Knitter!

Saturday, March 17, 2007

To Frog or not to Frog: help!!

See these cute lil needles? I picked them up at my LYS yesterday in order to start in on my new Socks that Rock Club yarn, Monsoon. Take a close look at the packaging....doesn't it just scream 'I've been in this store since 1978, please take me home!'?

I decided to not use the pattern sent with the shipment as a. it it didn't grab me at all as I hate slouchy socks that make you look like you have thick ankles, even though my grandmother said that thick ankles were sign of beauty (?) and b. I didn't feel like knitting a penis (see YH's entry and pic here). Oh and then there's also the 'I think I'm special and I have to be different' element. In any case, I decided to do the Retro Rib socks from the IK Favorite Socks book. I love the pattern but am not loving the pooling. Everything was fine on the top part of the cuff as there was a nice little striping thing going on--but just look at the hideous pooling that soon follows. My question: should I send this item back to the frog pond, or just leave it? Does pooling make you insane, or am I being unreasonable? Please note: frogging always feels like total defeat to me and I tend to take it really hard. Be gentle with me!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

New Categories, an Untimely FO and a Proposition!

My taxonomy of wips was not complete as many of you suggested categories that I had yet to identify. Upon reading several your submissions, I had an immediate flash of recognition and shuddered to realize that I knew these categories all too well, even if I hadn't named them myself.
La très chic
Véronique identified a key player: "the soon to be knitted category... It's for the projects where you have the yarn, you have the pattern, you just have to actually sit down and make it...". Yup, check. Got more than my fair share of those.
K. noted a special sub-species that those who have reproduced have certainly encountered: "Haven't you forgotten the "started when I was pregnant" category? The things you started when your hormones were all whacked out and now you wonder WHY???? I can't be the only one who has done that....". No K., you are not alone.
Diana's category is somewhat spiritual in nature as it makes reference to the Divine: "I also have a JC category, as in Jesus Christ, I really thought I could knit that.... only with the help of God". Indeed.
It is refreshing to know that knitting frustration is a transnational phenom that knows no national boundaries, as
Sophie notes "on my behalf you can add the "frogging hell" category. I have a couple of projects now in the form of half-way ripped bits and pieces and ridiculously curly skeins awaiting for soaking... Believe me, they can make you feel just as guilty as the "seemed like a good idea". Ah, knitting!". Yes, this French knitter knows all about frogging!;)
Nicole's category was especially fitting as it struck a raw nerve with this weary knitter: "How about the "high-maintenance relationship" projects. You know the ones that demand a level of attention, either because they're too complicated (traditional lace), too hard on the hands (thick aran weight with woody bits stuck in the yarn for good measure), too finicky (purl 3 tog through back loop), too many colours (Alice Starmore fair isle hell), too many ends to weave ($@& intarsia) or too much math involved (Zimmermania) etc...". Yes, I am all about the high-maintenance thing...
Carrie has alighted on a category that is perhaps the most familiar to knit bloggers, seeing as we spend so much time trolling around the web, peering over fellow knit bloggers's shoulders, looking to see how the other half lives and if the grass is greener over there: "you should have a "dreaming of knitting" category, since those are the ones that take up so much space in your mind ...". Yes!

Yesterday Babs and I had a special jaunt to Johnstown, PA. (home of the flood, you know, the town that was wiped away by a wall of debris and water when all the rich captains of industry financed the construction of a private lake that-oops!-flooded the town below and killed thousands of people. Not the Darling Resident Marxist Curmudgeon's favorite historical event.) We visited Knit 1 at the Blacksmith Exchange, a combo antiques/yarn shop new to the area. The store is cute as a button with an excellent selection of Cascade 220, Lamb's Pride, Wool in the Woods, Trekking as well as other yarns that types like me and Babs love. We both bought some Skacel Avanti to do these easy fingerless mittens (yes, we know it's Spring,we are insane):

I knit these up last night and love them to pieces! Something about the lack of frills (Fetching, you know I love you darling, but picot bind-off
and cables? Isn't that a bit...much?) makes them especially appealing. The Avanti is a love as well. Skacel yarns can do no wrong in my book, love 'em all.

The owner of the shop is Margaret. Of course I am predisposed to liking her because she shares the same name as my mother, and everyone knows that
Margarets all tend to be exceptionally solid, respectable people. As opposed to people named Tammy who will steal your boyfriend, run up your credit cards and generally chew you up and spit you out in a heartbeat. But I digress... Babs and I had a lovely chat with her as she told us all about her shop (it's about 18 months old) and her clientele (85% new knitters). And guess what? She invited both of us to choose any class and teach in her shop!! So what began as a visit to a new yarn shop ended with an interesting proposition...and now I ask you this: what 'open source' pattern or project would you propose? Think about the classes you took as new knitters, which techniques or projects really helped you turn a corner?

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Periodic Table of W.I.Ps

Now, we all know that wips are not all created alike. There is a discrete system of classification in force for all of them. We are talking about the knitter's equivalent of Linneaus' binomial nomencalture, the Periodic Table of the Elements, or if you are a particle physicist, the Eightfold Way.

The Long Haul
There are those wips that are what the French call '
un travail de longue haleine', meaning that they are just complicated enough that they will take a while to finish. But you will finish them, there is simply no question. They strike the right balance of doability, interest and promise of a statisfying garment. For me the Anemoi mittens are in this category--the magnetic chart holder is saving my place, and when I have a long stretch of time, I will have the gumption to sit down and refocus my attention on them. They are not the problem here.

Sock Purgatory
You have your pile o' first socks that are patiently awaiting their mates, relegated to the purgatory of knitted garments. "
Any day now..." they seem to be politely wondering. At some point you'll get so annoyed with yourself, you'll just finish one and wonder afterwards what your damn problem was to begin with and why can't you be the kind of (good) knitter that has discipline and fortitude rather than a (bad) slothful knitter whose indolence prevents any project completion in a normal time frame. However this category does seem to cycle fairly quickly, and although a new one pops into the category just as another one is completed, it's not a major irritation because it shows that a certain level of productivity is happening.

It seemed like a good idea at the time...
Then you have the out of gas wips--the projects that you began with a sense of unbridled enthusiasm. Perhaps an impulse purchase contributed to your initial élan, you were convinced by a well meaning and eager LYS employee (we're talking hypotheticals here), began the project over a weekend and then just sort of fizzled out over time. There are plenty of those hanging around this joint and I truly hate them the most--an odd baby sweater for a friend whose child is now 3, a scarf that when it comes right down to it, looks craptastic and fugly in the light of day and you just can't bear to interact with enough to even frog it. Their role is to mock you very time you go to your knitting corner looking for something else. You almost wish that your cat would pee on them or that one of your kids would accidentally smear Nutella on them, so you could feign appropriate stern dismay but then (secretly, joyfully) thrown them out.

The last category is indeed the most inexplicable. It is the least understood of the species. Please tell me why a knit blogger, someone's whose voracious appetite for posting finished projects in a sort of pathetic primary school 'show and tell' kind of way, would finish knitting a sweater over a year ago, seam half of it, go get a cup of coffee and then never bother to complete it? WTF? After reading the Subway Knitter and her discussions of finishing it suddenly dawned on me
Hello, you have a sweater that is 98% done in an Ikea bag upstairs?!! So, after a trying day at work, I gathered my wits about me, went upstairs and retrieved it, and am wearing it to work today!

The Specs
Pattern: LYS 'Three Day Sweater" (Yes, a hilarious title)
Yarn: Woolpak 8 ply in Royal red
Needles: Size 11 circulars

So, there you have my utterly scientific system of classification. See how the Darling Resident Marxist Curmudgeon's empirical mind has rubbed off on me? Please let me know if there are any categories I am forgetting...

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Sock Sluts unite!

I have figured out that knitting in general and sock knitting specifically is like that proverbial goldfish that grows to whatever size bowl you put in. In my case that bowl is the size of one of the Great Lakes, maybe Lake Erie. It's taking up all my mental space to the point that I no longer read my weekly publications like the Nation and the New Yorker beyond the film reviews and the cartoons. Nor do I send greeting cards, iron the DRMC's shirts for work or engage in important hygiene rituals like exfoliating and moisturizing. No, I spend my time thinking about knitting socks.

Realization: I am a bona fide sock whore.

I suppose there are worse dark masters to be serving...I mean, I'm not breaking any laws. And although I have sold my soul to Blue Moon Fiber Arts, no one is really suffering. And until they take my kids away from me, kick me to the curb at Penn State, sell my house in a county tax sale and annul my marriage for failure to perform expected wifely duties, I'm rolling with it. Hey--you can have my two Size 2 Addi Circulars when you pry them from my cold, dead hands!

The above pictured sock had been sadly been languishing on the needles since last June until my recent adrenaline sock surge. They were fun to finish, and I'm actually not dreading the second sock as much as one would think. Spring Break is rapidly approaching and I need a goal.

The Specs:

Pattern: Fiber Trends Leaf Lace Socks (Lord knows I love me anything with a leaf pattern)

Yarn: Lanett Superwash in # 8513 aka Puke Green (Sometime Puke Green just

Needles: Begun on Brittany Size 1 dpns and completed on two circular Size 1 Addi Turbos (Be gone you dreadfully warped bamboo skewers!)

Like all vices, the above-pictured sock provided me with heretofore untold highs...The pattern, Baby Cable Rib Socks, is from my all-time fave sock tome Sensational Knitted Socks. I like this stitch a lot. It's the same one featured
ad nauseum in the Union Square Poncho, a behemoth of a project that took up way too much time for the diminishing return that it represented. The same stitch was a cinch scaled down to a smaller project.

The Specs:

Pattern: Baby Cable Rib Socks from Charlene Schurch's Sensational Knitted Socks

Yarn: Socks that Rock 24 Karat

Needles: Two Size 2 Addi Turbos

Did I mention how completely obsessed with Socks that Rock I am? Wow....where to begin. If Koigu is yarn
porn (as I have previously referred to it as here), then STR is yarn crack. There's a springiness to it that makes it so lovely to work with. The colors are gorgeous and the hand...oh the hand. Wow. Love it. Want more of it. Luckily for me I joined the sock club so that a steady supply of it will be flowing uninterrupted to my residence for the next year.

In other sock yarn related madness, today I was able to procure the holy grail of indie sock yarn. After getting burned in a bad way on the Vesper Sock Yarn Scarcity Incident of Fall 2005 and the Catastrophic Sweet Georgia Calamity of Spring 2007, I have finally come up a winner. This b*tch has managed to get her mitts on some Sundara sock yarn, y'all. Hallelujah!! Can I get a witness?

Well, there you have it. Welcome to the underworld of a crazed sock knitter. Are you feelin' me?