Amongst our weaponry are such diverse elements as: fear, surprise, ruthless efficiency, an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope, and nice red uniforms – Oh damn!

March 24, 2011 § 4 Comments

I’ve been taking full advantage of the beautiful spring weather. It’s been a balmy 15°C with lots of sun and barely a cloud in the sky, so yesterday while I had the Armada pinned out on my bed I went to the park with Saskia, to soak up sun and eat delicious Middle Eastern snacks while wearing a skirt, a t-shirt and ballerinas. After we had enough of the park we had coffee in front of our favorite café just around the corner from our house, and I didn’t even mind going back home because this is what greeted me when I stepped into my room.

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Turned out it blocked out to slightly bigger than 1.20m, but I could pin the slack down on the side of the mattress. Thank god for the aluminum rods! Using them on all four sides would’ve been too fiddly (not to mention the injuries I probably would’ve suffered from tripping over the two protruding bits) but two sides was perfect.

What I love about lace, apart from the general and obvious gorgeousness, is how small it folds. Even hairsprayed into oblivion (I’m paranoid when it comes to blocking and like to fixate with a bit – or half a can – of hairspray before pulling out the pins), it was still barely bigger than my Moleskine calender.

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And then today, I grabbed Saskia by the hair and dragged her down to the canal and forced her at gunpoint to model the shawl for me. I might have been more of an asking-nicely thing than brutal blackmail, but, y’know. Anything for a dramatic hyperbole.

Anyway, she did a beautiful job, and oh my, I’m so in love with this yarny monstrosity. It’s like the Big Green Monster v.2. I don’t even know how to wear it. But it’s amazing.

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So this is it. Spanish Armada by MMario with an edging by Utlinde (I’d love to link to the PDF, but I got it from her personally and it’s neither in her nor in Mmario’s patterns). This shawl measures approximately 127 cm by 127 cm (about 4’2″ by 4’2″) and was knit in 81 days with an entire skein of Filatura di Crosa Centolavaggi (100% merino, 1400m/100g, color 151), mostly on 3mm bamboo needles. I say mostly because for the last quarter of the edging, I gradually switched down to a 2.25mm DPN and one 3mm tip of the circ because yarn was getting scarce and I was getting scared.

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In the end, I was more than glad I went down a couple of sizes because I finished with nothing at all left over and a half-corner that consists of about half the short rows normally required. ‘Tight squeeze’ doesn’t even come close. I spent about a week frantically weighing and re-weighing the little ball of yarn that got even smaller at an alarming rate, and the adrenaline rush when I just barely made it had me woozy for at least half an hour.

Spanish Armada

I cast on with Fleegle’s Cast-On For Circular Shawls, which is insanely difficult if you do it wrong and a revelation once you hold the yarn the way you’re supposed to.

[UPDATE: I saw that people have been searching my blog for a good way to cast on for this, and I’d like to add that while Fleegle’s Cast-On is awesome and I’ve used it many times to great success, TECHknitting has a disappearing loop cast-on that works the same way, only you can cast on an even number of stitches, eliminating the need to sneak an increase in somewhere.]

Modifications: I added one ‘leaf’ repeat to the Print o’ the Wave. I wish the chart had lined up so I could’ve changed some of the k2tog to ssk to get nicely defined lines like in the edging, but spilled milk and all that. I think I added about a repeat and a half to the English Mesh just for the heck of it, and skipped the very last chart in favor of the sideways edging. It was originally for a triangular shawl, so I stared with the middle row of the corner chart after the provisional cast-on. After the first corner was unsatisfyingly loose in the middle, I started to wrap & turn and do a [pick up wrap, k2tog] row instead of the charted middle row for the other corners and they came out much, much better. I had to fudge away a couple of stitches here and there and I’m pretty sure the amount of scallops is different on each side, but there’s enough of them for me not to be too bothered by that. The entire edging took 35g, but with two or three grams more there would’ve been a lot less stress and a much smaller number of shortcuts.

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Now that it’s all nice and blocked, the ratio between the Print o’ the Wave and the English Mesh doesn’t seem as off as it did pre-blocking, for which I am intensely grateful. At times, the only thing that kept me from ripping back half the edging, the Mesh and the extra repeat of the Print o’ the Wave was the fact that I was on an already tight schedule, and it turns out it works just fine like this.

I think this has been my most challenging project to date. This was partly due to the pattern being difficult to grasp intuitively, so that I had to work each row with intense concentration and even more intense counting. But although I’d knit lightweight lace before, I’d never worked with yarn that fine before: my usual lace yarns run somewhere around 600m/100g, and even Misti Alpaca Lace is only 800m/100g, which is still 600m less than the Centolavaggi. The thing that had worried me most, the >800-stitch-long rows towards the end, ended up being the least of my concerns. I’m not a patient person by nature, but with lace I can scrounge up a surprising amount of the stuff. Also Centolavaggi is a thoroughly enjoyable yarn to work with, I’m intensely glad I have another skein (apple green this time) in my stash. I guess since lace shawls are relatively impractical by nature (compared to, say, socks), I turn into somewhat of a process knitter when working on them, whereas with socks I have the biggest trouble psyching myself up for the heel because it takes so long.

Now, after all this serious!knitter stuff, for the most famous reindeer of all:

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Perfectly sound analysis

January 25, 2011 § 6 Comments

I was in a bit of a knitting frenzy last night, because the end was nigh… and lo and behold, at 1 am I put away my sewing needle, cut off the last thread, and held in my hands my magnificent, gorgeous, amazing Watson sweater.

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I don’t feel any need to mince my words, since I’m ridiculously proud of the thing and will continue to be so in the future.

I didn’t really use the pattern that’s up on Ravelry – the lovely authors of that one are amazing in their own right and I referred to the pattern when it came to the shoulder short rows and the neck, but ultimately, we came up with our charts at the same time. Mine is more faithful to and more independent from the original at once: my chevrons are reverse stockinette like in the original, but I mirrored my cables so they wouldn’t all go in the same direction. Also, my yarn only bears a passing resemblance to the one used in the original in that they’re both yarns and they’re both undyed (but in different shades and of varying fuzziness).

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All in all, now I have a complete Watson outfit and a complete Sherlock outfit (well, except for the scarf), and what’s more, I totally rock. Because I created it from a picture, and it fits me perfectly, and I’m wearing it right now with a checkered shirt and jeans, while Saskia is getting ready in her room in her aubergine shirt with a black waistcoat and blazer.

I think we’ll raise the surveillance level to three. – Of whom? – Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson.

And now someone else is getting all your best

January 9, 2011 § 3 Comments

I think most people have a bit of a soft spot when it comes to babies, and I think most knitters have a bit of a soft spot for knitting baby clothes. And why not? They’re small, which makes them relatively quick and affords you the chance to try new things, and also they’re adorable.

The only problem I had, until now, is that I didn’t know any babies. Or pregnant women. Which is a shame, really, because there are tons of adorable baby things on Ravelry (like the Baby Yoda Sweater, which has been in my queue forever), and I simply didn’t have anyone to give them to, since all my friends, for some reason, refuse to have babies despite my insistent bribery with the promises of baby things.

So when I went to the Strickcafé last Wednesday, I was overjoyed to meet Annelie, who is pregnant, and even more overjoyed when it turned out that she is a terrifically nice person, that we get along swimmingly, and that finally, finally I’d found someone I could knit baby things for.

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Exploding ovaries all around. Seriously, they’re the most adorable thing I’ve ever knit. I think it may be all the garter stitch, and the tweediness, and the folded-over shaft, and the fact that both of them fit into my hand at the same time. Both my roommates went gaga over them as well.

And who can blame them? All the while I was knitting them, I couldn’t stop myself from mumbling ‘oh my god, aren’t they just the cutest things ever? just look at the wee little bootees! most adorable thing ever!’

For those who want to know, they’re Knitgirl’s Mother’s Stay-On Baby Bootees, in an experimental tweed version of Zitron Trekking Handart, color Nepal, on 2.25 mm needles (15 cm DPNs are just long enough). They have a very interesting construction involving short rows, but it’s pretty much necessary to fudge a bit with the seam, as it tends to be a bit on the pointy side. However, due to the garter stitch, you can sew the seam invisibly by sewing through the purl bumps at the edge; I was surprised at how many of the project pictures had bulky seams at the back.

I think I may have to make one to just have one, and to go gaga over whenever I feel like it.

Whispering sounds of silence

January 7, 2011 § Leave a comment

(Warning: this post might not make a lot of sense if you haven’t read or at least watched Oscar Wilde’s “The Picture of Dorian Gray”.)

I realize this blog might not be the ideal platform for this – maybe, just maybe, I should start another blog for my reading, since I plan on doing that a lot this year. But for now, you’ll have to choose between reading all of this or simply ignoring it (I’m putting most of it behind a jump just in case). I need to share this.

Because today, I was sitting in a Starbucks and I suddenly got what Dorian Gray was all about.

In my effort to read at least one book a week (which isn’t too much of a problem, I’m realizing, since I read slightly more than a page a minute), I’ve been devouring Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series, which is meta on so many levels (and some besides), and it got me thinking about Dorian Gray. Which is just as well, I suppose, since I’ll be needing to think about him quite a bit this year.

The thing about Dorian Gray is that how good it is largely depends on the way you read it. If you read it for the language and aphorisms and witticisms, you’d hardly be disappointed, but I always found the characters rather one-dimensional. Merely a vehicle for all the wit, so to speak – also, the story, while based on a terrific idea, is kind of thin on the details, and seems more like a canvas than the picture. Not much happens in Dorian Gray.

But then, I’m realizing, this is Oscar Wilde we’re talking about. If his characters seem flat, they’re probably so intentionally. Maybe I haven’t been looking deep enough, or in the right places. The whole book is about outward appearance in contrast to the inner workings of humans, so…

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und meinen Chocolate Chip Cookies kann keine widersteh’n

December 3, 2010 § 3 Comments

I know that many, like me, are constantly searching for the perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe. I myself have at least six vastly different recipes in my recipe folder, including Triple Threat Hot Chocolate Chip Cookies, one proclaiming to be the Softest CCC ever… but I think I’ve finally found… The Recipe. The One.

It’s The Brown Eyed Baker’s Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies. Oh my.

These are the chocolate chip cookies I’ve been dreaming of all my life – thick, chewy in the middle, crisp on the outside, too large to dunk into milk unless you break them in two… simply divine.

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And now, excuse me. I’m gonna go shackle myself to the bed so I don’t eat them all at once.

The road goes ever on and on…

October 22, 2010 § 2 Comments

So, now that Martin Freeman (aka Dr. John Watson) is confirmed as Bilbo Baggins in the upcoming dramatization of The Hobbit

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… I find it vaguely freaky that two weeks ago, I wrote the first sentence of The Hobbit over my little doodle of the Watson sweater.

I’M PSYCHIC Y’ALL.

So many times it happens so fast

October 9, 2010 § 2 Comments

Proudest fucking moment of my life?

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Witnessing Saskia teaching her friend her first cast-on and the knit stitch.

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