All I want to do is be more like me

February 1, 2011 § 3 Comments

Now that I’m back on the knitting horse, so to speak, it seems I can’t stop blogging about it.

Seriously, it’s kind of insane how good it feels to start something new, something exciting, something quick. I’m making very good use of my birthday present to Saskia (Cookie A’s ‘Sock Innovation’) and am halfway done with my first Kai-Mei. Or Kei-Mai. Or Mai-Tai. Or… something. I’m almost getting a head rush from the speed. The yarn feels a little thicker than your average sock yarn, which made the leg zoom by extra fast. 66 stitches to a round… paradise.

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I swear, the yarn’s a lot less neon than it looks in this picture. It’s still cheerful though, and works great with the (pretty, inventive, just damn clever) pattern. So. Clever. I’m more and more in awe of Cookie A.; this is the first time I’m knitting one of her socks after two years of admiring them from afar, and I have nothing to complain about at all. Clear chart, solid instructions, unusual but not mindboggling construction, even a photo of the sock worked in a variegated yarn in addition to the solid version.

News of my big projects… oh, phooey. The only big projects I’m touching these days are Watson and Girl Friday, and that’s only because they’re finished and amazing. I rocked my complete Watson outfit again today, plaid shirt and all.

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Oh, Watson… I made the sleeves a bit too long. I keep doing that, by the way. I think I’m just so excited by the fact that I can make sleeves as long as I want, that I can make sleeves that won’t be too short for my (according to the fashion industry) freakishly long arms, that I get kind of carried away every freaking time. With Girl Friday, I redid the cuffs and shortened them and I can still fold over the entire cuffs and have them be long enough.

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With Watson, it’s not quite as bad. I mean, yes, I can still fold over the entire cuff, but the cuffs are a lot shorter than the Girl Friday ones. I’m not sure what I should do about it. I mean, technically, I’m already well-versed in the fiddly art of removing the cuffs, picking up the stitches and reknitting it. I’m still debating whether I will, though. Maybe I’ll snip off the cuff, remove one repeat or so of the sleeve pattern, and graft the old cuff back on. (Even though that would require me to fudge it by a couple of stitches, so it might not be the best method. On the other hand, the cuff wouldn’t be offset by half a stitch.)

Or maybe I’ll just leave it like this. I’ll have to mull it over a bit, but I’m painfully aware I can’t put it off too long. Eventually the stitches will be fulled together as it is, I can’t even imagine doing it after a couple of months. That’s the drawback of Lopi, really.

No deep thoughts, this time, I’m sorry to say. Saskia and I randomly read Oscar Wilde out loud last night, but the thing that’s stuck most in my my mind is the crowning sentence of my translation homework that (unintentionally) set everyone off giggling.

“The heating ducts are everywhere.”

Daleks? Aim for the eyestalk. Sontarans? Back of the neck. Heating ducts? Run.

… and it’s gonna be totally awesome

November 24, 2010 § 9 Comments

I haven’t been posting; I think it’s mostly due to the fact that I got a new paper journal that I love writing in – yet another Moleskine. The third over a relatively short time. Used to be that I thought they were pretentious, now I appreciate their simplistic design and rounded corners.

Speaking of rounded corners. Last night, my old laptop broke, which was a kind of a shame and kind of a relief. I liked Graham, I really did, but I’d had nothing but trouble with him in the last months – freezing, especially, and overheating, and freezing some more, and more random shit that was just annoying. Then last night, he wouldn’t recognize the fact that he was plugged in. I tried the usual – pull the plug out, stick it back in, thump it on the back – nothing.

So I rather hysterically backed everything important up onto my external harddrive, transferred some money, and bought a Macbook today. The Macbook I’ve been planning on for… a while. Ever since summer, I guess, since Graham started acting up more and more.

I was a bit afraid of the Big Bad Apple, but so far I’m loving it. It’s friendly, it’s streamlined, it’s simplistic. I’m sure I’ll encounter some problems at some point, but right now, I’m very much charmed. Oscar (i.e. the Macbook) isn’t quite as big as Graham, which might put a damper on watching movies, but seriously… if that’s all I have to complain about, I’ll take that any day.

Status updates on the Frantic Christmas Knitting: 30 days to go, Girl Friday halfway done, Henry around 60 %. I’d post pictures but it’s at a point where it just looks… more of the same, basically. Which isn’t very exciting as photos go. (Also I don’t have anything on this computer yet.)

Cute knitting-related anecdote: One of my classmates was wearing this stylish beret, so I asked here where she got it. Her answer? Ravelry! So Saskia and I squeed a bit, and started chatting about knitting, and the pattern (Meret/Mystery Beret by Wooly Wormhead, by the way), and yarn, and the whole shebang. It was nice, having a little outpost of normality in the ‘real world’. The Bunter November yarn market (the little brother of the Wollefest each May) was, of course, right on the mainland of the Wondrous Land of Knitting, and I spent a couple of hours deliriously petting yarn, knitting and chatting with people I knew from Ravelry or the Strickcafé or didn’t know at all, at least not their faces (hallo, Jana!).

Why I never posted about this? Well, of course I’d forgotten my camera (figures), and I just haven’t felt like posting yarn porn. Shocking, I know. I’ll post ’em one of these days, when I’ve figured out whether Oscar is compatible with Bobby the External Harddrive. But first, Glee.

I’ll stand my ground

October 1, 2010 § 1 Comment

I recently spent some time at my parents’, catching up with old friends and family. I wore my Girl Friday cardi everywhere – the weather is just getting crisp, but it’s still warm enough to wear a cardigan instead of a jacket during the day. And  they all said, when they learned that it was a hand-knit:

‘Wow, you knit that? It doesn’t look hand-knit – it’s almost like you bought it in a store!’

I’ve heard countless variations of that exclamation. I know well enough my non-knitting friends and acquaintances mean to pay me a compliment. I know they mean that there’s no mistakes, that it’s not lumpy, that it fits well. I’ve got my friends in Leipzig trained well enough, but obviously I have some catching up to do with my old friends.

‘Wow, you knit that? It doesn’t look hand-knit – it’s almost like you bought it in a store!’

Every time I hear someone say that, even though I know they mean well – I can’t help being vaguely offended. Almost like I bought it in a store? Yeah, right.

I haven’t bought a sweater in a while, mostly because what I see in stores is either unaffordable or… crap. It’s plastic yarn. It’s mass-produced in China, or Thailand, or some equally sweatshop-filled country. Either it’s too tight over my bust or too loose over my body, or the sleeves or the body are too short. Or, with shirts gathered under the bust in the currently popular baby-doll style, the line invariably goes right across the lower third of my boobs, which just looks plain silly. And even if I find something that fits, it won’t last longer than a year, and that’s when I’m lucky. Because that’s how the industry works.

Bottom line: that’s not what my knitwear is. I’ll say it again: My sweaters are not almost like I bought them in a store. Neither are my scarves, hats, gloves, socks, shawls, cardigans, cowls. I’ve never even seen willy-warmers in a store, so I’m not sure about those. But that’s not the point.

The point is: my sweaters fit. They’re made to fit me, to be long enough in the body and long enough in the sleeves, and tailored where my waist is, not where the median waist of the German population is. They contain my breasts comfortably. They don’t pinch in under the arms. They’re made from quality yarn that isn’t dyed with chemicals that people have lost their health or eyesight over. They’re made of only (or mostly) natural fibers that are endlessly better than anything ever produced in a laboratory. Every stitch in my sweater is made with love, or enjoyment, or plain stubbornness in the face of slogging through another 336-stitch row. It’s a garment that will serve me well for years, that won’t disintegrate when I look at it sideways, that won’t spontaneously develop holes along the seam after six months. (Even in the unlikely event that it should, I’d still have yarn on hand to fix it.) It’s a garment I can wear with pride, because it is testament to my stick-to-it-ness that I just knit a 48-inch sweater in fingering yarn, and a wonderful reminder of the time I spent lovingly hand-crafting every single stitch.

I don’t know why people associate hand-knit with lumpy and riddled with mistakes, or low-quality. Buying decent yarn is certainly not cheaper than buying a sweater. The wool I buy is ten, twenty times the quality of the polyester so many store-bought sweaters are made of. With that level of monetary, temporal and emotional commitment, you might as well fix every stinking mistake, whether it’s by ripping it back or by making it a design feature. You’re going to be wearing it for years, so you’re going to block it. You’re going to make it non-lumpy. You’re gonna make it the best damn sweater you’ve ever worn, every time.

‘Wow, you knit that? It doesn’t look hand-knit – it’s almost like you bought it in a store!’

Knitters of the world, I urge you: tell your muggle friends. Educate them on the fact that ‘almost like store-bought’ is not, in fact, a compliment. Even the lumpiest, most ill-fitting, most unflattering handknit sweater is a thousand times better than anything you could buy in a store. The gorgeous, custom-tailored things you and I make? There isn’t a thing that could compare.

‘Wow, you bought that? In a store? I could’ve made you one kind of like that, except in a color that matches your eyes, with those cables there tucked in just a bit more to make it more flattering, and a longer hem, and shoulders that don’t sag. Take a photo next time and come to me with that!’

Ain’t nothing gonna break my stride

September 18, 2010 § 4 Comments

So, it looks like my right wrist is kind of busted.

Well, not busted busted but there is definitely something wrong with it, some kind of repetitive-strain thing. It started last Friday after five solid hours of knitting, but I thought it was just soreness (since I usually don’t do non-stop knitting) and that it would go away after a couple of days of very light knitting.

Well, it didn’t. In fact, it’s creeping up to my elbow, which makes me think it’s something with my tendons, which is Bad with a capital B. And I’m mostly mad at myself, because beating eggs for crème brûlée with a whisk instead of a mixer, even if it was mostly with my left hand, certainly didn’t do any good, and constantly sneaking in ten minutes of knitting here and there didn’t either.

So I’ve decided to take a three-day break from knitting to see if that would help any, and I’m trying to keep general wrist movement to a minimum… and needless to say, it’s severely cramping my style.

Today is day 1 of the self-imposed knitting break and I’m already going bonkers. On the plus side, I’m getting all my hanks of yarn wound into balls, since that’s basically the only activity that I can do to keep my hands busy while not moving my right wrist.

It’s not that I haven’t gone some time without knitting. There’s been times when I was just too damn pissed off with knitting or too busy that I didn’t get my hands on some needles for a day or two. But I’m just not busy, plus all the stuff I’d planned is totally falling through: I wanted to go to the knitting café today, and I was looking forward to listening to Stravinsky’s Firebird while knitting on my red sweater. Plus I was thinking of making beignets this weekend, but I need both my wrists to knead that yeast dough properly.

The only good thing that’s come of this is that I ripped back about half of what I had of the Miralda Shawl I started in May 2009. I made some major mistakes, and I wasn’t the kind of person who’d rip back a couple of rows of 300+ stitches just for the hell of it and tried to fudge it instead, which obviously didn’t work. And required some serious self-medication. Ah, it was so frustrating. So I eventually balled it up and stuck it in a bag and stuffed that into the deep dark recesses of my wardrobe, and only got it out to pull out the needle because I needed it for the Dalek vest.

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But today, after untangling a tangled skein of yarn for a solid hour and a half, I decided to get it out, rip back to (hopefully) before the mistakes, and continue with it… once I can. It was kind of a weird experience though, because it made me realize how much I’ve changed in just a year and a half: I’ve become much more anal-retentive about mistakes, I’m more willing to rip back, and I don’t think 300-stitch rows are all that terrible.

If there’s one thing the Big Green Monster, the Swallowtail Stole, the Garter Stitch Bitch and the current sock-yarn sweater have taught me, it’s patience with long rows. And if there’s anything Girl Friday and Balmoral have taught me is that it’s usually worth ripping back to fix even minor mistakes.

Miralda was only the fifth shawl I cast on, and the other four were two Swallowtail Shawls, a stockinette sock yarn shawl, and an Aerang – none of which were particularly difficult or had a lot of charts. Maybe Miralda, with its bazillion charts, was a bit of an overly ambitious project at that point. But in the 17 months since, I’ve done a lot of chart-work, and a lot of patience-work, and I’ve learned to pay more attention. And, even more than that, I’ve learned not to be afraid of ripping back.

And now my sister has asked for a Girl Friday for Christmas, and I wanna work on Miralda, and get to the short rows on Thermal, and when I know how that works continue with the Dalek vest, and… I just wanna knit. And I know that if I don’t rest up now, it’s only gonna take longer till I can go again, but… help, I’m going insane.

I hope Saskia comes back soon, so we can do some more fencing with our new swords or toss a softball. Maybe I’ll clean up the kitchen. Or photograph… something.

***

Speaking of photography. I’m so proud of this photo. Maybe because it’s just a snapshot of one of these moments, the one where you usually can’t whip out your camera in time.

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Ad-mitt-ing defeat

September 6, 2010 § 3 Comments

A couple of days ago, I started a mitt. It was a thing of beauty, clever and gorgeous on the palm as well as on the top; even the thumb gusset was delightful.

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And even though the outside was great, I loved the inside even more, for all the cleverness and how you could see the pattern reflected in the floats.

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It was also too tight. I’m not really a tight knitter with most things, so it always comes as a complete and utter surprise when I do colorwork and suddenly my gauge pulls in by a quarter and I can’t get anything to fit. And stretched colorwork just looks silly. Not to mention I’d really like to retain blood flow in my hands this winter.

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So I frogged it. Well, down to the cuffs, because surprisingly enough my wrists are smaller than my hands, and the cuffs don’t stretch out. I’m slightly frustrated, but to be honest, not as much as I could be. If Girl Friday and Balmoral have taught me anything, it’s that ripping back to do it properly will pay off every single time.

Oh, speaking of which. Girl Friday?

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I’m wearing it right now.

And my favorite part, even better than the bold pattern, or the huge collar-slash-buttonband I knit no less than four times (yes, four), or the way it fits me perfectly and looks so damn cool… is the little ‘Handmade’ charm Saskia gave me a bunch of last Christmas, hanging proudly on  the edge of my collar  where everyone can see it.

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It started out as a feeling

July 16, 2010 § 3 Comments

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So, despite almost being done with seaming Girl Friday, I’ve experienced a major setback. AGAIN. And it again consists of me having to rip back the collar/button band (all 80-odd grams of it) and reknitting it with more stitches. AGAIN. I’m pretty much at the point where I just wanna throw the damn thing in the corner and let it rot.

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(Girl Friday as of yesterday around noon)

At least my seams are going well, which is a relief. I’ll have to find another technique for the ribbing on the sleeves, but! I do have to say, I like the actual motions of seaming, it’s just that it takes so damn long. Especially if you make the cardigan even longer to fit your long-ass body.

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But yeah, I’m good at seaming. That wonky column of stitches isn’t the seam, btw, it’s a randomly wonky row. No idea why it looks so weird.

Oh well. To counteract the frustration that is the cardigan (and to procrastinate from the Swallowtail Shawl, which needs to be done in a week) I started a toy owl in some gorgeous alpaca I had lying around since last year’s Wollefest.

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It came to me in a dream – it’s basically a truncated cone, with a flat-knit panel (consisting of eyes, beak, ear-feathers and colorfully embroidered belly) attached to the front. We’ll see how that goes. Right now I’m at the cone part, and it’s going swimmingly.

I really should be working on the Swallowtail Shawl. I’m kind of in the mood for a bit of math, maybe I’ll sit down with it later. It’s probably an issue even a mathematically challenged person like me can figure out in less than two minutes.

**

And now… for something completely different. Like guacamole.

Now, I didn’t even like avocados until last summer, until someone (most likely Christian) convinced me to try the guacamole on the taco platter we shared at a cocktail bar, and va-voom. Just like that, I was hooked.

So last night, I made a half-recipe’s worth of Pioneer Woman’s tortillas and used the recipe from my new Spanish dictionary to make some guacamole. (Yes, at G like guacamole, there’s a little info window with a recipe. How cool is that? Langenscheidt rocks.)

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Not that that recipe was totally extraordinary. It was pretty much like every guacamole recipe you’ve ever seen: an avocado (mashed), a tomato and an onion (finely diced), cilantro (which I can’t get, so I use parsley), a goodly amount of garlic, and lemon juice, salt, pepper and tabasco to taste. Mmmmh.

And then this morning, I used up the leftovers and made a truly heart-stopping brunch.

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Seriously, I wish there wasn’t so much lard in that tortilla recipe. Because they’re the best tortillas I’ve ever made.

Speaking of Spanish, I scored a 2.0 in my oral exam! Which is awesome, especially if you consider how I was convinced I’d fail it. So, cheers, guys.

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El silencio se va al mar

July 8, 2010 § 3 Comments

A month exactly after casting on for the back, the pieces of Girl Friday are laid out and blocking on my bed.

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From a textured pile of yarny shapes, laid out to see how they could fit…

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… with bubbles and a couple of simple tools…

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… I transformed a bed and some wet lumps of yarn…

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… into a blocking board full of things that are two steps away from becoming a garment.

Then sun is just starting to shine on my bed, and there’s a light breeze going, so I’m hoping for everything to be more or less dry by eight or so.

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It sucks I can’t sit on my bed, but at least I’ll be kind of forced to straighten up my room (which is, let’s face it, long overdue).

Blocking garments isn’t as strenuous as I expected, going on my experience with lace blocking. But this was more of a pinning the corners out in the correct dimensions and kinda patting the rest in place. That still took 40 minutes or so, but took a lot less needles than I’d feared. Which is always a good thing.

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Music of the moment: ‘Amanecer’ from the movie Habana Blues. Cuban rock. Oh, baby. Good film, even better soundtrack. What a summer.

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