Its fleece was white as snow

August 11, 2011 § Leave a comment

People, I have good news and bad news. The bad news is: I’ve had the second part of the Mitten saga mostly done and in draft form for about a month, and with handing in my Bachelor’s thesis, the urge to procrastinate and write 1700 words on mitten cuffs has sort of evaporated. I’ll try and get to it sometime soon, I promise.

The good news is: not only did I get the Gryffindor mittens as far as I wanted to in time for Adam, but it was a very good thing I didn’t entirely finish them: I had to rip back the tips and add almost 2 cm to each hand to make them fit. I can’t even imagine the pain of unpicking the woven-in ends and splicing new yarn to the whole shebang.

IMG_4934
It’s really hard to find a flattering pose for both gloves and the recipient’s face. I managed to fail on both counts.

The best news is: within two hours of arriving in Leipzig in the middle of the night (i.e. 6.42 am) last Friday, Adam had learned the knit stitch, and over the next days proceeded to knit like a madman, first on a little green garter stitch practice swatch, then on a project that made not only me go ‘holy shit, now that’s one hell of a first project!’: Susie’s Reading Mitts. Even with substituting the picot edge for a more manly straight edge, those mitts have it all: working in the round on DPNs, knit, purl, increase, decrease, yarn over, counting rows, fixing mistakes, casting on and binding off, sewing a hem down on the wrong side… and probably a couple of other things.

When knitters will have taken over the world, I’ll have done my part. Nobody spends more than a couple of hours here without at least trying a couple of knit stitches, but to say that he took to it like a fish to water is sort of an understatement.

IMG_4924

I remain suitably impressed, as I wistfully glance in the vague direction of my abomination of a holey, green cotton garter stitch first-time scarf…

But yeah. Apart from showing him around the city (and boy, did I go all-out on that. I think the walking tour around the city center took a good three hours), I tried imparting as much knitting wisdom as I could: from how to use stitch markers to the brilliance that is the Yarn Harlot, from medieval knitting guilds to the boyfriend sweater curse, from how to wind yarn cocoons to washing your woolens, from the story behind the Spanish Armada shawl to how to spend more time on Ravelry looking at patterns instead of actually getting any knitting done. Although come to think of it, he didn’t need all that much instruction for that last bit…

I also took him for an afternoon at Annelie’s, where I quickly plied my yarn and then proceeded to coo over the baby and tell her the story of Bilbo and the thirteen dwarves, switching between English and German every time I was distracted or needed for some light interpreting, because I could never remember which language I’d started off with. My sanity didn’t take too well to the constant language mix – it’s a good thing I’m not becoming an interpreter after all. But spinning always makes the confusion a bit better. (Also, shininess.)

IMG_4927

Anyway. I had a wonderful time, and I hope he did as well. There’s a slightly upsetting lack of photos, since he doesn’t have a camera and I seem to have very localized dementia when it comes to gadgets, but I made sure to get at least a couple of us, over the roofs of Leipzig.

IMG_4948

And let me just say: I’ve never had quite as much alcohol in as short a time period as the last week. Holy moly.

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.

IMG_3457

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.

IMG_3477

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.

IMG_3488

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.

Spanish Armada

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.

IMG_3503

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:

« Read the rest of this entry »

What’s come over me? Whoo! Here it comes again!

March 22, 2011 § 11 Comments

Warning: this post contains a thorough bitching-out of a pattern. on the plus side, shawl pictures!

The trouble with resolving to wait with blogging until something has happened is that knitting is such a slow type of magic that sometimes it takes forever for something blogworthy to happen. Especially with lace, the progress feels huge but it would have been perfectly tedious to constantly update you with pictures like this one:

IMG_3360

No, really guys! I totally just finished another repeat of the badly-charted Print o’ the Wave!

But the miracle has happened: today is not only the second day of spring, but also the day I finished my Spanish Armada Shawl (aka Fear and Surprise, Surprise and Fear). It was the first thing cast on in 2011, it’s given me tons and tons of grief over the course of the last three months, and after a week and a half of hair-raising, paranoid border knitting that drove me to the brink of insanity, it’s DONE.

IMG_3449

I’ll be blocking it tomorrow, and preliminary, cursory pinning experiments suggest that it’s just barely small enough to be blocked on my 1.20 m (4′) wide bed. I can’t wait! But at the same time I’m extremely glad I have my aluminum rods for blocking, because bending over for an hour to individually pin down all those scallops (on four sides no less) isn’t exactly my idea of a fun day, if you catch my drift.

I’ll hopefully be posting beauty shots of the blocked shawl tomorrow or the day after, so let me voice my nagging here and now:

The finished shawl is gorgeous. Truly stunning, a joy to look at and touch and fawn over. It is, however, not remotely as fun to knit. In fact I’d rather pull my own teeth out than knit this, or any other pattern by MMario again. This is not because the different patterns that make up this shawl (Spanish Tile, Print o’ The Wave, English Mesh Lace) are particularly challenging, although the Spanish Tile is certainly a smidge tricky at times, mostly because it patterns on each row.

The problem with this shawl isn’t construction errors, or tons of misprints in the pattern. It’s the terrible, terrible charts. If you can even call them that. I realize I’m being harsh, and I’m sure the author has put a lot of effort into this design. I know charts can be tricky, especially if the beginning of a repeat shifts, like with Print o’ the Wave.

But here’s the thing: to me, as a knitter, the main purpose and the biggest advantage of charts is that they show what the knitting is supposed to look like. How everything lines up. How it all fits together to make a congruent whole. To enable me to spot knitting errors at a glance and to spare me the frantic re-counting and wondering if what I’m doing is right or if I have to tink back the entire 800-stitch row.

And these “charts” don’t. Or rather, the last two of them do, and the one I did was a simple 6-stitch two-row mesh lace, and, yeah,  I could’ve done that from written directions. The rest is just basically the written instructions rendered in symbols, including brackets to indicate things like (k2tog, yo, k1) 3x – although the author substitutes k2tog with N in the written directions for apparently no reason at all, and yo with O. (At least that one got a laugh out of me, because there’s tons of KOK in the pattern and I let myself be immature enough to grin at that.) Also, rows that are knit plain aren’t shown, except when they are, and if you’re anything like me and pay much more attention to the actual rows than the row numbers, that means tinking back a perfectly executed lace row because there’s supposed to be another two plain rounds in there somewhere.

My point being, the charts manage to completely miss the entire point of charts, which is probably an achievement in and of itself.

The Spanish Tile being tricky to chart I can understand, because the stitch count fluctuates hugely between rows and it would probably ridiculously complicated to get that into a coherent chart. But the botched Print o’ the Wave chart? Really? Seriously? Chart-making isn’t that hard. Especially for a pattern that’s been done about thirty zillion times since the dawn of time, where you could go and look at somebody else’s chart to see how they did it. As, by the way, evidenced in the exponentially better edging chart by Utlinde, where it suddenly all makes sense and is easy to commit to memory.

I’d love to rate this in Ravelry, but I honestly have no idea which criteria to use. Is the result gorgeous? You bet it is. Even if I threw off the ratio a bit by making the Print o’ the Wave longer, which wedges a relatively narrow piece of English lace between that and the edging, but I can deal with it and it’s my own fault anyway. But the charts are catastrophically bad, to a point where I’d rate it somewhere in the ‘pretty difficult’ range but then again the patterns themselves aren’t difficult per se, but just, y’know, badly charted.

So that’s that. Spanish Armada, baby.

***
In related news, I turned 22 recently and among other things got amazing handmade gifts from Annelie. She sewed me a fleece-lined green cowl that I’m sad to probably have to put away until fall – the weather has been absolutely stunning – but the best thing ever is the knitting bag she made me. I’ve been using it for Armada, but I’ll certainly get a lot of wear out of it.

IMG_3359

It’s such a clever design: one short handle you can twist, and a long one to stick through the loop. Snag-free due to a pronounced absence of zippers and buttons, reversible (the inside is plain green to match the cowl!), and just the right size for a shawl or scarf project, or maybe half a sweater depending on the yarn.

I’ll be casting on an orange scarf for choir once I’m finished blogging, so that’ll go nicely with the green. This bag shares the title of best birthday present ever with the pie dish I got from Saskia. Looks like I’m up for the Housewife Awards again this year.

We’re gonna turn this sow’s ear into a silk purse

February 7, 2011 § 5 Comments

IMG_2664
(We’ve been having some lovely weather lately. I just sat on the Augustusplatz and knit for half an hour today, in the blinding sunlight with my jacket open, just because I could.)

I’d love to pull a Yarn Harlot and proclaim my infection with finish-it-up-itis, but while I don’t maintain it doesn’t exist, it certainly isn’t happening to me. Or I’ve already had it for months, it was just that my projects weren’t as wisely chosen as these days?

First, the purchases of the week:

IMG_2625

That’s a skein of Wollmeise (color: Frosch) on top of the Lucifer Box novels by Mark Gatiss, which really deserve their own post and I could go on and on about them. So I’m just gonna say that they’re brilliant, and fun, and adventure-laden, and the hero is the perfect mix of James Bond, Sherlock Holmes, every single character out of Dorian Gray (no, seriously. every single one of them. Well, maybe not Sibyl Vane. But everyone else.), and Captain Jack Harkness. They’re written in the first person, which isn’t normally my thing but works wonderfully with the wit and sparkle Lucifer Box has, and, you know. Even Stephen Fry couldn’t get enough of them. As of now I’ve finished the first two books, and I loved every page. Mark Gatiss is my new hero. (A brilliant gay sci-fi and adventure writer whose well-written hero is cheerfully bisexual but not utterly defined by some stereotype. What’s there not to love?)

Seriously. I’ve been recommending it all over the place for a week, and I’ll do it here as well: If you only discover one author this year, let it be Mark Gatiss. At least read Vesuvius Club. You won’t be able to stop there, anyway.

Second, I finished the Kai-Mei socks! I admit it’s kind of embarrassing that I’m the first one to finish a design out of Saskia’s birthday present, but, eh. They’re warm and lovely and SO CLEVER, and I think I’m going to knit a couple more socks with that construction, although not necessarily the same lace panel.

IMG_2658

I wore them to Annelie’s to show them off, partly because it’s always nice to show off an FO to real people, and mostly because Annelie had given me the yarn. And once again, it was one of these things that only happen with yarn people.

Annelie: Oooh, you finished the socks!
Me: Yup. *pulls up pants leg a bit* … you can touch them if you want to?
Annelie: Ooooh, they’re so soft!
Me: Yeah, I think there may be some alpaca or something in there.
Annelie: No idea. … Honeeeeey! Honey, come here for a second!
Annelie’s husband: … yes?
Annelie: Remember that yarn I had for the longest time?
Annelie’s husband: … no?
Annelie: you know, the one I got from XY, in Karolinsiel, don’t you remember?
Annelie’s husband: … no?
Annelie: well, Patti knit it up into socks. Here, touch them!

I have to say, he’s very well-trained in terms of yarn-related behavior.

Apart from surprise!sock-fondling, we actually got some work done on Sunday. I was at Annelie’s for six hours and I sat at the wheel for at least 5 of those. I had ~flow, man. But now, along with some gorgeous yarn I finished with only seconds to spare before I had to leave, I’ve also got sore muscles in more expected places.

Yes, I finished my first wheel-spun yarn. And I shall subject you all to a lengthy slideshow of every stage of the process.

IMG_2634

Well, actually I won’t. Kind of. I’ll put the major part of the lengthy slideshow under a break so the tl;dr crowd can’t complain (although, pretty pictures. what’s wrong with you people? have you got no soul?), but here’s some of the most important ones. Because I took this here:

IMG_2363
(Drachenwolle, 130 g BFL, color ‘Stroh zu Gold’, gorgeous but useless)

and turned it into this:

IMG_2714

(~130 g, 226m, still gorgeous, knittable!)

and it only took me two afternoons (and a total of two hours or so of pre-drafting on the Saturdays before). How would you not want to see more of where that came from? (Am I trying to guilt you into clicking that ‘more’ link, just so that I can geek about spinning a bit more? Damn right I am!)

« Read the rest of this entry »

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.

IMG_2385

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).

IMG_2399

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.

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…

« Read the rest of this entry »

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.

IMG_1973

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

Where Am I?

You are currently browsing entries tagged with god I’m good! at Wollphilie and Yarnwhoring.

%d bloggers like this: