And when the feeling’s right

June 12, 2011 § 1 Comment

It’s that time of the year again.

The sun shines brightly in the clear blue sky, I spend my time having extensive breakfast in cafés and lounging in the sun down by the canal instead of doing homework, Leipzig is overrun by black masses of the Goth persuasion, and I feel an acute case of startitis coming my way.

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Last night I cast on Rock Island last night, I started swatching for my sweater project ‘Phony King of England’ this morning around 7.30, and after an entirely perfect afternoon at Annelie’s, which we spent eating, knitting, talking and cooing over the baby, I’m caving to peer pressure.

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After struggling (for some unfathomable reason) with the technically easy lace for Rock Island and being bored to death by an entirely unexciting sock that I don’t want to finish lest I have to cast on its twin, and after a day of watching my friends zoom happily through the stockinette portion of Gingko… I give up. You hear that, the two of you?  Besides, you’ll need my ~expertise  once our KAL gets to the lace part. Possibly.

Starting now I bat a thousand

May 19, 2011 § Leave a comment

Well, it looks like I’m starting to get my mojo back.

I’m sure everybody’s had that phase where all their knitting motivation was being sucked down into a black hole, and where their knitting progress was taking similar dark and dingy roads into nowheresville.

It’s the time where you open your stash cupboards and discover that despite several kilos of yarn lurking behind the harmless wooden façade, you have a big pile of nothing to knit.

Then you look through your pattern books and Ravelry and discover that every pattern in the world is too something: too fussy, too boring, too big, too small, too frumpy, too modern, too intricate, too plain, too triangular, too this-doesn’t-go-with-any-yarn-I-have or worst, too I-have-a-yarn-that-would-go-with-that-but-I-really-don’t-want-to-waste-it-on-that-because-it’s-not-the-perfectest-pattern-I-have-ever-seen-in-my-life.

And so I cast on a sock or two and trudged through my super-secret project – which was technically fun, but to someone who’s usually so meticulous about keeping their Ravelry project page updated, it’s just plain depressing to do so much work without being able to share it. (Because, well, that’s sort of the definition of super-secret.)

But then I finished the SSP on Tuesday morning and went to the pub with Saskia on Tuesday night, and since I didn’t have any pub knitting (because ugggggh, socks), I cast on Multnomah with my ocean-colored handdyed sock yarn. Which was technically not the best idea, because knitting with dark yarn and dark needles in a dark pub produced garter stitch that was positively riddled with mistakes, but on the other hand, I feel like this yarn must have magic properties. No, really.

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Magic. I’m almost done with what has to be the most entertaining garter stitch portion of a shawl in the history of the universe – I’m so charmed by the colors emerging and mingling and I know I’m blowing my own horn to the point where everyone around me (including myself) is starting to turn deaf, but, but… it’s just gorgeous. I’m in love. I have no idea how I did it, except that I dumped a lot (and I mean a LOT) of color on that poor skein of sock yarn, and that the amount of time it spent in the microwave would’ve probably roasted a whole turkey. (Well, almost.) And I can barely wait to start the feather-and-fan section.

So here I am, chilling on my floor since the SSP is currently occupying the sunny spot on my bed, ogling my pretty handdyed, and considering reprising this morning’s Best Breakfast Ever.

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(SpongeBob Squarepants bowl? check. Delicious oatmeal? check. Enough fruit to cover the whole bowl of delicious oatmeal, plus some chocolate? oh, you bet!)

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.

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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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It’s time I was king and not just one more pawn

October 17, 2010 § 3 Comments

Guess what’s done?

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It only took a year and a half.

Most of which was spent languishing in a teeny tiny leather satchel I bought on vacation in Portugal when I was about 13, the poor thing. Without needles, too – I’d pulled them out at one point because I needed a 4.5mm circ, most likely for the Dalek vest.

Good things definitely came out of not knitting for a weekend. (Even so, it’s not likely I’ll repeat that particular experiment any time soon, if I can help it.)

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It’s ‘Miralda’s Triangular Shawl’ from Nancy Bush’s Knitted Lace of Estonia. Zitron Maxima, started on 4.5 mm metal needles, switched to 4 mm bamboo needles after the edge chart. 164 g total, ca. 1.60 m wingspan.

There’s things I could write about, like the never-ending Watson, or my sister’s cardi, or the Christmas Stocking that’s actually coming along quite well – but you know what?

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I think I’m gonna bask in the glory of my finished shawl blocking next to me, and not think of those things at all.

(By the way, this is the first time I’m blocking a triangular shawl in the corner of my bed instead of in the middle of it. I don’t know why I didn’t try this earlier, because having straight lines for orientation makes it so much easier to pin the points down in a straight line!)

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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The more we find, the more we see

August 12, 2010 § 6 Comments

Today, I wanted to start on my paper.

Today, I also I duplicate stitched a P on my Weasley sweater, cooked, cleaned the kitchen, started my first pair of Christmas socks, taught myself two-handed stranded knitting, watched the first episode of Castle and decided I loved it, and… contemplated the meaning of life. Or something.

Damn rain. I’m blaming it all on the rain, and the need for a sweater, and then I pulled out the initial-less Weasley sweater, and it went all downhill from there.

But hey, at least now my Weasley sweater is a proper Weasley sweater. Despite the terrible yarn.

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I swear, if I had the long needle, I would’ve finished the damn Girl Friday cardi today from sheer boredom and procrastinationg. I’m also sick of having it hang around on my chair and mocking me. I wanna wear it, damn it!

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These are the first Christmas socks of the year, and I’m pretty much keeping my trap shut about those on the blog, since I don’t want to risk spoiling the surprise. I’m keeping my knitting restricted to times when I’m alone, etc. All very hush-hush, but I’m having a great time on them. There’s slightly more info on Rav though, so, yeah.

What else… yesterday I turned this

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into this

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with a heavy heart. I put so much work and love into it last winter, but then I had to face the fact that the contrast between the colors wasn’t prominent enough. It looks fine in the photo, but trust me, you had to know there was a pattern to see it. Which is the reason I abandoned it, and that yarn really deserves better. So I ripped it, but I’ll restart the Ruba’iyat mittens with the brown yarn and… I haven’t decided, actually, either white or light blue.

I’m still vaguely stumped by how much I’m looking forward to winter this year. Well, to be perfectly honest, I’m more looking forward to fall, but right now I’m romanticizing winter so much I’m ignoring the fact that especially towards the end of January, it’s my least favorite season.

In other news…

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I have a shawl drawer now. For the laceweight shawls. The sockweight ones still hang from hooks, the scarves hang in my wardrobe, the hats and gloves have their compartment in the sideboard, the socks are in a big box, and in none of these places was space for laceweight shawls. Somebody fucking stop me.

High as the spirits

August 11, 2010 § 4 Comments

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Awo weeks of focused knitting, frustrated hair-pulling, painstakingly ripping back rows 110 to 70, and most of an audiobook as well as several seasons of QI, I give you…

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Balmoral, by Marianne Kinzel, from her Second Book of Modern Lace Knitting, knit semicircular instead of circular, on 4mm bamboo circs. Yarn: Zitron Filigran Lace No. 1 in white. Weight: 85g.

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Practicality factor: most likely zero. Wearing it slung around my neck like I do with all the others makes it look like a bib, but maybe I’ll find another way. It’s big enough to wear over my shoulders, it’s true, but I rarely go out without a backpack, so, yeah.

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Awesome factor: pretty damn awesome.

I can’t wait to start the English Rose.

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