Tuesday, February 28, 2006

So very proud

Looking for Inspiration/A Confession

I've been flipping through books and magazines seeking a new project, something to challlenge and entertain me. A couple of things of interest in the Winter Vogue Knitting -- love the short aran cardi but as usual I'd have to modify the pattern to get anything like a decent fit. I like being petite, I do, but it's sometimes a huge amount of work trying to get something to fit nicely.

I'm finding myself drawn to the lace designs. I'm looking at shawl patterns and stoles and strange wrappy-things with sleeves, all in lace. I even picked up and seriously looked through A Gathering of Lace in the bookstore the other night. Looked at it not as I used to, with mouth hanging open in fear and disgust. But I looked at it through different eyes... the eyes of a budding lace knitter, perhaps?

What have I done?

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Flailing, A Bit

Still in post-Olympic letdown, I think. Still looking for a meaty project to sink my teeth into.

The Malizia shawl idea was dismissed after an evening... didn't like it on small needles, didn't like it on big.

Then I thought I'd give the Feather & Fan shawl a go, in my Noro leftovers. Turns out I don't have as much in the way of leftovers as I thought I had.... lots of ends, but only a couple of partial balls. So I dug out the Fleece Artist Country wool, hoping that the mismatched colourways wouldn't be so obvious in that design.

I spent two evenings ignoring everything I'd learnt with my Olympic project. No markers, wasn't checking my count, no lifeline. I ripped it back three times in total, right to the beginning. I rewrote the instructions so that a) they print on a single page I can leave on my lap and b) fit my counting style better. And I placed a bunch of markers, and evening three marked the first real progress. It's cute, I like working it, and and I like the look, but I'm not sure I'd actually use or wear it. So it's either for a gift or for wrapping around me while I watch TV, depending on when I finish and how I feel about it when I'm done.

The travelling bee sock project is coming along well, though.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Feeling Oddly Bereft

What now? The shawl is done.

Sunday evening at home I was forced to pick up my travelling sock project and by the end of House Monday night I was done.

On the way to work this morning I cast on for the next travelling sock project. I'm rarely without a sock-in-progress in a little nylon bag; I carry it with me for emergency knitting. I get most of the work done during my commute, but I've worked on travelling socks in many places... Bars, restaurants, the doctor's and dentist's waiting room, at the streetcar stop, in the line-up to get my driver's license renewed, and once (only once) under my desk while listening to a marathon conference call. I've got Shepherd Sock bee stripe underway, and the below-mentioned killer Christmas sock variation lined up after that.

But I'm without a big "at home knitting" project right now and it's a bit scary.

Ideas in consideration:
-that Teva Durham double-knit vest
-a feather and fan shawl in all my Noro Kureyon and Silk Garden leftovers -- inspired by this "Feather and Fan comfort shawl"; I've been looking for a way to use up all my leftovers and this might be it
-a scarf for an impossible-to-buy-for relative's upcoming birthday made from leftovers of Malizia I've got lying around

Am not in a sweater mood; am seemingly in a shawl mood, though...

Monday, February 20, 2006

Knitting Olympics: Post-Game Analysis

Lacework is both entirely similar and entirely unlike to cable knitting. It's all about texture, which I love. It's all about watching patterns grow and take shape over time. It's also all about placing markers and counting and keeping track -- all with great care.

Lace and cable work require a high degree of attention. (Movies with subtitles are totally out of the question.)

I enjoy a challenge, so you'd think I'd enjoy knitting lace.

I haven't, in the past -- see previous posts on this topic -- and I pondered this question while working away on my shawl.

I think it's simply that I don't have as much control and understanding as I do with cables. I understand cables, in my bones. I can work them with my eyes closed. I can fix them - often in place, without even ripping rows back -- and I'm able to spot and diagnose a mistake simply by looking.

I'm not there yet with lace. I can sometimes spot a mistake just by looking at the knitting -- but not always. Most of the mistakes I found in the shawl were because my count was off, not because it looked or felt wrong. And mistakes are much harder to fix -- in all but a couple of cases I've ended up ripping back entire rows. (Thank god for the lifeline.) And I can't predict how a stitch will look by just reading the directions or looking at the charts.

A lot of this is to do with familiarity with the shapes and patterns, absolutely, but some of it is to do with the magical process of blocking. Lace changes completely upon blocking. I thought the Olympic shawl was kinda neat before I blocked it; I was blown away by the final result. Blocking for cables helps with construction and finish, but it's not as integral to creating the structure of the finished piece.

I advise my beginning students to stop fairly often and take a good look at their work -- to admire their progress, to check for mistakes, and to count their stitches. I consider myself an advanced knitter, and I wasn't taking my own advice.

And to properly look at lace knitting requires a good stretch -- stretch it out to mimic blocking, to see how it lies, how it looks, and what it's doing.

How many times did I want to throw it across the room? Twice. Once when I found the catastrophic mistake in the lace, the second time when completing the border... 8 rows of 300+ stitches in garter stitch.

Did I enjoy it? Yes, actually, I did.

Will I knit lace again? I just might. It strikes me that lace knitting is ideal for long stretches of plane travel, and the like, when I need something more absorbing than the average knitting project.

I'm proud of my Gold Medal: I achieved a challenging goal, I learnt a new skill, and now I've got my mother's birthday present all taken care of.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Knitting Olympics Day 10: Gold!


Note sophisticated blocking system -- involving a garbage bag, two old towels and the bedroom floor. Am now accepting bets on how long before we find the cat asleep on it.

Knitting Olympics Day 9: The Home Stretch

Lace pattern repeats are complete. Only the border and cast-off remain. (Note sock-yarn lifeline visible a pattern repeat from the top. Not only did I use one, but I moved it up on a regular basis. PITA, but it's entirely worth it.)

And, of course, the blocking.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Knitting Olympics Day 8: Back on Track

Error hidden, a full pattern repeat completed, and a new lifeline threaded.

Only two pattern repeats (of six) left in the lace portion, and then it's a simple garter edging.

Now to start figuring out what to do about a blocking board...

Friday, February 17, 2006

Knitting Olympics Day 7: Double Argh

So the thing about a lifeline is that it only really works if you thread it through a row that's correct. Grrr... spent a good half hour threading a lifeline, worked for a good couple of hours on the knitting, and then discovered a mistake... which originated below the lifeline. Not the same mistake that's visible in the Day 5 picture, either.

So not much progress yesterday. No photos, too demoralizing.

I pulled back to the lifeline and will fudge it there.

Learning, always learning.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Knitting Olympics Newsflash!


just spotted a misplaced YO in the photo from day 5.

Too far back to fix in situ. Argh.

Knitting Olympics Day 6: Moving Right Along

I'm getting the hang of it.

No lifelife visible, but I have been using one. Very reassuring, if time-consuming to set up.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Knitting Olympics Newsflash!

A lifeline! Genius! Why did I not know about this before?

Thank you, blogosphere.

Knitting Olympics Day 5: Onto the Difficult Bit

The lace has started in earnest. It's all lace all the time now.

It's taking me just about half an hour to do a pair of rows -- the complicated RS and the simpler-but-still-requires-counting WS.

I did get 8 rows done last night, between a CSI and an episode of House. But it is MUCH harder to pay attention to the TV when I'm working on this project.

But I acheived an amazing thing last night: I fixed a mistake a couple of rows back, without having to rip the whole thing back. I moved a misplaced YO.

So yes, I'm learning.

And you know, it's looking pretty good.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Knitting Olympics Day 4: That Pride/Fall Thing

There I was, all smug. Was doing so well on the garter stitch. Maybe it was just such a good episode of Buffy (Season 6 Episode 3, FWIW), but I lost it.

I messed up the simple yo increase at the end of the row, and ended up having to rip back two rows (which at 220-some stitches takes a while).

So it took longer than I'd hoped to get to the lace portion. I've done 4 rows, if you include the one where you just place the markers. Which I do, dammit. And I've only had to rip back two partial rows so far.

I guess lace knitters mustn't watch TV when they knit.

Knitting Olympics Day 3: Good Progress

Well, it is mostly garter stitch, and it was the weekend. I'm thrilled to report that I'm roughly a third done, based on yarn consumption.

(The safety pin marks the RS, in case you were wondering.)

Tonight I will be finishing up the first half of the biathalon, and moving into the more challenging portion -- the lace.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Knitting Olympics Day 2: Getting Going

A couple of Bleak Houses, half a CSI, some luge and pairs skating short programs later...

I rather like it so far.

You'll notice no lace to speak of yet in this lace shawl. Consider it a biathalon: a stretch of garter stitch with yarn over increases and then the last third is all lace.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Knitting Olympics Day 1: A Weak Start

I'll be honest, mistakes were made.

The biggest of which was having a beer after work then heading immediately out for a large Italian meal with more drinks. The second biggest was casting on at 11:30pm.

But hey, at least I've started.

And we'll see whether the carbo-loading helps or hinders my performance today.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Finding it very hard to think about work today...

I'm officially on the list!

2pm approaches, and here I am at work, trying very hard to concentrate and not having much luck.

With needles poised...

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Living Dangerously

I've got other people swatching. But I haven't swatched for my Olympic project.

It's a shawl, and I know that the the yarn I've chosen is an equal weight substitution.


Hey, That's My Left Ear

Nice piece in last Saturday's National Post about places that offer knitting classes. Great profile of The Sheep, and a lovely picture of me pretending to be a student in my own sock knitting workshop.

That's Rogue I'm wearing.

Monday, February 06, 2006


I needed some inexpensive yarn and needles for a class I'm teaching, so I made a trip out to the 'burbs to visit a Big Box Purveyor of Craft Supplies Which Shall Remain Nameless.

I should make a point of visiting one of these stores every few months to remind myself how lucky I am to have access to such great yarns and books in Toronto's stores. The Big Box stock is horrendous. It's all acrylic-based chunky and larger novelty yarns. The selection is three times what it was five or six years ago, but it's all pretty horrible stuff.

It was instructive to look around at the clientele, at what they were buying. 250gm balls of 100% acrylic worsted weight yarns for $2.97. I couldn't actually bring myself to touch it.

I wandered over to see the needle selection -- at least they had a good quantity of bamboos. An older woman (70+, I'd say), was helping a middle-aged novice knitter choose some needles for a scarf project. The novice was cradling a couple of balls of a very common brand eyelash yarn. The older woman was pointing her to 4mm needles.

I'm not sure what possessed me to actually get involved -- perhaps the desperate look on the face of the novice.

I took one look at the yarn and leapt in and suggested something "a bit larger". "Oh, no," said Older Woman. "You should never do a scarf on needles that big.... it would have holes in it." I pointed out the gauge indicator on the ball band -- which suggested 8mm needles. "It will be great with the needles the yarn manufacturer suggests. It would certainly be eaiser to work with than on much smaller needles."

"Oh, no, no, no. Definitely not." The Older Woman was giving me this terrible look -- how dare I correct her? How dare I question her expertise? "I made this scarf," she said, with a touch of aggression. I hadn't noticed her garter stitch fun-fur scarf until she held it up for me to admire.

I briefly considered pulling off my boots to show her the Fair Isle fingering weight socks I not only knit but also designed... but took a deep breath and went in search of Diet Coke instead.

Once I got over the implication that I was a mere dilettante, (although I did take some small consolation from the fact that I obviously look too young and too hip to be a serious knitter) I wondered about how many potential knitters we've lost.

How many knitters have been been scared off because they didn't enjoy working with the acrylic/fun-fur/novelty yarns that have seemed to become the standard of late? Yes, the results look interesting, but they're just about the most difficult and least pleasurable yarns to work with, even for an experienced knitter.

How many knitters have been put off by the well-meant but misguided advice of another ill-informed knitter? You couldn't pay me to knit a chunky weight eyelash yarn on 4mm needles, even if it was in a light colour.

And how many more knitters are there who will never progress beyond scarves, because they find those difficult enough?

Sunday, February 05, 2006

On Your Marks...

I'm ready. The yarn, the pattern book, the needle. I emailed my official declaration of participation to the Harlot this morning.

I am proud to become a member of Team Canada for the 2006 Knitting Olympics.

And I've still got a few days to stock up on chocolate (my performancing-enhancing drug of choice) before we begin.

There's also the minor detail of two other deadlined design projects to get done before Friday, but hey, I'll consider it training.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Lacking Mojo?

Sometimes it's just not there.

It took, inexplicably, four tries to finish the toe for this sock. This is not my first sock, by any means. (Ok, it was mostly done in public while trying to do something else at the same time.) I messed up stitch counts, I messed up row counts, I decreased too quickly or too slowly. Argh.

I got it done, though, after I'd ripped it back four times.

I guess it's a different kind of mojo: the need to get it right. Would it have fit and worn ok if I'd left it with any of the mistakes I'd made? No question. Would anyone else have known? Of course not. But I'd have known and it would have annoyed me.