Saturday, May 17, 2008

Spring is the best time of year to be outside taking walks through the gardens and parks, eating a light lunch at a cafe with a chilled glass of white wine, or flouncing downtown in a sundress and strappy heels. Unless, that is, you are me, and have to work in an office where you are a slave to someone else's notion of the proper temperature.
My office is a freaking icebox in the summer, because the moment the temp hits about 50 degrees Fahrenheit, the management company decides it's time to crank the AC to "Arctic" and leave it there until September. I supposedly have a thermostat in my office, but it does nothing, even when I call the maintenance guy to properly set it, instead of nudging the thermo-wheels with an unbent paper clip.
Today is even worse, because due to a freakish set of apocalyptic storms, the area is flooded, rainy and desolate. No sun, constant rain and cloud cover equal temperatures in the 50s, but still the AC is blasting on me as though it were 90 degrees in the shade. It's miserable. So I am doing two things about it:
1. Whining at great length;
2. Knitting things with which I can bundle up.

My jaywalk socks, slow in the making though they may be, are now done. I'm so happy, because whenever I show up at the office sans tights (because you can't wear tights in the spring no matter how cold it is inside), I always stared at them, longing to slip off my shoes and put the socks on. Now I can, and they are wonderfully rich and warm.

This gorgeous shawl is called North Roe, and is a free, Frenchified pattern. It's stunning, and has converted me from someone who scoffed at those silly triangular shawls to an aspiring lace knitter. It helps that I get to use this awesome citrus colored wool that I got off etsy. I started off with a few mistakes, but now I have cut my lace teeth on it and am to the point where I am very comfortable reading the chart (though it was confusing at first) and making sure all my stitches are accounted for. Also, it's interesting knitting with a constantly changing pattern, and it's going very fast!

Finally, a new project. I need something for my hands, because they freeze under the merciless AC like little five-pronged blocks of ice. Fingerless mittens sounded like the perfect idea, but a search for patterns taught me otherwise. Fingerless, it seems, is truly the case, so you have all these patterns that stop just at the bottom knuckle line, effectively making what are called "wristwarmers." Now, at the risk of airing one of my Unpopular Knitting Opinions, I don't understand the concept of the wristwarmer. My wrists do not get cold, because I have long sleeves. My hands are usually fine. It starts getting chilly just at the knuckles, and by the time you get to the gnawed-off tips of my fingers, they get frozen to the point where they could get featured in a Radcliffe novel. I need partial fingers, people! Fortunately, Ravelry saved my life (how did I ever knit without you, Ravelry?) with several (free!) lovely partial finger glove patterns. Oh I'm sure I could have figured one out for myself, but the cold is making me feel lazy.

So three small projects to help me bear the bitter cold of spring and summer. Of course, I should get back on my sweaters, but these small projects are such fun right now. I will save the bigger ones for my upcoming vacation!

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Some pictures...

First, a finally finished object. This is Hush-hush from, a project I started about 2.5 years ago when I first started to knit. It's been a long time in the finishing, and I think it turned out very well. I haven't found a good looking ribbon for the bottom though, so that part still remains unfinished.
Notice my hair... it went "foom" due to the springtime moisture. I can do nothing with it.

Next, the 300 grams of sock yarn that came in the mail from ZYarns at Doesn't it look good enough to eat?

Actually, the green and yellow are sock weight, the orange is lace weight, but I couldn't resist. What do I knit with it? I'm really not sure.

Finally, a work in progress. This is the self-designed UFO that I'm hoping will be finished by Memorial day. The back is almost finished...

Like most professions in the 21st century, mine comes with a slew of hazards both physical and mental. No, it is not dangerous like being a lineman, or a railway worker, but it comes with its own issues. Namely mental stress, eye strain from staring at a computer screen for 12 hours a day, foot pain from stuffing my feet into beautiful and impractical shoes for the sake of looking polished and professional, and wrist strain, which is what I'm experiencing this week. I hurt my wrist during school by working on my computer for too long every day, and my doctor told me to wear a wrist brace to prevent carpal tunnel. So this week the wrist brace is on, and I have to cut back on certain activities, namely typing, knitting, and playing wii.
Well, typing is not going to happen, as I need that to work. So unfortunately the knitting and wii are going out the window for the rest of the week. No wii is sad enough, because an impromptu boxing match or baseball game against Jared at 12 in the morning is excellent stress relief after a frustrating work day. But the knitting is really killing me for several reasons.
First, I have an awesome self-designed UFO that I am really dedicated to taking to the next level and actually finishing in the same year that I start it. My goal is to have it done by Memorial Day, and I've been inching towards that goal by completing at least two rows a day. (So slow! But I usually get more than that done.)
Second, I'm getting 300 grams of sock yarn in the mail. Beautiful, hand-dyed sock yarn in acid green, neon orange and bright motherfucking yellow. I can't wait to start on a lacy sock project for spring. And it is furthering my goal of only knitting socks in solid yarn from here on out, because variegated drives me crazy. Because...
Third, I have finally managed to get my second Jaywalk Sock to the point where the variegated colors stop pooling and stripe properly. As I posted before, I was trying for a looser gauge, but with these colors it is not happening if I don't want pooling. And the pooling just looked awful. Even now the stripes are a bit wider than I would like, but I had to just give a Seinfeldian "oh to HELL WITH IT" and give up. They'll be warm and comfy, anyway. But from now on, no variegated socks.
These socks have become my morning and evening routine though, as I knit them while riding the bus to and from work. It's very hard to give that up, especially since I find that I've been getting very motion sick from trying to read on the bus. This morning I read the Express with my sad little brace on my wrist, feeling nauseous and dizzy... no more of this, please. Maybe I should just get a book on tape for my iPod, but those always leave me itching with something to do with my hands. Like... knitting. Hmph.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Peter Grimes is an Opera for Knitters (a Rather Pretentious Post)

After reading Alex Ross's The Rest is Noise, Jared got very excited about the music of Benjamin Britten. Britten was a 20th century British composer of many works, including several operas. This is where Jared got me interested too. I'm only a passing fan of much classical music, but I am an opera fiend. So we decided to rent a production of Britten's most famous opera, Peter Grimes, on Netflix.
When we sat down to watch, it was a Friday night and I was (as usual) very tired from a long day at work and consequently not too interested in anything "complicated." (These are the nights when I convince Jared to watch a Jeeves & Wooster or he convinces me to watch a Trailer Park Boys.) But I dutifully agreed to watch the two and a half hour opera.
I'm sorry to say that I don't remember much of the beginning, including what I now know is a brilliantly ambient and evocative overture. But once the scene in the pub came around, my jaw hit the floor. This is, of course, the central aria for Peter Grimes: "Now the Great Bear," and the tenor is Jon Vickers. He comes in through a dead silence at a pianissimo E above middle C and holds it through the first few phrases of the aria. A sudden forte outburst takes him all over the scale, then back to the pianissimo E which swells to a fortissimo, then drops the note and the volume to conclude. The vocalization and the music are ingenious; and as I watched, I was spellbound. Jared got tired quickly after, so we went to bed with the idea of finishing the opera the next day.
In the morning, we turned the DVD back on, and I insisted we started it from "Now the Great Bear" so we could hear it again. This time, Jared was just as transfixed, and we gushed about the great find we had made. "Jon Vickers," I said, "is such a powerful, brilliant tenor. And," I added as an afterthought, "he really rocks that fisherman gansey."
It never stops, kids.
A few weeks later, the Metropolitan Opera came out with their new production of Peter Grimes, so Jared and I went to the local theater to catch the simulcast. In that setting, I was able to pay more attention to both the music and the story. This time it really struck me how integral knitting was to the plot of the opera. The leading female role, Ellen Orford, is a knitter in a big way. She constantly carries her basket around, and skips church to do her knitting by the sea. One of the items she knits is a jersey for Peter's apprentice (a new hire, for the first apprentice died under suspicious circumstances). When the boy falls to his death from the cliff outside Peter's home, the jersey is washes up to shore. Ellen finds it and bemoans how her knitting and embroidery, which had once filled her idle hours, had now become "the fatal clue" that would prove the undoing of the man she tried to save. The townsfolk assume that Peter murdered both boys and form a mob, driving Peter to madness and suicide.
I'm not sure how this translates to the "sweater curse"--never knit a sweater for your gentleman suitor's apprentices if they have a habit of getting suspiciously killed, perhaps--but it has me thinking about those "traditional" ganseys, made of rough, weather-proof wool and intricately cabled. Well maybe I can use something a little softer--we're not going fishing after all. And maybe not so bulky, since Jared is skinny, not like those burly fishermen or barrel shaped Wagnerian tenors. But it is about time I knitted him a sweater, and what better theme than one inspired by his favorite opera? I might have to find a gansey book and start designing something.

You can listen to a little of Peter Grimes on this New York Times story about the Met's 2008 production. This clip starts out with "Now the Great Bear" and continues through the end of the pub scene. It features tenor Anthony Dean Griffey, who has a beautiful and disarmingly gentle voice.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Finally got my socks back, and have happily been working on them while riding the bus every morning and evening. They are coming along nicely, and are almost to the point where I can begin the toe on Sock #1. On the feet, they feel great! I always thought a knitted sock would bag and be too loose, but these hug my high instep very nicely, and they feel soft and warm.
I have two issues, though. One is with the yarn itself, and the other is my own fault.
First, the yarn is VERY splitty, even with my very sharp little rosewood size 1s. I'm continually having to go back and restitch, or rescue half of the yarn that has fallen due to slipping off the needle. To be honest, it's only a minor quibble, and I think the benefits of the yarn outweigh the splits.
Second, I seem to have knitted the leg part a bit too tight. Sock #1 barely squeezes over my heel, so it's a struggle to get on and take off. Once it is on, it feels great, but I'm worried about damaging the yarn too much. I think I'll try the same size with a looser hand on Sock # 2 and see if it pays off, then decide if it's worth frogging Sock #1 and re-knitting.
Anyways, here is the picture of Sock #1, "Hobo Style".

I don't know if I'll ever be a Sock Knitter, as I like sweaters too much, but it is handy to have a sock to work on while commuting. I'm thinking about some lighter ones for the spring, and maybe try out the delicate and intricate cables on Eunny Jang's Bayerische Sock. (I'll probably do a post on how obsessed I am with Eunny Jang patterns in the future. I wonder if she thinks it's creepy that so many of us worship her?)

My Print O' The Wave headband went nowhere fast. I loved working with the yarn, but it's just so not me. I'll never wear it, so I'm giving the yarn to my mother, who likes the colors better than I do. It was fun to try out the pattern, so I'm glad I tried it. Oh well. I think part of being a Good Knitter is to recognize when something just isn't working... that's something I struggle with daily.

I'm also considering designing some simple sweater patterns of my own. It's a very exciting thought, and something I've been meaning to do for ages. First, I want a light cotton cardigan in chartreuse green and cream for warmer weather, and second, a warm wool turtleneck, because my favorite sweater (a black turtleneck from H&M that fits me perfectly) is getting terribly mangey. I need to toss it, but first I want to measure it up and see if I can knit a clone in some chocolate brown Debbie Bliss Cashmerino.

A finished project is coming soon, once it gets warm enough to model outside in the sunshine!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Catching up

This will be a long one.

A few things have happened since my last, long-ago post.

First, I got a fab new February project from Stitch DC in the mail. Sock yarn from Three Irish Girls in a gorgeous variegated array of greens, mauves, whites and turquoises. I started on the suggested sock project, the MagKnits Jaywalk Socks, mostly because I've never knitted socks before and I wanted to try them out. I had help from mom, who bought me a beautiful set of size 1 dpns made of rosewood, as a prize for being good at the dentist. (Good to know that as I approach 30, I still get prizes for being good at the dentist. Of course, it WAS a root canal so I deserve it!) Jaywalk is a fun, easy pattern and a great intro to sock knitting. It's also wonderful with the yarn because it causes traveling spiral stripes up the leg. My favorite is when they alternate white and turquoise--it's such a bold, interesting color combo. This is really my first experience with variegated yarn, too. For some reason, alternating colors in knitting projects has never appealed to me. I always thought that no matter how cool the pattern, if it's done up in a variegated yarn, the project ends up looking dowdy, tie-dyed and hippyish. (I'm so sorry all you hand dyers and yarn makers out there, but as they say, de gustibus non est disputandum.) This yarn coupled with this pattern may be the exception to my rule, and I will proudly wear my jaywalk socks if ever they get finished.

Second, I got busy. I'm hitting that stage where everyone around me is getting married, buying houses, and having babies. Including me--no babies for me that is, but I am house hunting and wedding planning. So the weekends were a flurry of looking at venues and dresses, attending housewarming parties, brunches and baby showers. And more general family functions. All this while working 10+ hour days on the weekdays. Exhausting!

Third, I left my socks at my mother's house after staying the night. Ugh! I still haven't managed to retrieve them. And just as I was starting to turn the heel...

Fourth, I got REALLY busy. Work exploded on me, and I found myself preparing for seminars, conferences, and approaching project deadlines ALL IN THE SAME WEEK. Weekends went away, and I started working 12 and 13 hour days, getting pulled off of projects (and out of conferences) to start new ones, and attending various work functions. Then it all stopped at once. Just as....

Fifth, I received my March project from Stitch DC. Another gorgeous Tilli Tomas yarn, the luscious lace weight Voile de la Mer, spun from silk and seaweed. But consarnit... it's another variegated color, and worse, a color that I would never have picked out in all my days: Mermaid. Don't get me wrong, it is a beautiful mix of soft blues, greens and lavender. But I had absolutely no idea what to do with it. A scarf would be just wrong... it wouldn't go with anything I own, and I'd just never take it out to wear. But then that night, as I was tying my hair up to wash my face it hit me: a headband! And not just any headband, but one adapted from Eunny Jang's Print O' the Wave stole, a lace pattern I've been dying to try. It seemed appropriate to use a seaweed yarn in a mermaid color with a wavelike pattern, and the weight of the yarn will give the headband some substance. It will also give me some much needed practice in knitting and blocking lacework without having to worry too much about gauge. And if I make it long enough, I can use it as a scarf too, if ever the need arises. Perfection! This is the beginning of the project below.

Finally, I received a request from a dear friend of mine to knit this cardigan for her. I'm really excited to do it, as I know it'll look great on her and it is always nice to be asked to make things for your friends. I feel like a Good Knitter. :)

So that's the knitting news that's fit to print. Pictures of socks will be forthcoming as soon as I retrieve them.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Sparkly Slippers!

As a Charter Member of Stitch DC's yarn-of-the-month club (the membership was an X-mas gift from my fiance), I received my first yarn at the beginning of this month. The yarn is Tilli Tomas, and I got one ball of Mogul and one ball of Aspen, both in a gorgeous dark navy blue. The Mogul is beaded with clear beads, making it look like a starry knitted night sky. I loved them, but I wasn't sure what I should do with them. Stitch DC included a great pattern for ruffled fingerless gloves, but the problem is, I have a bright red coat with white hat, scarf and gloves that I wear everywhere. Blue gloves would be a little bit too patriotic-looking, especially in DC.
So I scoured the internets for a pattern that would fit the amount of yarn I had. Socks? Hmm, the beads would make it tough to walk around, as they'd dig into my feet, and I didn't have enough Aspen to knit the "feet" of both socks without beads. But then I came across this pattern for ballet slippers from, and I fell in love.

I tweaked the pattern a little bit to make mary jane slippers, rather than wrap-up ballets. the toe and bottom of the slipper are knit in Aspen, and I switched to Mogul for the back, strap, and trim. The result are lovely, sparkly slippers that will keep my feet warm despite my hard-to-heat hardwood floors.

The yarn itself is great to knit. I used size 5 dpns for a tight gauge, and I was struck by how evenly the Aspen knits up. Very perfect little rows. The Mogul is a little tougher to get used to. I've never knit with beads before, though I have a few patterns. It just seems like too much work to thread hundreds of beads onto my yarn before I even get to cast on. However, beading one's own yarn does have the advantage of allowing you to place the beads where you want them (i.e. on the outside of the work, in a pattern). I like the random "scattered star" effect of the Aspen on these slippers, but it wouldn't work if you wanted a more orderly beaded look. Also I had to push some beads through the work in order to make them show up on the outside.

And a final note for anyone who wants to try these out--those with larger feet should pay attention to their gauge. These slippers are less stretchy using this yarn than the yarn called for in the original pattern. My size 6 feet just fit. Perfect for me, but not so much for the more well endowed in the shoe department. It was also tough to get the strap where I wanted and still fit my feet into the slipper. So pin the strap first, and try them on to make sure it's a good fit.