Friday, July 31, 2009

Umbrella up, umbrella down

Summer has been relatively cool here. It’s a rare day that the temperature breaks 90; the norm is usually somewhere between 80 and 85 on most days, and the humidity hasn’t been too bad. Today, however, it’s actually cold, which means it' must be somewhere between 60 and 70. I’m wearing a sweater and fuzzy socks, which is definitely weird for the last day of July. There’s so much moisture in the air that there’s no point in baking—not even cookies!—and it feels like my hair is never going to dry. The plants are getting a good drink, though.

My knitting has been sadly neglected for the past couple of days, and that bothers me. I’m on the third tier of the Forest Path, steadily heading toward the fourth, but things have come grinding to a halt because of the beady stuff. You’d think I could do both at the same time, really, but for some reason I find myself eyeing the box of beads on the dining room table and thinking, “I wonder what interesting things I can do with this, that, and the other?”

Forest Path, I’m sorry I’ve left you to languish on the wing chair. Your purple silkiness is a delightful challenge and you deserve better than to be neglected. I hereby promise to resume working on you as soon as possible so you can be finished and blocked by summer’s end.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

A Shameless Shilling

In a slight change of direction--both literal and figurative--I'm still working on the Forest Path Stole. It took me all afternoon to wind up all six skeins of Gloss, but I think it was definitely worth it. Attempt Number 2 is languishing in the cat's bed; handpainted yarn is lovely for a lot of projects, but I don't really feel that lace is one of them. I'll probably finish the tier I'm working on, then do the top edge and border, and leave it at that. It's too hot to be working with pure alpaca in a heavier weight anyway. I might have managed with lace weight alpaca in 90 humidity, but DK is out of the question even with air conditioning. I feel sort of guilty saying so. O.o
The size 3 needles are giving me a tighter fabric, but it's still open enough to allow the lace patterns to come come through; the color doesn't seem to be obscuring the lacy parts, either, which helps. I have a feeling I may have quite a bit of yarn left over at the end. This doesn't surprise me since I rarely bother with--I know, I know--gauge swatches before I start a project. I'm into the second tier and still haven't checked to see how many stitches per inch there are. Who knows what the finished dimensions will be even after it's blocked. I'm a long way from blocking yet, though.
The diagam in the book is a little frustrating, as are the nupps. Much discussion of the nupp problem has been had--there's that blasted passive voice again--on Ravelry. Some people suggest leaving them out altogether in favor of putting a bead in the spot where the nupp would have been; others suggest using a smaller sized sock needle to fish around and snag the working yarn. Among the more interesting tidbits of information on the subject is this: Estonian women were paid for their finished pieces by weight and nupps were a pretty, unobtrusive way of adding a little weight to their knitting. Incidentally, I had no idea at all it was really pronounced noop. As for the diagram, however, the arrows are merely there to indicate which direction the tier is being worked in and not actually pointing to the tier it appears to be beside. Tier 1 with its accompanying left-pointing arrow is really worked from right to left; Tier 2 is worked from left to right, as indicated by the right-pointing arrow. I guess the assumption is that at least a few people who want to start something that complicated already have some familiarity with the ins and outs of entrelac and don't need an explanation.
I, being a noob, took one look and nearly threw the book out the window. That was shorly before the mimeograph-purple ball of fuzz ended up as packing material. Since then, I've succeeded in making it as far as Tier 3 (that's on the ungodly heavy Attempt Number 2) without making any enormous mistakes. I don't know that anyone else would notice--or even care--that I transposed two of the blocks because I wasn't paying attention to the diagram. Attempt Number 3, however, is proceeding smoothly. For now, at least. Chances are I'll transpose a few more blocks after I finish Tier 2 because Tiers 3 and onward are relatively uncharted (ha-ha) territory.

After giving it some thought--and serious googling--it seemed like a good idea. Mom, beast that she is, talked me into developing the idea a little further. The whole metaphysics thing, y'see, which means this is really a thoroughly, completely shameless plug for idea put forth in my last post.
I now direct your attention--if you'll excuse the plug--to Markedly Metaphysical, which is where further fruits of beady business will probably be displayed. In the passive voice, no less. *sigh*

Friday, July 24, 2009

Still None of Your Beadness

The stitchmarker monster is still lurking, and this is the result of this morning's efforts. Since the beads are technically mom's, I have no idea what most of them are; this means I have to pester her for the particulars. In this case, she tells me the little leaves and rectangular thingie are rhyolite which is, according to some metaphysics websites, associated with cats, the elements Earth and Air, and the planet Mercury. Metaphysical stitch markers? I wonder if there's a niche market there somewhere. :P

Saturday, July 18, 2009

None of Your Beadness

It seems like everyone makes stitch markers. Etsy and Artfire are packed with people who make adorable little markers with beads shaped like lobsters and hotdogs; then there are those who use tiny little pearls and semi-precious stones. All of them are a practically endless series of variations on a theme. Mom and I discussed it and our verdict is that it's easy to do and is likely to have a fairly low overhead while still allowing someone to make a small profit.
About ten years ago, mom got the bead bug while she was trying to reconcile herself to being a writer who worked for commercial publications which she felt tended to take advantage of tragedies as a way of making a buck. Her brother-in-law sent her an e-mail asking her to interview people locally and write an article on the impact of a certain September tragedy in such a far-flung place as our semi-rural community; such a story, he said, would be of great interest to the Brazilian newspaper he worked for. Mom was surprised and, I think, a little appalled. How could people stand to capitalize on a tragedy of that scale? Instead, she decided to channel her creative energies toward something less likely to leave a foul taste in her mouth. And that's how we ended up with a hydraulic press in the living room. And a workshop full of beads from all over the world.
Mom's first show was in Pennsylvania, and it was memorable for a number of reasons not the least of which was the elderly Mennonite gentleman who approached us and suggested we would be enjoying a warm climate after we shuffled off the mortal coil. Shows, as it turned out, were hellish more often than not: the scramble to get ready to leave, get the car packed, the tent put up (which always required help), the endless flow of people who made nice comments like "But that'll snag on my sweater", the scramble to get things packed back up at the end of the show, get the car re-packed, and then drive home and unload everything until the next show rolled around. Of course, there was always a positive aspect to all that brouhaha, and that made the exhaustion worth it. In the end, mom decided to quit going to shows and opted for a quieter
avenue for her pieces.
She recently changed gears again and went back to writing, though with a less commercial edge--and certainly one that's less likely to capitalize on grief. Which leaves us with a workshop full of beads and a hydraulic press in the living room. A few days ago, while she was taking a break from writing, I asked her if she'd show me how to make stitch markers. She rummaged around in the workshop and came back with a little pouch full of headpins, a little drawer full of glass beads, and several pairs of pliers, and, after about an hour, I'd succeeded in contracting a new hobby.
I'm not quite sure what to do about this, but here's photographic evidence of my labors.


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Glossing Over

Things have taken a turn for the better—after taking a turn for the worse—with the Forest Path Shawl. My initial attempt using the Handpainted lace yarn didn’t go very well. It’s not that the yarn isn’t nice. It is nice with its fuzzy little halo; the downside, though, is that for a project like this, the halo gets fuzzier with handling and the end result is that things start sticking together. What happened was really my fault. I picked up too many stitches for the first block of Tier 2 and didn’t realize it until after I’d knit about five rows; when I tried to unravel those five rows, things stuck together because of all that fuzz. Ultimately, the yarn broke and I was left with a big tangle. Attempt Number 1 was sent to Aubrey Kenworthy as packing material in a package containing a bottle of ink. Waste not, want not, I guess. She, clever creature that she is, adopted it as a piece of art for her craft room wall; that, oddly, makes me feel better about the FPS Debacle.

I decided, then, after my first failed attempt, that perhaps I might do better with some yarn that wasn’t just a single. Operating under the theory that plied yarn is stronger and has a little more character and self-control, I ordered some Gloss yarn from KnitPicks. It arrived today, along with a number of surprises from the admirable Mrs. Kenworthy (whose atelier can be found here) and a yarny murder mystery from a friend in North Carolina. In the interval between frogging my first attempt and the arrival of the Gloss—which is a lovely dark purple like a cross between J. Herbin’s Poussier de Lune ink and a purple crocus—I cast on for a second attempt with some yarn I found buried in my stash. I’ve since found out that Araucania has discontinued its Atacama line, so if I don’t finish with the yarn I’ve got, that’s the end of that. Atacama is DK weight, so size 6 needles seemed like a good idea. I’m not entirely pleased with the results thus far, but that’s mostly because handpainted yarn can sometimes obscure the intricacies of lace with its variegated, shifting colors. I am, however, very much enjoying the fact that, no matter how much I handle it, it doesn’t stick together and it doesn’t seem to want to get all fuzzy. In fact, when it came time to start a new ball, I had a terrible time getting the ends to splice… wow. Alpaca, by the way, just does not taste very good.

So now I have to decide whether I want to actually finish the remaining eighteen tiers of Atacama or just go ahead and cast on Attempt Number 3.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Entre Nous, Entrelac...

When I said I'd be jumping in at the deep end, I had no idea exactly how deep and murky the water would be. Lace I can handle, but the entrelac is proving to be quite a challenge--which is fine since I like challenges.
I cast on for the stole, worked the 20 rows of seed stitch, finished the triangles at the base, and then realized I had no idea how to proceed. Gulp! The first logical step would really have been to look for a good tutorial rather than trying to get started without knowing what I was doing.
Finally, after much Google-fu, I discovered that YouTube doesn't seem to have any tutorials on entrelac. From there, I went to and found one with nice pictures and crappily written text which could use a hefty dose of red pencil. Naturally, without a good explanation, the pictures aren't quite as useful. Next, I went to a blog with pictures and a nice clear description of which stitches get picked up at which point. And, after working the first three tiers of blocks while staring at the tutorial, I figured I could proceed on my own until I forgot a step.
One problem, which is pretty minor, is that it doesn't recommend slipping the first stitch of the row on the selvage edge of each block and side triangle. Slipped stitches make life much easier when it comes time to pick them up again for the beginning of a new row of blocks. Another problem, which is probably due to some error I'm making, is that I occasionally end up with a hole that isn't all that dissimilar to the one I get when I'm working the first row of the gusset after all those stitches have been picked up. It's a little unsightly, but since this is a trial run, I'm not expecting to get it right the first time. I hate picking up stitches, but for socks and entrelac (among other things!), it's a necessary evil. It ranks with casting on, which I also hate... but I don't think it's possible to knit without casting on somehow. On the other hand, I'm also learning how to knit backwards, so I'm really getting more out of this than just the basics for entrelac.
The stole is on hold until I'm sure I'm ready for it, which means I'm fiddling with a ball of Noro Kureyon in what I feel is a rather unfortunate colorway--I hate pink, and there's plenty of pink in it--which probably isn't enough to produce more than a giant potholder.

Thursday, July 2, 2009


"Yet mark’d I where the bolt of Cupid fell:
It fell upon a little western flower,
Before milk-white, now purple with love’s wound,
And maidens call it love-in-idleness." - A Midsummer Night's Dream: Act II, Scene I

When the summer KAL started, I decided to delay reading/watching/listening to the chosen source of inspiration until I got closer to actually finishing the Fountain Pen Shawl, but last week I sat down to watch one of the more recent film versions of A Midsummer Night's Dream. Movies are always tricky because they have to compress or cut things to fit into about 100 minutes, but it's worth the frustration of missing details to see Stanley Tucci's Puck stealing a bicycle to go tearing through the woods in pursuit of Helena and Demetrius.
The discussion of the play has ranged all over the place, from manga versions of it--these I have got to see--to an opera, to the similarities between the faerie principals to major Gods and Goddesses from a number of pantheons, to the relationships between characters and why is Oberon so hell-bent on taking Titania's pageboy. I think we'd probably be an effective think-tank if anyone cared to hire us en masse.
Among the more minor notes in the discussion was the question of what, exactly, is this thing called Love-In-Idleness. Anumber of sources suggest it's most probably a variety of wild pansy with (and this is from a source whose credibility is somewhat questionable.. Wiki, I love you, but you know it's true) psycho-active qualities. It still exists in the form of Johnny-Jump-Ups, also called violet pensee, and it's still purple.
After rooting through four boxes of yarn, I found some laceweight in an appropriate--if rather violent--shade of purple that reminds me of the old mimeographed worksheets we got in elementary school. Everyone hated them because they were so hard to read, which was blamed entirely on the color. In this case, it works just fine, and since I haven't actually started the tricky entrelac parts of the pattern, I have yet to go bonkers.