Monday, March 31, 2008

Good or Great?

***Warning- Philosophical Ramblings Ahead***

So I was listening to NPR (pretty much the only station I listen to) and I heard this question...

"What do you value and why?"

Such an important question and I had not really given it much consideration! I've asked myself "what do I want?" and "what do I believe?" and "what do I want to eat now?", but this question of value seems so basic and so important.

I think I could write a whole essay on this subject, but this is a knitting journal - I will explore the question in relationship to knitting. I bet I'll find that it all relates to life in general!

So, what do I value? To answer that question I think you should see the progress I've made on the Textured Tank.
On first glance I think it is turning out quite well. I've tried it on numerous times and it fits, but, brother, you don't want to see me in this thing with out the proper undergarments!!!!

On closer look, however, there is a big problem. You see, since I am designing this tank, essentially from scratch, I want this to turn out the way I want it to turn out. The armholes scoop in too much, which means the boat neck will not be as wide as I wanted. (And I spent all that time on the math. grrrr).

So here is where the question of value comes up. What do I value about my knitting? Is it the end product? Is it the experience? Is it the kudos of fellow knitters and friends? Do I value the time invested vs other things I could be doing? How about the time invested vs actual output? In other words, should I frog back to the armhole bind off (about 8 hrs of work) and make it right or should I leave it be? It's pretty nice the way it is!

On reflection, I think I value the experience of knitting. Not the individual stitches but the learning that comes with the combination of those stitches. This is why I love to fix mistakes and why I choose patterns based on what I can learn from them (Venezia? That's right. I'm talkin' 'bout you, girl). I believe, though, that this is a surface answer. I think what I really love is the reality that I can be truly great at this craft. I think it is authentic to believe in my potential. (Getting there is a whole 'nuther essay. One thing at a time!). If I am truly great, or striving for greatness, then the answer is clear- rippit, rippet, rippet!

Why do I value being great? Ah, this is the meat and potato of the question. Why, indeed? Virginia Wolfe once said that every person (she might have actually said every woman) secretly harbors the belief that she is special. Many are desperate for others to recognize this specialness and remark upon it, but are too hung up or insecure to shout it out to the world. I, on the other hand, take to heart the words of another great woman, Marianne Williamson.

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you NOT to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us, it is in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

Marianne Williamson

Right ON!! Why do I want to be great? Because I honestly don't know how else to be. Don't get me wrong, I suck at most everything. But I am really good at a few things. I could just accept good - I get lots of kudos for good, but this is essentially hollow. I want to be great and that means being bold in my choices of projects, ceaseless persuit of great results (not perfect - that's crazy making and impossible) and a constant eye toward hallmarks of greatness in knitting (Eunny? Jared? I'm looking at you right now!).

The value in these musings is that I think, as usual, that this is an apt metaphor for the rest of my life. As much as I would find it easy to just be good, great is where life actually happens.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

My First Student

Look, y'all! I have a student! Valerie asked me to teach her to knit... and I am. Here she is saying, "what the heck did I do to this stitch? Fix it!"

So, far so good. I do believe I've inducted another member of the obsession. Taking over the world, one stitch at a time.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Chuggin' Along

This is a nice bit of instant gratification and a head start on the gift giving season!

Yarn- Gedifra Scarlet Super Bulky Wool and Acrylic, 4 balls
Pattern - White Night Scarf By J. Sun
Needle - Knit Picks Harmony US#15

I knit this one until it was mid thigh on me - and then did a nice fringe. I have about 3/4 of the 4th ball left. What can I do with that?

This puppy is long enough to wrap twice or do the New York Braid (this is what you do in a really cold place, I'm told. )

I am chuggin' along on my "design". I had a devil of a time with the cast on. It tried 2 different tubular cast ons, then did a regular long tail w/2x2 rib for an inch. I loved the clean hem look of the original, but still not sure how she did it. Maybe a provisional? Well, I got impatient and did something I know.

I got all the way through the waist decreases before remembering how messy the column of stitches that borders a drop stitch gets. The solution is to knit that stitch through the back loop, so that's what I had to do.

Following is possibly the most boring blog post ever. Feel free to close this now. I won't know, so you won't hurt my feelings!

Here is the piece before I messed with it. If you click on it, you'll go to my Flickr page where you can see a big enough picture to get the detail. Why would you do this? 'Cuz you're a bigger knitting nerd than I be.

So, I dropped the stitch column that borders the drop stitch bordering the cable...

Then I used my trusty crochet hook to knit everything back up, twisting each stitch as I went.

It was a lot of fun in that sick, "look I can control the universe" sort of way.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

A "Design"

In the "Year of Knitting Fearlessly" I wanted to design a garment from scratch. My first step is to copy something from a picture. Here's what I want to copy:

Ok, there are a few close up pictures on Eunny's old blog. I have the yarn.... let's give it a whirl!

Pattern - out of my behind
Yarn - Elle Rae, Shibu
Needle - Knitpicks Harmony, #7

Here's the first swatch:I don't think you can see this, but the cable - a tight braid from the "Harmony Guide" doesn't fare well with this yarn. There isn't much definition. It's worth noting that I actually tried to parse out the cable she used here. Downloaded her tutorial on untangling cables, pulled out the graph paper and colored pencils and all. Yeah. There's a long dark night I'll never get back ;-)

Here's what I settled on (after 4 more swatches that didn't survive):

The single twist has way more definition and balances the rather soft texture of the pie crust basket weave. Should I make the left and right cables twist opposite each other?

The cast on was another journey! I tried a couple of different tubular cast ons because that is what I think I saw in the picture. **Note to self. If you're going to try to copy someone, try someone who isn't such a freakin' expert** Both attempts were a failure. Too loose and the basket weave was too soft to pull it all together. frog frog frog.

I am now going for a straight 2x2 rib and hoping to get (finally) started with the knitting!

This is fully engaging process, and y'all know how I am about the process. On the other hand, this is NOT good for my anal-retentive-control-freaky-let's-get-it-done-now side. That side can't believe how much perfectly good knitting time is irrevocably LOST to all this trial and error.

I'll keep you posted!


Finally. It took me almost 3 months to complete this sweater - my largest project to date. I am reasonably pleased, and I learned so much!

Pattern - Oblique, Veronik Avery, Knitty Fall '07, size 43
Yarn - Cascade Superwash color 862
Needle - Knitpicks Harmony, US# 7

This is a great knit. My only beef is that Veronik assumes a level of experience that I didn't have (well, it was rated piquant, after all) and I didn't know, for example, that I should keep the raglan decrease stitches in stockinette instead of trying to maintain the moss stitch on the wrong side. I admit to a few Harlot style conversations with Veronik - but really, these issues are so minor!

The lace patterns fit together really well and after 2 sleeves and most of the back I think I had it memorized ;-) I am a bit sick in that I love the challange of trying to stay in the pattern, decrease or increase as indicated, but still wind up with right number of stitches in the end. The first sleeve, with raglan decreases on each side taught me a lot. I had to redo it after I did the second one (correctly) and realized the consequences of, "Hmm. I'm off by a stitch. Oh well. I'll just throw in an extra K2tog right here"

Cascade Superwash is really nice to work with. It is soft, forgiving and holds the stitch definition so well!

I had the gorilla arm experience again. I was, I admit, a little freaked out after the first sweater bath. Everything got 2-4 inches longer! I was seeking out advice on Ravelry on the whole slice off the ends and knit up the cuffs when someone suggested tossing the thing in the dryer. Dudes, I washed it in the machine, but isn't the whole dryer concept a bit much for wool? Apparently not. Tossed, tumbled and the sweater went back to where my swatch said it would.

I think, now that I've worn this a few times, that I am more of a fitted sweater kind of gal, but I really like this for what it is. Comfortable, casual and the perfect thing to wear on a day when, say, the carbs and sugar have taken over your life.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Some Baby Gear

Honestly - I really have no idea how these regular knitting blog posters post regularly. Honestly. Do they sit around all day, eat bon bons and knit? (apologies to all who read this and do post every day/week. I'm just jealous ;-))

I have been knitting my little heart out the last few weeks, but I had nothing blog worthy to show for it. BSJ is uber lovely, but took a couple of weeks and then the rest of the set... well, I am ahead of myself.

Here is the Baby Surprise Jacket by Elizabeth Zimmerman. Yarn is Schaefer Farms Heather in Merino, Nylon and silk. The trim is Knit One Crochet Two's Ambrosia in Marino, Silk and Cashmere. Yes, I know I might have been smoking the knitters equivalent to crack when I made my yarn choice. Yes, I am completely aware that this will be covered in smelly baby spit up in nothing flat. I have had two of those fluid producing machines of my own, thank you very much. But hear me out, there is logic 0 for me, at least.

If I were to go out and buy a baby presetn I would have spent as much or more than the yarn that I purchased at Unwind's Superbowl Sale. I got to work with this divine stuff, hear all the lovely compliments from my knitterly friends as I knit it (as well as the giggles that I would do such a silly thing) and I will have the pleasure of the Mom's pleased surprise at such an extravegant gift. (Reality will set in shortly, but that's not my problem, it's hers!). In the end it is all about the process, and I enjoyed every moment of this process!

I added i-cord to the trim and neck. The ambrosia is really floppy at this gauge, so I think the i-cord really helped give structure.

I had lots of yarn left so I made this beanie.

I needed the perfect unfussy hat to match my BSJ, but I guess my needs were too simple for a pattern! Searched high and low and, in the end, just wung it.

60 stitches on double circ, 2 rows CC, knit 4 inch straight in garter. Dec round = (k8, k2tog) then purl round and continue, decreasing 1 stitch between k2tog for each dec round and alt dec knit round w/ straight purl round until 6 stitch remain. Thread needle through remaining stitches, pull tight and fasten off inside hat.

But there was still more yarn. So I made Saartje's Booties using #2 and all the same yarn. Too cute, no? Actually, these are my second try. The first were knit with a #4 and are humongous - see?

I'm going to give them both to the mother. The great thing about babies is that they grow!!
Lastly, I am still sloggin away at Oblique. I am totally enjoying this, but, MAN! a huge slouchy sweater on #7's is not a quick knit. I have 1/2 of a front to go and them it is time to pick up stitches for the collar. At this rate I should finish this just in time for the 90' weather.

Woo Hoo!!!