You know what this means?
You know what this means?
You know what this means?
As suspected, I’m still knitting the Summer in Kansas shawl. I finished the edging last night, which one would think might finish the thing, but nope. This shawl is just one big series of finished parts that don’t finish the whole.
A quick bit of math revealed why the edge took so long. Each repeat is 17 stitches wide and ten rows long, so each point took 170 stitches to accomplish. There are 89 points. 89 X 170 = 15 130. Yup. More than 15 thousand stitches in the edge alone. That took a while, but last night I finished. Done? Nope.
The next instruction was to knit across the 17 edge stitches, then pick up each yarn over running along the top of the shawl and knit and purl into each one.
Then I carefully unpicked the provisional cast on at the start of the edging, and knit across those 17. That gave me a grand total of 360 live stitches to be cast off, but wait, there’s more.
The cast off for this top creates charming little points by, you guessed it. Casting on then off two extra stitches every two stitches.
I’m not even thinking about how many that turns the 360 into, and even if you’re the mathematically proficient type, I’d rather you didn’t tell me how many it is, because my gut instinct tells me that casting on two and then off two every two?
I think it’s infinite.
In the interest of fairness, I feel that it is only responsible that I tell you that I am going to be knitting the edge of the Summer in Kansas Shawl forever.
I know some of you have become accustomed to a parade of varied knits trouping past – but after knitting on this shawl edge all weekend I have to tell you that those days are over, because with all the time I’ve poured into this bad boy over the last few days, it should be more than done. More. Than. Done.
I’ve knit lots of things in my time, I know how long knitting takes, I have no delusions at all about it being a slow process, but this one isn’t right. There’s some sort of charm on it where no matter how much I knit, more remains – and here’s the really creepy part – It looks like I’m making progress, but I’m not.
You know the black hole of knitting? Every project has one, where you knit and knit but seemingly, nothing happens? You measure it and you’ve got 20cm, so then you knit for two hours and measure and miraculously you still have 20cm? Or that thing where you knit for ages and then go to sleep and then in the morning you would be willing to swear on a stack of cashmere that a team of co-ordinated chipmunks on a complex mission came in and ravelled your work in the dead of the night? ( The chipmunks are of course controlled by an evil overlord. Chipmunks have brains the size of lentils and don’t do a lot of higher reasoning or function well in a team.) That happens to me all the time, and you just keep pouring the stitches in and eventually you hit escape velocity and get free of the gravity of the thing. This isn’t that. With this shawl, I can see that I’m making progress. I can see that I’ve got 14 more little leaves around the edge, but somehow, even though I’m obviously creating more knitting, there is still always more to be accomplished. I don’t want to guess at what game is afoot, but I think it’s some sick sisyphean payback for shoving it in a cubby for 4 years, which I did do, and can’t deny.
I’m going to keep knitting until it’s done, because that’s what I said I would do – but I just wanted to let you know that this decision combined with the apparently supernatural nature of this thing means that this shawl is all you’ll be seeing on the blog forever. It’s pretty and all, so that’s cool, but I thought you would want to know.
I go through phases with knitting – or maybe, since my love affair with knitting is constant, it is more properly stated that knitting goes through phases with me – phases where it all seems to go really well- and the reverse. We’re all familiar with the flip side, where nothing works, everything sucks, all the patterns have errors (and if they don’t, you interpret them that way) all the yarn doesn’t do what we want it to or – (and I hate this one) you have the horrible realization that even though you are a functioning adult who’s seeming to do pretty well in the world, you apparently can’t count to six five times in a row to save your life.
At least in my life, the two phases are like the two sides of a coin, and it’s mathematically impossible to be in one and see the other. Either everything works and all I knit is a wonder, or it’s all a reeking slagheap of guano and I wonder how it’s possible that I was able to dress myself considering my obvious incompetence. I was there a while ago. I screwed everything up and switching projects did nothing to cure it. It was like having a cold. You can change where you are in the house but you’re still going to need a tissue.
My reward for having endured that phase, is this one. This side of it is glorious, and it seems to me that knits are flying off the needles. I’m making steady progress, I’ve made no terrible mistakes that mean I’m ripping back hours of work… instead I knit, things get knit, and there’s a wonderful parade of lovely things turning up just as I had hoped they would, and that’s where I am today.
The Eventide scarf is all done, and it’s all I’d hoped it would be and more.
Eventide by Laura Nelkin, Yarn: Schaefer Audrey in Almond. $2 worth of #8 Japanese seed beads.
This yarn is 50% wool and 50% silk, and a single. (That means it’s just one ply of yarn…not several twisted together like most yarns.) Usually I’m not a fan of singles, especially not for beadwork, because the lack of twist and plies means that it’s not very strong, but with this yarn the silk gives it strength, and you can have your cake and eat it too. It’s shiny and straight, the perfect yarn for the elongated crossed stitches in this stitch pattern, but still strong enough to take the weight of the beads and the abrasion of sliding a whole whack of them along the strand.
The beads are only on the ends of this scarf, and they give the whole thing a charming weight and heft – it lies beautifully and feels satisfying. (It also meant that I didn’t have to put that many beads on… comparatively speaking, which was totally fine with me because as much as it’s worth it for the effect, I find stringing beads onto yarn as much fun as scraping dried tomato sauce off of the kitchen backsplash. (That – by the way, explains the dried tomato sauce on my backsplash.)
I love how this ended up. I think it’s elegant and interesting, the crossed stiches were fun to work, and it all happened rather quickly, thanks to the big chunks of elongated work. (It’s like a magic trick. Knit one row – get the length of three!)
The hardest part of the whole thing, once I sucked up the bead stringing, was the graft in the middle, and even that worked out beautifully. I can’t even find where I did it unless I really, really look. It’s perfect.
I know it makes for boring blog reading, but man. This knitting thing is all going so well right now.
(I know. Don’t stand too close. You wouldn’t want the lightning strike headed my way to scorch you.)
1. I spent 4 hours driving about 30km. I decided to drive because a G20 security thing had the subway closed.
2. Usually, four hours driving would get me somewhere really far, like Ottawa, but yesterday I was actually able to knit while driving.
3. This is because I am calling "sitting in my car while not moving for 20 minutes at a time because of the G20 security measures" DRIVING.
4. When I got out of the car after this period of "driving" I started to walk away from the car and was suddenly overcome by a wave of dizziness and vertigo. It felt like the world was shifting around and I thought maybe the 4 hours of rage and heat had gotten to me. I reached out and steadied myself with a hand on the car for a minute and the feeling passed. I decided I must really need a glass of water and a rest and went in the house. A few minutes later I learned it was a 5.0 earthquake. (No injuries, no damages.) I’m sort of relieved because as worrisome as an earthquake is, I really thought I was having a stroke for a minute.
5. I continued conducting an experiment. I ran the dishwasher 5 days ago and told the family that it needed unloading. I am waiting to see how long they will go just piling more dirty dishes on top of the appliance before one of them is triggered to unload it.
6. Yesterday we ran out of clean dishes.
7. While final results are not in, it would appear that teenagers will actually come to you and tell you that there are no clean dishes (exactly like they are unaware of the purpose or action of a dishwasher) before they will empty said dishwasher to obtain more.
8. This has made me wonder if I didn’t take a good enough pre-natal vitamin.
9. I went to the store and filled a cart with all I needed. I went to the cash register and discovered I didn’t have my wallet. I threw an internal fit, went home, grabbed my wallet off of the counter and went back to the store. Once there I got back in line, waited my turn and then discovered my wallet did not contain my bank card.
10. We are out of milk, bread, eggs and just about everything that isn’t a three year old condiment.
11. This is related to my reaction to the trauma of #9, which was to go directly home and lie on the chesterfield with a cold beer while trying to figure out how to turn olives, balsamic vinegar and three kinds of mustard into a meal.
12. While the G20 traffic had me waiting, I finished my June socks.
Embossed Leaves pattern, Dream in Color Smooshy in Spring Tickle.
I love this pattern, and this time I did the funky toe and heel that were in the pattern. I usually do as pleases me, but for the self-imposed sock of the month club I’m trying the patterns as written. It’s a fun way to try stuff I don’t usually do and get me out of my rut. (We all get in them.)
Turns out I love them even more when you follow the pattern. (Who knew?)
13. I grafted together the two halves of the Eventide scarf and set it to block.
14. Having new socks and a new scarf almost makes up for the the way the rest of the day went.
15. I may have ordered some yarn to take the edge off the rest of it.
All I wanted on Friday, with every fibre of my being, was to pitch all that I was knitting and find something "better." I didn’t give in right away, but spent a little time wondering, my fellow knitters, what "better" was.
See, by all traditional markers, I don’t know how you find something much better than a the tank top I’m working on. I think the pattern’s really neat. I like the yarn a lot, it’s pretty interesting. It’s going slowly enough that I’m challenged – but quickly enough that I haven’t lost all faith in there ever being a tank top at the end of it. I can see that there’s a tank top on the horizon, which is awesome.
I’ve learned that I might be a true process/product knitter. If the process of making something isn’t paying off by being fun, interesting or challenging, then a project finds it’s way out of my life faster than a boyfriend who’s mum’s making him a Comic-con costume. (Note: I am less biased if you’re making your own costume.) Conversely, if I don’t see how what I’m doing is going to end up with something I want (to keep or to share) then I can’t imagine why I’m investing in it either. Either way, this tank is interesting to knit and I can see how at the end I’ll likely wear it, so there’s no logical excuse for why I spent all of Friday looking at it like it was gum stuck to the bottom of my shoe.
A shawl. A lace shawl. That was all I could think of, and I didn’t even have one in mind. I just knew I wanted out of that tank top, and I didn’t care how I got there. I went upstairs to pillage the stash for something appropriate, flinging laceweight around and pondering my possibilities – when in the very back of one of the cubbies, I found this.
It’s the Summer in Kansas shawl from years ago. The whole thing is knit except for the edging, and just like the tank top, for the life of me I couldn’t remember why I trashed it. I looked back in the blog archives and realized something really interesting. First – that it’s pretty nifty to keep a running tally of what I was knitting when, and second, that I had done away with the shawl at almost exactly the same time that I’d gotten rid of the tank top. I was knitting both of them in June of 2006, when apparently some problem with the tank wiped it from the earth, and a mistake on the edging of the shawl meant it suffered the same fate.
I was apparently going through an intolerant phase where knits that didn’t play nice went for a FOUR YEAR time out. Perhaps it was a mood that overtook me, or another something that distracted me, but how interesting (isn’t it?) that I walked out on both at the same time and now have found them both back together. Perhaps the mood has passed. (I don’t like to think of myself as someone who has four year long knitting hissy fits either, but … er. Let’s not talk about it.) The irony is that it took all of 10 minutes to fix the problems with both projects.
Welcome back, blue shawl. Let’s see if you and your tank top friend make it this time. I’d watch my step if I were you. You’ve had four years to know who you’re dealing with.
I want to ditch everything I am making and knit a shawl. I am resisting. I have no idea why.
It’s not like knitting has rules or an enforcement squad that is going to come over here and fine me if I bail on all this. It’s not even like sticking to a project has a moral imperative, I mean, it’s knitting. It’s meant to be fun. It’s what I do for fun. Tossing all this aside like the cheap rags it suddenly feels like it all is won’t hurt a fly. The world will not be a better or worse place no matter what I knit tonight. Babies will be born, people will die, wars will be waged or peace gained and not for one second will whether or not I stick the hell to a tank top that’s boring me to tears make a whit of difference. Not only that, but it won’t even matter in my own life. It’s not like my husband, children or friends will look at me and say "Oh my. She’s done it again. It’s a shawl. I’m so disappointed. I’d respect her so much more as a person if she finished those socks first." (As a matter of fact, I’d wager a substantial sum of money that my beloved doesn’t even know what’s on the needles, never mind bothering to judge it.)
All of this is true. What you’re knitting when (or at least, what I’m knitting when, perhaps you possess more global influence) doesn’t matter in any way, shape or form that will influence the amount of decency or right in the world.
So why do I feel like a good knitter would stick it out, and only a bad knitter would snag something better, more interesting, else, out of the stash?
Turns out the jag may not be about green, or leaves- but actually scarves in general, because lo and behold, here I am with another blog post and… surprise!
Another scarf. This one has a bit of a story, and isn’t even knitting, but weaving. A while ago I was at Lettuce Knit and they had this really cool yarn.
The whole ball is one repeat, where the colour changes by way of one strand of the four ply (but it’s not really plied, there’s no ply twist) being swapped out at a time. In the one I got it starts out with four strands of the dark pink, then after a while it’s three dark pink and one medium, then two dark pink and two medium and so on, until it’s made it’s way charmingly through dark pink to light pink. (It’s Color Changing Cotton from Wolle’s Yarn Creations and she’s got a blog here that shows off what she does. My colourway is Triple Berry.)
Now, I don’t much care to knit with cotton, but this yarn was so charming to me that I gave it some thought, and moments later was standing at the cash register with two balls in my hand and a big weaving plan. I thought that if I warped with one and wove with the other that things might get interesting fast. The yarn sat around the house for a while, being moved from table to desk to counter, and the night before I left for Squam, completely on impulse, I tossed my Cricket loom and the yarn in the trunk in case there was time to work on it. (If anyone’s interested, I used my 12 dent reed.) There was, and one afternoon while Denny (resident weaving expert) and Megan and Natalie were out, I started.
My plan was to warp the loom so that the colour changed across the warp – dark to light. Problem one? Too much yardage. (I know. Nice problem.) I started at one side with the dark pink, and quickly found that if I just went straight ahead and warped, that I wouldn’t get through the whole repeat. I needed less of each colour. I worked out how many sections of the repeat there were (4 dark pink, then 3 dark pink/1 medium, then 2 dark/2 medium, 1 dark/3 medium, 4 medium, 3 medium 1 light… etc) and figured out how wide I wanted the scarf, and then how much room I could give each section.
I’d warp along, then when I had the width I wanted from that section I’d cut the yarn, wind off the excess, then retie it to the loom at the beginning of the next colour.
It worked pretty darn well, and at some point in the process Denny came home, cracked a cold cider and watched me do it. It all seemed to be running like a charm, except for one thing that the experienced weavers among you (I would not be one of them) may notice.
I warped the loom backwards. Totally backwards. Faced the wrong end of the loom towards the peg, bolted that bad boy down and then warped it completely wrong. Absolutely wrong.
More than that, I even finished warping it wrong. Yup. Cut the yarn from the peg, wound it onto the wrong beam and then sat down and pulled the yarn through the holes in the heddles completely backwards, all the while complaining to Denny that it really seemed harder to warp the loom than it ever had. (I blamed the yarn.) Denny, used to my complaining about yarn problems, hardly cast a look in my direction, but sat knitting and murmuring comforting things. It was only when I went to her and asked for her help tying the warp on at the end that she noticed what I’d done. After I’d sworn for a good long time (I was eloquent, if repetitive) Denny helped me rewind the whole thing through to the other beam. This is, I understand, pretty much absolutely not done, but there seemed no other way out at that point.
I wove along then, starting with the dark of the second ball, and weaving along taking bits of the repeat out as needed to get it the way I wanted. About halfway through this process the whole thing developed tension problems that I couldn’t overcome (this was entirely due to having to wind the warp onto the right side of the loom) and I took drastic steps. I unwound the whole thing, untied the warp from the beam and wound the whole thing on again, then retied the warp.
I have since been advised that you can’t do that with a warp, and that it’s a very bad idea, but there was nobody there to tell me that when I did it, and it worked anyway. (I bet now that I’ve been told that it can’t work that it will never work again, but for that one time it would seem that my ignorance of what was possible worked for me.) I kept weaving, kept modifying the length of the repeat as needed, and when I was done I had this:
Which is, pretty miraculously, considering that I warped the loom backwards, a very pretty scarf.
The warp changes colour right to left, and the weft changes colour bottom to top, which means that on the bottom right there’s solid dark pink, and on the top left there’s solid light pink.
One big diagonal shift, and the whole thing was one heck of a weaving lesson- and resulted in what I think of as a Very Interesting Textile. In a lot of ways I got just what I wanted, in exactly the hardest possible way to get it.
The next one is going to go way better. Less swearing. I hope so, anyway.
Every once in a very long while, as I’m spelling my blog name or handing out a business card or signing books, someone very young will ask me what a Harlot is. I answer as honestly as I can while not mentioning anything their parents might mind me talking about, and say "a Harlot is a woman who has trouble making decisions about what she would like to have. I’m the yarn kind."
It would seem that it doesn’t stop being true either, because no sooner had I decided that I was really enjoying the Embossed leaves socks, and really was committed to finishing that tank top, I got struck straight though the heart, smitten with another project. This time it’s all Laura Nelkin’s fault. (She’s going to try and deny it, but don’t listen. The woman could sell a furnace in Hades. I didn’t stand a chance.)
It’s the Eventide scarf (yarn’s Schaefer Audrey in Almond) and the beads are #8 Japanese seed beads scored (among many, many others) from Arton Beads here in Toronto. (I love that store. It seems like you can have so much for so little. All the beads for this scarf were like… $2.)
This scarf is addictive. Completely addictive. Crossing those elongated stitches is a bit of a pain in the arse, but then you do it and whammo. In one slightly fiddly row the whole scarf is the equivalent of three rows longer. It moves in leaps and bounds, and when none knitters see it they’re enchanted. Even some knitters are enchanted. How did the beads go on? How do the stitches weave through each other? The whole thing is a big wad of yarny, beady fun and I can’t put it down.
I can’t stop thinking about it, it’s into my head so deeply that last night I dreamed that I had figured out how to get beads onto yarn without even really having to do it, and then had come up with the perfect way to cross those stitches really efficiently and quickly and knit the whole scarf in a day.
I admit, I tried what I dreamed when I woke up and it didn’t work. I don’t know what my subconscious was thinking. Damned useless dream – just got my hopes up for nothing. Anyway, gotta go. Knitting beads. Crossing stitches.
Today I turn 42. If you’re any sort of nerd like me, then you know that means that today I am the answer to life the universe and everything. I’m thrilled. I like aging. I feel stronger and more myself and more here and experienced and able as I age – and I even like myself better.
I’m spending the day with myself and some yarn before having a family dinner. I’m knitting. Happy Birthday to me – and for the record? The year I was 41 can bite me hard on the hind parts. This year is the answer.