Tuesday, March 20, 2007

More Yarn, More Yarns, Less Wine, Less Whine

There comes a time in every knitta's life when she gots to put down the 40 and get on with the bidness of the knitpurl.

Now is such a time. It's a gots ta go knit kinda day.

You know, when I started this thing, I knew there would be certain amount of, say, Mom issues or family stuff or boy stuff... I never dreamed there'd be so damned much Boy stuff. Aren't y'all lucky, getting snugged into the soap opera shitstorm on such a regular basis? But now, let's talk sticks and strings.

Annie was the lucky recipient of all the knitting magazines that I didn't want (remember? Back in post number... three or something? Here. Self-referential linking... gotta love it).

It sounds awful, doesn't it? "Here, take these filthy things. I no longer wish to see them!" Most of them just had projects that were enough like other projects for which I already had patterns that I didn't think I needed two. Anyway, enough of my defense; she said something interesting to me over pomegranate martinis at the Brown last week (note how cleverly I drop names. Marcel will be making a literary appearance any moment now). She said she looked at the magazines and didn't think she could knit almost anything in them.


Knitting Redux:
  1. knit
  2. purl

That's it. That's the list.

My beloved Secret Pal sent an email yesterday in which she addressed the question of socks. I woke up in a cold sweat at 3:00 this morning realising I'd never answered her, because that's just the sort of Calvinistic (all apologies to 16th century theologists) dork I am.

Anyway, I'm going to bring another thread into this little potholder we're knitting here. 'Cause everybody starts with a potholder, right? It may become a scarf, but there is a moment in your early garter-stitch angst when you're ready to blow it off and call it a day. And a potholder.

I do so love analogies.

Anyway, back to Anne Lamott (yes we were): It's not particularly original or revolutionary, but it's too true to misconstrue: Bird by bird.

This is what her father told her ten-year-old brother when he was agonising over a book report on birds. "How am I ever going to finish this?" he wailed (and I'm taking enormous liberty here with the quoting -- totally paraphrasing, there may have been no wailing involved, but the basic story is true to the original).

"Bird by bird, son. Bird by bird."

And that's all knitting is: bird by bird. Stitch by stitch. I could go on and embroider a grand, sweeping equivalence to all aspects life, but we're talking about knitting here, people. Stitch by stitch. Knit. Purl. You can knit the pattern. You can knit the sock. Bird by bird.

There has never been a knitting pattern I've looked at and thought, "I can't do that." There are some that have looked difficult. There have been plenty that looked like more pain-in-the-ass than they could possibly be worth. And I'm sure there are pattern errors and poorly written instructions that make even the Head Knitta want to stick pointy things into her ears until she can scramble the knitpurl lobe of her brain. But it's still all just knit and purl.

My first pair of socks? I got the wrong yarn. I would swear it was an old Mission Falls yarn. I bought a bunch because it was on sale, going out of production. And it wasn't sock yarn at all. It was perfect wool for felting: fuzzy, unplied. But that's what I picked because I didn't know sweet fuck-all about what I was doing, other than I was, by the gods, going to knit my father a pair of socks for Christmas.

I got Sock Wizard software (love me some technology) and a set of DPNs. I did a little research, knit for gauge and plugged in my numbers. Voila! (life really would be more decorative if I could figure out how to put accent marks in on this thing) Sock!

Socks Redux:

  1. DPNs look way harder than they are. They can be awkward until you've joined your circle and knit a couple of rounds, but it's no harder than any other circular knitting and it looks absolutely vicious. People will NOT fuck with you on the bus if you appear to be taming a porcupine in your lap.
  2. But don't twist the stitches. I don't really need to tell you that, but it's worth repeating. Of all the things that could go wrong due to the use of DPNs, well that's it. Unless you poke your eye out. Or drop a needle.
  3. Don't poke your eye out. Or drop a needle.
  4. Try knitting on two circular needles (Cat Bordhi is my hero), which I love, or that magic loop thingy, which I know little about, except that a lot of people have tried to talk me into it.**
  5. Bird by bird. Stitch by stitch. Start with a simple, ribbed cuff sock and just follow the pattern stitch by stitch. You may get all twisted on the heel, but you can always undo it and try again.
I have now knit about a half-dozen pairs of socks (and one lonely, single sock for your lonely, single AntiM. Let the violins play). The very last sock in the very last pair I knitted, I FINALLY knit the heel clean. All the others, I've gotten off-count on the short-row thing and ended up with a wonky heel that took a definite turn for the worse. Or at least the left. (Not a political statement. Just sayin'). Frog it, tink it, bring it on back to ground zero and try again. It always worked the second time.

But really, you learn all kinds of good stuff with cuff-down socks (I don't know from toe-up socks, though I'm about to embark on that adventure. I'll let you know how it goes when we get there): circular knitting, short row work, slip stitches, picking up stitches, kitchener stitches... at least the way I do it you learn all these things.

Socks are very portable and go pretty fast and just when you don't think you can't do one more k2p2 rib, hallelujah! You reach the heel flap!

...and just when you've re-done your heel and finally removed it from that Escher zone where only some sort of mythical beast could fit into that heel, hallelujah! You reach the foot! And you never have to purl again! Until the rib for the next sock!

Yeah, I'm pretty excited about socks. You could say I'm a sock dork. Go ahead. I'll wait here.

So, Secret Pal, that's the sock soap box. Aren't you glad you asked?

[SUMMARY: Annie can knit anything. Secret Pal can knit anything (including socks). You can knit anything. Ohhhhhmmmmm...]

Funny sock story: After the relative success of the first socks (though one of my aunts lovingly washed them in warm water and threw them in the dryer when Mom died and we were all helping clean out the 'rents' house, so the socks are now mine -- tight, felted bottoms and all.), I was ready to go again. I was puttering through a knitting magazine (no, AntiM! Not you!) and saw an ad for buffalo yarn. I told everybody I was going to knit buffalo socks for Dad, so I was honour-bound to do it. THEN I went and looked at the actual *price* of the yarn. Important lesson, kiddies: research first, mouth shoot-off after.

You know those things you did as a kid or a teenager that your parents still don't know about? And you have some mental tickle file on when you can tell them that they'll be far enough removed from the situation that they can actually laugh about it? In another couple of years, I might tell my dad about his $100 socks. Not that I'd be in trouble, but he'd be horrified. Who wouldn't be horrified by $100 socks?

[SUMMARY: $100 socks may very well be horrifying, but are they funny? Another koan for the zen mill.]

Now let's talk USOs, shall we? In fact, these are somewhere in the birthing process before USO. It's just yarn. Lovely yarn, but yarn without a real business plan just yet. Out of the large, friendly stash, these are the yarns I see having the most immediate practical application.

Mmmmm... fibre... *garrrggghhlllggggzzh*

Let's see. That's Lonsesome Stone Alpacas sock yarn in the upper left, the Valentiney-looking stuff. I bought that to make socks for me (I'd knit the mate to the lonely, single sock, but I'm not sure where the yarn is). The yarn comes from Fraser, Colorado (right near Winter Park, for the skiers out there) and is so very (bonus Heathers reference! I win!). It was $25 a hank, but it has more than 400 yards, so... really. Is a $25 pair of socks *that* horrifying?

The green stuff is Knit Picks striping sock yarn in some green colourway. I don't remember offhand and I bought it because it was being discontinued and was pretty damned attractively priced. I have four balls of the stuff and am considering all sorts of mitten/glove options along with socks.

That lovely purple stuff is Textiles a Mano Dublin (90% kid mohair, 10% nylon). Here, take a closer look, and please note my table is not green (and I'm pretty sure the yarn isn't radioactive -- that red halo is computer-generated), that's just my colour adjustment to atone for the lack of purplocity in my camera:

...and cat for scale

I don't know what I'm going to do with the Dublin. It's 1000 yards, so it's too little for a lot of shawls. And honestly? I'm not sure I'm a shawl person. Maybe if I knit one, I'd feel compelled to wear it and I'd *become* a shawl person.

Anyway, I bought it at the Estes Park Wool Market last summer when I was still buying yarn simply because it was pretty and not because I had anything in mind. There's not a thing wrong with that, by the way, except when you end up with 600 mismatched, 100-yard skeins and no project small enough to satisfy them (side note: why is it that when you have 600 mismatched, 100-yard skeins, there aren't even two that approximate each other in texture and weight closely enough that you conceivably combine them to make one multi-yarn project? Nothing makes you more aware of the vast diversity and variety of yarn than trying to get something in your stash to play nice with the other yarns.)

What 1000-yard project should I make with my purple fuzzy stuff?

And, finally, just a moment of zen from your ol' AntiM:

Happy Friday.


You've gotta be kidding me.

Fucking Tuesday...

**FOOTNOTE (asterisked): For the record, one of the things I like about two circular needles (and I use this method for all things that would generally take DPNs -- tops of hats, socks, um... tops of hats, probably when I knit sweater sleeves and gloves) is that you can use the circulars in many applications. I do all my flat knitting on circulars because I don't lose one, as I inevitably do with straights. I don't have to have a circular *and* a set of DPNs for projects like hats. The loop thing? I think you have to buy, like, a 45" or 60" circular to do that. I don't see a lot of practical application in my life for circular needles that long. I'd have to buy like-sized circulars in smaller lengths for everyday knitting and that seems impractical. Unfunny, but true.

**FOOTNOTE (unasterisked): I'd like to point out that we made it to the end of today's post with no alcohol, no Kelly, none of The Boy, no bitching about the Stupid Blanket or bragging about the Mini Cooper. It's a love-fest for the knitting set and I may need to hearken you back here one day when the next 15,000-word shitstorm hits. We *can* talk about knitting. You *can* go a day without Boy drama. Follow your dreams. I'm living proof.

**FOOTNOTE (unasterisked): My new best friend Marcel says so.

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