Monday, January 30, 2006

Self-Portrait of a Lady

Sometimes, in the course of making art, there is room for collaboration. Other times, the statement is a more personal, more private thing, a seed of an idea that cannot germinate in a communal garden. I feel this way about my own photographed image. Other people can, and have, taken pictures of me that I enjoyed. Almost none of them show me as I see myself. When I took up photography as a hobby, I did so because it was the medium in which I could document what I saw, as I saw it through my own eye, without the burden of trying to make my hand translate the image onto a piece of paper or a lump of clay. I loved photography from the start, and for the most part it loved me right back.

Our only issue, photography and I, is with how I appear in photographs taken by other people. My eyes glow red in the light of the flash, one side of my mouth turns up in a funny way, my chin disappears. I am ordinary, even goofy. I am betrayed by the other side of the lens. Is that really how I look? Am I really that awkward, that plain? Why do pictures of me never look like the image I see in the mirror? Is the mirror-image the lie that I tell myself, and the photograph the glaring, awful truth?

In a word, no. In a narcissistic but positive turn, I've discovered that my image can be captured as I'd like to see it, as I see myself, but only by my favorite living photographer. Me.

This is Svetlana, a triangular garter-stitch shawl knit in Crystal Palace 'Splash'. I knit her on size 17 needles, and used a little more than a ball and a quarter of 'Splash'. Svetlana was originally much bigger, but after her inadvertant unravelling, frogging and re-knit, she's now just large enough to wear around the shoulders, and only when fastened at the front with a pin, or in this case a faux pearl bracelet. I wanted her to be a little more elegant, a little less pelt-like.

I took the above picture myself, using a makeshift stand consisting of a laundry drying rack and a spiral-bound notebook. I'd flip the picture on the right upright if I had more time and more motivation, but you get the idea. It was tall enough for my purposes, and relatively stable. The funny thing about all of this is that I was explaining my contraption to my husband, and he said, "We have three tripods in the closet. Of COURSE they fit this camera. It was the old camera that didn't have a tripod mount." He looked a little sick when I showed him this picture. I think he was picturing his very expensive camera sliding off of the rig I'd invented and cracking into a hundred pieces on the hearth.

And sometimes it's not bad to look a little goofy in a picture, as long as the goofiness is on your own terms. Of all of the shots I took that day, this one is my favorite. Lucy caught me with her tongue about three milliseconds after the shutter click.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006


My older brother is a huge fan of Butterfinger Pie. You take six full size Butterfinger candy bars (or a 13oz bag of the small ones), smash the candy up with a hammer, mix it with a package of cream cheese, a tub of Cool Whip, and throw the whole melange into a graham cracker crust. Chill until firm, then serve. The pie is...well...he really likes it. It makes my teeth hurt, but I like making it for him and he likes eating it, so it works out O.K. My favorite part of the process is the candy smashing. I love intentionally pulverizing things with a hammer, and this is the most productive and legal outlet for my urge. I mention this now not to frighten anyone, but because smashed Butterfingers look an awful lot like Debbie Bliss Aran Tweed in 'Espresso'.

This is the Triangle Edge Cardigan from the Debbie Bliss Tweed collection. The yarn was an impulse buy from Elann, and this was the featured pattern on the yarn page. I knew I had to have it. I showed the Elann newsletter to co-workers, hoping to be talked out of buying the materials, but everyone said, "I can TOTALLY see you wearing that!" You know, nobody ever says "I can see you wearing that, but not totally. Really more like 30%." It wouldn't have made a difference if I'd heard something like "Good God, that'll look like automotive upholstery, and you'll look like the bucket seat of a '77 Pinto when you wear it! It's hideous!" I had a strong feeling about this one. I still would have made it.

What makes this project different is that I started working on it almost as soon as I got the yarn into the house. Usually, I get yarn and a pattern book, and I spend a lot of time going over the patterns, and the yarn gets shuffled around the house, until eventually I get tired of looking at it and throw it into a bin in the yarn cave. Last autumn, I decided to turn over a new leaf. No more "better buy fifteen balls of that, because I might want to knit something big with it, although I have no current plans for it" purchases. No more "if I don't buy it now, I might not be able to find it later" hauls. This was my first "I'm knitting this thing, and I'm knitting it in this yarn, and I'm doing it now" projects.

I changed the pattern, but only slightly. I made the medium-sized body, but I made the armholes shorter and the arms in the small size. I don't like the arms of my sweaters to be too roomy, and I like a pretty close fit at the shoulder. Other than that, I followed the pattern to the letter. It fits like my favorite blazer, which is remarkable given that I didn't think to measure said blazer before starting on this cardigan. It's a tiny bit wide at the waist, but that'll be easy to fix later if it really bothers me.

I wouldn'd do anything differently if I made it again. In the beginning, I'd considered knitting the sleeves in the round and the body in one piece up to the arms, but the seaming was actually fun once I got the hang of it. It's a lot more fun to seam when you know that you won't be able to see the screw-ups. There's no way to tell where I might have flubbed among all of those dark, tweedy stitches.

I don't know why it took so long, maybe because it got a little tedious toward the end, or maybe because I knit more slowly than usual. I really didn't want to screw it up. The further along I went without making a mistake, the more I worried about it. I started on Thanksgiving weekend, and I cast off the last bit of the sewn-on edging last night.

Buddy the Cat's happy that it's done. He usually tries to curl up on top of my knitting, or at least right next to me as I'm working, but he stayed away when I was working on this sweater. He didn't like the feel of it, I guess. (It was not soft and luxurious. I'd rather curl up in the bucket seat of a '77 Pinto. Why do you never knit cashmere, the Woman? - BtC)

I'm going to wear it tomorrow, and try to get pictures of it in the daylight. Wheeeee!!! Done!!!

My head's not THAT big...

I made this little hat, which in this picture looks like a small, yellow boob with wings, for my husband's boss' new baby. It was supposed to be the Chicken Viking Hat version 2.0, but I was told, at the last minute and to my great disappointment, to ditch the drumsticks. It's a cute little hat without them, assuming that you plop it on the soft, fuzzy head of a baby instead of a full-grown woman with an unusually large skull.

We have no babies, having long ago decided to be wine-loving D.I.N.K.s, so I have no live model of appropriate size. See the somewhat blurry image of the full bar in the background? Sure, I could have pulled the hat over the bottom of a liquor bottle, and it probably would have stretched to about the right size and photographed nicely. But, childless and non-maternal though I am, even I know that dressing up my high-end vodkas in baby clothes and taking pictures is probably a little morally wrong.

Buddy the Cat has declined to be photographed wearing acrylic blends. (It demeans us both, the Woman. - BtC) Therefore, it falls to me to model this hat. I'm aware that it makes me look like I have a head the size of a fully inflated four-square ball.

For balance, here's an adult-sized hat, knit for my dad for Christmas. Now, it's big. I'm not saying it's not. That brim can be unrolled all the way down to mid-ear for me, and down to the chin when worn by my beloved husband, Accountant Boy. My dad wears it golfing, and it doesn't roll up and off the top of his head the way that most stocking caps are prone to do. Big cap, to be sure. But not freakishly big. Right? We're just like normal folk, right? (Daddy, why are those villagers coming toward us with pitchforks and cargo nets??? I don't WANT to join the circus!)

Lest you should wonder, here's DaddyBanana.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

New Year, New WIP list

Well, that satisfied feeling of accomplishment couldn't last long. I have more than half a dozen again. Here's the updated list:

Frog Pond:
1. Green graduated rib pullover -- I haven't touched it in months. It's not that I don't like it, it's just...well, you know how sometimes you start to realize you may have made a mistake, but you're not ready to commit to fixing it? Yeah. I've been feeling that way for a while. I think it might finally be time. This yarn should have been used for its original purchase purpose, the Cable-8 top from last year's Interweave Knits.

2. Olive angora pullover - I knit this a couple of years ago, before I understood the difference between angora and more resilient fibers. It's too big, no question about it, and blocking it down doesn't help. The ribbing doesn't hold its shape. The yarn used as a carryalong gets snagged and tangled up in the angora halo. The body was knit in the round up to the armpits, then knit across for the rest of the way up. The difference is noticeable, and not pretty. If it's froggable, I'm going to use the yarn to make an INTENTIONALLY bulky sweater.

3. Neck of a store-bought sweater -- I love the simple body of this sweater, but I don't have the swan-like neck to pull off a cowl this big and this close to my face. It's almost like it's supposed to be the world's tallest turtleneck. I don't know who this sweater was designed for, now that I'm really looking at it. Who in the hell would ever be able to handle that much orange wool bunched up just under their earlobes? It's just too much. I figure I've got nothing to lose by trying to cut it down.

On or Near Needles:
1. Triangle Edge Cardigan - yes, still working on it. I like it, but I got bored with all of that seed stitch. After a couple of weeks off, I picked it up again last night and made some good progress on it. I''m looking forward to finishing this one, as it's the first sweater I've knit that takes into account my actual measurements. I paid attention this time, not just to the finished bust size, but to all of the other measurements, too.

2. Bristow - Not going too badly so far. I'm about halfway up one of the fronts. This will be the project where I finally start using lifelines. It's not that it's that complicated, but the screwups are glaringly obvious when they happen, and I'm tired of tinking as many rows as I knit.

3. Leo - I have the yarn, fifteen balls of Jo Sharp Silkroad Aran in 'Granary' and one ball of 'Boheme' for a possible very thin stripe, out in plain sight, and I told someone on the Knittyboard today that I was going to start it. It's for my sweetie, who has patiently watched me knit hats, scarves and blankets for other people, and nothing for him.

4. Caroline's Sweater (from Beyond Wool) - I have the yarn, the needles and the desire to wear this sweater by March.

5. Graphite - Simple hat in Rowan Big Wool. It's almost done, but I don't know if I like it. The Big Wool is too thick for the basic pattern I've been using for hats, and I didn't allow for the extra bulk. It's a little stiff. I'm either going to finish it or frog it. The jury's still out. The colorway reminds me of graphite pencils, so I named it Graphite. For some reason, I can't bring myself to frog it because now I like its name. When I put it on the chaise to photograph it, I realized that it's almost perfectly matched to Buddy the Cat.

6. Hat 2 - Ribbed hat in Cascade 220 - the hat I should have made for my sweetie for Christmas. I can't start it until I free up the needles from Graphite.

There's other stuff that I want to start, but compiling this list has helped me to realize that I shouldn't even think about it yet. In fact, I probably shouldn't have spent this much time writing posts tonight. It's possible, just possible, that I'm procrastinating because I don't know where to start.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

New Year, New Start

I get so busy updating other blogs that I forget to update my own. Well, it's a new year, and that means a new start. It's a new start for me, and a new start for this yarn.

The seafoam Pingouin DK yarn and I go way back. I bought it for my first project, a simple turtleneck from a Patons pattern book. Looking back now, I see why that first endeavor failed and drove me to put down my needles for the next eleven years. The turtleneck? Ugly. The gauge? Tiny. What kind of a beginner project has a young knitter struggling to create an opaque, flawless stockinette fabric on size 2 needles? I was never going to finish that sweater. The waistband ribbing for the back of it sat in my yarn basket for a decade. I think a moth ate a hole in it. I frogged it a couple of years ago, threw all of the yarn into a SpaceBag and vowed to find a perfect, timeless project for it. After I'd held on to it for all of these years, it wasn't going to get knitted up into some trendy top that I wouldn't wear for more than a season. Over the years, I kept searching for that perfect pattern. I thought I'd found it in the cabled rib polo sweater from a couple of posts ago, but I didn't get more than a couple of inches into the swatch before I realized it wasn't going to work. I scrapped the idea of the cabled rib sweater. That wasn't what this yarn wanted to be.

I think my lovely old yarn has finally found its true purpose in Bristow. I love the wool at this gauge, I'm having fun with the charts and the cabling. Sure, I'm only through one repeat on one side of the front, but I'm loving it.'ll be frogged by next weekend.