Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Stitches, Big Stitches

Busy week! I finished the Three/Five/Seven-Day cardigan, I finished seaming Daisy's sweater. Detailed plan in hand, we went to Stitches. Then, Accountant Boy and I played at being tourists in San Francisco.

Starting at the beginning, here's the finished cardigan. I don't have any modeled shots, because there just wasn't time.

Normally, I'd put details here, but there aren't that many to be had. We'll give it a try anyway.

Three/Five/Seven-Day Sweater --

-Loosely based on 'Gwen' from Rowan's Bigger Picture. I followed the pattern to the letter, until it because apparent that things had gone wrong with the fronts. Then I veered off.

-Started 2/15/2007, finished and worn to work on 2/23/2007.

-Unknown amount of double-stranded Manos del Uruguay in the 'Canyon' colorway. "Do you have a guess?" Nothing more accurate than "enough to make the medium size of this sweater."

-Size 19 wooden straight needles for most of it, size 17 circ for the collar.

-I went with a ribbed border, and didn't remember to put in button holes. I'm not going back to fix it now. The stitches are so big that the button can be worked in between them, so it all worked out.

This pattern would probably be way cuter, not to mention drapier, in Big Wool. But who cares? I got rid of a bag of yarn from my stash, yarn that I've always liked and regretted not using, and I got a sweater coat that I'm pretty likely to wear. It's a winner!

This is the Stitches bounty. Yes, that's all of it. I'm so proud of myself. Counter-clockwise from bottom-left:

1. Berocco Pure Merino Heather in 'Cinnabar Laquer'. The Nantucket Jacket on the cover of this winter's Interweave Knits? Mine. Daisy's making the same jacket in the 'Bordeaux' color.

2. Unknown quantity of dark blue wool from Interlacements. "How much is in this skein?" "If we knew, it wouldn't be on the $15 table. Ummm...a lot." I've got two skeins of it. If it's worsted, that's 1150 yards. If it's DK, considerably more.

3. Patterns. I have the White Lies patterns for the Krista tee and the Laura Hoodie. I also bought the Know Knits Pure Elegance pattern, which I've been eyeing for a long time, but wouldn't buy because I didn't want to pay shipping on a seven dollar pattern, and I didn't want to buy enough yarn to qualify for free shipping. Finally, the good folks at Webs gave me the Calvin Ribbed Turtleneck pattern for free when I bought that Berroco merino. The mystery yarn from Interlacements might, depending on weight, become this turtleneck.

4. What's that poking out of the bag? It's skein 1 of 6 of Black Water Abbey worsted in 'Mountain'! I did not need this yarn. Here's where Daisy and I went down the wrong path.

"I don't need this. Do I?"

"Hold it up to your face."


"You KNOW what I'm going to say. Because I'm HORRIBLE and and ENABLER, but you can't NOT buy that yarn. It's perfect for you."

Black Water Abbey lady interjected, "It really is. Look at how it makes your natural coloring come alive."


But we were good. That was our last stop, and the first and only stop where I made an impulse purchase.

5. By the way, what's the deal with that bag? Oh, that snazzy little thing? That's my new Knitter's Satchel from Jordana Paige. Mine's green. Daisy bought the graphite version. I'm a little worried about the clasp, because it doesn't close as tightly as I'd like. Daisy says she can fix it with pliers. I'm thinking about contacting JP first, before we start retooling it ourselves.

6. Finally, we have about 1700 yards of DK merino in the African Violets colorway from Interlacements. Did I mention that I love Interlacements? This is my least solid purchase, because it's a bit bright, and I have no idea what I want it to be.

All in all, a good Stitches. We didn't go completely nuts, we got what we came for, and we almost stayed within budget. (The JP bag broke Daisy, and the Black Water Abbey stop pushed me over.)

I'm especially happy that I only brought home four new yarns, because of this. Take a look at this mess.

"Aww, that's not so bad..." So you say. But bear in mind that this is a queen-sized bed, that I'm not getting everything in the shot, that most of this yarn is in SpaceBags, so what looks like five skeins is actually twenty, and that this is only yarn from the aptly-named 'Big Bin', where I keep yarns in quantities great enough to be sweaters. There are also two smaller bins, a comforter bag, and a couple of baskets floating around the house. I catalogued Big Bin last night, put it in Pam's spreadsheet. It's, well, embarrassing. And I still have the small bins and random locations left to count. Two things -- 1. No more yarn until the NEXT stitches. 2. Knit faster.

...just because he's my favorite ball of wool, here's Buddy.

In all the excitement, we managed to take a vacation in the city. More on that later. I leave you with this quote, overheard at Top of the Mark: "I was at lunch with George Hamilton and Burt Reynolds. Huge talents. Huge..."

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Why I Should Be Supervised at Stitches West

First off, quick responses to a couple of comments.

Batty, that's not a frozen beer. It's frozen mineral water. Don't attempt to replicate the disaster by freezing your beer! Freezing beer is not a crime, but it should be. There's nothing more wrong in the universe than beer slushies. There are things of equal wrongness, but none that exceed it.

Sara, I haven't found a way to shrink the silky Simple Knitted Bodice back to the more desirable size. Kind of bummed about it, but I'm still working on it. Tonight, we attempt throwing the dampened sweater in the dryer with a bunch of towels. I'll let you know how it works out.

Jo, the man in the orchard story is deliciously creepy. Yeah, I do often feel like something's darting out of a room just as I'm entering, which is strange as none of my rooms have more than one entrance. I'm not sure it's just the woman and the boy, either. More on that later.

I finished Three/Five/Seven Day Sweater, but I'm not taking pictures of it until I get the perfect shawl pin or button for the front. I'm pleased with the modifications. It came out even better than it would have if I'd, you know, knit it correctly in the first place.

And now, the meat of the matter.

Thirty-seven hundred yards of laceweight cotton. It looks variegated here, but it's actually a solid, dusty blue. It's beautiful. No, I won't get rid of it, but what the hell am I going to do with it? How do I even go about winding it?

560 yards of this lovely worsted wool. Not enough to make a sleeved sweater, but lovely and unusual enough that I don't want to attempt to pair it up with a solid color.

And oh, my friends, that's not all. I didn't take pictures of all of it, because it's in several bins in the Yarn Cave. These were the two most easily accessible skeins.

Daisy and I have a friend, let's call her Donatella, who does this thing when she gets distracted, or overwhelmed, or bored, or sleepy. She fugues out, just drifts right out of reality. You're talking to her, maybe asking where you should go for dinner, and she'll say, "Yeeeaaahhh...ummmm.....yeah....whaaattt?" Then she'll wander off in another direction, maybe to look at shoes in a store window, or into a shop to buy gelato. It's almost as if the responsive part of her brain has shut down, and she's having a different conversation with someone in her head, and you've interrupted her. "Donatella, why are we buying gelato?" She looks at you, barely aware of your presense until you spoke. "Ohhh...huuuhhh?" She's on autopilot, drifting down Fillmore street with a cup of gelato in her hand, muttering about pashminas. Somewhere in the recesses of her mind, she's thinking "I need to look at pashminas...", and while you might not have heard her mention one word about it, it's the priority, and she's going to stay on task. All you can do is follow along and keep her from stumbling out into traffic.

I understand it, because this thing happens to me at Stitches. I get in to the market, and I wander around, and I lose track of where I've been and where I intended to go. I'm entranced by the colors, and I feel the more active part of my mind shutting down. I wander past Interlacements seven times from six different directions, and I forget that I've been there already, so I look through everything again, and I end up buying another huge skein of yarn that I have no use for. I spend half an hour roaming around, trying to decide if I should try to find that booth with the camel again, because I've convinced myself that it's an excellent idea idea, making something out of camel. I ultimately don't buy the camel, but the roaming around leads me to buy a bunch of other stuff that is neither necessary or a good enough bargain to justify its purchase. Then, when I finally reach the point where I feel dizzy and disoriented enough to break away, when my arms are so heavy from the bags that I can't lift them, I go home. I usually don't feel happy about what I've done. It's more of a regretful nausea.

"My God, honey! This bag weighs fifty pounds. What did you buy?"


Daisy, and how I love this about her, has the opposite reaction to crowded scenes in general, Stitches in particular. When she gets overwhelmed, she leaves. Right then. No sticking around for even a minute longer. "You can stay and shop. I'm going to go sit in my car in the parking lot." When we're there together, this works out perfectly. I don't want her exile in the parking lot to last more than a couple of minutes, so I snap back to the present, finish up whatever I'm doing, and follow her out. It's not a passive-aggressive thing with her. She'd actually be content to sit in her car for an hour while I kept shopping. It's just not something I'd do to her, even if she wouldn't mind.

What have I learned from my four years of attending Stitches, with and without Daisy? I should not go to Stitches without Daisy. I may leave thinking, "I wish I'd stayed five minutes longer. I wonder if I should have bought that bargain bag of Wool-Cotton?", but that regret only lasts a minute or two. It's nothing like the regret that comes with thinking, "I wonder if I should turn auto-update off on my credit card in MS Money so Accountant Boy doesn't see the balance?"

This year, there's a plan. Daisy has created color-coded maps of the market floor, identifying our priority targets and route. We went over it in detail last night. It's beautiful, so explicit and well thought out. Accountant Boy thinks it's funny.

"Are you going to have little models you can push around on the table? Do you think you should call that guy who appears in all of those war movies?"

"Do you think he's available?"

It even includes a rendezvous point, in case we get separated. I'd upload it, but then you'd see where we're going, and that's classified information. And I mean you'd see EXACTLY where we're going, because Daisy assigned a rigid order to our journey.

Look at this instead. It's the ubiquitous 'Wicked', being knit from the frogged, ill-fated Bella. I realized at that point that I need to go up at least one needle size, probably two. I'm thinking that it's not going to make a difference. Let me put that another way. I'm HOPING that it's not going to make a difference.

This is Daisy's sweater, Minnie from Rowan 39. I'm sewing it up for her, and I'm doing a helluva job, if I do say so myself, and I guess I just did. Can you see the seam? I'm setting in the sleeves tonight so that she can wear it tomorrow. Looks like someone owes me a coffee, and maybe a hank of camel wool.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

allen wants to go all pansy-style

Look! It's Three-Day Sweater, and it's a sleeve and a half away from being done. Maybe Suzanne's O.K. Maybe it's not all hopeless in Bighead Knittingland. Maybe...wait a minute. There's something wrong with that sweater. Why is there better than a four inch gap between the fronts? Is it supposed to be like that?

Shut up, inner commentator.

Hey there, Sooz. So, ummm...what's up with the f*$ked up fronts of that sweater? Is there going to be a border at the opening?

Not supposed to be.

Oh, so it's one of those intentionally wide vests, where the fronts are supposed to only cover the distal edges of your boobs? How retro!

No, its supposed to be a full width, long sleeved cardigan.

It's just that, well, I hate to tell you this, but it looks like you're going to have to take both of the fronts apart and reknit them, thus defeating the purpose of the Three-Day Sweater. Wasn't it supposed to boost your sense of pride in your knitting and give you renewed hope of finishing a garment? You haven't knit anything wearable since Thanksgiving.

Why are you still talking? Drink your glass of shut-up juice while I talk to the readers.

Readers? Here's the deal. The back is the correct width, but the fronts came up shy, probably a combination of the slipped stitch edge rolling in on itself and I don't know what else. Part of me wants to take the whole thing apart and knit a top-down cardigan in one piece so I won't have seams. Part of me just wants it done so I can move on. It's Manos, and it's already partially felted from being frogged from another failed project. Complete frogging is still possible, but probably only one more time.

What should I do? I've got three choices.

1. Take the fronts apart and add to the width.
2. Single-crochet rows along both front edges until they're wide enough.
3. Throw the whole thing, needles and all, back into the plastic bag I dragged it from last Thursday and never speak of it again, or for at least a couple of years.


The title of this post? I overheard it at the Safeway on Clayton Road. I don't know Allen, I don't know his friends, and I don't know what "going all pansy-style" entails, but it stuck with me. It pops into my head every once in a while and makes me snicker.

Monday, February 12, 2007

When Life Hands You Lemons

Hey, you know what we haven't done for a long time? A gratitude!

I'm grateful that my citrus crop survived the recent freeze.

I love my lemon tree. It's one of four plants on our property that were here when we moved in. The mulberry tree, the wax-leaf privet, and the Tournament of Roses rose bush are the other three. The gardener hates two of them. He trims the privet back so far that it looks like a wicker basket with a handful of leaves tangled in it. I've never discussed it with him, because I've got this thing about the privet. I hate it as well, but I won't be the one to say we should get rid of it. That'd be the perfect spot for the Japanese maple, but I feel like I'd be betraying the privet by making the suggestion. So we do this wordless dance, Ron the Gardener and I. He buzz-cuts the privet in an attempt to get me to say I want it gone, and I pretend to like it that way, looking like a twig lollipop.

He's not shy about telling me that the mulberry will eventually destroy everything within a five hundred yard radius of its trunk. Good luck with that, Ron. I'm not taking out the only source of shade in my front yard just because it's going to crush my sewer line and the sewer lines of my seven closest neighbors, and crack the foundation of my house, and possibly send a taproot down to plumb the very waters of the river Styx. It gets hot out here, man! I need that tree.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

La Grenouillère

Mordecai: "What about after? What about after we do it?"

Stranger: "Hmm?"

Mordecai: "What do we do then?"

Stranger: "Well then you live with it."

--High Plains Drifter

Bienvenue vers l'étang de grenouille! That's French for 'welcome to the frog pond', my friends.

Well that wasn't as bad as I thought it'd be. It was like ripping off a Bandaid. I did it quickly.

"That reminds me. I still have to buy some of that Tilli Tomas in the 'Ant' colorway," said Daisy.

"Buy mine."

"You don't want it?"

"No, it's pissing me off to look at it. Take it away."

I still have a couple of things on needles shoved into the stash bin, but I couldn't get to them tonight because Accountant Boy was sleeping. Expeditions into the Yarn Cave are noisy. I'm going in there tomorrow to finish the job. It's exciting, this all-out frog fest. I'm happy thinking about everything I could knit, without the mental clutter of all of the things I've started to knit and then set aside.

That leaves two things on needles that aren't getting destroyed. I'm still trying to save Starsky, and I started a new cardigan using double-stranded Manos on US17 needles. It should take about three days to complete. I've knit three inches of the left front in only 15 minutes.

Run to the Hills

Pictures later. Other content later. Comments on comments later. I promise you, all three of you, my faithful readers. Especially you, Batty, because you rock. I just have to get this out.

I've been having a time of it, as they say. Irritable and finally falling under the wave of seasonal depression I'd been surfing, I walked over to the fridge to grab a Coke. There's a terribly convoluted story about my desire to simply drink a can of Coke this week, and the conspiracy, possibly global or at least federal, to keep me from doing so. I can't go into it now, in case they're listening. You know. Them.

I thought at least I'd be safe at home. I changed out of my work clothes and shuffled downstairs. "Curious," I thought. "Why are there frozen cans of soda on the counter?" The drink fridge started taking its job a wee bit too seriously, and it froze everything. You know what happens to bottles of Pellegrino when they get too cold? They explode into beautiful, organic sculptures of ice and emerald green glass. At least Accountant Boy got to it and adjusted the temperature setting before anything sticky blew up.

I sat down with a slushy Coke and my knitting. You know how I thought Bella was a tad too small? It's more than a tad too small. I'm going to have to take it all apart, even the sleeve. It has to become something else, because I'm not going to have enough yarn to make the larger size with it. I've been working on it since January 5th, and I'm not saying all of that effort was wasted because I learned a few things about the pattern that I can apply when I reknit it in another yarn, but it still stings.

"It's not that bad, and you're going to the gym, right? Maybe it'll fit in a couple of months."

"Only if I get three inches shorter and my ribcage shrinks. You know, if the actual size of my skeleton gets smaller." I tugged on it for a few moments more. "You really think it's not too far off the right size?"

"What's it supposed to look like?"

"Here's the picture."

"It's supposed to look like THAT??? Yeah, it's too small. I'm sorry, honey."

"Now I'm not going to have my new sweater to wear to the yarn expo!"

"What about your green sweater? That's my favorite thing that you've knit. Why can't you wear that?"

And it seemed silly to say, "Because there will be three dozen women roaming the market floor in the Simple Knitted Bodice, and I'll feel like a lemming!" So I just sighed and didn't say anything.

And THEN I did something really stupid. I picked up the Starsky I'd been knitting, and I couldn't quite figure out which row I was on because it had been a few months, and I couldn't tell that I'd chosen incorrectly until four rows later, and it's a pattern where both the right and wrong sides have front- and back-cross cables, making it very difficult to tink, and I've screwed it up but good, I tell you.

I realized that I either don't like or have screwed up everything I have on needles, and I'm thinking I should frog everything and start fresh as soon as I get home. Drastic? Maybe. Or maybe it will be liberating, a hearty press of the big reset button. I'll let you know.

Monday, February 05, 2007

For It Is a Human Number

You like Iron Maiden? Yeah, me too. I loved the guitar solos, the way Steve Harris plays the bass without a pick, the songs inspired by movies they'd seen, poems they'd read, dreams they'd had. One of their best songs is a musical retelling of Coleridge's 'Rime of the Ancient Mariner'. It's twenty minutes long, and there's no chorus. They wrote a song about 'Quest for Fire'. It starts, hilariously enough, thusly:

"In a time when dinosaurs walked the Earth
When the land was swamp and caves were home
In an age, when prized posession was fire
To search for landscapes they would roam..."

Boy, you can drive down the freeway belting that out, and there's no way to not be cheered by it. It's so goofy, yet so earnest. I loved Maiden. I forget, sometimes for long stretches, years usually. And then I go to fry up some bacon and it all comes back to me. "Six, six-six, the number of the beeeeeeast..."

I don't have a strong Christian background, and I don't think I'm particularly superstitious, but I'm probably kidding myself on at least one of those counts, because when I saw the sticker on the package, I felt like I needed to fry the bacon immediately and get the wrapper out of my house. No matter what the potential human cost.

I was going to come home tonight and pay some bills, then give myself the rest of the night off for knitting and relaxing. Now, slightly oiled and smelling as if I've taken a dry sauna in a smokehouse, I'm not feeling it. Plus, I have burnt the backs of my hands again. You expected a better outcome? At least I've taken care of the hell-meat. I'm going to go make a bacon sandwich and track down that CD.

More knitting content tomorrow.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

From the Beginning

I was standing in the kitchen, close to the stove. The kitchen was small, so I was actually close to everything, but closest to the stove. The woman and her boy were in the doorway. They had boxes in their hands.

"Hold on. What are you doing here?" I asked.

"These are our things," she replied. "We have to put them away." The boy continued into the front room, ignoring me.

The woman was wearing a shirtwaist dress, faded but clean. Her ash blonde hair was pulled into a loose knot at the nape of her neck, and stray tendrils floated around her face. She was pretty, but haggard, a Dorothea Lange photograph brought to life, standing in my kitchen.

"This is my house. We bought this house. We're the ones moving in." Our house isn't very big. I remember thinking that I had to stop her boy from putting anything down because we needed the space left clear to unload the moving van.

"Hmm." She straightened her back and walked into the other room. As I watched them work, the woman and the boy, I started to see that there was something wrong about them. Sure, any time someone is moving into your house without your permission, while you're standing in front of them, telling them to stop, that's wrong. That's not what I mean.

Their clothes were wrong, the shirtwaist and the boy's dungarees. They weren't playing dress-up in vintage store finds; they lived in those clothes. The way they spoke to each other, the way they moved, all wrong. We've become such a fast culture. We walk quickly, we speak quickly. We rush. These two were measured, deliberate. These two were slower. Not simpler, not less intelligent, just in less of a hurry.

The lighting in our house was horrible in those days. When we moved in, only half of the light fixtures worked, and they weren't more than 40 watts each. Every room was dark, barely lit by dim bulbs behind dirty glass shades. Everything was yellow. Not her, though. She and the boy were pale, as though they'd been desaturated, lit by a different source. I stared at her, fascinated by this.

She wasn't paying as much attention to me. She was scrutinizing the wallpaper, displeased by the strawberry vine pattern winding its way around the window.

"Look, I don't mean to be harsh, but this is my house. We were the high bidders. I'm sorry nobody told you, but really. You can't stay."

She turned toward me, box of cast-iron skillets still in her hand. Her eyes were hard. Her voice was mild and patient, but firm. "Nevertheless, we are here."

It was at that point, finally, that I realized that she was a ghost. It was also at that point, also finally, that I woke up. I sat up in bed and looked out the window.

The boy was standing on my porch roof, staring off into the distance. He turned as though he'd heard me awaken. We stared at each other for a minute, the pale young man bathed in moonlight and I. Then he turned away again, seemingly lost in his thoughts as he gazed down the road. If this was a second dream, I do not remember awakening from it.

My house was built in 1953. We bought it in 1999. My house is haunted.