Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Everything Zen

Remember how I was going to work on something really easy after finishing my Disasterous July sweaters? Remember how, in a fit of rage and disgust, I decided to knit something made entirely of stockinette? And it was going to be Coachella? And it was going to take me approximately four days? Yeah, so that didn't work out too well. There's nothing to show for it, because I frogged it. Too slippery, too open, too much of my back showing. I'd wanted to have at least one top done this summer, one little top that I could wear proudly while exclaiming, "I made this!" That dream was fading fast.

"Hey, I remember the last little summer top I made, and it was pretty easy! I could make another one of those. I've even got the recommended yarn for it!"

Look what I've gotten myself into now. What I hadn't accounted for was the differences between yarns. The first one I made was knit in a wool/silk blend. This yarn, Berroco Zen, is not so smooth and luxurious on the hands. It is horrible to work with. I'm lucky to get one cable repeat done every two days, because I get tired from working with it and give up. I don't mean that I get bored or frustrated. My hands literally lose strength after seven or eight rounds, and I have to put the project down. Maybe it'll get easier after the separation for the front and back. I'm halfway there.

It's going to be pretty when it's done, which is the only reason that I keep working on it. I'm trying to get it done by Saturday, the last day of summer.

The Falling Beam

Lately, I've been thinking about what makes us who we are. When people are asked, "Who are you?", as we're being asked with this week's blogstalk assignment, they'll usually answer with things like their age, their marital status, their professions, and their hobbies. I haven't answered the question yet because, in my usual way, I've overthought it.

See, I'm a frequent watcher of 'America's Most Wanted'. I used to say, "Now, hold on. If they're saying that the guy has a blond mohawk and drinks Lone Star beer with a fish sauce chaser while dancing the hornpipe, usually in the bar of an Applebee's, how can you expect to find him? Surely, the fugitive will dye his hair, start hanging out at Chili's and switch to Budweiser." Five shows later, they're hauling the guy out of an Applebee's with fish sauce on his shirt. There are things, core things, that people can't change about themselves. It's Hammett's falling beam.

I've been thinking about this with regard to my own identity. I can say that I'm a programmer, that I'm a wife, that I'm thirty-seven years old, that I like pumpkin spice lattes, that I've lived in California for my whole life, that I love animals, that I knit. But if I went on the run for some reason, tried to change everything about myself, what would give me away? What is so intrinsic to me that I can't shake it off?

Would I become a waitress in a small town in the middle of Kentucky, living in obscurity for a decade, only to be found out because I flew into a howling rage after a long day of listening to Celine Dion and late-era Sting over the restaurant's sound system? It'd end up in the 'Oddly Enough' section of Yahoo! News, and I'd be done for. "We knew it was her," several people in Moraga, California would say. "She once quit a reception job because she couldn't stand listening to KOIT's "light rock, less talk" that we piped into the lobby."

What would be my tell? Would it be my hair, which has, for very brief periods over the last decade, been styled differently, but always ends up becoming the patented Execu-Bob Shoulder Length Blunt? Would it be my tidy, unpainted fingernails? I try to change, to be more girly, to remember to paint my nails, buy new handbags, pay attention to whether or not I'm wearing lipstick. These campaigns usually last about a week, and then I'm back to, well, being me. "We knew it was her. She always wore pants, and her lips always looked dry."

Would it be something about my personality, like my inability to keep my mouth shut in a checkout line? Unless I'm absolutely exhausted, I'm likely to catch the eye of someone in the queue around me and strike up a conversation. I'm chatty with strangers. Could I stop doing that? "I knew it was her. She complimented me on my choice of Hostess fruit pies. I didn't know her from Eve, and here she was talking about cherry versus apple! So I called AMW immediately..."

No, it wouldn't be any of those things. There's no point in changing them. You know what would get me caught? "We knew immediately that it was her," said Trooper Jones. "When we saw the gym socks shoved into the window frame in place of weatherstripping, we said to each other, 'That's Suzanne. Any normal person would've stopped and bought a roll of duct tape.'" There's something that I can't change about myself. No matter how much money I have, I'm always going to be the kind of woman who thinks, "Why buy tape, when I have a suitcase full of weatherstripping right here?"

(By the by, if you haven't read 'The Maltese Falcon', I must insist that you go out and buy a copy of it right now and read it. It's an excellent novel. No, the movie is not a substitute for it. The movie is, dare I say, vastly inferior to the novel. I can't believe it's never been remade.)

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Bohemian Like You

While the world waits patiently for my next completed project, let's take a look back at the early work.

This is the Fiesta 'Famous Shawl', knit with about 280 yards of Fiesta La Boheme. I knit it back in 2003 on size 17 needles. It was the first thing I knit that wasn't a scarf. Well, actually, I did knit a whole sweater back in 1994, but hadn't touched knitting needles since then. I'd forgotten everything other than how to hold the yarn and knit, and how to do a long tail cast-on. I didn't know how to do any other cast-on, just the long tail, which is one of the hardest. At this point, I still didn't remember how to purl. Naturally, this meant that my second project of my second knitting era should be in a slippery, unforgiving, expensive mohair-boucle blend.

I remember cutting the fringe pieces and tying them on while watching "Wings of Desire" on IFC. I was happy with how it turned out, and then I picked it up and wrapped it around my shoulders. It turned into an shimmering, irridescent net. It drapes down to my knees.

Nevertheless, the pattern was really easy, and I latched onto it and wouldn't let go. I went out and bought some different yarn, based only on liking the color, and knit up another one. This one turned out to be more practical, with the wool holding the shape of the garter stitch.

Here's a good close-up example of the difference between the two yarns. They were knit on the same needles, because I only had the one pair. They were knit within weeks of each other, so it's not a gauge-varying-over-time issue. But notice the lovely mesh of La Boheme...

...and the springy thickness of Filatura di Crosa 'College'. I liked this one so much that I went out and bought even more College and made yet a third triangle shawl in a shade that they called 'Black', and I lovingly renamed 'Guano'. Maybe pictures of that later.

What did I learn from these projects? I learned that yarn content matters. I learned how to do a backward loop cast-on. I learned that size 17 needles probably aren't right for La Boheme. I wouldn't go past a 10.5. This is the most important thing I learned, as I have bunches of La Boheme in my stash.

I was surprised to see Buddy climb up and sit on the shawls, but even more surprised a few minutes later when he stepped off of them and curled up on the only section of the chaise that was free of them.

The Woman, you should know by now that I have quite an aversion to mohair. Why have you not made a cashmere throw for your Buddy? I am deprived. -- Buddy the Cat

In case anyone is concerned, I picked Buddy up a few minutes ago and determined that he is far from deprived. A little deprivation might be good for him at this point. It's like he ate his own food, another cat's share of food, and possibly another cat. He must be tipping the scale at sixteen pounds.

You see what I go through? Help me, readers! Send albacore packed in oil! -- BtC

Wednesday, September 05, 2007


So I haven't said much about the new house. It's somewhat like what I do with knitting. "I'll take a picture of my progress. Well, maybe I'd better finish the sleeve first. O.K., now I'll talk about it. On second thought, maybe I'll wait to post about it until after I've seamed the body."

I'm doing the same thing with the house. I didn't want to put up any pictures before we were in escrow, because they might not have accepted our offer. I didn't want to put up any pictures before the home inspection, because we might have been so horrified by the home inspection that we didn't take the house. At this point, there are very few things that could stop us. I don't think it's going to hurt to post a picture or two.

The picture above is obviously the view into the kitchen. It's not the Award Winning Kitchen, but it's bright and pleasant, and I think with a little paint and some time to re-learn how to use electric appliances, we'll be just fine.

Here are three of the seven raccoons that wandered along the fence during the home inspection. They looked like a happy troupe. What's not clear in this picture is that there is a drainage culvert below the fence, and several feet of terraced hillside between the culvert and the decks. I had this vision of Lucy racing madly toward the fence to chase the wild creatures, falling off the terraces and breaking her leg in the cement drainage ditch. We'll have to fence in the upper part of the yard for her. Also, my often imperiled compost worms are going to be put in jeapardy once more. I'm hoping a fifteen pound barbell weight on the lid of their bin will keep them safe.

There are more pictures, but I think I'm going to hold them back for now. Don't want to jinx it.