Saturday, July 29, 2006

You can't miss a place you've never been

Have you ever had an image so securely fixed in your head that despite all the technicalities, you were damn well not going to change your mind about how to go about it? Because then it just wouldn't be right, and what's the point, and you people just don't understand me?!?!

It's been like that with Saffron. Sigh.

What is Saffron, you ask? Saffron's a character from Firefly, a con artist who marries Mal or does she blah blah blah anyway she wears a really pretty shawl. Very, very hole-y, most likely crocheted, a shade of (surprise!) saffron with fringe all over.

Ever since I first saw the ubiquitous shawl in the episode "Our Mrs. Reynolds", I've wanted to make it. I thought and thought and requested all the stitch dictionaries in the entire world, and eventually decided on cell stitch. I've used it before, it's pretty easy, and creates the large holes and pictureless lace I wanted to mimic the crochet. (I have the entire series on DVD, so someday I should get around to getting a screen grab of the shawl itself.)

Now to get started. Ruh roh. Apparently, it is impossible to find the pattern for cell stitch anywhere. Now, I learned how to knit out of Debbie Bliss's book How to Knit, and the nice thing about that book is that it has mini-stitch libraries accompanying each chapter. That's where I get most of my patterns, especially if I don't feel like waiting for the library to get something in. And that's where I first got cell stitch the first time. I left How to Knit in Ottawa for the summer. Accordingly, I have ten knitting books out of the library. Four are specifically lace books. Four are by the venerable St. Barbara G. Walker, Our Lady of Perpetual Swatches. Plus my own books, and oh yeah the internets. And no one has yet revealed the mystery of cell stitch to me. I could of course request HtK from the library, but I'm going on vacation soon, and as Homer says, "I don't know how much longer I can keep on complaining!"

(Note: I am going to skip over all the construction details since that would take three times as much time to explain that than all of the above. Perhaps just read Eunny Jang's Majoring in Lace, look at all the methods of triangular shawl construction, try to think up five different variations, and then you'd be where I was.)

So this morning I was reading through Barbara Walker's Second Treasury, trying to find something that would work, and I saw something that made me forget everything.

This is Chinese Lace. I really hope that picture shows the lace properly, because it is gorgeous. I was just awestruck. It looks to me very very wintery, like the trails left in the snow by skiiers and the way snow sits on the branches of evergreens.

I have abandoned Saffron's shawl. I must make a Chinese Lace stole, with mitered lace border. This is going to be a work of art. I just hope the yarn I have for it works, a gorgeous handpainted blue-purple Fleece Artist aran kid-wool blend. Please please please work. I'll sacrifice a skein of virgin alpaca to the knitting gods. Whatever it takes.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Muh-muh-muh my Mariah

I'm sick. Again.


Fortunately, I think I'm now in the recovery stages, but yesterday was pretty hairy. The ironic part is, we're (that would be my family and I, not the royal we) pretty sure I had food poisoning. From spinach dip I ordered from the place where I work. Oh, the hilarity. And oh, I don't know how many years it will be until I can look at spinach dip again, let alone eat it.

Well, now that I've disgusted you all away, let's see some pretty pictures!

I'm making some steady progress on Mariah, not that it felt like that until I saw the first pictures I took of the sleeve. For my size I have to repeat the arm shaping 17 times, and right now I'm around the 14th repeat. I love the way this central cable pattern looks, and how the arm increases are incorporated into cables. Here's a photo that shows the shaping better, though the edges are still pretty curly.

Ha - I originally typed 'surly'. And yes, that pale, shapeless lump in the photo actually is my normal-human-shaped arm. Anyway, Jodi Green is a straight-out genius.

I haven't been knitting much lately, mostly because we're in the middle of a disgusting heat wave. I live in Vancouver, folks. It's not supposed to reah 35 degrees here! (Americans: no, it isn't that cold here. Think 92 or so.) But I did dye some yarn for lace.
It's Scheepjes Invicta again, the same yarn I used for my gorgeous, beauteous Laura doily. All the other times I dyed yarn, I used Kool-Aid, but this time I used Easter egg dye, "Dudley's Dazzling Dye" to be specific. Tip: go to Zeller's a few days after Easter and get a box for 96 cents. It came with 5 packets of colour: purple, red, blue, green and yellow. I planned to dye the yarn as I always had before, despite the change in colourant, but came away with interestingly different results.

First, I wound the yarn into a hank and soaked it in hot water for 30 minutes. Then I squeezed the water out of the yarn (the bonus to dyeing superwash yarn is you can be as rough with it as you like). Next I prepared the dye, which was where things went differently. I diluted the packet of purple dye in about a cup and a half of hot water (I like to start off with less than the total amount of water and add more or less as suits the colour) and it was really pale. I mean, really really pale. I added more water nonetheless, because there wasn't enough water to dye the yarn even if it had been dark enough. I decided to pour the dye onto the yarn to see what happened. Where the dye hit the yarn, the change was perceptible but much paler than I had envisioned. I succumbed to the inevitable and ran upstairs for the red and blue dyes.

When I added the red to the water in the measuring cup, the water turned pale pink; at least tonally all these colours were going to be the same. But then I added the blue and freaked. The water turned a lovely royal blue, even with the red already there. I added a bit more water and poured the dye onto the yarn. Fortunately, the blue purple mixed with the "did someone spill some lavender water?" purple. And, as I always forget, the yarn is always paler than the dye. (At least when dying white yarn, in my experience.)

In the end I'm rather pleased. It's mucho different than what you get with Kool-Aid, and I'm going to kieep that in mind for next time. Photography note: I took these photos on a very bright, sunny day: that's why Mariah looks more Crayola red than cabernet red. I was afraid by shooting the Invicta in such bright light you wouldn't be able to see any colour at all. But - here my most rudimentary of rudimentary of colour circle skills are put to the test - I think by putting it among the green of the grape plant, the purple is complemented rather than washed out. Woohoo!

As a final note, a photo I took while shopping downtown last week or so. This shop clearly caters to the fiber snob in us all:

Friday, July 14, 2006

This sums up both of us perfectly, really

My brother L. and I went out into town yesterday to run some errands.

Me: Hey, did you know "Magic Bus" is being used in an ad for minivans?

L: No, so what?

Me: Well, doesn't that go against everything the song represents?

L: [quoting from this Onion article] "Coke and Pepsi are now in a bidding war for the rights to Johnny Thunders' 'Chinese Rocks'."


L: You know what Chinese rocks are, right?

Me: [sigh] Yes, L., I know what Chinese rocks are. I'm a history nerd, remember? Haven't you ever heard of the Opium Wars?


L: Oh, why did they have to send those young opiums to the front lines? They died for nothing!

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

There are few who deny it, what I do I am the best, for my talents are reknowned far and wide...

Someone knitted Jack Skellington. And posted the pattern.

:o :o :o

There are no words.

I love, love, love Jack. (It's my Hamlet syndrome kicking in.) I don't normally make knitted toys and such, but let loose with this pattern I may become one of those crazy cat ladies on the 6:00 news with piles of 25-year-old newspapers reaching the ceiling. Except, you know, they'll be Jacks.

PS. I particularly like her suggestion of the Jack "mirror dice" near the end of the pattern.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Lace rehabilitation

(Note: Blogger's photo loading is being tres lame. I'm just going to link to the photos, and I'll put them into this entry when Blogger starts to behave itself.)

Remember way back when (when you were blogging regularly, you mean? oh hush), when the Cobweb Doily broke my heart with its fiendish, crochet cotton ways? Well, SUCK ON IT, COBWEB! I publicly declared my love of the pretty lace, especially a particular German doily. And then I went and MADE IT. That's right, I finished a whole knitting project. Cower at my knitterly skillz, foo.

An artsy shot, perched on my dad's grapevine.

A head-on shot spread out on the grass. Yeah, that bit of string on the side there? That's because I haven't woven in the end yet. Shame, shame.

I made it out of less than half a 50g ball of Scheepjes Invicta Extra (75% wool, 25% nylon) - as you may have guessed, it's a plain Jane sock yarn. But put it onto some 4.5 mm dpns and you've got magic! [spirit fingers]
I really am very enamoured of this doily. It's slightly oval because I blocked it on an ironing board, so I had more room to stretch it in one direction than another. But I don't mind. The keen-eyed among you may notice that the edging on my doily is similar to the edging in the pattern illustration, the same way a duck is similar to a nuclear submarine. Basically, the original edging was crocheted, and I don't crochet. So I looked through every pattern book I have and online and did complicated math-y calculations, and eventually gave up and did a picot bind-off. I experimented until I found one I liked, which was *cast on 3, bind off 6*. There were 182 sts in the final round, so I wound up with 91 picots, which I pinned individually. Oh yeah. I went there.

In other sock-yarn news, I finally bit the bullet and learned how to make a toe-up sock. That's Knitpicks Sock Garden in Daffodil, a colour that looks way better knit up than on the ball. I made the figure-8 toe from this Knitty article. It is, as the author states, a bit finicky (it took me three tries before I got going knitting), but I like it because you don't need a crochet chain and waste yarn like the others. You can just go!
The rest of the sock is the larger size from this standard vanilla toe-up pattern. I've always wanted to make a short-row heel, but I feel dissatisfied with this one. I don't like picking up wraps and knitting them together with the stitch anyway, but this pattern has you picking up two wraps, then k3tog. I found it dang hard. Am I doing this right?
Oh, and see that huge ball of yarn to the right of the sock? That's the rest of the ball of yarn. I've already knit a women's size 10 US foot! That yardage is unbelievable.

Oh, and I'm making another sweater. I've loved Mariah ever since she first came out, and now I'm finally making her! I'm so excited, and really enjoying it so far. Here's what I have of the sleeve so far. Gorgeous, eh? That's Cascade 220, and the sleeve colour is completely off; it's more like the colour of the ball in the shade.

The astute among you may have noticed the supremely adorable Secret Pal 8 button over on the sidebar. (Seriously, click on that and look at the choice of buttons I had - it was a dilemma worthy of King Solomon.) Anyway, I got my first package from my secret pal yesterday! I'd been thinking about taking spinning classes at one of my LYSes in Ottawa, but left before I could get around to it. And then my SP told me she would teach me to spin! Isn't that just marvelous!!! Oh, I am so excited. And then I opened up the box and what should I find but a veritable glory of riches.

There was this red linen. It's so lovely and summer-y feeling. I feel like making something with lace out of it, but I have no idea quite what. Any ideas? And then there was this handpainted wool, which is actually more vibrant than it appears in that photo. I think it's going to become that modular zig-zag scarf from Handknit Holidays. Then, of course, there were the spinning supplies.

My spindle
. I'm not sure if you can see, but it has flowers painted on the top. So pretty.
And the roving. Potential yarn posed with potential tomatoes. Kinda poetic, don'tcha think? Thank you so much, SP! Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some yarn to make.

I said don't look back, just keep on walking


[peers around]

Boy, it sure is [koff] dusty around here!

Yup, I guess that is what happens when you don't clean up a place every once in a while.

Awful quiet here, too.


I think some changes are coming here. And a couple photo-filled entries.

Don't say I didn't warn you.