Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Yes, I finshed in Time

Here's the Knitting Olympics project, completed on the night of Thursday the 16th and blocked by Friday morning, but the weekend was very busy and I neglected to post about it. What's that you say? "A likely story!" No, I really did! I just didn't have time to post before now. I have earned the gold medal. Isn't it cute?

This has been quite a learning experience for me. The first few days were so rocky, with constant mistakes and frogging, that I would probably have quit (or, as I would have preferred to say, "set it aside for now") if I hadn't committed to keep trying for the two week period. Even after I was well into it, there would be a day of good progress when I would think, "I've got the hang of it now", followed by a day when nothing went right. There was no time when I felt really in control. At first I had a hard time following the pattern, simple as it was, but then after it was memorized, it was still necessary stay constantly alert. In other words, this never settled down into a comfortable knit, and I was never certain of finishing at all, let alone before the deadline. Yet, at the end of all that struggling, I finished early, and lo there is lace!

Before blocking, it looked just like a textured rib, and I feared that it would stay that way, but once wet it spread out beautifully and really looks like lace. I give credit to the Filatura di Crosa, which I considered very pricey, but it's proven to be a truly superior yarn. No thick or thin spots, soft yet strong, it never threatened to break when the wet threads were stretched, and not a hint of dye came out in the wash. I would definitely buy it again for a special project.

There was a dispute with a cat as to property rights on the scarf while it was blocking. My first idea was to use my daughter's bed for this job, since there's a door I can close to keep the cats out, but the scarf was too long for the bed, so I had to take a chance on the dining room table with extensions added. I'm pleased to say I defended my handiwork against all comers, with the help of a spray-bottle of water. At least until I went to bed. Then the feline claim was reasserted, but only a few of the pins in the center came out, so not much harm was done.

Remember how I agonized over length and width? I kept asking my husband, "Is it too narrow? What do you think? Is it long enough? Maybe too long?" and he would just stare at me like Norman Bates's mother. Well, it really is too narrow for my original idea, but my daughter likes it the way it is, so it will not be reknit. It's eight feet long and works well in one of those pashmina-type knots, where you first fold the scarf in half, put it over your neck, and slip the ends through the loop. It could also pass as a stole as long as you don't expect it to actually cover anything. Oh, and it only took two balls of yarn. For future reference, I think four would be more than enough to make the wider stole.

How did everybody else do? I'd love to hear.

The cool wine colour of the yarn doesn't quite match the warmer wine of the dress, but in candlelight after a couple of drinks, will anyone care? I'm just going to sit and admire my gold medal.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

KO Update and Some Sketches

Here are a few more sketches, just to show that I'm not knitting all day long. In fact, I'm confining work on the stole to lunchtime and evenings so precious daytime hours are reserved for art. These repeated sketches of my neighbours' gable are paying off. Yesterday I moved from the sketchbook to the easel, and I'm quite pleased with the underpainting. I'm hoping to do a series of at least four, including a night painting.

The stole is almost done. As I mentioned in the comments yesterday, I don't know how much to expect it to stretch lengthwise during blocking, so it's a wild guess where to stop. It's sideways stretch that's needed most; it really looks too narrow right now. Remember how I worried in the beginning about running out of wool? I haven't touched the third ball of yarn yet, so it could have been a lot wider.

I hope to have it blocked by Thursday, because my daughter will be home for Reading Week and can try it on with the dress. Also, I need her bed to do the blocking! If the colour isn't right, it can still be used with other outfits, and it could even function as a snowy-day scarf if wound a few times around the neck. So it will be used. The question is, will it be used for its intended function, as a wrap for the wine-coloured spaghetti strap dress?

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Knitting Olympics Day 10

The stole measures 51 inches, but, hey, it would be about twelve feet if all the pulled-out rows were included. There ought to be a way to include that in the official final stats. Something like, "One thousand rows completed, six hundred completed with no errors, total sixteen hundred rows, ten points for the good ones, five points for the rejects, total fifteen points".

Also, because I'm sure you're all wondering, I've compiled a list of all the different ways I can make a mistake in a six-stitch repeat pattern that I've done successfully hundreds of times:

1. knit a stitch instead of doing a yarnover
2. forget to do a yarnover at all
3. slip a stitch instead of doing a yarnover
4. knit a stitch instead of slipping it
5. slip a stitch instead of knitting it
6. count stitches before I get to them, as in "4-5-6-7" when I'm only on 4.
7. forget to pass-slipped-stitch- over
8. knit the border stitch on the right hand side as if it's a pattern stitch.
9. drop the border stitch off the left end of the needle and knit two rows before noticing.

I could go on, but you can see how it goes. All these errors are caused by wandering attention, which happens constantly now that the pattern is memorized. A couple of times I even zoned out while just counting the stitches on the needle, from one to thirty-nine. What was spooky was that the count was accurate. Like, one-two-three (zone out - zone back in) twenty-seven - what? How do I know I'm on 27? Count again, 27 it is.

This would be great if it could be repeated reliably, but of course it can't. I've always been fascinated by what human beings can do unconsciously, ever since I learned to touch-type. To this day I don't know where the letters are on the keys but my fingers do. Most of the time, anyway. And why do they sometimes forget? And those days when you find yourself at the bus stop with your purse and your lunch and the last thing you remember is watching the toast pop up? What's with that?

Being number-challenged as I am is a handicap in knitting, which is a math-based craft. I often wonder how early knitters, most of whom were illiterate, coped with that. I assume that most of European peasantry could count to a hundred and could work with groups of ten. You see that all the time in the Bible. "Divide them up into groups of fifty," etc. But what did they do if their gauge didn't come out even? Did they have some way of doing fractions and decimals? I suppose they worked in the same gauge pretty well all the time, using their own handspun yarn, and if something was the wrong size they just pulled it out and re-knit. Fitting tended to be general rather than specific in those old patterns. But what about all those cable and lace patterns? I suppose it was the people with a natural gift for math who developed those, and others just struggled to learn from them.

One good thing about being number challenged is that I'm not the least bit fazed by the Knitting Olympics time clock. I don't have one on this site anyway because I don't know how to put it on, but lots of K-Olympians have it and are freaked out by it. For me, it would be a problem if it was a pie chart. I understand pie. But numbers I always view as through a veil of gauze. So I'm fine with the clock.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Rooflines and Trees

More rough sketches. This is the view from my kitchen window. This is where I usually see the moon early in the evening, or a glimpse of the sunrise in the morning. Such a familiar subject should be easy to draw, but I find that each sketch is different, and none are accurate, yet they're starting to tell me what I need to know. I had to do a study of the tree branch by itself, even though I've drawn it numerous times before. The coil binding of the sketchbook interrupts the flow, but then there's a divider in the window, too, cutting the branch in half.

I'm pondering a series with this motif and different skies and weather. Last year I saw a sunset at the National Gallery that was just a dormer window and roofline silhouetted against a yellow sky. I couldn't get it out of my head for weeks. The painter was Lemieux. (Jean-Paul? Jean-Luc? I forget!) He had a lot of wonderful landscapes and city scapes with very minimal subject matter, pared right down to the bone but eloquent. He was from Montreal, and much of the landscape he dealt with was similar to what's around here.

Drawing houses exposes my weakness in straight lines and perspective. I need to get a ruler and protractor and take measurements before I tackle the next one.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Window Views

We just replaced a window in the bathroom, and I'm suddenly fascinated by the view, although we've lived here for fifteen years. I'm trying to work it into my February resolution to do some local scenes. Here's the first, pretty rough sketch. Please note: I'm not a watercolour painter; this is a working sketch only.

Knitting Olympics Day 8

It measures 18 inches, and I've only used half the first ball of yarn, so maybe there will be enough after all. It's not really as narrow as it looks here. It's curling under at the sides. I hope that will block out. Otherwise I may have to consider some kind of edging?

The weather got a lot milder overnight. I was surprised to see how much snow has melted. I'll have to look for a new background for these pictures.

Monday, February 13, 2006

More Gestures

Two posts in one day. Blogging is going to my head, right? I'm just experimenting.

Knitting Olympics Day 4

This may look pretty much like what I showed on Saturday, but there's a difference. No, I don't mean the powdering of snow. Those circular needles just don't want to let anything lie flat.

No, the difference is, this has no mistakes. Ta-da! I'm starting to get the rhythm of this pattern, and this afternoon I was thinking that it would go faster now and allow me to make up for lost time.
Wrong. Even while the thought was forming, I ran into some unexplained flying-fickle-finger-of-fate type of experience and had to rip back to the next purl row. It's all right now, though. Touch wood.

For variety I'm going to try posting some gesture drawings from my sketchbook. It's mainly to see if I can put two pictures in one post. These were done on a freezing cold day with sun so bright I could only really see silhouettes. They were done in the park where people took their small children to play on the ice with hockey sticks.

Well, I didn't really intend for that to turn up 'way up there with the knitting. Needs work.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

What's This?

Yes, it's back to row 1. Yesterday I was gaining and losing stitches with alarming frequency, but didn't think the mistakes would be all that obvious after it's blocked, so I continued knitting.

Well, in the harsh light of morning it's impossible to keep deluding myself. So I ripped it all out even before I had the first sip of coffee. It was only agonizingly painful for a minute.

I'm glad to have this chance to start again (glad, I tell you!) because the first version was looking a little too wide. I don't know what the final width will be, but it doesn't need to be more than six inches, and shouldn't exceed eight or nine. Keeping it narrow will make the yarn go further, too.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

My Knitting Olympics Project

Here's what I'm working on. (At least I hope it's here. This is my first attempt to post a photograph.) I haven't got to six inches yet. It's definitely a case of one step forward and two steps back, but so far I'm pleased with it.

It's going to be a very long scarf or very narrow stole, meant to be worn with a spaghetti strap evening dress. The pattern is "Razor Shell", a shetland lace pattern by Hazel Carter published in the Summer 1997 issue of Spinoff.

I wanted to make it in silk but couldn't find any in the right colour. Black or white would have been a more sensible choice than the wine, but I didn't want to subject my eyes to working on black lace, and white just wouldn't be right with the dress.

So I took this beautiful Filatura de Crosa merino, and I only hope there's enough of it. I was feeling a little cheap that day, with several other projects to buy for, and I decided to go with the advice of Elizabeth Zimmerman on how much to buy, which goes something like, "when using fine yarn, surprisingly little; when using bulky yarn, quite a lot..."

I bought three 50-gram balls, and that is indeed surprisingly little, not to say frighteningly little. I'm hoping that the holes in the lace, combined with blocking, will stretch it far enough. Otherwise I'll have to try to find more of the dyelot, and what do you think my chances of that are, remembering the principles of Murphy's Law?

Friday, February 10, 2006

Here I Am!

So now I have a blog.

I get a huge amount of pleasure from reading other people's blogs (I'll post some links to my favourites tomorrow) but being a very dull person I honestly don't believe anyone wants to read about my life. However, I felt the need for a blog to take part in the Knitting Olympics, in case any of the 4000 other participants want to check the progress of my lace stole, so you can blame the Yarn Harlot if you like. (It's cast on, folks, and has already been frogged six times. Oh, yes, I had to do lace! I'll probably still be on row six when the Olympic flame goes out.)

Of course I don't knit enough, or do anything enough, to warrant daily reports. Nevertheless, I'm a blogger now, so I'll be hopping around a lot from topic to topic, trying to scrape up something to say, and resurrecting all the padding and space-wasting tricks I knew in high school. If nothing else I hope to learn to use my digital camera properly so all my pictures aren't out of focus. My thanks to anyone who takes the time to read this. Please believe that I'm not this boring on purpose. Tomorrow there will be pictures.