Monday, September 24, 2007

Big Girls Don't Cry...

...but they are muy triste when their nice gentlemanly Smoke Shawl decides to be VERY BAD over one weekend visit to parents and require unraveling to the very beginning. I had about six or seven repeats of the main chart done and I can only say that Mr. Smoke Shawl was just VERY VERY BAD. I can't even provide details because it's too traumatic. My brother kept telling me it wasn't such a big deal until I threatened to both stab him in the arm with my US 4 Inox needles and throw some turpentine on a painting he'd been working on for several weeks just to show him how it feels. That made him shut up good and quick. I'm only going to work on Smoke maybe one or two rows at a time for a while now. That's how mad I am. He needs to be punished.

But when I came back to my apt. today, the yarn goddesses took pity on me and delivered my supply of Kid Classic for Rannoch:

Clearly, I'm not going with the original color scheme. I'm make the body a deep purple (it came out looking raspberry-ish in the photo, but it's a true royal purple with a heathered quality). The fair-isle on the sleeves will include the same purple, a medium brown, a beige, a deep midnight blue and a lighter icy blue.

And last week, I also got some Rowanspun 4 ply from Cucumberpatch on eBay. It was so cheap and I was up really late one night. Bad combination. This is for a future Bressay Hap Shawl in the same Rowan as Rannoch.

Also, I saw Across the Universe this weekend.

If you haven't seen it, go. Now. Seriously.

I agree with all the critics. The movie is clearly imperfect, a little too long, has major plot flaws, etc. However, in the end, I just didn't care. It's directed by Julie Taymor, who also directed Titus and Frida and the Broadway version of The Lion King. If you go see this movie, I guarantee you will see the following things: Cute boys with earnest faces who sing! Amazing visuals! Psychedelic drug trips! Eddie Izzard weirdly rapping out "For the Benefit of Mr. Kite"! Joe Cocker dressed up like both a homeless man and a pimp while singing "Come Together"! Bono pretending he can act before singing "I am the Walrus"! Anti-war protests! And last, but certainly not least, Beatles' songs!

I was prepared to dislike the singing (the actors all recorded the songs live on set), but there's this raw, un-polished, unpretentious quality to it. Franz Kafka once wrote, "A book should serve as the ax for the frozen sea within us." I think Beatles' songs will do the same.

Now, back to the daily grind, but the Beatles will pull me through and get me to post progress photos of my Hourglass sometime soon.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

FO: Uptown Boot Socks

"Uptown girl...You know I can't afford to buy her pearls, but maybe someday when my ship comes in, she'll understand what kind of guy I've been..."

Uptown Boot Socks
(aka I-have-no-brain-cells-right-now-to-give-them-a-cooler-name)
Pattern: Uptown Boot Socks from Favorite Socks
Yarn: Koigu KPPPM P105D, 2 skeins
Needles: Addi Lace circs, US 1.5

Ooh, I spy some brand new red sock blockers from The Loopy Ewe. They make it much, much easier for a gal to take photos of socks without resorting to childhood contortion experiments. Yeah, 27-yr-olds ain't flexible spring chickens.

Speaking of not being a spring chicken, I've been a little harebrained over the past week because I decided finally that I am going to be applying to MFA programs. It's just too stressful for me to worry about where my next job will come from and I can't help but feel responsible for making my parents worry about it, too. I was resistant to school because I don't know that it will help my actual writing, but I finally let Practical Sway out of her cage (I don't let her out often) and she said, "Grow up and understand that it's a great safety net to have the degree and be able to teach so that you can write and have health insurance, food and yarn all at the same time." She's so smart. I kind of feel bad that I keep her cooped up in the attic.

OK, now that random venting is over, back to the socks: Aren't gussets boo-tee-full?

I'm going to try short-row heels eventually, but I will really miss the pretty gussets. Even the word "gusset" is pretty. Kind of like when people used to "gussy up" before leaving for a night on the town.

Now, "P105D" is not a very descriptive name for this colorway.

It makes me think of ancient gods and goddesses in a forest making wine and getting drunk and merry. Kind of like this:

The clip is from Fantasia, which my uncle took my brother and me to see when it was re-released in theaters. He was confused and thought it was a new movie. He fell asleep in the middle, but my brother and I loved it. It's still one of my favorite movies. Fantasia 2000 was not nearly as good, but I still loved the Firebird sequence.

Just some more photos of the colors. They come out so wonderfully in stockinette.

And this last one really does remind me of a field of flowers.

That design I'm working on is still going on...I can say it's a pair of something and that I need to work out some issues regarding construction. I originally wanted to submit it to Knitty, but that's not going to happen at this point. So, I'll finish when I can and then probably post the pattern here for free.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Peh-Shun Nee-Tuh

Last week, my mom came into the city to take me to lunch in K-town. We were meeting my cousin at the restaurant and got there a bit early, so she asked to check out the Korean import bookstore next door. I realized this was a good chance to see if they carried knitting books and I lucked out:

The title is in the green circle. It says "Fashion Knit" only it's phonetically Korean, so it reads more like, "Peh-Shun Nee-Tuh." Isn't the cardi on the cover yummy?

The knits are actually really nice. There was a book in the store that was basically a translated version of one of Zoe Mellor's baby knits books and another one featured kind of hideous clothes.

But I fell in love with this purple swingy thing, aka "Poncho-Style Pullover":

I have never knit with Noro before, but I think it might be perfect for this. There's also a pattern for a matching beret.

I also don't really go for novelty yarns, but I might be persuaded by this:

It calls itself a "Vest with Rabbit Tails." Hmm. I think I'm going to have to forgo the rabbit tails. I have no desire to remind people of snack cakes.

Here's the ultra-posh "Chanel-style Jacket and Muffler":

Yes, Korean people refer to scarves as "mufflers." My mother says all the Asian people picked up lots of words from the British when they were trying to colonize, but I'm not quite sure the "muffler" is a British term. Anyone?

More than anything else in this book, the reason I bought it is this li'l number:

It's very creatively named "Double-Buttoned Long Coat." I'm not sure what would be an appropriate yarn. I think Noro might be too multi-colored for this. But it's so pretty. And will take me seven years to knit. That's a conservative estimate. Whatever, one can dream.

This one looks like an advertisement, but it's not:

I love the patch pockets and the little tracks up the front. It's called "Hawk Tie Brown Coat."

The last one that I love is the "Belt-Tied One Piece":

The name is a lie, though. I'm pretty sure the belt is not knit and the vest is not knit in one piece. It's an interesting construction. You knit one long piece that becomes the front and back yoke. You then pick up stitches on the back yoke and knit down to the back hem.

There are a bunch of other knits in the book, but these are my faves. Take a look at the actual pattern page:

On the positive side, I must say the schematics are pretty fantastic. There are a gazillion measurements for each piece. Rowan and Debbie Bliss should take lessons from Asian pattern books.

There are a couple negatives, though. Yarn requirements are given in weight, not yards. She also does not provide yarn brands or labels, so you're pretty much making slightly educated guesses with how much yarn you actually need.

Also, the patterns are only available in one size. And yes, aside from that voluminous one-piece vest, 96 cm is the biggest bust measurement for women, which makes it just shy of 38". This is for a coat, which needs more ease. Grar. I thought I'd left all my math days behind me when I quit pre-med, but it looks like knitting is making me face my old enemy.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Yarn Highs

Lots of knittin' going on in these here parts lately. I swatched for the Hourglass last Thursday and had so much fun swatching that I went ahead and swatched for Astrid, the lovely boho shawl/scarf that resembles spider's webs clinging together. The only difference with this swatch, however, is that the swatch is part of the FO, the first large circle:

Here is Large Circle 1 after blocking. It needed blocking because without it, the edges are too tight and don't allow the circle to lay flat. I tried to get the true color (cardinal red) into the photos, but my mean camera with its heart of cold, cold metal wasn't having it. But it did relent and let me take a detail shot.

Berrocco's Ultra Alpaca Light is lovely. I haven't worn it next to my skin yet, but it's soft to work with and didn't bleed when I tossed Large Circle 1 into a bowl of suds. Red yarn! No bleeding!

I did see how making so many Large Circles and then Medium Circles and then Small Circles would get rather tiresome and tedious. So I set LC 1 aside and told her (it has to be "her,"
her name is Astrid!) to stay put because I will make sisters to join her when I get bored of whatever else is on the needles.

Like this sock:
It's the Uptown Boot Sock from IK's Favorite Socks. The yarn colors are coming out a bit bright. The fuchsia portion is much more of a deep raspberry-burgundy color. It really looks like red wine that's been flung over grass. Although the wine getting absorbed into the soil is not a part of this image.

Has anyone ever heard of this yarn called Koigu? No? Well, let me tell you all about it. It's beautiful. So beautiful that I would squeal while knitting it up if I weren't completely sure that one of my roommates would hear me and think I was being attacked by wild pigs. It is a bit rope-y in texture, but I consider it part of the appeal. I knit oddly: I don't wind the yarn at all around my hand, I just hold it between my thumb and forefinger. And it's kinda nice to feel the ridges along Koigu as it flows between my fingers.

You know, I am so enamored of the stockinette portion of socks that I really should just knit a pair of plain ol' stockinette socks. I also realized that there is nothing ever wrong with purchasing more sock yarn. Sock yarn is meant to be stashed. It likes it. It enjoys marinating in your yarn bins while you think of a pattern to go with it. And it's so pleased with itself when you ooh and ahh as you knit it up. Yup.

I also started the Hourglass, after waiting for the swatch to dry. I've heard people say that Karabella Aurora grows like a mofo when it gets wet, but my swatch behaved quite nicely. I dunked it in cold, sudsy water, pressed it dry in a towel and laid it out on my bookshelf to dry flat. No change. Gauge? Same. Overall size? Same. Feel? Same...still soft and luscious. This is where I am now:

I'm making just a few mods to it. I'm adding an extra decrease and increase to make the waist a little smaller. I'm making the increases more rapidly than it says to accommodate the girls. And, I'm not hemming. No hemming. Instead, I'm using seed stitch. See?

What else can I say about this project? It moves so fast that I had to tink back twice when I overshot how many rows I needed before the next set of decreases. The yarn is so soft that I almost can't believe it sometimes, especially after knitting with Skye Tweed. The melange is perfect for such an otherwise plain-jane sweater. Preliminary attempts to hold it against my body make me think it might be a perfect fit: Loose and swingy, but not potato sack-ish. So far? Lookin' good, Hourglass.

In other news,

1) I am going to purchase yarn for Rannoch. It's going to happen. Yoda says, "Do or do not. There is no try."

2) My mom bought me a Korean knitwear book that has some very appealing patterns in it. She also promised to help me translate it so I can figure out what I'm doing. I'm very excited about some of the patterns and I'll post photos of the book later this week. I'm not so excited about having to resize everything because Korean fashion designers think that every woman has a 32" bust.

3) I am working on my first design. It's small. Nothing crazy. I am not jumping into design with a ginormous sweater with cables up the wazoo. But I think it's purty. I'm hoping to finish by Friday. Again, Yoda says, "Do or do not. There is no try."

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Eulogy and an FO

It's been an odd little day. My alarm clock went off at seven this morning and the first thing I heard was one of those chirpy radio voices announcing that Luciano Pavarotti died today. Or yesterday, depending on the time zone. It is truly a sad day for the whole world when it loses a voice as majestic as this one.

I spent a good twenty minutes watching old Youtube videos of Pavarotti's performances and crying like a baby. I'm not sure why I'm so affected by this, but I think part of it has to do with the fact that I grew up listening to him. My mom is a huge classical music buff and I often woke up in the mornings to her CDs of arias and symphonies.

The last time Pavarotti performed "Nessun Dorma," the big, grandiose aria from Puccini's Turandot, he was in his home country and singing in front of millions of Olympic visitors:

Pay attention to his face at 1:40. I often feel that true passion (the constructive kind, not the destructive kind) gets overlooked when things like business and money and exposure get in the way. But despite the millions he made as a singer, that expression is priceless. That is passion for the art itself. It's not the most technically impressive of his televised performances, but I think he's at his most honest. A lot of experts say he knew his voice and body were giving out then. I like to think that his face shows how much it meant to him that he got to sing his signature piece one last time in his own country.

Now, on to happier things: Finished Charades!

Marlena & Rosie Charades
Pattern: Charade Socks
Yarn: Claudia Hand Painted Fingering in Pink Cloud
Needles: US 1.5 circulars

I named these after the circus performer and elephant in Water for Elephants. Seemed appropriate, given the grey of an elephant and the pink sequins that Marlena wears. The pattern is super easy and the results are quite pleasing.

When I first posted photos of the yarn here, I briefly mentioned some worry because of the discrepancies in cake size. I started the first one with the smaller cake and made it to the end with normal leftovers, which got me to wondering if the other one was really much bigger or if the yarn was just fluffier...

The leftovers. Ahem. I think that one of the skeins I purchased was a greedy monster skein that ate half of its brothers or something. I think it's almost enough to knit a whole third sock. What a bit o' weird! The photo reminds me of Shel Silverstein. Maybe The Missing Piece and the Big O.

Now, just to prove how much these socks actually look as though they've been printed with clouds, here's a slightly fuzzy/blurry photo I took:

And here's a beautiful photo of a pink, lavender, and grey sunset:

This photo was taken by Flickr user yorksgalSue and she generously allowed me to post it here to show off the similarity between sock and nature. You can check out more of her photos here.

Now I just need to figure out what new projects I can start!

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

FO: An Armful of Tweed

CPH. C'est fini!

Central Park Hoodie
Knitscene, Fall 2006
Yarn: Classic Elite Skye Tweed in color 1243 (a.k.a. "Heath")
Needles: US 6 Addi Lace for ribbing, US 8 Susan Boye aluminums for body
Extras: Wooden buttons from Knitty City
Modifications: Kitchenered hood together

Now, of course I'm jumping with glee over my first for-me finished sweater! I'm starting to realize the wisdom of limiting my handknit gifts to people who will actually appreciate all the work I put in. Namely, me. I'm so happy that when I finished weaving in the last end on the sweater, I immediately put it on and walked around the apartment in it. Which caused my roommates to question my sanity. Wool? August? They shake their heads and leave me to my blissful insanity.

The Skye Tweed is a bit stiff to work with, but it softens with washing (I used Woolite). The wool definitely bled some in the first few bowls of water I ran, but eventually the color stuck. It was rough trying to seam with it, though, because the stuff likes to fall apart. It was also incredibly smelly when wet. Ew. But the final product is worth it. It's woolly and soft and thick and warm.

However, if I make it again, I will make the following modifications: Add two inches in length to the body, knit only four inches of ribbing on the sleeve cuffs, knit the hood a bit bigger, and remember to split splice all the way through if I work with wool.

So, first I am going to 'fess up and share the mistakes. Maybe this will shame me into paying more attention next time 'round:

This is the worst of the mistakes. I knit the left front first, which starts with K2 ribbing. I then knit the right front, thinking I start with K2 ribbing and not checking with the pattern first...and then realized only while the whole durn thing was wet-blocking that I'd thrown the ribbing off on the right front. Meaning that the cables, which are supposed to flow out of the K2 ribbing, does not. Exactly. Flow. Instead, it just starts without preamble and looks a little awkward. This also causes the seam on the right side to look a little off because I was mattress seaming a purl stitch with a knit stitch. But what the hey, a nice lady at Knitty City told me that in Turkish carpets, there's always one mistake put in intentionally...because only God is perfect.

Second mistake: The sleeves are quite, um, long. The photo above illustrates where the cuff ends without pulling. They're like sleeve-gauntlets. Who needs mittens when you've got cuffs like that? I don't actually dislike this mistake, though. I like long sleeves, even if they get a little too eager and try to get all in your food.

Now, for some details I like quite a lot:

Lovely wooden buttons from Knitty City. I actually went to M&J Trimming at first and purchased red wooden buttons. And then when I brought them home and held them up to CPH...

Well, let's just let bygones be bygones and forgive the poor buttons for making me think too strongly of bloody, murderous clowns.

The purls on the inside. I lurve these waves. They're so nice and soothing.

The sleeve seams. This marks the first time I managed to use mattress stitch with both confidence and a fair amount of accuracy. Also, this photo makes me think of the beautiful patterns of grain on a piece of wood.

Now, it's very difficult to take photos of oneself in a hoodie. There are dozens of blurry, I-can't-quite-make-that-out shots on my camera that I will have to erase. But I cannot resist saving this one. I only meant to get the hood in the picture, but clearly my angles are all wrong. Maybe it's because I did a bunch of the knitting on this while I watched the LOTR marathon on TNT last weekend, but I took a photo of myself that makes me look like a hobbit. A pensive hobbit. What could this pensive female Asian hobbit be pondering so gravely? World peace? Gold jewelry? A new sweater? Muahahaha. I think this hobbit has gone over to the dark side.