Thursday, June 22, 2006

Younger knitters in Madison?

i started writing a comment on Madisonienne's blog, only to realize that (like most things I blog about here) it was getting giant and unwieldy in that rather philosophical way. You know -- picture speaks a thousand words and all, but I still haven't gotten in the habit of taking pictures. (I'm just full of excuses. Note the huge posts and few FOs.)

Regarding "finding the right knitting group in Madison," I don't know what the deal is, or what I want, really. I belong to an established crafting group, but they're only half crafty and half "gossip about the club and eat yummy food." Which is SO not a problem, except that they were a) established long before I came around and b) don't really knit, though there are a couple who do small starter-type projects. I went to a Madison SnB once and it was fun, but because it was sort of in the beginning stages I think everyone was a little wary. (And someone came who was significantly different from everyone else in terms of age, lifestyle and interest, which wasn't terrible but made things a little stilted.)

personally, one challenge I have (as I said to her) is that I don't have a car. I'm constantly bumming rides to my craft group, which is a pain because only a couple people live further west than I do, and they don't always come. I really hate asking or hinting for someone to drive out of their way to pick me up. In the summer it's not so bad, but no matter what time of year it is I'm not very comfortable riding my bike, my scooter or the bus for a significant distance when it's dark. I think a fair amount of people are probably in the same boat, either carless or sharing a car with someone else, and it's too bad that more yarn stores aren't open later.

I guess it's kind of like finding a doctor you can trust. On the one hand you have first impressions, and the skill should be the primary concern, but on the other you have to really cultivate a relationship and give it time to see how it goes. That's hard. You don't want to waste your time on something that won't pan out, but at the same time you want your needs to be met and are willing to give it a chance.

It's sometimes difficult, too, to strike a good balance between the sort of SnB hipster cutesy stuff and the big sack sweaters or shawls that you see geared towards older knitters. Obviously we all do things on a project basis, but for younger, intermediate knitters it's more of a challenge. I suppose, too, it parallels what a lot of us are trying to do with life in general -- some of us are further along the life curve than others, whether by choice or by circumstance.

Know what I mean?

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The Non-Schmoozy Actual Content Post

I'm such a dork. In my haste to come up with even mildly creative headings, I usually resort to terrifically bad song parodies. For the three of you out there who read this blog, I'll give a dollar to anyone who can figure out what I'm quoting. Okay, and I'll make you a userpic or blog button too. (The second one's a gimme.)

"The shawl creeps on apace... my guilty fingers cramping..."

First (and best): with the advent of rehearsal for my July show (Patience, with the Madison Savoyards… you should, like, totally come see it), I seem to have worked through my major issues with our friend Icarus. I’m finally into the middle of Chart 2 and though the rows are long and (mildly) more complex, it’s actually GOING.

I may reach the end of my second ball today, however, which brings me to my major issue. Can’t remember if I mentioned it before, but according to my handy-dandy shawl percentage calculator I am DANGEROUSLY close to running out every time I get near my target point. I’m something like right on or only a row off when I reach each third (I’ve got three balls).

So yes, the obvious issue is that I did not have enough wiggle room with my given yarn. It’s hand-dyed yarn from a secret pal, so it’s neither easily matched nor easily obtainable. I accept the fact that I am a doofus and should have planned better.

But what do I do at this point? Since I’m on the edging, do you think that I could move down a size in my needles to get just a “metric snad” (as my conductor calls it) more yarn? It’s an obvious transition point in the patterning anyway, so maybe it wouldn’t be such a big deal. And I’m trying to think about where I could lose a couple stitches in width or something.

Bad Madam. Must think more next time, even if it IS supposed to be a sort of random project.

(Currently in the middle of row 199, where I should finish row 200 if I am to get to 66.6%. Fingers crossed.)

"See my vest, see my vest!"

Every time I go to the Sow’s Ear I see another little hat, of all things, that inspires me for my dad’s sweater vest. I wish I had pictures, but for now you’ll have to just rely on my descriptions.

Both of these are Amy Anderson hats, and I think that she’s written the patterns to be knit in multiple shapes. (Yeah, I still like to use garment patterns to help me figure out how to knit stitch patterns. At least I’m buying locally…) The first is called Osmosis and involves what is either a slip stitch or just an alternating stitch pattern so that single-stitch vertical columns of a solid color (black in this case) alternate with single-stitch vertical columns of a handpainted yarn (in this case, a reddish/orange Koigu, doublestranded). I think that might be a nice nod to the Cosby sweater aspect of the project without getting too out of hand.

The second is her Mix and Match hat, which has… hmmm… Imagine alternating vertical columns (one or two stitches wide) of two solid colors. Imagine that near the middle of the hat, one column stops and the two columns on either side make 45 degree turns to form a little square “roof” on top. Then a square on its point, also with a smaller square of color inside, fits neatly into the space between the “roofs.” (I have got to work on my descriptive language. Either that or get some rudimentary painting program on this computer to make some highly technical diagrams.)

I was thinking, then, that the Mix and Match pattern would be great to add some detail to the chest area without looking all preppy. Two issues, though. If I used the solid-with-handpaint technique that I liked in Osmosis, the handpaint would then be the “main-color” yarn used across the yoke up to the neckline. That might lead to pooling and other tomfoolery. The other issue is the comparative weight and time needed if I were to use what is essentially two layers of yarn. I want the vest to have a nice supple hand, and I don’t think that’ll do it. It might not be too bad if I used a thinner yarn, like a single strand of Mountain Colors or the like, but that’d be even worse than ribbing a whole garment and most likely involve small needles. Oy.

My final query for the day involves a sleeve and shoulder dilemma. So many projects I see have great patterns and allover shaping that I like, yet I’m sure they’d look hideous on me because they have raglan sleeves. Some very simple raglan sweaters look okay on me, but I have such large shoulders that even regular old set-in sleeves look like raglans if they’re too tight. I’m huge, Tiny Elvis.

So if I see a pattern that I really like except for the raglan sleeves, I know that turning it into a pattern with any other kind of sleeve will dramatically change the way it is constructed. Are there any hard and fast rules for it? Can you say, “Okay, I’m going to chop the sleeve off here and that’s how long it goes because the shoulder will make up for it”? I will have to figure that out.

Schmoozing at the Sow’s Ear

I've had to split this up because it was honkin' huge and this part is of little interest to non-local knitters.

Last Friday, after the slowest day at work evarr, Alexandra dropped by around 6 and we drove out to the Sow’s Ear for late night knitting. We were immediately greeted by the chick who had been behind the counter last time we stopped by, saying, “Hey guys, welcome back!” Geez – our second visit and already we’re regulars. I have to say, though, that after that night it sure felt like it. First off, we spent a good three hours eating, knitting, pawing yarn and lolling over the couches upstairs. The place was PACKED, but it was nice to have different areas so it didn’t feel so busy.

I started running into people almost immediately. My friend Lora, who comes to my crafting group in Madison sometimes, was there with her very tall high-school-aged son who was knitting a scarf for himself (yay!). I saw a teacher from high school and some other folks I recognized. Apparently there were also a bunch of Madison SnBers as well. This confirms my thought that it skews a bit younger than other stores, which surprised me a bit. I wonder where all of the younger knitters hang out in Madison – do they stick to coffee places?

Somewhere in the middle of the evening I went downstairs to look at patterns and the counter chick called out to me, “Hey, you’re the one who wrote the Wendy thing, right?” (I guess this is my claim to fame. I MUST branch out.) “You know TChemgrrl, right? She’s here!” So the counter chick escorted me over to the tables, and there she was, Ms. Nano Pants herself. I must say that the photos on her blog (and in Bowerbird Knits’ Sweaters From Camp-along) don’t do her sweater justice. The colors are richer and more subtle than they appear on a monitor. I didn’t realize that she’d taken a design, inverted the colors, and turned it into a cardigan. It’s just stunning. I’m so happy that we got to meet so I could see it up close!

(Side note: apparently she's feeling the same sense-of-community pangs as I. We'll have to remedy that.)

I really hope to be able to do that again sometime. It was a perfect way to relax after SUCH a long, hot week. I’m just sorry that it’s a bit of a drive… but hey, it’s certainly not as long as Alexandra had to go. I’m happy that it’s worked out for us thus far. (Alexandra, I totally owe you a sandwich or something next time we go as a token of thanks for carting yourself down here.)

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Frippery? Stuff and nonsense!

Wriggling my way back to the keyboard to post my outrage, OUTRAGE! at the apparent trashing of poor Eunny's Graceful post of a few days back. I guess most of the comments agreed with her, but she received a few rather nasty ones, some not-so-nice blog entries on the subject, and what she describes as "unbelievably vituperative emails from invalid addresses."

I KNOW she said not to comment supportively (didn't want to fish for compliments), but damn it all, I had to:


It makes me so sad and angry that your quest for quality and personal expression (in your own blog, no less) has been ripped down like this. I'm at a complete loss.

I laughed when you used the word "frippery" because it sounds JUST like something I'd say. Please know that there are many folks out there who are under the age of thirty and find it perfectly acceptable to balance forward-thinking tech savvy and progressive inquiry with old-fashioned values like politeness, solidity, good grammar and things that aren't "cheap." (For the record, I'd much rather buy a well-made pair of wool dress pants at Goodwill for $4.99 than spend $50 at the mall for predistressed khakis with weak seams. Blecch.)

Your attention to detail and construction results in timeless, well-made, NON-STODGY garments that may be treasured for a long time.

Don't back down, you! You're a beacon of hope for those of us upset with the sea of bad choices out there. I treasure your entries because they bring me that much closer to moving off the fashion "grid".


I realize that I am hardly one to talk, as I sit here in my elastic-waistband Adidas track pants which have rarely been used for actual athletic endeavour. And I'm a prime offender in the "wear jeans to work" category. But you know what? In an age where clothing isn't built to fit my body type, I still take a great deal of pride in finding things that fit (more or less... no guarantees on accidental belly-baring, but at least I TRY). And on special occasions, you can bet I'll dress appropriately and well. I love performing because sometimes I get the chance to really gussy up. Why else would I own the same number of evening gowns as pants? I pine away for the day in the future when I get invited to snooty charity functions. I think it makes things more fun when I DO dress like a schlump all the time but manage to break out the goods every once in a while. It's like when Kaylee bought that pink confection on "Firefly" -- love that Cinderella feeling.

(Also, regardless of outfit, I am on a quest to bring back the wearing of hats. Who's with me?)

So boo on the haters. *shakes fist*

In a side note, I was reading in the comments how many people not only loved the pink thing in the picture (as did I, described in the post immediately preceding this one) but immediately referenced (as did I, uh, again) a Go Fug Yorself post about Faye Dunaway. (Picture in question to be found at the bottom, below the fug.) I had to bite my fingers and obey my own advice to stop from immediately posting in the Knitting LJ about that one. "ZOMG U GUYZ. beige swetr so pretty. how u knit smocking????"

Friday, June 09, 2006

And so you're back... from outer space...

Blogger seems to have been down, but that’s no match for Amazing Madam Of The No-Posts!

I totally don't want this blog to turn into the way things are with my friend Kristine. I love her to death, which means that I have a lot to tell her and ask her about, but I either forget it all or try to save it up for one long phone call, and then it all goes to hell and I get ashamed for not calling at all :P

It TOTALLY won't. No. Seriously.

Let’s see here… where to begin?

Visit with Alexandra and Sow’s Ear

Last Saturday I had a lovely jaunt out to Verona with Ms. (I’m finding myself using more of these rather neo-medieval titles so I can accurately communicate their relationships. “Today I saw Eric-from-the-garage-sale, who was hanging out with water-aerobics-Amy.”)

I haven’t been out the The Sow’s Ear since the very beginnings of my knitting experience. My aunt had breast cancer and I had heard that Berroco Chinchilla was an exceptionally soft yarn for use in a hat, so I hightailed it out to the Sow’s Ear to pick some up. Of course, I didn’t know anything about anything and my aunt (being an expert knitter herself) probably never wore it, but I think it’s safe to say that wanting to do that was really the reason I actually sat down and stuck to my knitting. As for the Sow’s Ear, though, I hadn’t been back since I’d gotten a much better grasp on knitting and yarn selection, so it was a welcome excursion.

When I had described the Sow’s Ear earlier in this blog, I think I referred to it as more of a Knitting Guild place. Interestingly, the presence of two younger employees made me think that it skewed more youthful than I’d originally thought. They had a great selection of Dale in loads of colors, including a sample sweater knit out of Svale, which I don’t think I’ve seen in any large amount at other local stores. Mmmm. Definitely felt like something worth saving for.

The highlight probably came when one of the girls asked Alexandra, “Uh, you look really familiar. You have a thing in… Knitty, right?” Hooray for internet celebrity! That was fun :) While we ordered lunch (she had a ham and cheese prosciutto and brie sandwich; I had a very tasty cherry blueberry turnover) we gabbed a bit more about the state of knitting blogs. We all agreed on the complete stagnation of Wendy vs. Eunny’s intricate marvels and cheerful tutorials.

It’s always interesting to try and think about why you like particular things in particular situations. I don’t really enjoy reading the Mason/Dixon Knitting blog, but upon skimming the book I thought it looked pretty nifty. And I can’t say as I’m a huge fan of Glampyre designs, but I pay attention because I respect Stefanie’s ability to try out different styles and carve out a niche market. Someday I’d like to dream up some patterns of my own, so I like seeing/hearing about what’s involved when a designer tries to piece ideas together and market them or just format them properly so that others can enjoy them too.

Icarus Shawl…

…keeps on keeping on. You know, I really need to get an auxiliary project going on the side with this one. Happily, I started the last full repeat of the first chart. After that, there’s a half repeat before going on to the next four charts, each of which take only one repeat. Now, of course, that will probably bum me out because it’ll prevent me from wandering around without carrying the pattern with me, but I think I’ll live.

No more whining! Grrrargh!

Okay. I feel better now. (I wished I could have finished it today. It was cold.)

Dad’s Vest

I’ve seen some nifty stitch patterns lately which have made me think about some new possibilities. Marnie MacLean’s recent post had a diamond lace pattern that I thought could be very subtle, while Eunny’s Almost Argyle Socks intrigued me as well. And Eunny’s most recent work has SUCH a pretty pattern which I’d love to try for myself.

Back to Marnie’s, though… the Silky Wool she was using seemed like it would be just the perfect look and texture without being too stiff and traditional, but I am told that it is still quite scratchy. Though I realize that a sweater vest would probably not have skin contact… hmmm…

This weekend we are dogsitting again, which means that we get to use a car. I have half a mind to go out to The Sow’s Ear again, though I will also be pretty close to Stitcher’s Crossing, which I haven’t seen in a year or so.

Decisions, decisions.