Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Taking Ironing to New Heights...or Depths

As I was wandering through posts in a forum (Software as a Human Activity Practiced Effectively), someone mentioned extreme ironing. I did a doubletake...what? Ironing as an extreme sport?

The answer is yes. And you can find out more about extreme ironing at the Extreme Ironing Board Bureau. These folks are whacko passionate about their ironing. Notice that most of the ironists (as they are called) are men. Also notice that the men are ironing underwater.

So, I think we need to start Extreme Knitting. We've got a good start. The Yarn Harlot has taken her sock rock climbing. Claudia has taken her sock on a multi-day MS bike race ride. My sock sailed from St. Martin to Guadeloupe (even though the only picture was of it being knitted by yours truly).

(Silly me...someone has already thought of Xtreme Knitting. Why should I have an original idea?)

Anyway, what is the oddest or most extreme place where you've knitted, be it a sock or something else? For those responding, you will earn an Extreme Knitter button (as soon as I figure out how to make one). And pictures would be helpful.

In other news, there was a big flap last week over crocheted nudes placed in a lobby cum art gallery. Click here to read the Washington Post article. I can't imagine being offended by what seems to be whimsical soft sculpture.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

The Evolution of a Knitter

Yesterday I took a field trip to Capital Yarns to take advantage of their "Shop 'til You Drop" sale. The end result produced some stash enhancements and, more importantly, some revelations.

First, the stash enhancements.

On the left you see Cascade Yarns Success, an absolutely yummy blend of silk and alpaca. On the right is Dale of Norway's Tiur, slated for a pair of Priscilla's Dream Socks for me.

Regarding Success , I originally selected the two pink colors, thinking that it would make a nice shell. Then someone wandered by and commented that the green looked nice with it and ask if I was going to do something in Fair Isle. Too bad they don't have the green, I replied. I don't want to mix the wool with the silk and alpaca. Well, sometimes I'm not the most observant person. Clearly they did have a green. Now I'm in a quandary. How much do I buy? This stuff isn't cheap, even at 15% off. I resisted the temptation to buy all they had, opting for six skeins of light pink and five of green. I'm envisioning not Fair Isle, but something in a slip stitch pattern. Look for the FO in about 10 years.

The women at Capital Yarns were great. They made sure that customers could find what they needed, and were quite chatty. Which led to my revelation and a middle-of-the-night rumination on my progress as a knitter and budding fiber artist.

When I picked up knitting for the second time 10 years ago, I was overwhelmed by the yarn choices and couldn't see the possibilities in the different yarns. I needed a pattern and the exact yarn in order to make something. My first project was not a washcloth, or a scarf, but a shell. In a slip stitch rib. With ribbing at the armholes and a rolled neck. It was too much for me. I finished one half (which has since disappeared) and recently frogged the other half. And I didn't start knitting again until 2002, when I made a Feather and Fan baby blanket for the baby of a dear friend. That project was a success and I've been knitting ever since. Now I can walk into a yarn store and see potential in yarn. I dream about sweater designs. And I'm buying yarn for what I want to make with it, not what I see in a book or magazine (although I still do that, too). I can talk intelligently to experienced knitters and guide beginning knitters about yarn substitution. I suspect my first design attempts will be disasters, but I know that those mistakes will be valuable lessons, just like the lessons I'm learning in my first attempt at lace.

I've ripped this thing out so many times it isn't funny. My lessons:

  • Use stitch markers liberally, especially if there are several patterns going on at once; they prove to be invaluable to helping keep track of where you are in the pattern.

  • Count, then count again (and maybe again) at the end of each new pattern row. I have learned the hard way that I cannot trust the results of my first counting.

  • At the first sign of an error, resist the temptation to make a correction on the fly, and unknit and verify the pattern as you unknit. Doing so will help you understand the structure of the pattern better and will eventually show you the error of your ways.

  • Knitting and the world of fiber provides so many opportunities for wonderful journeys, both introspective and "extrospective." I look forward to continuing the journey and to meeting more of the wonderful women (and men, too) who make up the fiber community.

    Saturday, June 18, 2005

    I'm back!

    Well, the sailing trip was quite an adventure. A brief recap:

  • Picked up a 45-foot catamaran, Las Salinas 57, in St. Martin

  • Sailed to St. Barts, Saba, St. Eustatia, St. Kitts, Nevis, Antigua, Guadeloupe, Les Saintes, and Guadeloupe

  • Saw a bizarre celestial phenemenon (UFO?) at Saba

  • Accidentally rammed the dock at Port Zante, St. Kitts, and put a little hole in the side of the boat

  • Floated away from our anchorage at St. Kitts (the boat, not me)

  • Lost the mainsail halyard in the mast at St. Kitts

  • Lost the dinghy at Nevis (retrieved through a sefless act of bravery by my husband)

  • Became illegal aliens in several islands because immigration and customs weren't open when we needed them to be and we went ashore anyway

  • If you would like all the gory details as well as photos, go to Ship of Fools.

    There was knitting:

    And yes, that is a sock that I'm knitting. Nancy (in the visor) is knitting a scarf in a lovely basketweave pattern using llama yarn. Nancy wins the prize for being the most prolific knitter on this trip--she completed three or four handbags for felting (she didn't felt them on the boat, but it was hot and humid enough if she had so desired), plus the basketweave scarf. Gina (of Willy Warmer fame) was working on two shawls, Carolyn was working on a scarf in 1-1 rib, and I had my sock and the Fern Leaf Shawl.

    I must say, though, that my sock (rather, the sock for my husband) has its problems. The new short row technique that I tried gave me fits, so I'll have to whipstitch the holes closed around the heel. And for some reason, the foot circumference is big...very big. Like 10 inches big. I need to grab Tom's foot and try the sock on for size, but I'm afraid I'm going to have to rip the entire thing out and start all over. This is the offending sock:

    Does it look like this sock would fit the foot of this man?

    Likewise, I had trouble with the Fern Leaf Shawl. I discovered that I need total silence in order to get the pattern correct. It isn't a difficult pattern; it's just that it changes every other row because it's a triangular shawl and for the life of me, I cannot get the YOs and the decreases to work out. I knit and ripped the thing out about 10 million times (well...that's a slight exaggeration; six is more like it). Unfortunately, there wasn't total silence on the boat. There was lots of interesting and funny conversation and as soon I tuned into the conversation, I lost my place in the knitting and couldn't get back.

    While we women were knitting or reading, the men were doing manly nautical things, like sailing:

    Or picking up moorings:

    But all fun things must come to an end and we flew home on Thursday and got in late that night. Getting out of bed in the middle of the night was interesting. I didn't have my land legs yet and the house appeared to be gently rocking, just like a boat. It rocked all day Friday and finally settled down early this morning. Such a strange feeling!

    Anyway, that's it for now. Tom has started working on painting the house (when he's back from vacation, he's back). I'm still on vacation, however, and am going to knit until dinner time.

    Wednesday, June 01, 2005

    Sailing Away!

    Well, only three more days before we start out on our Caribbean sailing trip! We'll meet up with three other couples in St. Martin, pick up our sailboat and sail away to our first island destination. For the next 10 days, we'll be island hopping down to Guadeloupe.

    And with so much to do, this will be my last post until we return mid-month. There's laundry to do, bathing suits to find, house sitting and cat feeding instructions to write, a refrigerator to purge...not to mention making sure I've got all of the knitting supplies I'll need for a project or two. And I need to track down the bathing suit I ordered. The bottom piece arrived right on schedule, shipped 2nd day. The top was back ordered and shipped today...first class mail. To arrive in 7 to 10 days. To Leesburg. Arrgh! I'll be more than halfway to Guadeloupe by then.

    I haven't done that much knitting after coming back from the Knitting Experience, despite being full of inspiration. I've been trying to work out the design stitch pattern for the Rio shell and have started swatching for a couple of other projects. And it's very frustrating swatching indeed because I cannot get the gauge required! The row gauge is correct for recommended needle size, but the stitch gauge is double. Increasing a half size improves the stitch gauge, but I'm still not there. Going up a full needle size gets me stitch gauge (almost), but now the row gauge is off. I'm half tempted to get circulars in all three sizes and just start knitting the thing to see what happens when I start the lace pattern. So what am I swatching for? A lace shawl. I know, it's shawl and there's a fair amount of latitude for size, since it isn't a fitted garment. However, there's a center lace inset and I'm a little concerned that it will look a bit odd if the gauge is way off.
    And maybe I'm obsessing about this a bit too much? My pitta tendencies are making themselves felt.

    I promise to post pictures when I get back. In the meantime, happy knitting and spinning!