May 27, 2011

It's the process

I'm sure most knitters have heard about the difference between process and product knitters. Process knitters knit for the sake of knitting and aren't terribly concerned with the finished project. If a project is boring or not working out or not enjoyable for whatever reason, a process knitter will usually just stop knitting it. This often makes them bad deadline and gift knitters.

Product knitters, on the other hand, are in it for the finished item. They will endure tedium, endless ripping and reknitting, cramped hands, and yarn that doesn't feel good to knit with, all for the sake of the end result.

Guess which kind I am? Yeah. Process knitter all the way. Which makes me 1) likely to give away my knitted items - on the rare occasions I actually finish something - because I don't really care about the end result and 2) extraordinarily likely to grow bored, frustrated or give up when the knitting isn't going my way.

And yes, it also makes me an extraordinarily tardy gift knitter. As I believe has been amply demonstrated in the past.

Given my aversion to knitting that isn't both easy and fun, I've surprised myself by undertaking (and sticking with) a pattern that I'm genuinely not enjoying: Annis, from Knitty.

Through no fault of the pattern or the designer, I hate knitting this thing. I hate the slippery metal needles. I hate the long purl back rows. And I hate all the nupps. Good lord do I hate the nupps.

It's possible I've even begun referring to the pattern as "Anus." Which is fitting, because in this pink, it bears a disturbing resemblance to a pile of intestines:



The sad part is, I was excited about the nupps at first. I'd never made a nupp. I was going to learn something new! It was going to be great fun! And, wow, was I wrong.

Now, if you've never nupped, a nupp* is made by repeatedly knitting and yarn-overing into the same stitch to create (in the case of Anus, er, Annis), 7 stitches out of 1. On the purl back row, you PURL ALL OF THE STITCHES YOU JUST MADE TOGETHER. This makes a wee nub on your knitting, kind of like a bobble, but flatter.

The problem is: Purling three stitches together is pushing it. But seven? Pure horror.


For the first few nupps, I was sure it was actually impossible to correctly execute a purl 7 together. Surely, this was some sort of cruel joke. Then I realized I could do it (slowly and excruciatingly) if I used a size 2 needle. The first nupp row (with 30 nupps total) took me two hours. Then I did the same thing with another ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY NUPPS.


But now I can proudly say two things: First, I have made nupps my bitch.

And more importantly, I never, ever have to knit another one as long as I live. Such is the joy of being a process knitter.

* If you're curious about the difference between nupps and bobbles, or want an explanation involving less distracting use of the word "anus", Knitpicks has a nifty bit about them here.

Just a jump to the left

I've been knitting a really lovely pair of socks, my second pair of Artichoke Socks, in Madelinetosh Tosh Sock (colorway "Kale", or as I like to think of it, "KALE!!!"). I've touted the charms of this pattern before: it's pretty, easily memorizable, charmingly symmetrical, and shows off a lightly variegated yarn like nobody's business.

Also, being the giant dork about vegetables that I am, it pleases me to no end to knit "Artichoke" socks in a colorway called "Kale".

And while I thoroughly enjoyed the last pair I knit in Shibui Sock, it's even more pleasing in Madelinetosh, which somehow even in the dark smoky purple-grey Kale colorway glows with a magical inner light possessed by no other 100% wool yarn I've ever seen.


I swear there's some silk snuck into the mix. Or some obscure alchemy on the part of the dyer. Whatever it is, it's wonderful and I want many, many more balls of the stuff.

The one problem I've had is that the pattern is kind of a pain to work on DPNs. Each row starts with a Purl 1, which always looks bad at the beginning of a needle (if you're me). After that P1, there's a few columns of ribbing, then the symmetrical front of leg pattern, then a few more columns of ribbing, then the same symmetrical branching leaves pattern on the back of the leg. Using 4 DPNs, the logical way to divide the pattern among 3 needles seemed to be:

Needle 1: purl 1, ribbing, first half of leaf pattern
Needle 2 (1/2 of stitches): second half of leaf pattern, ribbing, first half of leaf pattern
Needle 3: ribbing, second half of leaf pattern, ribbing

For whatever reason, I could not grasp this set-up. I kept bungling the second half of the leaf pattern because logically (to me) needle 2 is the start of the front of the leg and should always start with the FIRST half of a repeat. I do realize this is not actually true, but my brain and hands were quite insistent that this was absolutely the case and kept sneaking in a K2TOG where there should have been a SSK.

There was a really obvious solution to this: I scootched things a bit to the left, so that the entire front of the leg was on needle 2.

And just like that, with a wee shift, suddenly the pattern flowed for me in a way that it absolutely hadn't before.


In keeping with my knitting, my job search has taken a jump to the left as well. For most of my career, I've worked in the corporate world: a corporate law firm, a multi-national consulting company, a fine publisher of cooking magazines and cookbooks, back to the multi-national consulting company, etc.

In keeping with this corporate background, I'd applied for a bunch of jobs in my field: enterprise-level HR information systems analysis. And I'd gotten exactly 0 bites. Not one damn phone call.

This was disheartening.

Until I thought about it differently - I never really felt like the corporate world was a good fit for me. I went to library school specifically because I was interested in rabble-rousing activist public library work. Helping corporations make more money for the sake of making money never seemed like a great way to spend one's life.

And suddenly, there it was: I should be applying at nonprofits. And just like that, everything shifted - every job I've applied for I've gotten an interview. Several interviews in most cases.

I think maybe the universe is trying to tell me something...

March 30, 2011

Socks, some sadness and such

I recently received an unsubtle (but charming) request for bloggery from one of my favoritest knitting ladies. It's appropriate, then, that I have something to show off that she in particular would appreciate.

Behold! The finished Nutkins.


Specs: Nutkin, size 2 Harmony wood DPNS, Ancient Threads Bambu fingering. Mods: Added one pattern repeat, and subbed standard cuff, heel and toe.

Because I rule at gift knitting, these socks were promised to my friend Kelley for her birthday last March, at which point I let her choose her favorite yarn from my entire sock yarn stash. At the time, I was pleased and a little chagrined and kind of surprised
when she chose the Ancient Threads yarn.


Pleased because suddenly I would be knitting it, after letting it languish in the stash for many years. Chagrined because I would not be knitting it for me. Mostly I was surprised, as Kelley's tastes run very heavily towards the purple end of the color spectrum. To the point where several friends have unsuccessfully attempted a purple intervention. I, on the other hand, support her purple fetish, as I have much the same relationship with the color green. And pork products. And IT guys.


Anyway, despite the extraordinarily long time I took to knit these socks (over a year, people, so please never ever feel bad about missing a knitting deadline), I loved knitting them. Every few stitches brought a new and amazing color. The dyer uses all natural dyes, like osage, cochineal and cutch ("Cutch" being a word I can't say, type or think about with chortling a little). The colors are amazing, and unlike any other dyes I've seen.


And this brings me back to my knitting friend, who[m?] I haven't seen in far too long. She's wonderful in pretty much every way someone can be wonderful. She has a remarkable combination of personal warmth, intelligence and a brilliant sense of humor that's pretty irresistible. She's also a motherfucking badass spinner and knitter.

Every time I picked up the socks that I was knitting for Kelley, I thought of my other friend. This friend and I have very similar color sensibilities *cough* seventies appliances *cough*. In fact, both of us bought this yarn at Mass Sheep and Wool, in almost identical colorways, several years ago. At the time, I thought her skein was slightly prettier and may have experienced an uncharitable burst of fiery hatred and envy for a second when she clutched it to her bosom and declared it the most beautiful thing in the world. That passed as soon as I realized my yarn had its own considerable charms. And in fact, we were both so smitten with the colors of our yarn that we were inspired to try natural dyeing ourselves, using the same dyes as were used in this yarn.


This wonderful friend also had an extraordinarily tragic event in her personal life in the past year I've been knitting these socks. And, being awkward and clumsy with emotions and unsure what to say or how to say it, I sent her stilted condolences and little else. But I thought of her. When I picked up the socks, I thought about how colossally unfair it is that this incredibly warm, vibrant, joyful woman could have something so awful happen to her. I thought about how sad and angry and disappointed she must be, and how I really can't begin to understand her loss. It's a sad and awful thing that I would not wish on anyone, but it's especially horrible that it happened to someone I like and admire so much.

And then, mostly, I thought about how very much I like her, and how much I miss her. And how my life has been better (and funnier and sillier and more filled with joy) for having her in it. And I wished there was something I could do to help her.

But I realize now that I can do something, which is tell her that I was thinking of her, with every stitch, and every time I looked at the yarn. And I am sending my love.

January 19, 2011

Damn it feels good to be a finisher

A mere 17 months after casting on, I'm pleased and proud to announce that I've finally finished the Chevron Scarf! I obviously haven't been knitting this scarf constantly for the last year and a half. For many months, I wasn't in the mood to work on it at all. And a fingering weight scarf is mighty slow going, even on size 6 needles.

Last-minute gift, my ass.


Specs: the ubiquitous Chevron Scarf, from Last-Minute Knitted Gifts. J Knits Superwash Me Light Sock, in the Reno and Colorado colorways. US 6 needles. Final length after blocking 80" (it stretched almost 8 inches in blocking). No mods, except - for some reason I now can't recall - I went up a needle size. Which makes this a relatively lightweight scarf, perfect for the Bay Area's perpetual early fall temperatures.

J Knits sock yarn comes in huge skeins - 500+ yards each. So I've got a whole lot of both balls left over. There may be matching mitts in the near future.


There's a reason so many people knit this thing - it's easy, beautiful, and a brilliant (non-sock) use for your variegated sock yarns. If you're the sort that's both enamored of variegated yarns and bothered by pooling (I am that sort), this is totally the pattern for you.


And I promise it doesn't actually take a year and a half to knit.

January 5, 2011

Fits and starts

Forgoing the usual "Wow! I can't believe it's been so long!" comment, let's just jump straight into the knitting.

I've got good stuff on the needles these days. Well, some good stuff. And some, uh, less good stuff. As usual.

First on the needles are birthday socks for Kelley, a pretty pair of Nutkins. I've just started the second sock, after a rather long post-first-sock hiatus.


The yarn, Ancient Threads Bambu, is unutterably lovely, and constantly entertaining to knit. Every four stitches or so, another gorgeous color!


Kelley's birthday is in early March, so finishing them doesn't seem like much of a challenge. Except these socks were promised to her for her last birthday. So...yeah. I win at gift knitting. Forever.

In the "less good" category, we have my mom's Charades, knit in Crystal Palace Maizy Print. Since the gauge for this yarn is the same as the last Charades I knit for her, (using Panda Cotton Print - another Crystal Palace yarn), I reasoned that I could expect similar results with this new yarn.

Just to clarify the idiocy level this assumption is operating at, let's compare the fiber content of these two yarns:

- Panda Cotton: 59% Bamboo, 25% Cotton, 16% Nylon

- Maizy: 82% corn fiber, 18% elastic nylon

See? Nothing alike, really. Despite the rather, er, glaring differences between the old yarn and the new yarn, I merrily cast on the same number of stitches for what - I hoped - would be a very similar pair of socks. Because how different could TOTALLY DIFFERENT YARN be? Lalalalala I can't hear you....

Amazingly enough, at first it looked like my master plan would work out. I had my mom try on the first sock during her last visit, and it fit well. I was cruising along through the foot. All seemed right in the world.


But it turns out, this yarn slowly but oh-so-surely stretches like a motherfucker:

After trying it on a few more times, it seemed, well...a little big...


After a few more times, even bigger fact...Holy shit! Gigantic! (yes, both my rather wide feet do fit into one sock intended for my narrow-footed mom)...


Perhaps this yarn is not actually destined to be a sock.

I hope my mom will enjoy the nice scarf it will become.

Finally, there is a sweater. Previously blogged about and not much progressed since then. Here's the bottom cable band, all knit up and ready for the body stitches to be picked up.


I'm tinkering a bit with the pattern to better match Kelley's measurements, and we haven't managed to get her, the knitting, the pattern, sufficient sobriety, and the desire to measure in the same place at the same time until very recently.


I assume, given my facility with math and the humors of the knitting gods, that all this tinkering may turn out disastrously. But now I have her measurements, a giant swatch and a hoodie she likes to compare measurements to, so perhaps I will actually knit something resembling a well-fitted sweater. Optimism! Baseless naive hope! Potato. Po-tah-to.

Life, like knitting these days, seems to be a series of usually hopeful, occasionally stuttering starts, with a lot of lag time where not much seems to happen.

I finished my contract gig with my corporate masters in September. I decided to take a few months off before looking for work, and that stretched into another month and another. Being unemployed is equal parts fabulous and disconcerting. I never realized that working for a living was actually an important part of my identity. I never thought of my systems analyst gigs as a "career" or a major part of who I was, but not working at all feels very, very strange. I gave myself until after New Year's to just relax and enjoy being unemployed, but the job search will start up again soon.

I've also been dating a bit, which is instructive, terrifying and entertaining, as always. Nothing clicked for quite awhile, but I did make a good friend out of the whole process. And I hesitate to jinx it, but I recently met a guy I quite like. It's early yet, but we seem to be a really good fit so far.

The knitting, the job, the guy...I'm looking forward to seeing how all this turns out.

October 27, 2010

When you look up hubris in the dictionary...

I'm pretty sure you'll see my picture. I've started knitting a sweater.

Some of you may recall the rather, er, painful experience I had with my first sweater. But undeterred (or, only deterred for three years*), I've started another sweater.

This sweater, the Providence Hoodie, from New England Knits.

Let's look at the series of mistakes I've already made:

1. I read the instructions and thought "Hey, I can totally knit this! It's actually really easy!"

2. I knit and blocked a huge swatch - IN PATTERN - and got gauge bang-on, with the recommended needle size. Given how tightly I knit, this is a clear violation of all the laws of physics and/or an especially cruel joke.

3. The knitting is going really well. I've finished the bottom cable band, about the equivalent of half a cabled scarf (I hate knitting scarves). And I'm thoroughly enjoying every single damn stitch.

4. The friend I'm knitting it for loves it, too. She named the swatch ("Swatchy"), and carried it around with her all day when I showed it to her. She's also received periodic photo updates on the cabling and remains madly in love with it.

See what I mean? I think we can all expect an especially spectacular fuck-up any day now. Because the knitting gods surely will not stand for this.

* Jesus, I'm a pussy.

October 11, 2010

She gets it

I may have received the single best compliment a knitter could ever receive.

My BFF Quinn called me up last week to tell me she wore her new scarf and socks. First, she mentioned that several people complimented her on the scarf. They touched and admired it and praised the skill of the knitter (we knitters love hearing that). She also gave them a peek at the sparkly fairy princess socks (it takes a especially knitting-friendly person to also show off the usually invisible handknit socks), garnering more praise for the knits and the knitter.

All this was lovely to hear, but the best was yet to come. She said:

"It was cold. And I had all these great things you made. It felt like I was wrapped in cozy warm love the whole time."