Monday, November 29, 2010

I May Be Crazy, But I'm Not Lonely

This obsessive knitting thing is relatively new to me. I actually know the precise date and approximate time the bug bit: It was my birthday in 2009 in the mid-afternoon when my mother innocently gave me a copy of Stitch 'N Bitch. We're hauling up to the 1-year anniversary.

Since I'm a relative newbie, I'm still catching up on the thousands of years of knitting culture that I've missed. Of course I'm starting with the newest first (I'll get to ancient Egyptian knitting sooner or later), so I've been reading Stephanie Pearl-McPhee's At Knit's End a few pages at a time for the last few days. Recall yesterday's drama with the miscrossed cable. Today I read this:
Faced with a major knitting mistake, such as a miscrossed cable, I have three basic choices. I could ignore it; pull the work back and re-knit it; or go wild, drop the offending stitches, and painstakingly spend hours with a crochet hook tediously fixing just those few. . . . It's not necessarily the smart thing to do, but there's really nothing like conceiving and executing an insane feat of repair and having it work. (102)
See that?! Stephanie Pearl-McPhee--the Great Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, one of the premier knitting gurus of our age and the only author of a blog on any topic that I've loved enough to read the entire blog from the beginning in chronological order--suggested the same three solutions I did. Okay, you say, that's because those are the ONLY three solutions. "Not impressive, Noelle," I can hear you saying. And you know what? You're right. It's not impressive that I came up with the same three solutions that literally millions of knitters before me have already thought of. But it does prove this: I may be crazy, but I am not alone.

I'd also like to point out that SPM suggests using a crochet hook to pull up the dropped stitches. I didn't wimp out and use a hook. I actually re-knit the stitches. I'm pretty sure this makes me more hardcore than Stephanie Pearl-McPhee.

You heard me.

(But please don't tell her I said that.)

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Um, Never Mind.

Working needle pointing to formerly miscrossed cable,
which now looks like all the other cables.
Ta Da!
We'll just file that one under "less intimidating than it looks." Don't you love it when life works out like that? I still feel awesomely brave. And, yes, I'm looking forward to performing an appendectomy with a table knife.

Holy S#*t (in which I am brave)

I'm working on my first cabled project, a hat. I did cables once before on a square, but it was just an experimental thing to figure out the construction. This hat is the first time I've ever put cables into an actual item of clothing. I've just started the decrease rounds, and at this stage it's supposed to look like this:

Unfortunately, the other side does not look like this. It has a miscrossed cable about 10 rounds back. If I had better photo editing skills, I'd draw little lines on the hat to show you how one of the cables went awry. But I'm a knitter, not a photo editor (hello crappy lighting), so you'll just have to trust me when I tell you that one of the cables that's supposed to be angling from the right to the left is actually angling from the left to the right. Fellow knitters will know precisely what I'm talking about, and even the most decorous knitter can sympathize with the title of this blog entry. "Oops" and "oh darn" are not the first words that spring to mind.

Now this kind of thing happens all the time. I am by no means the first knitter to make this mistake nor to face the dilemma of what to do about it. There are three general options:
  1. Ignore it. The miscrossed cable is right above the tail, which I will designate as the back of the hat anyway. This is a tam. It's supposed to be slouchy. I'll just squoosh that part up so that no one will notice it. This option is extremely tempting. 
  2. Unknit all 10 rows and start over from this point. This option, essentially knitting backward, is known in the knitting community as tinking. Tinking sounds a lot cuter than it actually is. It's easy enough. In fact, if you're learning to knit by yourself from a book or the Internet, you're likely to find that it's actually instinctive. And if it's just a few stitches, or even just a couple of rows, it isn't so bad. But tinking 10 rounds would be a total pain in the . . . well. I suspect that the person who came up with the name tink is probably the type of person who would bring home a feral cat and name it "Snuggles."
  3. The third option is the scariest. It involves taking only the six stitches involved off the needle and ripping them back to the row before the mistake, then rekniting them in the right order all the way back up to the top. I've seen it done (once) and read about it a couple of times (not with instructions, just in the narrative sense of "I removed those stitches and then knit it back up"). I  have never done it myself. The person I watched was a yarn shop owner, a woman who really knows what she's doing. And she only had to go four rows down, and it was a very simple lace pattern, not cables. In fact, she was fixing a shawl I had screwed up not nearly as badly as I have screwed up this hat. If I, a mere mortal, attempt to rip back this hat, I could screw it up to a point from which there is no return. This is the knitting equivalent of me walking up to someone with a mild stomachache and saying, "Hey, I copyedit medical textbooks and I've read about appendectomies, so hand me that table knife and go lie down on the table. I'll have that sucker out of there in no time."
Of course, this is a hat, not a human, and it's good to try new things. So now the hat looks like this:

Holy S#*t.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Recipe for a Bad Day

1. Before running errands, let dog out to pee. Don't pay attention to what he's doing, let him in, leave.

2. Go to copy shop to ship art back to client and fax invoice. Realize that you only have the client's old address and can't ship art. Let the wind catch the invoice and blow it under the car into someone's dumped . . . something. We're going with the assumption that it was food.

3. Crawl under car, retrieve invoice (at least being stuck in the brown muck prevented it from being blown away), clean it up, take it in.

4. Deal with snotty copy shop guy when fax won't go through because client changed fax number without bothering to alert anyone.

5. Call client, maintain a pleasant phone voice, get correct fax number, give to snotty copy shop guy who deserves a pop in the nose because he is just that snotty. Go home.

6. Discover that when you let the dog out to pee before you left, he rolled in something evil. I mean this smell is morally reprehensible.  This smell indicates that you need to go search the yard for the dead squirrel or bird that must be out there somewhere.

7. Realize that dog has been unsupervised in the house for the last half hour and has almost certainly been sitting on some piece of furniture, transferring his very special scent. Decide that you just can't face sniffing the furniture right now, and will let it be a surprise. (Pray that it isn't the bed.)

8. Plop the dog into the tub. Lather, rinse, repeat FIVE TIMES. Do not completely eliminate smell. Determine that mere Pet Smart brand shampoo is powerless against this scent and that you have tortured shivering dog enough, take him out of the tub.

9. Realize that you have neglected the absolutely vital step of getting an old towel out of the closet before putting the dog in the tub. Chase dog around the house and catch him seconds before he starts drying himself on the heirloom afghan crocheted by your great aunt who died when you were three years old.

10. Accept this tiny victory. Decide the universe can kiss your ass and spend the rest of the afternoon knitting a sock.

ETA: Prescription HyLyt vet shampoo with a subtle coconut scent seems to have conquered almost all of the funk.  Will sniff again tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

If Only (in which I have regrets)

The college basketball pre-season started last night with KU soundly trouncing Washburn. That's not newsworthy, but it got me thinking about sports in general. Basketball is the only sport I have ever cared about at all. In particular, I despise football. It's boring. It's grown men running around trying to knock each other down on purpose. Although I recognize that most sports have a "warlike" element to them, it seems really obvious in football, and it makes me kind of ill. Being forced to watch football makes me twitchy.

When I was a young teenager, I belonged to a church youth group that had a Super Bowl party every year. I only went one year, was deathly bored, and never went again. I hated football so much that I simply could not endure four or five hours of it, even if it meant I was hanging out with my friends.

But now (you knew I would work around to this) I knit. Knitting makes so many boring things bearable. Recently, I went over to my mom's for dinner and she had golf on the television. My mother likes to watch golf. I don't know why. I think she's secretly jealous of the perfectly green lawns. I do not like golf. Normally I would immediately start whining: "This is booooring. There has to be something better on." As soon as I could, I would snag the remote and check TCM. The stupidest old western is better than golf. At least there's a story, no matter how inane.

But on this day, I had my knitting with me. I don't remember what I was working on, but I pulled it out and started stitching. And suddenly golf didn't suck. I got involved. I watched the players. I appreciated the beauty of the swing, was happy for the players when they made good shots. I was downright gleeful when one of them knocked the little white ball in the small hole and the announcer informed us he was "under par," whatever that means. Apparently it's a good thing, so I was happy.

Eventually I came to a stopping place on the project and it was almost time to start dinner, so I put my knitting down.

Suddenly golf sucked again.

I hated it. My fingers, no longer restrained by yarn, started twitching toward the remote.

I don't understand the effect that knitting has on brain chemistry, but there's no doubt that it is calming. Occasionally someone will make a comment to me about how they would never have the patience to knit. "I don't knit because I already have patience," I tell them. "Knitting gives me patience."

All this makes me wonder whether I could've borne those youth group Super Bowl parties if I had just known how to knit. If I had learned to knit sooner (or at least taken it seriously; technically I already did know how to knit), I might've been able to withstand five hours of grown men knocking each other down. Although those teenagers (one or two in particular) would've given me grief for doing something as dorky as knitting, the knitting itself would've given me the grace to smile serenely in the face of good-natured taunts, and would've made it possible to spend that time with my friends and maybe learn to see what they saw in football. More importantly, it might've given me the space and time to learn what was worthwhile in them, something I was too impatient to bother with at the time.

I hope someone invites me to a Super Bowl party this year. I figure five hours of people running into each other on national television is probably worth a little over half a sock.

Monday, November 1, 2010

How to Get a Pair of Socks (in which my evil genius is revealed)

A mark friend asked about socks, so I came up with this plot plan to sucker my friends out of free yarn exchange yarn for socks. If you would like a pair of hand-knit socks, follow these simple steps:

1. Go to a yarn shop in your area. (For example, someone who lives in the Washington, D.C., area could go to any of the many fabulous shops in Maryland or Virginia.) Do not, under any circumstances, go to a Hobby Lobby. I will know. If you send me $3 yarn, you will get $3 socks.

2. Buy two skeins of sock-weight yarn (also called fingering weight; the yarn shop ladies will help you). Get two skeins of 400-450 yards per skein or four skeins of 200 yards/skein in your choice of color and material (washable--acrylic or superwash; I refuse to hand-wash socks, and don't want you to, either).

3. Mail me the yarn (remember, that's 800-900 total yards), your shoe size, and some general style preferences (e.g., lacy? ribbed? cabled?). I reserve the right to overrule your style preference if it doesn't match the yarn you sent (e.g., self-striping yarn is best in plain knit stitch, usually still pretty cool in ribbing, and looks downright dumb in fancy-pants lace and cables; ask me how I know).

4. One ball of yarn will be returned to you as a pair of socks.

5. The other ball will stay home with me where I will pet it while giggling maniacally at my own evil genius because I tricked someone into sending me yarn.