Saturday, November 15, 2008

Sweater Curse

It is well-known in knitting circles that nothing will doom a relationship faster than knitting a sweater for your man. If you are already married/partnered, or at least engaged, then you're probably okay. But if you are not, then it doesn't matter how long you've been together, or how strong your relationship is, as soon as you cast on to start the sweater, you've sent your relationship on a downward spiral from which it will never recover.

We don't know WHY this happens, but we don't question it or challenge it. If a relationship can survive a sweater, it's built to last.

As it happens, I do not have a significant other for whom to knit. Last night, I went on the first date I've had in months. While I enjoyed it a great deal, I didn't start going through my yarn stash or patterns in my mind. I'm not opposed to entering into a relationship right now, but I'm not seeking it out. And I'm certainly not going to test it by knitting.

However, I've learned that, at least for the gay boys, the sweater curse can be circumvented. The way to do this is to knit for yourself. And, if your paramour happens to get a lot of use out of the sweater, well, didn't you go into the relationship at least partly to double your wardrobe?

Okay, I'm kidding. Sort of.

"My boyfriend knit this for me, you bitch!"

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Viva la Revolucion!

Curious observation. For two consecutive days now, while knitting on my evening commute home, another knitter has noticed me, and quietly pulled out her knitting as well.

It takes a small amount of chutzpah for a guy to pull out his knitting on public transit. But apparently I am now inspiring others to knit on the Red Line.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

By Request

So, a reader asked what I carry my yarn around in. When I'm going to and from work, I generally carry my project du jour in my backpack.

Handy, this. I can also stuff my lunchbox, the book I'm reading, and various other items in this and it doesn't really get in my way.

However, I also use tote bags if all I'm carrying is knitting. Typically, this means I'm headed to the coffeeshop for a couple hours of people-watching, chatting, and knitting. Some of my bags have knitting themes...

...and some do not.

Today, I headed out to a social lunch event, and decided that I need something small that I could fit in my jacket pocket, so I started on the second transit sock (as I've chosen to call that purple-and-green wonder in my previous post).

However, after the lunch to-do, I went to a friend's birthday coffee. (Why aren't there more birthday coffees? Coffee is a major vice for me...better than cake...when I turn 31 next summer, perhaps there will be a birthday coffee celebration). Anyway, this particular friend recently had a child. I had considered whipping out a quick hat for the babe, but never really got around to it. But B (the friend having the birthday) asked me if I would do her a huge favor and knit a hat for her child. "We don't have any hats for him yet. We're not ready for winter. I was going to knit one, but J [her husband] won't let me, because I still have that scarf that I started two years ago and haven't finished yet."

To be clear, I don't understand the concept of someone else not allowing you to knit a project. Even if there are other unfinished projects around. Perhaps if that someone else controlled the purse strings, and the project in question required an expensive amount of yarn. However, hats for babies generally don't require a lot of yarn. And I'm fairly sure that B is in charge of the family finances, because she is an accountant by trade.

However, that is not the point. The point is that the child needs a hat, and I don't mind knitting for children, provided that the knitting doesn't ultimately lead to being responsible for the children. And really, as soon as she mentioned the idea, my mind was already working through yarns in my stash and patterns that could work. So, at this point, I've got this.

I haven't had the opportunity to do anything on double-pointed needles (DPNs) lately, and this is kinda fun, if for no other reason that it looks really bad-ass, though it's not at all complicated. I'm also double-stranding, which simply means I'm knitting two strands of yarn from two separate balls at a time, instead of the standard one strand, one yarn deal that encompasses most knitting. All this means is that the hat is going to be a bit thicker than one might expect.

The yarn I'm using is Sugar-n-Cream, an inexpensive 100% cotton. I prefer cotton for children because there's no issue of itchy wool, and there's no risk of accidentally discovering that the child is allergic to wool by causing a giant rash on their head. Plus, it holds up in the washing machine better than most wools (gentle cycle, of course).

The little dude from The Nightmare Before Christmas came into my possession at a Halloween party I attended last weekend. I'm not really sure why he's in these pictures, but he is becoming something of a mascot, so I think I may use him for that purpose. He's also a pen-light, which I'm sure will be useful at some point. If I'm sitting at my desk in the dark, anyway.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Mass TransKnit

Since knitting on public transportation is sort of how I got started on this journey, I figured I should talk about it a little more.

So far, I've found that the best thing to knit, especially on a crowded train ride home, is socks. Because I can use short, circular needles, which means there's no awkwardness with whomever may be sitting next to me. And most sock patterns are generally turn into a mindless repetition soon enough, meaning I don't have to fully engage. Lately, I've been knitting this guy:

The sock is super thick, incidentally. And the little dude from Nightmare Before Christmas clearly approves, as you can see.

I finished that sock last night. However, I was running late this morning, and didn't have time to grab the second ball for the second sock. So, on the way home, I had to settle for my project du jour, which is my diagonal striped scarf.

It's going to have to be much longer, obviously.

The problem with that scarf, for public transit purposes, is that the needles are 13" long. This generally requires more of a wingspan than one can usually score on a rush hour train downtown. I have managed to convert my knitting in such a way that I can usually avoid disrupting my seatmate, but all the same, I think I'd prefer socks on shorter needles.

Unless I someday manage to have a cute guy sitting next to me. Then I might have to rethink my strategy...and hope he's amenable to being disrupted by silk-wool yarn blends.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

My Fair Isle

There is a technique in knitting called Fair Isle. To state it as plainly as possible, the Fair Isle technique is one that allows those really vivid snowflake patterns and the like. For knitters inexperienced with Fair Isle (such as myself), just the mention of the term brings on a nightmarish image rather like this:

This is a quintessential Fair Isle sweater.

Personally, I've never felt compelled to learn this technique. I keep it rather basic with my colors...stripes are good enough for me, and self-striping yarns make me squeal in delight. Or would, but I'm not actually a squealer.

Then came new Mason-Dixon book, Knitting Outside the Lines. When my Local Yarn Shop (LYS), Loopy Yarns, had their Grand Reopening at their new location earlier this month, co-author Ann Shayne was there, signing copies of the book and showing off some knitted wares, the patterns for which were in the book. I don't generally buy knitting books, and a book signing has never been something to entice me.

I glanced over at the signing table while mingling with people and fondling various yarns (never the other way around), and my eye was caught. I made my way to the table, touched a knitted throw, and said, with a slight tremor in my voice, "Is this Silk Garden?"


Yes, indeed, it was some of my beloved yarn brand, Noro. In this case, a worsted-weight silk/wool blend, done up in a fun and whimsical throw.

I left with a signed copy of the book, and started reading about the pattern on the way home.

The damn thing is done using Fair Isle.

Because my passion for selected projects rarely takes my skills and ability into account, this means that I'm going to have to learn Fair Isle. This will be a process. A process that no doubt will be followed in this blog.

The first step will be working on my stitches in general. I have an extremely tight gauge. In order for Fair Isle to work, as I understand it, I need to relax to something roughly resembling a "normal" gauge. This is because a certain amount of "stranding" is involved. To illustrate, go to your closet and pull out a fair isle sweater (we all have one, whether we admit it or not). Turn it inside out. Chances are, you will see that there are strands of the various colors of yarn going horizontally along the sections where actual designs appear on the front. My knitting is generally too tight for something like that to be successful, meaning I would have an impressively warped project.

I have resigned myself to the fact that, in order to achieve a more relaxed gauge, I'm going to have to knit a lace pattern. I don't knit lace patterns, because they are almost all way too girly for me. However, it's something that would require a normal-to-relaxed gauge in order to turn out well.


There is an afghan I like, however, that requires some light lacing, and might be a go. I already have the yarn, so I have to decide if I'm ready to cast on and start something that large, when there are so many socks and hats in the world needing knitting, but it might be the way to go. The good news is that because I do not have the yarn for this fair isle project, nor currently the funds to buy it, I have time on my side.

I will keep you posted.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Sweater

Ah yes, the sweater. Franklin finally sent the photos he took of me in the sweater.

It's a long sweater.

And I don't care for my face in either photo. Hence the photo-altering to give myself an alarmingly sunny disposition.

Now, the sweater has gotten a LOT of attention, and has received a lot of praise. But there has been some fun poked. One of my co-singers in the Chicago Chamber Choir asked if it was a knitted smoking jacket. Apparently, this is smoking jacket length. Regardless, I don't know what would possess someone to knit a smoking jacket. That just somehow doesn't seem appropriate. Nonetheless, he called me "Hef" for the rest of that rehearsal.

But I've got a freakin' awesome sweater, and he doesn't.

For the record, this took 11 skeins of Noro Iro. And five rockin' buttons.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Street Cred

Clearly, it is necessary for a yarn blog to have photos. Right. What good is a knitting blog if I can neither show off some of my stuff, or at least prove that I do, indeed, knit.

Socks are a favorite of mine. Even with my big, honkin' man-feet.

One observation I have is that an amazing majority of sock patterns show something roughly like what you see here. Someone, using only one leg, standing on her toes (it's almost never a man, and when it is a man, he certainly isn't standing on his toes), showing off the sock. I've got to tell you, it wasn't easy holding the pose long enough to take the photo.

Yes, I'm flat-footed. And yes, I have swept the floor since taking that photo.

The yarn I used made it's own stripes. The yarn band was in German, however, and before I could take the time to decipher it, it got on the wrong side of my cat. Oops. I can tell you that it's very similar to Regia sock yarn.

Of course, not everything I've knit has been a good idea...

This was a nosewarmer that I knit a few years back. I met a friend for coffee, and he was so horrified that he took this picture. Most people who have seen the picture have inquired about the beak. Not in the "I'm interested" way, but in the "I know I shouldn't wonder, but there is a certain morbid fascination here."

The yarn was scrap yarn.

Hats are always good. I can always get behind a hat that has some cabling challenges to it.

I honestly don't remember what yarn I used for this hat.

Continuing with hats, babies are AWESOME. They have tiny little heads, and won't bitch if they don't like the color.

Though I am forced to concede that this child looks a bit perturbed, I choose to think it's a general frustration with the world in general, as opposed to his headware. The hat was a basic stockinette deal done up in Sugar 'n' Cream. An inexpensive cotton yarn that's pretty much perfect for small humans.

Then, there is what is probably my greatest yarn achievement to date. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you Lizard Ridge.

This is an afghan that used up 20 skeins of Noro Kureyon, and I only wish I had a better picture to share. I'll see what I can do about that. I am working on a second Lizard Ridge, and have enough Kureyon to venture into a third, if I so chose.

I also recently finished my first sweater, done up in Noro Iro. My attempts to photograph it were largely unsuccessful. However, Franklin has photographed it, and I'm sure he'll send the photos to me as soon as he remembers...

I have, of course, knit many other items, but these are the ones I've managed to photograph.