27 February 2010

Tangling with Procrustes, or No Gold Medal this Year

It will come as no surprise to people who know me that I often do not know myself as well as I think. A lineup of the men I've dated would be a good indication of that.

So when Stephanie Pearl-McPhee (The Yarn Harlot) alerted her readers that the 2010 Knitting Olympics were on, I decided to sign up. It wasn't until late on the day of casting on, when the Olympic Torch was probably already cold, that I even decided which project I would take on.

I considered mittens (I've knit one pair before; they are MIA and my hands are colder than they like), a baby sweater, a vest for Afghans for Afghans, a slew of things. I tore up Ravelry trying to find a pattern for a vertically knit, preferably seamless sweater for my generously sized self that I could make out of the shitload of this yarn (in the Natural Denim color) that I have been squirreling away, skein-by-40%-off-coupon-skein at one of the Big Box of Yarn stores. I looked at shitloads of patterns for lots of yarn that's kicking around (or, more likely, floundering lonesomely) my house and car. That I do not (yet) have a stash at work is one of my last tenuous arguments for any sort of sanity.

Then I remembered this yarn: Wasonga by Curious Creek Fibers, in a colorway they no longer have: Emerald City. It is the color of true love; of intellectual curiosity piqued, satisfied, and piqued again; of joy and creativity and spiritual renewal and....

And I had no blinkin' idea what I would do with it, but when I saw A. the color, B. there is no silk in it, C. that it is not made in China, and D. the name of the colorway, I knew it had to come home with me. The price tag made me balk briefly, as I don't usually spend this kind of money on myself.

So, when I had that yarn in mind, I began looking at Ravelry again, and found The Garden of Alla shawl. At first I thought it was typo, but, if Wikipedia is to be believed, The Garden of Alla was a bunch of famous apartments that used to be on Sunset Boulevard, owned by Alla Nazimova (unfortunate last name, nu?), an actor who is alleged to have had affairs with Oscar Wilde's niece and one or two of Rudolph Valentino's wives. And, most scandalous of all, she was the godmother of Nancy Davis Reagan.

The shawl hooked me in the heart, I fear. Here, for the Ravelry crowd, is a bunch of pictures that may help to explain my obsession: here's a slew of people who have made them, and here are some pictures I especially like. There's something about the arches of yarn-overs, the spaces between the knitted portions, that makes me think of cathedral domes or something.

Here's the punchline. Tomorrow is the end of the Olympics, of the snow-and-ice variety and of the wool-and-swearing sort, and I have most recently finished row 37. That's the sort of half-circle at the nape of the neck that looks like leaves. The rest of the shawl bears little resemblance to the start.

This is where adjustable expectations comes into play. See, when I made the commitment, I was not aware that the original was knit in worsted weight, while mine is sock yarn. So I am, essentially, creating the Golden Gate bridge with spider silk instead of I-beams.

The day after I cast on, I stopped at a local yarn store and was assured that a size 4 needle was perfect AND that I didn't need to punish myself if I didn't finish the shawl by the deadline. I had already been considering gold, silver, and bronze medal dates, and when I got back that day to the folder with all the project stuff in it, I wrote the following:

"Gold---I finish the shawl by Feb. 28
Silver--- " March 28
Bronze---" May 1

AND I don't kill anyone. It is not fair to get more knitting time by sitting in jail."

It has occurred to me since that I have taken on a task that is not merely a stretch of my knitting prowess and ability to manage my time well, it is a Procrustean bed of a project, requiring its own folder for pattern, pep talks, swearing, planning, and ribbon band. But the facts are that I am still trying, I am making something for myself, I am also knitting what is likely to be the first of many projects for kids in Haiti, I am still working that pesky day job, feeding the dog, and seeing to other commitments. And no one has died at my hands.

Those are seventeen pretty successful days.

22 January 2010

Months later, she poked her head out

from the pile of wool, books, badly written papers and dog hair, and exclaimed, "Uh, oh! This new idea is either brilliant or bughouse."

I was just visiting here, the blog of Franklin Habit, whom I admire greatly and whose writing I adore with the heat of a thousand suns, and my verification word was "dymobl." I thought first of Diebold, then hissed.

Then I read it as "die mobile." Thought I, "Yes, I was planning to be mobile until my death."

Then "dye mobile," [as a verb and adjective pairing, so "mobile" rhymes with "global"] and here's where the trouble began. (Cue T. Rex's glam Druid anthem "Ride a White Swan.") If you are old enough to remember David Cassidy, jeans that were spray-painted onto people's bodies, and David Bowie wearing a year's supply of Tammy Faye Bakker Messner's daily cosmetic regimen, you may remember the Energy Crisis of the early 70s. As always, Americas' patriotic responses were immediate and varied. Some did nothing, other turned their thermostats up to 75, figuring they'd be the last to freeze to death. Some people responded by downsizing to Torinos. Some bought mobile homes large enough to be considered sovereign countries by the U.N. Some made clothing from newly-devised petrochemicals.

And some people cooked dinner in their cars. Really. They tried to save fuel by preparing their food in the morning, wrapping it in aluminum foil, schlepping it to work and stashing it in the refrigerator, then, after work, strapping the cold food package to the engine block and cooking the food on the way home. I think there were car cookbooks. (Is there a Ford fondue in your future?)

So, having read my verification word as "dye mobile," I started wondering if the same thing can be done to yarn. Soak it, drain it, roll it and toss it and mark it with 'B,' hit it up with some coloring agent or other, wrap it in plastic wrap and then foil, then let the car engine work its magic. Voila! Toyota Turquoise! Prius Purple! Buick Bailout Blue!

Godawful Gray Felted Gunk. How hot does an engine get?

I have some 30+-year-old wool given to me by Mom a couple of years ago that's lovely, but it may need a spin on the color wheel. I've got Lion Brand Fishermen's [sic] Wool that was the first yarn I bought that was not Red Heart, each skein a half-pound reminder that not only did the Sweater Curse work before I even had a chance to cast on, but that the Man Who Wasn't Such a Good Idea After All (#5,217 in a series) was a big guy. What the hell did I plan on doing with it, anyway, knit him an Econoline cozy? He wasn't that big (and as a good-sized woman myself and a lover of justice, I despise fat jokes); I am trying to report here that I bought a veritable shitload of wool.

So, instead of grading the last of the papers, I shall be doing some online searching about engine cookery and merrily extrapolating fiberwise.

I love the smell of wet wool in the evening...

(Hmmm... "Die, Mobil" just came to mind, and considering how I feel about corporations as people with the right to free speech, and especially Exxon-Mobil (ask an otter why), I rather liked it.)