Zeldaphant

IMG_5688We photographed a new shawl today, but looking at the pictures in my camera I remembered that I never blogged about this little guy, who I finished knitting a few weeks ago. So the shawl post will come later in the week; for now: Zeldaphant!

I call him that because I knit him for my friends’ little girl’s first birthday, and said little girl is named Zelda. The pattern is Elijah by Ysolda, and it’s as good as everybody says it is. It’s one of the most popular toy patterns on Ravelry, and while I don’t have a huge amount of experience with knitting toys, I’d definitely say this was the clearest, most sensible, least annoying pattern for a toy I’ve knit so far. The key to getting the trunk to curl for me was to stuff the whole head pretty densely, because you need the trunk to be very densely stuffed so you can pose it, and if the head isn’t packed very tightly then the trunk stuffing will migrate into the head.

The yarn I used was Caron Simply Soft from my stash — it’s the softest, cuddliest acrylic I’ve found so far, and since this is a gift for a one-year-old I wanted it to be as thoroughly machine-washable as possible. I figure if Zelda likes it, this toy is likely to be both dragged through dirt AND chewed on, and ain’t no mama of a one-year-old got time to lovingly handwash her toys. Like many Ravelers, I decided to make the feet in a contrasting color. And I am INSANELY PROUD of how pretty my embroidered french-knot eyes came out. Check it:

IMG_5687I actually suck at embroidery; my secret weapon was this tutorial. It’s steps 5 and 6 that really set this apart from other french-knot instructions on the internet; pushing the knot down to the fabric before pushing the needle through is the key to making it not come out crappy.

I’ve been meaning to do more WIP-blogging — I feel like a lot of finished objects (like this one) crop up on this blog without you having even seen them on the needles. I also think that more WIP blogging will allow me to talk a little more about knitting as a process, and to share some of my techniques and approaches in more detail. I’m eventually going to try to do more WIP-only posts, but I actually have a backlog of FOs to show you at the moment, because the start of the school year has crowded out most other things in my life for the past few weeks. In addition to this guy and the shawl I’m going to show you later this week, I have another finished shawl that I’m going to put on the blocking board today!

About two weeks ago, I took this picture of my WIPs and recently-finished-but-unblocked pieces. They’re arranged in chronological order of start date, oldest at the left. I call it “Red Shift”:

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It’s kind of amazing: all summer all I wanted to knit was blues, and then sometime in September red seems to have taken over my brain. The yarn on the right is a sweater quantity of Madelinetosh Sport in the Tart colorway that I picked up at Imagiknit in San Francisco on a weekend I was up there recently. I felt like it was a stroke of brilliance on my part to buy a sweater’s worth of Madelinetosh in person, because the skeins are so variable and there are no dye lots. Imagiknit is maybe my favorite LYS in the universe, and it manifested its wonderfulness in the salesperson who went in the back and got all 20ish skeins of Tart that they had in stock, and went through them carefully with me helping me to pick a matched set.

At this point everything on the blue side of this photo is finished, except for the color-block garter-stitch blanket in the middle there (which is going to take about a thousand years), and you’ll see the other projects soon. All the red is still underway, but it’s all been temporarily shelved in favor of two more urgent projects that are neither blue nor red:

IMG_5751They photograph poorly when they’re unblocked like this, because the ribbed gussets make them curl up all weirdly, but these are the Cusp socks that I started as a mini-KAL with my friend Lisa back in April. We knit on them for a few weeks and then stopped, because she’d made some mistakes and had to start over and wasn’t feeling up to actually doing that, which I understood. Then we decided to pick them up again in September and try to finish them in time for the October mystery KAL we both wanted to do, and we both failed at that goal — but as you can see, I’ve come pretty darn close. I figure I can probably finish these at some point in October if I finish any of the mystery KAL clues early.

That KAL is the Boo Knits “Morticia” Halloween Mystery KAL. Boo Knits is the author of Rainshine, which I knit recently, as well as many other dramatic, interesting shawl patterns, so I decided I trusted her to come up with something worthy of Morticia Addams. I also decided to go whole-hog with the “goth” theme:

IMG_5755(I don’t want to show you an in-progress pic in case any of you are doing the KAL and might have the “mystery” spoiled.) It looks kinda blue or purple here, but that yarn is in fact black — Blue Moon Fiber Arts Marine Silk Lace in the “Shadow” colorway. I really like the “Raven Clan” colorways, and thought long and hard about getting a blue-black or a green-black, but ultimately decided to go for a true black so I could wear it with red and blue equally well. The beads are 6mm Miyuki cube beads from Fusion Beads, which I had a lovely experience with & which doesn’t have minimum order sizes, unlike some other online bead vendors. This KAL is still in its first week — it’s not too late to join me!

Pompa

I’ve finished my Pompa scarf and I’m thrilled with it! It’s perfect for spring, and the color is fabulous. Thanks, Julie, for that skein of Tosh Merino Light — it was the perfect match for this pattern!

My only modifications were to knit this much longer than the pattern specified (Anne Hanson’s scarves are always so short!) and to do my standard lace-bindoff so there’d be sufficient stretch for blocking. I just knit this until I felt like it was long enough, and when I weighed it I found to my amusement I’d used 100 grams — exactly what a current skein of Tosh Merino Light weighs, but this must have been one of the older skeins that had 440 yards instead of 420.

The earrings I’m wearing in the above pictures are my own creation — I remembered today that I haven’t blogged them (or the necklace that matches) yet. Here they are up close:

I bought the beads when Pat & I were in Portland in January, and I finally strung them a month or so ago.

I’ve also started knitting my Acer Cardigan, and I have something to show you that is going to blow your mind. Are you ready?

That, my friends, is a full-on, four-inch-square, washed and blocked gauge swatch. Possibly the first I’ve ever knit in my life. I do swatch, especially for sweaters, but I usually either knit a tiny two-inch swatch (which sometimes results in heartache), or, in the case of my Leaving cardigan, I knit a whole sleeve as a gauge swatch and then had to pull the whole thing out. This time I wasn’t taking any chances, and I also miraculously hit gauge on my first try as you can see here. So now I’m off to the races with the sweater itself:

So far, this sweater has been a lesson in hubris and, accordingly, in Advanced Fixing of Mistakes. The charts seemed complicated at first, but after a day or two of meticulously moving my handy pattern magnets through the chart, I realized that all the non-cabled rows are the same and started gliding along more quickly. BUT because there are two very similar charts (what you see here is actually two charts that mirror each other), I started making mistakes after the next cable row, doing things like working “k3” instead of “k2tog yo,” and I didn’t realize it until last night. So I had to do a LOT of multiple-row local fixes, turning whole columns of “k3” into whole columns of “k2tog yo” or  “yo ssk.” But I surprised myself by being able to do this passably on the fly, without consulting youtube! And now I know to pay close attention on the rows after the cable crosses.

My other new project is this simple side-to-side garter-stitch scarf that I’m knitting Pat for our anniversary:

Pat has never wanted me to knit him a scarf before, because we live in Southern California and he almost never feels like he needs one. But we went camping in the desert last weekend and I thought to throw in an extra scarf for him since it gets cold in the desert at night, and he was immensely grateful. So I’m knitting him this scarf out of the leftover yarn from the socks I knit for him and me this past winter. The colors remind me of dawn in the desert, which makes this a triply wonderful anniversary present.

That’s it for now, but tune in next time for Adventures in Steeking!

Abrazo

Hey, look! A new location! For once in our lives, Pat & I traveled to a slightly different place in our apartment complex to take these photos. And frankly, I like this spot better– it’s greener, and there are no cars passing by silently judging me for posing like a fashion model in elaborate knitwear.

This is Suzanna IC’s Abrazo, from the most recent issue of Twist Collective, which is jam-packed with amazingness — I urge you to check it out if you haven’t already. These sorts of scarf-shawl hybrids seem to be all the rage at the moment, and Suzanna IC herself is “so hot right now,” with two scarf-shawls in Twist, one in Knitty, one in Interweave, two in Knitcircus, and one in Yarn Forward — all in this season alone! Suzanna’s patterns are basically all for laceweight yarn, whereas most of the examples of this trend that I see are patterns written for sock yarn that’s too precious to make into socks: Corrina Ferguson has a ton of them, for example. As a person who loves to knit lace but who has been having trouble fitting proper shawls into her youthful wardrobe, I welcome this trend with open arms.

This is the only picture where you can see the beads, so look hard — they’re especially visible on the parts of the shawl that are over my arms. I used size 8/0 clear glass seed beads — the ones I had initially bought for my Aeolian Shawl before I had a fit of the crazies and decided to use even tinier 11/0 beads.  The yarn I used is Squoosh Fiberarts‘ Sublime Lace in the “Cedar” colorway. You may remember it from my ill-fated attempt to knit Hannah Fettig’s Featherweight Cardigan. That was a stupid idea in the first place, given how tedious I found knitting her much smaller Whisper Cardigan, and the final nail in the coffin of that project was that this is superwash yarn, which means it wasn’t going to fuzz up and fill in the holes that knitting laceweight at such a large gauge would create. So I decided to knit this Abrazo right away as a preventative measure — if I used up enough of the yarn on something else, I couldn’t return to that stupid idea even if I wanted to. I had, like, 1800 yards of this yarn to begin with, and this shawl used up maybe 450, so I still have tons leftover — I figure I’ll use it for a big fancy wrap one of these days.

For this picture, Pat urged me to “be a dinosaur.”

All in all, I really enjoyed this project — it went lightning-fast, especially once the lace part was over. The rows are of course very long, but there really aren’t that many of them in the final analysis. And it’s a very versatile piece — it’s lacy, it’s shawly, it’s scarfy, and it stays put in a wrapped-up position much better than triangular shawls do. I’ll probably be making some more of these!

And now for some more miscellaneous pictures I didn’t get to show you yesterday:

This pretty little thing is a circular needle case that Pat got me for my birthday. Isn’t it gorgeous? It’s from this Etsy seller, if you’re interested. Here’s the inside view:

This is something I’d been needing for a long time — my circular needles had just been a big bundle of chaos in my craft bureau for years. Here, I’ve organized them by size, so it’s easy for me to tell at a glance whether I have the needle I need or not!

Aaaand one last gratuitous shot of my plants:

Look at all those flowers! I’m astonished at how early they’ve come out; this plant was still flowering when I bought it in September or October of last year, so I’m looking forward to a long summer of pretty purple flowers. My other plant hasn’t started flowering yet, but I’m hoping it will soon!

Mission Accomplished

I have officially finished my Christmas knitting, and well before Thanksgiving, too! I feel like I deserve a medal. That medal might be for “Most Realistic Expectations,” though — I could never have done it this fast if I hadn’t been aiming low, making hats for my male family members (which take less than a week each) and a scarf for my mom (which took 2 or 3 weeks). This here is a Koolhaas Hat for my dad, modeled by my very patient boyfriend. It is knit from Caron Simply Soft, because my dad is allergic to wool, and I’ve found Caron to be one of the softest, least objectionable acrylic yarns around. The pattern is wildly popular on Ravelry, with over 3800 projects — in fact, it’s the most popular hat on Ravelry if you don’t count Calorimetry, which is really more of a headband. This baffled me a little at first, since it’s not an easy hat by any means — there are an awful lot of pain-in-the-butt rounds where you have to use a cable needle every four stitches — but I figure its popularity must be due to the fact that it’s one of the few truly gender-neutral patterns that is still complicated enough to be giftworthy. The problem with male hats, as I discovered this holiday season, is that they’re either too plain to make very good gifts &/or to be worth knitting at all (depending on how well you can tolerate boring knitting), or they’re trying to pass off cables as “manly,” which only really works if you’re knitting for a J Crew model. But the Koolhaas hat really can be worn by a man or a woman equally well, and its intricacy shows the kind of care we’d like our knitted gifts to show. So I figure what’s going on across the knitting world is exactly what went on in my head: “okay, so this hat will be a pain in the butt, but it will look good and since it’s a hat it will be over soon.”

How cute is this picture? My one gripe with this otherwise exceptionally well-written pattern is that it doesn’t provide a stockinette gauge measurement. The gauge is only given in the lattice pattern, which is only charted in the round, so the only real way to check your gauge is just to start knitting the hat and pray, and check your gauge once you’ve knitted the whole bottom band and once through the lattice chart — aka, once you’re like 1/4 of the way through the hat. It helps that the stitch pattern makes the hat pretty stretchy, though, so when your gauge is off and you decide “fuck it, I’m gonna keep knitting,” your hat comes out pretty okay anyway. Ask me how I know. 😉

So yeah, in the absence of a gauge swatch, knitting this hat was a giant leap of faith. My dad has a pretty enormous head, and the pattern was only written in one size for men and one size for women (both of which have the same diameter; the only difference is depth), so I decided to go ahead and cast on an extra 8 stitches to do one extra repeat of the lattice pattern, figuring that my dad’s freakishly large head would need the accomodation. My first clue that my gauge was significantly off was when I got to the recommended measurement for the ribbing only about 80% through the recommended number of rounds for the ribbing, and when I had knit enough of the lattice pattern to check I got pretty worried. But I soldiered on, and ended up knitting the hat the number of rounds recommended for women rather than for men, because my row gauge was so much bigger than the pattern’s. And it’s come out just fine; the lattice is stretchy enough that even I can wear it with my normal-lady-sized head and it doesn’t feel too big, but it’s clearly got enough room for my dad’s head. (Pat’s head is slightly smaller than my dad’s, fyi.)

In other news, I have made two new knitting friends in the past two weeks! The first was “Fishnet,” of My Cup of Tea. She posted to a Cornell alumni board on Ravelry looking for a Cornell alum in Orange County who knits, and I raised my virtual hand. I’m probably the only other one of those in these parts, so I was happy to meet her. We went out for lunch, which was lovely, and it sounds like she’ll be coming to my knitting circle on Thursday to meet other academically-minded knitters. The other knitting friend is one who I “made” in the active sense of the word — I took my friend Katherine on a trip to Yarn Lady in Laguna Hills on Saturday to buy her very first yarn & needles. She was impressed by the friendliness of the people there and their willingness to provide help, so I’m hopeful that she’ll be joining the fold. We’ll be teaching her on Thursday, but I think I’m going to step back and have one of the knitters I taught last fall do the teaching. For one thing, I think someone closer to the beginner experience might actually be a better teacher — and for another thing, I’d like to give these new knitters the opportunity to experience the joy of teaching the craft!

Another crafty thing I’ve been up to that I keep forgetting to share with you is a beading project I did a few weeks ago. When I went to Michael’s to get supplies for my Halloween costume, I noticed that they were having a big sale on beads, and I got seduced by some pretty jasper. So I made these:

Beading is basically a tertiary hobby of mine — I’m inspired to make something maybe once or twice a year — but I’m beyond pleased with how this set came out. All of those stones are jasper; it just naturally comes in that range of greens, purples, and browns that I love so much and that matches so much of my wardrobe. And I’m also pretty pleased with my choice of spacers; I couldn’t decide between the smaller smoother ones or the larger knobbly ones, so I bought some of both and think that the combination is much better than either would have been on its own. Swoon!

Next time on Doublepointed: Some socks get resurrected, and I begin a quixotic quest to knit an enormous blanket before what passes for winter here in southern California comes to an end!

Brokedown and Beautiful

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I finished my Aeolian shawl, as you can see. I had to stay up until three in the morning the night before we left on our trip up to northern California for the wedding, but I finished it. This shot was taken at the Pacific Star Winery, where our friends’ wedding was held, and it was absolutely gorgeous. I also finished my dissertation chapter, for those of you playing along at home — so, missions accomplished.

The shawl turned out great. The size 11 beads were perfect; they didn’t weigh down the cobweb-weight yarn, but they added some lovely sparkle. And all my worrying that the shawl was going to turn out too big was for naught; the skinniness of the yarn balanced out the extra repeats of the yucca chart that I had to do due to my failure to count to eight, and it came out just about right. This was my first adventure in beading, and while it’s not my favorite technique ever, I became proficient enough at it that I was able to do it on the airplane coming back from the east coast. This involved keeping my little tupperware from spilling during turbulence and holding my crochet hook and my right knitting needle in the same hand, all while while simultaneously watching a brain-rotting romantic comedy, which I think qualifies me for minor knitting-deityhood.

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I finished the bindoff at about one in the morning the night before our trip up north for the wedding, and faced the question of whether to block it then and there, or to pull the classic blocking-in-the-hotel-room stunt that so many lace knitters before me have had to do. I opted for the former, because as much as depriving myself of sleep right before a seven-hour drive sucks, trying to block in a hotel room and realizing that I’d left some crucial blocking supplies at home would suck more. When the piece was soaking, I asked Pat if he had any old sheets lying around that I could use (since the shawl came out significantly larger than my blocking board), and he produced this checkered sheet that is clearly going to be my blocking-surface-of-choice from now on. (As many of you know, it’s very helpful if your blocking surface has a grid pattern on it because that helps you shape your piece evenly.) Despite my joy at KnitPicks cheap modular blocking boards, it’s become clear to me that a sheet pinned to the carpet works just as well, if not better.

Here’s a shot where you can actually see the beads. Note also my ghettotastic use of safety pins, because this thing far outstripped my supply of proper rust-proof T-pins:

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You can also see the subtle variations in the color of the yarn in this shot; it’s really quite lovely. Despite my love of lace, I’m reluctant to knit in true solid colors, because there are just so many interesting hand-dyed yarns out there. A nearly-solid color yarn with subtle variations like this offers the best of both worlds; it has some visual interest without competing with the lace pattern. The yarn, to remind you, is Stitch Jones Nirvana Lace in the “French Blue” colorway. It’s 70% baby Alpaca, 20% silk, and 10% cashmere, which makes it 100% delicious, let me tell you. But it’s not for the faint of heart — it’s cobweb weight, and I had to work this shawl on US 1s to get the density I wanted. That link will take you to Knitty Noddy, where I ordered the yarn, and which I again recommend highly for their excellent customer service.

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On our way up to the wedding, we spent a few days in Berkeley, where I got to visit the Verb for Keeping Warm studio. Shortly before my trip, I ordered a skein of yarn from them that turned out to be not quite the color I was expecting, so I sent them an email asking if I could come exchange it in person, to which they happily obliged. It’s a lovely little shop set up in what are essentially two adjacent garage spaces — one is where they do the dying, and the other is where they sell the yarn. Kristine was very helpful, explaining the dying techniques involved as I fondled her yarns. I chose this, because I was trying to not end up with another blue/green/gray scarf or shawl — lord knows I have plenty:

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It’s their “Wishing” laceweight yarn in the Persimmon colorway. It’s 65% wool and 35% tussah silk, which is exciting. And the dyes are all natural! I’m thinking that Anne Hanson’s Hillflowers scarf/shawl might be just the thing to show off its texture and colors.

That was going to be it for my fiber adventures — I wasn’t even going to force Pat to go to Imagiknit again, which required considerable self-restraint! — but at the wedding-rehearsal barbecue I spotted a girl in what was clearly a Noro sweater, and when I sidled up to her to talk knitting she informed me that the Mendocino yarn shop, which she loved and had not been able to find a replacement for in all of Chicago, was having a 20 – 50%-off sale because they were moving. So the next morning I teamed up with my friend Julie, who is also a knitter, and we dragged several of our non-knitting friends to the shop. And this was my haul:

terramooi

So yeah, I didn’t exactly succeed in my goal of avoiding blue-greens. But this Terra yarn from The Fibre Company just had such a compelling texture that I couldn’t resist. It’s 60% merino, 20% baby alpaca, and 20% silk. I think the blue chunks are the silk, actually. I bought 300 yards of it figuring I’d make a scarf, even though I wouldn’t wear a scarf that heavy very often in southern California, but when I got home a stumbled across what just might be the perfect pattern for it, which I’ve already cast on — I’ll show you next time. The tan-colored yarn is Louet Mooi, another interesting fiber blend that I’ve been lusting after for several months and was happy to snap up on sale — it’s 15% bison, 15% cashmere, and 70% bamboo.

But all was not sweetness and light. After the wedding, we discovered that I’d left my headlights on, and when one of the bride’s friends generously offered to give us a jump, he connected the wires incorrectly and fried some circuits in my car’s wiring. We called triple-A, who were unable to help us, and furthermore informed us that since it was Labor Day weekend in a tiny isolated town, we were unlikely to find an open mechanic until Tuesday. We had only booked our hotel through Saturday night and had planned to drive back on Sunday & thereby miss some Labor Day traffic, so we were in a tight spot. We managed to extend our stay at our hotel, and the bride & groom were sticking around Mendocino through Labor Day, so we had people to hang out with, but it was still a harrowing couple of days. The triple-A guy had said some terrifying things such as “your car’s computer-brain might be fried, which will cost lots of money to repair and will require you to be towed a hundred miles to Santa Rosa where the nearest Hyundai dealership is,” and faced with that possibility I realized just how precarious my financial situation is — I can take care of all my normal expenses just fine, and I can occasionally go on vacations, and I can occasionally splurge on yarn, but I just don’t have a spare couple of thousand dollars lying around for emergencies like this. I also realized how weirdly much I love my car. I paid for it my damn self, over the course of about four years via a loan from the bank — in that time I never missed or was late on a payment, and I was incredibly proud when I finally paid it all off. The idea of losing it after all of that was pretty awful, no matter how hard I tried to think about it like a Buddhist.

Fortunately, it turned out about as well as it possibly could have. On Sunday, we called every mechanic in both Mendocino and Ft. Bragg, and they were all closed, so Pat and I decided to go on an adventure on foot through Ft. Bragg to Glass Beach on the north side of town.

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And on our way back, we followed signs to a Labor Day craft fair where I bought this to use as a shawl-closure:

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The guy who made it was asking $18, but he said “it’s the end of the day, so make me an offer” and I offered him $10, which he took. So, yay. Sunday evening we had a lovely time partying with the bride and groom and some of their other friends who were still on town, and then on Monday morning we called every mechanic in town again, and the one who answered the phone happened to be the groom’s family’s trusted mechanic of many years. So though we had to pay triple-A $40 to tow us to Mendocino from Ft. Bragg, we figured it was worth it to both know what the damage was sooner and to go to a guy we knew wouldn’t rip us off. He turned out to be able to fix the car in a single afternoon and for much less than we had steeled ourselves for, so we were mobile again by Monday night. Here I am knitting on my Hamsa scarf to pass time time on the Mendocino headlands while we wait for word from the mechanic:

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All in all, not a bad place to be stuck!

At the Kitchen Table Doing Shots of Resignation

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Friends, this Aeolian will be the death of me. What you see here is the shot glass I am using to hold my beads. I’m sure that people who use beads regularly have fancy little trays for this purpose — in fact, I’d bet you five bucks that you can buy handmade fancy little trays for this purpose on Etsy with pictures of fairies lovingly painted on them — but I prefer to use what I have on hand. I had planned to do 8 repeats of the yucca chart and 1 of the agave chart, but I somehow failed to count to 8 and instead did 9 repeats of the yucca, which is a problem because the agave chart doesn’t work if you do an odd number of repeats. (Guess how I know. Hint: the answer is not “I read the pattern carefully.”) When faced with the decision of whether to painstakingly tink back 8 enormous shawl rows or just plow ahead and knit another 8 for a total of 10 repeats of the yucca, I chose the easy way out, knowing full well that it might lead to Shawl Giganticism and/or Stabbing My Eyes Out Because Of The Insanely Large Number Of Stitches On The Needles. I am already regretting this decision.

In better news, the beading is going pretty well. You will be bemused to know that, after showing you that picture of how tiny my beads were last time, I decided that I needed beads which were even tinier, and I hauled off and ordered some 11/0 beads while the 8/0 beads cried themselves to sleep in the purgatory of my miscellaneous-craft drawer. (Do not think I have only one craft drawer — the other two are devoted to yarn.) The problem with the 8/0 beads was twofold: 1) My yarn is extremely, extremely thin, and the 8/0 beads looked too large, and 2) I’m still hesitant about the flashiness of a beaded shawl in the first place, so I wanted the beads to be as subtle as possible. They are subtle as hell, let me tell you. I skipped the beading for the yucca charts, but I started it on the transition chart and if you squint really hard, you can see some shiny bead-ness in the upper lefthand corner of that picture up there. I swear. And of course they are also at the bottom of my shot glass.

Speaking of which, it’s ten o’clock at night and I can think of something else which maybe should be at the bottom of my shot glass, so I am signing off. Wish me luck in my quest to finish knitting this thing by Labor Day — I’m gonna need it!

Welcome to Crazytown, Population: Me

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I propose that Elizabeth Freeman is the Thomas Pynchon of the knitting world. She appeared out of nowhere with a background in science, wrote two of the most original, complicated, but ultimately very readable shawl patterns in recent memory, and is totally reclusive. Her Ravelry profile exists but is blank, and she doesn’t appear to have any kind of blog or even to do any design work other than occasionally writing the biggest and best shawl pattern ever. She is responsible for the Laminaria that I recently finished — a pattern that came out a little more than a year ago and has over 1100 projects on Ravelry — and the Aeolian that you see in its nascent stages above — a pattern that came out just a few months ago and is already giving the Laminaria a run for its money, with 840 projects on Ravelry.

What you probably can’t tell from the above picture is that it is in fact evidence of severe mental illness. The yarn you see there clocks in at about forty wraps per inch, making it cobweb-weight — half the thickness of normal lace yarn, which is more like 20 WPI — and I am using US 1 needles to knit it, which are all of 2.5 mm in diameter. Now, to be fair, this was not originally my plan. Originally I was going to knit this shawl in Handmaiden’s Mini Maiden yarn, which is a totally reasonable 14 WPI — I was going to make the smaller shawl in this thicker yarn, it was going to be super fast, and then I was going to get back to those other projects I showed you last time. But when the yarn arrived in the mail it was too purple to match the dress I was planning to wear to the wedding in September, and I despaired. I wrote to Evelyn, the proprietor of Knitty Noddy where I had ordered the yarn from, and explained the problem. Not only did she allow me to return the Mini Maiden, but she photographed several other yarns for me that she thought might work better, so I could see them all next to one another to compare their colors. One of these yarns was the brand-new Nirvana Lace from Stitchjones, an indie dyer — a yarn so new that it’s not on Ravery yet, and so new that Evelyn hadn’t even photographed it for her website yet, so I could never have found it without her help. And the color match turned out to be perfect!

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It matches so damn well that I was helpless to resist its crazymaking cobweb-weight charms. The upshot of this story is that (a) it’s not my fault, and (b) Knitty Noddy is a wonderful shop with a lovely & helpful proprietor that will be my first choice for internet yarn-purchasing from now on.

With a dress like this you might wonder why I’m not knitting a white shawl for contrast, and the answer is that I’ll wear a blue shawl on other occasions, but a white shawl would be really hard to bust out for a cocktail party without looking like I was planning to ascend to heaven at any moment. (Like Elizabeth Freeman kinda does in some of those Aeolian pictures.) Also I don’t get invited to that many fancy cocktail parties; I’m having a hard enough time trying to figure out how to wear shawls to bars and barbeques.

Now, the Aeolian is a shawl that is supposed to be knit with beads, which is something that I’ve never done before. I was originally planning to make it that way, figuring I may as well learn to do it and see if I like beaded shawls, but I was unable to find a crochet hook small enough to fit through the beads of the recommended size. I eventually ordered one on the internet, but I decided to go ahead and start the shawl without beads — since the yarn is so skinny, I think a whole bunch of beads might make it rip apart under its own weight. Probably I’ll put beads on the edging, though, in an attempt to have the best of both worlds. Check out how tiny this hook is!

aeolianbeading

It’s a US 14 hook — crochet hooks get smaller as the size numbers get bigger, which is the opposite of how knitting needle sizes work. It’s a whopping 0.75 mm in diameter at the tip there. The plan for this picture was that the presence of my hands would be a scale to help you see how tiny these objects are, and hence how much misery I am heading towards — but in fact, the tiny hook, yarn, and beads have the effect of making my hands look all fat and huge. Please believe me when I say that my hands are in fact very petite. I have been severely handicapped at playing the guitar because my fingers are just not long enough to make bar chords, and the number of guys I have dated who thought it was debonair to recite those lines from e.e. cummings that go “no one, not even the rain, has such small hands” is pretty embarrassing.

So here’s hoping that my tiny hands will be an asset in this extended visit to Crazytown. Wish me luck!