Hamsa Scarf, and the Start of Fall Knitting

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I loooooove this scarf. Love love love. It may be my favorite FO ever. I had fun knitting those shawls this summer, and they are much more technically complicated than this, but that’s exactly the problem — they’re a little too fancy to bust out for everyday wear, whereas this is something I forsee myself wearing a whole lot. Plus wearing a shawl at all is a little weird for a woman in her 20s, whereas wearing a scarf is cute and French, or something.

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The yarn, to remind you, is Curious Creek Fibers Meru in the “Mysterious Night” colorway. It’s 50/50 merino & tussah silk, which is a raw silk fiber from wild silkworms, which means that instead of being smooth and slippery like silk, it’s got a slightly rougher texure. I chose this pattern (Hamsa by Anne Hanson) because the colorway is quite variegated, ranging from dark blue to very pale green, and I thought the bold lines of the lace would stand up to the changing colors well. And it did!

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What I love about this lace pattern is that it’s intricate without being fussy. This is a scarf I can wear without feeling prissy. I knit it quite a bit longer than 9 repeats that the pattern called for; I think I knit about 14. So instead of blocking out to 45″, mine is 60″. And here’s something weird: while I was blocking this yesterday, I started having a series of vivid memories about riding the New Jersey Transit trains — the old ones, with the yellowish-brown seats — to and from NYC when I was a teenager. And I gradually realized it was because the yarn when it was wet smelled exactly like those traincars — kind of a musty smell, very different from the fishy smell that regular silk sometimes has. I wonder if this is a property of all tussah silk yarns? I guess I’ll find out when I get around to using that yarn I got at the Verb for Keeping Warm studio.

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The scarf is long enough and wide enough that I could even wear it as a wrap if I wanted to; here I’m setting up for a shot with it worn that way. But Pat takes a lot of pictures while I am in the process of setting myself up for the “official” shots, and this time around the candid shots came out a lot better than the normal ones where I am smiling at the camera, so that’s all you get. But we figure it’s a way of compensating you for the fact that every single set of pictures on this blog is taken in the same patch of grass behind our apartment — variety in poses if not in backdrops.

I’ve also been working on my Nadine tunic, slowly but surely:

nadine blocking

I finally got the two lace panels successfully grafted to the front, and now the front and back are blocked, and I “just” have to graft them both together and weave in a million billion ends. This pattern has an interesting construction, and it was fun to knit, but HOLY BABY JESUS is the finishing on it a pain in the ass. You know the Kitchener Stitch graft that you use to close the toes of socks? The thing that you have to look up every time you do it because it’s so complicated, and it takes you like 20 minutes to do it to the 12 stitches on the toe of your sock? This tunic has FOUR 80+ stitch Kitchener grafts, each of which has been taking me like an hour and a half to complete. On the plus side, I will never have to look up the directions for the Kitchener Stitch again.

I’ve also started Ysolda’s new Damson shawlette in one of the skeins of Malabrigo Sock that I recently picked up:

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I know I was talking smack about shawls about three seconds ago, but hear me out: this one is very plain — almost all in garter stitch — and it’s small enough to be worn as a scarf. So I’m optimistic about its wearability. Also I love the color of this yarn; it’s called “Arbol” and it reminds me of the forest floor. I have a skirt that is more or less exactly in these colors, and I wear a lot of brown, so I think this is going to work out. The other thing on my plate for autumn is this:

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Two skeins of Shibui Knits Merino Worsted, in the Pagoda colorway, destined to become a scarf for my friend Matthew. Back in late spring, he requested a red-orange scarf, which sent me on long quest to find the perfect yarn. One of the most interesting things about knitting for me, believe it or not, is these color-searches — getting a particular color in my head and looking high and low for the perfect physical instantiation of it. It means I get to drool over a lot of yarn, for one thing, but it also means I get to explore the work of various dye artists. Probably I should learn how to dye myself at some point, so I don’t have to rely on other artists to make my dreams into reality. But Matt & I are happy with what I’ve found, so I’m off to wind this yarn and start swatching!

Grafting Fail

One of my students recently reminded me of Fail Blog, an internet phenomenon whereby people send in pictures that give evidence of people failing at life in various ways, with the word “FAIL” emblazoned on them to heighten the hilarity and shame. I had my students write responses to the final chapter in the 1976 edition of The Selfish Gene, in which they were to mimic Richard Dawkins’ writing style and write an account of a current “meme,” giving a Dawkins-like account of why that particular meme possesses the essential survival characteristics of longevity, fecundity, and copying-fidelity. This student read her account of Fail Blog to the whole class, with Dawkins-like gravity and conviction, which was hilarious for all and a good lesson about authorial ethos to boot. Little did I know that I myself would soon fall victim to Fail.

Last night, I decided to knock off work at 10:00 pm. Pat (who has given me permission to give him a real name) had declared that he would be done with his work by 10:30, and I figured that a half an hour would be plenty of time to graft one, if not both, of the front seams on my Nadine tunic. Right? Wrong. First I had to measure out and pick up 86 stitches, and then I had to do the world’s longest effing Kitchener Stitch graft on all 86 of those bad boys. Doing just one seam took me over an hour, and when I reached the end, my poor, abused grafting yarn was shredding apart from being pulled through 86 stitches twice each, and I messed up somewhere and had two extra stitches on one side, which I just decided to finesse by grafting them together with their neighbors. I breathed a sigh of relief and inspected my handiwork, while commenting out loud to Pat, who was doing the dishes: “Well, this seam is kind of ugly I guess, but it took me a million years and it’s done and I don’t care.” Then I held the piece up to get a look at the whole thing, and suddenly I was in a slow-motion scene from an action movie: “Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!”

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See the problem? The picture on the left is the way it’s supposed to look, and the picture on the right is my monstrosity. Those little lacy bits at the bottom of the middle part are of course supposed to go down by the hips, and the long lacy side part goes up and over the shoulder to become the strap. As I was rocking back and forth in a little ball on the floor trying to soothe myself, Pat ran the garbage disposal and we heard a loud CRUNCH CRUNCH CRUNCH. I ran into the kitchen to discover that my favorite and most prized shot glass, from the Sod House Museum in Gothenburg, Nebraska, had slipped into the garbage disposal while neither of us were looking, and had been crunched into bits. This morning when the plumber came, he just reached his hand right in there to fish out the big pieces, and then ran the disposal until all the little bits were cleared out. Fortunately we did not have to pay him for this “service,” because we live in a university apartment where maintenance is taken care of by the housing office.

I couldn’t look at my Nadine for the rest of the night, and put in some rows on my new lace project instead (details forthcoming), but I am resolved to get back on the grafting horse ASAP rather than let this thing beat me. Maybe this very afternoon? May the Gods of Win be with me.