Archive for February, 2011

A Blocking Dilemma

Back when I started college, I was a novice knitter. I knew how to knit, purl (incorrectly, I later realized), cast on (with one method), bind off, and very little else. Essentially, I could make scarves and hats, if you didn’t care about them being plain and the fact that every other row of stitches was twisted.

Then I met my friend Alexis. Alexis, it turns out, was also a novice knitter, but both of us were in some bizarre place in our lives where we needed to prove our worth and machismo by blatantly lying about our knitting abilities. She would bring up cabling, and I would nod wisely and say that of course I could cable. I would then run home and teach myself how to cable. She taught herself stranded colorwork. I took on one of the more insane colorwork projects of my life, which contained some rows with five colors, as a first project.

The Turkish cape. Someday, I will screw up the courage to try this again.

In the space of about two years I taught myself how to do cables, lace, intarsia, fair isle, and pretty much every other fancy knitting skill that I can do now, mostly through the help of knitty articles and youtube videos. It was insane. Of course, Alexis and I slowly started to claim certain skills as ours, and actually got legitimately good at them, and at some point we even got to the point where we could admit to the other one that we didn’t know something.

One skill that Alexis took to and I never really did was lace. In part this was because I didn’t think that lace looked as cool as cables, and in part because it took me several years to figure out how to actually do a yarn over, and this meant that when I attempted lace it often came out looking rather odd. (I’m still not sure why this was as difficult for me as it was. Yarn overs aren’t exactly complex.) And while I can knit lace now, I still tend to do it only as an accent in projects and not as entire projects. Then one day I was looking through patterns on ravelry and fell in love with Hemlock Ring, and immediately decided that I was going to knit one of these someday. It took me a bit, but a few weeks ago I cast it on. I knit for a while.

The blanket, pre-blocking.

I was kind of nervous as I was knitting, because it looked a bit wonky, but I reminded myself that lace always looks weird before you block it and told myself that everything was going to be fine. When I doubted this, I contacted Alexis and she told me that it was going to be fine. Better than fine, even. It was going to be lovely. And I do trust Alexis, so I kept on knitting (and knitting, and knitting, and then binding off for forever.) And when it was done I gave it a bath and then pinned it out to the desired dimensions.

The blanket, mid-blocking.

It looked beautiful for a while! I wanted to steam block it but the iron here is terrifying and really not safe and so I told myself that all would be fine, and the fact that it looked absolutely beautiful was proof of this. Unfortunately, all was not fine. When I unpinned it, it was already starting to get a little wobbly, but I put it on my table to take pictures and said that it was all going to be ok.

Post blocking, day 1.

I gently folded it and stuck it in my basket of things that I needed to take better pictures of. Then I took it with me to get more pictures several days later, and by that point it basically looked like it had never been blocked.

Lots of wrinkles. Many, many wrinkles.

So, it clearly needs to be reblocked. And I’m going to admit something that I would never ever have admitted at the beginning of college; I don’t really know how to do this better. Somebody help me?

Also being blocked at the moment is my Opus Spicatum, which was a very quick project and lots of fun. Full writeup on that when it is dry and I can take some pictures.


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In an attempt to accomplish goal #3 (that is, the diminution of my stash) I have been working on some small colorwork projects that require small amounts of several different yarns. This is good for my knitting soul. Conveniently, these projects have all had Latin names. This is good for my classicist soul. Today, everybody wins!

Quo Vadis? Mittens, finished.

The first project was a pair of Quo Vadis mittens, made for my lovely housemate Jess. I liked this project mainly because it was very quick, fairly amusing, and used up lots of random bits of yarn that I had forgotten that I had. Actually, it was a lot of fun to remember which projects different colors came from- the cream came from a hat for my brother, the teal from a pair of gloves for my sister, the various colors of Wool of the Andes from many pairs of French Press Slippers, the light yellow from a skein of Lamb’s Pride that just won’t end…

Though I’m not entirely sure where the name Quo Vadis came from, in this context, it did make me think of the movie Quo Vadis, which is one of those movies that as a classics major you get roped into watching at least a couple times, much like A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum or Ben Hur.  (Though I love A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, and have never actually seen Ben Hur.)  I’ve watched Quo Vadis about three times now, and that is enough for one lifetime.

Project number two is not quite finished, but in an effort to take more knitting photos I do have a shot of it in progress.

Opus Spicatum, in progress.

This is the first half of anOpus Spicatum beret, which I first queued 2 years ago and have never gotten around to knitting.  It’s knit with wool of the Andes in fedora and some more of the skein of light yellow Lamb’s Pride that really apparently is never-ending.

Opus spicatum, if you are wondering, is a kind of masonry construction technique where bricks (or rocks or what have you) are laid in a herringbone pattern.  It’s often used for pavement.

Now, the funny thing is that, despite the fact that I have over 3,000 pictures from my time abroad in Rome, I can’t find any pictures of actual ancient opus spicatum. What I found, after extensive searching, was this photograph:

Opus spicatum on the stairs!

This is a picture from a museum (I suspect the archaeological museum in Tarquinia) and if you look on the stairs you can see some of the herringbone pattern that is opus spicatum.

There are many days when my classics life and my knitting life do not overlap, but sometimes they do and on these days I am happy.

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Knitting Goals, 2011

My name is Caroline, and I love to knit. So much so, in fact, that when I make lists of goals they are pretty much all knitting related. These are my goals for 2011, which hopefully will be achieved and documented here on a fairly regular basis.

I'm not sure why I love this picture as much as I do.

What could be better after a long day than a bowl of lovely hand-dyed yarn?

1.  Finish Knitting A Pair of Socks.

I have started multiple pairs of socks in recent years but never actually finished any of them.  The reasons for this are somewhat obscure.  I’m not particularly afraid of any parts of knitting socks- I have an unhealthy love of short rows, and so actually enjoy turning heels, I generally have huge amounts of patience for knitting projects, and I love both sock yarn and DPNs.  I would say that I usually stop because I get bored, which is true but somewhat ridiculous coming from someone who thinks that size three needles are a great size to use when knitting sweaters.  I also stop because I usually start knitting them over a break and don’t feel like carrying them back to school with me in my suitcase, which is a really silly reason when you actually think about it.  Also until recently I lived in Southern California or Greece, neither of which are environments that really required me to wear socks.

So this year I want to change this.  I’m living in a colder climate.  I have a copy of Think Outside the Sox that I got for Christmas, a bunch of sock yarn that is just waiting to be dyed, and size one DPNs and circular needles.  I don’t think there is much that can stand in my way.

2. Use Fibers Other Than Wool

I am a wool enthusiast.  I pretty much love everything about it- the way it feels on the needles, the way it hangs on finished garments, even the way it smells when you get it wet.  I like sheep.  I like different breeds of sheep.  I can spend hours cooing at pictures of lambs, and I’m fairly certain that I’m probably going to end up living on a sheep farm some day.  But there are other lovely fibers out there and I’ve come to realize that by pretty much only knitting with wool I’m rather severely limiting my options. So this year I would like to knit some things out of other fibers, both things I have tried before, like cotton and alpaca, and things I have never tried before, like milk fiber and bamboo.

This is not to say that I’m going to stop knitting wool, though.  That would just be depressing, and would stop me from accomplishing goal #3-

3. Use Stash

My stash is, by knitter’s standards, actually pretty small.  It fits very comfortably inside a couple boxes in my closet and doesn’t threaten to smother me in my sleep or attempt world domination.  But by the standards of someone who moves around on a fairly regular basis it is huge!  My books take up more room, but it’s a close call, and a lot of those are required for my work.  So this year I’m rediscovering yarn that I bought years ago, sorting it into piles, and actually using it.

4. Try New and Exciting Things!

2010 was a great year for knitting!  I discovered the joys of ravelry, used knitting to make a lot of friends, and, insanely, knit 8 adult sized garments, 7 out of sport weight yarn or smaller.  This was lovely because I now have a lot of sweaters (and yarn for more) but I also got to feeling like I couldn’t knit anything else.  At my knitting group I was suddenly known as sock-yarn-sweater girl.  People were surprised when they saw me holding a pair of size seven needles.

I also had a long queue of projects that I was pretty sure I was never going to get to because they would get in the way of my frantic quest to knit a million sweaters and give myself carpal tunnel.  Then, miraculously, I finished a sweater and realized that I was good for a while and really felt like knitting a hat or possibly a pair of mittens.

5. Take Nice Knitting Photos.

I take nice photos.  I take photos of knitting.  Very rarely do I manage to do both at the same time.  However, I find that the knitting blogs that I love and the projects on ravelry that I look at the most are the ones where projects weren’t plopped on a table in a dark room and photographed quickly.

6. Actually blog about knitting…

I think it’s going to be pretty clear if this one is happening or not!

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