Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Not a Good Month for Green

I follow a lot of knitting-related blogs, though I'd be hard-pressed to remember how or when I found any of them. One of them, the fabulously named Violently Domestic Hunter Hammersen recently published her second book, The Knitter's Curiosity Cabinet: Twenty Patterns Inspired by Vintage Botanical Prints. As the name suggests, it's a collection of ten sock and ten accessory patterns inspired in turn by ten botanical prints (one sock and one accessory pattern per print. Got it? good.). Having watched her blog for some time about its creation, I gave in to temptation and pre-ordered a digital copy (print copies will be available some time this summer) and had it in my hot little hands (aka iP*d pdf viewer) a few days latter. I pored over the patterns and the Narcissus Pseudo-Narcissus Socks (Daffodils) begged to be knit. The cheery green, the growing leaf pattern - what's not to love?

Well, the saga of finding an appropriate green sock yarn, for one. I searched high and low, coming up with very few options. On etsy, there was a seller in Ireland that seemed possible but a touch on the dark side, but my last etsy transaction had taken a week to ship and I was feeling gun-shy. A friend pointed me to a yarn shop that had a green sock yarn, but it looked a little too variegated and, well, I wasn't feeling the love. A dyer I follow on twitter had a green in a yarn I'm familiar with but it's a bit thin for my purposes so she offered to dye another base up for me, but I don't know how that went (pst, if you're reading, I'm still interested!). Finally, an indy dyer I'd been watching, Old Maiden Aunt restocked her shop to the point that I could bear to look through it.

This brings us to a familiar rant: I hate having to click on an item to see if it's in stock, especially if the answer is mostly "no". If I've clicked on 10 things and 7 or more (let alone all) of them are out of stock, there's a good chance I'm going to take my marbles, in this case my credit card, and go home. You want to show off your range of inventory? Mazel tov! I really am happy to see them. I'm excited to see yarns that may someday be mine, if I come back. But not at the expense of seeing the yarns that can actually be mine now. Especially if there's no way to say "ping me when this yarn/colour is back in stock!" As previous rants have established, quantity is also a plus.

Anyway, OMA had restocked her sock yarns and I pored over the colours and decided on "Emerald City" in a superwash BFL plus another rusty red of the same. If you're looking for blues and purple jewel tones, OMA is your woman, but I'm trying to cut back (my three finished socks are all purple). She's also got a lot of earthier tones if that's your thing. It's not mine so I spent a lot less time drooling over them. But I found my yarn and I ordered it and while it's not a shade I normally think of as "me" it's as beautiful as I could hope. Truly stunning.

I kept the yarn in the envelope until Sunday, when I untwisted my Emerald City skein, put it on my equally lovely umbrella swift, and started winding it with my ball winder. Around 85g into my 100g skein, it became hopelessly tangled. I spent the next hour untangling and winding the last 15g. Very disappointing, but I'm willing to believe it's a one-off. I wouldn't even mention it except it's part of The Saga of the Green Socks. Things are finally going according to plan: I had my yarn wound (in two 50g balls even!) and my pattern queued up, and now to select my needles. My 1.75mm carbon fibre DPNs are in the middle of finishing my second Wishbone Sock and my 2.0mm are still holding my languishing Zum Dirndl socks. My 2.25mm were too loose, leaving my 1.5mm needles:

Isn't it beautiful? Mind you, that's after I had to rip back one of the leafs and reknit it after I *ahem* made an error while watching Battlestar Galactica. A couple rows after taking that picture, just as the pattern was starting to come together for me, I tried it on and... couldn't get it over my heel. Horror. Dismay. Despair. Waah.

Options? Order duplicate needles in other sizes, finish knitting my other socks in progress (or continue knitting the other socks while waiting for duplicate needles...)or add more stitches - tricky because the ribbing on the cuff flows into the leaf pattern. I'm probably going to split the difference - finish my Wishbone Socks (closest to done and I don't want to go much larger on needle size) and add two stitches in the back or inside seam. Thoughts?

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Frogs in the Falls

I have bad news guys: I'm going to frog my Pfieffer Falls Hooded Scarf.
Look at how far I got! I knit the body of the scarf and the pockets (and seamed them!) and am at least halfway through the hood! That's when it became obvious that something was wrong: the hood is too small! Not the end of the world, I know, I could frog the hood and pick up more stitches and make it larger. Only, confronting that the hood is too small made me face something I hadn't wanted to admit to myself, that the fabric of the whole scarf is a little too stiff. It's not perfect and I don't love it.

This is when I know I'm a product knitter and not a process knitter, when the idea of finishing something I don't love, however much I want to love it, mires my feet in mud, weighs down my hands with stones, and tangles my needles in glop. If I don't love what I'm making, I just stop working on it. Worse, when I'm not willing to admit that I'm no longer in love with a project, rather than working on something else, I just don't knit. I've too many things to knit to let my needles languish like that, so it's time to face the facts and frog it.

Except my husband thinks that frogging is the worse thing that could ever happen to a knitter, her project, or her husband. When I confessed my intentions to him, he begged me to reconsider. He insisted that he would love and wear the scarf as-is (minus the unfinished hood) and please, please don't frog it. We've reached a compromise: I won't frog it (yet!). I will set it aside for now, and when I've had some time to reflect on things, I can start the scarf again with the yarn I still have (note to self - find rest of yarn) and then when I'm sure I'll love the reknit scarf the way I want to, then and only then can I unravel the existing scarf.

Friday, 16 March 2012

FO: Knotty Honeymoon Socks

Back in December I announced that my New Year's Resolutions would include learning new sock techniques. Yarn Harlot keeps pointing out that socks are a small canvas on which to practice (or show off) knitting techniques. Don't have time to commit to a fair isle sweater? Knit a pair of stranded socks! Want to play around with cables? We have sock patterns for that, too! But I specifically wanted to concentrate on the different ways of constructing socks: casting on, turning the heel, binding off. For my first socks I selected Nancy Bush's Knot Socks from Ann Budd's Sock Knitting Master Class and took them with me as my Honeymoon Knitting Project*.

The Knot Socks called for three techniques I'd not tried before: Double Start CO, Dutch or Square Heel, and Three Point Toe. I really like the Double Start CO. It creates a slightly decorative edge and the stitches cast on in pairs making it really easy to count and make sure one has the correct number of stitches before joining in the round. I absolutely love the Square Heel. The slip stitch "ribbing" extends through the short rows for turning the heel and offers a little extra padding and extra reinforcement to the heels. Cute and practical! I am less enamoured of the Three Point Toe. I knit a little long in the pattern so, rather than rip back, I increased the rate of decrease stitches and the three points come together under my toes. It's not uncomfortable, but I'm not aesthetically pleased. I'll try it again, starting the decreases when I'm supposed to, and see if I feel any more warmly toward it, but I predict in the future, should a pattern call for a Three Point Toe that I will be substituting a different one.

As for the cabled "knot" pattern, I'm not 100% satisfied. I felt like the cables were "cheating" and that a double-sided cable would have created the same effect but more in keeping with the illusion of plaiting four individual strands together. I'm sorry I can't explain it better than that. I didn't want to play around with the cables in the middle of knitting a pair of socks, but should I make these again, or knit something similar, I'll sort it out to my satisfaction.

I was also less than completely enthusiastic about the pattern being isolated on the front with the ribbing on the back of the leg. In a perfect work the knots could have been worked all the way around and then flown smoothly into the slip-stitch heel. I don't know how that would actually work with the heel, but my inner perfectionist wanted it. At the very least, I would've preferred that the extant ribbing flowed into the slip stitch heel.

These are not intended as criticisms of the designer or the pattern. I enjoyed knitting my socks and I enjoy wearing them (they're lilac btw, not the blue pictured though I like the blue more than the actual colour). I'm sorting my feelings out so that I know what I like, what does or doesn't feel "right" about a given design or construction. I prefer all-over designs; I prefer heels that flow from the pattern. I prefer a more complicated cable that follows rules I invented in my head to an easier to describe one that gives identical results. That leads me to my only deliberate modification: I mirrored the cables on the second sock to create a symmetrical pair.

~ * ~
* My husband talked me down to packing three pairs of socks to take on our honeymoon. I got through one Knot Sock and started the second. I consistently over-pack knitting projects.

Monday, 12 March 2012

My Father

So much to catch up on. I mentioned back in January (yeah, it's been like that) that my father was in the hospital. While Chris and I were on our honeymoon, my parents made their annual retired persons pilgrimage to Somewhere Warm* and it was a Mexico year. My father got the flu, was very sick, and after about a week allowed my mother to take him to a hospital where they x-ray'd his chest, diagnosed him with pneumonia and treated him accordingly. My mother called Kaiser (their HMO) and arranged for him to be medevac'd to their closest hospital, in San Diego**. Because this was an international, privately chartered flight, it took a while to set up and get him transferred.

Once at Kaiser, they wanted to do an MRI but my father was in too much pain to lie down so they concentrated on sedating him. Meanwhile a nurse helped my mother check into the closest hotel she could think of and sent my mother to eat something and try and get some sleep. That night my father had a heart attack. They revived him, which is to say got his heart pumping, and finally got him in for an MRI where it was discovered that he'd ruptured his oesophagus and it wasn't his lungs that were full of liquid, it was his entire chest cavity.

My mother had left my father's iPhone as her contact information, but hadn't thought to turn it on - not that it would've made any difference as my father had racked up a $600 (data) phone bill using it in Mexico and AT&T did the reasonable thing under the circumstances and shut off service. Fortunately the nurse remembered which hotel my mother was at and the hotel sent someone to knock on her door.

My father had a couple of surgeries: repairing his oesophagus, adding stints to drain the foreign matter (food and liquids) in his chest and fluid from his body going septic, placing a feeding tube in his intestine. My brother Johnny got leave from the Army and flew down to San Diego to be with my mother***. He was able to get my email address from his wife and let me know (disjointedly) that our father was in a hospital, in a coma.

A week later, there had been no improvement. Johnny had had to go back to work after a few days so my mother's brother, Jim, drove out from New Mexico to be with her for a few days, then her sister, Kathleen, flew down from Alaska. My father had signed a DNR but Kaiser in Southern California doesn't share records with Kaiser in Northern California**** and my mother wanted him revived when they thought it was pneumonia. But it had been over a week and my father wasn't responding at all, not even to being poked with pointy objects, so my mother asked a neighbour to get the copy of the DNR out of the safe and fax it down (not that, as his wife, she needed it) and she had the feeding tube removed and the breathing machine disconnected and he passed away the following morning, on February 9th. He was 71 years old.

~ * ~

* In their retirement they invested in a time share, the kind where you have points and can pick from a number of destinations on the Pacific side of the US, Mexico and Canada. They've gone to Hawaii or Mexico once a year since.

** Over 500 miles from my parents' house, car, and support network.

*** Johnny pretended to be my father (John) when calling AT&T so my mother could have a working phone - apparently there was a $30 roaming bundle my father could have purchased to prevent the $600 in fees which they kindly applied retroactively. Johnny also taught my mother how to use the iPhone enough to read (but not send) emails and make phone calls.

**** Not keeping them in the same database makes sense - that would be huge to the point of unweildy - but not being able to access them at all?