Friday, August 21, 2009

Knitting the Wilderness

The crazier my life becomes, the more I am pinning my hopes on my vacation. Work has settled down some this week, but not enough to stop me from daydreaming about the trip. On one day last week that was particularly bad, I went to the library on my lunch break and checked out five books on Yellowstone:

Lost In My Own Backyard - Tim Cahill

Scorched Earth: The fires that shaped Yellowstone

Do (not) Feed the Bears: The fitful history of tourists and wildlife in Yellowstone

and two others that I can't remember and am too lazy to go find.

I've started Lost In My Own Backyard and Do (not) Feed the Bears, and both have been really good. DnFtB is not the type of book I normally like, but it manages to be academic without being dry and the subject matter is actually very interesting. It's all about the way NPS policies towards the wildlife of Yellowstone, specifically the bears of Yellowstone, have affected the bears and the history of the park. The message of the park towards visitors regarding the wildlife in general and the bears in particular went over many changes over the course of the park's history and it's really quite fascinating. However, reading this book kind of...I don't know, took a little bit of shine off the trip for me. It was like I was being reminded that the wilderness of Yellowstone exists only on our (that is, human's) sufferance, and we have basically told nature that it can go this far and no further.

Lost in My Own Backyard reversed it. While DnFtB focuses on the wildlife, LIMOB is focused more on the experience of the park and starts out talking about the geological features that make Yellowstone unique, which I had always known about and had never really internalized. Cahill made points that a few thousand Discovery Channel specials failed to impress on me. Statements like There are more gueysers in Yellowstone than in the entire rest of the world put together gave me a perspective that I didn't get from "60% of the world's gueysers are in Yellowstone." Cahill also starts off the book with a vivid picture of the magnitude of the geological event that created Yellowstone, and the fact that the forces that destroyed an entire mountain range to create the park (creating in the process several years of global volcanic winter) are still active under the park today. The SO's favorite line in the book so far is something like, As you stand at the top of Mt. Washburn looking at 37 miles of mountains that are no longer there..." Very, very good book, and I can't wait to keep reading it. The SO is getting ahead of me on it while I am trying to finish DnFtB, and I almost shushed him out of reading me a line that tickled him last night because I didn't want to be spoiled (curiosity got the better of me and I let him tell me).

The SO also read the intro of Scorched Earth to me as I was knitting this weekend. I picked up that book on a whim because it happened to be next to another one I was looking at (proof that having a good title is very important) and I assumed it was about the fires BENEATH Yellowstone, but it is actually about forest fires and fire management in Yellowstone. So I'm looking forward to that one, too. It's kind of thick, though, I don't know if I'll finish it. Time is at a premium. I mostly read in small spurts as I'm getting ready for bed and for a while after I'm actually in bed (I find it very hard to knit in my bedroom, the light is just not favorable and I just can't get comfortable knitting in bed - it's probably just as well).

I'm headed for the finish line on Swan Lake and I am SO CLOSE OMG but it's one of those projects where the rows get longer and longer as you knit. I have 3 rows left on chart I and then I will be on chart J, which is the last chart (I think. I will have to double check to be sure). I hope I can finish it in the next couple of weeks. I have also made some progress on the collar for Eris.

Even though I have a bunch of things in my 'want to knit' queue, I've become a little obsessed with finding some Yellowstone knitting. This is not just knitting I will work on while I'm on vacation, but I really want something that's actually Yellowstone-themed in some way. I've been searching patterns with titles like 'mountain,' 'leaf,' 'bear,' 'forest', 'rockies' - stuff I associate with Yellowstone. I've been looking at yarns as well. I love the idea of using bison yarn's so expensive! And it's not even soft! I don't get it. Still, I have a hard time thinking of using yarns that are silk or bamboo or alpaca or other stuff that is not really American - I have trouble with the idea of a British sheep breed, too. But, if it just says 'wool' I'm totally okay with that. I know, I'm wierd. On top of that, I'm being picky about colorways. I really kind of want to use some Fleece Artist or Handmaiden yarns. Even though they're Canadian, they're on the same continent, same general habitat stuff, so it counts. It's not about country boundaries so much as the feeling it evokes. When I think of England or China the feelings and thoughts evoked have no relation to Yellowstone whatsoever. Although, I would be okay with a wool-silk blend, especially if I go with lace, because I'm careless and can snap a 100% wool laceweight yarn wtihout even thinking about it. The silk gives me a little more durability, so I'll sacrifice my theme for that. Like I said - I'm wierd. But, I've prowled all over Colorsong and can't settle on a colorway. I really like the idea of using Woolie Silk, either the lace weight or the 3-ply. I'm thinking about woodland, mineral, or earth. But, of course I have to pick a pattern as well as a yarn and I've really had no luck. I thought about the Lady of the Forest shawl kit but the colorways aren't really what I want (I'm sure I could get around this if I tried, but since I haven't settled for sure on the pattern, I don't know).

I've been looking at the Mystic Earth stole, which is certainly thematically appropriate, but I'm not sure lace is the way to go. While you can say that lace projects are epic in their own way, they don't really convey the scale or grandeur I'm looking for. Even though lace can be completely grand and of an astounding scale, and yet also conveys the delicacy of an ecosystem like Yellowstone...are you seeing why I can't make up my mind? Augh. So I thought about heavier weight lace projects. I looked at soooooo maaaaaaaaany paaaaaaaaaatterns.

Then I started thinking about how much I love the feel of Hand Maiden Casbah, and I fussed around with that, looking for patterns for it, and I - just couldn't find what I wanted. This one isn't the right size, this one would take enough wool to denude every sheep on the continent.

BUT, I finally found this.

Oh my God. So perfect! Published in the 1860's, right around the time Yellowstone was being explored. I could use Hand Maiden Casbah in two different colors - like 'Earth' and 'Woodland' or 'Mineral' and 'Woodland'! If I wanted to get really crazy I could add a few stripes of some other colors too. I have two skeins of Mineral in my stash so I could start with that, and then get a skein each of Earth and Woodland to go with it. Maybe some Stardust to go around the edge if I can make it work in the budget (if not, I'm pretty sure I have some leftover topaz). Eeeeeeee!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I can't believe the answer is so simple (and I am so silly).

The only issue is size - how much of what yarns would I need to get the size that I want? But, I'm pretty sure looking at the construction that I could pretty much keep knitting until I ran out of yarn and then stop. Casbah is not a low-ticket yarn, but this is art and memories and somehow I'm okay with it not being cheap. Maybe if we find a yarn shop out there I can buy a special souvenir yarn for the fringe. Maybe what I will do, is knit the first skein of mineral, and then assess how big it is and how much more yarn I will need. And you know what is even more awesome, is that because this is so simple, I can knit it while reading as I anticipate the vacation, and I can knit it the whole time I'm on vacation and still be looking out the windows.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Way Things Are

Things I wish I was doing today:

--Knitting Swan Lake
--Looking at yarns and patterns for some kind of yellowstone themed knitting because I have vacation on the brain
--reading one or more of the 5 books about yellowstone that I checked out from the library because I have vacation on the brain
--Making a paper chain countdown to vacation (Okay, I probably wouldn't actually do this, but I do want to)
--Buying stitch markers (they are cheap and make me happy)
--Getting a manicure
--Getting a haircut
--Basking in my own fabulousness

Things I will actually be doing today:

--Mountains of neglected laundry
--Wash the dog
--declutter the downstairs enough to run the floormate
--Once enough laundry has been done that the floor of my room is visible, vacuum it

Stuff that should be on the second list, but probably won't make it:
--declutter the kitchen table so that we are not eating off of our laps for the next week (usually we eat off tv trays but those are currently too cluttered)
--unearth the loveseat & ottoman, which used to be in my living room somewhere
--clean the shower

Edit: Okay, who am I kidding. The dog does not care if she is dirty, and since the floor of my bedroom has been covered in laundry, it probably doesn't need to be vacuumed. I bet I can get away with the laundry and the floors.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Danse des Petits Cygnes

This is the blog post I wrote before my week went completely to hell. It is now a little out of date. Since writing it, I have finished the cats paw pattern and I got as far as the first few rows of wing before my brain melted so badly I could do nothing but garter stitch. Also, I wonder, if I had given into my initial impulse and gone to sock summit, would I have been spared this week, or was it so bad I would have had to call off the trip, adding another layer of bitterness on top of it all?

I have been knitting like crazy on Swan Lake, trying to power through the cat's paw pattern that goes across the back of the stole. I got through most of Charts E and F this weekend. I didn't want to get bogged down in this section (I get bored with repetitive patterns no matter how pretty they are) so my plan was to powerknit through it as quickly as I could before I had time to get bored. I was hoping to totally finish over the weekend, but I got distracted with some other things and I didn't quite finish. I think I'm something like 15 (right side) rows away from the end of the chart. Then, I get to start the wing. Intellectually, I understand that I have a lot of work left to do. Psychologically, I feel that I am almost done and I'm already casting an eye on other projects. I am pretty well settled that Flamenco is going to hop on the needles the second Swan Lake comes off.

In a fit of recklessness, where I hardly even knew what I was doing, I cast on and started the cabled collar for Eris. I don't know why I did this when I have plenty of other stuff that is not yet finished. Worse, I have so much that is NEARLY finished. I am only about half an inch of ribbing away from finishing the body of my featherweight cardigan. I gave up Swan Lake time to work on the collar. Also, I had forgotten...cable charts are HARD. By which I mean, they are hard for me right now. I had the same problem when I knit Shedir a while back - I just couldn't make the symbols make sense to me. About 3/4's of the way through the hat, I finally understood what the charts visually represented, and was able to do the cables without checking the key every time I came to one. I'm back in the same boat with Eris. The reason that it's difficult is that I can't interpret the chart symbol - I can look at them and see that the end result is supposed to be right-crossing or left-crossing, but beyond that I'm totally stumped, and I'm having to look at the chart key every time I come to a cable or twist symbol. This makes for pretty intense and concentrated knitting. I'm not really sure I'm happy with how it's coming out, somehow my stuff looks a little...pinchy, in places, but the stuff near the beginning looks less pinchy now than it did before there was space, so that's okay. I'm also not THAT familiar with short rows so that has also been an adventure. I knit through chart A and the first page of Chart B, and then I had to stop. I'm a little discouraged, but not too much. I have hope that if I keep going, it will make sense eventually. I had been thinking that maybe I could get through the collar and get the sweater to the mindless knitting stage, that it would be great to knit in the car while we are in Yellowstone next month, but I'm thinking that may not be realistic.

The house is still a mess, work is still crazy, and my knitting is the only thing holding me back from the edge. I fervently pray that I do not go home and find out that I made a horrendous, glaring mistake eight thousand cat's paws ago.

In the meantime, I have occupied myself with some other pursuits...mostly trying to get in the mood for the Yellowstone vacation next month. Looking for music, books, etc. I bought a new notebook. I was just going to use one I had, but I had a bad day so I went and got a new one instead. I used to spend a lot of time looking at blank books in bookstores, different journals and things that they had. I was less than impressed with the selection this time around, to be honest.

I am really bummed watching all the Sock Summit stuff go by without me, but I have found some consolation in the fact that Nancy Bush is coming to teach classes at my LYS. As a rule, I don't go to knitting classes. Beyond the initial lesson of learning to knit, which I got from a friend for free complete with yarn and needles to get me started, I haven't needed a class. I've been able to figure out what I needed to know by following instructions and using YouTube videos. But, this time, I may go ahead and take the class. Even though classes are expensive (I understand why they are, but that doesn't stop me from cringing), and I could probably figure out what I need to know on my own...sometimes you just have to go and bask in the presence of the master.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Rumors of My Death

Well, when I sait that the last post would in fact be my last post...I thought I was joking. But, due some technology switcheroos in my usual blogging time, I've had to put it off more than usual. Work has been killing me, but I'm finally coming up to the end of my little marathon of pain (I think) so hopefully I can come up with blog posts more regularly.

So. What I Did On My Unintentional Blog Vacation

1. Featherweight Cardigan. I love this peice. Miles of easy knitting. It's been great. I really seem to have a love for lightweight yarns. I'm not sure if this a summer fling and I will go back to heavier yarns when winter rolls around again, or if I just plain like lightweight yarns, but I have really enjoyed this cardigan. I'm a little pouty now that it's time for the ribbing. Now I have to like...think. In fact I got two rows in on the ribbing, and discovered I had accidentally knit two stitches in a row in the very beginning and so both rows were off. I could have lived with it, but would have annoyed me, so I tinked. Now I am back at the start of the ribbing again.

2. MS4. I spent a lot of time working on mindless projects until the last couple of weeks, but I finally got up enough energy and attention to start back up with some lace. I powered through chart 6, and now MS4 is half done. A little over half, actually, since chart 6 is knit only once. Then, thinking I could put that momentum into starting the second half, I did the cast on and started chart 1 again, and - argh. I got so frustrated. It's just SO SLOW. Chart 1 is very heavily beaded, and it just takes forever to get anywhere. So, I put it aside and took out...

3. Swan Lake. The beads on this one are much more sparse and a lot less annoying to work. For one thing, this stole is designed so that you set the bead and then knit the stitch. MS4's designer prefers to knit the stitch and then put the bead on immediately after. I didn't like the way it looked way back long ago when I started MS4, and it was part of the reason I ripped out and started over (the other reason was that I didn't like the beads I was using, if I recall correctly). The problem is, in order to get the beads to sit where they are designed to sit, I have to put them on during what would normally be a mindless purl row. So, I keep forgetting and knitting past them. Swan Lake is much easier for me to follow since I am looking at the chart anyway. I'm so happy with this one - it's so beautiful and the beads add a great, tasteful sparkle. However, I'm up to the cat's paw piece that goes across the back, which is...long. But, that's okay - I think since it's a chart and not a 'repeat this 8 million times' I will get through all right. The visual of moving my marker up a chart gives me a concrete feeling of progress, so I don't feel like I'm going to be knitting the same thing over and over until the end of time OH GOD WHEN WILL IT END.

The only gripe I have is the double-wide charts. I get so frustrated because the marker for my chart holder (I have the magnetic KnitPicks chart keeper) can only go over half, and then I have to move the chart and the marker and it really just bugs me. Contrary to the belief of everyone who actually sees me knitting, I am not a very patient person. I like progress. I HATE stopping and starting. This is why I could never get into drop spindling the way I did wheel spinning. I don't want to have to stop and wind and then start again. I just want to freaking spin!

Ahem. So, having faced this problem on Scheherazade, MS4, and now this one, I have given up and decided to get a second chart holder. But, while I'm waiting for that to come - I went to JoAnn's and got some highlighter tape. I've heard about it in a bunch of places, but never found it before. I finally found it tucked in the quilting section called something else, but it's at least holding me out for now. I still prefer the ease of just bumping the magnet up a row (less stop and start), but at least I am not getting dizzy trying to follow a row out to the end with no marker because I can't stand to stop and move the whole frigging chart.

4. Swatch. Last night I finally finished out the swatch I started months ago, the one I am doing with Plymouth Royal Merino, which will hopefully become my Eris sweater. I had some real issues measuring the guage, though. I kept checking and checking and it really seamed like I had the same stitch guage on all three needle sizes. Then I remembered something I'd read in the Yarn Harlot's book (I think it was Knitting Rules, but it might have been SPM Casts Off). I made the SO bring me some blocking pins ("Honey, can you run upstairs and grab my blocking pins?" he goes up and calls down "How many do you need!" "Just bring me the whole tub," I called back (I keep them in a small tupperware container). there was a moment of silence, and then I called up again "or if they're in a pile on the floor, just grab me five or six." "Ah, okay! got it!"). Then I put in a pin, counted out the number of stiches I was supposed to have per inch, and put in another pin. Then I put my ruler between the pins and was able to clearly see whether the pins were an inch apart or not. Brilliant. Anyway, I think I got guage, but I still have to wash the swatch. I almost started without washing it, to be honest, but the directions didn't make sense to me so I decided I needed to sleep before attempting anything (since I have read those directions before and they were perfectly clear).

5. Photography. Some church friends got married this weekend and I took a bunch of pictures for them for their rehearsal, rehearsal dinner, and the bride's shower.

What I Did NOT Do On My Unintentional Blog Vacation

1. Spinning. I have entirely neglected my spinning wheel until last night, and last night - it showed. My spinning was AWFUL. I don't know - did I just get really bad because I haven't been doing it regularly? I can see how that might happen. What was wierd, though, was the way I was noticing the qualities of the wool, which I really hadn't been before, or at least, I don't remember noticing before (but then, it has been a while. Anyway, it was depressing, and feeling woeful, I gave up. I will have to take another shot this weekend and start spinning faithfully on Tuesdays again, so I can get back in shape. Also, I lost my wheel oil at first, and ended up finding a puddle of oil on the TV tray on which I had piled most of my knitting and spinning detritus. That's what I get for not paying attention to my things.

2. Cleaning/Housecare. The house is a wreck. I am doing only enough laundry to get me through the week and only when absolutely necessary. In the meantime I have four baskets of clean laundry in my room, and only one of them contains anything that can actually be worn. The flowerbeds are full of weeds. Some mystery animal keeps pooping on my deck. There is a half-empty bag of potting soil that we unwisely left out that is now growing things. The SO stubbed his toe last night on a framed piece of cross stitch that I have been intending to hang on the wall for weeks. There is predrafted spinning fiber draped over my dining room chairs that have just been left there. There are two buckets in my kitchen floor that I use to soak yarn or knitted items in prior to blocking that I have gotten so used to walking around that I didn't even realize they are both still full of water!! The couch and ottomon are buried in stuff. Even the dog is dirty! The clutter issue is really making me insane, because what happens is I go to my craft room and get what I need and bring it downstairs, and then downstairs becomes saturated with stuff, and so I take it all back to the craft room and - rinse, repeat. Also, larger-scale crafting projects like my scrapbooks don't get any time at all, because the amount of cleanup it would take to even be ready to work is appalling. I really don't know what to do about this issue. Maybe I should just make the living & dining room my craft area and move the dining room upstairs! No one comes to visit me anyway, I don't really entertain, and the current system isn't working at all.

3. Photo Processing. I am avoiding this like the plague. I hate this part of the process, but especially in the kind of low-light situations I was in, the photos really have to be processed.

4. Quilting. I am desperately struggling against impulses to attempt quilting. Kelley talked about English Paper Piecing on the Knit Picks podcast and I was like...I could totally do that! A number of things are stopping me:

a. I have no sewing machine capable of actually sewing anything. While the piecing is done by hand, I'm pretty sure some amount of machine sewing would eventually be involved for backing, actual quilting, etc. to preserve my sanity. However, I am reasonably sure I know at least 2 people who DO have a machine capable of this stuff.

b. I would like to try something small. However, everything I've seen that I would actually want to make is big.

c. I'm pretty sure this would take up the same type of time as knitting. I have come to understand from long experience that having crafts that compete for the same time slots is bad for my mental health.

d. Do I really need more crap to clutter up my house with?

e. As much fun as I think it would be to shop for fabrics, every time I start looking at combinations I get confused.

f. If I want to sew, I still have a lot of cross stitch patterns waiting for me untouched.

g. Fabric cutting. This sounds like it would be about as much fun as cleaning mystery poop off my deck.

5. Sleeping. I have had some trouble sleeping at night, which is not that surprising with the stress I've been under, but I am finding it impossible to get myself to nap because...well, I could be knitting. Fortunately, as the stress has eased up a bit this week, the sleeping has improved.

6. Sock Knitting. This is not entirely true - I did do a little sock knitting, but it wasn't very much. It's very pretty, though. I think there are three things contributing to my lack of sock knitting: a. other simple projects like the featherweight cardigan b. I am bummed at not going to Sock Summit, even though I totally thought it through and decided that I should not go. c. it's hot. wool socks and summer don't go together that well, and I don't have that many blends that are warm-weather friendly. The sock I started is a wool/seacell blend from Sereknity. Hilariously, my knitting buddy (the one whose wrath I feared in the previous post) was recently in NH, went to the same shop where the SO bought this yarn, and bought the exact same yarn in the same colorway. Hee!! Anyway, I'm using the embossed stitch pattern from More Sensational Knitted Socks, which will I think make it the first sock pattern I have ever knitted a second time. I think it's a good pattern for yarns that maybe have a little less elasticity - plant fiber blends, etc - because it has some inherant bounce to it.

7. Finish anything. I haven't finished anything since my last post, although prior to that post, I had finished the spiruluscious mitts which have been sent off to my mom and received with admiration. But, other than that - I have finished nothing. Despite this, I'm feeling really restless to start new stuff. Finishing the swatch (well, I guess technically I did finish something) was the first step toward starting Eris. I got it in my head that if I were to finish the collar before we leave for vacation at the end of September, the rest of it should be mostly stockinette and would make great car knitting while we are driving around in yellowstone. I definitely have to have a stockinette or garter project for that, because I want to be able to keep my eyes on the landscape. I'm also feeling very tempted to start a circular shawl, and I'm not really sure why. Am I seeing a lot of them lately, or is it just me? If it is just me, is it that I am seeing them because I am interested in doing one? Is it the Loopy Ewe's fault for their Girasole knitalong? I don't know. I do have to say I'm tempted by WendyKnits' new pattern for Order to Chaos. I like the wedges. I also have the pattern and yarn for a Rona Lace shawl at home that I haven't gotten around to doing anything with. BUT, I also have Hanami and Flamenco standing by (both also from Pink Lemon) and...and...and. There's always more Ands. It's kind of like playing wheel of fortune. Projects spin through my mind and whatever is at the top when I finish one project is the next project to get started.