Monday, May 22, 2006

Spelling always counts

I've got plans to try an indigo vat on Memorial Day and was sitting down to compose an e-mail to invite some like-minded folks over to share in the fun. No sense going to all that trouble for a few hanks of yarn and some muslin.
In the basement of my brain, I dredged up a memory from fourth grade. A visiting artist. She talked about natural dyes and ... indigo! What did she say?
Something about a very traditional Japanese art ... shi...shib...shib-something.
Off to Google go I.
Do I type in "Japanese indigo dyeing?"
I confidently try to remember a word from fourth grade art class. Ha!
I type in "shibari."
I am so very, very, wrong, and I gape as Google spews forth a whole page of results for another traditional Japanese art that I most definitely should not click on at work. (I've given you the Wikipedia entry, but you've been warned.)
(The word, btw, is "shibori." Here's a page with pictures.)

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Moebius magic?

A few weeks ago, I bought Meg a 47" circular needle so she could try out that funky Moebius Cast On by Cat Bordhi. Two weeks elapsed and the needle had yet to make its debut, so I decided to give it a shot myself.

Maybe I'm alone in my viewpoint here, but I would characterize Cat Bordhi as a bit overenthusiastic about the techniques she invents. Granted, I'm not inventing any new techniques, so kudos to her, but I distinctly get the feeling that she gets more joy out of some of these techniques solely because she invented them, not because the techniques themselves are inherently joyous. For instance, she describes her tubular bind-off in Socks Soar on 2 Circular Needles as "pure joy," but I've personally found that grafting 94 stitches together to produce a rather unattractive edge more annoying than joyous. It also put the last nail in the coffin for my toe-up sock adventures.

She refers to her moebius strip projects as "magical knits." Certainly it is interesting, but magical? Huh. Maybe I'm too much of a deconstructionist to get the point. The moebius cast on is actually nothing more than a provisional cast on done in a circle with a twist at the end. The first row is very futzy, and once it gets started, it's fairly uninteresting. Additionally, you have to alternate knit and purled sections, otherwise you'll get the top half completely in stockinette and the bottom half in reverse stockinette, which I think looks a bit dumb. Also, I found that doing an I-cord bind off on 100 stitches was complete misery. Admittedly, I'm not a long, drawn-out bind-off kind of guy, but this was only the sample; most of her projects would require 200+ stitches to bind off in this manner! Absolute yuck.

Regardless, I was pleased with my new weird knitted thing.

Meg found a use for it almost right away.

The cat was less than thrilled. So was I, as I had to crawl under the bed to get my moebius strip back.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

In which the Two Sock Knitters go to an alpaca festival

The Fool tasked me with making something up about the alpaca festival. Really, alpacas are sweet creatures who make noises like they're playing kazoos, and they have soulful eyes and lovely long eyelashes and they're herbivores. There are loads of them at the alpaca festival, and all the alpaca owners are friendly and happy to talk to just about anyone with a question about their animals.
I'd rather make stuff up.

Two weekends ago we went to an alpaca festival in Madison, Wis.
Frequent readers will know that I have also recently been to a gourd festival, at which people admire, fondle and otherwise mess with gourds.
Alpaca festivals are much the same, except most alpacas don't take kindly to fondling. Oh, also? Unlike sheep and wool festivals, no one serves you alpaca-kebobs. Because, really, who could eat one of these?

Well, we all ought to eat alpacas. They're deadly and if we don't eat them first ....
You will note the sharp canine teeth. That is because, in the wild, alpacas lie in shady crevasses, high in the Andean mountains, and pounce on small rodents that happen to pass within grasp of their steel jaws and sharp claws. I think some kinds of alpacas are venomous. Don't be misled by the fact this alpaca has beautiful soft fleece covering its eyes. Alpacas have small pits near their noses that allow them to sense their prey's body heat before striking. Wait. That's snakes. Nevermind.

There are two main kinds of alpacas. Huacaya alpacas are the fiercest and the fluffiest. They have a soft, woolly coat and come in several colors, ranging from white to dark brown. Most Huacaya alpacas are Methodists. They like to sing hymns and have terrific church potlucks.

Suri alpacas are predominately Rastafarian and are known for their distinctive silky coat, which some people think resembles dreadlocks. They play an infectiously rhythmic popular music. Many Suri alpacas are noted reggae bassists.

Our alpaca overlords were pleased that we brought them an offering of two small toddlers. Generally, they were much less frightening than the sheep we took the toddlers to see last September. The sheep made the kids cry. (We met some friends in Madison; these aren't some children we snatched off the street to appease our woolly masters or something.)

We shopped for fiber - naturally. The Fool got a wee baggie of alpaca fluff which he plans to spin someday. I fondled some yarn, but I've got enough to knit right now, so no alpaca yarn for me.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Two New Projects

It's been awhile since I've written, mainly because I was dumb and left my work bag at last week's contra dance, which contained both my knitting projects as well as the camera. Once we were reunited with the bag on Monday, Meg took a picture of the corner where I left it to commemorate the occasion.

So... the two new aforementioned projects? They are both socks, of course. One is fairly mindless knitting (which I needed after Fiesta Feet), and the other involves a new technique for me.

This is the mindless knitting: a pair of tiger socks for myself knit out of Opal "Tiger" (I think it's actually called something else, but this colorway is very obviously tiger-striped to me). The heel is a forethought heel as suggested by Charlene Schurch. It's much less fussy than the afterthought heel (if the idea of a provisional cast-on doesn't send shivers up your spine), and you get the same bullseye effect.

This is my new technical challenge: arrowhead socks. This is a mosaic pattern from Sensational Knitted Socks. Mosaic knitting involves using two colors but, unlike stranded knitting, it isn't double thick and you only carry one yarn around the round. So far it's losing ground to the tiger socks, but I hope that it will get more exciting as the pattern emerges more clearly.

In other news, I found the second Fiesta Foot at the bottom of my roving bag (the bag in which I keep my wool roving, not the bag that wanders around in pursuit of loose women). So here is the pair in their full glory.

And, for those of you absolutely sick to death of pictures from the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival, stay tuned for Meg's complete coverage of the Great Midwest Alpaca Festival!

Friday, May 05, 2006

Knitting ambassador to the world

Yesterday, on the Green Line, heading into the city after work to go to a panel discussion on careers in new media .... I was sitting at the end of the car with one empty seat next to me and one behind. The doors opened and a family got on - parent, three kids.

Two of the kids sat down near me, a boy next to me and a girl behind. She promptly stuck her head over the seats and said: Are you knitting a sweater?

ME: No, I'm knitting a sock. See? (holding sock up cuff down). That's the cuff and I'm knitting the part that covers the ankle.
BOY: How do you do that?
ME: Um, well, there's only a couple kinds of stitches in knitting, and when you combine them, you get all sorts of patterns. (Move hands so he can watch me knit more closely.) You're just pulling loops of yarn through other loops of yarn with the needles.
GIRL: Are you done yet?
ME: Oh, I've still got to knit a heel and the whole foot of the sock before I'm done.
BOY: Do you ever knit sweaters?
ME: Sometimes. But I like socks because they're small and I can put them in my bag when I take the train. Sweaters are bigger, so I usually knit those at home.
BOY: Did you learn this in school?
ME: I had a friend teach me. We both had a job where you had to sit around a lot and she figured at least I could do something useful with my hands. I like to knit on trains or when I watch TV. (Thought maybe was bad idea to tell impressionable youth I knit at stoplights, too.)
GIRL: Hey, give me your seat. I want to watch! (She and brother change seats)
BOY: (leaning forward) How do you make the heel?
ME: Well, there's a couple ways to do it. I'm going to knit a flat flap, like a rectangle, and then change the direction I'm knitting in, so it makes an elbow, and then that's where the heel goes. (Gaah! How do you explain a heel to a non-knitter?)
GIRL: Are you done yet?
ME: Nope, still not done.
BOY: (to third kid) Hey, come over here, she's knitting socks!
BOY 2: So you don't buy any socks? You just make them?
ME: Sometimes I do. I don't always want thick socks, and these can be thick.
BOY 2: Is this your job?
ME: Er, no. I have a normal job during the day. I just knit for fun.

(Recorded train voice: State and Lake ....)

ME: Ooops, my stop. Take it easy, guys.