PunkconformityLife, history, and the pursuit of knitting.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Ravelympics: Conclusion

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Well. That didn't go quite as planned. It began well, with the mass mass cast-on during the beautiful, yet extremely cold opening ceremonies. By day three I had completed pair number one, Julia Tedesco's July Socks (r-link). I recognized that this speed was not quite fast enough to get me to my goal, but I resolved to knit a little faster and persevere. Seven days of knitting, and I had three and three-quarters socks knitted, out of a total necessary twelve. The Julys, one beautiful Hanging Vines, and 3/4 of a Tadpole. Even I could recognize that math was problematic. I blame myself, for choosing patterns with so many knit/purl combinations. It takes time to pass the yarn back and forth like that! So I resolved to be content without meeting my goal of six pairs, but instead being content with four.

That didn't go quite as planed, either. Having weighed the importance of a social life against the importance of completing four pairs of socks in 16 days, I realized the social life won out, and so I spent the last Thursday and Friday nights of the games out until ungodly hours, necessitating massive amounts of recovery sleep on Friday and Saturday that substantially cut in to my knitting time. Thus, I only completed three and three-quarters pairs by the end of the closing ceremonies, despite spending Sunday in a knitting frenzy, trying to complete the last sock.

So what can I say? It was a great experience. I learned a lot about my endurance as a knitter. I also learned to be slightly more realistic about my speed and abilities. But I, just like Lindsey Vonn, fell down a couple times, and there's nothing wrong with that. Though I aimed higher, I'm content with what I managed to accomplish, because it's more than I ever did before.

Man. I sound like a motivational infomercial. Eeesh.

So, to end on a more realistic note, and be a poor workman who quarrels with her tools, The Cathedrals were unlikely to get completed during the deadline, if for no other reason than the Frohelich Wolle is just what it says - wool - and it hurts us, precious. I couldn't knit something on a deadline when I was having to stop every thirty seconds to scratch. But I probably should have realized that sooner.
Monday, February 8, 2010

(Re)Construction: The Bed Saga

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In my ever fruitless quest to encourage my dad to finish the construction upstairs, I decided to tackle some of the furniture that will eventually go in the bedroom I floored this past summer. It's going to be a guest bedroom, and after much arguing between my parents about the size and type of the bed/beds it ought to contain, my mom prevailed and we agreed to use the two twin pineapple-post beds we had up in the attic.

We've had these bed-frames for close to 25 years now; one of them was my first big-girl bed when I was 3. They originally came from the old tobacco farmhouse of a friend and neighbor, and are consequently of indeterminate age, although I would hazard a guess of at least 55-60 years old. When I got them down from the attic, they looked something like this:
I tried sanding them with 80-grit sandpaper, but nothing doing. The paint would not budge, but the wood that showed was getting worn down to nothing. So I went at it with a paint scraper, which was actually a lot of fun. I discovered that sometime in the past, both beds had been painted pitch-black, and that was covering a burgundy stain (remember this, it will be important later). After getting most of the paint off, I glued down the loose pieces of the headboards, filled in the really obvious holes, sanded the whole thing down with 220-grit sandpaper. The result?

Because I knew I was just going to paint them, I wasn't as worried about getting every bit of old paint off. I just made sure the edges were smooth.

Then I started to paint. And paint. And paint. Because it was quickly becoming clear to me why the past-someone who had painted these suckers black had been so avant garde for their time - it was the only color that would cover up the ridiculously strong burgundy stain that had been originally applied. I applied the first coat of the ecru paint - it turned pink. So I went at these babies with Killz primer, which I usually find is strong enough to take on God himself, and after three coats of it (so, four coats of a paint-like substance), the beds still looked like this:

It took three more coats of the ecru paint before the beds finally came out ecru-colored and not pink. But they're done, now, and aren't they pretty?

I can't wait to put up the rest of the trim and get the room finished, so they can be put in their place of honor.
Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Swallowtail

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There are some patterns out there that are the knitting equivalent of the pop-culture fad - like sorority girls love ugg boots, or scene kids are drawn to neon, there are some patterns that have been made by pretty much everyone interested in that kind of knitting. For lace knitters, that pattern is the Swallowtail Shawl. A complete stranger, upon seeing my Melusine shawl at RenFaire, stopped me to tell me about the Swallowtail she had just completed. She broached the subject confident that I would know exactly what pattern she meant, and I did. At last count there were 6229 completed Swallowtails listed on Ravelry.

It's popular not only because it results in a beautiful lace shawl, but because the pattern is so clearly written out. Fairly often, lace patterns resemble nothing so much as the ramblings of a Japanese lunatic that have been translated into Russian by a French speaker, and then translated into English by a native speaker of Urdu. Some very important details get lost in the translation, and unless you're either extraordinarily brave or a mind-reader, these patterns are not always much fun to attempt. The Swallowtail pattern is not like that. If you follow it line by line, it is as easy as a basic dishcloth pattern. And this is something that everyone comments on. "Oh, start with the Swallowtail for your first lace project. It's so easy!" "You can't go wrong with the Swallowtail, it's so simple!"

Ha, I say, laughing the laugh of the bitter and potentially stupid.

If you do follow it exactly, I'm sure it really is easy. But, supposing, instead of using size 4s and lace-weight yarn, you end up using size 1.25s and some thread-weight cotton of unknown origin, which gives you a gauge of roughly 700 stitches to the inch (okay, so, maybe 25 stitches to the inch, but still...). Then, dearies, the Swallowtail is not easy. It is not simple. It is MATH. And MATH is something we all know that I, as a good History major, loathe.

To illustrate my point: If you should decide to knit more repeats of the body pattern than the 14 that are called for, that's all well and good. Other people have done it, and it turns out fine. But if, and only if, you repeat in multiples of 5. If you knit 19 repeats, or 24, then you're good, and the Lily of the Valley pattern comes out perfectly with no finagling. If, however, you are too stupid to check your math and just pick a random number of repeats and go with it, you will find that nothing will work out right for the next 21 rows.
Supposing, of course, that you manage to catch the first little problem and spend twenty minutes doing the math to determine that the number of stitches you need before you start the Lily of the Valley chart is a little formula that looks like the total number of stitches - 5 border stitches - 34 set up stitches + 4 stitches from the set-up row = a multiple of 10, you are not home free just yet. There is still the problematic matter of the Lace Border chart, which is not worked across a multiple of 10 stitches, but a multiple of 8. So having spent another twenty minutes doing some math, you should realize that you must now have another formula that looks like the total number of stitches - 5 border stitches - 14 set up stitches + 4 set-up row stitches = a multiple of 8. This was a problem for me, as I had increased exactly 100 stitches, resulting in a number that was not a multiple of 8, and could not be a multiple of 8 no matter how hard I willed it to be.

So, in the tradition of all those who have gotten this far into a lace pattern and decided, "screw it, I refuse to rip the bloody thing back again after all this work," I fudged it a little, and did a second "set-up" row in which I increased the necessary stitches evenly across. And now, hopefully, fingers crossed, I can finish the damn thing without having to do any more MATH. Of course, I'm not holding my breath.

I still haven't figured out if the pattern is just not as easy as is claimed, or if I am really just not as smart as most knitters.