Saturday, October 28, 2006

Smack-Gabby: Episode IV, A New Hope

So guess what's blocking right the hell now in my upstairs bedroom? That would be Gabby. Who fucking wants to bow down before me, son of Jor-El?

Should any of our gentle readers want to knit Gabby (and I must advise against this crack-addled path), here are some useful statistics:

  1. Number of times you can expect to knit the hem border: Approximately 4. And that's after you spend an inordinate amount of time for a southerly wind that will allow you to distinguish between a yarn forward, a yarn over, and a yarn around the needle. Here are some problems you can expect to encounter:

    • You really, REALLY want to keep track of stitch and row counts. There's nothing more frustrating than having one of those freaking points oriented the wrong way, pointing, mocking, and shouting "J'accuse!" in odious French accents.
    • Sewing it on is not at all straightforward, because the top edge of it is little popcorn bumps created by the YF-KTOG convergence (in this knitter's experience, this is more damaging than the K-T meteor impact, more and more crazy-making than a Queller impact).
    • Because of the weirdness of sewing it on, trying to estimate when it's long enough, but not too long, is a real bitch. I wound up knitting a length that looked like it would fit when pinned out, but not binding off. I moved things to a stitch holder and started to sew on. When it inevitably came up short, I could then knit another section or two. Or 78. This was a lesson learned the hard way, as I ripped the whole thing apart 3 times before getting it right.

  2. The cowl. It may actually be too soon to talk about the cowl, but I'm going to give it a shot anyway.

    • I concur with the learned chicagowench that Hargreave intends for the cowl to be attached across the full length of the back of the sweater and maybe a few stitches across the shoulders and on to the front, leaving the stockinette at the neckline visible. Gee, it would have been nice to have that WRITTEN INTO THE PATTERN or even to have a picture that actually focused on elements of the finished sweater, rather than on the disaffected model contemplating her next collagen injections.
    • As written, the cowl is 26 stitches tall and 168 rows long. Should you knit a cowl to those specs, plan a Cowls Across America party, because that's what your cowl will be good for. Seriously, chicagowench had already sewed the collar on for me, and when I finally got the hem sewed on, I tried on the sweater only to discover that I could have easily used the cowl as a jockstrap, had I a need for one.
    • Don't get me wrong, this has immense comedy potential. We'd already decided that Gabby's new name was "Serpent Guard Sweater" in Kansas City, so I was able to amuse the spouse by assuming a Teal'c-like demeanor and intoning "The Enkaren Homeworld has no Stargate" and "Woman be silent!" I'm just saying that such uses are, perhaps, sweater adjacent.
    • Ultimately, I went with a 21-stitch-tall cowl and I've no idea how many rows. As with the hem, when it looked like it was close to long enough, I moved the end stitches to a holder, knit on the first part, then knit sections on to the end until it had a reasonable amount of droop and minimal overlap with Serpent Guard armor specs.

  3. The antics at both ends WILL cause you to buy a 14th ball of panic yarn.
  4. You will then end up with about 1.8 balls of extraneous yarn after you reduce the cowl to reasonable dimensions and get the hem geometry right.
  5. Please resist the urge to make a 100% merino noose with this extra yarn. You're in the home stretch.

For the moment, I'm not thinking about the fact that I should have knit this one size down. For the moment, I'm just occasionally sneaking upstairs and muttering "That's right, bitch, block. I'm BLOCKING you. I'm BENDING YOU TO MY WILL." But other than the fact that I'll never experience joy again, I don't think knitting Gabby had any effect on me at all.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Lace as a goddamn metaphor

As Angeltiger and Matilda can attest, I am approximately as feminine as a raging case of prostate cancer (which is to say...not at all). For that and many other reasons, I shied away from lace knitting. Rather, I crossed my fingers, hissed, and backed away like Nosferatu confronted with a plate of Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic and a chaser of holy water.

But there seem to be certain things in knitting that all roads lead to, whether you like it or not. You can bang out only so many big chunky yarn sweaters in short order, or darling hats, or boring blankets, or stripey sweaters before you just get bored. Before the mental high from another hit of Rowan Big Wool begins to lose its edge. And eventually, despite swearing and snarling and vowing you'll never do anything on size oh my god I can't see the needle if I drop it needles, you find yourself fondling the handpainted sock yarn and going, "But I get a finished project out of a skein of this, it's so much more fiscally responsible than a whole sweater..." or the gossamer like softness of a mohair lace yarn and you think "how bad could it be?"

Lace knitting, for me at least, is not mindless. It is mindful, and scary. That yarn slips everywhere, and counting is integral and we all know math is haaard, and for something so airy good goddamn does it show every single fucking mistake. Lace is fraught with connotations- of femininity, of luxury, of uselessness and leisure and emblematic of a giant time suck for something which does not soothe a baby or warm a body.

But there is a point, when you relax, and it becomes something else entirely. It is beauty on a scale you do not get with a sweater. It is miniscule and yet breathtaking. It is like an ode to the incredible geometry of nature- I see in it waves, feathers, shells, snowflakes, geometric and perfect.

It is also a riotous pain in the ass still, and so help me GOD I am never knitting a lace scarf in kidsilk haze ever again.