Rhymes With Fuchsia

Saturday, February 25, 2006

We're blocking, we're blocking

Last night Boomer took me to see Colin Mochrie and Brad Sherwood for my birthday. If you ever get a chance to see them, you should go. They are a terrific time, even if you're not sitting in the first 20 rows, from which they pick all of the audience participants. (Apparently if you're female it is also necessary to be blonde.)

In any event, when we left I had finished all the knitting on the Olympic sweater except the shawl collar. I had really hoped to start blocking Thursday, and then I'd hoped to finish before we left yesterday, but I figured about half an hour to finish the knitting and another 15 minutes to block when we got home and I'd be in bed at a semi-respectable hour.

I forgot that the collar was seed stitch, and thus subject in its own small way to Harlot's Black Hole Theory of Knitting, which states that in any stitch where progress is not screamingly obvious the rows will mysteriously disappear as you knit them and it will take at least three times as long as it should to complete the required length. So (I will spare you the excruciating detail) by the time I finished the knitting and got that puppy washed and all possible excess water squeezed out of it and the blocking board (thanks, Kathleen!) set up and the pieces wired (thanks again, Kathleen!) and pinned, it was 2:30. I cannot remember the last time I was up until 2:30. Normally I start to fade at 9:45.

But we're blocking.

I am a little concerned that it won't dry in time, and I'm thinking of moving the board to a warmer place, such as Bermuda. But I am keeping in mind Margene's wisdom: it's the process, stupid. If I can't be Shizuka Arakawa I will be Eddie the Eagle.

And I will finish the sweater. I may not win a medal, but I will finish.

Monday, February 20, 2006


By the time I heard that Harlot was at SPA, I had already resigned myself to missing it, not seeing Carole, not seeing my folks, not doing any shopping, due to an unbelievably bad decision by Boomer's choral group to hold their pops concert on the same night. Still, I was in a fairly grumpy mood when I set out, knitting bag riding shotgun and Miss B in back.

Compensation The First

The theme of the concert was Shakespeare, and Boomer had a solo part in one number, "Tonight" from West Side Story. Specifically, he sang the part of Riff, the leader of the Jets. Until you have witnessed a bunch of middle-aged men portraying street gangs while decked out in tuxes with brightly colored ties and cummerbunds, you have not really lived.


Compensation The Second

I got to knit during the intermission.

Compensation The Third

The next day I got to go to a (fairly) local SnB, thanks to Liz's timely clue-in. There I met three lovely women and got to admire their projects: a pair of self-striping socks, a beautiful, nearly complete leaf-green scarf in an alpaca-merino blend (its owner never turned her back once, more's the pity), and a blue Trellis, somewhat ahead of my pink one. There were only five of us there, and two of us who had never met before were doing Trellises, and the pattern came out a whole year ago. How cool is that?

I also got to admire Liz's Olympic-sweater-in-progress and her children, and to watch her work the green-on-green band. If you see Liz, please do not let her go near the traffic. Instead, steer her gently past anything she might trip over and find her a chair.

Compensation The Fourth

Between the concert and the SnB, I got quite a bit of knitting done.

Trellis progress
I am almost afraid to say it, so I'll just whisper: I may actually finish this.

All in all, not a bad weekend.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Fun With Fleece

A few months ago my friend Anne announced at knitting group that while exhibiting her utterly gorgeous felted bags she had fallen into conversation with the owner of surplus fleece, who proposed to give it away to anyone willing to go get it. Naturally I piled the entire family into the van and drove posthaste about an hour and a half into the wilds of central Massachusetts. Thus did I become the proud owner of eight trash bags containing about 40 pounds of raw Tunis sheep fleece.

This week I decided it was high time to address myself to it. I pulled out a random bag, took it inside, spread it out on the kitchen floor and began skirting. I found that it had been pretty well skirted already, being relatively free of mud and poop although full of vegetable matter.

My friend Roxie had given me the following advice about washing fleece:

Take the cleanest parts and pull them apart with your hands to sort of fluff and open the fibers. Separate one fleece into at least six separate piles (depending on the size of your tubs. Using a top-loading washer, I could manage a quarter of a small fleece.) Then lower them into a big tub full of the hottest water you can manage. If you pour the water onto the wool, it will felt slightly where the water agitates the fibers.

Cover with quilts and let sit till the water is cool. Lift the wool out to drain, wipe out the gunk, and repeat till you no longer find mud in the bottom of the tub. Then repeat using lots of Dawn dishwashing detergent.

So I did that, only I used a big Rubbermaid tub instead of a washer, on the theory that my washer might rebel if asked to deal with that much crud. The tub sat in my kitchen, snug under its quilt, the rest of the day and overnight. By yesterday morning it was cool, and I removed the fleece and emptied the tub. The water was quite dirty, but no dirt had settled to the bottom of the tub, so I proceeded to the detergent part, leaving that overnight as well. This morning I removed the fleece, rinsed it thoroughly, and hung it to dry.

It doesn't exactly look inspiring, does it? It is (trust me) 500 percent cleaner than when I began. I'm hoping the VM falls out during the carding.

Lessons learned so far:

  • I begin to understand why shepherding is not an occupation traditionally held in high esteem. Let's just say sheep are not heavy users of Irish Spring.
  • A big tub full of water and wool is heavy.
  • It's going to take me a really long time, not to mention several cases of Dawn, to work my way through 40 pounds of this stuff.

Anybody want some fleece?

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Comfort Me With Yarn

Yesterday I was supposed to host knitting group. I had my coffee table all cleared off, my goodies all ready, my needles warmed up... and no one could come. I made the best of it by having tea and teacake with my next-door neighbor while working away at the Trellis, but I still felt a bit bereft. At least I had Jake to sympathize with me.

Jake without yarn
Later in the evening, Boomer came in, bearing with him a package from Missouri.

Jake with yarn

Behold my contest swag from Ann, a beautiful ball of Online Supersocke 100. Thanks, Ann! You made my day.

Tricot en Rose

Until Tuesday my Olympic experience was not going smoothly. First I couldn't find my Debbie Bliss book; when I did (I had given it to Ruth, who graciously agreed to lend it to me) I didn't love any of the patterns as much as I'd thought. Ruth, bless her, suggested the Trellis pattern from Knitty, and I was instantly enraptured. Of course the yarn I wanted to use didn't match the specified gauge, so I carefully calculated actual gauge, modified the pattern to accommodate more stitches, and I was off.

Way off. The sweater I was knitting might fit a 5-year-old.

Plan B: a coworker of mine is expecting a girl baby shortly; I could knit the largest size to pattern and come out with something reasonable.

Trellis in pink
Now that's more like it. I am really enjoying this pattern, even though it's not mine. Will I be able to follow it slavishly until I actually finish a sweater? Stay tuned.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Lust Deferred

After my first post Ruth pointed out that my "about me" list had failed to mention that I really, really hate to follow other people's patterns, preferring to invent my own. This would not be so bad if I stuck to basic designs, if I riffed on The Knitter's Handy Book of Patterns (which, if you're a riffer by nature, is the only pattern book you'll ever need) by adding a moss stitch here, a baby cable there. Unfortunately my imagination is more likely to come up with something like this:

pink socksAnd, since I'm not entirely sure (despite swatching) that it can really be done, I tend to procrastinate a lot. So it takes me six months to knit a pair of socks. All I can say is thank heaven I made them out of stretchy yarn, so they still fit Miss B's ever-growing feet. (She is a foot shorter than I am and wears the same shoe size. But I digress.)

Cut to last week. The scene: Ruth's living room. I have dropped by to show her the yarn for my Knitting Olympics sweater. I describe to her the design I have in mind: a lot of different ribbings side by side, done in different shades of purple. In the middle of this I start to laugh, because Ruth is getting a look on her face, a look that says "no wonder you never finish a sweater." I protest: there will be no intarsia cables, no vines, no flowers, no intricate patterning, just a few simple ribbings. I cannot wait to start swatching, I say. Ruth nods, skeptical look in place.

Cut to last weekend. The first swatch is done, and all I have to do is figure out how many stitches I have to play with, chart the final arrangement of ribs, and do a second swatch for that. I love my swatch. I love it even more the first time I see it in sunlight. I picture the whole sweater, and I want to wear it everywhere.

ribbing swatchBut, at this point, Reality raises her head. "Do you really think you can do this in 16 days?" she asks. I think about all the color switching -- I could do the sleeves in the main color, after all, but still -- and I start figuring how much I would have to knit each day to finish in time, blocked and all. I wonder if I would hate that gorgeous deep purply blue before I was done.

And I remember that I know a charming baby boy for whom I have inexplicably failed to knit anything whatsoever, and that I have some great baby sweater patterns, and some lovely light-blue wool in my stash.

That Reality is so sensible. I hate people like that.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Four Things, Quickly

I want to tell you what I'm doing for the Knitting Olympics, but I have to get to work, and Ruth has tagged me with the Four Things meme, so meme now, knitting later.

Four jobs you've had in your life:

1. Biology lab assistant
2. Dishwasher
3. Marketing specialist
4. Technical writer

Four movies you could watch over and over again:

1. A Fish Called Wanda
2. King of Hearts
3. Cousin, Cousine
4. Bull Durham

Four places you have lived:

1. Harvard, Massachusetts
2. Oberlin, Ohio
3. Champaign, Illinois
4. Waltham, Massachusetts

Four TV shows you love to watch:

1. Whose Line Is It Anyway?
2. House
3. M*A*S*H
4. CSI

Four places you've been on vacation:

1. San Francisco, California
2. Bourges, France
3. Montreal, Canada
4. Rangeley, Maine

Four websites you visit daily:

1. bloglines
2. Talking Points Memo
3. slacktivist

Four of your favorite foods:

1. Chicken Tikka Masala
2. Lamb stew
3. Chocolate cake
4. Raspberries

Four places you'd rather be right now (sorry, Ruth, I couldn't improve on this one):

1. someplace warm
2. with my girlfriends
3. with a yarn shop right next to the beach
4. and a bookstore next door to that

Four bloggers you'll be tagging (like Liz, I hope these lovely women I hardly know will forgive me -- thanks to the Harlot, I've met you all at least once):

1. Debbie
2. Kathy
3. Jena
4. Kristen

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Blogger's Silent Poetry Reading

for Grace's Poppies

Wild Asters

In the spring I asked the daisies
If his words were true,
And the clever little daisies
Always knew.

Now the fields are brown and barren,
Bitter autumn blows,
And of all the stupid asters
Not one knows.

Sara Teasdale