Sunday, July 30, 2006

Goodbye Pittsburgh!

Dear DR Lea,

Just wanted to write and let you know that we're almost all packed and ready for our move tomorrow. I hope you and C have made it safely to Boston and are having good luck apartment hunting.

When do you think we won't qualify as Pittsburgh knitbloggers anymore?

Sorry I don't have any knitting pictures to show - all I could photograph right now would be lots and lots of boxes! We'll be in Chicago Wednesday, and probably have internet access by Thursday. I'll try and have some knitting content then.


Saturday, July 29, 2006

The new Dr. Chialea speaks

Unfortunately, Dr. Chialea doesn't have annything particularly interesting to say. I would like to note that after I completed my thesis defense, enough brain matter freed up for me to remember that I had in fact ripped out my proto-Eunny-top because it was, in fact, a Mobius strip. This led to thoughts that a Mobius strip would make an excellent bikini top: lots of grip in the back, and an attractive twist to lend interest to the front. No, I'm not going to knit one. It's actally good that I had to rip it, because it turned out to be quite a bit larger than I'd intended.

You'd think after four years in Berkeley, I would know that I am apparently sensitive to something in hemp. (I didn't even know what pot smelled like until I was visiting years later and my fiance noted that it smelled like someone was having a good time. I don't think I'll ever live down the fact that I had no idea what he was talking about.) I had people look at the freaky finger in person (see last post), and they confirmed that it appears to be contact dermatitis of some sort. They're also going away, now that I've stopped knitting with the hemp. Is anyone out there interested in some blue and chocolate brown hemp yarn? I can even include the outlines of a pattern for a cute little jacket.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Swatch and re-swatch

First of all, I'd like to say that apparently Eunny and I are jacked into the same design brain somewhere. There are two differences: 1) she's a way better knitter than I am (and having a few years on me will do that to you) and 2) she has a heck of a lot more time than I do. I was pretty amused to see that she's thinking of the same kind of jacket I am. She's interpreting it a bit differently, at least partially because I'm interpreting it through the veil of a potential yarn shortage.

It may not matter, though. Does anyone know what this weird thing on my finger is? It came up after I started knitting with the hemp. I pre-washed it, so I don't think it's a chemical burn. Could I be sensitive to hemp fibers (I wouldn't think plant fibers would usually cause a reaction like this), or is this just a friction burn? There's a bunch of these big swollen-looking raised places surrounded by some red going down my finger where my yarn moves. (Sorry for the terrible picture; I'm borrowing a camera today.)

As I'm defending my Ph.D. today, I'll just give you a quick update on my swatching so you can sympathize a bit.

I got back to my LYS and ripped apart their needle display, looking for a replacement for my INOX needles. Let me just say that I really hate blunt needles. They bug me, and I spend a lot of time hating the tip when I knit with them. Please take it as an indication of how unbearably bad the INOX joins were that I happily bought a set of Stumpy Bluntos in the wrong size to get away from the INOXes. I then proceeded to knit another swatch in highly unorthodox fashion. (I had an excellent reason for pulling this off the needles last night, though I can't remember it to save my life today.)

I've been swatching the hemp (see burn above). I think I'll be using a brioche stich on the new Addis to save yarn. Actually, I think I'll be leaving the hemp alone for a while, at least until I figure out how to avoid the big series of burns down my finger.

To cheer myself up, I had to buy some Mountain Colors Bearfoot in Red Tailed Hawk. (The colourway is more brown and less orange.) I love this colour so much that I've been trying to figure out how to change my complexion enough that I could wear a sweater knit out of it without looking extremely silly. Perhaps if I paint my face blue, warm colours will look better on me. Ahwell, there'll always be socks!

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Attack of the duct tape monster

Somehow I got the idea that I should make myself a duct tape dress form. Is a duct tape dress form right for you? Are you unwilling to spend a lot of money on your dress form? Are you a non-standard shape or size? Do you have a hard time fitting certain parts of your torso attractively? Do you have the ability to stand still while you're sweating like a pig and your back is aching? Do you have a very close friend who you'd like to grope you repeatedly?

There are many sets of directions on the internet, but I approximately used these free directions for making a custom dress form. I am considering stuffing the form with spray-foam instead of polyfill, but more on that when I get around to doing it.

Required materials for this stage of construction:

  • shirt to be sacrificed
  • a lot of duct tape (I used Scotch brand, official duct tape of NASCAR. I'm not kidding about this.)
  • saran wrap
  • sharper scissors than we had
  • pen (for marking the form)
  • cat (for distration purposes -- you'll need it)
  • the undergarments you intend to wear with whatever you'll be fitting on the form
  • as much bloating as you can get your hands on (You want to fit clothes on a biggish version of yourself. If you're really dedicated, spend all summer sitting on your butt like I have.)

Step 1: wear undergarments and shirt. Cover all exposed surfaces with saran wrap. Commence sweating.

Step 2: begin fitting bust by using "cross your heart" maneuver. Be prepared to explain this to your helper, who may not have seen those silly bra commercials and might start by trying to smash your bust flat.

Step 3: keep coating until top of torso is covered. Upgrade sweating to level "rolling droplets".

Step 4: cover hips and thighs horizontally, then recover them vertically. Upgrade sweating to level "Niagra falls". Resolve to go to the gym just as soon as you get this thing off. Mark your waist by wriggling around and watching where the tape creases.

Step 5: cut duct tape and shirt off (up the back) without destroying undergarments (thus rendering dress form obsolete). Be prepared to curse scissors if they are so dull that they cannot cut shirt. Upgrade sweating to level "chilly with fear" if exacto knife is deployed.

Note on the Eunny-top I was swatching: this is postponed pending aquisition of 2.25mm circ that sucks much less than the INOX. My wool loves the join on that needle.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

The Harlot's wisdom

I was struck by this bit of the Yarn Harlot's latest post:

During this phase, this scary part, I am drawn to knitting. I love that it's easy to finish. Easy enough to balance almost all of that other stuff. One row, one stitch...there's your accomplishment. It's black and white. Either you have knit or you have not, either the pattern is right or it is not. Knitting has this reliable rhythm that comforts a freaked out obsessive compulsive writer who's edging their way through the grudge match that is finishing a book.

This is precisely why I've been knitting so much in the 8 months since I learned. I knit along and I can see the progress. I apply some design creativity, and the results come out in front of me. It's not like my thesis, which my advisor will just refuse to read or start randomly complaining about something that I wrote three years ago and she's read (theoretically) sixteen times since then without complaining. It's not like hunting for a job, where I have virtually no control over the process and everyone close to me wants some kind of result or other. It's not like shopping, where I wrestle with the difference between myself and sizing models, where people just say "oh, you can't complain about that -- you have a nice figure!" without realizing that all I want is a suit that buttons up the front without swallowing the rest of me.

Knitting is an eccentric way of getting out the twitches and the anxiety that high-stakes, long-term work brings out in people. If you see me knitting, you might think I'm odd or a nice little housewife (if you want to see me laugh until I fall over, this is an excellent thing to tell me). If you see me fiddling and moving about, you are more likely to think I'm off my rocker or off my medication.

Friday, July 21, 2006

This 'n' that

Hey Krista,

I've been doing a bit of this 'n' that lately, knitwise, so I thought I'd write a bit down while it was all drying. I've been swatching for my Eunny top. I need more waist shaping than Eunny does in her sweaters, so I'm using a somewhat busier (but more linear) pattern (but probably not what's swatched). I think having something in my hands would be an excellent help for the extended family reunion on Saturday. The well-meaning questions about why I'm moving across the country and why I don't have an apartment yet and "subtle" fishing for a wedding invitation should give me a nice, tight gauge across the midsection, right?

I'm also pre-washing some hemp for a little textured jacket I'm planning. I can't draw well, but this is what I have in mind: Nehru collar, slightly belled sleeves with a slit, and curved bottom-front. The closures will be toggles or pairs of buttons, closed with a loop. (If anyone sees some buttons that would go well with the jacket, I'm on the lookout!)

The stitch pattern I'm considering is "broken chevron" from Barbara Walker's Third Treasury of Knitting Patterns. The challenge is how to build the amount of shaping I need in a jacket into the stitch pattern, making it an integral part of the garment.

I'm not sure whether I've gone a little nuts or not, but at least my wrists are holding up so far. I'd better go knit some socks to prepare them for all the fingering-weight yarn!

Hope you're doing OK with the move!

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Packing, and a little felting

Dear Lea,

I haven't much to show for myself. Tempting continues to grow at the glacial pace of 2 by 2 ribbing (although actually I had to rip out most of a sleeve after a failed attempt at surgery). I'm packing for the move and trying to finish up knitting odds and ends.

I knit the body for this little felted bag probably two years ago, and for some reason never got around to knitting the handle. I finished and felted it today. It's just the right size for keys and a credit card when I'm wearing a skirt and don't want to carry a real purse. Yarn: some mystery wool, who knows?

(All those boxes are books. But you won't BELIEVE how many books we've sold.)

Chicago in 13 days! Yikes.

Guess what I've been doing!

Apparently our CA apartment is hotter inside than out. Kitty and I have been trying to melt into puddles on the floor.

At least I'm a slightly less furry puddle. I have been knitting while I'm splayed out, and Mermaid's coming along swimmingly (rim shot).

I haven't been able to resist swatching a little for my Eunny-top. I think it'll come out better in wool than in the cotton she used, but that's just a guess and my preference for a certain kind of fabric for clingy tops.

When I manage to pry myself up off the floor, I've been shopping for a work wardrobe. (I now own mascara for the first time in my life. In related news, I have poked myself in the eye more than ever before in my life.) I was amused to see that Anthropologie has jumped on the twisted-stitch-ribbing bandwagon as well. I'll be glad to buy the dress when they change their politics.

On a work-knitting note, is patterned Shetland considered sufficiently appropriate for business-wear? I think the cardi-version is a better shot, and extremely cute. (Sweaters from Elizabeth Zimmerman's The Opinionated Knitter.) I somehow doubt it, but I may end up knitting one anyway, as Shetland is my new woolly friend.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Trekking through the tulips

Do you think they knew I was coming?

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Sale madness

It took me a few days to recover (and knit another quarter of Mermaid's body), but I'm back to report on Full Thread Ahead's sale. I've never been to a sale where there was not only a line but rules as well. My fiance amused himself by carrying this entire load in one hand by looping hanks through other hands, putting his fingers into balls, and balancing books on top of the whole mess. The performance was so impressive that I guess I have to marry him now.

Krista, don't worry, I didn't forget to get you a little something. That's Artyarns in handpainted stripes (which I've never seen before but looked like it would make nice socks) and some Cherry Tree Hill sock yarn in a colourway sedate enough for lawyer-wear.

I couldn't resist this fingering weight hemp yarn. I have some ideas for this, but I won't show sketches until I work the details out a bit more and have actual sketches. I'm thinking sculptural lace in the blue, trimmed in the chocolate, closed in the front with loops over paired buttons. Don't bother looking at the store for either colour; I bought em out of those. If this works well, I'm thinking of trying some linen and wool/hemp blends.

I've been buying a bit of brown for my burgeoning work wardrobe, so I thought I'd need to make a wrap to go with it. This very, very soft cobweb/laceweight is a nice maroon-brown. It's fuzzing a bit in the ball from all the fondling, but I'm not too worried about that once it's turned into lace. It was such a nice price at 40% off that I had to get a little black as well...

I had a few little unplanned indiscretions as well... I haven't started in on the books yet, because I'm still reading Gravity's Rainbow (which is, btw, amazing).

I'd better get back to my thesis and Mermaid. My step-grandmother is going to steal mine unless I come up with some wool for her to make one (who knew she knit?), so I'm crossing my fingers that the shade card I ordered gets here soon. I'd be less nervous if she didn't want it in "exactly the same colours", even with the 151 colours of shetland jumperweight that Jamieson and Smith's offers.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Sale day

Hey Krista,

I'm just dropping you a quick note before I head over to my CA LYS's 40% off all-you-can-carry-in-two-hours sale. I have my eye on some laceweight and I need to pick up some needles. What for, do you ask? I picked up enough Cherry Tree Hill fingering superwash in Burgundy (a much nicer colour than it shows there, by the way) for a whole top. This is an actual colour of red I can wear: a luminous cool red that goes with the whole panoply of neutrals. What inspired me to knit an entire top out of fingering-weight wool?

Eunny did. My tastes in design run largely along the same lines as hers, but slightly more towards the spare and elegant. (I attribute this to the fact that I'm a rather taller person than she is. I can't pull off the "cute" aspects as well, but some other design features look good on me in compensation.) Many of the design ideas she's been showing are along the same lines that I've been thinking, but this one was both new and so perfect for work that I decided to make my own version. I'll be changing a few things, of course: the fake seams, the cabling at the midriff, the shoulders, the material, the bust... Still, thank you very much, Eunny. I'll still buy the book when it comes out, even if I knit my own versions beforehand. :)

I also wanted to note a red-letter day: I finally finished off a ball of the ivory wool on Mermaid. It took more than half the body to do so. The more I knit this, the more I like it. It's a nice TV knit, and it's pretty mindless. I think I may knit it again in brown-black/black/ivory, with some of the shaping tweaked to fit me better, and maybe felt it a bit to make it more windproof.

I'd better go swatch for the top before I run off to the sale, but I'll be sure to pick you up some of your favorite sock yarn. Byee!

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Adventures in fabric

Hello Krista,

I'm sorry I haven't posted in a bit, but I've been cranking away on my projects, and I wanted to hit the halfway point on my Mermaid before I posted again.

It doesn't really want to lay flat anymore, because of all the shaping. I can't protest, as it just makes it more likely to fit over my curvy bits. I'm really stunned by the amount of yarn I have left, though.

Those wimpy balls on the bottom are the ones I've knit the entire half-body out of already (except for the ivory band and swatches at the beginning, which I knit out of a very small ball that I just about finished off). I don't know what to do with all the extra yarn! I might knit a different coloured version this sweater to amortize the pattern cost; I think it'll only cost me $30-40, which is a heck of a lot less than the kit sells for!

At least I'm doing pretty well on my fabric project costs (though I won't have pictures for a bit). My step-grandmother, who is an excellent seamstress, and I bought $20 of batik fabric at a discount store in SF. We're making four tea-length wrap skirts out of it, with quite a lot left over for blouses and pillows. I haven't done so well at finding fabric for work-appropriate clothes, though. Britex tried to sell us some fabric signed by Pucci for $250/yd; I'm rather boggled as to why the signature would make me want to buy it. I don't want anyone signing my butt!

When my migraine medicine kicks in, I am going (again) to go try to find a suit for work. It's becoming sickly amusing: the size jacket that fits my bust is TWO TIMES the size of the jacket that fits everything else. I've considered spandex jumpsuits, but apparently the inclusion of the word "suit" does not make them work-appropriate. I'm trying to take the edge off of my frustration by buying a bunch of fingering-weight wool to make a Eunny-style work sweater. If this trend in yarn choice keeps on going, soon I'll be knitting with thread on sewing needles!

At least kitty has been successful in his hunting.

Miss you!