Because: Sean Bean

Much as I love the Crazed Scandinavian Cowl and it’s cheerful no-two-rows-the-same insanity (perhaps long Swedish nights need something bonkers to get you through them), there does come a time when I want something simple. Something I can knit while also mocking a Fast & Furious film. Or puzzling over exactly why, when Sean Bean’s Sharpe shows up at an enemy fort, they immediately accept him at face value and give him top-level access to all their plans.

SO – socks it is. I actually thought I didn’t have any sockyarn but then did a stashdive and found one skein. This is my fourth of the Lang Magic Degrade skeins – I absolutely love colour change yarns.

I’ve got two skeins in the browny-grey mixture that I plan to turn into a shawl, and I can quite see myself knitting the full deck (my sock drawer is ridiculous, particularly as I’ve now learned to darn and so old socks never die…). The turquoise shading into the dark blue shading into the green is just lovely.

The colours are exactly the way I would do them if I was making colour-change yarn and it’s always very satisfying to have a pattern reveal itself without you actually having to think about anything.

Moody socks

And the added bonus of getting to watch Sean Bean at the same time. ūüôā

It was stupid and lazy and I did it anyway

When you’re making a chair – or half a chair, which is what a stool is – you make the tenons (the pieces that fit into the holes in the legs and seat) oversized. You do this so that when the stool is all hammered together there are three things holding any joint firm: glue; wood wedged into wood; and tension. Everything pushes against everything else (that’s why the underneath bracing pieces are called ‘stretchers’ – they literally stretch the legs apart so that they’re under tension).

So when I was putting this little stool together yesterday (for Youngest Boy who cannot get into his new bed without standing on something), and I accidentally cut a tenon too narrow because I was rushing, what I should have done was make a new side stretcher. I couldn’t be bothered. I thought glue and tension would be enough.

However, when I was putting the centre stretcher in, the glue failed on the narrow tenon of the side stretcher and the leg twisted. At that point I should have re-glued it at the very least. Instead I went ahead and legged up the stool, gluing and wedging the legs into the seat.

So now that stretcher and leg are held in by tension alone, and if the springiness fails, then that corner of the stool will come apart but the rest of it won’t and essentially what I will have to show for my several dozen hours of hard work is some highly decorative firewood, because you can’t replace just one quarter of a stool, you have to do it all.

It was stupid and lazy not to make a new stretcher – the easiest part to remake – and I knew it was stupid and lazy. And I went ahead and did it anyway. Because: human.

(Although apart from having to live with the now-constant fear that one day it’ll just come apart, I am actually very pleased with it. The top is slightly dished so your feet rest comfortably on it if you’re using it as a footstool, but not so dished that you can’t use it as a side-table and put a cup of tea on it. The legs are pleasingly dramatic, and it’s the right height for a little person to sit or stand on to reach something.)

It’s longer than I thought

So, I’ve had this Crazed Scandinavian Cowl on the go for a while now, and after a long pause to write an essay, a literature review, a briefing paper and a project initiation document, go on holiday, carve a turtle, make a stool and write 20,000 words of a book that is unlikely to ever find a publisher, I started to get back into it last week.

It occurred to me that I seemed to have done quite a few charts – and when I say quite a few I mean they’re alphabetical and I’m on Chart H – and that the length of the thing folded up on my lap was a very respectable 42 inches, which sounded scarf-ish to me, so perhaps I could start to think that maybe I was approaching the point where the words ‘home stretch’ might not be entirely inappropriate.

Then I looked up the rest of the pattern. I am not, categorically not, on the home stretch. The home stretch remains a blue-capped mountain in the very far distance. The charts go all the way up Chart R, and the estimated length of this thing is 83 inches. Who has an 83 inch long scarf?? (Quite possibly everyone – I don’t knit scarves all that often and although it sounds outrageous to me it’s entirely feasible that is a perfectly normal length for a scarf.) It took me by surprise, is all I’m saying.

Anyway, here are some pictures to keep us all going. It is very nice, which is a redeeming feature, but honestly I’m not even sure how much I actually want a scarf any more.

 

Polycraftualism OR – doing other things with my hands

As regular readers will know, I like to do a variety of things with my hands – although knitting is the main thing I also sew, and make chairs and quilts. The knitting has been in abeyance again during semester 2 of my Masters, and then it was simply too hot and sweaty to knit. But I did polish off making a stool:

made progress with a small footstool (still needs its stretchers and to be legged up):

and got around to painting and finishing the chair I made last summer.

And now I have a new hobby. Tried it for the first time on Saturday at a craft fair and I’m hooked. I’m learning to carve.

80% of a turtle

Now I just need some new tools. Oh, and some books. And another course. Happy days. ūüôā

A pause

There has been a long silence on the blog due to me having (slightly unexpectedly) decided to do a Masters in Librarianship and Information Science. Which took up all the time I formerly thought of as ‘spare’ and also some that really wasn’t spare at all. There was no room for knitting, reading, woodworking or any of the other things I usually do when I’m not working, avoiding housework or poking facebook.

However, the first semester is now drawing to a close and with only two assignments left there is room to breathe. And knit. So first of all, a confession. The big black knotty nightmare? Is no more. All my grand talk about lifelines turned out to be so much bunkum when I noticed a mistake, decided I could live with it, and so moved my lifeline past it. Then I decided that I couldn’t live with it after all, and – get this – decided to try and frog back past¬†it. Despite knowing all the stuff I said about the impossibility of frogging knitted lace. Literally, I looked at this fragile web of holes and thought “it’ll be fine”.

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The Mistake

Reader, it was not fine. So now the poor thing is half-frogged and sitting in a cupboard where it can’t remind me of my own stupidity. I loved the pattern, and I loved the way it was turning out, but I have to go a-a-a-a-l-l the way back to the very beginning and that’s not something I’m prepared to do just yet. I wouldn’t hold your breath.

In the meantime there are socks in Lang Jawoll Degrade, which looks so gorgeous in the ball it’s almost a shame to knit it up:

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a kind-of-Hapisk-but-not-really because I’m just striping Debbie Bliss grey 4 ply with leftover sockyarn. Projects for leftover sockyarn are great for someone who knits socks because there are always little balls at the end (if you’re a match-obsessive the way I am). And this is going to be either a blanket or a shawl.¬†Haven’t decided yet, but I like the way the colours are coming.

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Scandinavian cowl, coming along ok:

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And some FOs because there were children with cold hands and heads so there needed to be hats and mittens…

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Big knotty black nightmare

Jane Sowerby describes this pattern in Victorian Lace Knitting thus:

“While intense concentration is required in knitting this piece initially, it is not difficult once the layout is understood.”

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She is not kidding.

This is knitted lace, not lace knitting. Lace knitting is patterned in one direction and then plain-knitted in the other direction. Lace knitting means if you make a mistake you can go back to the last ‘plain’ row and pick up from there. Lace knitting is easy-peasy. Knitted lace is serious business. Knitted lace is patterned in both directions. When¬†you’re patterning (looping yarn over the needle, usually) both ways it is completely impossible to rip back – there are no ‘safe’ rows with complete stitches where you can just pop them all back on the needle¬†and carry on. So if you make a mistake you’re faced with either having to ‘tink’ – knit backwards – to the mistake and fix it, or rip out the whole lot. What you see here is an acknowledgement that, actually, my concentration (however intense) and knitterly dedication are insufficient to the task.

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A lifeline (the stripe of yellow yarn near the top). It became an obvious necessity after three times of frogging the whole lot before I’d knit two¬†inches.¬†The first frog was caused by an error I noticed three rows back, the second when I apparently could no longer count to eight and the third¬†was after an exciting bit in the film I was watching (The Punisher, to my shame) that made me jerk the needles so that three stitches fell off. They couldn’t be picked up and that was when I decided to start using a lifeline. It¬†acts as a ‘safe’ row – any screwups can be ripped¬†back to there and picked up again because the line holds the stitches like a spare needle. You pull it out and reinsert it as you go, so you’re never too far from a safe row.

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The thing that’s driving me really potty is that I can’t learn the pattern.¬†I’ve got the middle section off pat, but I cannot get my head around the side diamonds – I always want to either increase or decrease in the wrong¬†direction. Still, at least I can autopilot the middle, which is very necessary because I’ve been mainlining Gilmore Girls while I knit this. Three¬†episodes just about equals two repeats of the centre and a whole repeat of the border. That’s sixteen rows. Yes, sixteen rows in about two hours. It’s slow work but I’m getting there – all other projects are on hold at the moment because if I don’t tackle this solidly it’ll just never get done and every time I leave it I forget the pattern all over again. The pattern specifies a certain number of repeats but I had more yarn than it called for so I bunged in an extra pattern repeat in the middle (five columns of rose-petals rather than four) and I’m just going to keep going until I’ve got just enough left for the end border. It is going to be pretty, though – lace never looks like anything special when you’re knitting it, but then you block…

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Excuse me, I have an appointment in Stars Hollow.

Knitting = cooking but with sticks and string

I’ve opined¬†before how similar knitting is to cooking in some respects. For example you generally can’t afford to just throw away your mistakes – you either have to wear them or eat them. The analogy also applies in terms of the things you cook (or knit) so often that you don’t need a recipe – you know enough to vary the details around the edges but you basically do the same core thing every time. So a casserole is a casserole is a casserole – brown the meat, braise¬†the veg, add liquid, put in oven for some hours. A sock is a sock is a sock – it needs a heel, a toe and some length. You might use cider rather than wine, you might use 2×2 rib rather than 1×1. But in essence, these are recipes/patterns you can produce without concentrating all that much.

Which is probably why I don’t generally go for¬†long recipes or patterns. When you’re used to just banging through a process, having to stop and consult a printed page¬†every two minutes really interrupts your flow. I can just about stand it with baking, but if I’m trying a complicated¬†dish or something where you need half a teaspoon of this, half a teaspoon of that, quarter of a teaspoon of the other I tend to get impatient and sloppy. Obviously that’s not mad¬†crucial if you’re cooking (though – Top Tip – you really can’t afford to be free and easy with nam pla) but if you do that with lace then it is absolutely going to bite you in the bum. Which is why this;

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has a lifeline.¬†More on¬†that¬†later…

However, poring over a pattern that even after this many repetitions I haven’t learned yet was kind of getting to me, so when one of Kate Davies‘s emails about the haps in her new book fell into my inbox, it suddenly made me realise that I was BORED of doing complicated and I wanted simple. Even better;¬†simple that meant¬†I didn’t need to buy the woollen poncho I’ve had my eye on, and simple that was going to allow me to use up all the tailends of sockyarn cluttering up my stash. The Hapisk shawl¬†by Helene Magnusson has a gloriously wearable¬†shape and best of all it’s stripes in garter stitch. It’s essentially¬†a big square with a slot in it, so it’s more or less a blanket that you can wear (and you know how fond I am of blankets). So it’s a knitted casserole as far as I’m concerned. It’s going to take awhile because those are 2.5mm needles and 4ply yarn and I’m knitting something that’s about 5 foot square, but still.

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Three balls of sockyarn down; 45 to go.