Dead kitty scarf: approaching two-thirds completion

Dead kitty scarf: 64 percent complete
Oh, man. I feel like I’ve been working on my Dead Kitty scarf forever. It’s my own fault; I let it stagnate for a month in the near-the-couch project bag, which is close to the bottom of the project-bag hierarchy.

Projects that live in the very-small-and-portable project bag that fits in my backpack and can double as a purse are finished pretty rapidly. Projects in the medium-sized but conveniently multipocketed bag have a weeks-long turnaround time but usually make it to completion. The under-the-desk project bags are where the freaks and stillborns are hidden: ideas that didn’t work, tangled yarn too good to throw away that’ll take two hours to restore to reason, 10-percent-done pieces waiting to be ripped out and reskeined, and boring projects worked in indestructable yarns that squeak and scratch when knitted for gifts (e.g., hats made of Lion Brand “Homespun” to be given away as playa gifts next year at Burning Man).

The next-to-the-couch project bag is a bit like debtor’s prison in depressing English novels: the projects, mostly completed or at least well started, wait out their time in the dark far from the light of the world, crammed together with stray sewing supplies and stitch markers and odd balls of thrift-store yarns awaiting evaluation, until they’re either rescued and finished, or abandoned, their little corpses stuffed into the under-the-desk pile to await processing.

I fished out the scarf and have been forcing myself to do one repeat of the pattern each night that I don’t have crazy amounts of homework. After Justin falls asleep, I don my mighty studio headphones, cue up Cast On and settle in to at least a solid hour of work to produce a pathetic 5 inches of scarf. It takes forever: it’s double-knitted, so I’m actually knitting a both sides of a double-sided scarf at the same time, and I’ve been taking great pains to make sure that all the repeats actually match — on this side of the scarf, anyway. There was a little bit of unfortunate variation going on among the first pattern repeats, but I’ll be damned if I’m ripping back weeks of work for a couple of misplaced stitches that only I would notice. I’m also shaving the time down a little by knitting with two colors at once and knitting backward instead of turning the work, so at this rate, it should only take me about five freaking years to be done with it.

Two knitting victories

In class last week: I was sitting next to another knitter who recognized the Odessa hat I was knitting. Yay. We knitted all during class and the teacher didn’t seem to mind. VICTORY.

catskullpattern.pngAlso last week: my boyfriend has really taken a shine to a cat-and-crossbones pattern for a scarf for a friend, a birthday present started in July and by now already over a month overdue.

“Y’know,” I said, “I came up with that pattern for you.”

“Really?” He sounded touched.

“Yup. I originally drew it with big X’s for eyes because I wanted to make you a dead cat scarf, since you can’t stand cats,” I said. (This is what romance is like around our place.) “But you don’t wear hats and you already told me not to make you more gloves or scarves because you lose them.”

“Yeah. But … maybe a sweater?”

This is heavy. My boyfriend is crazy picky about his clothes. He says it’s because he dated a fashion designer a few years ago, but I think he’d dress this way no matter what. His clothes are fitted incredibly well — as in, shirts so skinny you can see the outline of his body jewelry through them and pants so tight you can tell which way he’s tucking — and he doesn’t have a lot of them, since not too many clothes pass muster with him. If he wants me to knit him a sweater, that means my knitwear isn’t just a cute hobby — it’s fashion.

He hasn’t forgotten, either. I showed him some glow-in-the-dark yarn I got on eBay (Dude! Glow in the dark! Never outgrew it!) and after exclaiming over it, he said “Could you use this for my sweater?” How can I say no?

So is this, like, the opposite of the boyfriend sweater curse? Either way, we wear the same size sweaters, so if anything goes sour, at least I’ll be up by one seriously cool pullover.

Finished Montague!

Montauge - doneMontague
Chemo cap, own pattern, for Pretty in Pink contest.

Started Oct. 5, 2006; finished Oct. 8, 2006.

Pattern: mine. Yarn: Lion Brand Micro Spun. (Yes, Lion Brand. I was pretty torn up about this.) The yarn is six very loose plies, so it splits like crazy, but I like it. Pattern notes: Whoops, the hat came out kinda big. Obviously some tweaking is needed. It would help if I could find a super-stretchy cast-off that pulled in the edges of 1×1 rib so it wouldn’t flare out, but I have a feeling that particular quest is gonna last me a while.

Would I knit it again? Well, yeah. I gotta perfect it.

Chemo cap, Mark II: A rose by any other name

More chemo cap goin’ on over here. I’m kind of a hat fiend, so this is the perfect project for me. The next hat is my standard top-down beanie, worked not on the last project’s 3s and 5s but on blessed, blessed 10 1/2 DPNS in the split stitch from this Knitty pattern.

I’m using doubled L**n Br*nd Micro Spun. $2.50 for a ball of yarn?! I know I’ve got a loathe on for the brand, but honey, this is my exception. This stuff is plush and soft like brand-new fleece, comes in black and red — the only colors that matter — and at this price it could make me go all Romeo and Juliet in the middle of the yarn aisle at Joann’s, which is foreign territory, indeed.

If only it weren’t Lion Brand, I wouldn’t have to get all squeamish about buying it. Maybe it’s how let down I was the one time I knitted something in Wool-Ease and it started pilling while it was still on the needles, or my stint at a high-end yarn store that nurtured the fiber snob in me, but dang. Lion Brand? Yeesh. “So Micro Spun would, were it not Lion Brand call’d, retain that dear perfection,” indeed. I thin I’ll call this pattern “Montague.”

Finished: Odessa

Odessa: doneOdessa
Started Sept. 27, 2006. Finished Oct. 3, 2006.

Yarn: Cashmere left over from a swatch for the yarn store where I used to work; no ball band. Needles: US3 circs for the ribbing, US5 circs for the middle, US3 circs for the rest of it when for some reason I couldn’t find my 5. Nobody’ll know the difference.

Pattern notes: Made for the Pretty in Pink chemo cap contest. Knitted minus the beads the pattern called for. A very elegant pattern: easy to memorize the stitch pattern, with an easy pattern stitch that wasn’t totally brainless. The finished product looks classy and deceptively complex — what I call a “low effort, high yield” pattern.

Would I knit it again? Hell yes! This one’s going to be a staple in my hat stable, I can tell.

Macro mode, tamed!

Holy cats! I got the macro setting on my camera to work! I’ve been battling with it for weeks — there’s something about the Canon Powershot S40’s and S45’s finicky macro setting that makes close-ups nearly impossible.

Odessa: beginning

I was driven by a mad urge to take knitting photography out to the edge where Brooklyn Tweed lives, or where Interweave Knits finally is after they taught their photographers about focusing. (I used to play the “What’s the focus of this picture?” with that magazine, trying to determine which single part of the photo wasn’t a blurred-out, indistinguishable mess. “Model’s forehead” was a popular answer, along with “definitely not the knitted garment.” Best answer: “the non-knitted handbag in the foreground that has nothing to do with the pattern.”)

The S45 isn’t quite my boyfriend’s Canon Digital Rebel, which has spoiled me for little pocket cameras, but it’s competent enough — except for that damn zoom. The trick seems to be using the lowest aperture, propping my elbows on the desk to form a tripod, zooming all the way out, and praying.
I’ve been an atheist since I was 13 — any camera that requires prayer to keep a shot from being a blobby mess can kiss my ass.

Aaaanyway, in the picture is, like, an inch of the Odessa I’m making for the Pretty in Pink contest. I’m omitting the beads and I’m knitting it with lifted increases instead of yarnovers, to keep from having little holes in the fabric, but otherwise I’m sticking to the pattern.

When I was pawing through my yarn, looking for something soft enough for a chemo cap, I saw the cashmere … and I faltered. It was one of the only things soft enough to work that I didn’t already have set aside for another project, but dude … cashmere. My only cashmere. It’s a mind-bendingly delicious souvenir from my stint at the yarn store, a leftover from a store-sample swatch. It’s been parked in my yarn bin for over a year because nobody, including myself, deserves anything made from yarn this buttery-soft.

I think there’s something wrong in my head because every time I pat the yarn, my mouth waters. It’s not like full-blown synthaesia — I don’t smell orange blossoms or hear music when I cast on with it, or anything as awesome as that — but it’s still completely amazing yarn. Kinda makes me wish I had a ball band for it so I had a prayer (More prayer? WTF? I don’t like this trend) of finding it again. A hat made of this yarn would be an amazing gift, and one I’d be really proud to give, but … dude. My only cashmere. I picked up some black 100-percent merino instead and put the blue one back in its little plastic Ziploc bag.

After a little swatching, I saw I had two options with the merino: I could knit it on the recommended size and get a thick, fluffy fabric, but it would stretch out too much and let bare scalp show through. Eeek. Smaller needles gave better coverage, but they also gave a dense, unappealing fabric.

I sighed, and dug out the cashmere. I don’t wear soft blue-green, anyway.

Speaking of bear hats

Observe: bear hat, the prequel!

I made this one for myself last year — a top-down beanie with a seed-stitch brim, half-assed seed-stitch earflaps and long i-cord ties. While everyone else was getting all dressed up for a giant party, I frantically added bear ears and asked everyone in sight things like “Do these curl enough?” and “Does this look OK?” and “Does this say ‘bear’ to you?”

I only got to wear the hat out twice before my boyfriend and I went to visit a good friend, whose 12-year-old daughter was hanging out with us one night at some crazy hour of the morning. I plopped the giant, fuzzy hat on her head and tied the ends under her chin, and then everyone in the room put their hands to their mouths and drew back and said “Oh my god! So cute!”

I thought Damn, I was really hoping to actually wear that one, and immediately gave her the hat.

Her dad’s a photographer, so we all trooped out to the studio, picking our way over the air mattress where my boyfriend was crashed out asleep in a small, pathetic pile, fired up some lights and took some pictures of her, being very careful not to step on my boyfriend’s head.

If you’ve ever wondered if a super-expensive, super-elite pro camera makes a difference, IT DOES. The detail is mind-bendingly stunning, the colors are vivid and the precision is off the charts. It also has the heft of a brick, practically, and makes you go all gawky and nervous when you pick it up. I’ve been interested in photography since I was 15 and a gadget nerd since I was born, and touching this thing made me feel so awed that I snapped a couple shots and handed the thing off like a hot potato immediately. I am an idiot.

As to giving away the hat — that happens a lot to me. I keep finding things that I think are awesome, or making things that are awesome, and then I pretty quickly stumble on the person the item should actually belong to. Sometimes the things need a little work — a novelty yarn that’s beautiful but just not meant to be mine, a bike that needs cleaning, shoes with a slightly loose heel, or — most memorably — a beautiful old velour men’s jacket with a falling-apart lining that stank like it had been steeped in a cigar-smoking old man’s sweaty armpits for two decades.

I fix the bikes, repair wobly bits, re-skein yarn, soak the the jacket overnight in two gallons of water and a whole box of baking soda and then painstakingly whip-stitch the lining back to the jacket, and then pass the things along to their rightful new owners. There aren’t many things that I love too much to give away.

I’m not saying this to sound sanctimonious or overly angelic. Get anywhere near my iPod, my Elsebeth Lavold Silky Wool, my ice cream or my skull collection, and you’ll find out what a selfish, unyielding pig I am.

Also: Robot crochet

Anyway. There is a little crochet going on. I am working on a toy: a little red robot, inspired by one of my very first true Internet loves, explodingdog. If I could make crochet toys with a fraction of the expressiveness of Sam Brown’s wobbly, deceptively simple stick figures, I would be touching genius.

I love the red robots that show up in the drawings (not as much as the people, but close). I’m not a big fan of making direct copies of other people’s ideas, so I cracked open my little ideas sketchbook and drew something cuter. It’s funny: with animals and people, I like bizarre, grotesque imagery, but with things that aren’t alive or seem especially alien to us breathing types, I like them to look cute or unnervingly humanoid. I want my animals freaky and my toasters adorable, I guess.

Also: knitting

And knitting: I mostly finished inventing another cabled fingerless glove pattern, then lost a stitch, increased to make up for it, and then a couple inches later found the lost stitch gleefully unraveling itself down through several cable crossings, waaaaay beyond a point where I could retrieve it. I was already slightly uneasy about the length and fit of the glove, so I figured the hell with it — might as well rip it all out, start it over, adjust the width and have something that’s perfect instead of “almost there.” Which means I get to start over again.

The only thing keeping me from hurling the yarn to the back of the dark, damp cabinet under the kitchen sink or someplace equally dank and remote is that once they’re done, I’ll have the pattern written out all the way in two sizes, and I’ll be able to make a pair for myself.

And they will rule.

Purses? Clutches? Get it?

Bear hat for my friend Luke: completed. He was delighted. It fit perfectly. It had better — it was the fourth or fifth time I’d knitted the damn thing. Knowing he liked it, I no longer hated him or the hat.

Not pictured: the Knucks I knitted for a friend. No lettering, just a band of skulls and crossbones running around each hand. My friend hounded me for them for ages, then once he got them, begged that I drop the temperature in Los Angeles so his hands wouldn’t get sweaty as he wore them everywhere. In August. Rico is a lunatic. Fortunately, 1. that’s why we like him and 2. he’s in Europe for a bit, exclusively on bits of the continent where gloves will be a very welcome thing now it’s fall.

Now my projects are down to various knitted projects I’m inventing, adapting and refashioning that will probably take months before they’re done, and that damned pink crocheted purse that only needs blocking, assembling, finishing, lining, and abandoning to its new owner’s clutches.

So much nonprogress!

All the crochet has been sort of sitting on the sidelines while I rip out and reknit a beanie for a friend. This has to be the fifth time I’ve knitted it after starting over, but this time the fit is just right — it’s just half an inch too short.

It’s actually pretty tricky. The friend likes very tight-fitting hats. This means I’ve had to come up with a bind-off that can stretch to twice its usual width but that still fits closely, without that horrible single circuit of too-tight bind-off that makes it feel like you’re wearing a skinny steel band around your head.

There’s a stretchy bind-off I tried that sorta works except it made the edge sort of … ripply. Almost lacy. Not a solution for a guy’s hat. But I got the idea of the bind-off; in it, you pass one stich over the next as usual, but then you pass that stitch back onto the left needle and knit it again. Essentially, it’s adding a crochet chain stitch in between the regular knitted stitches.

My compromise was a nice, neat bind-off where I worked the loops off the knitting needles with a crochet hook, and chained one between every other bound-off stitch. Stretchy, tight-fitting and neat-looking. I AM A GENIUS. Now I just need to add that last half-inch to it and crochet on the bear ears and it will be done!

Which is good, because of course the one thing my friends needs now (mid-July in California) is a 100-percent-wool hat, right?