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Winter knitting! No, wait, spring knitting! No, wait —

Somewhere around the holidays, I got suckered into knitting a pair of mittens, a pair of arm warmers and a matching beanie for friends at work. I’ve been cranking like crazy trying to get them done because even though it’s only January, the fickle Bay Area weather probably has maybe three or four weeks of cold left before we’re up to our necks in blissfully balmy weather.

We’ve already had our first week of unseasonably warm weather: 70 degrees and sunny for most of a week, in mid-January. It’s crazy! Everyone I know has been getting spring fever early, digging their bikes out of storage, going for long hikes, trekking to farmer’s markets or just reading in a sunny patch of the living room and falling asleep mid-paragraph. We’ve also all been trying to stifle a nagging low-level doomsday anxiety and making lots of nervous jokes about global warming.

Portland, however — Portland is cold. I was up there last weekend and the knitter in me was all excited that I got to pack my knitwear and actually use it! The spoiled Bay Area native in me, though, was just pissed that I had to wear all of it at once to keep from freezing.

As soon as I got back to the sunny, golden, perfect Bay Area, all my knitting looked pretty … well, it looked pretty stupid. Two-color knitting with worsted yarn on size 3 needles? Warm and solid, but so’s a bulletproof vest, and at this rate the bulletproof vest would be lighter. A sweater made with an alpaca/silk blend? Gorgeous, but only useful if I take up long rambling walks by the edge of the bay at night … with no pants on.

But wool’s wool, so I’ll keep knitting it, confident that the weather will do another about-face right into cold, gloom and rain and I’ll have an extra few weeks before it’s time to start in on another round of unfinished summer knitting.

(And in the day and a half since I started this post, it’s done exactly that — cold, rain, the whole deal!)

I’ll divert the yarn balance to my own ends

I think this is the year that I buy my friend a present instead of knit one.

We’ve been friends for near six years and for most of that, I’ve knitted him something for his birthday. No sweaters or anything, but beanies with devil horns; fingerless gloves with prison tattoo-style embroidery; sturdy scarves that he can’t use much in San Francisco where he lives but that come in handy for snowboarding. He loves them and loses them anyway, and I don’t mind; he loses them because he uses them constantly.

A couple weeks ago I was pondering what to make him and it hit me: the lucha libre mask from “Son of Stitch ‘n’ Bitch” (here’s the Ravelry link), but done up like Strong Bad from Homestar Runner! I’d have to chart Strong Bad’s face for the pattern, buy the yarn, then knit like a fiend for the next week or two, but it’d be totally doable. It would be perfect!

The perfect pattern — again. Every year, I come up with the perfect present and turn in the finished product, sometimes way past deadline, often with an additional present. He loves them, but doesn’t exactly reciprocate. Come to think of it, I can’t actually remember if he’s given me a birthday present at all in the last couple years, never mind an elaborate handmade one. I’m not the kind of person who keeps tabs on that kind of thing; it’s just hard not to notice when I bust my ass on something good for him and he doesn’t remember to call on my birthday — especially when mine is only three days before his.

He’s busy, working a lot, and kinda distant lately as our lives have started peeling slowly away from each other. Neither of us has brought that up yet, and I don’t know when or if we will. Not to mention his girlfriend’s a beginning knitter, and the product of all my badass technical knitting skills wouldn’t mean much stacked next to one of her totally simple and totally earnest scarves.

He’s not a bad friend, by any means; he’s still one of my best. But I think it’s his turn to remember this time.

Word nerd strikes again

Here’s some trivia for ya: I was wondering about use of the word “rocket” before this century, and looked up rocket on an online dictionary to get a look at the origin of the word. I’ve been looking up words since I was very small, which is part of the reason I have a stellar vocabulary and kill at Scrabble. And here’s what I saw:

Origin:
1605–15; < It rocchetta, dim. of rocca distaff (with reference to its shape) < Goth *rukka

See that? Distaff! We call them “rockets” because they’re shaped like old-school spinning tools! There’s always a little more old tech in our new tech than we realize, and language is some of the oldest tech around.

I think my brain’s got a leaky seal

The first two rows of my Serenity sweaterI just cast on for Serenity. I spent awhile last night monkeying with the numbers and measuring and remeasuring my washed, blocked swatch to figure out what size to make and once I had made the math come out correct three different ways, I finally cast on.

I was blissfully charging into my third round of garter stitch when I noticed that holy cow, something’s weird. I’m usually a highly technical, impetuous type — I’m practically a stunt knitter. But knitting a large swatch so I could get a good average measurement? Washing and blocking it? Triple-checking my math?

Enjoying garter stitch?

I love dreaming up projects, but I get overwhelmed easily. My list of half-finished projects and promises is as long as my arm and adding to that list makes me feel pretty worthless. Enough people have bitched me out for procrastinating that now instead of committing to something and then putting it off, I commit to something, get terrified, start stalling, make myself feel guilty and ashamed before anyone else can do it, and put things off anyway. It’s a stupid process, and I’m still figuring out how to stop it.

So starting a sweater, especially when I still have another large project mostly done but not quite there, is kinda scary. I know I have all the skills I need to make the sweater; the only thing stopping me is the nasty little voice in my head that says I’m a bad person who won’t finish it. Which is stupid, neurotic thinking, I know — I mean, this is my hobby! I’m supposed to be doing this for fun!

So instead of starting a sweater, I spent two days knitting, washing and measuring a swatch and trying out different ways of casting on, all for a beginner-level raglan knit in the round. By then I’d done so much math that even my worst neurotic worries had to shut up, so when I finally settled down with a stretchy-enough cast-on, I got to turn off my brain and knit.

And oh, it feels good.

Berets on the brain

At least if the zeitgeist is thirsty for berets, it also has a serious supply of them on tap. Sarah referenced Porom, the new brooklyntweed beret, in the last post’s comments and I really liked that one. I figured hey — might as well round up a few stylish beret patterns that won’t leave your head looking like it’s been attacked by a giant, floppy sea urchin. (Except Porom, which looks like a giant floppy sea urchin in the good way.)

Since I can’t knit ’em all, after some exhaustive Ravelry searching, I settled on the Bousta Beret — the subtle-but-complex stitch pattern hooked me immediately, and in the Ravelry projects, every variation on yarn and size looked fantastic. Best of all, it calls for DK-weight yarn, so I can use that red cashmere I mentioned. Sweet! I don’t have to shop before I cast on!

So here’s Bousta and all my runners-up, with links to Ravelry patterns and projects:

Bousta Beret
Bousta Beret
. Gorgeous photo and example by FlickaFish.

Trinity Stitch Hat
Trinity Stitch Hat
. Example by Reecie; check the photo for a rad tattoo! Free pattern.


Cassidy’s Cap
. Would you look at those cables! Example by tammyknits.

DROPS Basque
DROPS Basque hat with lace pattern
. Free pattern.

February Beret
February Beret
. An instant classic. Free pattern.


Porom
Jared Flood strikes again!

Selbu Modern. Just look at it! It’s perfect! Free pattern.


Marronglace Beret
. Crochet, for those of us who go both ways.


Please allow me to reintroduce myself

(Oh, just look at that title, won’t you? I’ll do anything for a “Sympathy for the Devil” reference, I will.)

Well, hello there! Now, it’s bad form to apologize for not updating your blog — it seems presumptive to assume my adoring audience would pine for my golden words while I laze around watching Cartoon Network. So this is definitely not an apology. Instead, I’ll leap right into the talking!

I just got back from seeing Neil Gaiman at a book reading in San Francisco and during the Q&A session, he got a question he and all successful writers constantly have to answer: “What’s the best advice for a writer?” His answer: “Write. The second-most important advice is: finish.” (I preferred the first question, myself: “Are you taller than your fridge?” Answer: “No.”)

Would-be writers are always looking for the magic pen, software, morning ritual, desk arrangement, hangover cure or sleep/wake schedule that will turn them from would-be writers into capital-W Writers — anything that’s not the real answer, the one that smacks of hard work and discipline: writing is what makes you a writer.

I’ve lost touch with writing, myself. I’m paid to be a Web monkey, and Web monkeys are considered coders, not writers. There hasn’t been much call for me to write. When I think about Real Writing, my brain locks up and makes a noise like a loose belt in an old Honda. I blog here, but I’d gotten caught up in the “Oh, I haven’t been knitting much; besides, I can’t blog without a photo” train of thought, which is a treacherous one to entertain. Boring! Inaccurate! The worst kind of intolerable mendacity!

So, to hell with that. I’ve cleaned my room, sorted my yarn in a way that will probably make no sense to me a month from now, cleared my desk off and put all my scissors into an old metal biscuit tin with a cartoon of a little Japanese man on it that would probably strike people nowadays as kinda racist, and I’m ready to blog! I’m here to bring you my message, as loud and clear as I can:

If I have to look at another beret pattern on Ravelry, I’ll fucking kill myself.

Hah! I know how this game goes. Now I’ve said that, I’m immediately gonna queue four completely innovative, technically challenging, cleverly constructed and totally gorgeous berets. Fuck you, fate! I’m ready!

Really, though. Go through the patterns on Ravelry lately, and you’ll see: the zeitgeist is thirsty for berets. I even saw one on a boy yesterday! Granted, he was young and confused-looking, and it was outside an art supply store, which I think the United Nations has declared a safe haven for tragic fashion choices, but still. Not everyone has the guts, insouciant charm and cute knee socks needed to pull it off. Certainly not that poor, charcoal-smeared wretch.

Fortunately for what’s about to happen to my queue, I do, and could totally see myself in a candy-apple-red beret. I even have some cashmere yarn in exactly that color. I mean, if I gotta do a beret, why not go for one that’s not afraid to say “JESUS CHRIST, WOULD YOU LOOK AT THIS GIRL’S HEAD?!”

The funny thing is, as much as I could use a hat that’s not one of the ten I already own, I’ve been hesitant to start a new project before I finish the double-knit scarf I’m working on.

I know, right? You’re gasping like landed fish right now with shock and dismay, admit it! I’m waiting to finish something. I’m getting the vapors just thinking about it.

I dunno, I think my three-year campaign to get rid of clutter is finally paying off in the weirdest way. I go into shops now, pick something up and carry it around the store for a bit, then go “Eh” and ditch it where I found it. The quick thrill of buying it just doesn’t pay off the way it did before. I guess at the wise old age of OMIGOD I’M ALMOST 28, I’m finally growing wiser. Better start checking my brain for new wrinkles and my underwear for gray pubes! It only gets better from here!

Sweater curse, mark II

Handspun from a friend from the stitch'n' bitch
Merino handspun from UndyedYarnpire, a friend from the stitch ‘n’ bitch, getting the Glamour Shots treatment for Ravelry

My sleep schedule has been in ruins lately. I’ve been mopey and meh since the sweater curse kicked in again. I found a great Banana Republic sweater for four bucks at Out of the Closet and offered to reknit it from the armpits down to fit the boyfriend. A couple weeks later, the boyfriend cut me loose and now I’m single. I guess promising to knit a partial sweater for a significant other means that instead of a regular crappy break-up, you get a well-reasoned, respectful, amicable parting of ways over totally understandable differences in your life goals.

GAH.

So for the past couple days, I’ve been distracting myself after I get home from work by compulsively photographing my yarn stash on Ravelry and cataloguing it. I’ve also got to take the semi-abstracted close-up shots that make me want to reach into the monitor and squeeze the yarn. It’s the same kind of impulsive tactile craving that had me desperately wanting to bite my friend’s iPhone when they first came out. Which means long hours spent trying to make a bunch of string look sexy.

I’m usually not so type A about my stuff, but it’s been an absorbing distraction. I also figured that getting all my yarn catalogued would be a good way to curb my habitual yarn-buying. It’s easy to think “Aw, I have too much yarn, but what’s ten more skeins?” and click “buy.” It’s another thing entirely to think “Hmm, I wonder if that yarn goes with anything in my stash. Let’s see … y’know, maybe I wait until I’ve made a dent in the EIGHT SWEATERS’ WORTH OF YARN I already have. And why do I only ever buy anything in brown and gray?”

Though I’ve already staked out one exception to the yarn ban: Meridian Jacobs yarn. I’ve got a thing for the demented-looking skulls of multihorned Jacob’s sheep — I have about four hanging on my wall, and vague plans of getting a tattoo of one — so I have to check out the Jacob’s wool an hour’s drive from my house. It also fits in with my resolution to buy local, indie, sustainable, and less.

I’m also trying to buy less yarn and produce more of my own stuff. I’m laying the groundwork for some pattern/site stuff in the next few months, like I’m always promising to do. We’ll see how that goes.

And while I’m being crotchety …

How come high-fashion mitten models look so damn silly? Yeah, yeah, I’m picking an easy target, but there has to be better art direction out there than “Our vision is kind of a ‘Egyptian sarcophagus’ meets ‘The shrooms just kicked in so my head feels like a kickball and it’ll roll off my shoulders if I don’t prop it up with my hands.'”

Much love to VK and their awesome mitten patterns, but have they heard of modeling mittens by, say, throwing snowballs? Or handfuls of shaved ice that look like snowballs?

Jesus christ, people

Every once in a while I stumble on something that, though perfectly innocent, offends my sensibilities like crazy. There’s nothing at all wrong with the item, it just offends me. Like cilantro. Or lemongrass.

Or APPLE COZIES.

Jesus, people. APPLE COZIES. That you knit or crochet to protect your apple from bruising. Talk about solving a first-world problem … and don’t we first-world-problem kind of people not even eat enough fresh fruit to necessitate this kind of travesty?

Anyway. Don’t mind me. I’ve had a hacking cough for three weeks and my patience with just about everything is criminally low.