Tag Archives: Knitting

Scarves are the devil’s work

I’m working on another Dead Kitty scarf from my chart, and this time I’m actually logging what I do so I can release a full-fledged pattern for it. Only thing is, it’s a scarf, so it’s about a million miles long. And it’s a double-knit scarf, so it has twice as many stitches as a regular scarf, making it essentially two million miles long. Since I’m not too swift at following charts, or, apparently, at counting, I’m only halfway through the first repeat and I’ve already started over once and backtracked three times.

I hate scarves. I cast on for them all excited, and by the time I’m a foot into one, I’ve solved whatever was interesting about knitting it and I’m ready to do the next thing. Except I can’t, because there are nine million more miles to go. I slog through it, dragging it everywhere with me in hopes that I’ll maybe make a tiny advance on an unremitting army of yet-unmade stitches, and have to ban all non-scarf-related projects to keep me focused.

It’s all I can do not to hurl the damn thing off the roof. Buying yarn for a scarf is like paying to be tortured in the slowest, most painful way possible, and every time I bind off a scarf and weave in the ends, I have to hide it in a bag until I can give it away, because just catching a glimpse of it makes me angry.

So last night at the stitch ‘n’ bitch, I announced that the scarf I was working on was going to be my last damn scarf. And then I remembered … oh. I still have to make my mod-inspired college scarf, reverse-engineered from a vintage scarf I own. And I’m sure somewhere down the line I’ll come up with more scarves, and I still have to replace the one from my boyfriend that I lost in Pittsburgh.

So this is my last gift scarf, and then I’ll make the replacement scarf, and from then on I will never, ever, ever make another scarf from a pattern.


Scrum: Two sleeves and a hat are better than 1.75 sleeves and a dream

Dang! The all-around enthusiasm level around Sucka SC is dangerously high. The knitting continues apace, I’m competing in the NorCal Grilled Cheese Invitational tomorrow in two categories, and I’m helping to establish a West Coast chapter of the Corduroy Appreciation Club and setting up an inaugural meeting on Nov. 11 (a date, 11|11, that looks like corduroy).

I like to think all this energy comes from working out lately at the gym right around the corner from my stellar new job, but a lot of the blame may lie with the steady stream of Diet Coke and chocolate-covered espresso beans I’ve been consuming while I work on a big chunk of the company Web site.

I’ve only been on the job for a few weeks, but the biggest skill I’ve had to learn is project management. Basically, my boss replaced the company that had been maintaining the Web site with … well … me. We’re using a project tracker based on, as we discovered a bit after using it, scrum. It’s a style of project management influenced by rugby, with small teams, quick reactions and staggering amounts of communication. It’s intense, just like pretty much anything based on rugby is gonna be.

As I dive in, I’m starting to shed a lot of my bad habits. Procrastination, inaccurate deadlines, no idea of my progress, slacking — no time! Getting in the door on time is still an issue, since I can’t seem to drag my ass into work before 10 or 11 this week, but I cleared the late start with my boss so I can come in late and stay late, getting a solid two hours (or four, if I stay until 9 or 10 like I have been lately) at the end of the day where I can work without going to a meeting or having anyone IMing me, e-mailing me or showing up at my desk to ask me questions.

It’s working. I’m starting to get a clearer idea of how long things take to finish, how much work actually goes into something, how to revise expectations to fit my workload, and how long I can work on something before staring at it starts to drive me nuts. It also trashes the idea of arbitrary deadlines: instead of deciding how long something will take, you start doing it, and it’s done when it’s done. If you clear other work out of the way, it’s done faster. If there’s more going on, it slows down. End of story.

I’m seeing the payoff in my knitting now. The Simple Knitted Bodice now has two sleeves. It also, after a bit more work, has two sleeves of the same length. The next chunk of work — the next sprint, in scrum terms — is the torso below the lace band in the middle. It has been officially set aside until I can knock out another Molly — a smaller, faster project that will make me feel less like I’m plugging away at the sweater that will not end. Overall progress has slowed down, but my knitting rate is undimished.

Plus, it’s a pleasure to knit Molly again. I think it’s my favorite of my hat patterns. The Noro “Silk Garden” is so pretty that strangers on BART compliment it all the time when I knit on the ride home, and this pattern sets it off just right. The brioche rib is also soothing, simple, and goes along incredibly quickly. Noticing that nudges my confidence upward a little, too: none of the other two-color brioche-rib patterns, especially ones knitted in the round, can say the same. Working on this simple but striking hat makes me proud.

And, thanks to the hypnotic effect of my brioche rib technique, a little less nuts.

I want your socks!

No, really. I have an idea for a very stupid Burning Man project that involves large-scale knitting: giant socks. Big enough to crawl into, like sleeping bags.

I need materials, and instead of buying a bunch of new crap, I’d rather use materials that aren’t being used anyway. And, in a really perfect solution, I hit on the idea of using old socks.

So … got any mismatched socks? Socks with holes? Get in touch with me (my e-mail is arletterocks [at] gmail [dot] com) and I’ll take ’em off your hands.

Only one way to find out

There are a few areas of my life that I’d like to push:

  • Knitwear design
  • Information design
  • Complex design projects for print & Web
  • Product/portrait photography
  • Being a better boss and manager to myself
  • Hitting deadlines
  • Finding, feeding and creating independent media

So the obvious conclusion is that I should create and publish a book of knitting patterns.

The idea scares the snot out of me … which is exactly why it’s so appealing. And, thanks to things like Lulu and the booming prosumer camera market, it’s also entirely feasible.

Maybe something like this is beyond my reach. Then again, maybe a project this big will extend my reach. Only one way to find out, right?


When I met Rico, a friend of my then-boyfriend Justin, I was knitting a pair of fingerless gloves with a band of skulls around the top of the palm for the boyfriend. Rico was very, very impressed, and requested a pair. I said “sure.”

Months later, I still hadn’t delivered, and Rico began the most intense knitting-related pressure campaign I have ever witnessed. He managed to work the topic of fingerless gloves into every conversation. He briefly discussed an upcoming trip to Europe for work and how the cool fall weather would make gloves absolutely necessary, and how the fingers of traditional gloves hamper the recording and note-taking of reporters like himself. Occasionally I’d get inquiries about the progress of the gloves, and I’d make lame excuses as to why they weren’t done, since at the time I was so busy I was barely knitting at all. Finally, I received a MySpace message mentioning that he would be in town and would like to visit Justin and me, and how boy howdy it sure would be awesome if he could collect those gloves.

In short, he badgered me into making gloves for him, set a concrete deadline and leavened the pressure with such obviously genuine enthusiasm that I just couldn’t get mad.

I’d intended to use the same pattern I’d used on Justin’s gloves, but it would’ve taken weeks to decode my elaborate original pattern. The notes on the short-rowing across the knuckles and careful shaping at the base of the thumb were scrawled in tiny letters on knitter’s graph paper around an outline of a hand, with stray numbers, row counts and scratched-out notes popping up like dandelions on a schoolyard lawn in summer. I scrapped it, dug some heathered merino out of the stash, drew out my skull chart again, printed out a copy of Knucks and went to work. I knitted until my fingertips went numb but by god I had those gloves finished and perfect a day before his arrival in town.

(One lesson I got from this was that I am capable of working amazingly well when someone applies the right balance of relentless prodding and cheerful encouragement. I’ve actually started inviting people I freelance for to harass me like this, since it keeps communication clear and keeps me on track. My medium-to-long-term goal is to learn to manage myself like this, so others don’t have to.)

I sent Rico a message that the gloves were done. He picked them up a few days later, completely delighted, and then the follow-up campaign began.

Usually, when I knit someone a gift, I hand it over and it disappears. (Literally, for the original skull gloves — they were stolen when Justin took them to Sweden.) This was different: Rico constantly kept me posted on how excited he was about the gloves and how and where he’d wear them.

He started off by wearing them all week after he got them, even though they made his hands sweat in the LA heat. Word got around about the gloves, and mutual friends would corner me to ask about them. He wore them when his friend took his picture. And made a point of crediting me every time he mentioned the gloves in person or online.

This is the kind of person to knit for.

And best of all, in an unexpected turn, he’s now mine to knit for whenever I want.

Invaded! Rico models his new Space Invaders beanie.
Invaded! Rico models his new Space Invaders beanie. Pattern: My own generic hat pattern, with some Space Invaders charts from Knitty’s BMP and one drawn by hand. Needles: US 6 and US 7, whichever I had lying around. Yarn: Knit Picks “Merino Style” in Maple Leaf and Coal.

New Knitty reminds me that I am an utter slacker

The new Knitty’s out, and it’s making me realize how predictable I am.

Cherie Amour, Knitty fall '07
Ooh, pretty! I like the tunic length, the deep, deep V-neck and the draping sleeves. Plus, the shape is definitely very ’60s, which is always a hit with me.

Cherie Amour is beautiful, very likely will be one of my next projects and as my buddy Sonya pointed out, looks a whole lot like the sweater I’m already knitting (and have been knitting since spring). Oops.

Henry is my other favorite, and it is 1. herringbone, like the skirt I am wearing at this very moment, and 2. identical in texture to a jacket I already own. Fortunately, the awesome new boyfriend’s birthday is in January, and he’s definitely a scarf-wearer who thinks my alchemical skill in turning yarn into cool wearables is downright magic!

But overall, the new Knitty is more of the same. That “same” is pretty awesome, though, which makes me think that I’m bored with the designs because of me, not them. Once my room is tamed and once I’m not jetting off every single weekend to a different destination, I’ll be booking one day a week for knitting and working on my own stuff. The sweet new Internet job is great ‘n’ all but it hasn’t supplanted the need to design, and the lust to be a designer of some sort hasn’t abated.

Before I can do that, though, I obviously need to rustle up some self-discipline. It’s easy having a job where people tell me what to do all day. It’s a whole lot harder for me to keep myself focused, and to set and hit deadlines. I beat myself up all the time for being a slacker, when I know I’m capable of generating massive amounts of ideas, energy and work, and I can do amazing things when I harness them. I refuse to believe that self-direction is innate; anyone got any ideas on how to foster it as a grown-up?

Sweater makes a U-turn

So, uh, I’m halfway down the arm of my Stitch Diva bodice and I notice the arm is flaring kinda dramatically even though I’m following the pattern, so I decide to try it on. And, uh … well.

The shoulders and bust had fit just fine the last time I tried it on, so I had continued with the lace band around the middle in a finer yarn. So far, so good. Right down to the bottom of the bra band, everything went wonderfully smoothly and fit like a dream. And then I had resumed with the Cash Iroha at the midriff and forged ahead.

Cash Iroha? Not the same as the silk yarn called for in the pattern. It’s thicker and stretchier and less drapey. All this went well for me around the shoulders and the tops of the arm, where I got a really beautiful and pucker-free fit, and now I’m at the part where the loose fabric is supposed to fall in an appealing wash of airy fabric around my arms and waist and it’s sort of … not.

Instead, the arms grow straight out from my elbows, and the body? Not so hot. I’m getting a nice tight fit around the ribs and then it sort of goes all stupid. It’s like a giant, baggy ruffle: think a sloppy parody of a 1910 Gibson Girl fashion plate, all corseted waist and giant leg-of-mutton lower silhouette. The thing angles out from my body in a gentle cone shape.

Stitch Diva bodice schematicI’m thinking part of the problem is probably not a popular one to complain about: not enough hourglass goin’ on in the pattern. I mean really, who wants to hear someone saying “Oooh, poor me, I can’t fit my giant breasts into a sweater that fits the rest of my torso”? But it’s my blog, my sweater and my bust, so I can do whatever the hell I want with them.

So: The top fits my (not small) bust pretty well (maybe a little on the small side) and the hip measurement has an extra seven inches. When I checked out the pattern schematic, I noticed that, duh, there’s no decreasing below the bust. It jumps right into the lace panel and then flares out at the waist, and that’s why everything literally goes all pear-shaped.

Simple BodiceThe model in the photo? Skinny. Not so much in the way of breasts. She’s got just enough to gently pull the sides of the V-neck wide enough to get a pleasant view of her sternum. That’s what I like. (Not shockingly, the model is built very much like the pattern designer, Stefanie Japel, whom I like and am not gonna dis. Even though I really, really want to right now.)

Now, on me, not so skinny with a dramatic swell of junk up front but less corresponding increase in the hips-and-waist department, that V-neck just ain’t enough. If I picked a size by waist and hip measurements instead of the bust and worked it as written, the edges of the V-neck would land only halfway between my armpits and my nipples. And while I pride myself on trashiness, I’m not the kind of trash who parades the girls around in sloppy skankwear. I like my skankwear classy.

I guess I should’ve realized the schematic would hold all the answers, but the pattern specifically said to pay attention to the bust measurement. It didn’t mention anything about judicious increasing to accommodate my inspiring dimensions. And while that’s forehead-slappingly obvious to everyone else, remember — it’s my first time making a sweater, and I genuinely forgot the scrawny sweetie in the photo isn’t built anything like me.

So … more reknitting. I get to rip out a foot of knitting and do a bunch of decreasing where the Cash Iroha resumes. I think I’ll have to decrease immediately to get a rib-hugging fit and work narrower darts a little later in the game. I’ve already halved the number of increases in the arms so I won’t end up with floppy wizard sleeves big enough to hide a familiar in. Right now the only pets I have that could stand in as familiars are two Siamese fighting fish, who probably wouldn’t be too happy with that situation.

Damn right, it’s a competition

On the plane back from San Diego, the boyfriend (who shortly before had become, technically speaking, an ex-boyfriend — that sweater curse has a hell of a kick to it, if it can break you up before you’ve even cast on for the damn thing) and I had to sit two rows apart. We’d stayed late enough in the airport bar that we missed the first cattle call for our Southwest flight and couldn’t get two seats together. He found a spot and I wobbled two rows down, a little too cross-eyed from pre-flight rum & Cokes and half a Vicodin left over from our day trip to Mexico to carry on conversation. I saw a woman knitting something craptastic in red and some awful multicolored yarn, studiously looping each stitch like she was committing it to memory, and I smiled condescendingly. Awww, look at the knitter, I thought. So cute. God, I wouldn’t wear that thing on a dare, whatever it is.

I stashed my little vintage carry-on case in an overhead bin, plopped myself into a seat, and broke out my own knitting. I was working at a pretty serious clip on my Stitch Diva bodice — bless stockinette in the round; even the drunkest knitter has a hard time screwing that one up — when one of the flight attendants leaned over the business-suit-clad guy in the aisle seat to smile and make some incomprehensible noise at me.

I looked up from my lapful of stockinette and bleated, “Whaaaa?”

“What are you working on there?” she said.

“It’s a sweater,” I said, concentrating on saying my words without slurring and making sure both eyelids blinked at the same time.

“Oh, wow!” she said, and tugged on another flight attendant’s sleeve. “Look at that! She’s making a sweater!” They craned over the guy in the aisle seat, who looked pleased enough to have his field of vision filled with smiling, tanned stewardess.

I smiled modestly, trying not to look too addled, and held up the knitting so it looked at least marginally like a real garment instead of a blob of fabric. “Yup. You can see the armholes here,” I said, poking and stretching the sweater so the lace band in the middle would show to good advantage, “and the neckline here.”

“Hey, it really looks like a sweater,” they cooed. “Wow!”

The first flight attendant leaned forward again. “Y’know,” she said in a conspiratorially low voice, “I saw a couple other women on the plane knitting stuff too, but nothing that difficult. You definitely win for the most complicated project.”

I think I actually said “Aww, shucks.” I know for a fact that I tried to look pleased and modest. But all I could think was Damn right, it’s a competition. Bitch in row 12 never even had a chance.


Oops, no longer a genius. Knitted when I should have laced across the back of the sweater. Now I get to unknit an entire round of decreases and yarnovers. Dammit dammit dammit!

I need a nap.

And a 40.