Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Shawl continues apace, blissfully

The Wings for Nightbird shawl is starting to take shape, and my six-year-old ball of lace yarn so far seems indefatigable. Of course, it won't look like a beautiful lace shawl* until it's blocked, and that's pretty far in the future, but I've only got about 4 rows until I could make the first big decrease (from 293 to 149). But, since Teresa explicitly advises "If you want a longer and bigger wing you can repeat more rows of chart A," I'm going to keep going for more like 10 rows, or four subway rides.

A few times as the elevated train rumbles through the Bronx and the sunlight streams through the window, it has changed the color of the yarn completely, so that the dull purple mixed with gold turns to bright indigo, almost royal blue. I'm not sure my iPhone can capture it, but I'll try tomorrow.
Besides the warm sun on my shoulder and the relative comfort of knowing I'll be sitting for almost the whole trip home (since I get on so near to the end of the line), I've really been enjoying two audiobooks. They're both so good, yet so different, that I'm torn between them.
The first (in order of Overdrive download), is Charles Duhigg's Smarter, Better, Faster. I was so delighted by the first book of his I read, The Power of Habit, that I copied out some of his tips.
Namely, to have a chance of breaking a bothersome habit, one must carefully note these five factors:
  • Location: Where are you? 
  • Time: What time is it? 
  • Emotional State: What’s your emotional state? 
  • Other People: Who else is around?
  • Immediately Preceding Action: What action preceded the urge?
Since then I've read about a dozen more books on psychology and motivation, and going back to Duhigg's words makes me realize the special and superior quality of his writing.
The other equally compelling work transports me from one of the world's largest cities to a tiny village in rural Quebec inhabited by eccentric runaways from big-city Montreal. In May, a book club friend introduced me to Louise Penny's wonderful Inspector Gamache series with the most recent installment, A Great Reckoning (#12), and I have been filling in the blanks ever since. I disagree with a snippet I saw on Goodreads about needing to go in order--I've been having a grand time filling in gaps, and I'm now in the thick of Book 9, How the Light Gets In, and I'm enjoying having no idea how Gamache and his (former and present) colleagues can turn their dire situation around, yet knowing that they will.
*Best description of the transformative power of blocking I've ever read is in this book, by the one and only Yarn Harlot.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Casting On the Right Way

I was so excited to begin the Nightbird shawl that I ended up spending approximately two hours (majority of my round-trip commute) casting on. I wanted a nice, loose edge, so I started with the backward loop. Without any stitch markers, I painstakingly counted to 293, then counted one more time. Unfortunately, when I started trying to knit into those backward loops, in fingering yarn, on a size four interchangeable needle, things got ugly. About 100 stitches in, I decided to scrap the whole thing and go with a crocheted cast on (some people only use this for provisional cast-ons, but I like how it looks. Out of the many tutorials, I like the pictures, colors, and instructions in this one.
Again, though, with no markers, I had to intensely concentrate on counting by 1s all the way to 293.I lost count around 180 and winged it till I thought I was about 10 over, then counted by 3s and decided I had the right number. With my newer, secure stitches, I knit one row, still counting every stitch, and discovered I was just one off. I easily knit two together at the first end of the lace pattern, and I was off and running . . . (YO, K4, K3tog, K4, YO, K1 and on and on and on)

Of course, one project isn't nearly enough, so I decided to cast on an adorable sock yarn baby hat, using a circular needle instead of double points, and casting on 96 (with no markers--so self-defeating). The 4 border rows seemed fine, but once I started the eyelets, I was shocked to find out I had only cast on 86--off by 10!

The proper/smart/non-stubborn way to cast on:
If you like counting by 2s and have lots of markers
K20, PM (knit around 20, count to make sure, and when place the marker at exactly 20)
if you really enjoy counting by 3s (I sing to myself) and can find slightly fewer markers
K30, PM (knit around 30, count to make sure, and when place the marker at exactly 30)

If you operate this way, losing count is super-low stakes, and you get the satisfaction of knowing you won't get any nasty surprises later.
I'm about to start knitting on this again, but in the interim I whipped out this intensely satisfying wool baby hat on size 7 DPNs in good old Wool of the Andes Worsted.
Here's the blocking--should be ready to go by tomorrow.

*Both the baby hats (blue and orange) are from One-Skein Wonders for Babies which I was able to download straight to my tablet or view in a browser through the Brooklyn Public Library's boss knitting eBook collection.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Knitting together a community

For the past several years, I've had the honor and super-fun task of producing a hand-knit item for our school's silent auction. I started with a modified pi shawl straight fromElizabeth Zimmerman's Knitter's Almanac, then got really ambitious and made a Knit, Swirl jacket. Bearing in mind that I was making something from an established, published pattern, I reached out to Sandra McIver, and was rewarded not only with permission, but with an autographed bookplate and several promotional postcards.

In 2013, I spent the long high school search process (especially the auditions) working on a rectangular shawl of my own design that incorporated a lozenge pattern from the Joy of Sox, then in 2014 did two disparate items (teal cowl and small magenta silk, heart-shaped shawl). Last year, my first fall with three kids in three different schools, I kept it simple with handwarmers, a scarf, and a cowl that all incorporated a similar cabled design and were all in the same beautiful blue-green yarn (they weren't meant to be sold together, but what the heck)
This year, with the commute to Lehman offering a lot more knitting time, I wanted to make a beautiful lace shawl, and I was browsing for patterns just as the Deep Fall Knitty issue went live. Wings for Nightbird jumped out at me, as much for all the variations featured as for the charming story.
Since I know knitting designers work hard and it's discouraging to have their patterns copied willy-nilly, I shot off an e-mail to Teresa, the pattern's creator, telling her my plans.
I received her sweet reply greenlighting my project this morning,
That is so wonderful, totally OK with it! 
Actually not just OK, it's so honorable ^^ 
Thank you for sharing your significant plan with me Maria!!! 
I can't wait for auction day! :)
so I can now get ready to cast on.
I've got two lovely lace-weight yarns, both in my stash for years, and though I originally hoped to do the entire shawl in the variegated, I think the top bit could be a creamy white and still look classy. If it seems strange, I also have a lovely brown cashmere laceweight, but part of the appeal of going with someone else's design was to not have to tweak it, much. The bottom chart will be in the variegated, and we'll see where we go from there.
Now, to cast on 293 stitches.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Finishing the Hat (not nearly as momentous as it sounds, but a good start)

So the first week of my internship combined with the first (half) week of school, plus first time back at karate for the kids, and a book club meeting had me almost comatose by Friday evening, but this Saturday morning everything seems fresh and new. (I'm the only one up yet, and I'm thinking about trying a brand new breakfast recipe
or I may just fall back on our tried-and-true French toast.

Just thinking about that whirlwind makes me smile. The internship takes time (amazing time wherein I'm relearning how to work in a workplace with colleagues and about library science in action), but it also gives the gift of time, in the form of a 1.25 hour commute each way,mostly on the 4 train, and often sitting down. On Friday morning I even got to have a knitting conversation with a fellow passenger ("I used to knit . . . a doctor recommended it for relaxation . . . I hated finishing; I made a scarf and I could never finish it" but she seemed interested in picking it back up.) Hopefully she can go to a knitting circle at a local library. There are so many to choose from at NYPL.)
As we chatted, I was able to complete my variation on the Helix Hat (started last week) described in Circular Knitting Workshop (p.130 in my edition),

with only a few bumps along the way. I'm so used to knitting in intarsia, that I was convinced I needed to pick up from the bottom or wrap around when I changed colors, but it only took about 10 rows for me to notice that wasn't quite working:
Once I stopped doing anything, the material became miraculously smooth, but from the outside it's really a minor blip.
Maybe next time I'll read the directions a little more closely instead of figuring I already know what to do. Coincidentally, or not, exactly why I rushed to the wrong book club location Thursday night. Just a little closer reading could have saved me a teen-minute speedwalk in 90-degree heat. On the other hand, Brooklyn Heights is lovely and sweating gives your body a chance to work out impurities.