Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Swimmin' With The Frogs

Well, the Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend Cardie is done. Finished. History. Kaput.

Yup, completely frogged out of existence. (Note the glass of shiraz in the photo. Mmmm-hmmm, it was that kind of night.)

So, you ask, what finally happened to push me over the edge?

Well, I'll tell you. With great confidence, I sat down to sew up the shoulder seams so that I could pick up the sleeve stitches and knit in front of the TV last night. I got the one seam finished and slipped the sweater on to make sure there was enough ease in the armhole. There was, but somehow, something felt off. I laid the thing flat to investigate and found that the front panel overlapped the back by about 2/3 instead of roughly 1/2. How odd.

So I folded over both front panels...

This is not good. Most of the time, when I make a cardigan, the two front panels do not overlap each other more than an inch or so at the button band. Hmmm...let's check our measurements.

Each of the front panels are 11 1/2 inches, and the back is 14 inches? That should read 23 inches! Now how in the hell did I knit an entire sweater body and not notice this? And how did I knit it, frog it, and knit it again, and NOT NOTICE THIS??

Too much stress? Too much shiraz? Not enough shiraz?

I reviewed my notes and found that the mistake was made before I even started. Swatches and calculations were all neat and tidy--23 inches at 8 st/inch is about 184 stitches, 11.5 inches at that gauge is 92 stitches. Mmm-hmm. So why did I write down PU and K 128 st across the back? That's 56 stitches off--or about 7 inches, which, after factoring in the draw-in for the lace pattern and the stitches consumed by the lace pattern that created a mock side seam, would account for the missing 9 inches. Bloody hell!

I poured that glass of shiraz, and pondered my options. Cut the sucker and insert a side panel? Frog out the front panels and make a smaller sweater for someone else? Ah, f**k it. Rip, rip, rip. It was strangely satisfying, so I suspect that I had had quite enough of this project or was never truly committed to it in the first place. Scratch that puppy off the UFO list!

So today is a bright new sunny day, and I have about 1200 yards of handspun fingering weight 3-ply woollen silk and merino to play with. Out of the frog pond and back to the drawing board!

Monday, April 28, 2008


I would be blogging more, but Teagan seems to be hogging the computer these days!

Well, now that my life is my own again, I find that I have a great deal of time to spin, knit and weave. Which is wonderful. So why aren't I churning out dozens of finished products?
Oh, I finished a pair of socks for Miss Julia that didn't even get a chance to cool from the needle friction before they were on her feet, as you can see...

And the hypothetical Blue Duck now has corporeal form...

...having been recently spotted nesting in its natural habitat. These rare photographs show that the blue duck is actually a felted knit, with tendencies to gravitate toward fiber crafts of all sorts.

I will be submitting my photos to National Geographic, and perhaps to publications aimed at teachers as well. I do believe Blue Ducks enjoy travel, and I am having difficulty keeping this one out of my knitting bag. However, I feel that if it must travel with me, it will need a name, and perhaps a snappy little hat of some sort.

There has also been much knitting, frogging, and reknitting of the Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend cardie. It is actually finished up to the collar now, and is awaiting the sewing up of the shoulders before I can pick up the sleeve stitches to knit. It feels like I have been knitting it forever, though it's only really been about two months, which leads me to today's pondering...

Instant gratification. There's nothing like it. You do something, you have a result. There are a couple of members of my knitting group who have a new show and tell every week. And not just a sock or a cap, but a whole sweater! That they just whipped up over a weekend! WHAT??? And here I am chipping away at the same cardigan for two months.

So pondering this phenomenon, I have come to realize that I am not in this for the instant gratification. Obviously. I suppose the socks come close to fulfilling that need for me. A week or so of dabbling in front of the TV or the doctor's waiting room and I have a completed project. I know that I can knit a single sock in about 4-6 hours, depending upon the gauge, but I never sit still that long, so those hours are spread out over a week (or two). So I do get things done.

However, I like to make things up as I go. That means that there is a lot of stopping to fix mistakes that seemed like a good idea when I started. I am very particular about how a stitch pattern looks and how the fabric drapes, which means I will rip anything that isn't just so. It also means that, in the end, I will have exactly what I want, not just another finished project. And in the end, that is what it will take to satisfy me.

There's something that I find deeply satisfying about solving problems and coming up with a new way to do things that seems to be integral to the process for me, too. It's that brain-work that balances out the hand-work and makes the project complete. I knit to relax, but I also knit to stimulate my mind. I do not knit just to make stuff--I will not go naked if this sweater isn't finished soon enough--I knit to create. And sometimes, creation takes time.

I also have a tendency to work on a pretty fine scale. I spin fine, fine, fine. Not quite frog hair, but lots of lace weight and fingering weight. The DAAGBF cardie is a handspun 3-ply at 20 wpi--fingering yarn by most definitions. This knits up at about 8 stitches per inch on 3.5 mm needles I am using. So why am I not churning out a sweater every weekend? Oh.

In the end, I will have the satisfaction of a well-crafted, custom-designed, fine-gauge sweater that will last for the ages and I know I will be happy in that. But I would just love the thrill of the weekend sweater every now and then.

Maybe I need to find something in between instant gratification and long-term satisfaction. A little gratisfaction. Or perhaps some satisfication. I actually have project lot of commercially-spun worsted-weight upstairs...maybe it's time to add some balance.

Gratisfaction, here I come!

Except that I will be designing the sweater as I go. D'oh!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Snow Day!

I'm snowed in. For the first time in the almost 26 years I have lived in Fort McMurray, we have had enough snowfall for schools and businesses to actually close. Holy Winter Wonderland, Batman! In April!

Busses have stopped running, and even the oilsands plants have told all non-process workers to work from home. Even when the temperature dipped to -55C plus windchill, the plants kept going!

My back yard, which was bare and dry on Saturday morning. It's hard to get the scale of things from this picture, but we're guesstimating it around 4 feet right now.

The snowdrift outside my door. That's about 10 inches at the door itself. But it`s not as bad as my neighbors...
...who must be using their underground parkade door!

And the College is closed, so I have this guy working in my living room. Eating my chips, and watching World`s Most Amazing Videos over the top of his computer screen. Hmmm. Tough job!

So what`s a girl to do but hole up in her studio and spinÉ

**I have no idea what happened to my question mark there. Shakes fist at Blogger yet again.**

Sunday, April 20, 2008


Check out the date on this post.

Now check out the view from my back deck:


Saturday, April 19, 2008

Angst, Art, and Cool Stuff

My world this morning seems a very bleak place. It is the last half of April, well into spring, and I am looking out my window at several centimeters of snow and a windchill of -20C. And grey, grey clouds. To go with my grey, grey mood.

This past week has been fraught with drama and I am pretty battered by all that has happened. Someone that we took in as a member of our household and treated as a member of our family betrayed us all last weekend. (Well, the betrayal had been going on for weeks, we just found out about it last weekend.) Through an act of selfishness on the part of one person, dozens of people were impacted, and the heart of someone I love dearly was broken. And guess who was left to pick up all the pieces and stick them together with Scotch tape?

The stress of everything that has been going on in my family and my world for the last several months has taken its toll on me. I have spent the last three days sleeping and knitting. When all else is chaos, there is great comfort in counting stitches and chanting "knit 1, yarn over, slip slip knit, knit 2, knit 2 together, knit 1". Aum has nothing on the regenerative powers of lace knitting.

I have stepped down from my role in Angels in America and am hermitting up to heal. And I'm already feeling better. In some ways, a great burden has been lifted for all of us and life is fresh and new and full of possibilities.

So, aside from my knitting, the thing that has kept my mind from sliding into a truly grey and ugly place has been the ongoing debate over "Art". First, I found this on the AntiCraft blog.
(I am not great at links, so if that doesn't work, go to www.theanticraft.com/blogs and scroll down til you find April 9,2008) The post is really about copyright and craft, but her concluding Elvis analogy sort of goes along with the theme of my last post.

On top of that, I happened to catch a show on CBC this morning that actually addressed the question "Is It Art?" The program featured Chas Lawther in search of something to fill the blank wall above his sofa and took him all the way to Florence in search of "real art" so he wouldn't look like a fool by hanging something he simply liked. In the end, he spoke to an art expert, whose name I unfortunately didn't write down, who said words to the effect that: "As soon as you are discussing whether or not a thing is artistic, it is Art." He credits this concept to Dadaism and the 1917 exhibit where Marcel DuChamp hung a urinal on the wall to challenge the idea of "Art" being separate from our every day lives. Verrry intellectual, but once again in keeping with my theme. Art is every day of our lives. Live it. Make stuff.

And while you're making stuff, indulge in cool tools. I have to mention the fabulous thing I found while browsing in River City Yarns in Edmonton two weeks ago. Consider this my first official Product Review:

The Andicraft Designs DP Knitting Needle Cozy is my new best friend. There are all kinds of products out there to cap the ends of your dpns, from basic cones to cutsie sock and teddy bear shapes, but I always had trouble with one or both falling off the needles and getting lost. I know you can use corks, your ball of yarn, soft erasers, and any number of other found objects. But this thing has a bungee that holds your tip cover on! No more having one cover pop off and drop all your stitches off that end! Hallelujah!

The needle cozies come in a 3-pack with cozies to fit 2-3.25mm, 3.25-3.75 mm, and 3.75-5.5mm dpns snugly, and come in lengths to work for 13cm, 15cm, and 20 cm-long needles. I bought the 13 cm length and it works just fine on 15 cms as well. The covers are flexible and soft, but strong enough to take the wear and tear of being popped on and off the needles and thrown around in my purse. The elastic is durable and firmly joined, so it won't come undone if you tug too hard. And the cozy is lightweight and fits nicely into a pocket, and has yet to roll away off a table-top. In fact, I even thought to loop it around the strap of my purse to keep track of it yesterday. Fabulous!

The down-side of these little treasures is the price. I paid $17.95 for the three of them, which makes them more of an indulgence than a practical purchase for most knitters. But well worth the indulgence if you can swing it!

There is a URL on the package, but the website for Andicraft Designs is not yet operational, so all I know is what I have in my hands. I'm loving the DP Cozy, so I'm looking forward to seeing what else they come up with!

I'm off to meet up with my fellow Fort Mac knitters at the local non-green-logoed coffee joint to show off my fabulous new find and to revel in the warmth of fibre folk.

Yes, I will conclude yet again with Life is Good.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Navel Gazing

I usually hate just typing a big block of text, but there has been no progress on anything fibery and all the other things I have done this week, while fascinating, are not necessarily visually interesting. Plus, I don't carry my camera with me a lot...

The vast majority of my time these days is being consumed by rehearsals, which are alternately agonizing and elating, depending upon what is being worked on and whether or not my head is up my butt. I think that I am coming along nicely--I know I have gotten over my issues with playing men, though our brief foray last night into breast binding ended in hilarity. I believe we may need much wider bandages--these gals are not going to lay down for nobody! The designer and the costume mistress are working on it...I'll keep you posted.

I also took a wee road trip to Olds this past week. I went to my alma mater, Olds College, to take an Instructor Skills Workshop. (I typed "instructor kills workshop" the first time around, which is a whole other concept!) This workshop is being offered to all of the Master Spinners graduates who wish to become instructors, as well as all of the instructors who are already in place, in order to level out the quality of instruction throughout that program. There have been issues in the past and this is another step to raise and/or maintain the quality and consistency of the program.

We learned about learning styles and presentation styles, and it turns out I'm not too bad at the old teaching thing. Apparently, I'm just bad at the getting my name out there thing. In fact, I just had my seminars at the next HWSDA conference cancelled. However, I am not alone there...enrollment for the whole conference is sadly waaay down. But the upside is that I will now be home for the Odd-Lot Puppetry send-off and Mother's Day. Anyway, if you are looking for a spinning instructor, drop me a line...or check out Gibson's Landing Fibre Arts Festival's website. I am offering a workshop in color theory for handspinners out there in August.

So, with all the free time I have, I have been doing a little navel gazing. The ages old debate of art vs. craft has been drifting through the blogs and conversations I have stumbled across lately. The ideas of community theatre vs. professional theatre have been bandied about in my presence. The whole validity of "The Arts" seems to be the topic of great debate in things I am reading. And if one more freaking person says to me "Oh, I'd love to do that, but I'm not very creative", I am going to put someone's eye out with my knitting needles.

If you make a thing, you are a creator. Do you have to design it, invent a new form or a new application of a medium, to be creative? No, that is innovation, which is a different thing. Creativity is found in all aspects of our lives, not just our "art". We can be creative in our cooking, our gardening, our child-rearing, our home decorating, our maintenance of our automobiles, our relationships, our style of dress.......the list is endless. We can make choices to assemble ideas, materials, and skills to make a thing our own, and most of us do it on a daily basis without even knowing it.

You can knit a sweater using a pattern from any one of the popular knitting magazines using the yarn called for in the pattern and think you are not a creative knitter. But you are making a thing. And your own style of knitting, your tension, your method of casting on or throwing will all change the end result. You will be making a unique garment, because it was made with your hands, and no one else's. Anyone can go to The Gap or Wal-mart and buy a sweater, but no one but you can make the one you handknit.

Then there are those who say knitting is not an art form, or particularly creative, because anyone can do it with a very small investment in simple tools. "Oh, my Grannie did that" does not mean that it is not a valid creative expression. Grandma Moses was a grannie! And those guys who painted the caves at Lascaux--I'm pretty sure they didn't have airbrushes and daylight-corrected lighting, but their work is considered the height of prehistoric "art". So get over your grannie issues and hug a knitter, you never know when you might score a pair of snuggly socks for your efforts!

There was once a day and age when all of the activities we call "art" were practiced by everyone. Even the Sistine Chapel was painted by a contractor. People spun and wove and threw pots and painted their churches and built furniture for purely practical reasons. There were no great truths revealed in these labors, but the world was a more beautiful place, and each and every person could point to something and say "I made that".

The capital-A arts have created a barrier between people and art. And to what end? Fewer and fewer people feel confident in exploring their own creative expression, because they do not have an artist's statement to explain their motive for making something. Ordinary people won't go to the opera, which was originally created as entertainment for the masses. Local musicians play in their own kitchens because nobody wants to listen to a gifted guitarist who drives a truck during the day to support his family. And spinners, knitters and weavers beat each other over the head with the labels "art" and "craft", all the while wasting perfectly good spinning time!

I think we should all go back to making the things we want to make and being happy in the making. Let's leave the labels and categories for people with idle hands. Go create!

Friday, April 04, 2008

Hats Off!

Whenever I scroll through my blogroll and find that a blog isn't being updated a lot recently, I always assume that the blogger has absolutely nothing going on, or waaay too much. That last one would be me! Computer time is a few minutes in the morning and a possible few more in the evening these days--and that is mostly spent getting my ass kicked at Scrabulous.

So what, you ask, has kept me so busy? Well, I'll tell you...

...I've been working a lot on the DAAGBF cardie. Then frogging and working a lot on it again. I'm making it up as I go along, so there are always revisions. And stupid mistakes in the really very simple lace pattern. Do not try and knit anything while watching "Sweeney Todd" on DVD--let's face it: do not try and knit anything while watching Johnny Depp on DVD! Too distracting.
Anyhooooo, I have divided for the armholes and am working the left front panel right now. It started out as a crew neck, but this time around, I am working it as a subtle vee. Time will tell which it stays in the end.

I am also quite immersed in rehearsals for "Angels in America", as I have mentioned before. This past week was fairly intense with the blocking and reblocking of the entire play, now we are into working the in scenes more detail. This means that my rehearsals are a little more spread out and that I actually have a few evenings off, plus all day Saturday, so I can go to the Ravelry meet-up this week.

I have a lot of time on my hands during rehearsals, too. I am playing four different characters who are spread out throughout the play, with long spaces of time between them. This can only mean one thing--more knitting time! I started out with a little watchcap, which I completed during the course of a run-thru, so I decided that I could make a hat per rehearsal. Last rehearsal we only did Act 1, so I made a baby hat. The rest of the cast and the director are quite amused by the concept, and I have already had one request for a custom hat.

The director also joked that I should write a play where every character wears a hat, and I countered that I should write a play where every character IS a hat! Perhaps even a musical! So that got me thinking--if you were a hat, which hat would you be? A tam? A toque? A cloche? Or perhaps a non-knitted hat, like a bowler or a sombrero?

It should also be mentioned at this juncture that three of my four characters wear hats. Hmmmm, I am beginning to see a theme emerging....it's all about the hats. Isn't it always?