Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Extinction of the Dinosaurs

You might ask what this topic has to do with knitting. My answer would have to be absolutely nothing.

I’m still loving the Fish Coat, especially since it’s providing my most favorite kind of knitting. I can put my brain completely in park and just follow the pattern. The rhythm of the double knit stitches has gotten into my muscle memory so only the crazy fish color changes provide even the mildest challenge.

So since I’m a monogamous knitter attacking only this one project, what do I write to you about?

Obviously the extinction of the dinosaurs.

But not just any dinosaurs. These happy party-goers:
Unfortunately this rare species is about to experience a total loss of habitat. They’ve conga-lined around an unused bedroom in my house for more than twenty years beyond the end of their symbiotic relationship with the small human that used to occupy that room. I’ve enjoyed their light-hearted presence, but now the progress superhighway is coming through their neighborhood. I’ve decided I want to use their jungle as my office instead of using the jungle that’s evolved on my oldest, most beat-up sofa.

What’s at the root of this habitat destruction? In the real world it would be greed. In my world it’s a frantic grab at a last shred of sanity. My theory, however weak, is that I might be ok if I can find just one small facet of my life that I can control, even a little. The only opportunity I see is this small room. I’m going to control the heck out of it. Poor dinosaurs.

But let me try to wrap this up with a little knitting talk. The other knitting activity I’m flirting with is of course next project thoughts. With the Fish Coat moving along more quickly than expected I’ll be needing a new project before October, (I hope). I’d like to do another PaintKnits TM project with double knit, so right now I’m toying with ideas for a scarf. I really want to work the silhouette idea in a way that truly hits you in the face. A scarf might be a nice, simple vehicle for that. But I still need a motif and I’m having a terrible time getting these silly “terrible lizards” out of my head. I may be forced to do a dancing dinosaur scarf! I suppose it would be unique.

Oh and here’s a gratuitous Fish Coat WIP picture for those who actually come here for knitting talk and pictures:

More knitting next time...

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

In Deep with Double Knitting

Let me start by saying thank you to Susan for finding a full picture of the Love and Loss sculpture picture on the internet. Nice to see that it is as I remembered it.

With so much time passing since my last post there had to be something happening in my knitting world. Here’s what I’ve got:

The Escaping Squares Vest is finished! I actually finished it late at night while hanging out with Susan from WormSoup at the BMFA Sock Camp. I wore it to the “Stump Tina” event, thinking she might not guess the discontinued Rolling Stone colorway, but of course she tagged it almost as quickly as I could stand up. (She’s scary amazing when it comes to color.) Here are two pictures of the back showing it in its double-knit, reversible glory. (You’ll get pictures of the front when the thing finally gets blocked! I guess I exagerated slightly about it being "finished".)

Escaping Squares was a PaintKnits TM experiment to see how pooling would react to double knitting. It’s kind of a preparation to see if I could create superimposed images over pooling. Most colorwork will distort pooling by radically changing gage for the dormant color, as in Fair Isle floats. That makes a silhouette effect nearly impossible to achieve.  Double knitting keeps the stitches flowing at gage regardless of which color’s visible.

I’m calling the experiment a success even though my ability to hold gage in this new knitting method wasn’t that great for controlled pooling. A careful look shows the bands of color continuing through the squares. I'm happy... plus I've got a new use for PaintKnits!

I’ve also started a new project. Double knit technology has completely seduced me so now I’m knitting M’Lou Baber’s “Oceans to Cross” coat. My plan is to knit it exactly to pattern, which is pretty bizarre for me, but I’ve buffered that by choosing wildly different colors. I don’t wear blue and white particularly well so I’ve substituted black and a blonde brown. I see gold colored fish over deep water or black fish over a shallow pond bottom.

Did you know that it’s considered good luck to have at least one black koi in a koi pond?  I'll have a school of them on my coat!

The yarn came from Delly’s Delights Farm and is 100% alpaca. I purchased it at Rhinebeck last year for this particular project. That was after some serious searching. With the insane variety of yarns out there it’s amazing how hard it can be to find exactly what you want.  Of course it doesn't help when you *know* in detail exactly what you want.

Anyways, I’m loving the yarn, and here’s how the Fish Coat looks so far.

I did come across a double-knit problem which led me to believe that I may not completely understand all of the book’s instructions for the first rows. I’d be interested to hear if anyone’s got some insight. According to the pattern and the book instructions you cast on a slew of stitches which all get knit-purl doubled in the next row, then in the row beyond that the end stitches each become selvage. So your doubling process gives you (K P) (K P) (K P). You turn and are looking at (K selvage) (P K) (P K) (P selvage). Your selvage gets a K stitch, and then the first paired stitch is a P. Of course on my first pass I messed up and had double knit pairs with the P’s in front!

I frogged and tried again just putting K’s on the P’s and vice versa in that first double knit row. That left me with opposing color dots in my edge. Yuck! I frogged again and for lack of a better idea cast on an extra selvage stitch and didn’t double those two end stitches. My doubled row then looked like (K selvage) (K P) (K P) (K P)… (K P) (K selvage). Flip that and knit the selvage stitches and all’s well. So it worked, but I’m left wondering what I missed. That’s definitely not the recommendation in the book. Any ideas?

I’m also sweating how to tuck ends. The final tail can be buried between the front and back fabric, but how do you get to the inside of the fabric to anchor the ends? With Escaping squares I was able to divide front and back between two needles and tuck ends as I went. The color areas were large enough. That’s been really tough with the Fish Coat. Can anyone offer me suggestions?

PaintKnits hasn't been completely dormant while all of this is going on.  I've tested it on a Mac computer and found that it works.  Yay!  And I'm incorporating some suggestions and improvements that came out of doing two new long distance installations.  A little more clean-up and I should be out looking for beta users...

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Love and Loss

That’s the name of a sculpture by Roy McMakin in the Olympic Sculpture Park in Seattle. When I visited the park after the RSC Camp two years ago I thought it was interesting, but it wasn’t nearly one of my favorites. Recently it’s been in my mind a lot of the time. I guess I get it now.

Last post I mentioned that my Dad had been struggling with a string of medical problems which all started in October with a ruptured Achilles tendon resulting from taking the antibiotic cipro. On top of the rehab difficulties from the tendon, he fought back several infections picked up in the hospital and rehab center. We, the family, were forced to face somewhat unexpectedly that he wasn’t going to win the last battle. Dad passed away on February 7.

I won’t bore you with a long testimonial about how great he was, but I miss him terribly. He was not a knitter, but he loved the socks I made for him. Plus he was a computer savvy blogger, another hobby shared. I’ll have to stop there or I won’t be able to stop.

Anyways, the last few months of my life transitioned from being overwhelmed with a schedule that included lots of hospital and rehab center visits, to making final arrangements, and now to the unbelievable work of getting his finances settled with Mom. Not to whine and complain, but I add this to my normal overload of a full-time, high stress job and the on-going battle to survive Multiple Myeloma. It hasn't been fun and the exhaustion and frustration often prevents me from being the person I want to be. (Isn’t it ugly and predictable how that always seems to be the case?)

So my progress on PaintKnits and my knitting have both taken a hit. I’ve done most of the knitting on the Escaping Squares vest but can’t seem to buckle down and do the finishing work.

On the bright side, I have signed up for the first session of this year's RSC Camp this year and will stay in the area as a tourist after the camp is over. Of course right now even the travel arrangements seem to add more stress than anticipation. I expect all of that to melt away when I get off the plane in SEATAC and meet up with my knitting mentor, Susan from WormSoup. Let’s hope.

Just so this post is not completely without pictures, let me throw in a couple of shots of the Escaping Squares vest. (It's double knit so both sides of the fabrid are presentable.) As you might remember, this is a PaintKnits TM project. The pooling started out matching my PaintKnits computer model, but didn’t hold. My ability to stay on gage in this, my first double knit project, wasn’t that great. Fortunately I made provisions in the pattern for that kind of problem, so the vest is still interesting and attractive.

I also wanted to find a picture of the Love and Loss sculpture, but searched the web without luck. The few pictures I found just show the neon “&” that hovers above the benches that are sculpted from the intertwined words. We want love to have no connection with loss, but there’s that inescapable neon “&” reminding us.