Saturday, July 29, 2006

Twenty: 'Twas A Dark And Stormy Sky...

But a blessed relief from the relentless heat of the last two weeks.

A brief moment of glory:

Unlikely to be repeated for the remainder of the day (according to the weather radar).


Judging by the stirring music eminating from the living room, the DS and his father are sharing a Saturday morning matinee of their favorite movie, Battle of Britain. Which brings me to my husband's sky (weekday mostly):

Just a few weeks now until he winds up a 25 year career and joins the ranks of mere mortals. He plans to move on to mountain biking and extreme skiing. Sigh.

I pulled this week's palette out of the "sun through stormclouds" sky:

Having handpainted silk on the brain lately, I couldn't help but notice the similarity to this:

And since blowing leaves silhouetted against a stormy sky have such a darkly magical aura:

What if the black yarn were Jaegerspun Zephyr, or even just a plain laceweight merino? Would that coax my beloved silk to play nicely? What if the colour pattern was bordered by or alternated with panels of blace knit lace in a leafy pattern? Could I knit FairIsle in laceweight without the use of benzodiazapines? I firmly resolve to answer none of these questions until after we move.

Finally, since I am new to blogging and only just getting the odd comment here and there, I have not really firmed up a proper strategy for acknowledging the kind and helpful notes that readers take the time to write. One of my (many) frustrations with Blogger is that it doesn't collect email addresses, so if the writer doesn't have one posted on their blog, there is really no way to respond privately. I have toyed with responding in my own comments section, which really has no guarantee of being revisited, and decided that QueerJoe's strategy of responding at the end of the following post seems the most workable solution for now. (Finding a better blog platform would be the ultimate solution - again, not until after we move.) Without further ado, then:
  • Many thanks to Grace for the brilliant suggestion of reversible cables. I will be hunting down that issue online! For this particular scarf though, I plan to persist with the sampler idea - panels of alternating rib and cable-ish patterns to see how each behaves in silk.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Twenty-one: Stand and Conquer

No, this is not another maudlin musing about midlife crises, nor have I signed on with the Army (that one's still on the table, but that's another story.) This is about my determination to triumph over two glaring issues on the knitting frontier:

1) Designing for 100% silk yarn. The good stuff. The epitomy of fibre luxury, shimmering on the skein, caressing the skin seductively, I-will-be-such-a-goddess-in-this yarn. Also the topic of much blog anguish and handwringing because of its tendency to slither from sexy drape to sloppy sag shortly after completion of the masterpiece. The most obvious answer is that silk is better woven than handknitted. Sort of like the worming issue with chenille - best just not go there. But that would be Giving Up. Not an option.

I am not about to use up fabulous top quality silk for large swatches (as sensible as that would be), nor do I relish the idea of generating a series of unattractive prototypical garments that will mock me from the closet. Scarves it is. It's difficult to properly assess the garment potential of a given stitch pattern without making a decent sized bit of fabric, and I reckon large rectangles will fit the bill nicely. Furthermore, since it doesn't matter if scarves are saggy, I will have a functional object in each case, regardless.

First up - Sea Silk (laceweight), by Fleece Artist:I have a theory that an all over cable pattern would create enough lateral tension to counteract vertical sag. This will be folded over and seamed into a skinny scarf once it's long enough - maybe with a knitted ruffle down the seam. Depends how much yarn I have. (Which reminds me, I really need a ball winder. 400m of laceweight silk takes an awfully long time to wind by hand.)

After that, Schaefer Yarns ultrafine (1093 yds in 3.5 oz) laceweight silk in the Harriet Tubman colourway:I want to create a lacy silk fabric that is crisp, not baggy, and its inelasticity makes it considerably less amenable to blocking than wool. The obvious answer, which I have been avoiding because I think knitting is more elegant, is crochet. It needs to be a one piece format because I cannot imagine weaving in a pile of loose ends in such a slippery yarn. Still in the pondering stage.

2) Handpainted yarn. The knitblogs are full of tales of gorgeous (and expensive) skeins that disappoint when knitted up - pooling, striping oddly, or just plain looking muddy in the final analysis. I seem to be in the minority on this one, but by and large I just don't like the brightly "variegated" look. To me it looks over-busy and/or sloppy - I prefer to control strongly contrasting colours with separately coloured yarns. (I do like precisely space dyed sock yarn with distinct stripes.)

Optical mixing is a powerful tool for generating colours of luminous and subtle depth, particularly when analagous colour schemes are utilized (see the above two examples), but it can turn brilliant contrasts into homogenized mud, or at least an altogether different look from the original skein. For example:

I would be drawn to this skein by the bold chunks of rich complementary colours, but this: while not unattractive (I've seen some very muddy mixes) is a different animal altogether and quite unlike the impression of the original skein. Toss in some pooling and one might be sorely disappointed.

But what if it were possible to knit it in such a way as to preserve the blocks of colour that made the original so attractive? Narrow strips? Modules? Still thinking.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Twenty-two: No Limits

I'm a little fuzzy around the edges this morning. No, I didn't indulge - I wish - I just didn't get home from the office until 9:30 pm. I mostly believe I am getting better not older, but I have definitely lost a considerable degree of resilience to overwork. Or maybe I've just outgrown the youthful delusion of immortality that allows one to tolerate the interminable postponement of personal needs and gratification because You Have Your Whole Life Ahead of You and any day now the hard work will pay off and the good bit will begin.

I finally realize that my life is now and the good bit is encapsulated in sleepy mornings snuggled with my sweetie, drinking in the sweet familiar scent of comfort and love and constancy, marvelling at the beautiful little people we made together and the clutch of tiny hands around my neck and extravagant I love you mommy kisses.

I am still ambitious and curious about the world and compelled to Make A Difference, and I haven't even really lost my driven overachieving personality, but I am as "arrived" as I am going to get with Big Career Goal #1 and I plan to be much choosier about the next thing I set my unconquerable will to. For starters, I resolve to set aside "proving that I am as good as any man" as a remotely useful criteria for valuable and fulfilling life's work. I entered medicine just long enough ago that that was actually a consideration, and while there was plenty of sexism and Old Boys' Club-ism to do battle with, I discovered that, like all external obstacles, it was insignificant in comparison with the limits I put on myself. Clearly, it will be pointless to charge headlong into the Next Big Thing without addressing my self-imposed obstructions and restrictions.

Speaking of dreaming big, I discovered this yesterday while practicing paperwork avoidance: (From an article on Adam Jones posted in Making Things - you should really check out the rest of the links to him - just amazing.) Never mind the dead animal up top - look at that lace! Imagine knitting like that - wherever your happy imagination took you.

Then I just had to go googling a bit for handknit couture, and found this via Amelia Raitte:

Jean Paul Gaultier fall/winter 1998/99
No limits, indeed!

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Twenty-three: Undecluttering

I may very possibly be the world's worst declutterer, at least when it comes to the sewing and knitting stash. Recently I discovered a plethora of "refashioning" blogs, with fascinating tips and ideas for reworking clothing - and suddenly the dictum "if you haven't worn it in a year...." (which I lived by very successfully until now) no longer applies. I am just barely restraining the urge to raid the bags of clothing in the basement - they landed there earlier in the year to await the Goodwill fairy. (You know, the one that comes to your house and magically disappears things so you don't have to make the trip?)

Exhibit A:
A wool/alpaca blend sweater from Calvin Klein, bought very inexpensively at a consignment store. Hardly worn because it is big and floppy about the waist and also itchy. (A crime to my mind - combining alpaca with itchy wool.) I was going to give it away, even though I love the colour, but look:
The edges are not cut, and the seam looks to be done with sweater wool, not thread. I have never frogged a commercial sweater before, but this one looks very doable. If I succeed, it could be just the knit-along salvage yarn for my black silk debacle.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Twenty-four: Roundabout Reasoning

I'm making good progress on the Roundabout Leaf Tank: As far as process goes, it's a nifty little pattern - the spiral construction is not particularly difficult, but novel enough to be entertaining, and the directions are clear and well-written. I am not yet convinced that the distinctly ridged, mostly horizontal seam is going to hang in a flattering way. Feeling a bit touchy already regarding the recent development of horizontally oriented bulges about my midriff (too much packing, not enough running), I am hardly inclined to create more out of yarn. I do admire Norah Gaughan, so I'll reserve judgement until the garment is complete and blocked and hanging on my real live moving body.

(One just never knows how much tugging and arranging and hold-perfectly-still-just-like-that goes on to achieve the "naturally" flowing curves on a model. What I'd really like to see in knitting books is the "after" photo, once the model quits holding her breath, sits down, stands up, takes a few steps, bends over to wipe the sticky remains of a PBJ sandwich off the kitchen floor and straightens up again. That would be useful.)

Which brings me to one of my current passions: "wearable art" that is engineered for optimal wearability. I simply don't see the point of putting a beautiful and interesting textile on a human body in a format that's not flattering or practical to move about in. Walls and sofas and all manner of inanimate objects are more then happy to be adorned with big rectangles of fabric, or "interesting" studies in colour and texture. To my mind, garments (including jewellery) demand a far higher level of ingenuity that belies their supposedly utilitarian identity. To create something that not only has artistic merit in its static state, but incorporates movement and the practical requirement for differentially engineered areas of fluidity, support, resilience, elasticity, weight and balance seems to me a lofty goal indeed. (Mobiles fascinate me for exactly the same reason.)

I am also intrigued by the difficulties inherent in writing a commercial pattern to optimally fit the full range of human dimensions. I'm not just talking about "plus sizes", but features like longer than "average" torsos, different than "average" bust to hip ratios, broad shoulders, muscular arms.... Knitters often make those modifications themselves, with mixed results, but what if intriguing and beautiful patterns could be written to facilitate custom sizing from the outset? That's where my mind is heading.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Twenty-six: Animal Adventures

That's the name of one my daughter's computer games, containing the catchy little ditty: "temperate fo-rest, temperate fo-rest, seasons chaaange.....", cleverly set to the tune of Frere Jacques. Shortly after that ditty, the computer invariably freezes and anguished howls for parental rescue begin. I expect the disc will be tragically "lost" in the move. But I digress.

Today's topic is no. 2 on The List: Swimming with wild dolphins. I haven't. (My husband did once have to ditch his helicopter in the South Pacific right beside a pod of dolphins, and quite a lot of water got inside before they got the remaining engine sufficiently spun up to generate lift for the short trip out of Dili harbour and onto dry land, so he feels he qualifies for the "X". This is my blog, though.)

In Cozumel I did once spend an afternoon paddling about awkwardly in a life jacket and rented snorkel gear of uncertain cleanliness. (One of the reasons I have not spent more time frolicking with wild sea creatures is my distinct lack of swimming ability.) As we were admiring the colourful fishies, a decent sized barracuda came zipping by and did a couple circuits of the snorkeling area. He looked exactly like the one that ate Nemo's mom, and it seemed to me that something with that many pointy teeth could be inherently problematic, however, no one else seemed too excited, so we just watched.

The remainder of my wild creature encounters have been on land. For example, running with bears. There are a considerable number of black bears living in the Whistler area, and it is not uncommon to round a bend in the running trail and find one lumbering along in search of berries. Thankfully, these guys don't get too fussed about humans as long as you back off and leave them well alone.

Motoring with moose. Newfoundland contains an astonishing number of moose, many of whom apparently reside right beside the Trans Canada highway, where they lie in wait for unsuspecting motorists. My residency program had training locations scattered from one end of the province to the other, so I spent a considerable amount of time on the road and had a number of close calls.

Lunching with lions. When I was nine, my family moved to South Africa for a couple of years. We took every opportunity to visit the local game parks, and spent a memorable three week holiday in Kruger National Park. More on that in installment no. 114.

Frolicking with frogs. The pond across from our house in South Africa contained an enormous variety of frogs and toads which were relatively easy to catch in the evening. I would collect a couple dozen at a time and was permitted to keep them overnight in the bathtub for scientific observation. (Apparently, many of my friends' mothers were not nearly so accomodating.) I used to stack them up in descending order of size, and then stare deep into their eyes to mesmerize them so that they would sit still.

Recreating with rattlesnakes. In the Okanagan. My mother was the one who found him in a clump of grass, where he was entertaining our dog with his tail. The rest of us were up the river fishing, and returned to find Mom coolly finishing him off with a large stick.

Cruising with cockroaches. When we moved from Monte Carlo to South Africa, we did so by passenger liner - the Italian ship Galileo Galilei. Every evening, hoards of enormous cockroaches would scutter about on the floor, and the ship's staff swore that their existence was an utter impossibility. So my father collected a number, sealed them in an envelope and addressed it to our steward. The cockroach problem was solved (presumably by hideously toxic chemical means - it was the '70's) shortly thereafter.

I could go on - recoiling from rats (don't ask), dealing with deer (my roses!), checking for cougars. Considering where we lived on Vancouver Island, it is virtually certain that I was unwittingly stalked by cougars on several occasions - I have never shed the ingrained habit of glancing over my shoulder regularly when walking in the woods. But, since I have now reached the point of recounting non-encounters with presumptive creatures, it is obviously time to quit.

Next week: "Climbed a Mountain." Quite a lot of them over the years, and I have the pictures to prove it. If I can find them.