Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Acknowledging the Problem is the First Step . . .

OK, here's something no one talks about, but I'm hoping I'm not the only one who's succumbed. We all know that knitting is expensive, that--in general--knitting a handmade garment is more expensive than buying a comparable garment at the store. We've all responded to those comments of, "Wow--you must save a lot of money by knitting your own sweaters" with knowing smiles, mocking laughs, or itemized lists of the cost of yarn and supplies for that silk-angora sweater we've just finished. Knitting's expensive--that's no secret.

But here's another little phenomenon that I think is much less publicized and almost as insidious. What happens when you've knitted that perfect sweater, in the perfect color, in a beautiful yarn? You'd love to wear the sweater, but you have nothing to wear with it. So you have to--you just have to--head out to pick up a little something to complement your hand-knit finery. Now, I'm not talking about picking up a lovely little necklace or some matching earrings. No, in my case at least, it's a much bigger problem.

It all started last fall, when I had finished a scarf that I thought would match my winter coat. Well, it turned out it looked okay with my existing coat, but it would look so much better with a green coat I spotted at H&M. Plus, it was H&M, so, you know, it was actually affordable. "Did you knit the scarf to match the coat?" people asked when I wore the two together. Well, no, I bought the coat to match the scarf.

Next thing you know, it was Easter. Easter was cool this year (as it often is in the Northeast), but it's tradition to buy a new springy dress for Easter. I mean, really, the stores have had the spring clothes on display since January, and it's just wrong somehow to wear black on Easter. So I picked up a very nice sundress at Ann Taylor Loft just for Easter, just because it's tradition. Was it a coincidence that it happened to match perfectly the ballet wrap I had knitted over the winter? I'll let you decide.

Flash forward to last week. As regular readers of this blog know, I'm knitting this pattern. It's retro, it's feminine, it has that sort of Cate Blanchett as Katherine Hepburn in The Aviator kind of look (this is one movie character, along with Kristin Scott Thomas as Katharine Clifton in The English Patient, whose entire wardrobe I wanted to steal--clearly I have a thing for the 1930s, or for people named Kathe/arine).

So what's a girl to do? I'm about 2/3 done with the sweater, and although I have a knee-length full skirt that will look pretty cute with it, I'm afraid that the days of short skirt weather in Boston are numbered for this year, or they will be by the time I've finished the sweater. For fall, I really needed trousers. 'Cause Kathe/arine wouldn't be caught dead in jeans. So, although I'm equally embarassed by a) how much money I spent and b) the fact that I've now indirectly given money to Rick Santorum, I think I've found the perfect . . . ahem . . . accessory for my newest knitting project.

So I've admitted I have a problem. Now all I have to do is finish that sweater I'm knitting to match my trousers. Or something like that.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

My So-Called Design, Part 4

OK, enough is enough. Here are the details about what I'm planning (planning being the key word here, since I have yet to take needles to yarn for this project).

I confess that I can't really call this a design, since about the only thing I'm actually composing from scratch is the color combination and sequence. Being a part of Knitsmiths is simultaneously an inspiring and humbling experience, since I'm always surrounded by knitters who actually create amazing designs like these. But what you've got to understand is that this is a big step for me. When I was little, I was into Legos. I was the one who slavishly copied the diagrams, making sure that what I was building exactly matched what was in the pictures. Design something from scratch? You've got to be kidding. The same thing goes for knitting. About the biggest change I've ever made to a pattern is to substitute yarns or to increase length. Nothing earth-shattering, and certainly nothing as free-form as creating my own pattern.

I've been thinking about this project for a while, though, and I thought that this might be my big chance to get over my fears and dive into something that might require more flexibility than just following an existing pattern to the letter.

The sweater I'm planning is for a little girl who will be turning three on November 23. Yep, that's right, her birthdate is 11-23, the first four digits of the Fibonacci sequence. What would be a better birthday gift than a sweater using the classic Fibonacci stripe sequence? Suzanne has recently, and accurately, noted that the Fibonacci sequence as applied to a sweater is less than flattering to some mature female body types, and she provides some intriguing alternatives to the straightforward Fibonacci sequence. But for a three-year-old, and for this three-year-old in particular, Fibonacci's just the ticket.

As for the yarn, I chose Mission Falls 1824 cotton in all different shades of pink and purple, with the odd bit of yellow, green, and cream thrown in for good measure. This was my chance to whip out all those girly colors that I don't ever get a chance to use when I'm knitting for my own three-year-old. Fortunately the gift recipient in question has a fairly, um, adventurous color sense, since I decided to use a different color for each stripe. I think the folks at Windsor Button were about ready to throttle me last week as I kept pulling out different color combinations and rearranging the color sequence about a million times (for the record, I did put the unused skeins back in the right bins. Eventually). The colors are definitely more playful than anything I would ever knit for myself, but that's one of the great things about knitting for little kids, right?

As for the pattern, I'm doing a raglan sleeve design, roughly cribbed from Ann Budd's Knitter's Handy Book of Sweater Patterns. Because, really, what looks niftier than a striped raglan sweater? The way those stripes line up on an angle between the sleeves and the body--too cool. I'm using Budd's book as a guideline for sizing and for basic techniques, but I'm going to force myself to improvise the rest. This whole experimentation thing is a new process for me, and I hope it'll get me to look at knitting in new and more creative ways!

Monday, August 14, 2006

My So-Called Design, Part 3

And, finally, what's this?

Thursday, August 10, 2006

My So-Called Design, Part 2

And what are these?

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

My So-Called Design, Part 1

What's this?

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Amazing Lace Challenge #5: Where's Waldo?

Apologies in advance for the totally whacked-out post (I think the heat is getting to me)--but now . . .

Kermit the Frog here, reporting live for Sesame Street news. It's been a while, but our viewers have been asking for updates about the progress of Norah and Anne's Amazing Lace odyssey. Inquiring minds want to know--are the teammates still at each other's throats? Has Norah made it past the fourth pattern repeat? Is she prancing around Boston wearing nothing but her half-completed shawl in a demented attempt to overcome the latest heat wave? Let's check in and find out, shall we?

Kermit: Wait a second. I've just been handed a news bulletin. Norah and Anne have entered counseling to try to overcome their creative differences, and they've asked for some time away from overwhelming media pressures while they heal their rifts. Well, we here at Sesame Street News are nothing if not sensitive, so we'll try to respect their privacy. Here's hoping they are soon on the road to reconciliation. In the meantime, Norah sent along a suggestion that we travel back in time to see for ourselves the history (or should I say prehistory) of lace knitting. Okey-dokey, let's hop in the Wayback Machine and see what we shall see!

[flashing lights; sounds of whooshing, clanking, buzzing, and beeping]

Kermit: Whoa, that was a trip! And what have we here?

[in a hushed voice, reminiscent of Marty Stouffer on PBS's Wild America] Here we see a primitive prehistoric woman (whose hair is nevertheless perfectly coiffed and an unnatural shade of blonde) using her lace knitting to ensnare a vicious woolly mammoth. She will undoubtedly use the mammoth's meat to feed her family, its fur to clothe her family (although it appears she is already wearing a lovely blue ensemble made of some synthetic material), and its tusks to fashion additional knitting needles for herself.

And there we have it, folks--incontrovertible proof that as recently as the Ice Age, lace knitting actually served a practical--nay, essential--function! In fact, couldn't it be argued that lace knitting was actually responsible for the survival of the human species? Oh, man, this is so awesome. I need to snap some more pictures (too bad these prehistoric digital cameras are so crummy)--do I smell Pulitzer? This could be my big break--goodbye, Sesame Street News, hello 20/20! Watch your back, John Stossel, here comes Kermie![maniacal laughter]

Editorial note from Norah: Following this report, Kermit was rushed back to present-day Sesame Street, where he is now convalescing at the Sesame Street Hospital. As he recovers from his delusions of grandeur, he's sharing a hospital room with Cookie Monster, who's seeking treatment for an eating disorder. Let's hope they're both feeling better soon.