Saturday, February 23, 2013

My Precious

I've discovered lately that the only knitting that I have managed to do over the past few months has been very basic.  Garter stitch, stockinette, ribbing...  I think I just don't have the mental energy to focus on a project that involves colorwork, cables, or lace.  Lately I've been rediscovering the comforts of mindless knitting and today I have something truly luxurious to show you.

This, my dear readers, is the softest, most decadent knitted piece I own.  Some people may scoff and say, "Seven feet of 3x3 ribbing?  I'd rather stew in a bath of leeches than commit myself to such a project!"  I pity those people because those people will never experience the instant comfort, the true bliss that this scarf brings to one's life.

It's obviously not the pattern that makes this scarf so special - it's the yarn.  My sister and I happened upon this yarn while visiting Bella Lana in December.  In the ball this yarn didn't seem like anything special.  Sure, the colors were nice and the yarn was soft enough, but I didn't think it was anything to warrant the cost.  The samples, however, told a different story.  It was hard to believe that the scarves, hats, and fingerless mitts I was petting came from the same yarn that was wound in those balls.  Clearly the samples had gone through some magical transformation and when the shop owner bestowed upon us the secret to these scarves, my sister and I both scooped up enough to make one of our own.

The secret, if you can believe it, is to throw the entire scarf in the washing machine when you are done knitting it.  Scary, right?  Yes, it is.  60% of this yarn is merino and nowhere on the ball band does the word "superwash" ever appear.  I didn't trust my washing machine, so I decided to hand wash the scarf with a touch more agitation than usual.  I then laid it out to dry and waited for the magic to happen.  It didn't.  Nothing changed.  I waited another day.  It remained the same.

I should tell you, the shop owner did not say, "put this scarf in the washing machine on the gentle cycle with no agitation."  No, she said, "put this scarf in with a regular load of laundry.  I washed mine with jeans."  And so I did.  I put the scarf in a pillow case, tied the end shut, and threw it in the laundry with a bunch of other stuff.  Regular cycle, warm water.  I then chewed my fingernails for half an hour while the cycle ran.  Folks, that shop owner did not steer me wrong.  What I pulled out of that pillow case barely resembled what I had put in, in the best possible way.  What I pulled out was a soft, fluffy, warm scarf with a halo to die for.  A halo made up of short, soft, brown fibers that gave the color a depth that one can only dream of.  I tried to take a photo showing you the difference of an unwashed scarf (left) and washed scarf (right) to demonstrate how significant this change is.  You can't truly see how incredible the difference is, but it's a start.

Are you ready to hear what the other 40% of that fiber was?  The 40% that lent this scarf its warmth, softness, fluffiness, and depth of color?


I made my friend a skinnier version of the same scarf and she wrapped it around her neck and praised its beauty, only to tear it off and throw it on the floor as soon as she discovered what it was made of.  She has since embraced the possum.

The yarn is Zealana Kia Ora Rimu DK and it comes from New Zealand.

I know that many of you living in North America, when I said "possum," envisioned the American Opossum and got a chill down your spine at the thought of wrapping something like that around your neck.  Just so we're on the same page, this is the American Opossum:

Photo courtesy of AndrewKantor on Flickr
I don't want to be near one of those, dead or alive, any more than you do.  The possum fiber in the Zealana yarn does not come from the American Opossum, but rather the Australian Possum, which is in no way related.  They are both marsupials, but that's about all they have in common.  This is the Australian Possum:

Photo courtesy of kooky on Flickr
See?  Not nearly as terrifying.  If you're ok with your fiber coming from a sheep, you should have no problem embracing the possum.  I can't say that I will be indulging in much more of this yarn as the carbon footprint must be gargantuan to get the yarn to the US and I don't think the animals are sheared like sheep if you catch my drift (they're invasive to New Zealand and dealt with in much the same way as brown rats may be treated in NYC), but the scarf sure is nice to have and I'm glad that something useful and beautiful was able to come from the possum.  I've said my thanks and consider this scarf an homage of sorts, providing warmth and comfort as a legacy through which the possum may live.

Thank you, dear possums, you won't be forgotten.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Declaring a Holiday

I have to say, I'm impressing even myself by blogging today.  I don't even have a day off until Saturday, but I felt compelled to write a bit today, so here I am.

While at work this morning, I wrote today's date on a few papers.  Every time I wrote it, "2-20", I thought to myself, "Why does that sound so familiar?"  I couldn't figure out if I had something scheduled for today that I was forgetting about or if 2-20 was some sort of code for something.  And then it hit me - 220.  As in Cascade 220.  And then I came up with an idea.

I am henceforth declaring today, February 20, in the life of Peter as "Knit With Cascade 220 Day".  And it just so happens that I already have a project in the works with that very yarn.  This is one of those projects that I was really not knitting.  I packed it up when I moved from Pittsburgh back in July and hadn't taken it out since.  Perhaps it's time to get back to it.

I searched far and wide for all of those colors, collecting them over the span of two years until I had them all.  I just couldn't find a single LYS that carried all of them (and I looked in yarn shops in 4 different states).  Of course, I finally found the last one right before I moved to Pittsburgh, where I quickly discovered that my LYS there carried every color of 220.

I was collecting all of those colors to make a Staccato sweater by Kirsten Kapur.  Being unadventurous and completely in love with the one in the photos, I sought to recreate it by using all the same colors.  I won't mention the fact that 4 or 5 of the colors aren't ones that I would have chosen on my own - I was just too smitten with the idea that once I finished this sweater, I too would be able to stand in a foggy field drinking my morning coffee from a ceramic mug.  And also I would have curly black hair like her son.  Knitting is transformative and I was eager to find a farm on which to wear my sweater.  And I got pretty far before I had to pack it up for moving, too.

It's not the most flattering thing on my body as it's an oversized shapeless rectangle, but I adore sweaters/sweatshirts that zip up the front and have hoods and I think this one would get a lot of use.  I think that's why I don't wear any of my handknit sweaters - they're pullovers.  I think maybe I don't like pullovers.

Of course, before I can use this one, I have to finish it.  That involves knitting two sleeves, a hood, a zipper facing, and then weaving in the 32,000 ends from all those stripes that will be on the body, sleeves, and hood.  And then I also have to install the zipper.  So there's still a lot of work ahead of me, but it won't actually be difficult to accomplish.  It'll just take time.

I'm thinking tonight when I'm done practicing I'll settle down with an audiobook and this sweater to get started on a sleeve.  That sounds like a nice evening.  Are you coincidentally knitting anything with Cascade 220 today?

Friday, February 15, 2013

Knitting Nothing

I find it a bit ironic that in my last post (back in December) I talked about how I had finished all of my deadline knitting and then I said this: 

"In a strange way, it almost makes me want to knit nothing, just because I can."

I had meant that as a joke when I wrote it, but it turns out that knitting nothing is exactly what I did.  Sure, I've done a stitch here and a row there, but when it comes to finishing a project, I've been rather unproductive.  I've fallen into a bit of a slump with my knitting and when it comes to my daily routine, knitting has been thrown by the wayside.

Knitting, for me, has never been an on-the-go hobby or something that I do when I have 5 spare minutes.  For me, it is a hunker down on the couch with a mug of tea and a good movie for two hours kind of hobby.  There are several problems with this kind of hobby in my life right now.  The first is that if I hunker down on the couch for any longer than 10 minutes, I will fall asleep.  Guaranteed.  I am not a morning person, and no amount of rest will ever change the fact that working a job that starts at 5am every day leaves me exhausted for the remaining hours.  The second problem is that I'm still auditioning for clarinet jobs, which means that any significant amount of free time I spend doing something leisurely such as, say, watching a movie while knitting, very quickly crushes me with so much guilt about not practicing that I have to put the needles down.  The third problem is that most of my free time is at night and I'm always aware that every minute I spend knitting is one less minute I get to sleep (I'm obsessed with sleeping these days), so rather than spending an hour knitting in the evening, I will most likely choose to read for 15 minutes before turning off the lights.

I think about this blog as an extension of my knitting, which means that if I'm not knitting anything, I'm not blogging either.  Yesterday I came up with a two-step plan to rectify this situation.

Step 1: Knit things.  This one seems obvious, but I think it's crucial so I wrote it down.  I haven't yet come up with a plan for how to carry this out, but in theory it sounds doable.

Step 2: Blog on my days off.  I don't know why I hadn't thought of this one before.  I always have at least one day off a week, which means that I should be able to post on a weekly basis, and blogging on my days off should also allow me a bit of daylight in which to take pictures.  Of course we all know that days off are really days to do every single errand and chore that you don't have time to do while you're at work, so we'll see how well this one works out.  Lucky for me, usually my days off are also laundry days, and therefore stay-at-home-in-your-pajama days, which in turn should buy me some blogging time.  Today is my day off this week.  I am also blogging.  So far, so good.

So to start things off because I haven't yet implemented step 1, I thought I would show you the things that I'm not knitting.  To be more specific, these are the things that I'm actively not knitting, as opposed to those works in progress that I'm not even pretending to be knitting.  These are the projects that I look at when I think I may sit down and knit.  The ones tripping me as I walk out the door, poised with needles ready and yarn wound.  The other ones, the ones that I'm really not knitting don't even see the light of day.

The first project that I'm not knitting is another pair of fingerless gloves for myself.  I'm using some of my handspun for this project.  The pattern is the fairly popular and relatively straightforward Ragtop by Susan Lawrence.

I like them.  The one I have finished (minus the thumb) is very warm and soft.  I wish there were two of them.  The reason there aren't two of them (and you'll find that each of the projects I'm showing you has at least one reason for why it's not yet done) is because I repurposed the remaining yarn.  It's still useable for this project, but for the time being it's serving another purpose, which I had forgotten about until I went looking for it today to take a picture.  It seemed like a brilliant solution to an annoying problem at 3am.

The annoying problem being that when it's windy outside, the storm window next to my bed rattles so loudly that it keeps me up at night.  When I had finally had enough one particularly gusty evening, I grabbed the first thing I saw and shoved it between the two panes of glass to stop the window from shaking.  It has been working well for the past two months.

The other reason there's only one mitt is that I took the needles away to start the next project that I'm currently not working on.

It's exactly what it looks like, which is a big ol' mess.  It will one day become a Chameleon, which is fitting because only a huge transformation will help this project.  I put it down because I have no desire to kitchener 125 stitches along the tail using Kureyon while simultaneously stuffing it.  That is definitely not on my list of things to do when I have 15 minutes of free time.

The most incomplete project that I'm not knitting is a scarf, shown below:

That's as far as I've gotten, and I got there several weeks ago.  It's the Green Honey Man-Scarf and I'm knitting it (well, actively not knitting it) using Eco Wool to replace a scarf for my brother that mysteriously disappeared when he and his ex broke up.

The last project that I'm not knitting is a pair of mittens that I started 10 months ago.  I'm not at all surprised that I haven't started them because they're stranded knitting, and every time I make something using colorwork that requires two items to be the same size, such as mittens, I take an enormous break between the first and second one.  This break has a 100% success rate of guaranteeing that at least one of the items will not fit and that when laid next to each other, one always looks like an older sibling rather than a twin.

Of course, in the case of these mittens, I don't really care because the first one didn't fit anyway.  It still makes me a little sad, though, because I'm sure someone could benefit from having mittens knit with gorgeous Brooklyn Tweed LOFT and the pattern is one that I've always loved looking at.

So there you have it, the projects that I haven't been knitting lately.  Is there anything that you aren't knitting?