I Fail Blocking

Girl wearing a green shawl

The green. Oh how I love the green.

Happy Friday, people! In a rare moment of planetary alignment, this Friday actually comes with a FO!

Behold my Leafy Green shawl. This represents the last of the stash yarn I acquired in Seattle three years ago, and the first time ever I have knitted through all the stash from a particular location. The pattern is Annis: I had seen it in Knitty when it came out (four years ago!) and, it being knitted in green, decided I had to have it.

I believe we’ve discussed my thing for green before. See e.g. Greenies, Spring Romper, and Lace Leaf Pullover.

Somewhere along the line, the desire to have this shawl parted ways with the vim to actually get it out of my queue, so here we are four years later. I will not beat about the bush: I really didn’t like making it. I love wearing it, and it has already proven useful in my works-well-with-green wardrobe, but the knitting. Meh.

The shawl begins with a long, long, long strip of lace, which is then capped with nupps, followed by a short-row body. I was truly distressed when I found myself thinking that all that lace baaaaack and fooooooorth really stunk, because for me, a shawl is the ultimate process knit. But there I was, really unhappy with all that lace. Then the nupps. I was working with a blunt-tipped needle, and the nupps were punishment for all the bad things I have ever done, and will ever do (and yes, I did attempt to avoid this fate but purchased the wrong size of replacement needle. Thank you, fate). The short rows were ok, but as the name implies, they were short.

This is the fail part.

This is the fail part.

And then the blocking. I’ve blocked before, and have blocked shawls before. I followed the directions, pinning the edges into place and then moving inward, but it was beastly. The fabric is very loose, and shifts as you work, and with the crescent shape, there is no good point of reference to keep things in place. Long story short, I had to block it twice to get it right-ish. There were a few places the stockinette got pulled and the stitches are still all wonky (see above), but after the second time, I said to heck with it. The real killer, though, is that the points, the delicious lacy points, are not all that pointy. I tried so hard, squishing things around and trying to make those points sharp, but success eluded me. It was the last turn of the knife, looking forward to knitting this shawl for so long, only to dislike the process, and then, finally, at the last moment for redemption, have blocking turn out to be such a mess.

But it is a finished object, and this is Friday, so I’m going to try to be content with that.

P.S. Thanks to Querido for his photos. He made a point particularly to get that nice detail shot, and did a lovely job of it.


Close the Door

In my case, it was actually the dentist. He got a treatise on Current Issues in Libraries and Information Science while we waited for my novacaine or whatever they give now to kick in. I feel like we’re almost even now.


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Winter Knits Come Inside


I refuse to freeze to death while organizing financial reports, so today I brought my stockings to work. They’re doing their job admirably, but my sweater isn’t.

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Knitter vs. Sad Eyeball


Sad eyeball wins.

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Getting Things Done

Edited to add: I nearly forgot the blocking story on the tank! Scroll down for more

Today is a getting things done sort of day. Lots and lots of things. I was going to guilt trip myself about taking the day off until I realized that I have basically spent the entire day on cleaning, errands, job hunting, volunteer work, and homework. (Not necessarily in that order)

So no guilt trip here. I am very glad to have accomplished so many of the things that have been building up, and up, and up over the past few weeks, but how’s about a little brain break before delving into homework round two?

Finished objects!!!

Last weekend, I achieved that rare trifecta: Querido, finished objects, and camera.

First was my Holla Back Tank.

Girl wearing a teal knitted tank top

I squint in the very-bright sun.

Why did this take me two years to knit? If I was going to be very, very honest, I would have to tell you it was because of the seams. Is that sad or what. If you do not have Extreme Seaming Phobia, this tank is a very easy, quick knit. I modified the waist shaping to bring the waist down a little (which turned out to be totally unnecessary), widened the bottom band (looser version), but otherwise knitted it to pattern.

Detail of lace knitting on a teal tank top

Super simple lace!

Several knitters on Ravelry swapped out the lace pattern because the lattice pattern is “too hard,” but I found it very easy to follow.

Waist detail of knitted teal tank top

Eveningwear, obviously: the spangly buttons say so.

I knitted this top with nights out in mind (hence those spangly little foil-backed buttons), but even with the lace it does not scream I MAKE DRESSING LIKE A FLOOZY MY HIGHEST PRIORITY!!! (Thank goodness.) I have already dressed it down over a white oxford shirt, so I can vouch for its ability to transition into a pretty vest.

Teal tank top blocking while pinned to a cubicle wall

I totally clocked out to block my knitting with pushpins on the cubicle wall.

Edited to add: Towards the end, I started to go a little crazy on this tank. I mean, two years. After the seams, I became obsessed, crocheting on the neck edging until I fell asleep, and then soaking the whole thing in a big-gulp mug before pinning it to my cubicle wall during my lunch break. I was so beyond done with this tank, it had to be done–and darn it, I wanted to wear the thing before it was 100º. If you can do the cubicle-blocking thing without your coworkers instigating an intervention, I recommend it. It totally works. (now back to the original post)

Full notes can be found on my Ravelry page here, but before you go running off, check it out: there are two sweaters.

Girl putting on a green pullover sweater over a knitted tank top

Two sweaters at once in 80º heat.

Girl putting on a green knitted sweater

That awkward my-sweater-is-not-quite-on moment

Girl putting on a green sweater

Ta-da! Ignore the unwoven-in end vying with the drawstring for attention.

Greenies! This is basically the big, bulky, snuggly green sweatshirt sweater I set out to make. It kept me warm at Midwinter Conference, and came back out a guest appearance during the weird little cold snap we had yesterday. The yarn has already pilled slightly, but it is so soft I forgive it. This sweater is so thoroughly finished in my book I can’t rehash the knitting of it for you, but if you have any questions, search this blog for the tag “Ease” or check out its Ravelry Project page.

Once there are FO shots, the sweaters are totally and completely done. I am trying to pull myself out of my betwixt-and-between funk with some new projects, but the startup is going slowly. What projects are keeping you busy right now?

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Arcadia Doors and Lemon Trees


There are times when everything is betwixt and between. This is one of them.

The weather can’t quite make up its mind: should it stay spring or morph into raging summer? My regular schedule fell by the wayside somewhere along the line, and I have no idea where to even begin trying to find. Even my knitting is off: I finished all my works in progress, and now am trying to figure out what to get started next. The difficulty is not lack of options, but rather a profusion.

So while I’m feeling rather out of sorts about everything, I might as well be weirded out by living in Arizona.

I believe this feeling was brought on by a Miniature Tigers concert last week. They’re originally from Arizona, and you can hear it in their lyrics: femme fatales slam arcadia doors, not sliders, and a dream house includes a lemon tree. The list of states where you can expect to find a lemon tree already planted in your yard is pretty short.

Arizona is not a place I expected to live for so long. Usually, it’s all become so familiar that I forget to wonder at what an unusual place it is. Perfectly-gridded streets interrupted by little mountain-islands, summers so hot you estivate, and those arcadia doors and lemon trees.

And speaking of odd, the critter you see above was knitted out of leftover blanket yarn in two days for a one-year-old’s birthday. The pattern is Big Pink Pig from Purl Soho, if you know a one-year-old in need of some quirky distraction.

Where is your knitting at as spring makes up its mind?

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In a Pinch


You can block your knitting just about anywhere.

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Of Course this is Interview Prep

Thank you all for your lovely comments on Mousie’s story! I have been knitting along over here since then, but the blogging has been on the back burner as I prepare for an interview. I really dislike interviews. A lot. So let’s take a brain break and talk about something happy: finished objects.

Gray and blue fair isle cowl

Fuzzy, soft, and perfect.

When I was studying abroad in the UK, I bought some awesome yarn: K1 Yarns Scappa in warm charcoal and Orkney Angora St. Magnus DK in ice blue.

By the time we were bussed up to Scotland, we students were feeling slightly frazzled. We’d been seeing World-Class Cultural Institutions and History-Altering Collections at the rate of 1.5 a day for two weeks, and I for one was getting to the point that I would see something gorgeous, incredible, and important and just go “meh.” So all free time was exquisite. Narrow roads with irregular pavers dark with rain? Gorgeous. Soup in an ordinary cafe? Incredible. Kicking around with the other students? Important.

The afternoon I found k1 in Edinburgh was one of those important afternoons. I was kicking around with my knitting, blogging buddy Courtney and one of the guys on the trip (his name escapes me) when we found k1, quite close to the national library. The guy had no crafty leanings and installed himself on the couch while Courtney and I chatted and inspected yarn. Traveling abroad with a group of students is odd like that: we would find ourselves in these little groups, sometimes bound by friendship, other times by barest affinity, and even the latter was enough to keep us together in the safety of our little clutches.

Outside, it was dark and rainy, and inside the shop all was warm and bright. The selection was compact but exquisite, and I came away with only local yarns. I think it was the memory of that trip, and not wanting to mess it up with a bad knit, that kept me waiting for just the right pattern to come along. Some Twisted Sisters Avarice (baby alpaca, now discontinued–*sniffle*) joined my Scottish yarns in their moth-proof Ziploc baggie, but I still kept waiting.

It was not until this January that I finally made up my mind: Emma Welford’s Wallpaper Cowl from the Holla Knits 2012 Accessories issue. Holla Knits is currently hosting a knitalong–knit any Holla Knits pattern from February to April and get entered in a prize drawing–which definitely helped nudge me along.

The Wallpaper Cowl is an interesting knit: some pretty standard ribbing and Latvian braids frame a fair isle pattern with really, really long floats. After a rough start, my handy dandy laminated chart and I made it to the end in good shape. And while the irregularity of the pattern is bad for rhythm, it’s good for intrigue: wondering what the next round would look like kept me knitting on many a tired night.

I only regret that it is now far too warm for a snuggly cowl, because this project is perfect, exactly what I wanted for my special Scotland yarn. My notes are not extensive, but if you’d like more detail, here is my Wallpaper Cowl project page.

Teal lace sweater in progress

In that crumpled mass of knitting are two pieces, _seamed together_

What next? Well, that unremarkable picture of crumply knitting taken after dark in iffy artificial light is my Holla Back tank, a super simple project two years in the making. There is a little over a month left in the Holla Knits Knit Along, and I’m going to try to make that my next FO.

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The Tale of Mousie

Happy Friday, dear readers! We have successfully made it to the end of the week. I’ve made a serious dent in my handwashing, and fingers crossed I’ll be able to finish packing away winter things this weekend.

In the tidal wave of attention following Stephanie Pearl-McPhee’s shoutout, somebody asked about the story of Mousie. That’s a great question: Mousie is listed on my Cast & Crew page, has been mentioned countless times in posts, and yet I’ve never blogged about how she came to be.

I knitted Mousie near the end of 2009 with some scrap yarn while I was on a destashing kick. For a while she just hung out, sitting at the edge of my bed with my stuffed animals.

Then I went to England.

We're Here

I brought Mousie along to give personality and scale to my pictures. It would be like gnoming, but with a mouse. Or at least, that’s what I first told the other people on the study abroad. But very quickly, she became more like a mascot. She got her picture taken everywhere, and other students were even volunteering to hold her for better photo ops.

Red knitted mouse by the Barbican Tube sign

Mousie at the Barbican Tube stop.

From there, things escalated quickly. People were pointing out places where I could take pictures of Mousie.

Red knitted mouse next to mice on bronze statue

Mousie meets the mice at the base of the Robert Burns statue in the original Carnegie Library, Dumfernline, Scotland.

Mousie was visiting places where history changed.

Red knitted mouse sitting on the Broad Street Pump

Mousie sits on the Broad Street Pump London, England

(For those of you who are not Anglophiles or epidemiologists, the Broad Street pump is the emblem of the 1854 Cholera Outbreak, during which there was a major breakthrough in the study and understanding of epidemics. It is the subject of one of my favorite books ever, The Ghost Map)

When I came back from England, Mousie had a personality, and had taken on a life of her own. It was settled: if I was going anywhere interesting, Mousie was coming too.

Photographing Mousie gave me a new way to frame pictures of famous places, places that had been photographed millions of times before.

Red knitted mouse next to New York City Public Library Lion

Mousie and the lion at the New York Public Library

Red knitted mouse in front of the Xompantli in Chichen Itza

Skull, skull, skull, mouse: Mousie at the Xompantli, Chichen Itza

She also gave me a face to put on my blog, a face that readers reacted to. But she was also a conversation starter when I was out traveling. As I first discovered in London, she always gets a reaction, but never the same reaction. On the stairs of the Met, she got a look of surprise.

Mousie gets people's attention

Mousie gets people’s attention

At the Association of College and Research Libraries conference, Henry Rollins was not quite sure what to make of her.

The mouse gets a sidelong glance

The mouse gets a sidelong glance

The reenactor who became Governor George W.P. Hunt (and I mean became: he is the spitting image of Arizona’s first governor) got a kick out of Mousie and hammed up her picture for me.

Red knitted mouse on Governor George W.P. Hunt reenactor's shoulder

There appears to be a mouse on the Governor’s shoulder.

Mousie’s sense of adventure has not been without its hazards: she almost got left behind in New York City, tumbled into the washing machine behind my whites in London, and stayed at Pizano’s Pizza in Chicago after we were done with our deep dish (Querido rescued her that time, painstakingly retracing our steps). Now, she has her very own tag, complete with her name and my contact info in the event she ever gets lost again.

Red mouse drying on white towel

Red mouse in white laundry–very nearly a double disaster

And that, dear readers, is the story of Mousie.

Stephanie Pearl-McPhee holding a knitted mouse

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Death Pollen


While the rest of the country gets snowed on, Phoenix is being blanketed in drifts of big yellow pollen from the mesquite trees. Sure, it looks pretty, but everyone is terribly allergic to it. I am terribly allergic to it: today my head feels like it’s going to explode, my throat is scratchy, and my ability to concentrate is gone.

Lots of hot coffee will be consumed this afternoon.

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