Friday, May 30, 2008

Which Chinaman Did I Just P*ss Off?

Todays tastes like chop suey with pencil shavings, sweet and sour lamb, and pine needle dumplings. Interesting, but not something I would have chosen intentionally.

Work is . . . interesting. SideKick, the associate, just gave notice; Boo's health is questionable; and Hopalong is debating striking out on his own. I am tap-dancing.

Hopalong just came to feel me out about my future plans. If he leaves to form "Hopalong, P.C." would I come with? More work, more money. If he stays with "Boo and Hopalong, P.C." am I interested in staying and moving up a rung in what I do for the firm while they hire Jennifer to come in and do what I do? And on the third hand, what if we do something totally different?

The only real answer to that is, "I'm always interested in discussing options."

Jeez, I feel like a politician. This language is not natural to me.

So I'll just sit down and knit. Knitting is soothing. Hey, I just started something on MmarionKknits about Clark's Southwestern shawl--someone asked if there were cows, and I suggested an O'Keefian motif of clouds, orchids and cow skulls--and eight people said they'd add something like THAT to the queue. And I see in my head a ruana-like garment with a semi-circular back, and neck shaping, and rectangular panels down the fronts. A big cow skull (right) and a big saguaro cactus (left) and then clouds at the top of the back, orchids in the middle, and smaller cow skulls at the base, edged with three-four vertical repeats of horseshoe lace blocked to points.

Oh, and I wanna knit Irtfa'a for the Tour de France KAL, and maybe get to my Spade shawl for the Olympics, and I have one Linus all but finished--what's this? Mmario has a Pi R Square variant up? I have GOT to knit that! Oh, and I have Veil of Isis OTN, my first beaded shawl, and I need to knit up the Mystery Stole with the swan's wing for Lyhr 2009, and I have these great cool knitting project bags that I NEED to start using and . . .

Uhm, knitting? Not so soothing. Interesting, but not soothing.

Sewing! Sewing is fun and Zen. Dollmaking is sculpting with a needle, where you take the fabric and then cut away everything that does not look like a Hideous Fairy cum Dweller of the Deep.

And then if you're really lucky, you know a group of dollmakers to trade with, and there's all kinds of cool projects like a beaded bag. Which I have cut, and am ready to quilt as soon as I get the batting and get started and it's only due in a month . . . oh.

Sewing. Interesting. Not calming.

So who set this curse on my head? And how do I get it off?

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Flippin' Spades

Today tastes like bitter coffee and wafer cookies--the good ones with the creamy frosting, not the crappy buck-a-pack ones. The vanilla ones were okay, but the chocolate were bad, and the strawberry were only good for feeding to the seagulls.

I have finally managed to flip the spade lace! Here comes the knitting wonk post I warned you about. The rest of you can look at the pretty pictures and come back when we have more fiction, or other pretty pictures, or some cheese to go with the whine.

So--you have a pretty lace pattern and a great idea for its use. The only thing is . . you want the pattern to orient from a different direction.

Example: Meet Mr. Spade Lace.

He's very handsome. I like the lines of texture that form along the edges where the decreases make the spade point. Another designer, Anne Hanson, has created a very pretty shawl (click here to see) using Spade Lace.

I like her choices of stitches . . . except that the spades are upside down in the final garment.

See, Spade Lace orients such that the points point away from the cast-on edge. Anne knit Casino from the top, i.e., the cast-on edge is at the neck of the garment, and it flows down the back from there. So the points of Spade Lace trail down the back of the wearer.

Anne did a nice job turning this into a feature of the pattern (go see here). She knit a triangle shaped shawl, so the bottom point is the final repeat of Spade Lace.

Personally, I don't like simple triangle shawls. They require clutching and pinning and fiddling to keep on your shoulders, for the most part. I really like faroese shawls. They give you wings! Really, when they're on, they have these neat little pockets that your shoulders slip into, and then they hang on your body like they're part of you. You have to take them off to get out of them, they don't slip and slide and crawl all over.

And I'll bet you saw this coming: I like to knit them from the top down.

Bottom up directions read like this: Cast on a gazillion stitches, or knit three miles of edging and pick up one stitch for every other row. Knit forever, decreasing at the edges and center back panel. When you're almost done, decrease frantically at the shoulders in order to get to the neckline before you run out of yarn.

Bleh. And bleh again. I like the control that comes with top-down. I can decide when to quit and have a finished garment, even if it's more a capelet than a shawl. The rows get longer as I go, but psychologically, that's easier for me than facing long long rows to start. And I can control the fullness of the thing from the top, making fake increases when it's "big enough, but not long enough."

So, inspired by Anne's Casino I decided to make a faroese using an inverted variant of Spade Lace.

Ready for some acrobatics? Ready, set, flip!

And here's the boiz side by side:

How's it done?

Knitted lace is a tricksy thing. Sometimes, you can get away with just knitting the pattern in reverse, changing left-leaning decreases to right-leaning decreases and vice versa. Othertimes, you're going to have to re-engineer the pattern to make it flow the way you want.

First, get a good grip on the pattern you want to flip. I knit several repeats of Spade Lace to see how the increases and decreases made the pattern what it is. When I turned my swatch around, I noted that I was going to have to reverse the order of the YO's and decreases. As you can see, this made the individual motifs a little smaller. I also needed more rows to get all the features in.

Second, consider what you want from the final product. You may--or may not-- get a perfect horizontal mirror of your original pattern. What about the design is making you want to turn it over?

What appealed to me about the lace was the line of the decreases as they outlined the spade, and the little turnunder that changed the shape from an arrow (pointy tip growing at an angle, then going perfectly level to a stem) to a spade (pointy tip growing at an angle, then rounding at the corners and dimpling at the stem). But increases and decreases often do not exactly mirror each other--a three to one decrease doesn't look quite the same as a one to three increase. You'll note that in the Inverted variation, the yo's and the dec's are reversed from the original. The stem is smaller. Those were choices I made as I went through making it come out right.

Preserve what you love.

Third, have a good understanding of lace engineering. For every increase, you need a decrease SOMEWHERE IN THE PATTERN or you will wind up with a bunch of stitches you didn't account for. Oops. This especially bites when your pattern insists that it's ready to repeat . . . if only you knew what to do with those extra three stitches.

The original Spade Lace ("OSL") is 12 rows, multiple of 18 plus 1. Motifs are alternated on the half-drop principal so they tile. As one spade grows thicker, the two neighboring spades taper off, until maximal bulge meets stems. And just for fun, there's patterning on both sides. The knit rows have four increases and two decreases. The extra stitches are decreased away on the purl side. One repeat of the lace, therefore, is a half-motif, a full motif, then a half-motif.

So okay--we'll have a half-motif, full motif, half-motif in the inverted lace ("ISL") as well. That's part of how a half-drop works, after all. We know we'll want lace to define the stems and outline the motif. We know we have the option to work decreases on the purl side to compensate for increases on the knit side.

I knit a swatch of OSL, placed a lifeline, then started my ISL right on top. This let me see what I was trying to reverse right there on the needles.

I started with flipping the pointy tip. In OSL, the tip is formed with a double decrease on the purl side halfway through. I made this a double increase on the knit side at the beginning. Gotta start somewhere.

I counted increases and decreases on the knit row, then incorporated additional decreases on the purl row to make the stitch count come back even. That set up the lines of the lace, and after that, it was mostly following the logic of the pattern as far as increases/decreases. And ripping! Lots and lots of ripping! The blessing of the lifeline was that I could rip back, knowing I couldn't lose anything serious.

The most challenging rows were where the old motif falls off and curls under and the new motif begins. This happens twice--once for the center and once for each side. Unfortunately, there's no substitute for skull sweat and elbow grease sometimes.

Keep copious notes of what you do. It took about three weeks of real time to get this flipped, so about 12 hours actually interacting with the needles. You won't remember it all. I reached row 14 of my initial run, and realized I was going to have to make some major changes at row 7. My notes gave me a starting place to determine where this point should be.

Some laces may not flip attractively. But this method gave me a place to get my fingernails under it and get the piece pried up.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Third Review

Today tastes like jerky-flavored cotton candy. Promising, but falling short and more than a little odd.

In case you're looking for the lace reversal post, and bewildered by the obvious lack of relevance, I hit the "publish" key a little too fast. Ooops. I'm in the process of re-knitting samples for photos, so I expect to have that post up sometime next week. Drop a comment, and I'll add you to the list of folks to notify when I get the lace reversal up.

Meanwhile, it's the 5th of May, and thus it's time for the Groundhog Resolutions Day review. A reminder of my goals for the year:

1. I will not beat myself up for falling short of perfection with respect to this list.

2. I will complete 9 knitted projects this year.

3. I will complete three spreads per month in the art journal.

I'm managing number 1 surprisingly well. Normally, when I make a list I go waaaaayyy overboard with things I want/expect to accomplish. I forget to add in things like naps and necessary break and general slack time for working on other things that come up and strike my fancy. (An Altered Spanking Paddle Swap? A Hideous Fairy Exchange? SIGN ME UP! Oooops . . .)

This time, though, I'm starting to see that overscheduling is a habit of mine. Perhaps that will be a goal for next year--"I will give up overscheduling myself. I am not an airplane."

Number 2 is moving along. I finished a shawl in April, so that's 2 of 9. There's still time to make it all happen by the end of the year without resorting to knitting socks and hats and baby things (5 hour sweaters, anyone?)

And even if I don't make 9 by New Year's, I will have cleared out several projects. I've had the yarn for this shawl for literally years.1 It's good to have it hanging out in another form, rather than wrapping the skein around my neck. Much more attractive this way.

And then we get to my bete noir, number 3. The infamous number 3.


That about sums it up. I haven't touched this since February. Part of it is that it's beastly hot in the paper studio (no air conditioning, south central Arizona, summer). Need I say more?

Yeah, okay, the other part of it is that I bit off more than is realistically chewable. If I really hadda gotta do it, I'd be out there at midnight on Fridays and Saturdays, I'd be out there early in the morning on weekdays, I'd find some way around it, but I'm not doing so.

Mostly, I'm choosing to knit or read. I haven't even bound this first quarter's output yet. I need to finish the art papers I use to make the pages, then glue the stories and pictures to them and arrange the signatures and yadda yadda yadda. I want to clean the studio so it's easier to work in, I have other projects hanging out, and I have every excuse in the book for not doing so, it seems.

All right. This will probably change again come fall and winter, when it cools down some and I'm more interested in papery things once more. Interesting. Perhaps I need to keep this in mind next year, that I like to knit more beginning in early spring and go through late fall, then work the hours of small daylight in the paper studio under the glow of the lightbulb, in the chilly winter temps.

I also need to keep in mind that I need slack time, that I have enough daily activities to keep me running on the wheel, and if I add more to that daily/weekly/monthly goal, things will fall off, and I hate that.2

Perhaps in 2009 I'll be writing about "I will schedule at least one weekend per month where I don't have anything particular to work on."

1. I bought it for a class that was being held at a big knitters' convention. I'd wanted to go to this for years, so we're talking 2002 or so. The teacher then decided that rather than teach shawl design, she was going to do a little knit-along project where she blathered on a bit about lace knitting (yeah, holes and decreases, uh-huh) for about an hour, then handed out project sheets (is this IT?) and that was that. On top of that, it was a goofy little lace scarf project.

I could have done this myself without the "class." (Without the registration fee, without the travel costs, without the hotel costs, without the food costs . . . that would have bought a LOT of yarn and pattern dictionaries. If you put your ear to the monitor you can probably hear my blood boiling.)

2. I hate things falling off. I hate having many projects in half-completed states and feeling like I have no way to devote enough time to them to finish. I have having desires and realizing that I have so many things begun that I'm only shooting myself in the feet to start another.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Today Tastes Like Burning . . . A Quick Fiction Fix

Blog entry April 26, 2008

My younger brother called to let me know a package was on its way. When I asked him what sort of package, he chuckled, and told me I'd know it when I saw it. Odd.

Not that he'd send a package; my birthday was earlier this month, and he's thoughtful that way. Not always timely, but then, none of us are much for punctuality. Late births are the norm in our family, and as you begin . . .

No, I remember Christmas was hard for him. He'd go out and buy gifts for everyone, but the waiting until the big day was tough. He'd want to share the fun right then, not wrap it and stash it under the tree. There were times he'd go out and buy doubles because he couldn't wait and would blurt out "I got you a . . ." at the dinner table.

For that matter, he didn't sound quite like himself. He sounded . . . flat. For a minute, I was reminded of those hostage tapes from al Jazeera. Like he was reading from a script. Like someone was putting words in his mouth.


Blog entry May 2, 2008

A package was waiting by the door when I came home. Great postage stamps! See what I mean about thoughtful--my brother knows I do collages, so he found one of the few companies that uses old-fashioned stamps instead of those bar print thingies. They look Asian; a man with deep epicanthal folds and black eyes peers out from under a . . . well, it's kind of a hood and kind of a mitre and kind of . . . well, it's a headdress for sure. He's wearing a veil over his nose and mouth. The hat and veil are yellow. When I turn the stamp, it's holographic! The folds of the veil shift and flow a little. What a cool effect! Usually they just snap back and forth, but this--it's like the wind rippling the cloth. Or maybe it's just the light.

I'm going to have to hit the intarwebs and google "Carcosa." My geography's not the best (okay, nonexistant. I memorized what I needed for tests and promptly forgot everything. Never thought I'd need it.) but I don't recognize the country.

Blog entry May 7, 2008

I LOVE THIS CD!!!! It's taken pride of place in my collection. I have it on permanent rotation in the car. I take it with me into the office, plug it into the computer, and listen with my headphones on. (It looks like I'm taking dictation.) I carry it into the house and put it on the stereo while I'm hanging out at home.

It's funny. I've played this disc so often, the music is a soundtrack to my dreams. I better make a copy or two before it gets scratched.

Maybe I'll make a copy for the car, a copy for work, a copy for home, a copy to put in my gym bag . . . better fire up Nero and get cracking, huh?

Blog entry May 20, 2008

Man! I didn't realize I'd been away for so long--where does the time go?

Last night, I dreamed I was riding on the back of a camel. I was crossing the desert at night, following a black man dressed in yellow robes. The stars were especially bright and clear, like they were closer to the earth, and brighter. Much brighter.

We were going to a city in the desert. I could see the towers on the horizon, topped with fantastic spires that went on and on forever. I could see the moon impaled on one like a glowing minaret. The things you dream! For that to happen, the moon would have to be in front of the tower. Isn't that silly?

They told us we'd have to announce summer vacation plans at work--dates and stuff. I'm finally eligible for three weeks at a whack. I usually break it up through the year--a long weekend made even longer, the whole week off between Christmas and New Year's. But this time, I think I'll take it all at once.

I'd like to go to Egypt.

Blog entry June 15, 2008

Well my bags are packed and I'm ready to go . . . lah lah lah lah, I'll miss you so . . . lah lah lah lah something something . . . I'm leaving on a jet plane!

I used to love that song. I can barely remember the lyrics now, buried as they are under my current favorite CD with the drums and flutes and the chanting in Egyptian.

I think it's Egyptian. I've learned enough to be polite--I'm hungry, where's a restaurant? I'm thirsty, where's a bar? Excuse me, please, thank you, where's the bathroom? But the chant on the CD bears the same resemblance to what I've learned as Chaucer does to modern English. All hard consonants bodyslammed to the mat, every bit of juice wrung out of the gutterals, the vowels snorted through the nose.

I'm so looking forward to this trip. Somehow it feels like coming home.

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January 1, 2009

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