Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Möbius Basket of Rage

First, let me say that I am not a person known for having much patience. This can be attested to by anyone who has ridden in a car or waited in line with me. Or has been within shouting distance pretty much any time a significant amount of human interaction is required. Now that that disclaimer is out there, I also want to say that I do love how this project came out. The construction is ingenious and the finished project is very, very cool. But this thing almost led to the death and destruction of everyone and everything in my general vicinity. And by "general vicinity", I mean about a one-mile radius.

This is my Felted Moebius Basket, from a pattern by Cat Bordhi (from her book A Second Treasury of Magical Knitting). Basically, a möbius strip is knitted with waste stitches in the middle, then the strip is split along those waste stitches and the body of the basket is knit down from there, leaving the edges of the split strip to neatly frame the mouth of the basket. Like I said, ingenious. And maybe the mistake I made here was deciding that the thing absolutely had to be done in one sitting. Honestly, that was not that ambitious a goal (at least not for me) since the project is relatively small and simple. And, sure, I might have started off with a certain amount of impatience brewing, since I was waiting for a good friend to get in touch so we could hang out.  That aside, and ignoring the fact that my natural disposition and ingrained impatience were probably enough to make this a frustrating project, I'm choosing to believe that some sort of malicious astrological alignment was at the root of making this the most miserable knitting experience I've had to date. There, now no lessons need be learned and no responsibility need be assigned.

To begin, my cat (having finally decided that her snubbing of me over the last few weeks had been unreasonable) decided to sit in my lap through the entire process. It turns out that trying to balance a cat and a knitting book in my lap, all while trying to keep my chronically achy back comfortable is, in and of itself, enough to inspire a white-hot rage.

Now the second ingredient in this recipe for frustration was the needles. In case you're not familiar with Cat Bordhi's method of "magical moebius knitting", you use a long circular needle looped around with an intentional twist in it. This means that you have to have a long enough circular needle to loop around and leave you enough slack to work with. I was amazed to find that not only did I have a size eleven circular needle, but it was, in fact, long enough. But as I started the project I discovered that it was actually almost too long. Of course, it wasn't too long enough for me to give up on the project, and I convinced myself that I could make it work. So, I grumbled and yanked and slid my way through the initial möbius band knitting. Moving on to the body of the basket, I discovered that the needle I used for the strip was, of course, much too long for the body of the basket, and the cable was too inflexible for magic-looping the thing. So I decided to try the double circular needle method Ms. Bordhi suggests in the book. To keep this post from becoming an expletive-riddled tirade about how much I disliked my first attempt at this method of circular knitting, I will say only this: anyone who prefers having two sets of needles dangling from a project and constantly tangling with themselves, each other, the yarn, and the finished portion of the knitting over using double-pointed needles is probably a masochist, a psychopath, or, if done with any amount of patience at all, potentially a saint. Needless to say, I don't have a set of size eleven DPNs, or the furious detangling of needles, project, yarn, and cat never would have happened.

Lastly, the yarn I used (Paton's Classic Wool) refused to feed easily from the skein. I've used this yarn before, and I love it for felting because it felts easily and the finished texture is interesting. It was a new skein, so I wrote off the first few minutes of stopping to tug out more yarn as new-skein pressure. But it didn't stop. The basket took about 45 grams of yarn, so the pressure from the skein should have eased through the project. But instead, every couple of minutes I'd have to either stop, let go of the needles, and viciously yank a few more yards of yarn from the skein, or keep knitting and pull the yarn out of the skein by jerking the needles toward my face. Now, I have a habit of doing this anyway, and I'm fairly convinced that I will one day succeed in putting an eye out with a knitting needle. So, I calmed myself enough to actually let go of the knitting to yank yarn from the skein. Which would frequently dislodge the book and/or the cat in my lap. At least the book didn't dig its claws into my thighs to keep its place.

The one shocking moment of not wanting to burn this project to a cinder (and shoot that cinder into the coldest, darkest depths of space) came with the i-cord bind-off of the band. I might be exaggerating a little bit when I say I hate knitting i-cord. Hate may be too strong a word to describe the malaise that comes over me when I see instructions to cast on three and knit however many miles of i-cord are required for a certain project. But, come on. This thing was going to be felted. How necessary could an i-cord bind-off possibly be? I forged ahead with it anyway, and, honestly, it wasn't that bad. Sure, I had to knit three stitches for every one that was bound off, but I don't complain about that with a picot bind-off, so how hard could I really complain about this? (Okay, I could complain a lot harder, but I won't.) And it did give the felted edge a nice finish, so it was well worth the time.

The upside to this whole thing is that once the actual knitting was done I was able to expend the pent-up frustration by beating that sagging, shapeless, cat-hair-coated and rage-infused mess into a functional and beautiful finished object. That, and the knowledge that I can, indeed, resist the urge to drop-kick the cat across the room and chuck a fist-full of yarn and circular needles into a freshly-filled aquarium. At least for about an hour and a half.

The Colored Safety Pin Yin Yang

I am, despite being extremely hard to please, actually quite easy to please. There are a few simple things that inspire a child-like giddiness in me that defies explanation. Like new office supplies and any kind of clothing or accessory with snaps on it. And colored safety pins. Now, I'm kind of a fan of safety pins anyway, but something about the colored ones just makes me happy. My mom recently bought me a nice warm robe from the thrift store and as I was trying it on I noticed a black safety pin fastened to the front. Black being one of my favorite colors, and colored safety pins being one of life's little joys, I immediately shucked off the robe and ran to stash my find somewhere I wouldn't lose it. (At this point, Mom threatened to hide the discarded robe from me and give it to me for Christmas.) In a nice moment of serendipity, my friend Lloyd found a white safety pin just days after I told him about finding the black one. He noticed it on the floor while cleaning up at work and brought it home for me.

I now have the two pins on the strap of my purse, with the heads facing opposite directions. I call this my Safety Pin Model of the Nature of Duality. Subtitled: I Like Colored Safety Pins.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

How, I ask you . . .

So, I'm not much of a blogger. I am, if I do say so myself, a funny and entertaining person. I even deign to call myself a writer at times. (Hence, the word "deign". And "hence".) But, for some reason, if you sit me down in front of a computer with a blog site on the screen, I turn into a drooling moron. I have no idea what to write about, and even if I did, I wouldn't know how to say it. And there is always the nagging thought: Who would actually want to read this stuff? But desperation and exasperation have led me to this:

I am, among other things, a knitter. I am usually a relatively quick and accurate knitter. I very rarely have to frog a project, unless I decide I don't like the pattern, which happens much more often than I would like to admit. I do my fair share of tinking, but who doesn't, right? So, how, I ask you, how could I have knit the last 16 inches of my lovely brushed baby alpaca scarf (which was so close to being finished) . . .

backwards? That's right. Back. Wards. Backwards.

Who does something like that. I am currently waving my alpaca-fuzz-covered arm in the air. Ooh! Oooh!

And, as it turns out, brushed alpaca is not a yarn you really want to have to unravel. It sticks to itself. Somehow, in the knitting process, it wraps lovely, soft tendrils around nearby lengths of yarn, like a cuddly white kudzu vine. And it's just as hard to get loose.

So, note to self: No matter how desperate I am to finish a project, no matter how close the end seems, I will stand back occasionally and actually look at the damn thing.

And so I give you my first post. I hope you feel my pain.