Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Patterns, where to begin?

The deep pattern dive has been delayed. As if there weren't enough travails with my health, one of my dogs (the yellow one, Morgaine) has been diagnosed with cancer. She's need a lot of care if she's to actuate her slim chance of survival. Morgaine and her sister (Pachamama) have been with our family since they were 8 weeks old. They're 10 years old now. They've been together since the womb. I can't imagine what it will be like for Pacha if she loses her sister. My daughter has already lost a cat and a very dear great Uncle. This is lot for her. It's always something, this life business. Sheez.

It hasn't stopped me completely. I have begun. I've been gathering notes and making a list of projects to convert:
  1. Circles Ring Round
  2. Siberian Collared Cardi
  3. Lyssa's Double Knit Chevron Scarf
  4. Leanne's wrist warmers
  5. Asa's skirt
  6. Francesca's skirt
  7. Margaret's headband
  8. Marv Mohair Cable Front Sweater
  9. Girly Girl
  10. Striped Ballet Sweater
  11. Happy Halter
  12. Twinkle re-design
  13. new Babette's Hooded scarf
  14. Fair Isle corded hat/wrist warmers - Turkish motifs
  15. socks: swirling dervish
  16. socks: simple twist for Kaleidoscope
  17. proto-sleeve shawl
  18. flirty skirt
  19. Myrna's coat
  20. German cardigan
  21. short-row gloves
  22. while alpaca two-piece set
So, that's a few things. And there are more in sketches and notes. Where do I even begin? There's the excitement of the most recently completed proto-type - the Siberian Collared Cardi - and then there are the simpler patterns to publish, such as the Flirty Skirt or a hat pattern. Of course, I want to work on patterns by others, too, so I'll have to get going on a couple of those...

And then, there are the patterns I owe to the Sock Hop club. They may think I've forgotten since that club fell apart last year. I had hoped to rely on a staff member who had a lot of sock designing experience to produce the patterns, but that didn't work out. With me getting more and more ill, I wasn't able to meet this obligation. That doesn't mean I've forgotten it, though. Things owed weigh on me and part of getting my life more functional is getting these weights off my shoulders.

So, I'll begin with the Swirling Dervish sock. It's a fun one. Done with a lot of Turkish techniques: a swirl toe with shaping for the littlest piggy; a border pattern at the top of the foot before the instep; Eastern and Western twisted traveling stitches for the main swirl patterning; an inserted heel; and a cuff finished with a Bosnian single crochet. (The Sock Hop club members will get a discount on the yarn.)

I had begun this pattern last year. Shelley was test knitting it for me. I had knit my proto-type on a skein of Blackberry Ridge Kaleidoscope. This is lovely yarn and feels great for a warm, cushy sock. In the colorway I worked, you could see the patterning. I wasn't sure, though, if it got a little too lost. So, Shelley worked it up in a much busier colorway. Then it was completely lost. A lot of work for no visual effect. So, we put it on hold for a more solid colored yarn.

Easy enough, right? Write something else for the Kaleidoscope - which had already been purchased for the sock club - and then use this pattern once you find a yarn that suits it. Well, easy enough until your hard drive crashes when you haven't done a back up in a while. (Bang head on computer to see if latent memory can be transferred from brain back into computer via violent osmosis. What? No luck?) Yes, that's what happened. I lost all the work. Or so I thought.

Recently, I was going through the hundreds of "stickies" I have in my Mac Stickies program. I have so much random information there and it had no organization. So, in a moment of needing to do something rather mindless but cathartic, I decided to try arranging them in some useful order. And, what do I find? Notes for the Swirling Dervish! All is not lost. The very specific toe shaping and the traveling stitch charts are there. These were the most detailed piece. I can easily recreate the rest. So, we're off.

I thought I had a bit of this sock on the needles so you could get a taste of the look of it. That photo at the top is what I found. Hmmm, that's not a toe. And those aren't traveling stitches. That is definitely the yarn I was making the proto-type from. I must have pulled it out to begin working on another pattern. We'll see where that goes. The new and improved Swirling Dervish will be done in the Cestari Sock yarn. The rustic simplicity of that yarn will suit the traditional Turkish styling well. I'll keep you posted.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Needles: off and on

It may not look like much, but that, my friends, is a bound off edge. That's right. I completed the knitting on the Siberian Collared Cardi. What started as a little off-the-cuff dyeing of a random skein of wool with Easter Egg dye last spring, has finally resulted in a finished sweater. Well, once the finishing's done that is.

I'll block it tonight, weave in ends and put on buttons tomorrow and be wearing this little number by the end of the week.

That's one big project off the needles. Now, I'm ready to move into pattern-writing mode. My next Circles goal is to get a good set of new patterns published. I have a list of at least 17 in mind. That's right: 17. There are more, but these are the ones that are far enough along to start publishing and getting test knitters on board. They're not all mine. (That wouldn't be very Circles-like, now would it?) Not quite half have been designed by other people. Some of whom have already submitted instructions. Others who are a little daunted by that prospect. Now is the time when I'll be nudging them along.

So, in my Circles life I'm moving off the needles for a while. In my health life I'm moving on them. There is more of an update here, but the quick version is that I'm being taken off of oral meds - because they were making me so sick that I lost energy, sleep and 23 pounds. Instead, I've begun injected antibiotics. A very literal pain in the nether region, but definitely better than feeling like I live in the nether region.

I had thought I would begin the pattern writing extravaganza last week, but beyond my own medical appointments, I now am in the throes of caring for a dog with aggressive cancer. She was diagnosed last weekend and we've had to make some tough decisions. Last week was full of consultations and research and crying. Our dogs have been with us for 10 years and they are siblings to my daughter. The decision-making process is complex. Considerations of quality of life for the dog, emotional toll on the humans, impact on the sibling dog, whether any treatments actually offer hope and, of course, cost. We've learned a lot rather quickly about dogs and cancer. This isn't the place for me to go into the whole experience. This is the place to say that one part of helping myself through this is knitting. After giving her all her supplements and scheduling our appointments, I find that I just want to pick up the needles and pour myself into a project with Morgan right next to me.

And while I'm knitting, I'm begging any entity that might be out there with some kind of vision or compassion in the universe to GIVE ME A BREAK ALREADY!! Back to the needles....

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Knit Police

A few years ago now, I met a creative knitter who displayed a great bit of knitting wisdom. From the moment I recognized what she was doing and she explained why, I appreciated this wisdom. It is such a simple way to avoid some major time consuming headaches that I feel that everyone could benefit from employing this little tactic. I've told many a knitter since then about it. So, you'd think I would learn. That I would grab onto this wisdom I am proselytizing and never let it go. But that would be a demonstration of my own wisdom, which is clearly lacking!

What is this golden tidbit? When I met Suzanne she was always knitting fabulous things which she herself had designed. Often she was knitting the main body of the piece and leaving the edges to be determined later. To enable herself to go back and knit an edge at the beginning of the piece without creating a bulky seam, she used a provisional cast on. Well, of course. This made sense. But then I realized than even when she had decided what the edging would be and had knit it up front, she still used a provisional cast on. Because, well, you never now when you might need to go back and change something. Basically, she used a provisional cast on for just about every project she knit. It's a brilliant idea. How many times have I have wanted to go back and make that sweater a little shorter, or a little longer, or change that ribbing? I'm telling you, this is wisdom in action. If you run out of yarn, you can always use a new color on all the edges if you haven't knit any of them yet, or you've used a provisional cast on where you can go pull it out readily.

Being sporadically wise, I have intermittently employed this technique. I'm always gleeful when I do. I often lament when I don't. My most recent project was a case in point.

It was supposed to be a rather simple idea and it was such a small project that I boldly cast on and dove into my creative little ruffled edge before knitting the lacy smoke ring. I had one skein of yarn and was just going to knit until it ran out. A quick little project to whip out demonstrating a beautiful piece you can get out of approximately 225 yards of yarn.

I worked my way through it, calculating increases in a shifting lace pattern. I was moving along at a steady pace and felt pretty good about the work. Finally, I'm binding off. Every one is "ooh"-ing and "ah"-ing over it and I'm proudly putting it on my head to see how it looks. And, it's beautiful! Well, except for that odd ruffle at the top. You can't really tell that it's meant to be a ruffle, and, well, it just looks kind of messy. It needs to come off!

Off?! But I was so sure! And this yarn is so fine and so expensive, I can't just cut it. Had I only channeled Suzanne and done that provisional cast-on, I'd be golden. But, of course, I hadn't and I would have to painstakingly pull the yarn through every stitch for 4 rows of a ruffle to salvage the yarn and re-knit the front edge. Oh, and that ruffle ends right at the beginning of the lace pattern, so I have to watch out when I'm putting those stitches back on the needle that I don't lose any yarn-overs and start a nightmare where I just have to knit the entire thing over again.

It took me longer to pull those stitches out and re-mount them on a needle than it did to knit the whole darn thing. I swear! Ok, maybe not. But if felt like it. I should have taken photos, but I couldn't bear it. I just wanted to get it over with.

It's done now. You can see the finished item in the post before this one. But what I really hope is finished is my stupidity. Really, this is such a simple thing. Provisional cast-on. Provisional cast-on. Provisional cast-on.

Perhaps I need a new project mantra. Perhaps I need Knit Police. "Ma'am, Knit Police here. Have you used the provisional cast-on? What's that? You haven't? Come with us, please...." That'll learn me.

Of course there are probably a billion other things I could use Knit Police for, as well. It would be far more useful than Fashion Police. You can't really change how someone sees color or visualizes pattern combinations, but you can teach someone methodologies and help them use discipline to enhance their knitting experience.

I wonder what the Knit Police would wear? And what tools they would carry for prevention and enforcement? What would their emergency number be?