Jolly Green Noggin - Xmas Gift 5 (boy)

Pattern: "Koolhaas," by Jared Flood, available in many places, none of them free, most recently Interweave Knits Accessories 2009
Yarn: Malabrigo Merino Worsted (Vaa)
Needles: US9 circular, worked in the round
Size: large

Plus: Finally, I made a hat for a man that is actually big enough for a bonafide dude head! It's too big on me, hence the lumpy cone-head appearance. The subtle waves of deep water black, green, and teal in this colorway positively mesmerize me. And I love that Jared based this stitch pattern on the fabulous architectural work of Rem Koolhaas. The building below is currently under construction in Beijing. Look familiar???

Delta: The itty-bitty single-stitch cabling was really tedious and unpleasant. Looking at the hat, you think it's going to be some basic knit-purl stitch action, but nooooo. Cable needle up, cable needle down, cable needle up, cable needle down, cable needle up....it sort of made me batty. After a while, I didn't need the chart at all, and the whole thing became very intuitive, but I still wouldn't do another one of these. As for the yarn choice, I think something with multiple plies would have served this pattern better, making the twisted stitch cables pop more. After all that work, I want it to look magnificently complex!

I've been reading a lot of people in the knitting world gripe about Christmas knit giving, and it seems like left and right people are proclaiming, "I absolutely refuse. No knitting for anyone but me!" I certainly understand granting yourself a break from extra stress. The holidays have become such a flurry of fear, guilt, and obligation, I start breaking out it cold sweats even thinking about THE MALL. I think when knitters set totally unrealistic goals for themselves, start eight hundred projects and invariably finish none, it adds to that cycle of frustration in the same way that conventional mass gifting does. Christmas morning becomes the "Thank God it's over" Day or the "I failed" Day or the "Did I keep up?" Day. Not to mention the added stress of, "Do you REALLY like it?" Day or "I wasted my time" Day. Without a doubt, that is no kind of manifestation for the divine art of knitting.

However, this Christmas I made a modest handful of generic knits with care, knit each one at a time, alternating boy style and girl style, and meditated on the love of my family and friends (in general) while creating each one. Some knits serendipitously paired up with their owners before I could second guess them; others will be laid out for snatching at an upcoming party. To round out these offerings, I purchased a few gift cards for our local, independent bookstore, an establishment which I am determined to help survive. Overall, I'd say it was a satisfying approach to honoring my loved ones while preserving my nerves. I, too, received a few precious handmade items, and I plan to share them in my next post, along with a few more knitted gifts.

Getting into the spirit of things, Ellie insisted that she help out and knit afghan square #13. Consequently , she is totally worn out.


Baby, It's Cold Outside - Xmas Gift #4 (boy)

Pattern: "Dashing," by Cheryl Niamath, available free here
Yarn: ShibuiKnits Merino Worsted (Seaweed)
Needles: US7 dpns (worked in the round)
Size: small

Plus: I can't help it. I'm literally sexually aroused by these. I've always had a thing for a nice male forearm, the kind where the muscles wrap lengthwise down from the elbow and curve seductively around the wrist, the way those sinewy layers would ripple over one another ever so slightly when in movement. Yow. These mitts are dead sexy forearms translated into knitting, and I couldn't be happier with them. My husband, who has been vehement and irritating in his skepticism against fingerless mitts, broke down and begged me not to gift them to anyone else but him. BEGGED! He's been wearing them everywhere and has expressed considerable anxiety regarding needing an outfit which will show off the cabling detail best. What a homo, huh?

Delta: Because it is a hand-dyed yarn, there is a little more pooling (particularly a spiral of lighter green that wraps all the way up the arm and hand) than I would have ideally wanted. (Jake thinks it's just another asset and points it out to people when showing off his mitts.) Additionally, the thumbs could be prettier; I always have a hard time with gaps around picked up stitches or reclaiming live stitches from a scrap-yarn slit.

Christmas--all three days of full on feasting and gifting--was lovely and fun. We had a actual, honest-to-God snow on the ground in the morning--a first in my memory. Everyone got a few things which elicited squeals of delight (for my sister, this was a Coach purse; for me, it was an obscene amount of gift cards for my LYS). In addition, both of our families have really embraced the idea of philanthropic Christmas gifts. Among several such gifts, Jake and I were given a $100 gift certificate for Kiva, our favorite "charitable" organization. If you have not looked into this micro-financing institution and their unique approach alleviating poverty all over the world, GO NOW.

And, you probably saw this coming: afghan square #12


Achoo! Wheez. Sniffle. - Xmas gift 3 (girl)

Pattern: "Cafe au Lait Mitts," by Paula McKeever, available as a free download on Ravelry here
Yarn: Malabrigo Silky Merino (Topaz)
Needles: US 4 dpns (worked in the round)

Plus: What an easy yet impressive lace pattern! I positively adore these, and they were a genuine pleasure to work on, since the pattern was very rhythmic and quick to memorize. I didn't even need a lifeline, which is pretty amazing for a goofball like me. I think the silky merino matches the style of the project quite elegantly.

Delta: I'm not sure if it was the yarn or the needles or me, but this project felt exceedingly tight and rigid on the needles. I frequently had to yank and squeeze the stitches down the needle, something I haven't really done since I first started knitting. I'm thinking it's the needle choice. Also, I have read before that when you see a yarn spring up and twist all around itself when you're working with it, it means the yarn in improperly balanced. Well, if that's the case, silky malabrigo needs to work on that. I guess it wouldn't be a problem in this lace pattern, but the fabric would bias terribly if knit it basic stockinette? Am I understanding that principle correctly? I'm sure Clara Parkes checks my blog everyday and will get back to me on that.

So, a few months ago, a dear friend floated an important philosophical question: "You know how when you're sick, your spouse is absolutely obligated to wait on you hand and foot?" I solemnly nodded, and he went on to recount how his spouse had failed to live up to this simple expectation, and had instead followed my friend around with Lysol and Purel, whining repeatedly about not wanting to catch anything. Uncool. Well, I would like to amend that rule: "When you're sick, your spouse is absolutely obligated to wait on you hand and foot, and for that reason, he/she is not allowed to be sick at the same time as you." Nothing is more irritating than suffering away in the dark silence, waiting for your beloved to come home and sweep you off your feet with soothing gestures and hot tea, only to be greeted like this:

"Hi, baby. Uh oh. What's wrong with you?"
"I'm sick."
"Oh, me too."
Pause. "I had a fever earlier today."
"So did I."

Later that night:

"Okay, I'm gonna go pick up dinner."
"Thank you so much for doing that. I feel bad, since you're sick, too."
"Well, it seems like you're more sick than me."
Long Pause. "It's good to hear you say it."

Plaid Square.


Lez All Be Generous

Just about a year ago, I knit a very simple, seed stitch hat for my sister's boyfriend in a very manly, understated, cheapo gray yarn from JoAnn's. Because I still did not understand the whole "gauge" thing yet, the hat came out way too small (as did everything I knit before I understood and respected that vengeful ho-bag, the gauge goddess). It was too small to fit any man, and too man-ish to be worn by any woman. Enter the perfect recipient: a teensy, tiny butch lesbian who works with my husband. Fits her child-sized cranium AND flatters her buzz cut! SWEET. Well, a month ago, she thanked me again for the hat and explained that she wears it every morning to walk her dogs. She complained, however, that it's awfully hard to walk them without a matching scarf. Yeah, yeah. I can take a hint.

I've been seeing these "eternity" or "infinity" scarves/cowl/wrap thingys everywhere. Hence:

Pattern: my own design (CO 25 stitches and work in seed stitch until totally bored or out of yarn. Seam the sucker into a loop.)
Yarn: NaturallyCaron.com Country (charcoal)--held double
Needles: US 13 (worked flat)

Plus: It's very squooshy and soft for a project that's mostly acrylic. Great stuff for gifts to people who will balk at "hand wash" instructions. Also, I like that you have a couple options with how to wear this. Here it is doubled up around the neck.

Delta: Nothing. I'm a genius. Okay, okay, the seam is hideous. I was anxious to move on to something else, apparently.

And in conclusion, SQUARE.


Color-coordinated Progress

A sleeve.

A mitt.

A square.

Too puckery. Harumph. Will try blocking out the tension issues. I keep trying to assure myself that I will only get better at color work by doing more color work.

So, I'm a Buddhist now. I've read the first 8 chapters of Pema Chodron's When Things Fall Apart, and I'm pretty confident that I'm an expert.

In all seriousness, I'm amused by how peacefully this fits with my current world view, or in some cases, how it scratches my most insistent itches. I had always enjoyed the way that existentialism picks you up and dusts you off on the other side of the nihilistic worm-hole. However, after wandering the world with pragmatic, existentialist humanism as your only companion, Buddhism seems like a sort of graduation of the soul, a moving on from the fits and starts of fleeting passions and the burning desire to be better (for what you know, deep down, are arbitrary reasons). The groundlessness and angst are acknowledged as friends rather than foes, the dread of impermance treated with respect and awe. No lies. No self-deception. No anti-intellectual manipulation of the emotions. Just naked truth. I could get used to this.