Two days

Published on Monday July 6th, 2009

This was the state of Daisy Daisy yesterday at 4pm. After two days of knitting, I’ve got decreases done, and enough sweater to cover me up to the ribs! I’m flying through this knit, which is only appropriate since I’m completing winging it on the design. I like a bit of waist shaping, but need the fronts to be totally clean for design reasons that will be revealed later. So I can’t use my usual scheme of placing four dart-like decreases and increases on verticals centered under the bust and correspondingly on the back. Instead I shifted all the shaping to the center back, and while I was at it, I thought I might as well make those decreases decorative.

This should be easier to see when it’s blocked out, but those are 4>3 eyelet decreases engineered by Amy Detjen and featured in her Beginner’s Triangle shawl from A Gathering of Lace. I’ve unvented a corresponding decorative increase, too. I watched half the Tour stage this morning before work, and I hope the increase section will be finished by the time I’ve watched the end tonight. (Don’t tell me what happened, okay? I’m scrupulously avoiding the world of cycling news, including today’s KAL thread on Ravelry, so it’ll be a surprise!) And then it’ll be time to start neckline shaping and cast on some sleeves!

All is not entirely rosy, though. I’m pretty sure I don’t have enough yarn. That daisy stitch is a real yarn-guzzler, and the i-cord cast on, while I’m 100% sure it’s the right look for this jacket (I started with a couple of other cast ons and ripped them out), it used a lot of my first ball, too. So I’m hunting a sixth skein, and may have a lead via Ravelry. This yarn—it’s Louet MerLin Avalon—has been discontinued and reissued as MerLin Worsted, so while I’m pretty sure MerLin Worsted in Champagne would be an acceptable match, I haven’t found a local store selling it so I can compare the colors.

Anyway, I’m going to knit until I can’t anymore, and if I have to put Daisy Daisy on hold while I wait for that last skein, I’ll just slide over into the Polka Dot jersey category and tackle some of my innumerable WIPs.

And for those holding me to task on my cycling goals, I’m happy to report that I rode both days this weekend. Saturday I set out midday (after the time trial was finished; it was well worth a hotter ride to see Cancellara come scorching in 18 seconds over everyone else!) with my bike computer registering 99 degrees. I got out as far as Kelly Point and turned south, having already downed a bottle and a half of water, and then my beloved Serotta and I experienced our first mutual flat tire. I was cruising along, and I didn’t see any patches of broken glass or anything I might have ridden through to cause a puncture, but suddenly the bike felt mushy and slithery under me and I knew exactly what had happened. I hadn’t yet assembled a patch kit to carry on this bicycle (situation amended—thanks, neighbors!), and I’d never changed a road bike tire anyway. Luckily there was a patch of dense shade handy, and Mr. G had sent me out with his cell phone, so I called for the sag wagon and my man and our dog came to rescue me. Only about ten miles logged for that day. But yesterday I went out with our neighbor and did the Airport Loop and Rocky Butte—my first look at that climb. I huffed and puffed and gave it my best shot, and although I did stop once to pant and drink water, I made it to the top, and the descent was definitely worth it. I didn’t know the road and wasn’t quite brave enough not to touch my brakes at all, but I topped 60kph and loved every second of it! (Good thing my computer happened to be logging max speed… on the way down I was too busy watching the road and trying to judge my lines for the bends to think of looking at the screen!) So climbing is still my weakest point, but I’m determined that I’ll be able to pedal straight up Rocky Butte without resting by the time I have to be ready for the Tour de Cure on the 25th! I’m going to try to ride it again after work at least once this week.

Daisy, Daisy

Published on Tuesday June 30th, 2009

Three days left before the start of the Tour de France. I’m anticipating a thrilling edition of the race and plotting a new sweater design to go with it. For some time now I’ve been kicking around the idea of a little 3/4-sleeve summer jacket with an edge treatment in the beautiful Daisy Stitch you see above, knit from Louet’s worsted weight MerLin (this is actually worsted MerLin’s discontinued but basically identical prototype, Avalon). I have significant design hurdles to overcome (How do I change needle sizes to get the fabric I want in the Daisy Stitch and in stockinet? What kind of shoulder construction will work best?), but that’s perfect for Tour knitting. And of course thinking of my Daisy jacket in company with cycling brought to mind the the popular 1890’s music hall song, “Daisy Bell,” known to most (among those who know it at all) as “Bicycle Built for Two” or “Daisy, Daisy:”

Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer, do!

I’m half crazy, all for the love of you.

It won’t be a stylish marriage

I can’t afford a carriage

But you’ll look sweet upon the seat

Of a bicycle built for two.

The original isn’t much heard anymore, but the song has entered the folk tradition and spawned a variety of saucy answer choruses. In my family (and it’s a family that knows more 100-year-old ditties than average, thanks to my grandmother and mother, and always appreciates a saucy tune), we’ve always sung:

Harry, Harry, here is my answer true:

I’ll not marry in spite of my love for you.

If you can’t afford a carriage

There won’t be any marriage.

‘Cause I’ll be damned if I’ll be crammed

On a bicycle built for two.

My Daisy is designed for a modern age in which a girl might well be tickled to be married from a tandem. But in fact, the social history of women and cycling intrigues me. You should read some of the period scientific literature warning against permitting a young woman to ride a bicycle, both because it might damage her reproductive organs and because by angling the seat a certain way she might derive (gasp!) sexual gratification. (This last is pretty hilarious to any girl who’s ever ridden a bicycle, ever, but the men of science of the 1800s don’t seem to have applied as much imagination in testing their hypotheses as they did in formulating them… they don’t seem to have thought to ask an actual woman what it felt like to straddle much of anything, for instance.) Bicycles represented a new kind of freedom for women, a measure of control over their own mobility and a new opportunity to use their bodies athletically. A quote from Susan B. Anthony: “Let me tell you what I think of bicycling. I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. It gives women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel…the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood.” And another, which I love, from Frances Willard, a cycling enthusiast who was otherwise conservative enough to lead the Women’s Christian Temperance Union: “I would not waste my life in friction when it could be turned into momentum.”

And hey, the bicycle helped get us out of corsets, ladies. If that sentiment makes you want to follow the Tour this year, it’s not too late to join the knit-along on Ravelry.

In which St. Tracy preserveth my bacon

Published on Saturday July 26th, 2008

I came home from Knitting Camp determined not to buy any more yarn for a good long while. My suitcase was stuffed full of Unspun Icelandic, Jamieson’s Shetland Jumper Weight, angora-wool blend from Kimmet Croft for some Bohus experiements, Satakieli for mittens and a hat (and a couple of skeins as a present for a friend), and a gorgeous lone skein of Bartlett Aran-weight called Blackberry that was too tasty to leave behind. And the home stash is already, shall we say, sizable. But as soon as I figured out I was going to run short of yarn for the secret cardigan, I panicked. I ran all over town (and this town has a lot of yarn stores) in search of a substitute. Sometime I’ll show you a picture of my new Yellow Yarn stash. I was contemplating everything from unraveling a sportweight to get at a single ply to dyeing blanks myself. I was ready to try some Koigu sock yarn in a promising color. I ordered a variegated skein online that looked like it incorporated the right yellow, even though I knew I’d have to experiment with bleaching the darker brown portions. And finally I took the advice of a cool-headed reader and went over to Ravelry to see if anyone was willing to swap some stash. It’ll never work, I thought. The yarn I’m using is too obscure and too old. Even if someone had something I know comes in a similar color and preparation, like Malabrigo Lace, there’s no way I could get it in time to meet my deadline.

And then there they were. Three beautiful cheese-doodle marigold skeins of Malabrigo Lace in Sunset. In the stash of a local knitter who happens to be a friend of a friend, with whom I’ve already corresponded on Ravelry: Tracy knit one of my favorite versions of the Twisted Tree pullover for her younger son. Tracy was willing to let me buy one of her skeins, so yesterday evening I cycled up to her house, met her family, had a little chat, and cycled home again with the precious ball tucked into my backpack. I’m alternating rounds with the old yarn and the new, but the match is so good you can’t even tell.

That’s my first try at a tubular bind-off, by the way. It takes an age in comparison with the old leapfrog standby, but doesn’t it look nice?

I did it last night while I was watching History Boys, which I liked up until the bizarre ending. (We looked it up and found it was adapted from a play, which makes perfect sense, and also that the cast were mostly the stage actors from the original production, which explains how good they were.)

Anyway, I’m finishing one sleeve tonight and since there’s no seaming to be done, I have every hope of finishing by the end of the Tour! A thousand thanks, Tracy. If good karma doesn’t flood your way for this kind act immediately, I’ll personally go beat it out of the bushes and shoo it towards your front door.

Thrills, spills, and rooster tails

Published on Wednesday July 23rd, 2008

Would you believe me if I told you knitters’ heaven is at a Holiday Inn in Marshfield, Wisconsin? I don’t know about eternity, but I could spend an awfully long, happy time amid the heaps of beautiful sweaters, hats, mittens, etc. knit by Elizabeth Zimmermann, under the kind and gracious tutelage of Meg, Joyce, and Amy, with scores of inspiring knitterly comrades. We stuffed our brains with new techniques and sage advice, we drank good beer at the pub across the street, we laughed and chattered for hours and applauded each other’s successes. And we knit like fiends all day long and into the night. Jen and I even woke up early to knit and watch the Tour from our beds.

All too soon the weekend was over and I was boarding a plane to return home. As I did so, I came crashing back to earth most unpleasantly: I discovered that I am going to run out of wool for my yellow cardigan. I thought 850 yards was plenty, but I was wrong. Of course, when I misjudge things like this, I pay heavily. The yarn is from Uruguay; it’s been in the stash for three years; they’re not making the same color any longer. So yesterday saw me in a frantic scramble around town to find a yellow laceweight that was similar enough to substitute. No dice. I bought a skein of Socks That Rock mediumweight in 24 Karat with the insane idea that I might be able to unravel it and use a single ply. This is madness, of course, and will probably lead to ruination (the yarn’s) and despair (mine). I also went online and ordered a skein of Lanas Puras Melosa laceweight in Sunset, which looks like a very similar yarn, but seems to have more brown than my yarn. If it’s really brown, I’m tempted to go all Kay Gardiner and take the bleach to it. (Of course I’ll try this on a single strand before I dip half a skein in. I’m not that far gone. UPDATE: DON’T BLEACH WOOL. It dissolves. Luckily Véronique pointed me to a scientific article about this; I didn’t find out the hard way.) Either way, I’m like poor John-Lee Augustyn, having face-planted off the mountainside and lost my bicycle down the scree, now forced to wait by the road for the team car to bring up a new machine. So I thought I’d keep the French spirit of my knitting alive and finish this:

This is something I’ve been plotting for a long while. My grandmother was fond of the work of a French surrealist named Jean Lurçat, who worked in both textiles and ceramics. I don’t know much about him, but I’ve seen a tapestry of his in the Vatican Museums, and my grandmother (a needlepoint artist herself) had purchased the most wonderful rooster tapestry on one of her visits to her brother and family in France. My cousin has it now. We also have a small collection of black-on-yellow ceramic tiles by Lurçat, the best of which I let my brother take on the condition that he send me a picture of it so I could incorporate it into a knitting design:

I wasn’t sure how I was going to pull this off until I saw Joyce and Meg’s book on Armenian Knitting last fall. Aha! You carry both colors throughout the entire hat, intending the trapped stitches to show through, and then you just bring the contrast color to the fore to make your design! Genius!

See the little flecks of yellow showing through the black? Doesn’t it look tweedy? You know how I feel about tweed.

Inside, it looks like this:

Loose floats all over, but you can just make out the rooster in reverse where I carried the yellow as the main color and trapped the black. These yarns, by the by, are both Socks That Rock lightweight. Korppi and Pondscum. The best part is that when I picked them out at Madrona last winter and explained what I was going to do with them, Tina knew who Lurçat was and was enthusiastic about the project.

So, one Camp project down. I’ve got another to show as soon as I weave in the ends, and a third to work on during the Tour over the next day or two while I wait for my yellow laceweight to come. Hurry, little skeinlet! I need to get back in the race!