I'm a knitter with a cat. I write about doods, knitting, movies, current events, and my cat. Did I mention I have a cat?

Monday, August 13, 2012

Frogs, kitchening, and Magic Loopz

Here's a "what the hell are you up to?" pic of my desk right now:

Hipster pic of the needle case I made and some yarns I'm using right now.
... I'm better at knitting than I am at sewing.

Well, of PART of my desk. Or really, what's right in front of me, staged to look less like a mess and more intentionally cool and then Instagramed because I need to use that app more. But next time I should use less edge blur. It looks pretentious.

Ok, moving on.

The terms used in knitting are kinda weird and probably one of the things that makes most new knitters nervous. What exactly is "kitchener"? How does one "frog" and what does that do to your scarf? What about ladders and lifelines and purls? Why are half the terms clear and descriptive (stitch holder, make 1 stitch, increase and decrease) and the other half seem so bizarre and out of left field?

I suppose a lot of the terms are a result of coloquial adjectives that kinda described what the knitter was doing with their yarn and needles. For me, frogging evokes leap frog, where you are pulling apart stitches and there's a satisfying "pop" when each stitch is released from it's loop. Whenever I frog, I always hear a slight chorus of "ribbit, ribbit, ribbit" in my head. Makes the process a little easier, considering you're essentially undoing minutes or even hours of work in one quick motion. Or take the terms "Cast On" and "Bind Off". When I come across these I think of nautical times, like sailing, masts and scurvy. I suppose "casting on" can be thought of as the shove off into a new adventure. Or, you know, it's just an archaic term for "start putting loops on your needle." 

So, in the spirit of why-the-hell-not, these are some common terms and my interpretation:

List of Knitting Terms. Natch.

  • "Cast on" - complicated ways to start your knitting that are usually harder to master than the actual knit stitch.
  • "Longtail Cast on" - a way to cast on that wastes a ton of yarn and time because it's almost impossible to estimate how much of a "tail" you need to leave and how much yarn your stupid cast on is going to take. This is also the fastest way and makes you feel like a boss when your twisting your fingers all fancy and in 10 seconds you can start making actual knit stitches.
  • "Bind off" - finally, I'm DONE, because screw you, weaving in ends and blocking.
  • "Purl" - the kind of stitch that slows me down and forces me to hold yarn and needles all awkward. AKA, the ass side of Knit.
  • "Increase" - what happens when you intentionally (unintentionally?) slip your right hand needle into a loop that isn't actually a working stitch loop and add to the amount of stitches left till you can bind off.
  • "Decrease" - my favorite because I'm reducing how many damn stitches are left on my needle so the row takes less time to finish. ^.^
  • "Magic Loop" - the BEST modern knitting technique since ever. Seriously, go learn how to do it.
  • "Double Knit" - where you only knit half the needles on a row, so it takes twice as long to complete, BUT it makes your scarf double thick (and you can hide all your ends instead of actually weaving them in. SCORE.)
  • "Kitchener" - also known as Grafting, this stitch sucks because you have to use an actual sewing needle (but the big, fatty kind called "tapestry" so at least it's hard to lose and you won't accidentally draw blood when if you poke yourself.) Disclaimer - I actually really love this stitch and use it all the friggin time.
  • "Yarn Over" - yarn over what? Oh, you mean "wrap the yarn over the needle to make a hole." Why not call it a yarn wrap? Because that's already used for another technique DUH.
  • "Wrap" - fancy way to make cool diagonal lines on sock heels and avoid ugly holes when making Short Rows...whatever the hell those are.
  • "Sort Rows" - a row that ends up shorter than the one before it, and you repeat until you make a cool cup for a heel on a sock or your ta-tas on a sweater. Japanese Short Rows are my favorite, even if it's a little cumbersome using all those safety pins while knitting.
  • "Ladder" - when you were paying more attention to that Mythbuster's marathon than your knitting.
  • "Circular Needles" - the only kind of needles you ever really need. Srsly.
  • "Blocking" - waiting for DAYS to wear your new sweater because you intentionally soaked the crap out of it and pinned it down like a dissected specimen.
  • "Steeking" - using scissors to make a sweater into a cardigan in 10 seconds. Preferably done whilst breaking out your maniacal cackle.
 There are tons more, but I'm lazy and don't want to actually look these things up just to save face or whatevs. Also, I have to get breakfast out of the oven.

...and lunch. And possibly dinner too.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Don't ever knit him something.

I have only knit something as a gift for two dudes. That's two dudes too many. Most knitters come across this very serious issue at least a few times - when is it ok to make something for the Significant Other? I'm not talking about bitches who knit shit for their HUSBANDS. No. I'm talking about a poor knitter who finds her/himself caught at the precipice of "Serious Relationship" and starts getting that undeniable itch to make something for that jerk that they let touch their privates. It's a horrid thing. Suddenly it's Christmas and you get that damn voice tickling your mind - "oooo, how nice if I knit something for them! They would be so proud and happy and cry tears of joy at all the hard work I've obviously put in their gift! What a great idea!"
No. This is a shitty idea. The shittiest idea ever. "But how! It's a great gesture! Surely you're wrong, bitter lonely lady."Well, tough titties little noob. I'm very much not wrong. Let me break it down into the maths:
I'm legally bound to steal other peoples' cat pics to illustrate my dumb points.
(1) Calculate how much money you would likely spend on the project. Want to make a hat or scarf? You're likely to want to use the best fiber you can afford. Soooo, say a 5% cashmere and 95% Merino blend? Couple skeins? Probably looking at $15-$40. Want to be dumb and make a whole SWEATER?? $100 easy. If that's not deterrent enough, let me continue.

(2) Now, calculate the actual time spent working on the damn thing. No, I don't mean when you remember to time yourself, the WHOLE time selecting the right yarn, the needles, the color, and not to mention getting a hold of patterns or even just figuring out a way to measure their other sweaters without them realizing what you're up to. All that would easily be in the dozens of hours. The scarves I made were on teeeeeny needles and took (no joke) something like 2 months to make, knitting 4 hours a day. That's 240 hours on an FREAKING SCARF. Twice.

(3) Now calculate the physical strain of working that hard while trying to prepare for the hectic holidays, the emotional build-up that's inevitably leeching itself into your dumb love drenched mind, and divide it all by the lackadaisical response and you are totally in the red. At best, the dude thanks you and gives you a sweet kiss and puts the thing on and says "cool!" but then that's it. He never wears it or puts any more thought into cherishing it. Not to mention what happens when you *gasp* BREAK UP. Which is inevitable, because you showed how much you're invested in him by knitting that damn sweater, you dumb-dumb. 

Ok, fine. So there are dudes out there that won't flee the minute his fingers make contact with the millions of merino stitches that enflamed your carpel tunnel. But most of them will. Because by then, they're already deciding that you aren't the one they want to be with f-o-r-e-v-e-r and a damn sweater just makes you seem weird and desperate or some shit.

Don't make him the sweater. It's not worth it. Better to just make something for the cat.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Knitting is hard.

Tweed yarn likes to gawk at needle carnage.

I recently broke the shit out of one of my favorite needles. It just snapped right in half mid stitch one night. It was so effortless that I was kinda shocked. Sure, this is the third time in my almost decade of knitting that this happened to me, but it's always startling. Did I just suddenly Hulk the fuck out and not notice it? You're right. I probably did. Perhaps I should consider investing in stretchier pants.

I think it's pretty easy to see needle-manslaughter as a convenient metaphor for all the shitty breaks in our lives. Probably too obvious. So I won't go there. Still, it just really really sucks. But then you just grab another one and move on. Amiright ladies??
Shut up, Tobey.
The tendency for breaking my tools aside, knitting is freaking balls awesome. It's my go-to hobby whenever I feel bored/stressed/creative/hungry/electric(what?). But it seems to scare a lot of people. You know how when you are approached by peeps and there's always that almost scripted conversation for things like being a mom, or getting a new job, or telling people how you inseminate pigs for a living?? It's no different as a knit-ja (har har. I made a word from "knit" and "ninja"). "God, I tried knitting. But it's just too hard." It really isn't that hard, once you get past the initial clumsiness. But just like a 14 year old boy practicing his "totally stealth" one-handed bra-snap maneuver, I kept at it until I could sneeze out sweaters. Of course, my ultimate goal is to fart out intricate doilies on size 00000 needles. For you norms, that's really really REALLY tiny. I must be insane.

It really sucked that I couldn't bring myself to work on any knitting this entire past week. Whatevs, emotional hurdle blah blah blah. Today, however, I started right back up and decided to interrupt my current projects to make my first wrap/shawl. It's gonna be bitchin. It's the Aristida Shawl by Alexandra Beck. It's all diamondy with bobbles - my bread and almond butter. Not to mention FRINGE. Fringe, guys. Since I don't have a picture of that yet, I'll talk about something I made that I DO have pics of. Last winter I made some double-lined mittens. They are the product of my fevered knitter brain - no pattern (bitches!) so they don't have a name. They *might* be inspired by those damn "twilight" mittens K. Stew (AKA "close your damn mouth") wore in the first(?) movie, but because they use such the well-known Horseshoe Cable and Basketweave stitch patterns, they weren't too challenging to reverse-engineer. Here, take a looksie:

So waaaaarm...

Because they are lined, they REALLY keep the warm in and the bitter cold out. Like, really a lot. My hands might get a bit on the sweaty side, they work that well. Bonus, they are so nice and thick and look kinda like steel gauntlets. Add some stones for weight, aim, and get ready to mess someone's shit up. So, literally, these mittens are the only good thing to come out of twilight.

...That's right. I put down Twilight. Deal with it.

I'll start adding more projects as I fish them out of their various hiding places. You know, for someone who's been knitting for 10ish years, I have a surprisingly small stash. Don't even think I break 100 balls/skeins. And I don't really have anything that would be considered "luxury" yarn. Only decent natural fibers. Because seriously, fuck acrylic yarn. Most beginners learn right quick that acrylic yarn from Big Box Craft Store is no good for anything you might actually want to wear season to season. So, instead I like to knit with wools, silks, and cat hair...
OK, yeah. That last one isn't intentional, it just happens. "Eww grooooss!" Whatever, it all comes from animals. What the hell do you think wool IS? Silk is worse. It came from a larvae's ass. Yes, silk, coveted for it's glorious sheen and durability, is pretty much just hardened larvae butt discharge. Yum! Dare you to go put your delicate lady-face all over your silk pillow and NOT think of worm butts.

I've been knitting mostly in secret this whole decade, having taken some rather large breaks in the beginning when I was still trying to survive undergrad, but picking back up later on when I found myself  with a ton of time suddenly. ::coughunemployedcoughcough::
Like most intermediate knitters, I thrive on whipping shit up on the fly. I rarely use actual patterns anymore and prefer to scan the hundreds of stitch patterns to make something that matches the images in my mind. Knitting design journals are a MUST have for anyone who likes to make alterations to patterns or designs their own stuff. I'm a big journal whore so this was a no-brainer for me. I do have a ravelry account as well, but updating those project pages are haaaard. I seriously just forget about it for weeks until I have the urge to look up more pattern ideas or find yarns. Also, I'm a bit too Gollum with my designs to be posting them all over my ravelry notebook (My precioussssss!)  But...you know, I like you guys. So perhaps I'll sneak peeks at what stews in my head here and there.

Oh alright. I'll give you this ONE hint at a source of inspiration for a particular stewing nugget of awesome:
Evil Queen Feathers!

Seriously, that cloak was fucking awesome sauce.
The movie blew, sadly, but the COSTUMES! Good god, how I wish I could have been an intern working for Ms. Atwood. No freaking wonder I came home with ideas swimming inside my crafty little mind. I'm really happy I came away from that movie with thoughts of stitching up garments instead of the urge to eat sparrow hearts. Seriously fucked up. But apparently sparrow hearts do wonders for the complexion. Must be the anti-oxidants.

Knitting is tricky, but it totally pays off. You end up with something that you can use (as long as you did it right, that is.) I can't think of many modern hobbies that have that end result. Tangible, communicable and completely fulfilling. Viva la Knit and shit.

But seriously, how cool is Charlize Theron??