Why I haven’t been knitting

You might have noticed that my “newest patterns” are pretty old. By months. Nearly a year. The reason I haven’t posted any new patterns is because I haven’t been knitting. And I haven’t been knitting because I have a pinched nerve in my neck that’s causing pins and needles or burning in my face.

My mom noted that I never have normal health problems, it’s always something weird and hard to explain. She’s right, unfortunately. And before you ask, yes, I’ve been to doctors, had all the tests, went through a brief phase where they scared me into thinking I had a brain tumor (it’s not a tumor), and finally I got physical therapy. Which has helped, though it’s still not entirely gone. It’s really weird the things that set it off, too. I’ve switched to reading e-books because holding up a book to read makes my face burn. You guys, I can’t just sit and read a freaking book. Is that messed up or what? But it’s all right. I’ve managed to adapt, and I’m even managing to get a little bit of knitting in again. So eventually, it’s going to finish healing and I’ll be back to my ol’ knitting self.

Anyway, I thought I should finally speak up and let y’all know why there haven’t been any new patterns in forever. I do have one that I’m hoping to get done and up fairly soon. And I’ll probably make a big damn deal out of it when I do.

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Knit two together through the back loops

I got an email asking about how to knit two stitches together through the back loops. Unfortunately, when I tried to respond, I got a delivery failure message. Rats. Now poor Lynn will think I’m ignoring her. On the off chance she ever gets past my rudeness enough to come back to the site, hopefully she will see this post (hi Lynn!).

Why knit two stitches together through the back loops instead of just a plain ol’ knit two together? Well the first is a left-leaning decrease, and the second is a right-leaning increase. Picky, I know, but sometimes that slant makes a big difference. The more common left-leaning decrease is a “slip-knit-pass slipped stitch over”. There actually is a slight difference in appearance between the two decreases that might make a difference depending on the pattern. But when possible, I like the knit-two-together-through-the-back-loops one because it’s so fast.

I could do a video myself, but others with superior videography skills have already done it. Here’s a really nice and clear one:

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Trendsetter Cha Cha madness

I got this for my birthday from one of my fabulous sisters:

boom cha cha cha cha

Trendsetter Cha Cha yarn!

My first thought was: Cool, a self-knitting ruffle yarn! Promptly followed by: holy cats, this is intimidating as hell.

But I’m not easily cowed by mere yarn. No, my next thought (because I think a lot) was: how can I wildly complicate this? I know the ruffles run in the direction of the knitting. So instead of knitting back and forth in the usual method for a scarf, what if I knit down the long side of a scarf? Hmm, no, still not complex enough. What if I knit it on the bias? Aha!

So far, it looks like this:

it's ruffly

Cool, right? It’s just a straight forward bias pattern, increase on one side and decrease on the other, every other row. It was really weird trying to figure out how to increase and decrease at first, but even that didn’t turn out to be all that tough. I intend to post more instructions about how I did mine later.

If you’re interested in working with Cha Cha, be sure to watch Trendsetter’s video tutorial about it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1G7IWijG_1A

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The cult of sports worship

Seeing as how my blog isn’t particularly large or well-traveled, I’ll assume you are a savvy enough online knitter that you are already familiar with the Ravelry vs. the U.S. Olympic Committee kerfuffle. (Oh, fine, here’s a link.) My first reaction to this story as it broke was, phhbbt, so what. After all, a lot of the patterns being called out were clear copyright violations, and I do get tired of people getting all bitchy when they get called on illegal infringement. And so tone of the letter was insulting, again, so what. I’m used to people not having a freaking clue about knitting. Most people, frankly, aren’t smart enough for it, because it does require the ability to follow instructions at the least, and use math at its highest levels.

I also don’t give a crap about the Olympics in general. I’ve long stopped buying that fake hoopla about the world coming together or any kind of international spirit, blah blah blah. It’s another money-making sports venture. Which is fine with me, I happen to love football. But my point here is, I don’t value the U.S. Olympic Committee’s opinion enough that I would feel insulted by anything they say.

After being unable to avoid it online today, I went back over the original letter again. This is the part that’s really upsetting people:

We believe using the name “Ravelympics” for a competition that involves an afghan marathon, scarf hockey and sweater triathlon, among others, tends to denigrate the true nature of the Olympic Games.  In a sense, it is disrespectful to our country’s finest athletes and fails to recognize or appreciate their hard work.

Well, first, I think it’s arguable that they represent the entirety of our finest athletes, but let’s put that aside for now. It’s the “fails to recognize or appreciate their hard work” part that I’m going to single out. Aw, well wouldn’t that just be a damn shame for someone’s hard work to go unrecognized or unappreciated? I mean, these people spend a lifetime of isolating themselves into a laser focus on one sport so they can be the best at it! They give up everything else including family, friends, normal lives, and in the case of gymnasts, average growth and menstrual cycles! Why aren’t we all just falling at their feet and groveling forgiveness for daring to have some knit-alongs in conjunction their mighty contests?

Color me unimpressed. You want unrecognized and unappreciated? Go find a construction worker. Those guys put themselves at physical risk regularly, they often don’t get paid well, they certainly don’t get respect, and all so you can have a place to live, an office to work in, and a road to drive on. How about garbage collectors? Don’t you enjoy not having to burn your own trash or take it to the dump yourself? I know I do.

And here’s the best part; by the work they do, they are making a real contribution to society. The same claim just can’t be logically made for athletes, at best they provide entertainment. Which, I admit, is awesome. But let’s stop pretending that it’s deeply meaningful and important beyond what the rest of us may do with our lives. And don’t hand me that bullshit about sports teaching morals or teamwork. Those values are taught by people, not activities. They can be learned from any number of non-physical activities as well, and I’ve seen jerk coaches and parents stomp all over those values and ruin the chance for kids to take anything positive away from the event. Sports are only as good as the people in them, just like every other endeavor in life. The Olympics, unfortunately, are absolutely the worst about this whole cult-like atmosphere and sports worship mentality.

I might watch some of the Olympics this year, I sometimes do. It depends on how long I can tolerate the announcers gushing about how wonderful it all is, trying their best to convince us that we should be oh so very impressed and grateful at these god-like beings deigning to allow us into their sheltered little world. It’s the next best thing to the whole world joining hands and singing Kumbaya.

Actually, football won’t be far behind, I might just wait for that instead.

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New knit: Mezquita Shawl

I have not been knitting anywhere close to enough lately. So last Sunday, I spent damn near the whole day knitting the Mezquita Shawl, a free pattern from Roxanne Yeun on Ravelry.

Just to give you an idea of the shape.

close up

Love! It worked up super fast, knit in one day and blocked the next. I must have gone well over gauge, but works fine for me, I got to use up most of the yarn (another of the skeins my awesome husband got me for our 7th anniversary).

Tips:

  • Remember to check the pattern chart on the last row of the lace pattern, there’s extra decreases in it.
  • Use markers for the short rows. Once you get the hang of how they go, you won’t need to count, just work to one stitch before the marker, work the decrease, then four more stitches, place marker again and turn. No need to wrap before turning, the decreases cover the gaps pretty well.
  • I did the last few rows in garter stitch to avoid the edge curling. If you do that, remember that garter stitch tends to be wider than stockinette, you might want to go down a needle size or two for that part (I didn’t, probably should have, but I’m happy with it).

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Dear beginners: Shhh, it’s okay

Ah, fall is here (autumn to those of you in the UK). The weather turns cool, the leaves change colors and drop from the trees, and squirrels busy themselves stocking up their winter stores of acorns. As the the temperatures drop and the winter clothes are brought from storage, thoughts of knitting surge within us. Inevitably, some poor soul is suckered in by the allure of it—hey, I know! I could learn to knit! Then I could make my own sweaters, and scarves, and, ooo, Christmas presents! Joy!

So suddenly my email is inundated with requests, questions, and frantic pleas for help, largely from new knitters. Now don’t get me wrong, I want people to ask me for help. Especially if you paid for a pattern (please, god, ask me for help then). I have an Excellent rating from my students at the community college where I teach digital publishing and interactive media, so I like to imagine that I’m a pretty good instructor (I am so, shut up). So now I’m going to tell you the biggest, most important point in learning something new: Don’t. Panic.

It’s okay to struggle. Stop beating yourself up and thinking you’re stupid. We all feel stupid when learning something new. I think this is the single worst thing we do to ourselves when learning—or even worse, we avoid learning new skills at all to head off the Stupid Curve. Just stop it.

Here’s a story to make you feel better. Until a couple weeks ago, I had a “feature” phone (it’s a dumb phone, but it had the coolest keyboard ever, fabulous for texting). Finally did a major upgrade to the new iPhone. I already have an iPad, so the guy at the store says, oh you already know the system, I don’t need to teach you anything! And I happily went on to class and proceeded to show off my new phone to my students. And then, it rang.

Turns out I forgot a crucial point—an iPad is not a phone. Sure, I knew the iOS system, but I didn’t have a clue how to use the phone features. It took me a minute to figure out how to answer the damn thing. So, there I am, in a classroom where I teach technology, asking my students how to use a freaking phone. And let me assure you, they thought it damn funny. But I didn’t panic, or try to hide my idiocy. I unfurled the stupid for all to see and asked them questions, and they reveled in the chance to tell me what to do. And I listened, and didn’t worry about how stupid I looked.

I made a point of studying up on the iPhone system, and by the next class I was showing some of them the triple-finger tap, a hidden iPhone feature for zooming. But that wouldn’t have happened if I was so worried about looking stupid that I tried to hide or avoid it. In fact I wouldn’t be able to teach at all if I didn’t constantly push myself to learn new apps, features, and techniques. I feel stupid a lot, but I think it’s actually good for you.

So, back to you (though I do love talking about me). If you don’t know, ask. And stop feeling bad for asking, or not knowing already. Try to calm your panic when something doesn’t appear to be working. You might be making a mistake, or maybe it’s supposed to be that way and you just need to keep going. Maybe there’s a mistake in the pattern (but don’t jump to that conclusion, it smacks of “I’m new at this, but I think I might know more about it than you do!”). The panic is an indicator that you’re being too hard on yourself. It’s okay to struggle a little. If this was truly easy, everyone would do it and no one would ever be impressed at your work.

Oh, and don’t try to knit Christmas presents. I’ll tell you another story about that some time.

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Knitting, drugs, and the ER trip

Vogue Knitting Live! Los Angeles! Serious illness! Wheeee!

Let’s back this on up a bit. The week before VKL, I came down with shingles. If you’re blissfully ignorant of that like I was, it’s revenge of the chickenpox, when the dormant virus comes back and attacks your nervous system. And let me tell you, this disease has it all: incredible pain, disgusting rashes, the association with it being an elderly person’s disease, a stupid name that’s embarrassing to say, and heavy drugs that mess you up as bad as the disease itself.

So up to VKL. It was great, by the way, and I’ll do a whole blog post later about the awesomeness that is Franklin Habit. But I missed a lot, including all the demos I wanted to see, and I didn’t get to hit the marketplace as much as I wanted, either. You know how you start feeling better again, and then you try to, like, function normally, and it kicks your ass? Yeah, that.

To add to the fun, they had put me on prednisone. By the time I was actually in LA, the prednisone and the shingles were having a fine ol’ time together. Turns out the side effects of prednisone are very similar to the effects of shingles—great planning medical community, thanks a fuck of a lot for that one! And since I’m so freaking short—5′ 1.5″—and I only weigh 130 pounds, the dosage I was given was, oh, just a little bit more than I really needed. But no problem, right? It’s only a steroid, and if you stop taking it abruptly you’ll only go into anaphylactic shock and maybe die. So, oh, you’re having severe side effects? Well don’t stop taking it, you’ll just have to tough it out! Thanks again, medical community! (Fuckers.)

Now here’s a little demo of how tough I can be. On Saturday, at the conference, I’ve got vertigo so bad I’m starting to get dizzy, and my right eye and ear are kind of, going out. For the record, you need your eyes and ears to see and hear, so, you know, they’re kind of valuable to me (I bet you feel the same affection for your eyes and ears, too). My face was tingling all day, and it starts to move into active pain. I’m not a doctor, I don’t even play one on TV, but I know that’s all pretty bad. So I go sit in the hotel lobby and wait for my sister to be done shopping so she can take me to the ER. It’s bad enough that I’m going to make her do that, I can’t stand to insist she leave early, too. Huh, in retrospect, I am a freaking idiot. Which, actually, isn’t news to anyone who knows me. But damn, I do have teh pain tolerance.

In the ER: after dealing with the asshole nurse who tries to force me to admit that I’m just anxious (that’s the first thing they do in the ER, screen for overreaction), and talking to the doctor, I’m put on an IV. There’s your sign that the doctor did not think I was overreacting. The nurse giving me the IV blows out my vein on the first try, so I instruct her in how to hold the vein straight in the back of my hand so she can get that one. Wow, nurses really fucking hate when you instruct them like that. Hey, I gave her a chance, but she screwed it up, so then she gets the instructor treatment. I bet—other than doctors—teachers make for the most irritating-as-shit patients. Which somehow I find highly amusing.

Bloodwork and several other tests later, doc concludes that it must be side effects of the prednisone, and not actual damage from shingles. Did I mention that shingles can cause blindness and permanent nerve damage? Which is why the doctor and I were legitimately concerned (pay attention, Asshole Check-In Nurse). Doctor also says he thinks I was overprescribed on the prednisone, which I kind of had figured out by now. But don’t stop taking it! Remember there’s that possibility of death and all. So, oh well, sucks to be me.

So, this week I’m back home in Austin. Hey, you know what else is fun? Standing up in class and helping students with Flash and InDesign while still dealing with vertigo. Because I’m still on the prednisone (in the tailing-off stage), and I still get vertigo when I stand for too long. And the insomnia! That’s a real hoot, too, I haven’t had a full night’s sleep since this all started.

So what’s the lesson here, kids? Once again, be a bad patient. I should have questioned the initial prescriptions I was given; they actually gave me a maximum dosage, which is way too much for me. But it’d been so long since the last time I dealt with prescriptions I’d forgotten about the dosage thing. And don’t think you can trust your doctor to remember that shit for you. Remember the last time you made a mistake at work? Exactly. They’re only human, you gotta be your own biggest advocate, it’s actually not fair to put it all on them.

But, um, Vogue Knitting Live was fun otherwise. And my sisters are pretty damn cool. The people who will take you to the ER and sit with you, cracking jokes the whole time, those are the people who make life worthwhile.

Oh, and maybe you did great work and all and it used to be worse, but, fuck you, Arthur Nobile. Sorry, that’s just how I feel about you right now.

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Franklin Habit: badass lace designer

I will be attending Vogue Knitting Live in Los Angeles in September. I’m lucky enough to have a couple of knitter sisters who talked me into it (I know, poor me). But the part that makes me uber lucky is that I get to go to Franklin Habit’s lecture and lace class. That’s right, the Franklin Habit.

If you aren’t familiar, go read this post from his blog. If you don’t love him at least a little after reading that, then I just don’t want to know you.

One of the things I love about his work is his interest in vintage patterns. Here’s an overview of some of his designs on Ravelry.This image cracks me up:

And if the designs aren’t enough for you (well la dee da, don’t you have the high standards), he’s also an illustrator and photographer. There’s just nothing to not love about the guy.

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New chart for Easy Leaves Scarf pattern

Someone emailed me asking for help modifying the Easy Leaves Scarf pattern. I fixed the chart to make it much easier to figure out how to do that, highlighting the repeat area and clarifying that you have to cast on 8 extra stitches per repeat. It’s a tricky one because it’s actually a multiple of 8 + 9 stitches, not just 8 or just 9 stitches wide. If that’s clear as mud, just look at the chart, hopefully that’ll make it all easier to understand.

And, one more time I’ll warn you, I hate that scarf. Actually I think it’s the yarn, that stupid tencel yarn didn’t block well so it curls, and it fuzzes like crazy. Really I think it’d be a great pattern if only it was a fair bit wider, shawl-width instead of a scarf, then the curling wouldn’t be an issue no matter the yarn, plus I think it would show off the leaf pattern better. Ooo, or an afghan, that’d be cool. Maybe I’ll actually do that one of these days, but in the meantime if you’d like to try it yourself, there’s the new chart!

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More granny square madness

You’ve probably already seen the hideousness that was Cate Blanchett’s granny square dress on the red carpet:

wearing grandma's couch cover

Yeah yeah, it was supposed to be humorous or something. Personally I think it’s only entertaining in a mean holy-shit-that’s-so-awful kind of way. And generally this is what happens when someone tries to turn granny squares into clothing.

Now check this out, from Christopher Kane’s at London Fashion Week:

rockin' the grannies

This just proves a friend of mine’s point that color makes the difference in how good granny squares look. I still don’t love in a I-must-make-this way, but I can appreciate the geometrics and color here.

Of course, the biggest problem with granny squares as clothing is the complete lack of drape that they’re going to have. These dresses are only going to look good on a runway, or on someone who’s so damn hot they could grab a blanket off the couch and wear that. Which is kind of what they did there.

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