There are good reasons for everything. This week, the lesson is in why I have a knitting machine.

Two ordinary skeins of sock yarn turned into art. Or at least potential art.

Chemgrrl is throwing a Fall To Dye For dyeing party for my fantastic knitting group (Blogless Norma and Huan-Hua are sadly not attending due to previously arranged absences). Thankfully, it’s not a dying party, or I’d be bringing a coffin instead of pre-knit stockinette swatches designed to become beautifully hand-dyed socks.

This will be my first real foray into hand-dyed yarn in a serious kind of way. I’ve done some experimentation with Kool-Aid and even less with acid dyes (just one skein of self-striping yarn for a work project), and I’m really looking forward to seeing natural dyes like indigo and walnut in action. Still more exciting is the chance to try some patterning on these KnitPicks-inspired sock blanks made out of ShibuiKnits’ 100% superwash merino Sock. I’m not a big fan of anything with nylon, so while the KnitPicks Sock Blanks concept makes the geek in me squeal, the fiber content doesn’t so much appeal to the yarn snob in me.

Here’s hoping the resultant hand-dyed yarn will be fodder for another design that uses the spiffy new forked heel I designed over the summer. At the very least, I will learn more about the worm content of walnuts, though perhaps I might come to regret such an education….

The last 10 rows of Icarus are slow going, partly because of the repetitive stitch pattern, partly because of the length of the rows and partly because I keep working on it while I taste beer.

BrewFest has been amazing so far. If you’re going, Dragon’s Milk is a definite must-try as is the Scurvy Coffee Bender.

I have mitgated the drinking by using a new iPhone 2.0 app, FileMagnet, to read Icarus’ lovely charts. I may never get over the novelty of having a lace chart in full color displayed in my iPod Touch screen. Photos later.

I accidentally clicked on the Excel link on Ravelry’s stash page today, and out of a desperate need to avoid the analysis of yet another Latin proximity search, I went with it.

33,000. Yards. In. My. Stash.

That is a scary number. How long does it take to knit that much? I also can’t decide if it’s good or bad that about 29K of that yardage is lace or fingering weight yarn.

My coping mechanism* has been to push myself to reach the end of a large seemingly-neverending project in hopes that the cessation of said project will alleviate my stash-induced panic.

Looky! I’m well into (by which I really mean, “I’m halfway done with row 1 of”) the very last chart of Icarus. Of course, I’ve been spending so much time immersed in the world of written-record-as-prescriptive-text that I’m beginning to question my motives for starting Icarus in the first place. When all you can think about is whether records of the past (mythological or otherwise) were written in order to influence the future, is it really wise to knit a shawl designed in honor of some dumb kid who thought wax was an effective fixative for the only thing standing between him and a badly planned base-jumping experiment? That thought, too, is scary….

But not scary enough to stop me from wearing it as soon as it’s done, and if the echoes of a potential disaster of mythological proportions aren’t enough to scare me, neither are the scalding summer forecasts appearing on the horizon.

* OK, my knitting-based coping mechanism, ’cause one look at the sum cell in that Excel doc drove me to write obsessively for several hours in an effort not to think about the sheer yardage of yarn in the next room…. Procrastination is a curious phenomenon.

By which the movie producers mean, “He died a badly planned death in an inevitable battle and his warriors were equally grateful that he sent them into a hopeless fight to die similarly gruesome deaths.” Aren’t those warriors swell?

So I’ve just finished watching 300. I knew it was likely to be thin on plot, but I was still interested because the special effects and the cartoon-style visuals looked more than promising. Until Gerard Butler’s King Leonidas uttered, with his dying breath, a phrase no Spartan would ever say out loud: “My queen! My wife! My love!” Because Spartans had only a few great loves, and women were certainly not among them.

Yeah, that’s right. In a movie full of obvious racism, insulting jingoism and an over-abundance of leather tighty-whiteys, I was offended by blatantly historically inaccurate depictions of gender relations.

In the immortal words of Larry Gonnick, Jr., author of Cartoon History of the Universe, the Spartans had very specific predilections: “Our only pleasures are a job well done, a glorious death, and humping little boys!” The Spartans at Thermopylae would certainly not have taken up their swords in defense of freedom (of their own slaves), liberty (from their own considerable property rights) and their loving wives (who weren’t considered people at the time).

Good thing I’d gotten to the more complicated part of the Icarus Shawl, ’cause if I had been knitting something simple, the universe would have imploded from the sheer mind-numbingness of an ill-conceived movie coupled with a mindless stitch pattern.

Unfortunately, my installation of Photoshop Elements 4 (legal and licensed, thank you very much) just imploded when I tried to test out a new feature in Photoshop Elements 6 and ultimately decided not to partiipate in the final upgrade. WTF? I have no image editor and can therefore not post updated WIP images of Icarus in all his glory, not to mention images of my beautiful, tasty and newly bottled lime-cello and grapefruit-cello. Soon, my pretties. Soon.

So apparently, I’m all socks, all the time!
These socks really do look like springs!
These Spring Forward socks are from the Summer ‘08 Knitty, and in the immortal words of the Monty Python gang, they’re “very nice.” Of course, for that gag to work, you have to have a built-in mental model of a bad French accent or a permanent feed of Eddie Izzard stand-up in your head. I have both. I’m not sure that’s a good thing….

Thankfully, there has also been non-sock non-imaginary-Eddie-Izzard-stand-up action to balance out the socks.

This is a problem shawl that mended its ways after a long, wayward teenage rebellion. It’s been sitting in my basket mocking me for a good 9 months because of a problem right at the center increase, the victim of a not-now-it’s-too-damn-difficult mentality. Everytime I got up enough gumption to fix it, I’d stare at it for 20 minutes, realize I had something far more rewarding–and not nearly so screwed up–in my WIP pile and give up.

The solution was there the whole time, apparently: my fantastic knitting group, though that seems to be the answer for many things of late. By simply taking this shawl to Knit Night last Thursday as my only project, I was able to overcome inertia and get the darn thing fixed. Who knew knitting groups were stronger than Newton’s Laws? (In other news, I’m also waiting for a pile of physicists to come storming through my front door waving textbooks and ranting about how humanities scholars shouldn’t joke about universal laws for fear of actually warping the space-time continuum.)

The screw-up is nearly invisible, and I’m just about done with the extra 2 repeats of the main pattern I chose to do to make the shawl big enough to meet my shawl-wearing needs (I like to wrap it like a wrap-top and tie the ends behind my back).

What? What’s that? Research? That school thing? Oh, there’s been some of that too. Enough that I don’t feel the desperate need to bludgeon myself to death with size 19 needles, but not enough that I can actually submit anything. Soon, though. Soon.

Wait, does the “P” in WWKP stand for something else? Right, “Public.” Still, there certainly was proselytizing–complete with print collateral–at the All-Bloomington-all-the-time World-Wide Knit in Public Day.

Knitterly Proselytization
Nicole at allbuttonedup and Katie at historyweaver put together flyers and business cards in anticipation of the hordes (see photographic evidence above, which also includes photos of Anna and Huan-Hua) of people we assumed would be desperate to partake in our own yarn obsessions. There were, in fact, hordes of interested fiber-holics, though they came at fairly regularly spaced intervals, which kept the crowding to a minimum.

There were finished objects to be had…. (finished socks courtesy of Anna)

….and even a few non-human WWKiP attendees. This one was my favorite.

“Please don’t make me wear a sweater!” (is what I imagine he’s saying in this photo, anyway)

Yes, actual knitting content. Of my own. Real, live, finished objects. It’s no wonder Professor Farnsworth is confused….

First, the boring, but utilitarian.

Mmmm. Socks. Basic 2×2 rib done in ShibuiKnits Sock in the Honey colorway, which I like very much despite my general aversion to all items of clothing of the mustard-yellow variety.

Next, the sentimental, yet equally utilitarian, project.

This is part of my Indiana Fiber Event take–a fantastic blend of Indiana-grown shetland wool and mohair from Rooster’s Run Farm–and I decided it needed an Indiana-based pattern to do it justice. Enter Nicole and her Hoosier-native Nine-to-Five Socks (ravelry).

I cast on both socks on May 7 during the car ride to Kalamazoo and the International Medieval Congress and finished both pairs just in time for the weather to change from cold and rainy to hot-ugly-humid and rainy. Yesterday was the first day in a while where I pondered the worthy all-season wearability of wool socks and didn’t immediately need to go stick my head in the freezer to rid myself of the thought of an added layer in this heat….

Still, two pairs of freshly knitted wool socks now await the arrival of fall. Next up: an article to write and four sweaters to finish, of which the article and 2 sweaters are destined for (or doomed for depending on how you look at it) for publication.

A meme! I’ve been tagged for a yarnmeme by orata at Feather and Fan. This is a first, and thankfully, I had time to respond today rather than putting it off forever. Or until tomorrow….

With no further ado: the Top 50 Ravelry Stashed yarns that I’ve used and would use again, that I’ve used and would not use again, and that I haven’t used and would like to try.

1, Cascade 220 Wool, 11967 projects — The “w” word that everyone uses to describe Cascade. Workhorse. Good for anything.
2, Patons Classic Wool Merino, 10445 projects — If and when I felt, I’d felt with this. I like that there are some non-objectionable multis, and I generally like the base yarn.
3, Malabrigo Yarn Merino Worsted, 8421 projects — Soft hand, fantastic colors, and I like the look of kettle-dyed yarns enough to invest in a sweater’s worth of this stuff. A bit pilly, but I expect that out of soft yarns.
4, Noro Kureyon, 7947 projects — Shocking, I know. I’d rather use Silk Garden for wearables, and I don’t felt often enough to use this for felting.
5, Caron Simply Soft, 7914 projects — *squeak squeak squeak* I am very sensitive to the squeaky acrylic in both this and Red Heart.
6, Lily Sugar’n Cream Solid, 6864 projects — Too harsh on the hands, and cotton isn’t much to my liking to begin with.
7, Brown Sheep Lamb’s Pride Worsted, 6619 projects — The mohair makes the color really pop, and there’s not enough halo to ruin a cable, although it’s a bit scratchy sometimes.
8, Red Heart Ltd. Super Saver Solids, 6176 projects
9, Lion Brand Wool-Ease Solid, 5554 projects — My yarn of choice for projects that will get abused and/or thrown away quickly. Wool-Ease doesn’t raise my anti-acrylic hackles because it doesn’t squeak (at least for me), and I’ve used several weights of it for various reasons.
10, Noro Silk Garden, 5410 projects — Perhaps one of my favorites. I know people complain that if there’s silk and mohair in it, they should show, but I love the crunchy hand and sheen that result from the blend.
11, Koigu Painter’s Palette Premium Merino (KPPPM), 5094 projects — I hate that the colorways don’t always make sense from dyelot to dyelot (some of the dyelots are just plain different colorways, dammit), but there’s no denying the sheer brilliance of some of the colorways.
12, Knit Picks Wool of the Andes, 5071 projects — Yeah, yeah, I need to try this. It just hasn’t happened yet because I had access to Cascade 220 and I think of the two as more or less interchangeable.
13, Lion Brand Homespun, 4296 projects
14, Lion Brand Cotton-Ease, 4157 projects — My favorite of the drugstore yarns because it’s got enough natural fiber to give it a good hand and enough acrylic to keep it stretchy and un-cottony. I really like the multi-ply construction (to which I attribute my love of Karabella 8 as well)
15, Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sock Multi, 4086 projects
16, Manos del Uruguay 100% Wool, 3989 projects
17, Brown Sheep Lamb’s Pride Bulky , 3927 projects
18, Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran, 3751 projects
19, Blue Moon Fiber Arts Socks that Rock – Lightweight, 3723 projects — The color repeats drive me nuts. I always get stripes. I also find that the dyes fade fast in the wash. Not my favorite sock yarn (which I think makes me a Sock Yarn Iconoclast).
20, Plymouth Encore Worsted, 3573 projects
21, Cascade 220 Heathers, 3422 projects
22, Lily Sugar’n Cream Ombres & Prints, 3384 projects
23, Zitron Trekking (XXL), 3348 projects
24, Patons SWS (Soy Wool Stripes), 3243 projects
25, Rowan Kidsilk Haze, 3203 projects — Luuuuuurve. I’m a sucker for laceweight silk-mohair blends.
26, Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino, 2917 projects
27, Pisgah Yarn & Dyeing Co., Inc Peaches & Creme Ombres, 2658 projects
28, Brown Sheep Cotton Fleece, 2512 projects
29, Blue Moon Fiber Arts Socks that Rock – Mediumweight, 2503 projects
30, Lion Brand Wool-Ease Thick & Quick, 2489 projects
31, Pisgah Yarn & Dyeing Co., Inc Peaches & Creme Solids, 2476 projects
32, Cascade 220 Superwash, 2323 projects
33, Berroco Ultra Alpaca, 2286 projects — I’ve always wanted to try this, but hadn’t seen it anywhere until I went to In a Yarn Basket with orata and elliphantom.
34, Knit Picks Swish Superwash, 2226 projects
35, Knit Picks Essential, 2149 projects
36, Lion Brand Vanna’s Choice Solid, 2142 projects
37, Colinette Jitterbug, 2090 projects
38, Lion Brand Lion Wool Solid, 2030 projects
39, Knit Picks Shine Sport, 1976 projects
40, Dale of Norway/Dalegarn Baby Ull, 1885 projects
41, Lion Brand Microspun, 1871 projects
42, Cherry Tree Hill Supersock Merino, 1863 projects
43, Knit Picks Palette, 1765 projects
44, South West Trading Company TOFUtsies, 1762 projects
45, Elsebeth Lavold Silky Wool, 1756 projects
46, Mission Falls 1824 Wool, 1725 projects — I’m glad they’re back in business!
47, Rowan RYC Cashsoft DK, 1718 projects
48, Red Heart Ltd. Super Saver Multis/Ombres, 1664 projects
49, Rowan Felted Tweed, 1646 projects
50, Rowan Calmer, 1571 projects

Having done this, I realize that the yarns on my drool list are either hand-dyed yarns from small companies or yarns that I know and love and will work with over and over (KP Andean Silk, for instance). I guess that means I’m either looking for the knitting equivalent of cliff diving or comfort food, and not much in between. Hmmmm.

Sadly or thankfully (I’m not sure which), the list of blogs at which I read and comment, and can therefore meme-tag, is fairly short, so elliphantom must carry the torch for me.

Project Deficit Disorder.

They don’t even fit in the same picture all at the same time. I suppose an all-encompassing photo would be easier if I weren’t counting the research projects in addition to the knitting projects (books take up a lot of room!), but it’s still a depressing total. I can’t bring myself to finish what’s there, but I don’t want to start anything new either. Meh.

To wit: 4 large sweater-type projects (Kusha Kusha, Mermaid, a sweater that I miscalculated yardage on, and a sweater of my own design that I’ve knit once which is merely a sleeve from completion), 1 pair of socks (not my own, which is part of the problem), a shawl (Icarus, which isn’t complicated enough to be motivating), and 3 lines of research (one of which is the root of the ennui currently afflicting my knitting).

If only research had something akin to frogging…. It might be painful, but at least frogging frees up yarn for another project, and it does so in a utter, irrefutable, complete sense. It’s really hard to scrub research from your brain in quite the same way. Unfortunately, I have the feeling that I’m thisclose to an answer on my research, but until the solution presents itself, my knitting will suffer. Meh, again.

armhole1.jpgYay! I’ve gotten to one armhole and the short rows are lurvely.It remains to be seen whether or not the armhole will fit, but that’s beside the point. (In all seriousness, I think the armhole will be fine, it’s just that there’s less curvature than I’d normally put in an armhole because of how I did the calculations.)