Friday, February 19, 2010

Ask a Knitter archive page

For any of you who have clicked on the sidebar link to Ask a Knitter archives and have been frustrated by the fact that you couldn't actually get to the archives, then today you are going to be thrilled by this news:

The archive link works now.

That is all.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Novel(ty) Hats

So I've decided that my heroine's brother is a Firefly fan, the type of guy who would go to Comic-Con if he could afford the airfare, and that my heroine is going to make her brother a Jayne Cobb hat. It's the perfect project for a new knitter - the worse it looks, the better, as Ma Cobb was not an expert with the yarn and needles. That's perfectly fine for Jayne, after all, as Wash said when Jayne first put on the hat, "A man walks down the street in that hat, people know he's not afraid of anything."

I hied myself to Michael's the other day, to get me some Red Heart Super Saver. All I can say is: wow. I am not anti-acrylic. I used it often for baby sweaters, and only last year I used it to make mittens for my LA-based nephews, who don't need wool, but I've always bought it at my LYS, Needlework Unlimited, which has very reasonably priced acrylic yarn and best of all, the stuff they carry is soft and the colors look good, not garish.

Not so the Red Heart, which is kind of the point, I guess, when it comes to making a Jayne Cobb hat, although I wonder if Ma Cobb would have used wool, possibly sheared from her own sheep?

I looked through several existing patterns for Jayne's hat, and compared them to what I saw in the clips.

Most of the patterns call for working 4 or more rounds of ribbing (some k2p2, some k1p1) before switching to stockinette. It's clear from photos and screen shots that there is not that much ribbing, at least around the front of the hat.

I think the reason none of the Jayne hats I've seen look quite right (aside from the fact that most knitters have appallingly even tension) is that Ma Cobb may have been doing some stealth short rows. The front of the hat has only about 6 or 7 rows of orange, and one row of k1p1 above a long tail cast on that is done in k1p1 pattern, but over the ear flaps, the orange stripe is wider, as is the ribbing. (59 seconds in to the video, you can see the side of the hat more clearly.) The hat looks like it's actually shaped to curve around Jayne's face. Cunning, indeed.

So now I have to decide if I want to make a Jayne Cobb hat that a beginner could actually make, or do I want to replicate the actual hat, which was clearly made by a very good knitter who was only pretending to be bad.

I may do both. When I fired out an email to my writer friends, asking who was a Firefly fan, three of them replied. One said, "Shiny!" and other mentioned she loved "Captain Tight Pants," and the other, when I revealed that there might be a terrible hat giveaway, raised her hand and said something to the effect of "Me! Me! Pick me!!!"

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Novel Knitting

So I'm back to writing fiction again after a 5-year hiatus that coincides with my complete obsession with knitting. I had previously had a very intimate relationship with knitting, and then took a 5-year break during which I spent a lot of time writing and merely nodded to knitting once a year on the occasion of a baby shower. Five years ago, I became a knitting stalker. No one has staged an intervention or presented me with a restraining order, but it's only a matter of time.

The knitting obsessiveness came in response to losing my writing voice. Writing was torture, my internal critic sat on my shoulder and bellowed into my ear with an megaphone, "You SUCK!" and nothing I wrote -- even emails -- sounded like me. I wanted to remember what it was like to do something creative for the pure fun and joy of it. So I came back to knitting, and I came back hard.

Eventually, my voice did come back, and I found myself writing more and more, but still not fiction. This fall, when I decided I wanted to write fiction again, NaNoWriMo sounded like a great idea to me, except for the part where I didn't actually have an idea for a story. I had an idea for a character, but I didn't know much about her. I had no ideas for other characters, no idea about setting, plot, nothing.

Turns out that when I have to write 50,000 words in one month, there's no time to think about what to write, and no time for my internal critic to haul herself into a comfortable spot on my shoulder and dish out negative self-talk. I owe the world to the guy who created Write or Die. If I hadn't had that program reminding me to keep writing (no thinking!), I wouldn't have made it.

So that was November. I let the book marinate for December, and signed up for a "Working on Your Novel" class at the Loft that started a couple of weeks ago. I knew I would need concrete goals and deadlines to work through revisions on this book, and the threat of public humiliation if I didn't meet goals, because I have the least amount of discipline of any person I know. Big personality flaw, but that's who I am.

Turns out that most of what I wrote will be thrown out (no real surprise), but the good part is that I have characters, those characters have external goals and internal conflicts, which means I can have plot and character arc (always good news).

One of the things I do to get the theme of the book nailed down - what it's really about - is to make a collage of the characters, the setting, and main plot points. I have collected a lot of photos and little objects that represent the book, but I want to do something else, too.

This book has knitting in it - one of the characters is an indie dyer and her grandmother/great aunt (not sure which yet) has a yarn shop she's ready to retire from. While the book doesn't center around the shop, this older woman is the catalyst for the chain of events that is the plot and she is very important to all the other characters, including the antagonist.

I want to keep my two creative processes joined, so that when I take a break from writing to knit, the knitting keeps me in the world of the story. To do that, I want to knit something that represents each character in some way.

So, for example, the older woman--Franny-- has lace curtains hanging in her kitchen. So I'm knitting a lace curtain. Not a full size one -- I would go insane doing that -- but a smaller one, shorter, and with fewer multiples, so I can get the thing done.

"Rose Leaf" Design
First Book of Modern Lace Knitting, by Marianne Kinzel (this book would have been new when Franny made her curtains).
Yarn: Coats Opera 30 crochet cotton (the pattern calls for #60 crochet cotton, which is not half as thin, it turns out, but is harder to come by, so I settled for #30, of which Needlework Unlimited had plenty of, in lots of colors, and which seems fine enough to me)
Needles: US 1/2.25mm

For the hero, who I named Hank, even before I knew there would be yarn, I need to knit a pair of socks - the socks the heroine sees him pull on when she first meets him. Something interesting enough that she would notice them, but manly enough that a guy like him would wear them. He's a Mr. Fixit guy with carpentry skills, on a break from what he normally does to earn a living (professional poker player). He's having trouble moving forward in his life because he keeps trying to fix the past/keep things as they've always been. So I need a sock pattern that fit his personality.

The heroine, Penny (not crazy about this name, I'm open to suggestions), has never knit before, but will learn how. She's all about the future, wants to forget her past and where she came from. She's also an expert in deceptive language. I have a scene where she's in the shop, having walked for quite a long distance in heels and she has blisters. She puts on a pair of felted slippers on display in the shop which are shaped like cowboy boots. They're not conventional, which scares her, because she's pulled herself up from a financially strapped background, and she works hard to fit in and not appear different. But she loves those slippers. I want those slippers. I may have to design them myself. Don't you think red cowboy boot slippers, with needle-felted swirly designs on the leg would be really cool?

(Edited to add photo below)

Only felted. A search of Ravelry reveals that there are crocheted cowboy booties (not felted). Clearly, this is a void waiting to be filled.

The indie dyer (I'm calling her Sookie) needs something funky - either an asymmetrical cardi, or a funky shawl or hat or maybe fingerless mitts that make A Statement. Something that represents her artistic self and independence, and uses color in a unique, but beautiful way. This is going to be hard for me. Unique color choices scare me, because I have some color vision deficiencies.

Sookie has a love interest, a more traditional guy who owns a downtown bar. I'm thinking some sort of subtle scarf that could be tucked into the neck of his wool overcoat. Like Henry, only not Henry, because while that is a terrific looking scarf, I think I would poke my eyes out with my needles if I had to knit it. On the other hand, there's nothing that says I can't knit a very small Henry scarf. Considering the size of the lace curtain I'm knitting, I could get away with a scarf about a foot long and 3 inches wide. Hmmm.

The heroine's brother is a young guy - never went to college, but smart, works manual labor jobs, a nice guy, but with simple tastes. I'm thinking a watch cap. Navy blue, maybe gray. Or maybe he's not like his sister. Maybe he doesn't care what people think about the way he looks. Can't decide.

The antagonist is another older lady, one who needs to control her world. She's getting something made of acrylic.

The heroine's mother is awful. So awful I don't know if I can even knit for her. She's the kind of person who would find fault in anything you knit for her. The kind of person who'd rather have a lottery ticket than a hand knit anything. Huh. That's interesting. I'll have to use that.

So I'm looking for pattern ideas. Anyone?