the mouseyblog - V2.0

more rants, raves, and ruminations from the mind of mouseywerks

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Things I Learned From Going to See the Yarn Harlot, Whether I Wanted to or Not

or, Stupid, Stupid, Stupid (as I bang my head against the wall)


Yup, I was one of the multitudes that went to see Stephanie Pearl-McPhee at Borders East in Madison last night. Even though I kept reminding myself that she is as nervous about meeting us as we are about meeting her, I was still jittery about actually encountering someone so famous. (Okay, maybe not Paris Hilton famous, but that’s probably a good thing, for both of them, as I do not have an irrational desire to stuff a doughnut into Stephanie’s face, and I cannot say the same about Ms. Hilton.)


And, like the title of Stephanie's new book, I learned some things …whether I wanted to or not.


1.)  When you are going to see the Yarn Harlot, make an excuse to get a wristband as early in the day as you can. Tell your boss anything – like you need to pick up a medical prescription that ran out and your next dose must be taken suspiciously exactly at the moment Border’s opens, or you will die a most hideous death that will involve copious oozing of bodily fluids and episodes of high-pitched shrieking. Because if you wait until you arrive – one half-hour before the event starts – you will not only get stuck with a pink wristband (eewww) but you will end up practically last in line. (There were two people behind me, but I think one of them might have been a Border’s employee.)


2.)  When you are practically last in line, you will look so tired that any photo taken of you with the marvelous Yarn Harlot will make her look fabulous, and you look like Marcia Brady on a strict diet of Prednisone and Twinkies.  (There will be no posting of the commemorative photograph. Yes, it was that bad.)


3.)  Speaking of Twinkies, it is imperative that you eat. Anything. Sneak in some granola, or something, for God’s sakes, because that linty cough drop in the bottom of your purse ain’t gonna cut it. By the time you are through the line and walking out to your car, it will have been 10 hours since your last meal. Faint from hunger is not the safest state to be in when driving the Beltline. (We’ll leave the argument about when it is safe to drive on that highway-to-hell for another day.)


4.)  Getting your wristband early (and thus getting your book autographed before most everyone else) means that you won’t be the fortieth person to hand Stephanie a warm beer. I don’t know which hotel she was staying at, or what car service was taking her to the airport, but I can guess what they all received as tips.


5.)  Getting to be in line earlier also means that you won’t end up saying something lame when you finally do get to meet Stephanie and hand her that beer, like “Here’s a Fat Squirrel beer. It’s one squirrel that won’t steal your fiber.” (I bet everyone who gave her that said the same thing.) Or, if you do incoherently babble something inane like that, you’ll have the presence of mind to follow it up with a snappy punch line, like “And when you’re done drinking it, you can chuck the bottle at the little bugger,” instead of thinking it up in the car on the way home. Seriously, Stephanie must think us Madisonians are a bunch of beer-swilling wackos who are plotzed out of our gourds all the time. I know she received at least two Fat Squirrels, one Spotted Cow, a Lienie’s Summer Shandy, and a four-pack of Sprecher’s Amber. She’s gonna pass the brewery in Milwaukee on her way to the airport (you know, the one where the interstate curves and goes under that viaduct and the beer fumes waft over the highway and the air in your car is permeated with that malt-y, yeasty scent) and wonder how any of us can finish a sweater without it ending up with three arms, two neck holes, and an intarsia aardvark on the front.


6.)  Bring enough knitting. Don’t bring a sock that only needs one more inch knit. You will be seriously tempted to frog the whole thing and start it again, and that isn’t exactly productive. If you have to start a new project, then by all means do so. So what if you already have a dozen on the needles: the smoke ring that just needs the ends woven in; the tank that needs the neckline re-worked; the giant afghan that will drag on the floor… none of them will do.


7.)  Resist the temptation to snap more photos of the other attendees than of Stephanie. You will see an astounding array of knitwear parade by as you watch the autograph line; vests and shawls and scarves and sweaters and socks and hats and every amalgamation thereof, and you will want to knit them all. And in order to knit them all, you will have to buy out the stock of every yarn store within a twenty-mile radius. Think of the damage that will do to your wallet. Think of the damage that will do to the storage space in your house. Think of the damage all the other knitters in that twenty-mile radius will do to you when they find out you bogarted all the yarn.


So the next time the Yarn Harlot stops by on a book tour, I’ll be ready. I’ll be like the babies last night – they were so well-behaved, like they were totally blissed out on all of the excellent yarn fumes. (Duuuuuude, that is some primo Malabrigo ya got there… man, that fiber is so choice!)


I’ll just buy four beers, and drink three when I get there.


At least then, if there is any high-pitched shrieking, I’ll be too plotzed to remember it.


6:57 pm pdt

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Blob.

(Or, In Which I Use A Lot Of Italics.)


I swear I am never following a pattern. Ever. Again.


Because whenever I decide to knit something from a pattern, it never-ever-ever turns out like the picture. And the picture is what I want, not a Blob: a misshapen or lumpy or saggy or warped piece of fabric that is the result of my knitting the pattern exactly as the directions say to do.


Hems flip up. Garter stitch edging still curls. Collars that are supposed to lie flat stick up, and ones that are supposed to stick up lie flat. Necklines are either too loose or don’t fit over my head. Cowl necks don’t cowl; socks don’t stay up; tank tops just… tank. I don’t think there is one single project I’ve knit while blindly following the directions that ever turned out right. Wait, there is: “Grandma’s Favorite Dishcloth”; because it’s kind of hard to botch up a garter-stitch rectangle. But everything else… I could put all of those fibery fiascos in a room, set up a strobe light, and charge admission – to the Halloween House of Knitting Horrors. No, really. It’s that bad.


I should have known that when I saw the cute sample at my local yarn store. I should have known when I noticed the yarn – which I had been coveting for months – was on clearance. I even came back two weeks later to buy the pattern because it was out of stock the first time, yet still I did not remember. Apparently yarn fumes cause a sort of temporary amnesia that makes one forget that no matter how foolproof the pattern, once the fiber hits my needles all resemblance to the desired object flies out the window. Yeah, it must have been amnesia, because I bought the yarn. I bought the pattern. I already had the needles, or I would have bought those, too.


And I cast on. Exactly the number of stitches the pattern said to cast on. And I started knitting. Exactly what the pattern told me to knit.


Now, don’t get me wrong here. I don’t blame the designer. I’ve knit many a project by many an expert designer, and I know it’s not their fault. It’s just that somewhere between the printed page and the knitted fabric, some rift in the space-time continuum sucks my knitting into a wormhole and what comes out the other end… well, it sucks. And I really don’t know why.


(Yes. I swatch. It still doesn’t help.)


So, it looks like I’m going to have to modify a pattern. Again.


It worked when shallower gussets kept the ankles of my socks from being so baggy.  I added short rows to the back of that collar, and now it stays folded down. And that one row on huge needles between the ribbing and stockinette? It kept that hem from flipping. Even the radical Let’s-convert-the-Pomatomus-into-a-toe-up-sock worked. Somehow, when I diverge from the written instructions and fly off into Knitting-Never-Never-Land what comes off the needles works. Even when I have to rip and re-knit a half-dozen times. Or when I ditch the pattern completely. Yeah, then I end up with a wearable item instead of something that makes people ask “Um, what exactly is that supposed to be?”


Because there are only so many times I can be honest with people by answering “A blob,” before they start making odd warding gestures and backing out of the room so as not to be affected by whatever bad mojo I happen to be enveloped in. Knitting just doesn’t need that kind of PR.


The latest blob was supposed to be a lacy smoke ring. The yarn: Plymouth Royal Bamboo. It was gonna rock, really, it was. I cast on. I knit. I made yarnovers. I knitted two together through front loops and back. I cast off. I wove in the ends. (Yeah. I know. A fatal mistake, that.) And then I tried it on.


What I got was more of a lacy stink bomb. A royal one, at that.


The part that was supposed to drape elegantly about my neck was just droopy. The only way I could get it to lie even somewhat decently was to make a cowl-neck out of it. So much for the nice lacy pattern showing – all you could see was the wrong side. The inside. The ugly side. The side that looked about as pretty as a deflated old boob.


So, in the best spirit of I-can’t-leave-well-enough-alone (because there was nothing “well enough” about this thing) I tried to save it by crocheting around the neckline. Just a slip-stitch, skipping every third cast-on stitch. To firm up and tighten that floppy top.


It was tightened, all right. But the sag was still there. It just moved south.


Now I have a lacy ring with a double chin. All the way around.


It’s in the time-out corner now. Tomorrow it goes into the frog pond. (Please cover the ears of small children and other sensitive persons when I get to the sections where I wove in the ends.) I think, when it comes out, that it will still have the same lace pattern. But it will have metamorphosed. It will get wider sooner. It will not be worked in the round. It will be a shawlette. It will not look like the picture. A picture can be photoshopped. Knitting can’t.


And getting old is bad enough without your knitting echoing your blobby bits.


9:48 pm pdt



Linda L.
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