Saturday, September 17, 2011

A Mindful Scarf

A happy change on this blog from recent times:  an entire post about knitting!  I know my recent posts haven't been completely devoid of knitting, but this is a post so chock full of knitting, it feels like the good ole "before I was homeless" days (news on this at the end of the post).

I don't think I ever outgrew my 'scarf stage' as a knitter, I still love making scarves and while I know I could do larger garments, I don't yet have the motivation (or really the budget and or stash) to make larger things.  I especially love The Wisp scarf pattern, even though I haven't actually finished it, so when I got another craving to knit a scarf, I returned to my beloved Wisp.

My history with Wisp is like an on-again-off-again relationship with a guy who has great looks, great personality, and a sense of humor, but you're just not sure if he really clicks with you.  The first time I met Wisp, I knew nothing about mohair and I found myself trying to use Patons Divine, which has the fuzzy halo of a lighter mohair, but is nevertheless a fairly thick yarn and I soon frogged the scarf.  Then i got my hands on a lovely aqua mohair that was as light as baby's breath, but I was not experienced enough to coax it the way I wanted.  I tried again later using Lion Brand Amazing, but I didn't have nearly enough yarn and the scarf eventually was sewn into my Whisper Crystal Case.  Now I am trying once again, using yarn from my stash, but like most patterns I sink my teeth into, I've found myself making plenty of changes.

I've decided to call this scarf A Mindful Scarf, and as I knit it, I try to bring myself into the moment as much as possible, and to practice being mindful with every stitch.  The original Wisp patterns is made up of 17 lace panels, but my mindful scarf will have 36 inspired by the 108 beads of a prayer mala (3*36=108).  Wisp is basically made up of lace panels alternating with garter stitch sections, but instead of just plain gayer stitch, I'm including stockinette, reverse stockinette, and moss stitch.  The pattern goes something like this:
-lace section
-lace section
-garter stitch with eyelets
-moss stitch
-eyelet row
-reverse stockinette
-eyelet row
-lace and so on

Having so many different stitches in a specific order (notice that repeating eyelet row I threw in there), it was a matter of time before I screwed up my pattern and accidentally left out one of the eyelet rows.  By the time I had noticed, I would have had to tink back 15 rows of work.  This is the sort of mistake every knitter faces where she has to decide the big question: Is this worth the trouble of fixing, or is this a new 'design element'?

But this was my Mindful Scarf, I had to choose carefully.  The aim of the scarf was to be mindful and in the present every step of the way, and what a better exercise for the patience and the mind than to carefully undo 15 rows of work, and then carefully redo 15 rows of work (yes I know, when phrased like that it does sound a bit masochistic, but let's also remember I think living in a tent is quite fun too).  But I also happen to be an avid follower of the tradition of leaving an intentional mistake in one's work, a tradition I first heard of when learning about the Native Americans of the Southwest, namely the Navajo and the Anasazi tribes who believed that an intentional mistake was a way to let demons out that might be entangled in their weaving, but also as a tribute to life's imperfections.  Authentic Persian rugs also all have a deliberate mistake as a sign that no one is perfect except god.  And as I considered the various pros and cons of leaving the mistake and fixing it, I decided to leave it as a tribute to this ancient tradition.

I think what I'm most enjoying about this scarf is the yarn and the colors.  I noticed I had a lot of (stupidest yarn name ever) floating around my stash; there was a partial ball of Country in Peacock, an untouched skein of Country in Claret, and a smallish ball of Spa in Green Sheen (terrible color representation in that picture by the way, it's much softer).  It's interesting using the Spa, which is a bamboo/acrylic mix, in conjunction with the Country, which is a merino/acrylic mix.  The bamboo yarn is noticeably more open and drapey than the merino, but I like how it looks and feels, especially since the green section is relatively small anyway.  So far I have knit 10 repeats of the blue and five of the green (using up both of those colors) and now I'm working on the red.  I don't know how far I'll take the red along or if I'll just use it up (I'm trying to do a little stash busting here), but I also have some purple and darker green to I could draw upon as well.  We'll see how it goes.  Right now the focus is not what is going to come next, but the row that I am knitting now.  Especially since I've been distracted lately and keep forgetting what row I'm on.

I've also got my next project planned as well.  Unfortunately my yarn fund (which was just a roll of ones in my wallet) has gone missing.  I'd like to think that I was the dumb dumb that lost it, but unfortunately there have been some minor thefts lately and well . . . I'm just keeping a closer eye on my stuff.  But what this means is that I still can't buy any new yarn or needles, so I've turned my attention to projects I can work on for free, like using stash yarn for my Mindful Scarf.  Technically I still have Apollo's sock poi knocking around the bottom of my knitting bag (anyone remember those?), but that is the sort of project that will require a real deep breath and a real push of motivation to finish.  Fortunately Apollo knows that these are going to take a while, that the pattern is tricky and troublesome and that I'm not crazy about it, and that I've even designed a much simpler and more enjoyable pattern variation, but I am determined to finish this pattern at some point (soon . . . I hope) because even though it's not enjoyable, it's going to look so bad-ass!  I have actually promised that when I can afford the yarn, he will get a pair of the "new and improved" sock poi while he's waiting for the "tedious yet bad-ass" sock poi, lest we forget these were supposed to be a birthday present three and half months ago.

But I digress, the new project I have planned for after that is a variation of knitting with fabric strips or t-shirt "yarn".  One of our early tent-mates left in the tent a bag of those cotton loops they sell in crafts stores to weave potholders out of, and this morning I starting looping them together into one long chain and then rolled them up into a very lumpy "yarn" ball.  I'll knit it up on some of my bigger needles into something like a bath mat.  But why would I need a bath mat in a tent?  Remember I said I had some news relating to that . . .

It looks like my darling other half and I just might be moving in with a friend who has a spare bedroom and a mother who will take slave labor, whoops, I mean work around the house and yard in lieu of rent for a while.  I'm kidding about the slave labor bit, I'm writing this at 2AM, don't ask why, it just sort of happened.  But yeah, the details haven't all been settled yet, but you just might be reading more from me on a more frequent basis again . . . I don't want to make any promises just yet, but the future is looking interesting.

Thursday, September 1, 2011


Bruce and I have been having a vacation from our lives lately. Two of our dear friends, Kay and Gregory, have been letting us stay with them this week. Part of their family is on vacation for a week, so Bruce and I were invited to take advantage of sleeping under a real roof for a while. Ironically, I've come to find that I sleep better in out in our tent; in the tent sometimes we are woken up by the sound of traffic and local construction (we're unfortunately positioned in a spot where sounds from the road can echo down into our trees), but here in a house there are all sort of electronics and appliances creating ambient noise, and two contemptuous beasts called German Shepherds that Enjoy far too well Barking at an Ungodly Hour of the Morning. I'm starting to prefer the sounds of bulldozers to dogs barking. It's a testament of what a person can adapt to.

That's not to say it isn't very nice to have access to a shower and conventional toilet whenever I like, a fridge to keep our perishable food, friends to eat and drink and relax with every night, and access to electricity to do things like write and post this. So far, the couple of days Bruce and I have spent here have been a very nice little vacation. Two days in a row, we did nothing but putter around the house and watch TV. Bruce and I never watch TV. Well, I used to in my parents house on nights I couldn't sleep, or when I was sick, but after I moved in with Bruce, I stopped watching TV almost entirely. But in a move very unlike either of us, we spent one day watching a Eureka marathon (one of the shows Bruce actually did used to watch on occasion, but I had never seen it - and am now as rabid a fan as any, I'd rank it on par with Dr. Who and Torchwood) and the next day we watched documentaries about marijuana, the Masons, Pablo Escobar, and the history of cocaine. Yesterday was the first time we left the house in three days.

We're going to be here in the house for a few more days yet, and we're probably not going to spend that time lazing around in front of the television, but both Bruce and I feel rather refreshed from our vacation time. We'd been talking about how we're always running around like crazy people and it was getting tiring. Shutting off the phone and shutting ourselves away from the world at large was definitely a needed "reset". We've been talking about ways to keep on doing everything we want to do with ourselves, but in a less frenetic sort of way.

And knitting has been happening! I finished my Blue Breeze Shawl - the one I posted the simple pattern for last time - and it is so warm and cozy. Nearly two whole skeins of Lion Brand Homespun went into it and it's perfect for what I wanted - a big wearable blanket. Because I knit it on big needles, it won't stop the breeze from getting in, but it's a nice layer to add when I'm chilly in the evening. And I knit my friend a little iPod cozy, ironically the first I've made in my 5 years of knitting, despite their popularity among knitters of my general age. Probably wouldn't have made one anyway had I not felt a small sense of obligation.

See, the iPod itself came from this sketchy dude who owed Bruce and me $20. He'd given us his wife's iPod (which she apparently didn't want anymore, maybe she got a fancier one) as collateral. Then he decides to flake out on the $20 and told us to keep the iPod. Well, we've already got one iPod we rarely use, we didn't want another. Our dear friend Jacques had been wanting an iPod so he could listen to music at his job without killing his phone's battery every day, and he thought $20 was a fair price. The problem was the iPod was a very unmanly shade of magenta, so as a condition of the sale, I promised to knit a manly looking pouch for it.

It was an interesting project because I knit the majority of the pouch using double knitting. It resulted in a very fitted little pouch that snuggles the iPod perfectly. Finishing it was tricky because in order to knit a flap to close the pouch, I had to bind off every other stitch on my needles, sliding the others onto a holder as I went along. Then I took those stitches and knitted a little flap with a button hole that folds over and closes the pouch. I just need to weave in ends and attach a good button, and then it'll be ready for Jacques.

My next project I have planned for the immediate future is going to be another shawl. I don't know what pattern yet, I've got some ideas bouncing around though. I'm still planning to work on learning socks, but I'm still saving my pennies to be able to afford the smaller needles that my collection currently lacks. I might splurge on some cotton and begin making sock poi again, although I've been waiting for Michaels to put up good sales on their yarn. They do it every now and again, and if I'm patient, eventually Sugar and Cream will go on sale for a dollar each. Hence my plans for another shawl; I've been kicking around ideas that will use yarn and needles I already have giving me a project to work on now while I save my change and wait for sales on things I don't have.

The other thing I have been up too, besides vacationing from tent life and knitting my ever shrinking stash, is writing and lots of it. Oddly, I don't write as consistently as I used to (I'm still working on my resolution to write everyday, even if it's only one line in my journal) but I have twice now found myself indulging in epic writing sessions of 10-14 hours which has resulted in not as much product as you might expect, but stuff that I really love and feel awesome about. For about 2 years now I've been pulling seemingly random stuff together hoping to eventually create a finished manuscript, and these marathon sessions have resulted in a lot of my more disparate and abstract ideas being finally captured in written language. I finally was able to coherently write about a mushroom trip I took ages ago that changed my life - and explain in clear language how it changed my life. I kind of wish I could begin sharing this work here on my blog, but it still needs so much work; I'm waiting until I have a more complete and cohesive work before I share it at large.

And I've also been indulging in using the internet while I have it. As fun as it can be, I'm glad that I don't plug in on a daily basis the way I used to. I just read an article about how two adult children are suing their mother for "bad mothering" because she dared to make them wear seat-belts, didn't empty the bank account for the sake of party dresses, and set curfews. Oh the horror. If that is "bad mothering" and worthy of a suit, then I should be rolling in it now based on the things my mother made me do - including a mandate to practice piano daily. Oh how I suffered. So yeah, while I'm having fun catching up on a few elements of the internet I have missed (like Ravelry and my blog), the rest of the internet reminds me just how much I prefer my meaningful life of actually doing things - like knitting, and going to the library for books, and writing my manuscript, and smoking with my friends, and taking walks just because I feel like it. Maybe if the two plaintiffs in that fucktarded suit did some of the things I like to do, they wouldn't feel so slighted because they didn't get the toys they wanted 15 years ago.

It's been a couple hours since I started working on this post (true to my classic blogging methods), so I'll wrap it up here, but with any luck I'll be back soon with more to say on living, and knitting, in tents.