Chocolate deviltry has happened, but I am waiting for some final photos to tell that whole story…probably one of the most elegant (though not the most over-the-top) jokes I’ve played. It went off really well, and I suspect the recipient is still laughing (if he isn’t still blushing). But I need a few more photos before I can tell that story…
Meanwhile, I spent half of today sleeping (sleep deprivation + incredible work stress), and then, once I woke up, started puttering about with knitting needles. I’m swatching and “thinking” about my next knitting project (I put it in quotation marks because I’m really “thinking” with my hands, it’s a nonverbal kind of thinking).
I’ve spun up fifty or so yards of an absolutely lovely yarn–1 ply black satin angora and 1 ply 50-50 silk/brown cashmere blend–and am swatching with it. It comes out as a bit of a ragg yarn–the silk/cashmere is a silvery taupe, the black satin angora is smoke-colored, so there is a bit of a color contrast between the two yarns. But the yarn is so fine and the values so close that, when knitted, it just looks like dove grey with lustrous highlights. (In fact some of the “shininess” is just the lighter ply–great optical illusion.) It has a soft halo from the angora, but also great luster–satin angora shines like silk, making it two plies of lustrous fiber.
(Satin angora is one of my absolute favorite fibers–a soft, halo-ing fiber that has luster. Woo! Very hard to find, but extremely worthwhile. I’d almost consider keeping my own rabbits, if I had the space/time.)
True to my usual form, this yarn is about the same thickness as the yarn for the spiral shawl–40 or 50 wpi in the two-ply. Very, very fine, but with a little bit of silver-gray halo, so it looks softly fuzzy rather than hard defined. I’m also spinning it more softly than the yarn for the spiral shawl, which helps the halo bloom and also softens the look. I’m spinning it on the silver spindle the Akha silversmith made for me–until I get around to making myself more silver spindles, those will do just fine. (And I think they’re beautiful–elegant and primitive at once, plus they remind me of my travels.)
At any rate, I’m doing some gauge swatching, though I’m not doing anything near the 4×4″ gauge swatch normally recommended. Just a few rows, enough to get an idea of the look, and adjust the needles as needed. I’ll be doing more serious swatching later, for the moment I’m just trying to get a sense for the yarn.
I’m also playing around with new knitting techniques. I picked up a Japanese book on lace knitting on my last trip through Lacis (a lace shop up in Berkeley), and it’s fascinating. It is, unfortunately, entirely in Japanese, but it has excellent diagrams/pictures, so I’ve been working my way through it and picking up their new techniques. They create beautiful, large, complex images (they have a pentagonal rose in one of the diagrams) on dark backgrounds–this is done by using regular knitting in the body of the image, but switching to one of three kinds of openwork in the background. At the moment I’m just trying to understand the openwork, and it’s pretty cool–I haven’t seen these approaches in any American knitting books, and I’m always thrilled when I find a new technique.
Here’s one example:
Row 1: k2tog, [(k1, yo, k1) in next stitch, sl-1-k2tog-pass slipped stitch over], repeat, yo, k1.
Row 2: purl to end of row
Row 3: k1, yo, [sl1-k2tog-pass slipped stitch over, (k1, yo, k1) in next stitch], repeat, end ssk.
Row 4: purl
Discounting all the instructions, what they’re doing here is alternating a triple increase –[(k1,yo, k1) in same stitch] — with a triple decrease (sl1, k2tog, pass slipped stitch over) to produce a very openwork knitting. The [(k1,yo,k1) in same stitch] increase is one I haven’t seen before, and is really interesting–I want to experiment with that.
Row 1: k2tog, [double yo (wrap around needles twice), ssk, k2tog], repeat, end yo, k1
Row 2: purl until you reach the double yo, and in the double yo’s (k1, p1) in same stitch
Row 3: ssk, [double yo, ssk, k2tog], repeat, end yo, k1
Row 4: same as row 2
Discounting the instructions (which I am not guaranteeing to be accurate, since I wrote them off the top of my head), this translates to alternating a double increase ((k1,p1) in the double yo) with a double decrease (ssk, k2tog). You can get different effects depending on how you change the slant of the stitches in the decreases–the one I mentioned makes a little “cap” or peak over each hole.
What is novel and interesting about this idea is the idea of using a double yo to create more than one stitch–I’ve seen this idea embedded in other designs (the cockleshell pattern, for example), but not this way. I’ve added it to my library of stitch increases.
There are a few other variants, but that’s the basic idea.
This book is emphatically not for novice knitters (basically because it’s in Japanese), but if you are reasonably experienced with lace and good at working things out, or want a great reference book for later, I strongly recommend it. The ISBN is 529-02531-4, and the title is _Knitting Lace_. Probably the quickest way to get it is to call up Lacis, in Berkeley (do a Yahoo! search to find them). It has some of the most interesting ideas I’ve seen in quite awhile, and I’ve been collecting books on lace knitting.
(Among other things, it has a pentagonal shawl/tablecloth, which I’ve never seen before. Circles, spirals, octagons, squares, even hexagons are easy–but this is the first pentagon I’ve ever seen. They also have some oval-ish shawls knitted in the round, which are not impossible but hard to find in a standard lace book. This book is neat-o.)
Anyway, I have been swatching from it, and let my hands think about what this shawl wants to be. I think it is going to be a Faroese shawl, light, falling in soft smoky folds, and it is also going to be about value–light to dark shading. I keep thinking of gray mist and something to do with spirits. The yarn is delightfully ethereal, pearly, smoky with a little bit of halo…delightful to work with, and soft as a kiss. I keep running it over my lips because it feels SO soft. I’m pretty sure the finished piece will be nice as well.
Still playing with ideas, but pretty comfortable with the yarn. Now all I need is some more black satin angora, and a bit more of that brown cashmere/silk–I have 2 oz of black satin and 3 oz of cashmere/silk, which should in theory be more than enough (the spiral shawl only weighs 3.25 ounces), but I’d like 4 ounces of each to be really safe. (If the finished shawl weighs 8 ounces, I’ll be frightened. It would probably be half the size of Brooklyn–“the shawl that ate New York”.)
All of which will take my mind off work, which has abruptly gone to hell. My “small” side project has materialized into a monster holding up $1 million of revenue recognition, which translates to “MUST be done by end of year”. I’ve been working my butt off and completely stressed about getting things done in time, so it’s good to have other stuff to work on.
More on chocolate deviltry once the photos arrive. Of course, if the hapless victim pays enough for the negatives, all bets are off. 😉