Archive for August 2012

The brass bands play and feet start to pound

August 14, 2012


Pattern: Montague Bulky Lace Vest by Melissa LaBarre (Rav link)
Yarn: Berroco Sundae (50% acrylic, 50% wool), colorway Stilton
Needles: U.S. 15 and 11 Harmony wood Options 36″ circular needles (knit flat)

Right up to the start of this summer’s Ravellenic Games, I was working on administration, setup, answering questions, working out processes. Three days before the opening ceremonies I finally decided to try to use some stash from 2009, and luckily one of the few super-bulky patterns that appeals to me is in a book I own. I swatched with 13s and 15s, and the 15s (the ballband recommendation) gave me a gauge that worked out well for the plan of knitting the smallest size numbers in order to get the medium size. When the opening ceremonies began, I was ready to cast on.


There were only nine days before I was due to leave on vacation, and there was no way I was taking a huge bulky-weight sweater project with me to Montgomery Bell State Park, and when we got back there were only going to be two days left in the competition. I needed to take full advantage of the large needles and huge gauge in order to get it done, or nearly done, before leaving.


The back went fast. I didn’t knit on it every night, but it still grew quickly. Each narrow front side took only a few hours. With a couple of days before our trip, I decided I need to try seaming it up, even though ideally one would block the pieces to measurements beforehand; there was no time to wait for them to dry, and if I came back with seaming still left to do, I didn’t think I could be confident of getting the bottom band and the large front bands done by the time the flame was extinguished. So I seamed. The magic of mattress stitch amazed me yet again; I had been careful to knit the back and fronts to exactly the same row counts. Now only the bands remained.


WHen we left for Tennessee, all the knitting was done. I had even woven in the ends. When we returned, I soaked the super-bulky fibers, squeezed as much water out as I could, and laid the vest out carefully to the measurements of the medium size. It was wet. Damp. Really damp. THere were about 36 hours before the closing ceremonies, and the Ravellenic Games. I could count it finished, but I really wanted to wear it for photographs before then. I got out an electric fan to try to dry it faster. When Sunday morning rolled around and the front of the vest was dry to the touch, I knew I was going to make it.


Noel took these pictures at about 11:30 on August 12, six hours before the deadline. This is the first sweater medal I’ve won in the Games-Formerly-Known-As. No sleeves, bulky yarn, sure — but it’s a complete garment in seventeen days with five days off in the middle. And look — isn’t it beautiful? Nothing done at such short notice with materials on hand and so quickly has any right to turn out so well.

I can’t wait for fall. It may be glory earned as much through dumb luck as through skill, but it’s Ravellenic glory, and it’s mine to wear.


Help yourself to a bit of what is all around you

August 4, 2012


Pattern: ScWiNoNa (PDF link) by weezalana
Yarn: Artfibers Ming (50% silk, 50% merino), colorway 21
Needles: U.S. 8 Signature straights

I told the story of the long search for the right pattern for this gorgeous yarn over at Union, Trueheart, and Courtesy a couple of months ago. And I finished the scarf not too long thereafter.


Ravelry and the knitting blogs are littered with tales about trying to find “what the yarn wants to be.” I’ve always found that a bit mystical, self-indulgent, maybe even unduly perfectionist. But after gradually coming to discover the stitch pattern that makes this very special yarn shine, I see a little of what they’re talking about.


In the sun, the silk glows like a copper lantern. It’s clearly precious. Not just anything will do. Like apples of gold in pictures of silver, as Proverbs says. The more beautiful something is on its own, the more urgent and painstaking the search for the setting that will enhance rather than detract from that beauty.


I don’t always have time for this meticulousness — for trying, ripping, trying again, ripping again until what I am making comes up to my standards. But what drives me is the guilt I would feel if I failed to live up to the standards of my materials. They call out the best in me. Not just more — more creativity, more invention, more embellishment, more complexity — but more fitting. Better suited. Best for what I have been given.