Things have been slow going around here in the creative department. I’ve missed my last to Fashion Friday posts, and I am feeling very overwhelmed about the amount of work on the house that remains to be done. At the very end of the day when I sit down to enjoy a glass of wine, or sleep I just don’t have the energy for, well, anything. In fact, one night in the last week I just watched 45 minutes of TV, and that was it. No knitting, looking at patterns, yarn ball winding, plotting of my next sewing project. Just 45 minutes of mind-melting television. Ugh! What has become of me?
I am exhausted. It’s that simple. Just completely exhausted. Within 3 days over Easter weekend the Little Buckaroo took his first steps, said his first word, got his second tooth, and barfed carrots in the pool at his swimming lesson. He’s only 9 months old, and he is just so busy, and so social that when he is awake—which is pretty much all day—he requires a full time entertainer. I am sure that anyone else in my shoes would be exhausted, too. I am lucky to have a baby that sleeps solid all night long, but when you’re so busy during the day, come 10 pm your energy is depleted too. With the dark cloud of house projects looming overhead, and this feeling of being utterly overwhelmed it is hard to feel the creativity flowing (in between 10:00 pm and 10:15 pm when I fall asleep). In addition to the baby and the house projects there is all of the day to day: dinner to make dinner to make, new hardwood floors to sweep and mop, a sexy black granite counter-top that deserves nothing but the best, laundry, more laundry, crazy cats that also want attention … OH! There is also my first real garden, planted and growing. I seem to be having a pretty serious problem though. The tomato plants I started from seeds are growing beautifully, so are the squash and the water-mellon plants. My new sunflower, carrot, radish and beet seeds are also sprouting. My strawberry plants are already showing signs of life, and my very first home-grown strawberry is almost ripe. I have my blackberry and raspberry bushes planted with trellises. I even have a garden cart that has folding down metal sides and can hold up to 750 lbs, regardless if there is no way to actually pull that much weight. So, what could be the problem? One grosse, slimy word: Snails.
Zucchini, yellow onions, and my huge, blooming sage bush
Snails! Where to they all come from? They’re slow, sticky and I don’t want anything to do with them. Yet, in the time it takes me to go and fetch an instrument of removal they’ve gone 10 feet across my garden, and multiplied. Slow, they’re supposed to be slow. Snails are specifically known for their slowness. They eat your plants and make a huge mess of things and there seems to be no way to get rid of them. I leave out snail bait. I put my plants in undesirable snail areas. I “remove” them when I find them. I feel like I see so many of them that I they are starting to haunt me.
My precious Green Globe artichoke plant, minus all snails for the moment
My current knitting project even has snails on my mind, too. A couple of weeks ago I started the Shell Tank from Knitting Nature by Norah Gaughan. I slowly creeped through almost the entire back piece of the top and realized that it just wasn’t going well. I must have measured my gauge 87 times, and everything always came out to 23 stitches per inch, instead of the specified 21. So, why the hell was it so big? I looked at the measurements and decided that my real error was in picking this pattern to begin with. I have a nasty habit of starting a project without reading through the entire pattern first. The pattern is written well, that’s not the problem. It is the sizing. The bust measurement on the smallest size is 36 inches, which would mean over 4 inches of ease on me. While I haven;t taken loads of sewing and fashion classes (yet) I still know that 4 inches of ease in the bust for a garment like this one is just too much. Way too much, in fact. The top is knit from the bottom up, and starts out wider, decreasing towards the bust. So, instead of having waist shaping the top has extra ease for style added in. Well, in the picture with the model it doesn’t look like she has 40 inches of fabric around her 24 inch waist does it. I wanted a flattering tank, not a fattening tank. So, after working on it for a week, well the toads were a-croakin and started leaping over to my snail knitting pace and the back piece was completely frogged (ripped-out). My huge yarn-ball awaiting a new spring or summer knitting project.
That morning during a brief Little Buckaroo napping session, before painting some window trim, and after loading the dishwasher I flipped through my freshly liberated knitting books, delighted to see the light of day after spending 3 1/2 months in moving boxes, and came across Wendy Bernard’s Essential Tank from Custom Knits. Wendy lives in Southern California. I met her at Vogue Knitting Live Los Angeles a year and a half ago. She is a delightful woman and writes delightful patterns, many of which are not only not only appropriate for our California climate but also really suit my personal style. Her books was a go-to for this yarn, as I have just over 800 yards and that is all I will ever be able to get. Upon flipping to the page with the Essential Tank pattern I realized that I really, really wanted to make a tank-top as I just had so much fun with my Rokochella and really wanted to continue in the same spirit. No matter how you slice it, I will not run out of yarn (I truly hope I haven’t just jinxed myself), it’s cute, it’s simple, it is super easy to modify and my gauge was dead on. I never even noticed this pattern before. Done in the round, from the bottom up, shown in a sort of cement color it is a beautiful blank canvas that I overlooked. She has so many cute sweaters this one just didn’t have any pop until I had the right yarn for the project.
I cast on and quickly finished the ribbing, stitches were just flying off my needles. Well, I wanted them to be flying, I even pretended they were, but they were just sort of coming and going. I was excited about the project, the potential! Simple two by two ribbing, so, why did it seem a little slow? Once I got past the ribbing I got to the meat of the project, round after round working my way up to the armholes where then the project would be divided and front and back knit separately. I didn’t feel attached to the beautiful but simple ribbing covering the length of the front of the tank. On Ravelry some other Knitters (with a capital K) replaced this vertical style element with pretty cables or little lace patterns. There has been a pattern in Vogue Knitting Stitctionary 5: Lace Knitting that I have loved forever and have been looking for somewhere to implement this 34 stitch wide, by 24 row high (repeated) beauty: #115 Classic Frost Flowers. In the spirit of spring, and having just completed planting all of my plants and seeds in the garden I thought that embracing frost flowers was a natural progression. I counted my stitches and got my new, wider center panel centered and away I went. The chart was very surprisingly easy to memorize, I changed my decreases and increases for the side shaping to correlate perfectly with the flow of the chart so virtually no thinking was required for completing them yet this super simple tank top, taking oh so little yarn is just dragging on and on and on … After a week and a half I finally reached the level where I divide the front and the back at the armholes.
About 6 weeks ago which was about the time that I bought this yarn at Stitches West, I received an email pertaining to Vogue Knitting Live in Seattle. I noticed quite an increase of Vogue Knitting emails timed around Stitches West. Coincidence? I think not. The particular email that I am recalling made mention of a “Speed Knitting” competition at the Vogue Knitting Live Seattle Event. Oh how this got my heart all aflutter. I think I am a speedy knitting, but I know that I am not speedy compared so some others. I can hold my own with a pair of knitting needles though. Before the baby was born, when I was still knitting English style (2-3 seconds per stitch) I could still complete a sweater in a week. After learning to knit Continental style I only got faster and faster, though I had to work on improving my tension to regain my “machine-knit” look in my work. Currently I can easily knit through 200 yards a day, if I have the time and the energy, and can have knit up to 325 yards in a day, though I must not be disturbed in the process. We’re talking straight stockinette (in the round) or garter (flat).
Hearing about the Speed Knitting competition made my imagination go wild. I told Ramon about it, and interested, he started asking questions, “Does everyone knit the same thing, using the same tools?” I didn’t know, and still don’t, but must assume so. Ramon, almost as wide eyed as myself said it sounded like fun, and maybe I should try to go. I quickly turned down the idea. At the time I didn’t know how, or when the move would go and I have that fabulous Little Buckaroo, in need of a full time entertainer. The trip would be two plane tickets, a hotel, and being gone between 1 and 3 days. It wouldn’t be fair to leave the little guy, or Ramon all alone in charge for who knows how many days, especially after he had worked so hard on our new house, and not knowing what state our living situation would be in or if we would have even moved yet. I told Ramon, “I’d really, really love to. Even if I couldn’t participate, and I doubt I would be competitive, just to see what the other magic needle workers can do. Another time, another year. I am sure that there will be another chance.”
Well, Vogue Knitting Live in Seattle came and went this past weekend. The pictures on their facebook page elude to a lot of fun. I can find no mention of the competition, but I already know that this was not my year to try to participate, especially when the thing that I am knitting on now is going so damn slow! As I knit along at a snails pace, I knew that adding in the lace would add some time, but this seems ridiculous. I thought I was a speedy knitter, but we all need to be humbled sometimes. I just didn’t realize that this was the project to do it.
However, as I am learning, snails aren’t particularly slow. The myth a fallacy, they are speedy little slim-balls, especially when you’re trying to protect your precious artichoke plant. I brought up the snails with my mom the other day, another soul not so interested in theirs. She also commented on their sneaky speed and I told her that I tossed them out left and right, applied the snail bait and there always seem to be more. She replied, “Well, have you seen my fish tank?” It all started with only one snail. No one even knows how it got there, but there was only one and it was removed. Now, there are thousands. No matter how many you pluck out of that tiny fish tank, thousands more pop up in their place.
My tank top may be taking a while but I’m getting their with quantity. The slowness could also have to do with the fact that I am working with sport weight mercerized cotton which requires many my favorite hand lotion—Unicorn Farts—applied liberally at bedtimes. But stitch after stitch it’s getting there. The lace is beautiful, I love it, though I know I will have to wear another tank-top underneath it, and because of the slow going I have noticed that the yarn has a super subtle hit of yellow in it which I could only see after about 10 thousand stitches had been completed. Sleepy, exhausted and overwhelmed by the house projects I approach the tank-top every night. Where originally there was just one ball of weaving yarn, never intended for hand-knitting, I am creating something beautiful from thousands of my stitches. I often think of our house as Humpty Dumpty and we’re putting it back together again, a million little pieces to create one
house home. While it may be overwhelming and a lot of work it will be well worth it, just as it will be well worth the continued battle on the slimy mono-peds in my backyard.
Oh my God, if those snails get my very first strawberry though, I am going to go Rambo on their asses.