Saturday, December 30, 2006

Ready for New Years?

Christmas has passed, and the New Year looms ahead. Resolutions? Oh yes.

I could wax eloquent about the break up, but really, there is nothing more to be said. I'm actually quite lucky, when all is tallied- as you will read further on.

And today, I have pictures! I finished my dad's grey Christmas socks before the holiday, and here is the proof. These were knit with a cast on of only 44 stitches, ribbed for an inch and a half, then knitted the rest of the way. The yarn is the softest I have ever felt: brushed baby alpaca wool.

I also give you pictures of the tree at my cousin's house. Those are the combined gifts of my extended family: my parents, brother and I, my aunt and uncle, and my cousin and her boyfriend. It may look obscene-- at least, that's what we exclaim every year-- but the gifts themselves are usually of small value, and may be for humor as easily as to be pleasing.

For example, soap, candy, candles, a tape measure to replace one that a daughter had accidently broken the past summer *cough*, tree ornaments, kitchen towels, and key chains were all part of the ensemble. It took us three hours to unwrap, because we do it one at a time, so we can see what everyone got.

I've always been taught that we're supposed to be secretive about giving to charity. But, well, I feel a bit defensive about the presents under that there tree. So, lest anyone think we're typically greedy and selfish, spoiled Americans, I would also point out that we donate a great deal. Food for Families, Toys for Tots, Standford Home for Children, WEAVE, Doctors Without Borders, Heifer International, the Linus Project, Project Helmetliner, and The Ships Project were my personal charities of choice this year.

Believe me, I am well aware of my good fortune and the blessings of my health and safety. I am truly grateful to my friends and family, for allowing me to be a part of such loving lives.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Updated To Do list

X: Helmetliner (as shown in button on the sidebar) - knit
X: One pair Olive socks for my sailor- knit
X: One pair super soft socks for Dad's BD in November- knit
X: Green ripple monstrosity thing -crochet
X: Dishcloth(s) for Christmas presents.
X: Socks -knit
X: Jayne hat

To do: Aran afghan, exactly half complete - crochet
To do: Baby blanket for Amy's forethcoming boychild.
To do: Baby blanket for KS's girl child

So I removed Amy's baby blanket from the "completed" list to the "to do" list: how is this possible, you ask? Well, I'll tell you. I didn't like the other one as much when I stumbled upon the most adorable knitted pattern. I didn't even have to buy more needles. It's only a foot or so long at the moment, but I'm extraordinarily happy with it. It may be the prettiest thing I've ever made. And no, I'm not going to post pictures until it's done and sent out. *smiles*

I've actually finished two baby blankets, not counting Amy's. And yet have two more to go, by my count. While I'd like to delude myself into thinking its because I want the blankets to be perfect, I think it might be because, after the baby blankets are done, all that is left is the Aran.

Save me!

Monday, December 11, 2006

The Curse of the Gifted Garment

You know what I'm talking about. Soon after you craft a sweater, socks, or ajaunty hat for your boyfriend, a timer begins to count down. A week, a month, and then- he bails. I can't be the only person this has happened to. What I can't figure out, is why it happens. What is it about an article of clothing that chases the man in your life away? Is it the simple act of generosity? Do they, without being able to put it into words, finally comprehend how much we care, because they can see physical evidence of the amount of time we're willing to devote to them?

It's happened in nearly every one of my relationships. I sewed an enormous velvet cloak for Chris, when I lived in Washington. The thing took me months. Within two months, our two year relationship was ashes. Ricci coveted Chris's cloak, so, even though we only dated casually, I made him one (not in velvet though.) I even embroidered his name in silver runes around the hem. He "lost" my address and phone number a week later. Reid and I were togehter six months. We'd even vacationed together for two weeks. He asked for a set of medieval-style clothing, which I made for him. Within a month, he called to say his friends thought he should be single. Sayonara, Reid. I made an outift for Thom, too- which he apparently wore into the tent of some SCA battle bunny. Hasta la vista.

And finally, Jake. Sure we had problems, but we always got over them. Our relationship was strong enough, and I thought our love was secure enough, to overcome anything, even being separated by hundreds or thousands of miles. For three years - well, exactly 2 weeks shy of three years, if you must know- I felt loved and beautiful. Then I gave him socks.

The bell began to toll, and finally keened its death knell tonight.

I'm still a little shell shocked and stunned, unaware if this is some kind of bad dream. Surely our relationship meant more than "We don't have anything in common anymore"? Lots of spouses have different hobbies. Living hundreds of miles apart, it's inevitable we'd have different friends. Odd as it may sound, I guess I was an optimist. I thought our love was common ground enough.

There are plenty of good things to be said about being single again. In a week or so, maybe I'll even be able to face them. I may be able to face, also, the single black sock I already knit for him, at his request. Right now it's too symbolic to bear.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Jayne Cobb Hat

Please note that the pattern listed below was my first run at re-creating this hat, and I have since updated the pattern. Because it's so different, instead of editting this entry I made an entirely new one. Please go to the new page to see the new, updated (and much more accurate!) pattern. Thank you!

In the remarkable, wonderful, too-short series "Firefly," created by Joss Whedon, the character Jayne Cobb (played by Adam Baldwin) is a rough and tough, selfish mercenary. In the episode titled, "The Message," Jayne receives a knitted hat from his mother, and wears it during most of the episode. On disk four of the DVD collection, there exists an easter egg which shows the actor wearing the hat while singing "The Hero of Canton," a song from a separate episode, "Jaynestown," a screenshot of which is pictured above.

As a Secret Santa project for a Firefly fan, I tried to duplicate this hat. It turned out so well that I made a second one for my brother, who is also a fan. This undertaking yielded some interesting and entertaining insights for me, and quite a few questions.

First of all, "Ma Cobb" was not an experienced knitter. Most knitters learn early on that if you do not rib the first few rows of an article, the edge will roll. In this case, the hat obviously does not have ribbing at the brim. The only thing that keeps the edge from rolling is that the hat is decidedly small for the wearer. This is evidenced by the straining stiches around the circumference of the hat. It does not look like neat rows of kniting, but instead, you can see between the stitches. (My doll model's head is too small- you'll have to take my word for it that I've reproduced this effect. In fact, the doll is a bad model all the way around- the proportions look all wrong.)

The edges also roll inwards on the ear coverings. This is because most knitters have discovered that you need to knit about 3 stitches on the edges, every row, to keep it from rolling. (Jayne's ear flaps are knit with stockinette stitch, which alternate knit and purl rows. An interesting choice, because a hat knit in the round is all knit stitches. Ironically, had Ma Cobb continued to knit every row, the ears would not have rolled- though the ears would have had a different-looking stitch than the hat itself.)

Finally, the hat is not decreased at the the top, which would have produced a fine, smooth round top. Instead, it is gathered at the top, creating the bulky, bunched look. The round gather of all the stitches is then "hidden" by a pompom.

All of these, ah, interpretations of a hat design lead me to conclude that this was Ma Cobb's first hat. Not only was it her first hat, but she designed it herself. I deduced this because, if she used a pattern, the pattern designer would not have incorporated the...choices...Ma Cobb made. The hat would have had ribbing, at least in front and back, and would have had a garter stitch (knitting a few stitches every row, as previously described) edge to the ear flaps, but may or may not have had a gather and pompom. Therefore, Ma Cobb designed and knit her very first hat- to mail across the galaxy to her boy Jayne.

A mother's love, my friends. In addition, that Jayne immediately put on and wore the hat-- as jarring as it may have been to his tough-guy image-- speaks volumes about Jayne's own love for his Mama. I find their love for each other heartbreakingly sweet.

A few qustions arise from these musings. Did the director intend such implications? Who did make the hat? Was the hat designed to exact specifications, created precisely to convey the emotional impact I have proposed? Or was the hat just found somewhere, to be snapped up by an excited costume designer with a squealed, "Oooh! Perfect!"?

Maybe I should write to Joss and find out.

In the meantime, enjoy the pictures!

Here is what I did:
I used 16" size 10 circulars, with worsted weight yarn: Caron Sunflower, and Red Heart "soft" in Paprika and Tangerine.
1. With orange, cast on 60 stitches.
2. Join, being careful not to twist. Knit every row, to 3 1/2 inches.
3. Join yellow yarn, knit to 9 inches total hat length.
4. Cut yellow yarn, thread the end onto a tapestry needle, and, with the stitches still on the needles, thread the yarn through all stitches. Take out the needles, and pull on the end of the yarn to create the gather. You can run it through the ring a couple more times to secure it. Leave the long end in the hat.
5. Fold hat in half, with the back being on one folded edge. Mark the center of each side, as with a coil-less safety pin. Count 10 stitches to one side, and begin picking up stitches there, working towards the center, then pick up 10 more, for a total of 20 picked up stitches.
6. Join rust-colored yarn, and knit in stockinette stitch 22 rows, or about 3 1/2 inches. (Knit on the knit or "right" side of hat, and purl on the purled or "wrong" side).
7. Begin decreasing 2 stitches every row: Knit 1, knit 2 together, then knit until there are 3 stiches left. Knit 2 together (or ssk, or however you want to decrease), then knit last stitch. On the purled rows, purl 1, purl 2 together, purl to last 3 stitches, purl 2 together, then purl last. (You could also knit or purl the first two and last two stitches every row. Doesn't really matter which method you choose, so long as you're decreasing 2 every row.) When you have 1 stitch left, cut your yarn with a 6 inch tail, and slip it through the last stitch to bind it off. Cut another peice of yarn 10 inches long, and slip it through somewhere on the bottom and tie it to itself, to give the three strings shown on the right side of Jayne's hat.
7 1/2. Do the same for the other side, but only leave 2 strings. These strings tie the flaps together. They look about 3 to 4 inches long on Jayne's hat, but you can cut them to whatever length you'd like.
8. Make a pompom, either by using a nifty tool, or by winding yarn around a piece of cardboard about 3 inches tall by 6 inches wide. Begin wrapping the cardboard. (Use mostly rust yarn, but add some orange and yellow too!) When the cardboard is nice and fluffy, slip about a foot of yarn, perpendicular, between the cardboard and the wrapped yarn, move it to the bottom, and tie it loosely, to hold it in place. (You can also put the anchoring yarn next to the cardboard first, before wrapping the yarn.) Cut the top, wrapped yarn, so you have a wad of three-inch (or shorter) strings. Tie the anchoring yarn VERY tightly around the bundle of short yarn, then trim if needed. Poke the end of the anchoring yarn into the gather. Tie the anchoring yarn to the yellow yarn end used to make the gather.
9. Weave in ends- except the ear flap ties!
10. Wear proudly, or gift to your favorite Firefly fan!

Do not sell this pattern. The Jayne Cobb hat and image are copyrights of 20th Century Fox, and probably of lots of other companies and people, too. Besides, its not nice.