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The rip back of the sister-in-law shawl went quite well by masochistic standards. In the end, the farm table surface was too slick so I used an old door that I laid on the top of one of the couches and covered it with terry cloth towels. The towels helped hold the shawl in place, whereas it slid around too much on the farm table surface. The Skipper and Yarn Rascal were seated in their chair watching football. It was a terribly humid day so the yarn, which doesn’t normally stick to itself, was sticking to itself. But again, the towels helped hold the shawl in place so I could work out those areas of stickiness.

I had figured to rip about 15 to 17 rows of lace work and put a removable stitch marker on the center stitch two rows below where I wanted to stop. About 7 rows into the massive rip back I encountered a real sticking point. I had forgotten that I had joined another ball of yarn at that junction and in the manner of anyone with a good obsessive compulsive disorder over yarn ends hanging off projects I had woven in those suckers. Because I was terrorized in my youthful knitting days by an expert knitter–another story entirely–I have learned to weave in ends so that 1) you can’t see them and 2) they are locked in and won’t come out, thanks to a little trick I learned from that expert knitter. A strong spotlight and magnifying glass were employed as I tried to find those woven in ends and the point at which they were locked so I could carefully snip them loose and continue with the rip back. It was delicate surgery, the kind that rates right up there with brain surgery. Pull, snip or otherwise disturb the wrong bit of yarn and you’ve botched it.

I had followed one woven end to the lock point and was trying to decide which particular yarn needed snipping when the cricket showed up. One second I am bending over a shawl, the next I am face to face with a cricket that looks much larger than it is thanks to the magnifying glass. The folklore about crickets is that if they are in your house and alive that means good luck. If you kill it or it is dead that means bad luck. The cricket under the magnifying glass was clearly alive and did what crickets do: it chirped. This caused me to snip and the two sounds together drew a rather excited Yarn Rascal to the area. He trampled over the shawl chasing the cricket which had jumped onto the floor. My main concern now was not the shawl, but that Yarn Rascal not eat the cricket. As Yarn Rascal and the cricket and I chased each other, The Skipper lamented over not being able to watch one football game in peace. To snap The Skipper out of his lament I quickly pointed out that if Yarn Rascal ate the cricket it would mean a trip to the emergency vet and he would miss not only this game but the next one coming on too. This mobilized The Skipper into action and we finally caught Yarn Rascal. The cricket had escaped into a corner and disappeared.

With peace now restored, the football game blaring in the backround and The Skipper and Yarn Rascal seated once more in their chair, I returned to the delicate operation of ripping back the shawl. I picked up the shawl from the floor and carefully laid it back out. It was immediately clear that the rip back point had to be moved a few rows further down due to snags and a large hole that now replaced the area I had so carefully snipped. In addition, I had now lost count of the number of rows that had been ripped back and therefore lost my place on the seven charts that make up the pattern. In short, it was no longer a methodical, brain surgery kind of operation. It had become a rip the %&$!@*% thing back, pick up the stitches, find where I was in the charts and get on with it.

This attitude change made all the difference. I am now once again knitting on the shawl. The Skipper has watched two entire football games without being interrupted. The cricket still lives, chirping in the corner of the living room. Yarn Rascal is madly digging in the rug near the chirping sound. Peace has been restored.

Rip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah!

Well it’s happened. In my last post I was bragging about how well the sister-in-law shawl was going and I ended by saying something foolish like the knitting would roll on smoothly like a steamboat on a river. I guess that last line really pushed the knitting powers-that-be over their edge.

Instead of easily knitting away today I am ripping back a full 17 rows of 500 plus stitches. If that’s not ouch worthy enough, the 17 rows are beyond the life line. Yep, I am flying without a net on this one. When I realized my mistake last night I did the only thing a respectable knitter could do: I took myself off to bed and wept for 15 minutes. Then I got up and paced the room for 20 more minutes. Once the hysteria settled down, I sat on the edge of the bed and felt drained. The end of the shawl had been in sight, I just needed to navigate two more pages of charts. Ye gods! I say it is unfair. But knitting, like life, is seldom fair.

At the deepest part of night, with Yarn Rascal running up and down the hall with yet another skein of yarn stolen from the yarn vault, I came up with a plan. I needed to find a large flat surface that is high enough to prevent Yarn Rascal from getting on it to help me, but at a comfortable height for me to work. We have a farmhouse table that we use for eating on. If I remove all the chairs so the little darling can’t jump from floor to chair to table this might work. The plan is to lay the shawl out flat on the table and slowly rip out the offending rows. The life line will be threaded on the yarn needle ready to catch all the little stitches at the correct row. The correct row will be marked with a removable stitch marker. This is my dream, at least.

Before I attempt this operation I am going to meditate and do some deep breathing exercises. I want to be in the proper frame of mind and relaxed. In the meantime, Yarn Rascal has been stalking the area where the shawl resides in its crumbled mess. He senses something big is going to happen. Wish me luck.

I say this, not to antagonize the knitting-gods-that-be, but my current lace shawl project is not as masochistic as it could be and I am instead constantly thinking about undertaking a real Shetland Shawl project. Hence the next debacle project on my needles will be the Cameron Shawl by Susan Miller created on US 3 needles in lace weight Shetland yarn. It’s the kind of yarn that doesn’t rip back at all.

the-cameron-shawl

Let me clarify what I mean by “not as masochistic as it could be”. I still have three full lace charts to work in which anything that can go wrong probably will go wrong. I have, for instance, ripped out the current row of 500 plus stitches three times, only to make yet another mistake so it’s up to four rip backs. I have been so tense relaxed while knitting this particular chart that I have gotten lymphedema in my left arm (the mastectomy side) which has made me lose three days of knitting in order to lessen the swelling. Those days were given over to specific arm exercises, lymphedema massage to help drain the fluid, and wearing a lymphedema sleeve that fits so tight that it activates my claustrophobia and sends me into a panic state. Still, I am determined to take on the Cameron Shawl.

Why? Because I want to move out of my comfort zone in knitting. I want to test and expand my lace knitting skills and I have always thought a Shetland Lace Shawl is a true test of one’s knitting prowess. The only way for me to grow as a knitter is to keep moving beyond what I am comfortable with and know about. Yes there will be mistakes, perhaps even tears and a lot of frustration, but I think it will all be worth it (in a kind of nervous breakdown way) to learn something new and challenge my skills to step it up a notch.

I don’t knit to be bored. I like to be excited with what is being produced by my yarn and needles. I think this Cameron Shawl will shake things up a bit. For now, the work is on the current shawl which needs a few rows ripped back because I really don’t know what happened on the left hand side of the spine but it doesn’t look like the right hand side. After I get that figured out, I’ll be rolling like a steamboat on a river.

MIL Shawl Done

Knitted lace looks so much better after it is blocked. The MIL stole is done and was sent to her just in time for her birthday.

estonian garden shawl knit 1

She loves the Estonian Garden Shawl. This was knit with MadelineTosh Lace in the Antique Lace colorway.

estonian garden shawl knit 2

As always with MadelineTosh yarns I loved working with it. While it looked like a hot mess before blocking and I wasn’t sure I’d chosen the right color, all that uncertainty faded away when blocked.

estonian garden shawl knit 3

The nupps were not difficult at all. The key to nupp making is when wrapping the yarn around the needle wrap it gently by just laying it over the needle. Then on the reverse side when it comes to purl 5 together it is easy to slip the needle into the stitches and accomplish the nupp. This way the nupp is neither too tight nor too loose.

I am currently working on my sister-in-law’s shawl. I am using MadelineTosh Light, a heavier yarn weight than the lace in the Happiness colorway which is exclusive to Happy Knits yarn shop in Portland Oregon.

pothos knit shawl

This is the third project I’ve used this colorway on and I just love it. If happiness were a color this would be it.

Although the project looks like a hot mess it is just in need of a blocking. The shawl is Pothos by Anne Hanson.

I know I have been quiet lately, but a lot has been going on in the background with the health of my parents.

Anyway…today’s masochistic knitting question: When is a lifeline not a lifeline? Answer: When it’s holding the incorrect number of stitches due to missed yarnovers and decreases. How to prevent this? Always count your stitches before you move your lifeline.

Happy

I almost hate to write this because it seems like I am taunting the powers-that-be, but maybe if I whisper it they won’t hear. Things are going well.

The big beige thing that is the MIL shawl is nearing the end. The nupps are no longer giving me problems and I seem to be in rhythm with the pattern. (Please note all of this is subject to change if the powers-that-be catch on.) I worked 20 rows last night of nupps, central decreases and yarn overs and didn’t drop or add a stitch, nor did I need to rip back. It was amazing. I was at peace with the knitting and the knitting was at peace with me just like in the old days.

News from the great outdoors: Hank the great blue heron is back. I thought of Hank all winter long. At Christmas time I bought him a present. Two heron statutes showing herons in their two most common stances. I call the statues Orville and Wilbur. They have been alternating duty at the pond. I only place one of them at a time down there because herons are solitary and wouldn’t be in a group. Religiously through out the day I change where the statue is positioned around the pond.

Well Hank dropped in the other day and was quite taken aback by the heron statue. I believe it was Wilbur who was on duty. Hank landed quite a distance from the pond and just stared at the intruder. This gave me the opportunity to chase Hank by rattling the keys on my key chain. Yes, he doesn’t like the sound that keys make when clinked together! Today, Orville is on duty.

So for now I am as happy as a raccoon who’s found left over pizza in a garbage bin.

What are nupps? Nupps are a group of knit ones and yarnovers made into a single stitch. On the wrong side row these knit ones and yarnovers are purled together in groups of 5 or 7 stitches and made into one. When done properly they form a neat stitch cluster. In reality they are not hard to produce, though their reputation is one of difficulty. A relaxed tension and a focused mind is all you really need.

However, relaxed and focused are not natural to masochistic knitting. Before knitting a 100 plus stitch row that includes nupps, central decreases and lace be sure you are thoroughly distracted. It can’t be emphasized enough that the distraction level must be so great that when you look at what you’re knitting you don’t have a clue as to where you are in the row or for that matter what row you’re even on. In short, the knitting looks alien to you.

Such a preoccupied state of mind can be achieved in many ways. Having someone dear to you ailing while you await a call back from the doctor is a strong mental distraction. At the same time, your adorable fur baby suddenly develops a limp which you are sure means he’s going to loose one leg.  You are now in a holding pattern waiting for doctors and vet to call back, running through your mind again and again what you are going to say to them. For the coupe de grace turn on the television to the news channel.

Now you are sufficiently prepared to pick up your knitting and tackle those nupps, lace and central decreases. When something goes wrong, as it certainly will, it is not a matter of simply tinking back a few stitches. If it is a right side row tinking back a central decrease almost always causes a dropped stitch that you can never find until you rip back to your lifeline. If it is a wrong side row, the chance of successfully picking up the group of five knit ones and yarnovers is about the same as you winning the total jackpot at powerball. Again, ripping back to the lifeline becomes a necessity.

At the end of the evening, exhausted and spent, you have knit only one row successfully. But the fur baby isn’t going to lose his leg. In fact, after the vet called he stopped limping altogether. The ailing loved one is still ailing but now has the proper medication to remedy the situation. And you still have 15 more rows of nupps, central decreases and yarnovers awaiting you tomorrow.

 

I am knitting away on the MIL shawl. Only 88 more rows until I start the first border. MadelineTosh called the colorway Antique Lace. When I first started out knitting it I could see the antique lace color. But now, after a few weeks of knitting only on this shawl, I am beginning to think of it as “the big beige thing”. Don’t get me wrong, it is a beautiful colorway, just when I knit it night after night I lose sight of its beauty.

When I am not fully engaged in knitting that’s when other trouble projects around the house and garden come to my attention. And so it was that I finally decided to redo the caulking around the tub in the bathroom I hate. While knitting on the MIL shawl I have been watching a ton of DIY project shows from renovating the whole house by one’s self to smaller projects like building a tiny home by one’s self. These shows make everything look so doable.

What I really want to do is take a sledge hammer to this particular bathroom and renovate it myself. Since I couldn’t readily put my hands on the sledge hammer, I decided to re-caulk the tub instead. In the DIY television shows caulking takes mere seconds. Reality was a little different.

This is how I caulked my tub. First, pick the initial day of a four day hot and humid streak of weather. The humidity level is what is important here. It must rival or exceed the humidity found in the Amazon Rainforest. In short, the humidity level should be such that nothing will ever dry.

Next, unearth the caulk that’s been hanging around in the basement since the turn of the century and has a long old fashioned ice pick sticking in it’s nozzle that unrealistically technically keeps the caulk from drying up and clogging the opening. Bring that up the four flights of stair to the hated bathroom and despised tub. Sit on the edge of the tub and look at the entire area that needs caulking. Realize the current insufficient caulking must be removed before new caulking goes on. Think about where the tool to remove the old caulking might be. Not having an idea where the tool actually is, put down the caulking gun and walk down four flights of stairs to the basement. The basement is where the tool most likely would have ended up after its last use. Where in the basement is another story entirely.

After two hours and with the tool finally in hand walk up four flights of stairs to the really, really hated bathroom. Sit on the edge of the tub and remove all the old caulking. With the sweat dripping from every pore in your body, it is now time to caulk the cursed tub. Pick up the caulking tube in the caulking gun and try to remove the ice pick from the nozzle. Use every method that comes to mind to try and remove the ice pick. Finally place gun on edge of tub, sit down and brace it with your feet against the tub, use all your body weight to pull the damn ice pick out. When ice pick releases fall backwards and smack head on toilet.

With ice pick removed, squeeze caulking gun with both hands until caulking shows at the nozzle’s tip. Do this repeatedly for about 10 minutes or longer until you completely understand that the caulking is not coming out of the gun. Take a moment to wipe the sweat from your brow while you think about whether you have another caulking tube anywhere in the house. Walk down four flights of stairs to the basement because if there is another caulking tube it is somewhere down there.

Hours later with another caulking tube with an ice pick in its nozzle walk up four flights of stairs  wrestle the caulking tube into the gun. Immediately sit down and brace gun against tub with feet and prepare to yank ice pick out. Position self so head is not aligned with toilet. Grab hold of ice pick with both hands and pull. Ice pick comes out easily. Hope springs eternal.

Squeeze caulking gun with both hands until you’re tired of squeezing. No caulking comes out. Lay back on the cool tile of the bathroom floor and realize you need to go to the hardware store and you look like a mess. Calculate the number of people who you will know who will see you looking like something the cat vomited up. Decide you no longer care, you just want to caulk the @#%! tub.

It is now three days later. The tub has been caulked and the caulking is still drying. Thankfully we have a second bathroom because the caulking may never dry in the despised bathroom. In the meantime, I am still working on “the big beige thing” and watching DIY programs.

 

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