Spinning, Knitting, Crocheting, Organic Gardening, Living off-grid, and chasing sheep - because- I'm, like, NOT SANE!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Radical Stitch Markers Meet the Ice Queen

stitch markers, ice queenTechnically, I should still be knitting away on the sweater and pair of socks I owe my people from my otherwise completed goal of 3 sweaters, 4 pairs of socks, mitten and calorimetry set, neck gaiter for thing 2's birthday, and a hat for thing 3. Considering I'm only a sweater and pair of socks in the hole - I think I'm doing okay, huh? So, I've indulged the hungry lace beast within and started my Ice Queen. And I love it.

I'm totally thrilled with the yarn and I don't even feel bad bragging that it is mine. I've recently changed my yarn base for lace to Zephyr. I'll still offer merino from time to time but I've been won over by the delicious mixture of soft merino and tussah silk. Also, because my heart belongs to my dyepots with far more passion than my hands belong to knitting - I love to dye it. Talk about ecstasy. You get the lustre of the silk, the softness of the merino, and the brilliant true to color dyeing that silk and cotswold have spoiled me on forever. This is my 'mermaid' colorway. Honestly, did you think I'd call it anything else?

I was slow coming into the knitterly love affair with lace but, now that I'm here, I think I'll be staying a while. Whilst knitting away on the wimple last night, I discovered something about stitch markers that I realized I hadn't with my other dk and over knitting projects - the importance of the virtuous nature of a stitch marker is magnified greatly whenst knitting lace. Little cracks and crevices that a fingering yarn would balk at are the envied spot of temptation for a slick, thin lace yarn. So, then and there, I realized that jump rings are right out. I stopped using them a while ago anyway but some of my older pairs have the jump ring and, somehow, the lace yarn kept getting hitched in that impossibly narrow space between the rings.. Urgh...talk about the perpetual heart attack. The lace gets stuck, you feel a tug, you panic, and then you have to gently try to feed the yarn back through the loop - all the while sweating bullets hoping that the edge will not snap the yarn. Wire ends? Better make sure you have them all tucked in. That makes the little folded-four loop of wire that is so popular for finishing the marker out as well. You should know - Lace yarn seems to WANT to betray you and yet - the stitch marker is your only hope in lace knitting. Sure, the pattern 'casually' mentions that you can opt to place stitch markers between each repeat or, WHAT? Not? That implies far more confidence for said lace knitter to keep the work even and steady than I like to assume I'll have on a regular basis. Sometimes, the stitch marker is the essence of your eventual failure or success. So, one that traps your yarn or lets it move over can not only drive you crazy with frantic worry about the health of your yarn - but can DECEIVE YOU into thinking you are knitting incorrectly.

A traitorous stitch marker is the entire drive train of evil.

A traitorous stitch marker is the reason you can't be spotted reaching behind a shelf of ugly tissue boxes at your local box store without having a clerk shout at you, run over panting and straightening the blue vest, and remind you that you are NEVER, NEVER under any circumstances to stand on the bottom shelf, lift yourself onto it, move boxes of 'front' over, and reach to the back to get another box. He goes on to tell you that it is all for your benefit that he chastises you so with the confidence that only a person who could be your child would have when getting an opportunity to judge a mother, and that you could get hurt (and sue us he thinks but does not say as he hands you the ugly striped box that was in the front, next to the tulip printed one that makes you want to puke). And, you're already sick and snotty so who wants to puke, too? You hate yourself for ever caring what the hell the box that holds the tree dust that you will wipe your snot on and then throw away looks like anyway but the truth is - you do care. You just want a cozy, calmly decorative box to sit next to you while you sneeze, cough, and generally feel like the universe is slapping you around for the fun of it. And, now you're stuck with the ugly box still and the youthful employee sneering at you and you wonder what the hell freedom even means anymore.

Some might say screw a decorative stitch marker and resign themselves to a simple plastic ring. Okay, let me just admit right here that I've tried that and it is just no good. I am a child of the seventies and my limited attention span needs all the help and inspiration it can get - especially when knitting lace. I confess that there have been those endless strands of stockinette, also, for things like sweaters, shrugs and the like during which I have actually looked forward to the shiny pleasure of a pretty bead coming round the bend to wake up the ole eyes a little. And, with the stitch marker being such a commanding force for keeping lace repeats in line, I just can't let them off the hook that easily and resign myself to stress (will lace ever be something I knit without having the hairs on the back of my neck raise and my pulse quicken with even the slightest hint that I may have made an error?) and boredom at the same time. Some people need porn - I need the stitch marker to be pretty. Preferably in a matching the project sort of way because in addition to being impractical and erratic - I am also slightly neurotic about colors getting along with each other - or declaring open war- depending on the circumstances.

stitch markersSo, a good stitch marker for lace, in my humble opinion and through my devoted study and interpretation - has the following characteristics:
1. the head pin is out. Even at the bottom of a smooth, round bead, it lures your yarn to wrap around it and dang near gives you a panic attack as you pull the stitches over and hear or feel it snag on your yarn. A smooth, wire bent loop that ends and is slightly crimped to itself is much better.
2. Not too long. Ugh, I know - I like a sort of bar hag stitch marker myself - a little showy with at least a few beads but the lace convinced me otherwise.
3. No jump rings (see above).
4. No wire ends (even bent over) that show or hang above or around the marker.
I solved this by first making a loop with my wire and then feeding the wire over a needle sized dowel and back through the loop. Add beads. Then, make another loop at the bottom and slightly crimp it so the ends touch completely. I needed a 'round marker' and found the long, 2 beaded markers to catch no matter what I tried so I put this gaudy coin on the marker and satisfied the inner Texas trailer park child within as well as using something big and smooth that the yarn can't easily wrap around.

spinningOh, and it being Sunday and all, I couldn't leave without showing off some spinning. This isn't a sweater's worth but with over 1000 yds - it ain't mittens either. I look at it as a very good first step to that goal of a sweater's worth twice a month. On the bobbins, now? Some of our 'Lady of the Lake' batts that I'm spinning up into a sock yarn. If I didn't have so much knitting to to already I'd ditch everything, ply up what I've spun so far, and cast on the socks that will surely be for me, me, me! The red stuff was just me being my usual deviant self and straying off into the land of rose red, pink, and purple until they realized I was a geek and threw me out. Merino, tencel, and silk are my excuses for trying in the first place - what would you have done? I hate it when I spin a yarn that is super soft, super balanced, plied evenly, and perfect in every way except that the color is such that I would look utterly trashy in it.

Again, thanks so much for the kinds offers for a gift package for my friend, Lisa who lost her home in a fire just days before the holidays. Some packages have already come in and I will be posting pics when the whole thing is done so as not to spoil the surprise. Let me just say that from what has already shown up - ya'll are some awesome human beings! I hope to have the package out by Jan. 7th so please try to let me know if you won't be able to get your stuff mailed by then and I'll wait. Thanks isn't enough....but thank you anyway!