Monday, December 29, 2008

Quenya Travel Cap

I made this Quenya Travel Cap for my friend Deike — it's another in a series of LOTR inspired knits... and a late Christmas gift. Deike and Dave Benjoya lead the German Language Studies Group at Freddy's Bar. Quenya is the Grey Elvish language created by Tolkein. So far no one has started a Quenya Language Studies Group, it might conflict with a Tengwar Poetry Slam.

This Elven travel cap fits perfectly under a bike helmet or any plate or scale armor helmet for that matter. All Elven-kind should have one of these when setting out to travel into uncertain weather. This Chulo-style cap is similar in structure to the Mercury Cycling Cap, but it sits much looser on the head. The sides are knit down from the center strap converging into long (20") three-plait braids.

These are Deike’s favorite color: chocolate, steel gray, and saffron. I used the four-plait cable as a theme. It’s a simple and effective pattern that sits well on a garter ground. The ear flaps tie over the head or around the back, or under the chin.

Rosie and James are always up for a quick hat demonstration. Rosie Rebel is a sketch comedienne in New York's new vaudevillian scene. She works with James at Prospect Perk Cafe.

The saffron bullion marks the back of the hat. I added frog-buttons at the bottom of each ear flap as another way of joining the flaps closed, other than just tying the straps together. These are Deike's favorite colors: chocolate, steel gray, and saffron.

I wanted the top to look like burnished metal plate armor and the sides to look like aged leather so I used cold gray Debbie Bliss "Alpaca Silk" for the braided center strap and a heathered brown Berroco "Peruvia" for the sides of the hat. I have no idea what brand the DK saffron colored yarn is. I know it's made from cashmere and wool. I only had enough to make small well-placed details.

The saffron bullion is a 3/8" plastic button with a crochet slip stitch cover. It gives the button more substance and it stops the peak from curling upwards. Although it's intended to sit on back, Rosie pointed out it looks more humorous when worn on the front. I just think it looks real dorky that way, but to each his own.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas Time Was Here

Stephanie and I made Christmas dinner for her parents. They ordered a Walbaum's Turkey dinner — 10 lb. turkey, mashed potatoes, cornbread stuffing, and gravy. I watched "A Christmas Story" and "Babes In Toyland" with her parents while Steph got everything in the oven. Dinner was ready near the end of "A Christmas Story." I've actually never seen either movie all the way through. Steph set the table while I ground a new edge on the carving knife. Dinner was perfect with very little effort. How can anyone beat that? Steph made a chocolate pound cake for dessert. After the gift exchange I carved and packed the turkey away for her parents, but we took some of the left-overs for sandwiches. Soon we were off again. We caught the LIRR back to Brooklyn in time for Riley and Marlene's Christmas party in Bed-Stuy.

Marlene made a Hungarian vegetarian goulash with home made spätzle egg dumplings — it was unbelievably delicious. It really tasted like pork! But for good measure Riley made a baked ham. The apartment was packed with people... Dave, Bill and Margie, Owen and Stephie, Morgan, Matt and Adrianne, Shuhei, Pat and Ellen, Ian and Millie, the two cats, a baby... etc. the Holidays seem to be the only time I get to catch up with friend's, although the conversations are always brief and fleeting.

A few beer-runs later, the party came to an end. Five of us got a ride back in Owen and Stephie's car. It was a bit crammed. The people who were waiting for us to pull out of teh parking space laughed as Owen climbed into the back hatch. An idea formed en route "Let's go to Freddy's for a night cap!" Not a bad idea, but it was so packed in there it was un-enjoyable. So in the spirit of Christmas we all walked down the street to O'Connor's.

It was quiet, the crowd was at human scale — 11 people, maybe less. Young Mattie was bartending, nice fella. So we had our last beers and a toast. Adrianne reminded us about her birthday party on Sunday, also known as the bad movie festival. Sunday's featured flick will be "Cool As Ice" starring Vanilla Ice. I think last year's movie was "Glitter" with Mariah Carey. By the time Stephanie and I got home it was around 4:00 am. It's amazing how that last beer turns into a few more. Steph looked through her bag and said "Crap, I left the turkey in Marlene's fridge." Riley and the cats will have a a much deserved treat.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Knit PH at Freddy's: Dec. 20, 2008

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn had their annual Holiday Bash at Freddy's before our Knit Night. The question was "So who's going to clean up this mess?" his question wasn't about the party it was about the disaster area created by Forest City Ratner now that the Atlantic Yards Project has reached a (permanent) stall due to lack of funding.

Food, family and neighborhood solidarity — Scotty and JP lead the caroling along with Chris Owens and son(s). The Manson Family Picnic gave us a show. Our District (#35) Council leader Leticia James popped in. She got a chance to see Dan and Shabnam's new baby... Shab joined Knit PH recently, she's making hats for baby Seeta. What a beautiful baby girl.

Marina and I were the first of Knit PH to show up since we're both active with DDDB. She's working on beautiful headband/neck warmers that she designed. She did well at the Lyceum craft show. Soon the party was over and Knit PH popped in.

Alexandra was the first to arrive, she had a beer out front while Marina and I cleared the tables, except for the tray of rugelach of course. Soon everyone else popped in with Christmas gift in progress Sarah, Marci, Victoria, Tracey... Adrienne joined our group recently. She met us at Prospect Perk at our last MeetUp.

Victoria brought some carob-coated "M&Ms" from the food co-op. Similar to Fig Newtons, they're always a bit stale, but I like them. Tracey vowed to finish the ribbed scarf she started last winter, I worked on a present for Stephanie, and Adrienne... a pair of gloves and a hat for her hubby. Over snacks and beer, we got onto the topic of Hanukkah. Marci says it isn't an Orthodox Jewish holiday so she doesn't celebrate it. We also had the usual conversation: patterns, knitting tips, Christmas gifts, the sagging economy... etc.

Celebrities who knit and male knitters are very worn-out topics. We seemed to hit a stride with of knitting in movies. Marina brought up the Tita's fantastically long trailing shawl from "Like Water for Chocolate" (1993, Alfonso Arua), Some one pointed out that it was crocheted. Adrienne brought up Edith Piaf knitting in "La Vie en Rose" (2007, Olivier Dahan). I mentioned a few: "Fargo," "Witness," and "Shipping News." Cartoons often use the imagery of knitting to anticipate the arrival of a newborn. But in cinema it's always used as a metaphor that anticipates tragedy or comedy. Here are some of my observations.

Dancing At Lughnasa
(Pat O'Connor, 1998)
One would think that a movie with the word dancing in the title would be a feel-good flick. Not so in this film. Brian Friel's stage play comes to life on the screen. Kate (Meryl Streep) is the family wage-earner in the small Irish town of Ballybeg, Donnegal. The cast of characters are united when their older brother, a priest, returns from Africa after mental breakdown.

Five unmarried sisters feel the financial impact as Kate, the eldest, loses her teaching job. Their eight-year-old nephew redsicovers his father, but says goodbye as he leaves to fight the war against Franco. The women are forced depend on a meager income knitting gloves. But when a knitting factory opens up-river and the WW2 economy falls apart, their situation grows dire. Two sisters leave Lugnasa to find work and better fortune in England but their lives end in tragedy. Now that's Irish!

Breakfast At Tiffany's
(Blake Edwards, 1961)
This brilliant movie is based on a book by Truman Capote. A former call girl, Holly Golightly (Audrey Hepburn) turns a new leaf as she attempts domesticity. She's learned to knit and cook. An old flame Paul Varjak (George Peppard) reunites with her one last time before she leaves for Brazil. No longer a kept man, he is now a successful writer. Holly is trading her life as an escort for one of a Brazilian diplomat's fiance.

But her tarnished past has returned to ruin her future. As they take an after-dinner stroll Holly is arrested for running messages for the notorious Sally Tomato. Free on bail, Paul picks her up in a cab along with her belongings and her cat (named "Cat").

He informs her that José Luis was pressured by his family to end their engagement. In a fit of rage she throws Cat from the cab, but then regretfully calls out as they search in the rain. I saw this at the drive-in when I was a kid. The whole notion that Audrey Hepburn was a prostitute went over my 4-year-old head and I didn't understand why she threw a cat from a moving vehicle. So how does an Upper East Side prostitute afford a Hubert Givenchy/Pauline Trigere wardrobe anyway?

How To Succeed In Business
(David Swift, 1967)
J. Pierpont Finch (Robert Morse) climbs his way to top as a window washer who literally connives his way up the ladder to become VP of Advertising after he buys a book called "How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying".

In the scene above, Finch curries favor with his boss by pretending to share the big man's passion for knitting. "You know Mr. Bigley, I feel sorry for men who don't knit. They lead empty lives." "I find that knitting helps me think more clearly. What are you knitting?" "Uhhh. A bird cage cover." Mr. Bigley actually knit English-style correctly, but Finch knits as if he's tryign to solder yarn with two metal sticks. I like Robert Morse, he has a face built for comedy.

Mr. Lucky
(H.C. Potter, 1943)
Hilarity ensues in the 1943 comedy "Mr. Lucky." Notorious gambling magnet Joe Adams (Carey Grant) dodges the draft by assuming a dead man's identity not knowing that the deceased was a wanted felon. Desperate to skip town Adams and his thugs scheme a beautiful society woman, Dorothy (Laraine Day) and her women's War Relief charity ball. He even feigns an interest in knitting blankets for soldiers, but eventually he comes clean and they fall in love.

Broke Back Mountian
(Ang Lee, 2005)
As dutiful wife Alma Del Mar (Michelle Williams) occupies her time knitting, her husband Enis (Heath Ledger) reunites with an old sheep ranching buddy, Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal). Little does she know that the wool is being pulled over her eyes as both men were not in fact tending the flock. And we all know what happened to Heath Ledger. Very sad.

(Joel & Ethan Coen, 1996)
As Jean Lundegaard (Kristin Rudrüd) knits quietly she is unaware that her husband Jerry (William H. Macy) has arranged for her kidnapping in order to get her wealthy father to pay for her ransom.

Two bungling thugs, Carl (Steve Buscemi) and The Swede, Gaer Grimsrud (Peter Stormare), are hired to do the deed. The darkness of a small "Minnesota nice" town is realized when plans go awry and a killing spree ensues.

In this slow-chase abduction scene, a suburban calm is broken. Jean Lundegaard knits while watching TV wearing her pink jogging suit and house slippers. Then from the sliding glass door she sees a masked man. He starts pounding on the glass as she curiously stairs but continues to knit. After about a minute of pounding the glass door finally shatters.

She screams and throws her knitting to the floor and runs for cover. A second masked man enters and at a zomblie-like pace they follow her upstairs. She bursts through the bathroom door running past them with a shower curtain over her head. She screams hysterically, tumbles down the stairs and knocks herself unconscious. "Fargo" is one of my favorite Coen Brother's movies along with "Raising Arizona."

The Happening
(M. Night Shyamalan, 2008)
Elliot Moore (MarkWalberg) and his wife Alma (Zooey Deschanel) run for their lives in a battle against nature and man. This comic vignette demonstrates the correct way to deal with catastrophy: put on a gas mask and make a sweater. But as with most Shyamalan cinematic adventures. Movie Spoiler:  Nothing really happens in "The Happening."

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Green Ranger: A Hooded Scarf

No paladin or blade-carrying warrior should be without proper outerwear, especially when stalking the enemy in winter. This is Green Ranger, a long hooded scarf. It's one in a series of LOTR inspired knits. This is a late birthday/ on-time Christmas gift for a friend who is an aspiring Elven Thief. Ori, one of the partners at Prospect Perk Cafe, was kind enough to show it off for me.

Green Ranger is made from 6 balls of Louet "Riverstone" (bulky, 165 yds per skein) and one ball of Filtes Filati "Extra" (bulky, 99 yds per ball). The hood took the longest to figure out. The hood's facing has a sewn hem construction for stability, otherwise it flops around the face too much — which makes it difficult to handle bladed and bow weapons.

I made the top of the hood with "Extra" — it softer on the skin than "Riverstone." Green Ranger is knit from the hood down. Expanding symmetrically into a back panel, which is wide enough to cover the back like a small capelet. Mirrored cables flank the center of the back panel over a mossy ground.

Both moss scarf panels are each about 4 feet long, finished with simple 4-plait braids. It's long enough to wrap over the shoulders and back to the front.

This garment is part hoody, scarf, and Balaclava, but I don't think anyone will remember a name like hood-scar-clava. It's very warm. By the way, I also made that green dragon head on the wall.

Are there any lady Rangers out there? I've met only a few. Although Green Ranger is intended to be a man's garment, Anastasia, one of our Knit PH members proved us wrong. She suggested that it needs a clasp or a button at the neck, for security when evading rogue LARPers while skulking through a bog. Women really know how to wear scarves.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Knit At Perk: December 09, 2008

I tried to air out the smell of wet alpaca and cigarettes from my apartment before I set out to Perk. I also forgot where I put my camera battery after I charged it, probably under some pile of yarn or semi-organized stack of paper. So no pictures at Perk this month as we enter "The Gifting Season", doesn't that sound like a horror movie starring Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen?

"Because we live in an age of... what do you call it?" Lisa asked me in mid-sweater "Douche-bagness?" Anastasia, a print designer, is a new Knit PH member. She mentioned a cultural rift with her pier group and their burdened sense of entitlement. It might be for the fact that she's Russian and most of our white collar Americans are douche bags. "We live in an age of douche-baggery." I replied, and she nodded. I didn't even want to mention ass-hattery, which involves a life-time supply of anti-depressants and supporting your child's poetry hobby well into his late-30s. Anyhow, we're all working on Christmas gifts. Hooray.

Eliza, started her plum sweater over after realizing she was working on smaller needles at the Flatbush Stich n' Bitch in Midwood. A beautiful Cascade Tweed in deep plum — that's worth frogging and starting over. I worked on my moss green LOTR hooded scarf. It seems as if I've been working on this thing forever, ripping it out and re-writing the pattern, ripping it out again... etc. At one point this thing was just too heavy to wear. I re-did the top of the hood in a lighter-weight wool (Filtes King "Extra"), but kept the rest in Louet "Riverstone." It keeps getting bigger, but how long can I keep pushing this Sysiphus-size ball of yarn up a hill?

Naomi is also a new member, she lives in Greenpoint. She braved the G train to knit with us. She wrote me earlier about a Berroco sweater with confusing instructions. After reading the instructions for the left front panel we figured that the first two instructions didn't apply to her size. But the increase v. decrease instructions for the neck and arm went to hell! Eliza took a stab, she's made a few Berroco items. Then she rolled her eyes and shook her head, just as we both did. To add insult to injury, the instructions for the right panel read "mirror the left panel."

Epilogue: We all confirmed that the Berroco instructions are confusing but the sweater on the model looks simple.

Naomi performs in a traveling stage production called "Piaf, Love Conquers All." Piaf was a tricoteuse and a chanteuse. I asked if she knits as Piaf on stage. She said no, but there is a scene where she descends into madness and rips out a sweater. A frogging frog? So before each performance Naomi has to re-knit the same sweater — more like Penelope than Piaf.

Robin arrived at around 8:40 pm. On Tuesday nights she knits with her mother in Queens. I'm amazed she still had the energy after that. She took off her hat and revealed a new short afro. "What happened to your dreads?" I asked. She took out a hat in progress "Brother, I don't even wanna get into that." I reminded her that I still have all the cotton/silk yarn she gave me before she left for Micronesia two years ago.

Soon it was time to go. Eliza asked about my Eskimo Pie hat, I have the hat pattern written down somewhere, I just have to find out where I filed it. I made this Waffle Stitch swatch (below) with bulky Icelandic Lopi, "Cranberry". Can you imagine putting something this rough and itchy against your head? This probably explains why Bjork punched that reporter in the mouth at Don Maung Airport: She was too itchy.

I sent Eliza the pattern. I found instructions on a Japanese site that were so confusing that I thought it was "Knitting as a Second Language", KSL? I re-wrote the stitch pattern using the "row" system.

Waffle Stitch
(Multiple of 2+1) For swatch, cast on 25.

R1: (WS) Purl all.
R2: ∗K1, sl1 knitwise; repeat ∗ until last stitch, k1.
R3: ∗K1, move yarn to front, sl1 by inserting right needle through left side of st†, move yarn to back; repeat ∗ until last stitch, k1.
R4: Knit1, k1tbl, until last stitch, k1.
R5: Purl all.
Repeat R2 to R5.

Note: The slipped stitch is right-twisted twice, first on R3† and then again on R4.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

A Still Life with Cat

I have a lot of left-over yarn so I make cat toys for the feline residents at Stephanie's place: Fu Man Chu, Aung San Suu Kyi, and Anne Richards. They lead fairly sedentary lives — I figure if I can't get them to do some sit-ups I can get them to chase something.

The toys get their fare share of wear and tear. One of the orange mice was accidentally tossed through the living room window. Do cat's perceive color? I was told that cat's see with low-chroma vision — which helps them see at night when they seek to pee or barf in your shoes.

I searched the bushes the next morning, but had no luck. I imagine that a dog walked away very excited that it found a cat-scented mouse that fell from the heaven. Considering this is Brooklyn Heights I suspect the mouse was purloined by a puggle, lifted by a labradoodle or confiscated by a cockapoo.

So far the smaller cashmere mice do very well with the cats, as does the fingering-weight alpaca blue sausage. Fu likes chewing on the squid's eyes, but the tentacles confuse him — he prefers the string that's attached to it's head.

The bulky-weight merino blend mice are too heavy to bat around, so Anne Richards (above) enjoys cat-napping with them. She uses them as pillows. Suu Kyi is the most active of the three, but prefers fetching plastic bottle caps to playing with plush toys.