Monday, October 3, 2011

Switching Gears for Nerd Wars

YIKES!! Nerd Wars is upon us.

News bulletin: I have joined Team Rangers (i.e. the Babylon 5 contingent) for Tournament 3 of Nerd Wars on Ravelry, which will run from now until the end of the year with three rounds of one month each. NW is full of mischief and mayhem, with tons of chitchat on the Ravelry forums. Teams compete for points in six different categories (technical, team spirit, giving geeks, scientific, intellectual, and nerd culture), with a challenge tied to each category in each round. It's also possible to take on a larger project in one category over the whole length of the tournament. That's aptly called a dissertation and, if completed, is worth many points for the team. I have a lovely sweater in the works that will be a technical tour-de-force if I can pull it off. At any rate, the need to track all my various NW projects in real time lends a whole new urgency to the blogging process.

Yet a good deal of 'ketchup' still remains. Under these circumstances my valiant scheme to finish removing the backlog before pressing forward simply won't work. I need to switch gears and start blogging in two directions at once. So I will continue to hammer away at the retrospective checklist whenever time allows, but meanwhile I will also begin tracking the latest WIP's.

And so it begins...

Monday, August 15, 2011

Sic transit gloria mundi.

[[ Dear Reader: I'm afraid everything around here is still smothered in ketchup. Please be patient, as we continue to dig our way out from under the backlog, and be sure to check the Table of Contents (left) to catch any ephemeral posts that you may have missed in all the hullabaloo. ]]

The next item on my "ketchup list" is the American Beauty shawl by BadCat Designs, which I managed to finish just in time to wear it to church on Easter Sunday. We had fun doing an outdoor photo-shoot in the April sunshine (see left).

But two days ago, when I brought out the shawl because I was getting ready to write about it, I had a nasty shock: the drawer where it was kept had been invaded by carpet beetles!! Thankfully, other hand-knit items in the vicinity seem to have been spared, and (before anyone asks) the Princess Shawl and WRS were both tucked away safely elsewhere, but American Beauty was badly damaged, perhaps even beyond repair. The little buggers seem to have a definite taste for fine merino, because they zeroed in on that one piece and basically left the others alone. So far as I know, the little wrist-warmers mentioned in this post from over year ago were the only other casualty.

As typically happens where insect larvae have feasted on a piece of wool, parts of the fabric simply fell apart in my hands (see right). It was hideously upsetting, of course, but I resisted the impulse to throw the whole thing away in despair. The shawl in its present form is probably too far gone, but I may be able to salvage the gorgeous fuchsia yarn for eventual reuse. I won't know for sure until I examine it more closely with dispassionate eyes. For now it's in a plastic bag in our spare freezer, along with the entire contents of the drawer where the infestation occurred. If cold does not actually kill the bugs, it should at least make them go dormant. Meanwhile I've ordered some pesticide strips that are designed for enclosed spaces, so the next step will be to seal all the infected items in a big plastic bin and let the chemical (DDVP) go to work. None of the other dresser drawers showed signs of insect activity, but as a precaution I sent EVERYTHING that I could through the laundry. Oh my, but *that* exercise is not for the faint of heart...

At any rate, because of what has happened, and in deference to the inevitable period of mourning, I am not going to dwell on the completion of this project anymore. That would feel distinctly morbid somehow (although Matthew 6:19 comes to mind, of course). But though the loss is undeniably a bitter one, in the last 48 hours my outlook has already shifted toward the positive, because I can see a shiny silver lining.

As much as I love the Rose Whisper with its wide range of color, done just by varying the saturation of a single dye, the dramatic shading turned out to be too intense and overpowering for the delicate lace of this particular design. At first there were just little flecks of the darker color, which I really liked. But then wider bands and blotches started to appear. It all blends together visually, but the larger rose motifs at the shoulders are mostly drowned out in the noise and confusion, which made me very sad, because they are truly magnificent (see left).

So at some point I think I would like to try knitting American Beauty again, but this time with more of a solid color. I have already done some preliminary yarn hunting over the Internet. For you know what they say: when the going gets tough, the tough GO SHOPPING!! Best therapy in the world, methinks, and it's free for now, as long as I don't actually buy anything. :-)

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Eomer Shield Tam

I was fortunate enough to participate in my first ever test-knit this spring: the Eomer Shield Tam by designer KYMaggie. It was a terrific experience!! Using several shades of KnitPicks Palette from my stash (mostly leftovers or unused colors from the Bunny Mittens), I got to indulge my love for Celtic scrollwork, not to mention The Lord of the Rings, and to put all my academic proofreading skills to good use in service of the fiber arts, especially to ensure that the line-by-line written instructions accurately mirrored the complex chart.

The design was based on an unused concept drawing for Eomer's shield from the LOTR movies. It is knitted seamlessly in-the-round, starting with a band of corrugated ribbing for the brim, followed by a colorwork panel running underneath the crown, and then the crown itself, worked inward toward the center.

I had great fun with this project, and enjoyed learning new techniques for combining stranded colorwork with cables. The colors kept weaving over and under each other, to create an intricate embossed texture reminiscent of fine metallurgy. There was marvelous attention to detail throughout. The one element that I found slightly tricky was the motif similar to a fleur-de-lis that appears at the four cardinal points where the brim meets the crown, but it came out beautifully by carefully following the detailed instructions. Past that point, it was incredibly smooth sailing to the end. For some reason the magic of blocking a tam on a dinner plate never seems to grow old for me. I love how this piece turned out, and it fits great.