Monday, December 28, 2009

Hello, my name is Django MacDougall

As regular readers will know, music plays a significant role in the TSMK household. So much so in fact, that some of us - while no doubt under the influence of Euterpe – will forget to wear clothes.

We’ve yet to come across a musical genre that wasn’t liked by at least one member of the family. My tastes are all over the proverbial map and, actually, if they were to be plotted on a map I think I’d be able to identify at least one favorite artist or style from six continents, and many regions within. I say six not because I’ve affirmatively ruled out Antarctica, but rather because I don’t think I’ve yet come across any music from that area. Who knows - one day I may hear a recording of some particularly syncopated stylings from a group of Aptenodytes forsteri and then I’ll be able to claim victory on all seven.

One of my long favorites is gypsy jazz. I can listen to recordings of Stéphane Grappelli, Django Reinhardt and the like for hours on end. It makes great accompaniment for knitting, reading, playing with the kids, enjoying a hand-rolled cigar or drinking a fine glass of just about anything. My only trouble with the genre is that it makes me somewhat inadequate. For most of his career, Reinhardt had the full use of only three fingers (well, two fingers and a thumb) on his left hand. And yet his fretwork is lithe, fluid and blindingly fast. I have full function of all my fingers, but can’t play the transcriptions of his solos (although I don’t play guitar to pay the bills – I might be better if that was my day job. Alternatively, I might starve).

Although I will concede that it doesn’t make for terribly good music to knit by, I also enjoy bagpipe music. I’m not sure why. Perhaps my affinity for the bagpipes is linked to whatever genetic flaw causes me to also enjoy the banjo. In any event, my love of the pipes is one which is unshared by Mrs. TSMK or, indeed, by my two oldest boys. It’s too to say whether the baby likes the pipes – but I’m telling myself that he will. The dogs seem something between noncommittal and outwardly hostile toward the music. The cat is aloof.

So with all that being said, I’m pleased to report that on Christmas morning, I rushed downstairs with the children to see what Santa might have brought. This year, Santa brought the children and Mrs. TSMK a number of nice gifts. But he saved the best (in my opinion) for me: a set of highland pipes, a practice chanter, and an instructional book with accompanying DVD. I was in heaven. Mrs. TSMK – not so much – but she is being a good sport.

To accompany the pipes, and yet tip my cap to my enjoyment of gypsy jazz and its predominantly French influence, I decided I needed a new hat. So I looked through some beret patterns, as well as some patterns for tams, and came up with my own design. Here it is in all its glory. It was a quick knit – started on Friday night and finished Sunday morning. I used Cascade 220 for both colors – and then felted it very slightly.

Santa wasn’t the only one who was good to me on Christmas, however, I also received some wonderful knitting stuff from Mrs. TSMK and the kids. Two hanks (one shown) of Plucky Knitter 8-ply cashmere in a light blue, one hank of Plucky Knitter lace weight 50/50 silk/merino (700+ yds!) in a wine color and two hanks (one shown) of Jade Sapphire hand spun Mongolian Cashmere in "Kelp". Plus, a set of ebony circulars and a set of rosewood circulars, and an awesome new book: The Knitter’s Book of Wool by Clara Parks. Now what to make. . .?


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

More Holiday Knitting Haiku

Double-point bamboo
dangles from the working edge
threatens to escape

Nine days 'til Christmas
Coffee streaming through my veins
The clock chimes midnight

Gossamer laceweight
Yarn over, decrease, yarn over
Columns form in thread

Monday, December 7, 2009


‘Twas eighteen days before Christmas. . .

And I’m not even close to finished with my projects. This isn’t new, mind you. Last year I spent a good portion of Christmas Eve trying to finish a Clapotis for Mrs. TSMK. This year, however, I’ve taken on a few more projects, and would really prefer not to be finishing up at the last minute.

So where do things stand?

Well, I have finished two projects, have two on the needles, and have two that I haven’t yet started. Of the two currently in process, one will go quickly. The other, well, not so much. A back of the envelope calculation suggests that I have around 26,000 stitches remaining for that one. I can get it done in time, but if I’m going to get them all done in time, I may need to give up on sleep and matters of general hygiene. At the moment, all of the activity, with relatively little progress, is making me feel a bit like the following fellows, who I managed to spy while picking up brine shrimp to prevent our C. Frontosa from demonstrating their bulimic tendencies:

One thing I’m unable to give up is my proclivity toward haiku, which I often construct while knitting. With that in mind, I offer the following:

Serene enjoyment.
Each stitch a meditation
of life, love and wool.

The Christmas present
slowly slips from my needles.
I need more coffee.

Clicking Addi nines
morph mohair into fabric.
Will she like the gift?


Monday, November 30, 2009

Just another day in Seattle.

Note 1: With the holidays approaching, many of my current projects will not appear on the pages of the blog until after they’re delivered to their intended recipients. If you’re looking for finished objects, please check back after the holidays. In the interim, I’ll continue to blog about knitting and life in general.

Note 2: This post is based on an interaction I previously described on Ravelry. Should you feel you’ve read this story before, you’re probably not imagining it.

A few weeks back, I found myself having a difficult morning at the office. As occasionally happens, everything I touched seemed quickly to turn bad - kind of like the mythical Midas touch, except that instead of gold everything turns to excrement. The kind of affliction that one suspects may have fallen upon George Lucas when you consider that he remade the original Star Wars Trilogy. Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney were perhaps similarly infected when they went individually from recording Sir Duke and Her Majesty to - collectively - Ebony and Ivory.

Rather than see just how wretched things could turn out, I decided to take a break at lunch and remove myself from my office and the pile of things on my desk, and go find a place to knit. But where to go?

As readers will note from my last post, I’m not yet fully out of the closet with my knitting. There are a few folks at work who know, but most do not. I couldn’t very well just go to our lunch room, and the coffee shop downstairs didn’t seem like a good option either.

After a bit of thinking, I settled on the Seattle Public Library. As knitting Seattleites know, the library was designed by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas, and its architecture was the inspiration for Jared Flood’s Koolhaas Hat. Getting a chance to relax and knit in that kind of environment – what could possibly go wrong?

I walked the three or floor blocks from my office to the library, and made my way up to the 10th floor. This is the highest point in the library that is open to the general public, and the floor has an expansive sitting/reading room. The place was largely deserted, except for a few people sitting on the other side of the room. I picked a chair, put my headphones in my ears, and pulled my knitting from my bag.

Less than five minutes in, it happened. While holding a skein GGH Kid Melange and studying the pattern I was starting, I saw her approach. Appearing slightly over five feet tall and in her mid-50s, she didn’t look particularly menacing. She was carrying a backpack, and wearing a long floral dress with the kind of nondescript white sneakers you might expect of someone working as an orderly in an institution. Although I’d seen her initial approach, I focused on my knitting.
She got to within about 2 feet of me, and bent down in order to eliminate any possibility that we might not make eye contact.

“Are you really knitting?” she asked.

“Yes,” I responded.

“Are you British?” she asks.

At this point, many thoughts poured into my consciousness. Several of them were pleasant. Polite even. Unfortunately, however, most of these thoughts were not.

“No,” I said.

“So you’re American, and you’re knitting. Wow. I thought you were British because they’re so into knitwear. I’m reading this book by this British author and they talk about … … .” she frothed.

This continued on for some time. I tried desperately to be courteous. I tried to push from my brain thoughts of using my circular needles as some kind of craft garotte.

Then, unbelievably, things took a turn for the worse. She sat down in the chair next to me. She told me that she likes to make hats. She explained that she doesn’t knit of course, because knitting is too tedious, but she loves to crochet. And of course she complained that she doesn’t use wool because she was forced to wear wool sweaters as a child and all wool is far too itchy. No, she said, she only uses nylon.

I’d seen her hat when she first sat down. It was a tangled mess of novelty yarn, with slubs here and there, in an unremarkable blue color. The window pane design provided innumerable open spaces for her long, stringy and noticeably greasy hair to escape. By the looks of it, whole sections of her hair were attempting to make a break for it.

She opened her backpack and brought out more hats. Lots and lots more hats. Actually, lots and lots of the same hat over and over again, each in a slightly different color scheme. Each was individually and lovingly wrapped in a plastic grocery bag. With each one, she waived it in front of me and then put it on her head to model it. A few times, she told me that a particular hat was more attractive when under or over another hat, and the two would be paired with her unfortunate coiffure in a kind of ménage a crap for my viewing pleasure. Each time, she asked me what I thought of the finished product.

What I thought? I thought I want to put my earbuds back in and try to concentrate on my knitting before I need to head back to the office. That’s what I thought. But of course it isn’t what I said. I was raised right, and attempt to be courteous at all times – even when confronted with a very sweet lady with questionable sanity and reprehensible hygiene who is wielding hats on my lunch break.

Next, she told me of all the other hats she’s made, where she was when she made them, how long they took to make, and who had each one. There were 42 in all (including the ones she showed me). Apparently more than a few went to massage therapists in payment for services rendered.
This lasted for between 25 and 30 minutes. Then, without so much as a word in parting, she sauntered off. I quickly gathered up my belongings, and left the library to return to my office, wondering if there was a cure for my Ebony and Ivory Touch.


Monday, November 23, 2009

Staying in the closet

Note: With the holidays approaching, many of my current projects will not appear on the pages of the blog until after they're delivered to their intended recipients. If you're looking for finished objects, check back after the holidays. In the interim, I'll continue to blog about knitting and life in general.

When I was in high school, I had a friend named Chad. He and I were in a number of school theater productions together. In my senior year of high school we managed to go to state drama festival with a production of Nice People Dancing to Good Country Music - a fantastic one-act show about (among other things) a former nun with Tourette Syndrome. The climax of that show involved my character pitching Chad's character over the railing on the roof of a bar down to the street below.

Chad was a nice guy. He was also different somehow. In many ways he was more like my female friends than my male friends. He wasn't at all into sports, openly wished he could be on the marching band flag corps, and was generally pretty effeminate.

A few years later, the future Mrs. TSMK ("FMTSMK") and I ran into Chad on our mutual college campus. We hadn't seen each other in quite a while, and we asked Chad what was new.

"Well," he said, "I'm gay."

Without mising a beat, FMTMSK said "I know."

"When did you know?" Chad demanded.

"I've always known" FMTSMK responded.

"Why didn't you tell me?" Chad asked.

Clearly, we occasionally fail to see things within ourselves that others notice quite readily. It's a bit like having garlic at lunch and then returning to the office. You may notice that people around you are uncomfortable, but you may not put two and two together and find yourself some Altoids.

So how is this related to knitting? Well, it isn't really. It's actually related to finding yourself in the proverbial closet, and how comfortable you are with coming out. Please don't misunderstand, I don't for a moment equate clandestine knitting with hiding a sexual preference which could (and in many cases and parts of the world) does result in discrimination and mistreatment. Also, I don't mean to imply that homosexuality is an avocation, or even that it is a choice. From my perspective, it seems fairly far-fetched that Chad, for example, would have knowingly chosen to be gay. He and I grew up in the deep south, in a relatively tolerant university town, but that town was in the deep south - in a part of the world where cross burnings still occur. No, I suspect Chad had about as much choice in his being gay as I have in wanting to join the Bacon of the Month Club. Some things are simply innate.

Knitting is a choice. But my own brand of knitting is still a bit secretive. And in that very limited sense I have an understanding of what Chad must have felt when "coming out" to FMTSMK and me. He wanted to make the announcement. He wanted to be in control of the message.

In the last few weeks, I've now had several people "out" me as a knitter. Once was at the office, when a coworker who is aware of my proclivities mentioned my "Fishbonacci" Hat to another co-worker who was previously unaware of this aspect of my life. On another occasion, I had a very sweet lady (a near stranger) ask me for pointers on Jared Flood's Grove mittens while I was sitting on a crowded ferry. She and I had attended the same circle some days before, and I'd mentioned that I'd started (but not finished) the mittens.

In each case, no harm was done. But my anonymity may be waning. For me, that's worrisome. Not so for Chad, who I believe is now fully in the open. He's part of the DC Cowboys.


Monday, November 9, 2009

K1, P1, H1N1

Fall arrived at the TSMK household, and with it the typical cadre of welcome-back-to-school ailments. This year, however, we were pleased to host an especially exciting visitor: the H1N1 "Swine Flu" virus.

The timing couldn't have been much worse. Mrs. TSMK and my two older sons received the live-virus nasal spray on the Wednesday before Halloween. They probably could have received it earlier, but unfortunately none of them currently work for Goldman Sachs.

The day after Halloween (i.e., four days after receiving the vaccine), my oldest boy complained of feeling cold. The thermometer confirmed what Mrs. TSMK's hand had already detected on the boy's forehead: fever. Fever of 102 degrees, in fact. We had a sick kid on our hands. The following day, he stayed home from school, but all else in the house went about business as usual. That afternoon, however, I developed a headache and some mild nausea.

I didn't think too much about my symptoms at that time. After all, it was a Monday, and I often find Mondays to be slightly unpleasant. I powered (ok, staggered) through the day and went home. We put the kids to bed, with the oldest guy still running a fever.

At precisely 11:37 that night, I awoke suddenly. This by itself wasn't unusual. I often awake abrubtly if I've heard an odd noise, or if I suddenly realize that the dog needs to go out. Often, the dog helps me understand this point.

This time was different, however. This time I had a mouth full of vomit. It's funny what goes through your mind when you wake up with a mouthful of vomit. For me, I immediately found myself thinking about John "Bonzo" Bonham. They say that Bonzo died after choking to death on his own vomit.

But was it my own vomit? As any mockumentary fan will tell you, you can't really dust for vomit.

All these thoughts went through my mind as I raced to the toilet, or at least away from the bedroom carpet.

The next five days passed in a blur of sleep, nausea, fever, aches and, strangely enough, knitting. I'd recently finished a hat for a friend's sister, and had a fair amount of the yarn left over. Probably not quite enough for a scarf, but definitely enough for mittens. After looking through some possible patterns, I decided on Cruiser. After making the first one, however, I didn't much care for the way it turned out. Something about the fact that it was far too long, but with an extremely stubby thumb. So, what's left to do but start again, and by doing so potentially make three of a kind.

Today, a full week after attempting my own Bonzo departure, I'm still coughing and showing odd symptoms. My oldest boy is back in school, but the middle son is still out. The baby is on Tamiflu as a preventative measure, which makes him pleasantly sleepy and snuggly but which he doesn't particularly like.
But at least now we have mittens. Shown below are my version of the Cruiser, as modeled by Mrs. TSMK. They'll be delivered to their new owner soon.


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

An open letter to breasts.

I have always loved you. I remember every pair of you I’ve ever seen, whether in person, on film or in print. Some men (and women) believe that you are only beautiful if you adhere to a standard of perfection in terms of proportionality – but they are mistaken. Whether pendulous or perky, small or large, you are all beautiful. Some also believe that you are only lovely if completely natural. They too are mistaken, for there is nothing so lovely as confidence, and if by augmentation your owner feels more confident then you are lovelier as a result.

My first wondrous vision of you is seared into my memory. I was in fifth grade. A classmate’s mother was sunbathing in her backyard. She had removed the top to her swimsuit and was lying on her towel. As we unknowingly entered his backyard, my classmate was instantly embarrassed. I was entranced. I wanted to stay, but this was of course impossible. I knew at that moment that I wanted to see more of you, although I wasn’t sure exactly why.

My second glimpse did nothing to curb my interest. I was visiting my grandparents’ house. A cousin, much older than me, was also visiting and had brought along her infant son. I was playing in the front yard, in a makeshift fort inside a large camellia bush tucked up on the side of the house. I heard a noise from behind me, and turned to see my cousin, inside the house and in the bedroom that adjoined my fort. She was sitting on the bed with her eyes closed. Through the open window I could hear the contented gurgles of the boy as he nursed at his mother’s breast.

I remember vividly the first time I touched you. My date and I had escaped from a dance, only to find ourselves on a deserted baseball diamond. My nervous fingers fumbled at the clasp that held you back. The night was cold but you were magnificent.

This fascination has stayed with me for many years, and I am not alone. I know this because I have heard others whisper tales of exposed skin. I have seen the furtively respectful looks of men who quickly avert their eyes when presented with an unintended glimpse of your complex curves. I have witnessed the lecherous leering of those who seek out such sights. And I have done both of these things.

Your power is immense. Your mere presence can change the nature of polite discourse. When the future Mrs. TSMK introduced me to her father he was eating dinner at the kitchen table, while watching Lethal Weapon 2. At that exact moment, the action of the film gave way to a love scene. You were plainly exposed. And what was my future father-in-law’s response to “Dad, I’d like you to meet [TSMK]”? Unable to avert his eyes from the screen, all he could manage was “That’s a breast!” Even my father-in-law is not immune to your siren song. Fortunately for me, I was able to deflect his comment and save us all significant embarrassment by commenting on the lovely breast of fried chicken sitting in his plate.

Even today, married some 13 years to Mrs. TSMK, I feel giddy when I catch a glimpse of you as she readies for bed. A fleeting image and I am transported back to that afternoon in my classmate’s backyard. A touch and I am again a beardless boy on a baseball diamond. And a vision of my son, eyes closed and pressed against your creamy white skin and I am once again reminded of the smell of camellias.

All of this makes what I need to say to you that much more difficult.

I must give you up.

This is not because I have fallen out of love with you, because I have not. It is because you cannot be trusted. If pain and suffering may be likened to terrorists, then you are Waziristan. You run with a dangerous crowd.

I first became aware of your willingness to harbor criminals when your “friends” claimed the life of my Aunt. My father’s sister, she would have been in her late 40s. Perhaps she might have fared better if you hadn’t so effectively hidden her assailant.

You betrayed BF in her 20s. She’s healthy now, but still bears the scars from the surgeon’s work.

My friend WK’s mom wasn’t so fortunate. She fought mightily, and it actually appeared that she’d win out. But your friends returned. They were stronger the second time around. When they finally won, WK was devastated. That was less than five years ago, and WK has devoted himself to fighting on your behalf and against your friends.

You turned on S (“SoD”) K just last year. She’s healthy now I’m pleased to report, but you could have saved us all a lot of heartache if you’d have just told your friends to stay away.

Now I hear that you’ve been at it again. This time it is my friend SS’s sister. She’s 38, with a husband and young children. Mrs. TSMK likes her very much, and my middle son is friends with her daughter. Why would you allow this to happen? She’s a beautiful person. She didn’t deserve this.

I can’t convince you to change your ways, and I can’t fend off your friends. But I can do what’s in my power to help keep her comfortable. I will help her fight your friends. The doctor tells her she should expect to lose her hair, so I’m making her a hat. The weather has turned cool up here, and she may need a scarf to go with it. Or maybe a pair of mittens. Together, the large number of us who care about her and her family will help give her strength to fight your friends. She will make it though this.

But my relationship with you? Well that is another matter. Keep your friends away from Mrs. TSMK, my mom, my sister and all my friends. And all my friends’ wives, mothers, girlfriends, sisters, daughters. Come to think of it, why don’t your friends just leave us all alone.

I’ll miss you.


Saturday, October 17, 2009

Dangerous appetites

About 15 years ago, I worked for a short while delivering pizzas. It wasn't really a job I wanted, but seeing as I was a college student, every little bit of extra cash helped. Plus, at the end of an evening I could consistently plan on bringing pizza back to my apartment. The pizza would be breakfast, lunch and dinner over the next day or two, helping stretch my food budget that much farther. Since I loved pizza - that last bit seemed like a win-win.

The place was called Road Dogy's Pizza, and I think it has since gone out of business. It wasn't the best pizza in the world, but for a little bit extra they'd also sell you a pie with just the crust and cheeze [Note - cheese : cheeze :: diamond : cubic zirconia], with garlic butter and marinara dipping sauces. For some reason I've always been a sucker for food you dip - a proclivity which I suspect started with Lik-m-Aid candy as a child - and am therefore incapable of resisting cheeze bread with any kind of dipping sauce.

By the end of about a month of doing this, my girlfriend (now Mrs. TSMK) began to complain that my car smelled strongly of pepperoni and other assorted toppings. She was right. And, although pizza delivery was actually more lucrative than I'd expected, I'd already had one uncomfortable run-in with a drunken and chain-smoking woman in her late 50s, wearing a negligee and asking me to step inside for my tip. I've always enjoyed The Graduate, but this lady was no Anne Bancroft. In short, I was beginning to tire of the glamorous world of the pizza delivery driver.

Then, something remarkable happened. The night manager, my boss, struck up a friendship with the night manager of the restaurant next door. That restaurant was a Dunkin' Donuts.

The Dunkin' Donuts was open 24 hours, whereas we closed our doors at 2:00 a.m. As a gesture of good will, and in recognition of the close kinship we shared as purveyors of late night and early morning artery-clogging sustenance to the local student, trucker and/or marijuana-user population, we began to arrange an evening exchange. We would make an extra pizza or two, and deliver it to our friends next door. In return, they would give us a few dozen donuts, which we would split among us as we headed for home. From that day on, I would go home from work not only with a pizza, but also with 6-12 donuts.

The sad fact is that my life hasn't been the same since. I only worked at Road Dogy's for about six months, and the pizza/donut combo diet was only a part of my world for approximately half of that time. But I gained over 35 pounds as a Road Dogy's employee - and over the ensuing decade and a half, I've never quite gotten rid of all the weight.

All this is a long way of saying, you should never try to eat something bigger than your head. At least not in one sitting. It should go without saying, but people frequently forget.

We have a tradition at my office of taking our summer law clerks out to one last lunch toward the end of the summer. Each of them is informed of the amount that the firm covers for reimbursement of summer-clerk lunches, and is then put to work in a contest to see who (if anyone) can eat enough food to actually go over the reimbursement limit. This is, of course, made more difficult by the fact that we take them to Red Robin. As often as not, someone ends up leaving the table to be sick.

Animals forget as well. Who hasn't seen the news article of the Burmese Python found dead in the Everglades after ill-advisely attempting to swallow an alligator. Here at home, we had a similar episode in Mrs. TSMK's fish tank, when our resident Cyphotilapia Frontosa male of approximately 6 inches in length made an attempt to swallow a Neolamprologus Leleupi of the same length. I walked in to the surreal site of seeing 3 inches of south-bound Leleupi sticking out of the mouth of a north-bound Frontosa. Odd. Odder still to see said Frontosa give up, release his grip, and the Leleupi wriggle out and swim away like nothing had happened. Sure, she was missing a few scales, but she's since gone on to successfully spawn in the tank on two occasions.

Fish can be strange creatures, and their willingness to eat anything and everything (unless you're trying to catch them of course, in which they feign anorexia with ease) is a source of constant amazement. It is also a source of knitting inspiration, as with Thelma Egberts' wonderful Fish Hat [dead or alive?] pattern, featured in Knitty last winter. I've just completed one for each of the two older boys. The younger fellow's hat most closely follows the pattern, although I played with the shaping of the fins a bit. The older fellow's hat diverges from the pattern in a number of areas, including the length of the fish, and the shaping of the tail and the fins. Plus, the striping of his hat follows the fibonacci sequence for no apparent reason. Here they are, although the discerning reader will note that the older guy has not yet learned the dangers of large appetites; his donut is bigger than his head.

Monday, October 12, 2009

There is no spoon

In the climax of The Matrix, Neo is finally able to see through the "reality" of what is appearing before his eyes. Instead of seeing Agent Smith he sees a stream of cascading information. He sees that the walls of the tenement building in which the scene occurs are actually luminous bits and bytes of data. And he sees that the bullet that has been fired at him is also data: data which can be manipulated however he sees fit. Neo has finally realized that there is, indeed, no spoon.

Usually, knitting lace is a lot like that scene. Honestly.

It sounds strange, but I typically find that somewhere in the course of a lace project, the pattern suddenly makes sense. I am able to see where I am in the pattern. To see how my current stitch relates to the pattern as a whole, and to see how one change of that stitch might change the pattern in significant ways. This is a kind of epiphany - and I always enjoy the chance to play "Neo with Needles".

Except, of course, for those occasions when the epiphany never arrives.

Unfortunately, that was my experience with the Curved Shawl with Diamond Edging from Jane Sowerby's Victorian Lace Today. Frequent readers of this blog will note that I've complained of this pattern before. The piece is now done, and I'm pleased with the result, but I have to say that I never did have an opportunity to express my inner-Neo with this one. The pattern simply never made sense.

Each individual stitch made perfect sense. Also, each of the rows was relatively straight forward, but the relationship of one row to the next consistently confused me. Partly, I think this is because there really aren't any rows of rest. Most of the lace work I've done has been in either straight stockinette or straight garter stitch - meaning that the wrong side of the work is either straight-across purl stitches or straight-across knit stitches. This pattern is arguably garter stitch in nature, but the wrong-side works a number of yarn-overs and decreases as well. Incorporating those into the work made it very difficult for me to see where I was at any given time within the context of the four-row repeat.
Also, once you manage to get the central section completed, you have the opportunity to work the edging all around the piece. Because the 16-row edging repeat connects to four rows of the central section, this takes quite a while. I managed to frog the edging section multiple times before getting it right.

All that said, I'm pleased with the result, and Mrs. TSMK seems to be as well. It came off the blocking this morning, and she immediately threw it over her shoulders to head out the door.

So, here it is. Curved Shawl with Diamond Edging - done in Plucky Knitter two-ply lace weight cashmere - Color is "Mouse of Madrone."


Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Jenny’s Scarf

Some time ago, my mother sent me an email, telling me how much enjoyed the blog, but posing a troubling question. Her email stated, in relevant part:

“Just a thought - - why is only Mrs. TSMK reaping the benefits of your beautiful work? Why not the TSMK’s Mother?? . . .

I remain
Your unadorned mother.”

What My Unadorned Mother (“MUM”) failed to mention, but which I subsequently pointed out to her, is that she was actually the recipient of one of my earliest knitting efforts, a fuzzy garter stitch scarf made from Trendsetter Blossom yarn (black with red flecks – available here). What I did not mention at the time was that I was already in the process of making her something else.

As frequent readers of the blog already know, I’m a big fan of Nancy Bush’s book, Knitted Lace of Estonia: Techniques, Patterns and Traditions. Long before TSMK’s dog savaged the lace peacock feather and fan scarf, I’d already begun working Bush’s extraordinary Lily of the Valley motif scarf.

By and large, the pattern is fairly easy and straightforward. That said, this piece was my first experience with the misery known as the “nupp.” For the uninitiated, nupps are made by knitting into a single stitch multiple times (typically 5 or 7 times) and then purling all of those newly created stitches back into one stitch on the next pass. The effect is to create a raised bump (more than a purl bump but decidedly less than a bobble) on the right side of the fabric. For someone with my general lack of manual dexterity, successful nupp-execution is about as difficult as playing Bach on the banjo. This difficulty was of course made worse by my choice of yarn: Rowan Kidsilk Haze.

As an aside, I might mention that I’ve now heard Kidsilk Haze referred to as “Kidsilk Crack” on several occasions. While this is an interesting concept, I find myself wondering what serves as the “gateway yarn” which leads you to Kidsilk Haze. As a secondary issue, the cost analogy doesn’t seem to work. Although stunned to find out that there exists such a website, a quick Google search suggests that the street value of crack ranges from approximately $100/gm to $160/gm – depending upon the size of the “rock”. Kidsilk Haze, on the other hand, seems to retail for around $15 for a 25 gm ball, suggesting an overall price of around $0.60/gm. Granted, my source for information about crack pricing is Canadian and my source for information about Kidsilk Haze pricing is US, so there could be some exchange-rate effect going on (or even some manner of nepharious crack and/or Kidsilk Haze arbitrage). Still, given that crack is approximately 166 to 416 times more expensive than Kidsilk Haze, the crack moniker seems overblown – or perhaps I’m just overthinking the issue.

Anyway, I soldiered on with the nupp-laden scarf. After much moral support at my LYS, I achieved détente with this infernal Estonian stitch, and managed to finish the scarf.

But there was a problem. Once finished and blocked, I looked at the scarf and realized it didn’t look anything like something I thought MUM would wear. MUM generally wears things that are brightly colored, and the scarf wasn’t particularly colorful. Also, although it hadn’t occurred to me before starting, I can’t say I recall ever seeing MUM wear lace. . .

So, MUM didn’t get the scarf. I held on to it for a number of weeks. After much thought, I realized that scarf looked a lot like something our good friend Jenny would wear and enjoy. So, one evening when Jenny stopped by the house, I offered her the scarf. That was this summer, and I’m pleased to say that now that our Pacific Northwest has turned cool, she’s had a chance to wear it a few times. In fact, earlier this week Jenny and Mrs. TSMK went to a book club together – Jenny wore the scarf.


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

It sounds better than "Klugman"

In my last post, I mentioned an unanticipated peril of working with cheap yarn. I’d undertaken the original attempt because, after reading the instructions to the Jared Flood’s Quincy pattern in the “Made in Brooklyn” book, I wasn’t entirely sure I understood the construction. Plus, I was honestly a little bit concerned about the name. I mean, seriously, why would you name a hat after Jack Klugman’s intrepid coroner? Honestly, I’m not sure the hat fits the shape of the man’s head.

I thought I’d give the Quincy (a/k/a Klugman) a test run in some especially lousy yarn – get out all the mistakes – and then make one for real. All of this was of course ruined by a bad case of degenerative yarn disorder (or DYD). (

As it turns out, I needn’t have worried about construction. Quincy knits up nicely.

Although I worried a bit about grafting the two ends of the moebius together, and also about picking up the stitches in and around the moebius overlap, it was actually very easy and worked well. The only thing I would change if I made another version in the future is the size needles used for the crown.

The pattern calls for you to use US size 10.5 for the moebius strip and US size 10 double-points for the crown (all assuming you get the appropriate gauge). Candidly, I got a very different feel in my garter stitch between the moebius and the crown. Some of that is related to the needle size. Most of that, however, is probably related to the fact that my double-point knitting tends to be looser (i.e., worse) than when I use circulars (which I prefer and used for the moebius).

Shown below is my Quincy, completed in Rowan Cocoon. Mrs. TSMK has indicated that she approves of the result.


Friday, September 11, 2009

Swatching for Primates

A few weeks back, I attended a class on gauge. The class was split over two Sunday mornings, with homework assigned between the sessions. The homework consisted of preparing two separate swatches (one on size 7 needles and one on size 8) each knit from the same skein of yarn. In this case, each of us in the class was using one of my favorite all-around yarns: Cascade 220. The swatches themselves would consist of a set number of stitches in stockinette (the theoretical number which according to the manufacturer would result in a 4 inch swatch), with a two stitch border of garter stitch on the sides. For rows, we were to simply knit until we had a finished swatch slightly longer than 4 inches.

The point of the exercise was simply to point out that even with the same yarn and operating with the same sized needles, everyone would get a slightly different gauge. Sure enough, in the second class session everyone had a slightly different gauge. My own work was fairly close to the gauge anticipated on the ball band. I attribute this happy coincidence to the fact that I try very hard to use almost no extra tension when knitting - simply laying the stitches in place - although perhaps it was just luck.
I wanted to take the gauge class despite the fact that I really dislike swatching. Strongly. In fact, I'm prepared to say that it is my least favorite part of knitting. All in all, I'd rather spend hours untangling a ball of two-ply lace weight silk yarn ( than spend much time swatching. No, I wanted to get better with my gauge because I'd recently completed a sweater for my not-yet-then-born youngest son. Although I followed all directions in the pattern for the sweater, I failed to check (or perhaps refused to check - given my distaste for swatching) for gauge. The sweater looks nice enough, unless you happen to see the sleeves.

Now, we haven't discussed it before, but it is worth noting that neither I nor any known member of the TSMK extended family is actually an orangutan. It is true that I have occasionally been accused of being slightly too furry. It is also true that my two older sons greatly enjoy playing in trees. Nevertheless there are important chromosomal and morphological distinctions between the members of the TSMK family and most (if not all) orangutans. For purposes of my youngest son's sweater, the most important of these distinctions is in arm length. Orangutans are known to have arms which are occasionally twice as long as their legs. Humans, even if they are members of the TSMK clan, rarely have such an impressive armspan. By failing to check gauge (and adjust as necessary), I had inadvertently knit a garment for an infant orangutan.

Interestingly, I understand that the sweater might have fit an infant version of Michelangelo's David, as his arms are unusually long.

With this experience fresh in my mind, I enrolled in the gauge class and, having completed the class, I now feel compelled to check gauge early and often.
I first put my newfound gauge-testing mastery to work in preparations for making a hat. Specifically, I'd recently purchased Jared Flood's great new collection of patterns: Made in Brooklyn (available here: Many (almost all, actually) of the patterns in the book are stunning. So much so that Mrs. TSMK has already requested several pieces from the book. The first piece she requested is the hat on the cover: "Quincy".

The hat has an interesting construction, with a garter stitch möbius bounded by built-in I-cords, from which you pick up stitches and knit the crown. Too cool. Anyway, I hadn't done anything quite like this before, so I thought it made sense to take a test trial. I grabbed from the deepest darkest recesses of the stash some ugly blue yarn of questionable parentage but roughly the correct weight and set to work.

Like the good student I am, I first knit a gauge swatch. I counted my stitches and rows over four inches, and decided to move down one needle size.

But the fates were aligned against me.

Roughly nine inches into the garter stitch & I-cord portion of the hat, something unusual began to happen. The diameter of the dreadful, scratchy and completely inorganic yarn began to change. Specifically, what was coming out to 15 stitches over four inches was now around 20 stitches over four inches. This had never happened to me before. Although in my efforts to learn to spin I've recently had occasion to make yarn of erratic diameter, I've never before bought machine-made yarn with this characteristic (i.e., flaw).

I'll be ripping out the offending yarn tonight. I may have some trial and error in my future for construction of the hat, but I'd rather do it with a yarn I enjoy and that I can depend on. Now if only I could get some Cascade 220 in a heavier weight. . .


Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Sometimes, a Viking just needs a nap

We come from the land of the ice and snow,

from the midnight sun, where the hot springs flow.

The hammer of the Gods will drive our ships to new land,

to fight the horde, singing and crying:

Valhalla, I am coming!

In my house, this tune is known as the "Viking Song" - although I kind of chuckle at the more overt xenophobia (or perhaps its just tongue-in-cheek) of Led Zeppelin's original title: "The Immigrant Song." Anyway, it's a big favorite of my two oldest, who are known to wail along with Plant as he garbles the chorus:

On we sweep with threshing oar,

our only goal will be the western shore.

Usually, hearing the song prompts my oldest guy to want to talk about Vikings, and in particular about Berserkers. History tells us that Berserkers were fairly terrifying - clad in the skin of wolves or bears and fighting with a ferocity that was seemingly unmatched in the ancient world. It has been suggested that the word "berserker" itself comes from a perversion of the ancient Norse words meaning "bear shirt." To me, that seems like it is a bit too convenient. What is clear, however, is that one of the lasting legacies of the berserkers' trancelike fury is our modern word "berserk."

Every May, our neighboring town of Poulsbo hosts Viking Fest. Billed as a celebration of the town's Norwegian heritage, it is actually little more than a street carnival and an excuse to eat funnel cakes and ride spinning rides (with occasionally disastrous results if you do both in rapid succession). Also, there's the swag. By far the most popular item seems to be the plastic viking helmet, complete with horns. They must sell thousands of these things, and I confess that my two oldest boys each have one.

Honestly, I've never understood the horned helmet. If you were going into battle, it seems to me that having horns affixed to either side of your head would just give your enemy something extra to grab onto. Anyway, who am I to argue with the historical accuracy of hundreds of years of Viking stereotypes?

The one problem with the Viking hat, at least as far as I can tell, is that it doesn't come in a small enough size. Also, metal and horn (or extruded plastic if you get your hat at Viking Fest) is kind of scratchy on delicate skin. What a guy really needs is a kindler, gentler Viking hat. One that pays homage to the fiercesome legacy of Viking warriors, while still being snuggly. One that works even if your idea of pillaging is rooting at your mother's breast.

Problem solved. Here is my youngest, in Viking hat made from Berroco Comfort. Snuggly and - since its a nylon/acrylic blend - washable. That last bit is really important - pillaging can get messy.


Friday, August 21, 2009

Three Bags Full

I read recently, that law enforcement agencies in several states were quite upset about the apparently overt use of Craigslist for all manner of debauchery - but specifically for the advertising and solicitation of prostitution.

Now personally, I've always liked Craigslist. Not specifically because of its 21st century approach to the world's oldest profession, but generally because it seems to be a very efficient market and a convenient forum for bringing local buyers and sellers into contact. It was through a Craigslist ad that I found two of my motorcycles. One I bought two summers ago, and then subsequently sold last summer to acquire another I'd found on Craigslist (although I've regretted that second transaction ever since). Also, the site provides an interesting and seemingly anonymous forum for people to speak their minds - occasionally with hysterical results. All in all, I've been a Craigslist fan. But now, I'm starting to think that the apoplectic attorneys general may actually have a point. This is a forum most foul.

Three days ago, I was scanning the free items that were posted in the local Craigslist site. About halfway down the first page, something caught my eye: fleece. Specifically, the raw fleece from eight sheep. According to the posting, the owner simply wanted to get rid of the stuff. This was quite a conundrum.

For several weeks, I'd been considering buying a spinning wheel from my friend S ("SoD") K. She'd bought it some years before, and had lost interest in spinning (although she still knits like a Scandihoovian fiend). The price was good, and I was sorely tempted. I'd even gone so far as to make inquiries of a few local farms as to whether they ever sold their fleece. So far, I'd struck out on those inquiries - but that was OK because it meant I had a good excuse not to get the wheel - thereby hurtling myself headlong into a another series of projects.

But now, with fleece seemingly throwing itself at me like I can only imagine is the case for the ladies (and gentlemen, no doubt) of the evening on a different portion of the site. . . well what was a fellow to do?

I responded to the post. All was not yet lost. "Maybe they'll already be taken."

They weren't already taken. The nice lady who answered my email told me that she'd received a number of inquiries, and was thinking of dividing it up among those who'd responded. She gave me her address, and I told her I'd swing by that evening.

So, the entire TSMK clan piled into the car that night, and made its way out to the farm - which was only about 10 miles from our house. When we arrived, there were piles of plastic bags - the kind you might use to line an enormous trash can - covering most of the front walk. Each bag was stuffed to the brim with fleece.

We chatted briefly, and she told me that there was only one other person who was coming, and that I should take half the bags. A quick scan told me that half the bags on the walk wouldn't all fit in the car. So, we opted for three. Three bags full.

One of the bags is filled with creamy white virgin lambswool. A second is filled with fleece that is almost entirely black. The last has variegated wool ranging from graphite in color to a dark brown. Even raw, greasy from lanolin, reeking of sheep and riddled with all manner of vegetable matter, dirt and unmentionable detritus, this is gorgeous stuff.

Maybe this is the right time to mention that I do not know anything about processing wool or spinning. I plan to pick up the wheel this weekend. In the meantime, I have begun processing the fleece. I picked as much of the plants (etc.) out of about 1/3 of one of the bags, and washed that portion. At the moment, it's drying on Mrs. TSMK's dining room table. She says it looks like the most impressive "Furminator" commercial you could imagine. ( In addition, I've picked up some hand carders and have begun practicing. The Youtube videos make it look very easy. ( They lie. It isn't easy. Still, I think it will come with practice.

Then, of course, there's the actual spinning. I've played a bit with a top whorl drop spindle, with mixed results. Youtube exhibitionists notwithstanding, I'm thinking about taking a lesson. Maybe I can find someone to teach me on Craigslist. . .


Monday, August 17, 2009

Frogging in Public

In my family growing up, "to frog" was a verb, and not a very pleasant one at that. Frogging was something that you wouldn't do in polite company, and certainly never in church. It was the kind of thing that I've been told British people never do, and the kind of thing our family dog seemed to do all the time. She was a Boxer - apparently they're known for it.

In any event, when I first began knitting, I marveled at the number of references to "frogging" a project. What could this mean? If it meant what I thought it meant, how was it even logistically possible? Growing up I'd heard stories of people trying to light these things (never seemed like a good idea to me), but never before heard anything about this mysterious nexus between knitting and flatulence. I was flummoxed.

Later, of course, I learned that "frogging" in the knitting context simply meant to rip something out and start over.

Still, frogging is something I'm loathe to do in public. To me, there's a bit of a feeling of failure involved. If I'm going to admit defeat, I prefer to do that in private. With that in mind, I typically rip things out late at night, when the entire TSMK household is asleep.

All of this is a long way of saying that I've again ripped out the Victorian Lace pattern with the error ( and started over. A few readers suggested that if I didn't do this, my eye would be drawn to the error immediately, every time I looked at the finished piece. Those readers were right, of course. Although I'd secretly hoped that someone in the ether would agree with Mrs. TSMK and tell me that I'd never notice the error once it was finished - not a single person echoed her sentiment.

This time, I'm trying to convince myself to use lifelines. I typically prepare a brief chart that I can use to check off my rows. For lace patterns, I like this approach because it lets me see not only which row I'm on, but also which repeat. For this pattern, I've included a reference to lifelines in the chart. We'll see if I have the discipline to follow my own instructions.

So far, using the lifelines has helped. I'm a few hours into re-knitting the shawl, and so far everything is going according to plan.


Friday, August 14, 2009

Evil Companions

I'm occasionally asked why I started knitting. Most recently, this question came from an incredulous mom who saw me knitting at the pool while my oldest son was taking his swim lesson. In fact, nearly all of the people who've asked the question have had the same vaguely condescending, vaguely accusatory tone.

Typically, I respond to these questions by mumbling something about having friends who knit - occasionally referring to them as "evil companions." Apart perhaps from the adjective, that answer is technically truthful in as far as it goes, but in fairness there is a bit more to the story. The full truth is a bit more involved, but probably worth recounting.

Although not previously discussed on this site, TSMK is a bit of geek (I know this is shocking) when it comes to certain music. The CD collection at home is bereft of most recent musical efforts, but full to the brim with recordings of long-dead blues musicians. I've always enjoyed the blues - a lot - and occasionally loud enough to cause my secretary to get up and shut my office door. This love of the blues doesn't stop with the scratchy recordings of the original artists - I also enjoy slightly more contemporary versions of the genre. So, for example, when Mrs. TSMK is shaking her head as the radio blares Led Zeppelin's Lemon Song while TSMK's children are in the car ("squeeze my lemon, 'til the juice runs down my leg"), I'm less concerned with the meaning than the appreciative of the fact that Plant and the boys are really just paying homage to Robert Johnson's Traveling Riverside Blues of some six decades earlier. Often these interactions end with Mrs. TSMK suggesting that she doesn't really need me to tell her again about how Bonham's squeaky bass drum pedal can only be heard on two tracks, or something along those lines. She's a very patient woman.

Anyway, I digress.

When I was around 14 or so, I was received ZZ Top's Eliminator album for Christmas. As I was already a blues guy by that age, I loved the album. It started in me a lifelong appreciation the band, and in particular for the style, guitar work, and overall mystique of Billy Gibbons a/k/a the Rev. Willie G. I believe that Billy's work is top notch, and I'm not alone in that view. In fact, for the first three years of his life, TSMK's second son has given every indication that his favorite song is not Twinkle Twinkle Little Star or some other age-appropriate number, but rather La Grange. He particularly likes to sing it while playing his guitar after bath. (You'll note TSMK's guitar leaning against the wall on the left - there's often music involved in the boys' baths).

One evening, I turned on the television and noted that a ZZ Top concert would be playing later that night. I set the DVR to record it, so that we could watch it later.

Sure enough, later that week I found myself on the couch with TSMK's oldest and second (then youngest) sons, watching the show. Midway through, the Rev. Willie G. was drawling out the lyrics to one of my favorites: I'm Bad, I'm Nationwide:

Well I'm moving down the road in my V-8 Ford
I had a shine on my boots, I had my sideburns lowered
With my New York brim, and my gold tooth displayed
Nobody gives me trouble, cause they know I've got it made . . .

Just at that moment, I had a revelation. The Rev. Willie G. was wearing an excellent hat. Actually, he was wearing two excellent hats, one on top of the other. The hat on top was a beat up cowboy hat. But it was the hat underneath that had captured my attention. I'd never seen anything like it. It was a kind of beanie, but with small pendulous fingers of fabric hanging off of it. I needed one of those hats.

A few moments later, with the help of the Internet (see for an interview with Gibbons about the hat), I learned that the hat was of African origin. Specifically, it was a traditional hat of the Bamileke tribe from Cameroon in West Africa. To me, this this made perfect sense. Blues music traces its roots to West Africa. Here we have in the Rev. Willie G. a man playing the blues while wearing a West African hat. Genius.

I looked further on the Internet and found dozens of examples. They were made in all styles and colors, but all with the traditional finger-like pieces of fabric on them. Some had small pieces of wood inserted into the fingers to make them stand up. Others allowed the fingers to drape like hair over the hat. All were remarkable.

And, unfortunately, all were in museums or at a price point where you'd feel uncomfortable wearing the hat. If I was going to get one of these hats, it seemed clear that I would need to have it custom made.

The next day, I approached my friend Miss B. I had seen Miss B. knit incredible sweaters, scarves, etc., all during our mutual commute. I shared with Miss B. my desire to have one of these hats, and my dismay at being unable to find one for purchase. I showed her a picture of a stunning Bamileke hat done largely in orange, and offered to pay her handsomely if she would make me a hat. She didn't take the bait. Instead, she offered up ten words that set me down my current path: "You could always learn to knit and make one yourself. . ."

I still don't have my hat, but I will. Oh, yes. I will have my hat.


Monday, August 10, 2009

De-Slouching the Octopus - The Knitter Strikes Back

Last week, I sent an email to Jared Flood, detailing my difficulties in blocking the Hemlock Ring Throw ( This weekend, I got a very nice response from Jared. Frankly, simply getting a response from Jared was exciting, as he's a bit of a Jedi-Master in the knitting world (and he's coming to teach a class at my LYS in the fall - very exciting as well). Master Jared suggested that I should be fairly heavy handed with the throw during the blocking process. In fact, he mentioned blocking it into submission.

Thinking back on my earlier attempts at blocking The Octopus, and considering his advice in the email, I think I was indeed far too tentative with my blocking. I'm used to blocking lightweight lace projects (and typically use blocking wires for those pieces) but The Octopus isn't exactly made with lightweight wool.

So, I decided to attack again. I drowned The Octopus in warm water, making sure that it completely soaked the piece. After pressing out the water (Master Jared actually used the word "wring" although that made me a bit nervous), I set The Octopus onto what would become the site of its comeuppance - a 4X8 sheet of plywood. Armed with a large quantity of nails and a small hammer, I advanced upon the beast. It put up quite a fight, but after the better part of an hour, and 143 nails, I finally got the upper hand.

That was Saturday morning. This morning, The Octopus is still fighting back. It is still damp and refusing to dry fully. Master Jared said I mustn't release it from the blocking until it is "bone dry". At The Octopus' current rate of dessication, that may take a few more days. Hopefully, not too much longer, however, as the plywood-bound Octopus is sitting on Mrs. TSMK's dining room table. - TSMK
The Octopus - shortly after nailing:

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

To rip or not to rip?

I read once that Henry Ford said: "Quality is doing it right when no one is looking." I'm pretty sure he wasn't talking about knitting. Still, the point is well taken.

I've recently started (for the fourth time) a very intricate lace pattern. It is the Curved Shawl with Diamond Edging, found in Victorian Lace Today by Jane Sowerby (available here: I'm working the project in some gorgeous two-ply cashmere by the Plucky Knitter in "Mouse of Madrone." The pattern calls for 42 repeats of a four row sequence, with each repeat adding an additional six stitches. Each row has a six-stitch repeat, and the WS repeats are identical. The RS repeats aren't especially tricky, but involve a K3tog which my fingers can't seem to master.

I was knitting along on it yesterday, and realized at the end of one of the RS rows that I had two stitches too many for that particular row. Undaunted, I adjusted the pattern a bit, completed the RS row and then knit the next WS row.

The trouble is, it isn't right. As is, the error will cause three of the O-shaped rings in the shawl to look out of round.

Mrs. TSMK says no one will notice. But I know it is there and I see it every time I look at it. So I'm left with a decision. Do I rip it all out and start over again? Do I live with it? I'm not good at unknitting the K3tog sections, so that isn't an option. Also, I've not historically used lifelines (I also do the crossword puzzle in pen - this is likely a character flaw), and don't have any in the piece at this point.

Do I live with it? Do I listen to Henry Ford or Mrs. TSMK? Here's the piece so far:

Monday, August 3, 2009

Blocking a Slouching Octopus

I recently completed the last round of knitting on Jared Flood's gorgeous Hemlock Ring Throw (pattern here: Like many who've made the throw, I went ahead and knit the extra few rounds past Jared's pattern (suggested by The Rainey Sisters site). I did it in Cascade Yarns Ecowool, and love the feel of the throw. Actually, everyone in the family loves the feel of the throw, from Mrs. TSMK all the way down to Mrs. TSMK's cat.

The trouble is, I can't manage to get it properly blocked. Before blocking, the piece simply looks like a blog. I went after it with warm water, a bunch of towels and every pin I could find. Pinned to within an inch of its life, the blog turned into a lovely throw, taking up essentially all of Mrs. TSMK's bed.

After several hours on the bed the throw was not yet quite dry (although very close), but I needed to remove it. I unpinned it, and did my best to keep it stretched out overnight. In the morning, it looked ~ok~ but not great. Over the next several days, it gradually crept back into the slouching octopus shape shown below.

I brought it into my LYS yesterday and spread it out on the table in all its rumpled glory. At first, we wondered whether I'd missed something in the pattern, causing the outside rows to need to stretch much more than was appropriate in order to get the interior section to lay flat. On re-reviewing the pattern, however, it looks like I actually got it done correctly at the end (although there are a few, ahem, design elements in other portions of the piece). So, I've shot an email off to the designer to see if he might offer a suggestion or two. Hopefully, we can get this whole situation straightened out (pun absolutely intended). - TSMK