Knitting is Nerdier than RPGs

I sort of have this long-running argument with myself: What, precisely, is nerdier than RPGs? I have used RPGs* as the ANSI Standard for Nerd for a long time. It’s not so much that it’s fantasy or science fiction and people sitting in a basement pretending to do fantasy and science-fiction things as much as the sheer pointless bookkeeping. Books and stats and monsters and endless rules discussions down to hyper minute.

Now a days, RPGs have taken a step away from that nerdy brink. The rulesets are getting cleaner, the adoption getting wider, and zillions of people play them online in MMORPGs. Popular RPGs are based on even more popular mass media. Even the uninitiated no longer finds that hand of Satan, D&D, to be frightening any more. After all, the ruleset has been streamlined into the core of kill things and take stuff to the point where it is reduced on convenient character class cards.

I began to reposition myself to the definition of ANSI Standard for Nerd (much like NIST I must, about once a decade, revisit my published definitions) and began to settle on a deeper, more grognard activity: Fantasy Baseball. I cannot even begin to fathom the depths of Fantasy Baseball. I can only admire its shining contours: the many websites, the pages of statistics, the arguments over pitching styles, the battle.** I was content that Fantasy Baseball encompassed the dark beer-spilled smells of deep blackness of the Internet forum while RPGs crawled forth from the sewers and burst into mainstream heralded by Big Bang Theory on Prime Time.

Then I hit the dehaired llama yarn review.

Okay, so. It is not enough to shave a llama and make a sweater from its hair. No, one must first shave a llama, harvest its delicious undercoat (and perhaps its meaty brain pods) and then fuse the delicious undercoat with strains of cotton grown on a certain plantation during a certain time of the year to blend to create just the right softness to use in that single skein that cannot produce even a full pair of socks. And the hair must be knitted with just the right steel — not wood, as wood will catch — needles of the tiniest width to create a garment just so. And for added goodness we’re going to throw in strange beasts called cables which no one quite understands except for the cabal that lives in the basement among their walls of books and gear and who cackle in the night and then launch themselves upon internet BBSs to argue for the greatness of the dehaired llama who is, by this time, really cold. This isn’t a hobby — this is a plot of a neo-post-Lovecraftian horror story wherein the dehaired llama hair with cotton blend is used to break through the ether that separates the line between reality and a composite reality full of awesome.

And when knitters come together knitters speak a strange language of nuance and jumbled letters and comments incomprehensible by those on the outside. They squat among their piles of books full of arcane languages of fibers and fibercraft and spinning and dyes and needles and hooks and techniques and stitches all to make, in the end, probably nothing because, much like RPGs, if the pattern is boring it is abandoned for the newer, the stranger, the front page of this season’s Vogue Knitting.

After a year of concentrated researcher and thought, I now can follow the basic flow of conversation on a single knitting forum. And even then! After the initiation of correctly executing a heel turn, even then I can only follow the basic contours! I dare not post to be exposed as… still… a mere newbie.

Much like RPG stores, knitting stores have their own bizarre personalities. Their own lines of yarn, lines of tools, locals who hang out on the couches day in and day out and knit (often the same sock over and over), who either APPROVE of your knitting style or DISAPPROVE of your knitting style and will FROWN at you until you flee with a new book and a skein in hand. Either you pass through the initiation of walking through the door or you do not; but what you never do is ask after crochet because the end of that road lies only doom.

I have been told Quilting is a deeper abyss than even knitting. Quilters are mad, they tell me. They roam the landscape in herds going to shows and symposiums and seek out quilting shops full of odd machines and strange bolts of fabric. I lower quilters below the ANSI Standard — they are beyond comprehension, even beyond dehaired llamas and Fantasy Baseball and even the odd Traveler campaign.

Frankly, I think I own about par of knitting “gear” (skeins, books, bags of tools) as I do gaming “gear.” They both take up about the same amount of space (a shelf on a bookcase, a big basket of stuff under a table) physically and mentally. And I find it about the same talking knitting and gaming — often to the same audience.

But whenever someone tells me gaming is nerdy, I flip through a knitting magazine and say… “If you think so, you should see some of this.”


* Role playing games, not Rocket Propelled Grenades. Although Rocket Propelled Grenades are pretty nerdy, too!
** “It’s all about the battle.” — Sports Night

RAR T-Rex!

T-Rex Attacks!

At Art Weekend 2010, I started working on the Knit Picks Critter Mitts T-Rex hand puppet. What better use for yarn is there but making awesome toys? Sure you can make socks and gloves and sweaters but you can also make hand puppets!

The first one came out well. He has a little ridge of spikes and big scary teeth and a big red mouth and little teeny tiny useless arms. He reminds me of T-Rex from Dinosaur Comics! (In fact, I may need to take more pictures and do a little photoshopping… he might be full of burgers! And atoms!)

I believe T-Rex needs a friend. One cannot just have T-Rex. The kit provides the yarn and instructions to make a triceratops. And he is orange so….

As you can see, Katie greatly appreciates T-Rex. She’s as scary as it is! RAR!

Art Weekend 2010

I have returned victorious from the fourth in a grand series of many of Art Weekends. This year it was at the Shandaken Inn in the Catskills, NY. We were a little iffy because the place looked a bit dubious in the pictures and the owner was on the premises, but it turned out fine.

The building was, up until recently, a small bed and breakfast. It had that homey feeling of a place well lived in and well loved over the decades. The downstairs area is mostly a restaurant with a lounge area which may, at first glance, seem odd. On the one hand, the kitchen was cut off from the seating. On the other hand, it had an industrial kitchen that had more plates and glasses then we could dirty easily. Many tables meant easy and plentiful work spaces. Big windows by the seating areas meant lots of natural light.

I had a super relaxing time and spent the entire time knitting. Sure, making an ugly brown sock (of two! two ugly brown socks!) and working on the Critter Mitts kit from Knit Picks (I made the T-Rex! RAR!) isn’t exactly art, there was… plenty of art beer. And lots of silence/peace times to sort of clear the mental decks.

I also had my phone off and only used my netbook for youtube instructional knitting videos, of which I needed several. The Internet existed without my being there!

It was very comfy. It was like living in a warm blanket for several days. A great big warm, comfy blanket.

We’re definitely going back next year, although sadly since the Inn is up for sale to yet another place.

Oh! I finished my t-rex at midnight last night. He’s terrifying! In a goofy way. Terrifyingly goofy. I need my Very Special Model to pose with it and get some pictures online.

Sock #2 — Electric Boogaloo

I banged out 50% of sock #2 yesterday evening. After a long day nothing is more soothing than sitting there going in circles and going knit-knit-knit-knit. But I was a little dismayed — my speed has picked up considerably and I burned through several inches of sock in an hour. Guess I just need to keep making stuff.

So anyway! Sock. With same cheap DPNs and same crappy worsted weight lion’s brand wool in a highly unattractive brown. The heel turn came out much better as did picking up the stitches and closing that hole at the gusset. I don’t know what the final product will look like but so far it is considerably Less Full of Inexplicable Holes.

This fills my Heart with Gladness and Wonder because once I come around to spending life on DPNs I can move on and make more sock-shaped stuff and making socks has many advantages. A sock is a 1 ball project so sock projects are cheap! Sock projects are quick! Sock projects are portable! An entire sock project fits in my small knit project bag! Basic sock patterns can be committed to memory!

I see the addictive nature of knitting over crochet. Knitting is more precise and fiddly. It’s better for doing small, very precise work like patterns or colorwork. Or socks! It creates a smoother fabric. It’s better for tubes or fabric that has to be dense and hang right. But crochet is better for things like amigurumis where there are a bunch of different sized stitches all bunched together to make a shape like a wing or a nose or for big comfy things like blankets (I don’t really want to knit a blanket). I like crochet thread jewelry over trying to knit that stuff, especially with beads. Knit sweaters, socks, gloves, hats. Crochet accessories and stuffies.*

They’re both like mental crack, though: they completely clear the decks of whatever is going on to just count stitches and rows.

* I did buy the hand puppet kit from Knit Picks but those are, again, smooth tubes.

Socks!

I made a sock. It is a terrible sock. Of all the socks made in the history of socks it is one of the top 5 worst socks of all time. It has holes you can fly a Boeing through in the gussets. At one point I clearly got lost and started knitting the wrong way. I figured out the kitchener stitch halfway through doing the Kitchener stitch.

But. I made a sock. It fits on my foot. It has the general properties of being sock-like. It’s just a sad sock.

And I’m working on its mate! Which may be better. Or maybe not.

It’s sort of a victory over Man vs. Yarn. It’s the eighth sock I started but never got past the initial cuff. I’m a little disappointed that I am stuck with double pointed needles — I never got the two needle or magic loop methods to work. DPNs are an enormous pain and it feels like I’m knitting an overeager octopus. Little bits of wood and yarn are all over the place.

I feel like I have been admitted to some secret club. The Legion of Sock Knitters. Someone who can make a sock.

If the Zombie Apocalypse comes and I am trapped as a character in The Walking Dead, I have a functional skill to give back to the community — official Knitter of Socks. Well, providing we have sheep and spinning wheels… but that is details. Socks!

Hat with Braids!

Katie in Hat
Katie in Hat

I made this hat out of a pattern from One Skein Wonders by Judith Durant. The book is a little hit or miss but some of the patterns are fun. It took me two tries to get this hat right and I had to adjust my approach but it came out looking like the picture but in black instead of purple. It has exciting features!

* It is hat shaped, hat sized, and fits on heads that may choose to wear hats.
* It has a 4 inch band of seed stitching along the headband for a neat look.
* Earflaps!
* Two long braids, one from each earflap.
* Special flower bling!

My Special Model looks great in the hat. She especially likes that she can smack me with the braids. Knitting a hat is slower than crochet so the hat took about 8-ish hours to make and about 2/3rds of 1 skein of Lion’s Brand Lion Wool, a yarn that is extremely OK.

This has emboldened me to try a single sock. GASP!

Meanwhile, I heard something about some dude trying to give a big speech after the Apple Tablet announcement this afternoon. When are people going to learn that one cannot attempt to follow Steve Jobs? New Apple Bling? State of the Union. Apple Bling. State of the Union. Easy call.

Anyone have a SotU drinking game?

Wombat of Shame

Wombat of Shame fade and I have the same knitting book: “The World of Knitted Toys” by Kath Dalmeny. I have made a large number of Amigurumis and they are super cute but the crocheted creatures always have some mild coherence problems. No matter how tight I pull the magic circle closed, I can always see white dots of polyfill through the tips of legs and the top of the head. The weave isn’t tight enough and polyfill shows through. We decided to do a knit-along to try something different with a new technique and fade picked the wombat. It’s easy! It’s straight forward! It’s adorable! What could possibly go wrong?

My wombat didn’t come out. I knew something wasn’t quite right when I made his body but I pushed on through. He is full of shame. He is a wombat. Of shame. I have no idea what went wrong. The pattern was mostly making squares! And yet here he is. Not looking anything like a wombat. At all. I looked him up on Ravelry (where you can friend me as multiplexer…) and it looks like the fault is the pattern, not our inability to knit. All the wombats from that pattern are full of sadness and shame. Shame wombats. Sad.

We’ll make something else but I heard something about a request for a Jayne hat. Knitpicks Wool of the Andes yarn totally has the right colors and I found a pattern…

I have learned lessons from the Wombat of Shame!

Pros:

– The weave on a knitted toy is tighter than an ami so no polyfill shows through.
– The toy is overall softer, squishier and more toy-like.
– Makes a much larger toy with far less yarn.

Cons:

– Knitting has fewer weapons for sculpting than crotchet so getting a nice rounded ear requires more elaborate measures and careful counting.
– About 5x longer to make a knitted toy than a croteched toy.
– The increases/decreases much more difficult than the same crotched.

Overall it was a pretty positive experience. I’ll totally make another one. Hopefully it won’t also be full of SHAME.

Unbelievably Busy Weekend

This weekend I got through…

– Vacuuming the house.

– Doing about seven hours of gardening. This included laying down 2 more bags of mulch, building an entire veggie garden (3×3 raised box), planting 36 vincas, 6 calibrochias, 1 overgrown lantana, 36 carrots, 3 cucumbers (which did not survive I don’t think), 2 tomatos, 2 jalapeno peppers, 2 basils, and 2 cilantro plants.

– Teaching myself enough of the basics of knitting to be truly dangerous.

– Knitting with a basic garter stitch, some boucle and some fun fur 4 feet of fuzzy, goofy scarf for Katie. I just can’t sit and watch a movie.

Meanwhile my parents came over and stripped 90% of the baby wallpaper off the walls in Katie’s room and put up chair rail in preparation of turning it from a nursery to a little girl’s room. This is sort of wimpy but the paper had to come down. Sooner or later, the bears and blocks must be upgraded to bright pink dancing fairies. (Sigh)

I am extremely sore.