Tuesday, October 30, 2007

No Way To Treat Alpaca!

Celtic Memory is hiding in a cupboard at the moment, peeking nervously out through a knot-hole. She fears that the Yarn Police may be coming after her, set on her tracks by the Society For The Prevention Of Cruelty To Yarn. And she hasn't a leg to stand on. It's true, it's all true.

Here is a large ball of exquisitely soft and snuggly alpaca, thoroughbred all the way through - travelling back from the frogpond. The rosewoods are there to give it support. It's had a bad time.

This was not its first trip to the frogpond. Nor the second. Nor the third.

Let me lead you back down memory lane a little way. Not that I want to. Believe me, I don't want to revisit those scenes of insanity. But it might make you understand the enormity of the crime for which the Yarn Police have put a price on my head.

THIS then is the very alpaca originally sourced at Knit & Stitch in London last year and almost immediately designated for a Norah Gaughan asymmetrical crop cardi (was it VK Fall 2006? Or Winter? Possibly). It soared up the back of the jacket beautifully, right to the armhole shaping. And then something happened. Or not. Whatever. The love of the moment retreated gently into the background to make way for a new passion. We've all had times like that (some of us rather more than others, admittedly). That was OK. It watched contentedly from the sidelines for a while.

LEAP forward now to a couple of weeks back when I was wandering round with that IK Nantucket cardigan pattern tucked in my pocket, trying to find the right yarn for such a nice project. Ah-HA! The charcoal alpaca! Of course! Now where did I leave it...?

I simply cannot understand how so many other things can superimpose themselves upon a single item which you only left down for a moment a little while ago. I searched the Repository Of All Forgotten Things (originally I believe a long bench, but it's so long since I saw the actual piece of furniture that I can't quite remember) and had no luck. Searched the stash basement. Searched the Repository again. Swore exasperatedly and tried to think of an alternative. But no. Nothing else would do now. The alpaca or nothing.

Emptied almost everything off the Repository (oh so that's where that shawl went to! Good heavens, I don't remember starting that crochet vest...) Eureka! The little plastic pouch containing the alpaca and a half-finished jacket back. To the frogpond, mes amis! Time marches on.

Simply couldn't be bothered skeining, washing, drying, rewinding. Sloppy, bad housekeeping, thoughtless, I know. I know. But I did want to cast on for that Nantucket jacket, and was already impatient with all this delay. It isn't as nice to knit with curling, twisting, just-ripped yarn, and I felt guilty, misusing such lovely fibre so callously. At least we were on our way, however!

Four rows in, it became very evident that Nantucket and I were not good bedfellows. I kept getting the patterning wrong, swearing, frogging back, trying again. Got to six rows and measured.


This would fit a giant! What happened?

(Stop snarfling! I DID swatch. I did TOO! I swatched and measured and got gauge. It meant two more sessions of ripping back for the first few yards of the already misused alpaca, but I did it. Is it coincidence that today's Knitting Daily topic from the ever-wise Sandi is about swatches and how we can still get it wrong? I think not. More like the influence of Hallow-E'en if you ask me.)

Frogged back. Rewound the by now rather tired ball (somewhere in the centre is the remaining, unused, centre-pull ball, but if you can tell me a way to get the frogged yarn back into the middle, I'd be delighted to hear from you). Cast on again.

This time I ended up with a totally crazy take on the pattern. Now Celtic Memory is reasonably capable of following clear instructions, and these are fairly clear. But something was not going right. Frogged again. Rewound again (wince, wince by all means, I'm cringing myself as I type this, balancing the laptop on my knees in this dark cupboard. That poor alpaca is like a pussycat that's losing its coat by now). Cast on again.

The fourth try didn't get past Row 2. When I found myself 20 stitches out in the pattern, I drew a deep breath and suggested to Nantucket that it walked one way, I the other.

The worst bit is that I was away from home at this particular point and had specifically chosen Nantucket and Alpaca as my companions for the journey. It seemed like such a good idea at the time - the three of us laughing over drinks, murmuring sleepily across from our separate beds during the night, breakfasting together - but some relationships are doomed. DOOMED.

Then I had a brainwave. What I really really wanted for the winter was a cuddly ribbed hug-me-tight sort of vest or cardigan or sweater-y thing which would snuggle close and keep out the chill. The alpaca would be just right for that.

Oh - I'd frogged, hadn't I? Can I remember the gauge I got? No I can't (selective memory loss, it does happen). Even if I could have remembered, it wouldn't be accurate, given the patterning I'd been following. OK, swatch again. Where's my tape measure?


Yes, the tape was sitting serenely at home, where I'd left it that morning.

No, for heaven's sake. This is Ireland, OK? You simply do not go and find the nearest Joanns and buy another tape measure. These purchases have to be PLANNED, long in advance, and an expedition mounted. You can't just pick one up like that. (Like what? Well - like the USA, I suppose.)

OK, now let's try to remember. Thumb joint one inch, right? No, middle finger first joint - I think. Thumb is inch and a half. Or is it...? Oh let's guess and go for it.

You can complete the rest of it for yourself. I really don't want to. Suffice it to say that the alpaca has been prescribed bed rest for several weeks, with light tasty meals at regular intervals and a total absence of visits from me. I feel bad. Very bad. That is no way to treat alpaca. I shouldn't wonder if I'm cold-shouldered at public events the next time I go out. If I ever do get out.

Would one of you ever ring the Yarn Police and tell them that someone's brutalising a ball of quiviut over in Nova Scotia? Then I might be able to quit this cupboard.

And then I might be able to get on with the socks.

Ah yes, the socks. When we last spoke, I was working on the Austermann Step pair in a nice sort of twisted cable pattern from More Sensational Socks. They're a bit further on.

They're not as well progressed as they should be, I admit. That's partly because of the Alpaca Scandal, but also because I got my greedy mitts on some Claudia Handpaint...

which clearly required to be started instantly. I'm doing them in a sort of 3 st cable with 1 purl in between.

These two socks ought to be the same length. They were. Until I discovered that Sock Two had four more stitches than Sock One. Four, you see, exactly the right number to keep the pattern correct, so I hadn't noticed until I'd got all the way down through three repeats.

No, I don't have an idea how it happened. Yes, I do check. Yes I do count - WILL YOU STOP LAUGHING AT ME! I don't know how it happened and let that be an END to it!

There are days when I wonder if I wouldn't be better off collecting stamps...

And amid all this, have I worked a single stitch on the Dogi vest from Knit Kimono?

I have not. Beautiful the pattern is, absolutely stunning the yarn is. What am I doing, squandering my time being bad to alpaca and making socks of different sizes? I should be devoting my time to the Dogi and that gorgeous Wool in the Woods/Cherry Tree Hill yarn.

But it's almost Hallow-E'en and that means I must get moving on the new designer yarn. This one is going to be called Mi na Samnha (mee-ne-sow-na) because that is the Irish name for November. Hallow-E'en is the Eve of Samhain, the beginning of the dark month, and this is going to be a yarn to work with while cosily tucked up at home by the fire during the dark time of the year.

But it's not going to be all yellows and oranges and blacks like Hallow-E'en Trick or Treat paraphernalia this time. It's going to be a song-poem to the deep dark woods, to the tall forest trees and the branching bushes, to that magical world where animals can shelter safely and knowledgetable human travellers find soft mosses and bracken to make their bed for the night, clear water to drink and nuts to eat. Think greens of every shade from pale lichens caught by a stray ray of sunlight through glossy holly leaves to rich dark fir boughs. Glints of silver too, from a tiny twisting stream or a dew-spangled cobweb - or maybe even one of the Good People hastening to a gathering of the Sidhe.

I know what it should be - but the making of it is always a frantic struggle to create in yarn what is so clear in the mind. Nevertheless, it must be listed on eBay tomorrow night before the clock strikes twelve.


Ambermoggie, a fragrant soul said...

Oh no Jo:( I don't know about the yarn eeding a uiet room and rest, maybe you do my dear? Maybe a cosy evening spent chez Mr CM and some easy knitting would help? Maybe something simple like a noro top??
Thank you for the fabulous yarn it is gorgeous:) I can't wait to see the Samhain yarn the colours sound inspiring
Happy pre Samhain to you

gwtreece said...

Find a project for the alpaca before I fly to Irleand and steal it.

Angeluna said...

Mmmmmmm, are you still in the closet? Surely you must come out to make the new yarn? I'm beginning to think you might need a keeper. Or at least a project manager. Think you need to work on that reasonably straightforward Dogi vest until you get your complex pattern mojo back. Do you think it's still the Curse of Starmore? BTW, I LOVE that grey alpaca. We have to find the right pattern for it before it completely disintegrates. Off to the PO for my passport...again.

Lindy said...

If the new Samhain yarn is anything like the lovely Atlantis yarn I bought from you on eBay, it will be gorgeous! I love knitting with it and the sock is looking good.

Marianne said...

The Mi na Samnha sounds absolutely wonderful!
Poor alpaca....I like that Nantucket Jacket also... the list is so very long..
That Claudia yarn is SO soft!

rho said...

you are going thru all this and blogging it just to make me feel better about my recent knitting trials haven't you?

cindyl said...

Could you please hurry? I keep checking e-bay and it isn't there yet. No matter that it's 12:30 am your time, you should be working.
Samhain is my favorite holiday, my favorite time of year. Why are you sleeping?

pacalaga said...

Gracious. That sort of treatment would make even mild-mannered alpacas glare at you. I hope you reskeined and washed the alpaca with the best, loveliest-scented wash you had, and told it you loved it and just wanted to find a pattern worthy of it.

yakiduk said...

I have diverted the Yarn Police to Canada to track the Yarn Harlot's elusive fleece-stealing squirrel! Hurry out of the cupboard!

Tania said...

Oh Jo,

You've made me laugh with images of you in a cupboard hiding from disgrace.

If I weren't way over here in California, I'd rescue that abused alpaca. I'd pet and fondle it, then unkink it, lovingly rewind it with the non abused end snug in the center of the skein. I'd have to search for the appropriately spectacular item to show off its yummy-ness, never to be frogged again.

Don't be so hard on yourself.