27 October 2010

Beginning Lyra

During the summer, I decided to take Elizabeth Zimmermann's advice about travel knitting. She suggested a nice shawl, as it is light, easy to transport, and gives hours upon hours of knitting pleasure. For our trip out west, Lyra seemed like the perfect choice. I had purchased the yarn and pattern from the Yarn Place during a moment of unexplained weakness on the last day of STITCHES South 2010.

Now one of the things I really need to learn -- and by learn I mean totally take to heart -- is the idea that you ought to cast on such projects before you leave home. I've made this mistake the last two years in a row for Dragon*Con as well, spending four days of sitting and listening sans knitting. (I believe one year I got my Dragon*Con project cast on too early. I liked it too much and finished the whole thing in a week.) Because the trip west involved flying, I was greatly limited in what I could pack. Part of why I'll schlep the day and a half drive to Pennsylvania to see my family is that, if I drive, I can have my car full of my stuff. How did Auntie Mame ever limit herself to only 18 steamer trunks? After all, how can I be expected to enjoy myself without the large knitting bag with the full sets of needles, two more project bags stuffed full, the most recent issues of the major knitting and spinning magazines, the spinning wheel and the lazy kate? For flying, I was forced to pack lightly: the pattern, the ball of yarn, minimal needles and notions.

I'm a big fan of magic loop. I'm a big fan of circular needles. I'm a big fan of metal needles. But for some reason, I could not get that tight little center of Lyra to cast on nicely. And I hadn't brought my Blue Sky alpacas wooden needles in their pretty little metal boxes. Hissy fit. Was I going to be able to last a week of visiting my in-laws without any knitting? How badly do I love my Cuddly Hubby? Fortunately the drive back from Glacier National Park took us through Spokane. This is fortunate indeed because Kathleen Cubley had a nice article in the summer issue of Spin Off magazine about fiber shopping in the Spokane - Coeur d'Alene area. I opened up the magazine, pulled out my navigating device (Thanks, Mom!) and entered some addresses.

Our first stop was Paradise Fibers. Kathleen is correct that the easiest way to find the place is to look for the adult bookstore. When you find it, follow the parking lot along the right side of the building, as you face it. You'll find as you head back that the parking opens up and there is the front entrance to Paradise.

You definitely cannot judge a yarn store by the neighborhood or the outside of the building. Inside there were lots and lots of knitting and spinning goodies to be had. Travis and Sarah are super nice people. They even recognized me from STITCHES South. I guess they have a very good memory for faces or maybe for really dreadful blond "Alice" wigs. There was an entire wall of knitting needles of assorted types and brands. I resisted the yarns, mostly because I'm trying to de-stash at least a little bit. And there was a whole room of roving and batts. I had to think mighty hard to resist a beautiful green striated roving. They also had sparkly blending fibers in a wide assortment of colors. I may have to make a trip to Paradise Fibers a future requirement for any sojourns to visit my husband's family.

I may have resisted the roving. I did not, however, resist the Kollage square double-pointed needles or the Lantern Moon silk box or the needle tubes. After all, I was specifically looking for something to help me with Lyra. And I didn't want to duplicate what I already had at home. Plus, Mark & Susie at Kollage are the life of the party, so I'm happy to support them.

I did manage to get Lyra started. I think I had two or three false starts. I'd cast on, knit a few rows, scowl at the misshapen center, pull it apart and try again. But I did eventually get it going. And it provided me with a divine focus when needed. KateyJ said something to me about knitters who knit simple things to check out versus knitters who knit complex things to check in. Lyra definitely falls into the complex category. And yet, in some ways I find myself checking out because it is so complicated. I've tried yoga once or twice -- thank goodness there is no video evidence. I am so bad at yoga that I have to concentrate completely on what I am doing. I can't be thinking about a messy house with a dozen things to mend or a long list of errands or what stupid social blunder I made an hour ago or how far behind I am on my knitting and blogging and writing. Attempting to do yoga requires all my concentration. And knitting Lyra does, in fact, require my undivided attention. I think for very bright people, sometimes that's what you need. You need to check in completely to something in order to check out of your daily bothers. I wonder if this was part of the appeal to Scenter, who worked several very beautiful and very complicated lace projects.

I'll finish here with a quick review of the needles. They rock! Kollage generally markets them as easier on your hands. Carson Demers did pass a set around in his "Ergonomics for Knitters" class, but he said that the beneficial effect would be mostly in the larger not smaller sizes. For the record, I'm knitting a pleasantly springy thread-like yarn on size 2.25 mm needles. What I've noticed is that the square shape prevents the stitch from clinging to the entire surface of the needle. My initial reaction at about 36 rounds into Lyra is that the square shape makes it easier to work all those k2tog, ssk, and centered double decrease manipulations. And I am pleased that Kollage makes these in the metric sizes. I find that the 0.25 mm difference in size is significant on very small needles. I liked the needles so much, that I decided to buy the firm cable circular needles so that I could finish Lyra without changing to my usual needles. If you are a lace knitter, I encourage you to try these and see what you think.

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