Monthly Archives: February 2012

Modern Technology Has Ruined My Life

Right now, I don’t have internet at my apartment, my laptop keyboard is broken, and my phone isn’t playing nice with WordPress. I’m typing this on a USB keyboard hooked up to my laptop, and I’ll post it later this afternoon when I’m at the studio. I’m hoping that it’s just the keyboard, because that’s a relatively cheap fix, but it could very well be something more expensive. In other news, I’m tired of Hazel already, to the point of giving up on my fuzzy pants, and thinking that my pointe covers are silly and pointless.

Hazel is awkward with the double knitting and all of the stockinette, simple ribbing, and increases. It just doesn’t have an interesting, predictable pattern to it. Figuring out the progression of the stitches and being able to predict what comes next is one of the better parts of knitting for me. I’ll go so far as to alter patterns so that they have a more logical progression, but I can’t do that with Hazel. The pattern is pretty well put together (there are a couple of unusual typos/errors in the pattern that haven’t been resolved in the errata yet) and I don’t want to mess with it. She’s a very good facsimile of a living creature, and any changes to make her more logical or interesting to me would change that.

I’ve set Hazel aside for a little while now, so that I can come back to it with a fresh perspective in a couple of weeks. As for the fuzzy pants, I tried picking them up again, but I’m so used to my new style of knitting that going back to my old throwing technique seems way too slow. I’m afraid that switching to my new method will change my gauge, so I’m just putting it off. The pointe covers are just making me grumpy for unknown reasons. It might have to do with the repetitive mock-cable pattern, or the fact that I’m scared of turning a sock heel, but whatever it is, I’m giving them a rest until we head into full cast run-throughs of Coppelia. Full-cast means that there will be many small children running around, and I don’t have a huge amount of actual stage time. The corps dancers have to stand onstage for pretty much the entire production, but I have a solid chunk of dancing and then I get to hang out in the wings or backstage waiting for my next entrance. During the run-throughs where everyone is getting used to the show order and talking through the blocking (i.e. herding small children), I’ll have some time to knit.

In the meantime, I cast on for Courtney Kelley’s Bramble Beret from “Vintage Modern Knits.” It’s the perfect cure for my Hazel-and-the-pointe-covers-are-boring ailment, since the cables, moss stitch, and bobbles all come together in a very nice, logical, and mildly complicated way. Also, it means that I’m finally knitting my beret.

As far as apartment organization goes, I now have a bookcase ready for assembly and bookends with which to organize my books on my new bookcase. The problem is that I need floorspace to assemble the bookcase, and I need the bookcase to clear the floor of books. I’ll probably resort to stacking the books precariously on my desk chair, but you have to admit that this is a funny little catch-22. I do have some over-the-door organizers that are currently holding dance tights and various pairs of dance shoes and shoe accessories. I also found several pairs of nasty old ballet shoes and toe pads that I ended up throwing out, and the total effect is that my bins of dance stuff are much easier to deal with now. On top of this, by organizing my tights, I spend much less time finding the right pair, and I was finally able to spread my leotards out enough that I can see them all in the drawer. It’s a miracle!

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The Knitter Who Can’t Touch Wool

I’m allergic to wool. More specifically, I’m allergic to lanolin. It’s not just wool that can give me hives, it’s everything from lotions to soaps. And by “give me hives” I mean “give me some of the worst hives you’ve ever seen, where I get itchy bumps that swell up and get flaky and huge and gross and last for at least a week and can leave a scar when all I did was touch that darn sweater in the store.” This means that I didn’t even try to knit with wool until a couple of months ago.

It also means that trips to the yarn store are downright painful. Not only can I not buy the stuff, I can’t even walk up to the display and run a finger over a skein. Yarn-buying excursions are well-thought-out events. I first check the fiber content by very carefully picking up a skein by the ball band or asking someone to check for me. Wool, especially where it’s labelled by breed, is dangerous. If it’s highly processed, that’s a good sign; superwash varieties are usually fine, percentages smaller than 20% are sometimes okay, and anything labelled “organic” should be treated with great caution. You know how some knitters like to pick up yarn and smell it? Apart from the fact that getting unknown yarn that close to my face is incredibly dangerous, if the yarn has that nice, rich, wooly smell, it means that it has lanolin in it.

Alpaca and angora fibers are usually all right, as long as they’re used in conjunction with other safe fibers. Mohair is like this, too, although I’ve never tested any 100% mohair yarns, so I’m not sure if this is due to processing or the nature of the fiber itself. (As an aside, I’ve considered adopting an angora bunny or two. I grew up with house rabbits, and loved it. The majority of rabbits shed a lot, so I’d might as well get some fiber from all the plucking that I’d end up doing anyway. On the other hand, I also love the Mini Rex breed, which doesn’t shed, and my apartment right now doesn’t allow pets, so we’ll see.)

Once I’ve checked the fiber content, I pick a couple of yarns to test. I rub a skein against my inner forearm, and wait for 15 minutes or so. If I don’t have hives by then, I’m usually all right.

For example, Knit Picks Wool of The Andes ought to give me hives, because it’s 100% wool, and labelled by breed (a cross of Merino and Corriedale). I only bought a little bit of it the first time that I ordered it because I was so nervous. Knit Picks is a relatively safe brand for me, which I think has to do with the fact that they’re using faster, harsher processing techniques; a lot of small producers’ products are especially dangerous for me.

Now, Wool of the Andes doesn’t give me hives, per se, but if I knit with it for too long, it does make my hands very chapped and dry. If I let it go for too long (more than about 30-45 minutes of knitting) my knuckles will actually crack and bleed, which is clearly good for neither me nor the yarn. If I stop to wash my hands and reapply my super special sensitive skin hand lotion, things are better, but the handwashing itself takes a toll. The yarn is better after I wash it, too. In fact, the felted heel patches that I made for my fuzzy pants lo these many weeks gone are perfectly fine. I’ve even touched them to my face and neck with no adverse reaction. I’ve also soaked some Wool of the Andes in dish soap, and that seemed to clear up the itchiness just fine. Unfortunately, soaking whole skeins risks felting the whole thing, so I’ll continue knitting and then washing for now.

So, to those wool-allergic knitters, have hope! Try more highly processed fibers, test carefully before you buy, wash well before you wear, and if you come up with more ideas, let me know.

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