A warm scarf for open worlds

As I’ve mentioned, I play computer games. The last couple of years, I’ve been playing more RPGs. In previous posts I’ve written about how my strategy for staying focused during the idle time of extended chunks of dialogue and cinematics is to approach them with knitting in hand. This hasn’t changed, but sometimes it can be a bit of a challenge to find a knitting project that requires no concentration, can be unceremoniously dropped when I’m confronted with a quick-time event, and is time consuming enough to last me through the 70+ hour open-world marathons that seem to increasingly be the staple of the RPG genre*. If the project helps to use up stash yarn and the end result is ever-so-wearable, then all the better.

[author grins cheerfully] This scarf just went and ticked all the boxes, didn’t it?

P1080179

The pattern is Alla Moda by Gina Bonomo. I wanted the largest scarf I could make, but didn’t have enough yardage for the larger size, so I just cast on an amount of stitches somewhere between the two sizes and knitted for as long as the materials held out. The yarn is two balls of Knit Picks Palette in Abyss Heather and, ahem, an assortment of whatever black fingering weight yarn I could dredge up from the depths of my stash box. There’s definitely some Patonyle in there, and some sock yarn from my 2010 pilgrimage to WEBS. Beyond that is anyone’s guess.

Perhaps these photos aren’t the greatest, but here’s the thing: they were taken on a whim, on my way out of the door. Often when I’m taking a photo of a finished object, I don the knitted piece simply for the reason that it’s finished and I want to post a picture on Ravelry. I take the photos, and then I remove the item in question. Not this time. I took a picture, sure, but it was a matter of thinking “hmm, maybe I should take a picture” once the scarf was already around my neck because I wanted to wear it when I went out. As opposed to putting it on specifically for the purpose of a photo, and then taking it off again. So even though they’re perhaps not the greatest photos, I feel that if nothing else, they’re certainly honest!

P1080175

I’m not going to lie; this scarf took a long time. In a good way. It kept me company through the last 30 hours of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt** and then through nearly all of Mass Effect: Andromeda*** (which clocked in at around 80 hours). Though obviously I wasn’t knitting the entire time. Don’t panic; this is not an 110 hour scarf! Though it sometimes felt that way.

That said, if the process was long, the end result is worth it. It’s warm, light, cozy, and very wearable. It’s casual, but not too casual, and the one row stripes of dark colours keep things nice and subtle; it’s a very versatile piece. When I first cast on, some part of me rebelled at the idea of carelessly knitting a rectangle of stocking stitch with nary a care for curling edges. I’m glad that I trusted the pattern, because the curling honestly don’t bother me nearly as much as I thought. The unfinished look actually works just fine with the rest of the design.

A few posts ago I wrote about wanting to spend this year focusing on (among other things) knitted projects where the end result was, above all, wearable. This project definitely has me living up to these aspirations.

 

 

And because I am apparently incapable of sticking to a single topic, some game flavoured observations:

*Is anyone else a little over huge-open-world for the sake of it? I feel that ever since the Lord of the Rings movies in the early 2000s there’s been this pressure for movies/games/books – especially things produced within and for geek culture – to be “epic”. Sadly “epic” often seems to translate to “needlessly long” and/or “exhaustingly high stakes”. There have been plenty of open world games I’ve enjoyed a great deal, and perhaps this is the wrong context in which to be launching into a critique of the feature, since I actually enjoyed both of the above games and felt that the open world format worked well for them given the themes and content of the story. But I’m tired of the bigger-is-better mentality. Smaller and more focused in scope, hand-in-hand with some tight plotting and good writing, has produced some absolutely incredible results. I think it’s important that we don’t forget that.

 

** This was my first proper experience with the Witcher franchise; the first two games have been languishing in my Steam library because, as a card carrying grumpy feminist, I have mixed feelings about the whole “bang sexy ladies, get collectible cards of said sexy ladies” mechanic in the first game. Thankfully the series has improved a lot in terms of its depictions of women. It’s not perfect; I still die a little inside every time I see a female warrior character, written as a practical person who takes her craft seriously, wearing heels or apparel with zero chest coverage or support to a battle. But aside from this and a whole lot of male gaze, my quibbles are pretty mild. The female characters are excellently written, have a lot of agency, and form supportive relationships with each other during the course of the story. I also ended up liking Geralt a lot more than I expected; I felt a bit indifferent at first but he grew on me once I realised that he wasn’t so much bland as just incredibly dead-pan. And his relationship with Ciri is adorable.

Also, I love any game with a bestiary. And frankly, I could have just wandered around Skellige for hours without getting bored. In fact, I’m pretty sure I did.

 

*** And a few words about Mass Effect: Andromeda, since I know some people who are incredulous that I’m even playing it, given its lukewarm reception. I have plenty of thoughts on this (read: so many thoughts) but I’ll keep it to the bare essentials. Is it a perfect game? No. Do I think it’s okay for developers to release games riddled with glitches? Certainly not (though for what it’s worth, I played the game two weeks after release and encountered very few problems). Do I think that the outcry and negative reception was proportionate to the shortcomings of the game? No. Is it a good game? Yes. Did I enjoy it? Yes, I did.

It’s a big game, and in terms of pacing, it’s kind of a slow game. But given the setting and themes of the story, I didn’t actually have a problem with this. You’re exploring and settling a new galaxy; there’s going to be a lot of different concerns to address, a lot of things to juggle. It would have felt strange for a player character occupying a generalist role like Pathfinder to not have a lot of things competing for their attention. As with many open world games, there was a little too much busy work at times, and while the planetscapes are stunning, the character models really don’t look as good as I’d hoped. But the characters are likeable, the combat is fun and flexible,  the themes are interesting, and the cheesy jokes and callbacks come thick and fast. It’s not a perfect game, but I enjoyed it just fine, and am glad that I played it.

Advertisements

Some things that are unseasonal

Summer’s officially gone here, but in practice, not so much. It’s still been topping 30 degrees on many days over the last week, and even our rainy days are still pretty warm. I’m hoping we get some proper autumn weather soon. Melbourne’s shoulder seasons are utterly gorgeous… in the years that we actually have them. Some years you have weeks and weeks of lovely mild weather, but in others the weather changes from volcanic to chilly depressingly quickly. I’m still crossing my fingers for the former, but right now things are still pretty warm (which is still, admittedly, an improvement on searing).

As is always the case by the end of summer, I’ve got a ton of knitted projects to photograph but very little desire to layer up with wool and sweat my way through however many pictures. This wouldn’t be a problem if I picked seasonal projects like a normal person, but every year I make noises about knitting with summer-appropriate yarns through the hotter months, and pretty much every time I sit there in the 40 degree January heat stubbornly knitting away with wool. So a pile of scarves and jumpers it is. Oh well.

Given my backlog, it would probably make sense to just make a morning of it and photograph everything in one session, getting progressively pinker and sweatier in each picture. But I’m a wimp and while I have excellent intentions to blog more regularly, I do draw the line at courting heatstroke. So instead, I’m tackling a few projects at a time.

P1080003

This scarf is the Dragon Wing Cowl (knit version) pattern by Jessie Rayot. I have an unabashed love for a) voluminous scarves and b) things that are a bit angular, so I had to have it. Plus I had the perfect buttons lying around, and the pattern was free. Why fight it?

P1070994

I have to confess: I didn’t particularly enjoy knitting this all that much. It wasn’t difficult, but it was a little fiddly keeping track of the rows and increases. Or at least more fiddly than I usually prefer my garter stitch, at any rate. That said, the finishing was super fun and if you pay attention to the pattern you are rewarded with a scarf that looks pretty much exactly as promised (always a good thing). I’m pretty taken with the finished product, and can’t wait until it’s cool enough to wear it.

P1070949

This pullover – the aforementioned project that I was clutching even through the worst of the summer heat – was born of my need for something mindless to knit while I played Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (yes, yes, it’s a million years old, I know) because as per the last post, I go stir-crazy playing story-heavy RPGs unless I have something to do with my hands while the NPC tells me where the ogre/space ogre is hiding out.

The pattern is Driftwood by Isabell Kraemer. This is actually my second Driftwood, and I have to say that I like it a lot better than my first, mainly just because this time around I made better choices re: buttons and sizing. I’m really pleased with how this came out, and I’m really looking forward to wearing it once the weather starts to cool off a little.

P1070933

(stubbornly puffy mess of curls brought to you by humid weather… *sigh*)

The only modifications I made to the pattern were to opt 1) for slightly different waist shaping (decreasing under the bust, rather than going full A-line) and 2) working 1×1 ribbing and tubular bind offs at the edges of the sleeves/body. It’s not altogether obvious in the above photo – the effect is subtle even when you’re looking closely – but I also went for alternating blue and green buttons to match the dark green/blue/black of the yarn.

The only problem is, having finished the above pullover, I’m now wading about in a sea of sketches, rough ideas, swatches and false-start projects when what I really want is something simple and repetitive to knit while I finish playing Witcher 3. I could just cast on some sort of garter stitch scarf, of course, but that’s not really in keeping with my resolution to put a little more thought into my projects and focus on knitting things that I’ll actually wear; I already have plenty of garter stitch scarves.

Hopefully I’ll settle on a project soon; heaven knows I have a massive Ravelry queue, a handful of Pinterest boards, and several good old-fashioned to-knit lists to help me decide. And hey, if the ambitious projects I want to try are not suitable gaming knitting, then I’m sure my love of drapey scarves and tiny gauge will come through and save me somehow!

Back home resolutions. Or something.

Note: I’d like to start by excusing the tardiness of this post. I know, I know, most people tend to have their new year posts out of the way in January but I am a trendsetter didn’t have an internet connection for the entirety of that month. So no real way around it!

I used to claim that I never made New Year’s resolutions, possibly because I thought that this made me cool. Or something. Perhaps it’s more accurate to say that I don’t tend to articulate them in those terms. It’s not like I resolve to do certain things from 01 January onward. It’s more that the end of the year almost always finds me away from home, and away from home (wherever that may be) always seems an appropriate distance from which to think about ways to improve being at home. You know, Regular Life and all. So perhaps I don’t make New Year’s resolutions so much as I have a good old think about the things that I would like to do better once I get home. But that’s a much less catchy title. For all that you’d never know it from reading my writing, I am actually a fan of being concise, so perhaps we should just call them New Year’s resolutions. Or Back Home Resolutions, perhaps?

That established, I am also never sure if I should make my New Year’s resolutions public. It gives me an excuse for another blog post at the end of the year; the “did I actually live up to my good intentions” post in which I congratulate and gently eviscerate myself by turns. My posting is erratic at best, so what’s not to like about a guaranteed post? There’s also the public shaming element, too, I suppose. But I can beat myself up with great efficiency free of assistance, so it’s hardly necessary.

Plus, you never know what life has in store that’ll throw your resolutions right out the window. A bleedingly obvious example is your health; I’ll probably write more about this later, but I’ve had my share of health related surprises over the last year or so; surprises that have definitely shaped my day-to-day life in a very major way.

But, considering one of the things that I decided I would like to do is actually post on your &$*#ing blog from time to time, Anna, I thought that I’d at least post my knitting, crafting, and baking related goals. The internet at large really doesn’t need to know about my intentions re: the tidiness of my desk, after all.

In terms of knitting, I would like to work on more original designs. The embarrassing truth is that I have a sketchbook partly full of ideas, but for the most part, I haven’t gotten around to ushering any of them into reality. This is partly because I’ve spent so much of the last year or so being sick and/or low on energy. When you’re groggy and lethargic and in pain, the last thing you want to do is swatch or crunch numbers; you just want comfort knitting where you don’t need to think (like massive garter stitch blankets). At all. But the fact of the matter is that the fatigue may not be going anywhere any time soon, and I don’t want to spend the rest of my knitting career making plain raglan pullovers and garter stitch scarves. So I’m going to try harder to make the best of the times when I am able to concentrate on designing.

I’d also like to learn some new techniques; specifically, I’d like to get more comfortable with steeking, as well as maybe dip a toe into some intarsia. I’d also like to try zipper insertion, and attempt adding a fabric lining to a knitting project. Generally speaking, I’m also interested in refining my techniques a little. I’d certainly class myself as an intermediate knitter nowadays – I’m perfectly comfortable with stranded colourwork, elaborate cabling, lace, chart reading, grafting – but I’d like to work on the small things that enhance fit, finishing, etc and just generally improve the craftsmanship of a knitted piece.

I also want to have a go at more elaborate cabling, because cabling is super fun! Full disclosure: I didn’t like cables at all before I tried knitting them. Now I can’t stop. Ever.

(pictured below is my cabled version of the pick, pick, pick it up! cardigan that I promise I will finish as soon as I decide how I’m going to make it work)

30047382452_a107d816f5_o

I’d also like to continue focusing on items that I will actually wear, that work well with my existing wardrobe. Like many knitters, I’m often guilty of the “oooh, I want to knit that” response to a pattern that realistically I know I will never wear, or not often enough to justify the expense of the yarn or the space the unused item will occupy in my wardrobe. I’m not saying I want to completely quash that feeling, because that would be a joyless existence! But I am thinking that I’m instead going to channel it into knitting things for friends/family who might wear the item in the cases where I know I certainly won’t.

I’m trying to get to the point where my main focus is wearability (ideally with a side helping of aesthetic interest), where my approach is to figure out gaps in my wardrobe and knit to fill them, or at the very least to identify design elements that work for me and go from there. A recent project that I really enjoyed was an improvised project where I decided that I wanted a colourwork pullover (the stranding keeps my neck/chest nice and warm, and lets me use up scraps!) that also had pockets to keep my hands warm. I used the yoke design from one cardigan pattern (the Istex Icelandic Zip Cardigan) and the pocket style from another (Astor by Norah Gaughan) and sort of sandwiched them together in pullover form. I’m really happy with the result and more to the point, the project ticked all of the boxes (warm chest, warm hands) that I’d had in mind when I started. I’d like more of my projects do that; to knit with purpose as well as creativity.

22876972463_f5055f0e3a_o

23504115125_797433fe4b_o

My non-knitting crafting goals are a little less focused, but I guess that’s to be expected given that my skill level is lower. I’d really love to do more sewing to consolidate my (meagre) abilities; specifically, I’d like to focus more on wearable garments, and small projects on which I can get much needed practice. I’d also like to try my hand at sewing more stuffed toys, as many of my friends have small children on whom I love to dote, but knitting at the tight gauge required for toys with stuffing is murder on my hands and just not enjoyable.

I’d also like to do more drawing; I’ve been dipping a toe back into this lately, and really loving it, or at least loving it on the occasions that I can let go of my expectations and insecurities and just draw without worrying about whether the result looks any good.

I’m also hoping to expand my sourdough repertoire. I’m very happy with the crusty white loaves I’ve been baking the last year, but I’d love to broaden my range into ryes, multi-grains, and more creative ingredients generally.

So there you have it. I made resolutions. Now there’s only one more incoming start-of-a-new-year post through which you all have to sit before I finally reconcile myself to the fact that it’s 2017. At least I’m posting, right?

On the home front / a blanket

This blog probably gives the impression that I travel a lot more than I do. And it’s probably going to continue giving that impression since I’m, oh, three or four separate holidays behind. *hangs head in shame* Apparently I need to update more. I’ll try, okay?

At any rate, I do actually spend a lot of time at home, in Melbourne. I am, in fact, a total homebody. When I’m not travelling near and far, anyway. What can I say? I’m chronically inconsistent. Perhaps this is why the Sorting Hat quiz can never decide on my Hogwarts house…

I’ve been working hard the last year at turning my home into a place in which I am happy and comfortable, that I feel reflects my personality. Admittedly given my home is shared with other people – people whose aesthetics and lifestyles don’t always coincide with mine – it’s never going to be completely my own brand of artsy-craftsy domestic serenity. But that’s okay. Compromise is a thing, and there are still a couple of small spaces that are completely my own. And some of the shared spaces are lovely too. Two thirds of the household (present company included) are disgusting hipsters who love their indoor plants, so we’ve been working away busily on this. Of course, the room that gets the best sun doubles as a dumping ground for tools, but the plants are happy, so I am too!

p1070494

Poor babies need me to get off of my behind and find them new pots!

I also knitted a blanket, in a (wholly triumphant) attempt to use up some of my yarn scraps. Given how admirably Devin (what, you don’t name your car?) performed during the road trip detailed over the last few posts, I thought a reward was in order, and I’ve always liked having a blanket in the back seat in case of unseasonable cold, impromptu picnics, etc.

There is something else, though. If we’re being completely honest, the blanket was originally relegated to the car because… I was fairly convinced that it was going to be horrifically ugly. 50% of the yarn used was a violently purple wool/angora blend that I picked up for $1 per ball some years ago, because I’m only flesh and blood and can’t resist on-sale natural fibres. The yarn, of course, languished unused, but I couldn’t bring myself to de-stash the it; even though it was certainly not a colour I’d voluntarily wear, it was deliciously warm and snuggly. A blanket that would be banished to the car (where I didn’t have to look at it very often) seemed an elegant solution, if indeed you could ever use the word “elegant” in a sentence relating to such a virulent shade of purple (debatable). The thing is, the monstrosity actually grew on me as I knitted away. It’s not what you’d call tasteful or subdued, but it’s somehow glorious in its own way. This blanket clearly doesn’t care what anyone thinks. It’s now finished, and you know what? I love it, albeit a little sheepishly.

32718031326_75001a9d31_o

The pattern is Stephen West’s Garter Squish; it’s a seriously wonderful design for using up scraps, and I really love the i-cord edging. As per the pattern, I used two worsted(ish) yarns held together to get a roughly bulky weight fabric. In practice, this meant holding one strand of Cleckheaton Angora Supreme together with random scraps from my stash, and knitting until the thing was enormous. In an attempt to break up the purple a little, I also dyed some of the Cleckheaton yarn a royal blue colour using food dye.

While I didn’t record exact (or inexact) quantities, in terms of metreage, this blanket is certainly the biggest thing I’ve ever knitted, and probably heavier than anything bar my Sylvi coat INSERT LINK). I was expecting such an enormous project to be tedious, but this actually went surprisingly fast and at no point did I want to light it on fire. It took a long time, yes, but that’s mostly due to the fact that I was only picking it up as brain-free knitting in between other projects. It also made for a superb gaming project; kept my hands busy (and my lap and legs toasty) through many a merry hour of Mass Effect.

And, of course, it’s incredibly warm; the wool/angora blend is super snuggly and the finished product is very cosy without being particularly heavy. The only problem now is that I need to wait until autumn to snuggle under it again. I still find myself eyeing it after trying days, but given it’s summer and all, I’d probably expire if I sought shelter within its lurid depths.

Thankfully, it makes me happy just by existing on my study chair. Just look at this magnificent bastard! ❤

32635508721_5d18905eb8_o

Finished object: Hickory

So much for my attempts to post regularly. Now living in a house with plenty of blank walls against which to take finished object shots (something sorely lacking from my last place of residence) I had the very best of intentions to post more regularly, but between coming down with glandular fever and my camera dying on me, it didn’t quite turn out that way. Still, better late than never.

I have, at least, actually been doing a great deal of knitting over the last few months. Admittedly it’s been mostly to keep my hands occupied while I play endless hours of Dragon Age, but the point is that I’m knitting, right? So, without further ado, the first in what will hopefully be a string of finished object posts.

18724356172_0f0314e150_z

Pattern: Hickory by Cecily Glowik MacDonald

Yarn: Bendigo Woollen Mills Rustic 12ply.

Colour commentary: I started this so long ago that it’s actually embarrassing. Ravelry suggests it was February 2014 but I have a sneaking suspicion that I might have cast on even earlier than this. Don’t let the dates fool you; this was actually an incredibly fast knit. That I promptly finished and tossed in my wardrobe, having tried it on briefly and deemed it to be unflattering. Not entirely sure what I was thinking, in hindsight.

At any rate, this got plucked out again on a sunny morning in May. I was quite wretchedly hung over but was still required to be social, so I grabbed the nearest knit so I would have something to do while I smiled, nodded and wished ever so fervently that I was still asleep. So I sat on the roof of the house, made polite conversation, and weaved in the last few ends of my Hickory. One blocking later and I realised that I actually liked it after all.

So all’s well that ends well. Or something. It’s a shame it took a blinding hangover to get me there, but it’s a good place to be. Now I’m well and truly won over, I actually wear this all of the time. It’s very practical for layering, and I can wear it over most of the long-sleeved shirts I own. The cowl provides me with a lot of extra warmth around my throat and chest, just where I need it most, and the waist shaping keeps things as flattering as a bulky vest can possibly be. (actually, the other day someone asked if I was wearing a corset underneath. Which was, you know, kind of a strange question, but I’ll assume that it at least indicates that the vest is not horribly shapeless!)

I’m also pathetically grateful to have finally found a home for this yarn. It’s been at least three other projects, but I was never 100% happy with how the slight fuzziness of the yarn was playing out in pattern. I think it works here though; the fuzziness softens everything a bit but the patterned stitches still show through. I’m a bit concerned about future pilling, as I’ve had this issue with BWM Rustic in the past, but we’ll see how we go, I suppose. That’s why we have lint shavers, after all.

18541517730_e171eb3849_z

And yes, I needed a haircut very badly when these photos were taken. I fact, I feel I should just issue a general apology for these photos, as they were taken on my camera phone and are really not very good even by my standards. Thankfully, my camera-camera is up and running again, so hopefully we won’t have this problem again for a while!