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?

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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! ❤

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