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Archive: September 2005

Kiri (and a little more)

I take off tomorrow for my grandparents’ home, so I’ll be gone for the rest of the week. It will be interesting to see how I get by without regular internet access! Steven will still be around and, I hope, posting some of the thoughts he’s been talking about with me lately.

In addition to being helpful, I should have some time for reading and I’m bringing a knitting project with me, hoping I’ll pass through airport security with my needles. When I come back, though, I can promise at least one comics post. Tonight I finally found the notes I’d taken for Art Spiegelman’s first post-9/11/01 lecture, which he discusses in the introduction to In the Shadow of No Towers. (I probably shouldn’t have let Tom Spurgeon publish something so conversational and rough, but basically all that I said stands.) So that’s something I will accomplish, but I’ve accomplished more than just cleaning and packing this weekend.

Rose wearing the Kiri shawl I finally finished a shawl for my grandmother, Polly Outhwaite’s Kiri (free PDF format pattern). I had been working on this in early summer but put it aside when I was having trouble with my arm and only picked it up again in the last week to get it finished. The pattern was easy to follow and memorize and I think it makes a lovely shawl. This is yarn that my grandmother gave me, some sort of mohair blend I think in a pale, mottled brown. I think these cones I got are remnants from a closed knitting mill, but I’ll ask about them when I see her. She used to knit blankets from them and while I have the pattern she used, I’ve been sticking to smaller projects, shawls, scarves, and soon a sweater.

Rose showing the size of the Kiri shawl I used U.S. #7 needles and with such thin yarn the finished product is practically weightless when it’s worn. It’s about 58 inches along the top edge, 29 inches along the central spine that hangs down. I think each side has 11 points along the edge. I could have blocked it bigger, but my grandmother is not as tall as I am and I think this size will be sufficient. I blocked the shawl by soaking it and then pinning it out to the proper dimensions (I ran a piece of yarn through the top horizontal edge to keep it straight) and shape. Since I finished knitting at 11 last night, I ended up making adjustments until midnight and while exhausted, which probably wasn’t the best state of affairs.

detail of Kiri leaf lace pattern I do think it’s a lovely shawl, light and delicate. I like the repeated leaf pattern that covers it, especially in a light, natural color like this one (although my striped tank top detracts from any simplicity). I think it will be a welcome gift and it has the added advantage of looking more complex than it is. I would recommend this pattern to a first-time lace knitter and it can be expanded to a variety of sizes, from a tiny kerchief to a huge shawl. Mine is midsized, about what you would apparently get with two skeins of Kidsilk Haze, but I think it’s a good size for my purposes, and by this time tomorrow I’ll know!

Dare to Know

I bought Rex Libris because it seemed so rare to find a comic with a truly funny pun in its title. I should have read the fine print.

Rose Vess pointed out much of what I would have said about the labored whimsy of the story and its annoying commentary track. (I’m still sort of weirded out and excited that the comics blogosphere is big enough to sustain two Roses.) I mean, even “Rex Libris” stops being a funny name when it’s the name of an actual Roman. Steven didn’t make it through the parody letter from the editor section on the inside front cover because he was so annoyed by the inconsistencies and bad punctuation. I would have written that off as characterization or part of the joke except that it’s pretty clearly not.

And then there’s the front cover, from which I derive my title. See, this is a comic so portentous it even has an epigraph: Sapare Aude. And I looked at that and said, “Wait, shouldn’t that be Sapere?” and then didn’t trust myself because my Latin was inadequate well before it got rusty, so I went on with life. But it nagged at me and I googled it and sure enough you get some hits with their spelling, but that’s why using a dictionary is a good idea, because there’s plenty of information about the meaning and derivation of Sapere aude, “dare to know.”

And I know this is a rant I’ve gone into many times before, but I still think it’s sort of insulting to be expected to appreciate something on an intellectual level if the writers can’t bother to learn how to use commas. Why have a Latin motto if it’s not even in Latin? But more importantly, who’s in charge? I assume Slave Labor can’t afford to have someone proofread the comics before the script gets matched up with the art for the final project or even in large text areas like the “Barry’s Brain” segment. Despite the library focus of the title, it’s not clear that the creator wanted to spend too much time in real libraries or with real librarians in creating it. So here I am left frustrated again that there isn’t any expectation of quality or consistency in even the mechanics of writing. Sure, Brian Michael Bendis got to wherever he is on the current hot writers list without being able to string more than two sentences together coherently and without drastic misspellings, but at least Marvel can offer him an effective spellchecker. I don’t think I would have liked the story in Rex Libris any more had James Turner had this luxury, but it certainly would have made me less annoyed and bitter than I am now.

Minisweater elegans

Rose wearing her minisweaterIt’s sweater time again, although this is the last garment I’ll be showing for a while. This is the minisweater designed by Stefanie Japel. I think I began on 1 September and ended 5 September or something like that, and I worked on several other projects at the same time. I deviated from the pattern quite a bit, but that’s sort of the point with this setup. Instead of worsted weight yarn I used very nearly all of two skeins of Araucania Nature Wool Chunky in a variegated bright green. The body was knit on U.S. size 7 needles with the garter stitch edges done on U.S. 4 needles.

detail of minisweater back

I used yarnover increases to make decorative eyelets along the raglan seams. I made straight raglan sleeves, omitting the puffed portion, and threw in a few short rows. The sleeves are also not as long as the ones in the original pattern because I was running out of yarn. I think I got through 5 rows before starting the garter stitch border. I made two more sets of increases on the body after separating the stitches that make up the arms, although this may not have been a great idea as the back is just a tiny bit loose. The button also wants to come undone, so I may end up taking it out and moving it so the fronts have more overlap where they meet, which would then tighten up the extra space in the back.

detail of minisweater front

And here is the front with its button closure. Moving the button would give me slightly more coverage, although coverage clearly isn’t really the point of this design. Because it’s wool and knit much less loosely than the garment in the pattern, it seems very warm and should be a great coverup to let me keep wearing tank tops into the fall. The fabric is very fuzzy but doesn’t seem to be pilling and doesn’t leave fluff on my clothes. And I chose a red button on purpose, because I had a theme for this sweater and that theme was TURTLE.

Rose\'s turtle, FoucaultThis is Foucault, my six-year-old red-eared slider (Trachemys scripta elegans). He doesn’t actually live in the sink, but I was scrubbing out his tank tonight and figured this was a good opportunity for a photo shoot. Since he’s a mature turtle, his shell is fairly dark now, but I like the combination of various greens and a spot of red and used a color scheme more reminiscent of his looks as a hatchling. I don’t think he’ll get the following that some comics bloggers’ pets have, but that’s okay. Being a turtle, he values his privacy.

“Remember all those stories you used to tell me?”

I started reading Hope Larson’s Salamander Dream as soon as it began online with the beginning of The Secret Friend Society and I’ve been wanting to write about it since it ended this summer. The story details the various trips a girl, Hailey, makes into the woods behind her house as she grows up and the interactions she has there with Salamander, a sort of magical personified salamander.

“Once upon a time,” the story begins, “there was a little girl very much like you.” And while I don’t know if all readers thought this spoke to them, I know it did to me. My parents moved a few months before I was born, meaning that these were not my woods and mine were more northern ones than North Carolina’s. My story would have had fewer pine trees, more limestone fossils, no chestnuts, but bigger ferns and King Solomon’s Seal. Perhaps because I think of Hailey as a girl very much like me, I don’t think this is a story about imaginary friends; I think it’s a love story. It’s a love story about stories and about the world and the way we can forget about those things as we get older and the importance of remembering them.

I’m still not sure if every story is in some ways a story about the creation of self through narrative, but seldom have I seen such a good example as the story teenaged Hailey tells Salamander starting on page 71. Her story swoops down through her body until subatomic particles make the same tracks that fireflies did in the outside world. (Or are they lightning bugs in North Carolina? This being a minimally wordy story, we never learn!) It’s as-above-so-below on every level, this a story of falling like Salamander’s bird ride was and really like every section of the Salamander Dream story is, dropping Hailey and the reader back in the woods for more of something. What that something is is different every time, but still united. The woods change, our understandings of the woods change, but there being woods somewhere doesn’t change.

One thing that makes this story so compelling and extraordinary (despite the in some ways quite simple subject matter) is that so little of it is told, and I don’t just mean that there aren’t many words. It’s that everything seems to flow and so much is subtext, faces appearing in the clouds or as clouds, the sky behind the pine trees like another row of pine trees, the moments of quiet recognition between Hailey and Salamander. While it’s a story about growing up and with content appropriate for all ages, I’m not sure how the story would read to someone who hasn’t moved away from home and the woods and childhood a bit. But maybe that’s me thinking this is a story about a girl a little too much like myself.

I suppose what I’m getting at (poorly, I’m afraid) is that Salamander Dream does an amazing amount with a little. There aren’t many words and it’s not a long story, but it’s a haunting one. I’m not sure if it was the contemplative experience of reading only one page a day that made it seem like the story itself had gotten into my blood and DNA and atoms and taken up residence there. It feels like it’s mine not because I identify but because it’s told so clearly and directly and without missteps. I get a little weepy at the ending every time because I don’t want to forget Salamander and the way the story makes me feel even as I read it on my laptop in my little apartment. It’s a little piece of spring that nestles inside me and helps me remember to help it grow. The story brings out all the needlessly florid metaphors in me that the text itself rejects. It’s plain and direct and deep and elusive, which I think is the point it’s trying to make about the essential qualities of life and nature, human and otherwise. We all need to be aware of quiet and the spaces between things and the way stories don’t always have easy endings but also the ways they connect and overlap and wind together, the ways we live in the world.

I’d like to say more about Salamander Dream, but it’s time for my own dreaming. And I know that every time I come back to the story I’ll be someone slightly different, growing up in my own way like Hailey. “But maybe she found another place in the world” like I hope we all do, like I hope I have done and continue to do. It’s not the same place but it might be similar, a place to reflect on old places. For me, this has been a weekend for that sort of thing and it was refreshing to reread Salamander Dream and let it pull me out of that and into something else, a kind of awareness of the now as part of all those pasts. I appreciate that and look forward to pushing into futures. And in the near future, I hope to read Salamander Dream in book form to see what the green on cream looks like between my hands, maybe near some grass this time, see what change that brings. Maybe it will give me another story to tell.


Rose wearing her Funky sweaterI’m finally getting photos of a sweater I finished more than a month ago. I had been calling this my SPX sweater, although I didn’t really think I’d need a sweater in Maryland in September. Now it turns out Steven and I won’t be able to attend this year and instead I’ll be staying with my grandmother while she goes through a surgery, which means the sweater may get to make its debut after all.

It’s the Funky sweater from Rowan #34, last year’s winter issue. I used the now-discontinued yarn called for in the pattern for the jacket version, Rowanspun Chunky in color Fern. I used between 7 and 8 skeins to make the Medium size. The pattern calls for 9, but I did not use the yarn to sew my seams, which might have made some of the difference. I generally knit loosely and I think used US 10.5 (but maybe 10) needles instead of the 11 called for in the pattern.

back view of Funky sweaterI think I followed the pattern as is except to add 2 inches to the sleeves to accommodate my gorilla-like arms. The hook-and-eye closures are also my innovation (I don’t really want a big, cozy sweater that is open and drafty at the front) although I am in the process of removing the ones I’ve put in and moving them so it will close more tightly. As shown in the back view, there’s plenty of room for layering under this (and the lumpiness is due to my not standing straight).

stitch pattern and shaping detailWith big yarn and needles, this was a very quick knit. I think I spent 3-4 weeks working on it only intermittently. This photo shows the side shaping, which is pretty much all that goes on here. The stitch pattern is so simple that it’s a great mindless project, but the shaping keeps it from being too bulky. I loved the rough, tweedy yarn, and it has softened considerably after one wash. There was quite a bit of vegetable matter in the yarn and I expect to be picking burrs out of it for some time to come, but I’m a sucker for its rustic charm.

detail of Funky collarAnd this, I think, is the best part, what drew me to the sweater. I’ve never seen a crazy bobbled collar like this and it fascinated me. I didn’t do the world’s best job attaching the collar, but I still like the way it looks and it, too, gives the sweater more shape and character than many bulky knits have. All in all, while it was a straightforward and relatively quick project, I do think it’s a fun and comfortable sweater I’ll wear a lot (as weather permits; tonight was not ideal for heavy wool sweaters!) and have around for years to come.


So I’ve been following the news almost nonstop for a week—not good for one’s health. I can almost feel my blood pressure building every time I see Barbara Bush’s Marie Antoinette act, which I think is a good sign it’s time for a break. After all, there’s not much I can do that I haven’t already done; sadly, I don’t have a guillotine handy. Momentary distractions are good, and I might as well distract myself with a return to my old hobby of blogging about unimportant stuff.

Banana Sunday #2, Root Nibot and Colleen Coover: Oh dear, oh dear. Now, monkey can get ambiguous, because there are a few monkey species with “ape” in their common name, although such monkeys are not considered true apes. However, gorillas and orangutans are simply not monkeys. You know, now that I think of it, I don’t think I’ve ever before seen gorillas or orangutans mistakenly called monkeys. Chimpanzees and gibbons, sure, they look sort of like monkeys. But gorillas? But the primates are so terribly cute and fun, especially Go-Go, that I can’t resist.

Also, Martin is a creep. I keep hoping Kirby will wise up and punch him right on the nose. But oh, those primates! I guess I’ll put up with anything for a little gorilla who loves butterflies.

Shining Knight #4, Grant Morrison, Simone Bianchi et al.: Jog is still worried about Seven Soldiers—actually, he’s more worried. Alas for him! Well, Shining Knight sure isn’t self-contained. After reading Jog’s post, I wondered, “What was Morrison thinking with his ‘modular storytelling’ hype, anyway?” And, actually, I bet I know what he was thinking: it was probably a joke at the expense of company-wide crossover “events.” Seven Soldiers, at least so far, has the virtue of being mostly self-contained—you don’t need to catch the allusions to other stories to follow the current story, although an understanding of the allusions can add entertaining nuances to your reading. Because he likes to take the piss, Morrison describes the self-containment hyperbolically: not only does a single issue in the Seven Soldiers series (I won’t call it an “event”) not cross over with other series, it doesn’t even cross over with Seven Soldiers! I doubt Morrison ever planned to make Seven Soldiers “modular.” (Or maybe he did—I haven’t spoken with him on the matter! But it doesn’t really matter if the story is satisfying, and I’ve been satisfied thus far.) I haven’t reread all four issues yet, but I think Shining Knight does work as a self-contained chapter in a larger story.

One promise Morrison has kept is that the chapters never quite intersect. Zatanna occasionally moves through Shining Knight’s wake, but no more than that (so far, so far). Which leads me to another of Jog’s complaints: Zatanna and Shining Knight don’t really match up; there are glaring continuity glitches. I admit that didn’t bother me—maybe I cut Morrison and his collaborators too much slack, but I expect Morrison’s narratives to be malleable, more metaphorical abstraction than concrete world-building. But even if the continuity glitches are simply mistakes, I find them more entertaining than bothersome. But I’m obsessed with cut-up aesthetic in all art forms, and there’s almost nothing I like more in a story than when it starts to fall apart, whether or not the author wanted it to. But this is Morrison, so I hesitate to say the inconsistencies are a result of carelessness. I guess we’ll see, though.

And, well, I think we’re meandering toward Jog’s final question: is Morrison getting in over his head? Actually, I hope so! I don’t trust an artist who doesn’t make an occasional graceful bellyflop into the deep end of the pool, and Morrison is one of my favorite writers because his entire artistic career has been one bellyflop after another—some more graceful than others, but all entertaining.

But what about the story? Well. So, Sir Justin is a girl. Unexpected but unsurprising. Like most of his stories, the building blocks of Shining Knight are slightly off-kilter clichés. Let’s see—in Seven Soldiers #0, Shelly Gaynor dresses up in a stupid fetish costume and stupidly goes to bed with an asshole. Zatanna causes no end of trouble by wishing for the man of her dreams. The Manhattan Guardian presents a variation on that immortal action-movie cliché, the obsessed man who neglects his wife and family because, damn it, he’s got a job to do. Gender, especially the feminine, is something to watch out for in Seven Soldiers; I’ll have to keep this in mind as I reread.


Next up is the Audrey sweater from Rowan book 35. I started working on this last December and had various spurts of effort followed by total inactivity, so I have no idea how much time was spent on it.

Rose wearing the Audrey sweater

I used Rowan Calmer yarn in the color Peacock on U.S. size 5 needles. I did not join the Audrey Knitalong but did read all the posts and benefited from them. The Calmer is amazingly soft and stretchy, though I think it will pill eventually. I had a lot of worries about how this sweater would look on me. I lengthened the body and sleeves by somewhere between 1 and 2 inches and worked the body in the round to the armholes. I did not do the raglan decreases as specified in the pattern; I thought decreasing into one purl row rather than two made a nicer line and a more symmetrical match between the body and sleeve sections. Because I was paranoid that it would be too small, I put a few short rows in the bust to make darts as well as doing the waist shaping detailed in the pattern.

detail of Audrey sweater waist shapingI did not, however, follow the shaping directions, although I increased or decreased the right number of stitches on the appropriate rows. Instead I decreased and increased in ribbing to get an hourglass shape similar to the one suggested in Tiffany’s knitalong post. I think this is a much more elegant and smooth look than the setup in the original pattern.

detail of Audrey sweater lace necklineI ended up knitting the lace directly onto the sweater (I did not bind off the neck stitches but left them all on one big circular needle) because I couldn’t figure out a nice way to sew it on. I did 18 lace repeats for the medium size and the neckline is high but not confining. My moment of idiocy was when I didn’t check where I was beginning on the lace, meaning that my seam is quite visible above my left shoulder on the front rather than on the back. I haven’t decided whether this bothers me yet. I may rip out the seam and try to do something more invisible, or maybe this is the time to finally take advantage of the current trend for pinning knit or fabric flowers on shirts. We’ll see.

I don’t know where I’ll wear this yet or how comfortable it will be and I’m not likely to find out until the weather cools considerably, but for now I’m basically happy with my finished product and definitely happy to be done with it at last. I’m going to wash it and try to stretch the torso a little bit, hoping this will even up the ribs a bit and then find some excuse to wear it in the fall.

(Thanks to Steven for taking the photos of me wearing this and the flower basket shawl in the last post and for not laughing at me too much for looking vampiric in the first photo here. Believe me, the alternatives were worse!)