Hello there! Yes, there’s more blathering about the perils of tip-toeing down the perfidous path of knitting! You poor darlings!…
Chapter 6: The Gauge Swatch.
So now you’ve been knitting for a little while, and you’re feeling confident! You can cast on like a pro, you have stopped dropping stitches and your garter stitch is nice and even. So’s your stockingette. You can purl with the best of them. Your pot holders and scarves are wonders of knitting to behold. And you no longer have the new-knitter tight-clutch anymore. Not you! And you’ve become so confident with your knitting prowess that you look at helpful instructions about gauge swatches and are all, “Hah! I don’t need to do that! That’s for the noobs! Not me! My gauge is clearly 4 stitches to the inch on size 8 needles with worsted! Perfect!”
Oh, you poor doomed soul…
1: Start a fun sweater pattern with unfamiliar yarn you just brought home. Look at the gauge measurements and go, “Eh. That’s pretty much what I knit anyway. I don’t need to eat up time making a gauge swatch I don’t need.”
2: Snuggle the yarn. It such pretty yarn. It cries out to be a sweater! *your* sweater! Right now! Right this second!!
3: Cast on with wild abandon and start some ribbing. Stop two rows in and think, “Huh, these stitches are a little stretchy. But it’s ribbing, it should be fine. I think I need a glass of wine!”
4: Pour yourself half a bottle of wine and put on The Craft. Knit happily for several hours. Notice the yarn is sliding a bit loosely, but merrily knit on. Marvel on how the wine keeps your fingers nice and loose while you knit.
5: Finish off the wine and yell happily at the movie. Cheer on the magical catfight at the end. Then look down at the cosy knitting on your lap and realise it’s HUUUUUUGE…
6: Curse at your wine-sozzled fingers. Curse at the movie you were enjoying so much 5 seconds ago. Curse at the pretty, pretty yarn and the pretty, pretty circus tent you’ve been making all this time. Curse at the ghost of Elizabeth Zimmerman, who so sweetly kept reminding you to do that gauge swatch before you got all crazy with that yarn. Curse curse curse!
7: Should you rip it out? Should you rip it out? Should you? You should, you know. Frog that bastard and start over. All the way over. Correctly. Like the knitting badass you know you are. You can do it. Even though it’s hours out of your life. And that sweet magical catfight you watched. It’s there, right where the stitches got extra loose. You were laughing so hard, and that was the last glass of wine, too. Man, that was good stuff…
8: Keep knitting anyway. Decide instead of a shapely pullover it’s going to be a tunic. Keep hearing the psycho mom from Carrie chanting, “They’re all going to laugh at you…they’re all going to laugh at you…” Stubbornly plug on. Of course, now your gauge is too tight because you’re wound up. Try not to get too tight on the neck ribbing. Mutter evil things to yourself…
9: After much cursing, another couple of nights with wine and more horribly funny schlocky movies, you’re done! With your circus tent! That has bits that seem too tight!! Hear the sweet voice of Elizabeth Zimmerman in your head, reassuring you that blocking can fix a lot of things. Hope to hell she’s right, or you’re going to go find her grave and yell at it for a while. She’d understand. She was that kind of lady.
10: The tunic, after blocking, is…really not that bad, actually. Friends compliment it, and really appreciate that off-the-shoulder look you’ve got going there. Smile graciously. Smile nervously. Promise the ghost of Elizabeth Zimmerman a nice bottle of wine if she won’t tell the other knitters the truth. And for each and every new project, a gauge swatch shall be knit. Pinky swear…
Eventually there will be some extremely jacked-up illustrations for these little knitting chapters. When I get to it. Which might take a little bit. So you’ll have to imagine the kind of horrible things I could draw for these pages. If you think of something particularly good, feel free to tell me about it…
Mrs Mausi’s Guide to Knitting, #13: lacework…
1: Buy delicate, expensive mohair yarn. Snuggle it. Dream of the wonderful shawl you’re going to make.
2: Look at patterns. Beautiful, eyesearing patterns you’d be completely insane to try. Even just reading the patterns makes your brain cells cringe. Pick out an easy lace pattern you can’t screw up too badly. Promise yourself you’ll tart it up with beads and a cool border later on.
3: Snuggle the yarn some more. Awwwwyeahhhhh…
4: Start your shawl. It’s gorgeous! Light, airy, shows off your snuggly yarn perfectly! And it’s knitting up quickly!! Beam with pride. And putting in an emergency saving strand, in case you mess something up? Nah. No way can you mess up something this simple. You’re a better knitter than *that.*
5: Bring your project to work,can let your coworkers coo over it and pet it. Then realize you missed a yarn over…3 rows down.
6: Swear. Swear like a biker. Swear like a biker with an itchy rash. Because it’s mohair, which resists all attempts to fix anything. Swear like a biker who has to unknit 3and a half rows of freakin’ mohair. Think about leaving the mistake and crocheting a goddamn flower over it or something. Nobody would know. But you would. You would know. Forever…
7: Undo 3 and a half rows of lacework, muttering nastily to yourself. Hope like hell you don’t drop a stitch or jack up the other yarnovers too badly. When a helpful friend recommends frogging it instead,laugh the laugh of the knitting damned.
8: One hour later, finally get to your mistake and fix it. Feel the rush of beautiful, flawless stitches. Snuggle your yarn some more–its your friend again!! Ignore the coworker who says, “can’t you just buy that at a store?” No, my dear. You cannot buy this kind of yarny satisfaction.
*You will be repeating steps 6-8 at least three more times, possibly more. I recommend inventing new swears for each flaw, to keep things fresh.
As a lark recently, and to vent about a knitting project I was struggling with, I put up a little chapter in an imaginary book about knitting. It turned out to be a big, big hit, so I suspect I might actually have to *make* this book in the very near future. I should warn you; when you see chapters, they will be out of sequence. Because most knitters tend to jump around in handy guides to knitting, forward and back, to find that one helpful thing they need that now they absolutely cannot find. If you’re a knitter, you’ll definitely understand…
Mrs Mausi’s Guide to Knitting, Chapter 5: Hats…
Pick out several pretty yarns for your project, realise none of them go together. Swear under your breath.
Knit the band slightly too tightly, with nice bamboo needles. Curse a little, undo the stitches, start over. Repeat at least twice.
Question your choice of yarn. Question your choice of needles. Question your skills as a knitter. Switch over to slidey aluminum needles
Just as you’re getting into the zone, watch your stitches slide off your slidey needles. Swear like a sailor. Swear like an annoyed sailor. Swear like an annoyed sailor who picked the wrong bloody needles. Rearrange the whole yarny mess in your lap so it doesn’t slither away. Refuse to change needles, because you can make this work, right? Right? Right!?
Finally get to the decreases on the top. Feel like you’ve climbed Mount Everest with nothing but a salad fork. Hope like hell it won’t ladder much. Punch the air in victory…And remember you still have to embroider stuff on it. Arrrgh…
…The hat? Turned out great, actually. Never let anybody tell you that you can’t get anything done while swearing, because it just isn’t so…
It’s been a hectic month, with not much posting from Yours Truly. I have a pretty good excuse, though–I got married! And so far, married life is pretty wonderful, with loads of great surprises. And more than a little paperwork. Eh, whaddaya do?
Anyway, I thought it might be nice to get some normal Maus stuff back on track, and dyed up some roving this morning. A coworker had given me her late mother’s fiber stash, along with several very nice balls of white milled wool. They looked like they would take dye very well, so I mixed up some black and red Jaquard dyes for a nice blended black-cherry sort of thing…
While I was adding the red dyes, the pot looked rather…ominous…
Sure enough, the minute I put up the photo on my facebook page, all my friends started weighing in with, “That looks…gory!” “It looks like brains!” “Entrails!” “Don’t lie to us, Ms Maus, you put brains in there, didn’t you?” “Brains!!”
So, for the record, I did not stick brains, entrails, or any other unnatural substance in with my lovely, gory looking wool. Because then it would be terribly sticky and hard to clean. Also hard to spin and knit. Gore is nobody’s friend in the fiber arts, my darlings. Though what goes into my gumbo recipes? Wellllll…
From time to time I veer away from my other goofy projects to write things. Horrible things. Things that probably don’t need writing. This synopsis for Crimson Peak is one of them, written on a quiet day at the Mines on many smallish scraps of notepaper. Disclaimer: I love this film,in all it’s Gothic glory, and I love Guillermo Del Toro. And yet there is snark. The snarking comes from love. Also, spoilers aplenty!!
~Crimson Peak, a Cautionary Tale for Young Impressionable Victorian Ladies with Hearts of Gold~
*There is whiteness, a field of blowing snow, and a bloodstained Mia Wasikowska stares out with stricken eyes*
“There are ghosts…I have always been able to see them. Usually at awkward moments when I’m having a bath or trying really hard to get some sleep…”
*A tiny Victorian child is grieving for her dead mother in her luxurious Victorian bedroom, when a dark, oozy spectre enters the room and whispers, “Don’t gooooo to Crimson Peak…sorry about the oozing…”*
Several years later~
“Hi, I’m Edith Cushing! I’m well off, beloved by my dad and my smoking hot childhood friend, and I’m an aspiring writer! I’m off to talk to a publisher about my ghost story!”
–Mean Girls of 1882: “Hisssssss”
Publisher: “Well, since you’re a girl and have superb penmanship, you gotta sex this manuscript up. Sorry!”
Edith: Dad, I can’t believe it! They want a love story, ugh. I’m not putting in some swoony male lead just to get people to see my work! I want to write bold, dashing tales of ghosts and tentacles and eldrich horrors beyond imagining!”
Edith’s Dad: “Hey, everybody loves a good star-crossed romance! And look, I made you a nice, sturdy pen! Just look at how sharp that nib is!”
Edith: “No, thanks. I’m going to type this instead. No way will I need this awesome pen in the nearish future!”
Dad: “Aww, but I sharpened the nib special!
(Edith tippy taps some keys in the main office and in looms someone tall, dark and Victorian)
Edith: “Hello! Are you late? My dad hates that. And he hates when you’re early too. And you’re Tom Hiddleston, which he’s really going to dislike. But I don’t. At all. Heh.”
Sir Thomas Sharpe, Baronet of Allerdale: “Is this your writing? It’s completely amazing!”
Edith: “Wow, your speed-reading skills are what’s amazing, I mean you just picked that up a second ago!”
~A Meeting Hall Full of Bearded Gentlemen~
Thomas: “I have excellent clay! Rich, red and oddly sinister! Fund my clever Clay-o-matic, and you’ll all be rich! Like the oozy, blood-like clay!”
Edith’s Dad: “Sir you’ve tried to raise funds in London, Edinborough, and Milan, and failed. And you have soft, soft hands that have never held tools like hammers or knives or large rusty hatchets. And your clay is burbling like a lava-lamp over there. So…no.”
~At the Cushing Home~
Edith’s Dad: “You’re sure you’re not coming to the ball? Your doctorish childhood friend with the unrequited crush is going, and his mother and sisters can’t wait to hiss at you!”
Edith: “I’ll pass. I’m just going to lounge around in my frilliest nightgown, Jane Austen style, with loads of books and paper. Seriously, it’s like there’s a library in this bed.”
Edith’s Ghost-Mom: “My beloved child, don’t go to Crimson Peak! Don’t marry that handsome British fellow! He and his sister are craaaaaaazy! Don’t doooooo it!!”
Edith: “Funny all I hear is, “Don’t go to Crimson Peak, blah blah Tom Hiddleston Hottie hot blah.”
Edith’s Maid: “BTW, Baron Sexypants is downstairs and super-wet. From waiting in the rain. To escort you to the ball.”
(30 seconds of frenzied primping later, and possibly help from talking mice:)
Edith’s Dad and Childhood Friend: “You look wonderful!!!”
Mean Girls of 1882: “Hisssss”
Lady Lucille Sharp of Allendale, sister of Thomas: *Plays the piano in a dragon-gown she looted from “The Cell” and hides huge ring the color of bloooood.*
Thomas: “Edith! Dance with me!”
Edith:”But the mean girl on my left is aching to and she’s been chasing you for weeks!”
Mean Girl: *Horrid side-eye*
Edith: “I’m in. Throw down some fancy Baron dance moves, tiger!”
*The candle in their conjoined hands bursts into flames from the glares coming from all sides–dad, childhood pal, mean girls and Lucille.*
~A Romantic Walk in a Park~
*Edith and Thomas walk in the buttery, buttery sunshine. Thomas scurries off with Edith’s new “love story added” manuscript while Lucille keeps Edith company…*
Lucille, stroking dying butterflies: “We don’t have butterflies at home. All we have are moths. Big, scary moths that thrive in the cold and damp.”
Edith: “What do they eat?”
Lucille: *strokes Edith’s face with butterfly corpse* “Butterflies. And sweaters. You should see the holes they’ve eaten in mine. No wool is safe!”
~A Dinner with Dad~
Edith’s Dad: “Alright, Sharpe Sibs, listen up. I did some digging, and I expected something shady, but this is way beyond the pale! Holy crap, you guys! What the HELL is WRONG with you people?!”
Thomas: “You won’t tell Edith, will you? Or the audience?”
Dad: “No. But you’re both leaving, tomorrow. Here’s a check. And you, Baron Hotstuff, will break Edith’s heart. Hard, so she won’t go running after you even if something horrible happens to me!”
(Naturally, after the heart-breaking and the quick “your dad made me do it” post-it Thomas added to Edith’s returned manuscript, something horrible did indeed happen to Edith’s dad…)
Childhood friend: *Cautious Head nod*
Thomas: *Sinister head nod*
Edith: *Has giant red ring on her hand*
Goth Girls Across the Land: “I don’t see why Lucille made such a big deal about that ring; you can get those off Etsy for $20 a pop.”
~Welcome Home, Edith!~
Thomas: “We’re home! Welcome to you spooky, dilapidated mansion! It has all the conveniences, like picturesque holes in the ceiling! And leaves falling in artful ways, even though there are zero trees for miles! And oozy, blood-red clay coming out anywhere it can, and bathwater that runs red! Also, the house moans, groans, sighs, clanks and shrieks! There’s sharp, spikey decorative touches everywhere, and well, I hope you have your tetanus shots…”
Edith: “Oh look! An abandoned Papillion puppy! Such sweet, innocent symbolism! Can we keep it?”
Lucille: “Ohhhhh…it’s you. Welcome, I guess. See these clanky house keys? You’re so not getting any. But you will be getting lots and lots of tea!” *Hugs Thomas. A lot. Really, quite a lot.*
~Later, in the Sinister Bloodbath~
Edith: “What the…who the hell is playing fetch with the dog?”
Spooky Red Ghost: “I miss my doooooog. Little snoogums…”
Ghost:”Get ouuuut….Seriously, more special effects are coming if you don’t leave. Oozy, grody special effects. Get ouuuuuuut…
Lu: “Hi there! Here’s some more tea! Lovely tea! And a naughty book! But I’m sure it’s no shock to you because you DID IT ALREADY, DIDN’T YOU? DIDN’T YOU? DID YOU?!?!”
Edith: “Um, no…Thomas respected my mourning and no. Sadly, regretfully, no.”
The Entire Internet; *pouts*
Lu:”GOOD! I mean, good. Yes. Everything is going to be fine. Enjoy your tea!”
~In the Gorgeous, Gorgeous Moth-riddled Workshop~
*After a hot makeout session with the wife, Thomas freezes in panic as Lu comes up the elevator with a full tray of cups, saucers, tongs, kettle, strainer, but no sugar, lemon or those little petit fours I like.*
Lucille: “WHO WANTS TEA?! EDITH, DRINK IT, DRINK THE TEA! TEA IS HAPPENING, PEOPLE!”
Thomas: *Secret Facepalm*
~Meanwhile in Buffalo, NY, at the Cushing house~
Childhood Friend: *Looking at copies of a newspaper headline and a suspicious document* “Holy crap!!”
~Night at Allerdale Hall~
*Edith is coughing up blood, alone in her bed. She wanders out to one of the hallways, with some helpful hints and a quick jump-scare or two from the ghost.*
Edith:”Wax cannisters hidden in a closet? And a hidden locked suitcase with “Enola” embossed on it? Am I in a Scooby Doo episode or something?”
Ghost #2 *staggers through the hall towards Edith* “Get Ouuuut, you silly girl! How many hints do you need, anyway? You see how stabbed I am? Stabbing will totally happen if you don’t! Get! Ouuuuut!”
~The Sexy Post Office~
Edith: “Thanks for getting me out of that house for a day. I really needed to get away from the ghostiness. And the dead insects. And the live insects. And the tea. I’m really starting to hate tea…”
Postie:”Mail call! Some letters from America, and Milan!”
Edith: “Milan? Didn’t Thomas go to–oh, yeah, sure, I can take that letter. Milan, yeah.”
Postie: “Hey, look, it’s a big cosy snow storm! Why don’t you crazy kids stay in our charmingly rustic room overnight? Because, you know, sexytimes…”*Cough cough*
The Entire Internet: “Yay, finally! WHOOOO!”
Coming up soon, Part Two of our charming saga…with tea! Lots and lots of tea!!