It has been cold, dreary, grey, rainy and windy here in California. Not even the sight of mist swirling in the Berkeley hills is cheering me up as it normally does. Usually the rains vanish by mid-Feb and the signs of spring are unmistakable as the birds and plants go crazy and it gets warmer and brighter. This year, these damned wet spells keep coming back every few days. Yes I know, we haven’t had any snow so I shouldn’t complain, but to add to my woes every second person you meet piously reminds you that “we need the precipitation” in that annoying, self-satisfied tone that Californians have perfected.
So yesterday, I ventured out on a wet and blustery afternoon to meet Huan-hua and Kristin for a small bloggers’ meet-up at Stash. I hadn’t seen Stash’s new digs (very nice!), and it was great fun to poke around with them in the store gossiping about Ravelry forums and discussing yarns and patterns. My eyes met a freshly-arrived batch of Madelinetosh sock yarn, and I fell in love, abandoning my plans to wait until Stitches to splurge. Some hot yarn pr0n to take the edge of the wet chill:
It is called ‘Nutmeg,’ but to me it is the colour of vasant (spring), of marigolds and mustard flowers in full bloom, of the vasant panchami festival. Our JNU campus in Delhi used to be awash in this colour on this day, when the Bengalis (the campus was awash in them all year long!) celebrated Saraswati pujo by wearing mustard-shaded sarees and kurtas. It was a sudden visual shift from the foggy colourlessness of December-January, and a prelude to the magenta explosion of bougainvillea amidst the rocky terrain in March.
There were so many unbelievably gorgeous Tosh shades – little flickers of deep purple in grey-black, midnight blues and deep sea greens and bright fiery reds and pale, grassy sage – I could drown in those colours for hours. But you probably remember that I love mustard-yellow, and just last week, a friend and I had been thinking about this colour as we bitched and moaned about the grey weather. So I snatched up a skein to make a pair of simple stockinette socks, to wrap the spring around my feet and celebrate Saraswati pujo (already past this year) in my own way.
As if it heard me calling out to it, the sun came out briefly as I was photographing the skein near my window, and glinted on this golden ball. As the strands slide off the cake it really is like liquid sunlight and dry hay and a fresh mustard blossom all rolled into one. I cannot stop looking at it.
So, I cleaned up around here a bit, and gave the blog some new digs. Less clutter, more room.
In the same spirit, ahead of Stitches West, to be held right here in the bay area (Santa Clara Convention Center) next weekend, I decided to take stock of my stash, and see what I already have, before salivating about the ones I will see in the booths. I wound up loose skeins, added up the yardage for each yarn in my Ravelry stash page, arranged it into separate bags, and collected all the swatches lying around, to turn into an ugly patchwork blanket someday. I feel most accomplished.
So, this is what I have:
There’s that drawer, and this one:
And that’s all. Not bad, huh? It’s less than I had imagined, and more orderly too. I have:
1. 3 skeins of Cascade 220 in charcoal (a cabled vest for my dad?).
2. 11 skeins of navy Berroco Inca Gold (intended for the Turbulence Pullover, but that project didn’t even take off, alas.)
4. 3 enormous skeins of the Brooks Farm Mas Acero (plans for a sweater are swirling in my head right now – stay tuned!)
5. 7 skeins of Elann Esprit which are going to be rapidly converted into baby things for two new babies that just arrived in the neighbourhood.
6. A scarf’s worth of an old, old Rowan yarn called Edina Ronay Wool Silk. that I have set aside to try a variation of Frost Flowers & Leaves, but which I never actually get around to designing.
7. 3 laceweight yarns for several lace shawls – Textiles a Mano Lanita, Brown Sheep Naturespun Fingering (the magenta cone), and Jaggerspun Superfine Merino in Black (also on cone).
8. 1 skein of Trekking Pro Natura sockweight, nearly 1 skein of Regia, and some sock leftovers.
9. 2 skeins of llama-wool DK weight which sheds like the devil, but which is very soft.
10. 8 skeins of Elann Pure Alpaca, maybe a thickish lace shawl for an aunt-in-law who gave me a suitcaseful of yarn many years ago, including the Rowan and the Creskeld listed above.
I have enough for 3 pullovers, 1 vest, several shawls, plenty of baby stuff, and a couple pairs of socks. So what should I be getting at Stitches, and what should I be definitely avoiding?
I am going to stay away from the lace, that’s for sure. Quite apart from the fact that my red sampler shawl is languishing without a border (I left the Victorian Lace Today book in India, if someone would kindly photograph or scan the instructions and motif for the border and email it to me I will be most grateful), I have enough to cover myself in shawls. So, no lace.
I really should say no sweater yarn either, because three + a vest is quite enough for now. But I have this desperate desire to knit another Ribby Cardi, one of my favourite patterns, in a hardy, rough-wearing yarn like Blackwater Abbey. And they don’t sell online or in shops, so it seems like a shame to pass up the opportunity when they’ll be right there with all their gorgeous shades. I got a shade card last time, and I have already spent countless hours matching different shades for the pattern.
What I am going to get, I think, is some sock yarn – some gorgeous hand-dyed stuff. I did finish the red Koigu socks I was bitching about last time, but more about them later. Yes, sock yarn, mmmmmm.
Anybody going to be at Stitches West? Please holler in the comments if you are – I will be there on Saturday afternoon, and wearing my Ravelry Desiknitter badge. I’d love to meet up!
I knew this would happen. No sooner had I waxed eloquent about the Koigu highs and the Koigu hues, than things began to go wrong. I found the most beautiful socks to knit with my deep red Koigu, and they seemed to have an interesting, yet simple construction. The pattern, happily, is freely available here.
So I knit the first sock up to where the interesting arch shaping begins, and like Slippedstitch’s version linked above, decided to continue the ribbed pattern on to the arch and foot. The arch shaping takes place along the two lines of the triangle (with its tip facing towards the toes). So you decrease as usual for the gusset (right line), but also do paired increases at the centre line of the sole that are matched by decreases alongside the left line of the triangle.
I was chugging along nicely, except I realised that I had far too many stitches midway down the foot. So I started the second sock, hoping to pay closer attention this time and then figuring out what went wrong with the first, when I find that I keep getting left with more stitches than I need. The triangle lines meet too soon, making me wonder where to continue the gusset decreases that still remain, and which the pattern asks you to complete. Although the pattern is a bit oddly worded in parts and confused me with a lot of extra instructions for magic loop (I’m using DPNs), nobody in blogland or Ravelry has pointed out any major problems. I find I’m frogging, frogging, frogging, making even more silly mistakes, and very little progress. The pair currently lies in disgrace, reminding me of a couple of bloody, decapitated fish.
Which brings me to the whole Koigu rant. I still love the colour and feel, but this yarn is such a bitch to place back onto the needles, especially when you’re already knitting firmly with size 0s!! It splits every other stitch, and makes a ghastly sound when it does so. (Yes, the splitting is actually audible!) It also doesn’t stay put, so you always have to pick up stitches that have slid down a few rows. But last night, this really made me mad:
A knot! There is one in each skein. And they came apart with very little tugging!! They also appeared when I was doing the foot, which means whether I spit spliced or carried over the fresh yarn a few stitches, I’d have a bump on each sole, reminding me of its existence every time I walked. I did the best I could, but honestly, with that price, quality and following, you’d think the least Koigu could do was avoid knots in its skeins. (Yes, I know, my fucking up the pattern has nothing to do with the yarn, but hey, while I’m mad I might as well vent all around.)
I am tempted to frog the whole thing and start over with another pattern for now, but I keep thinking that I should just frog back to the heel, take a deep breath, get over the putting-stitches-back-on nightmare, and finish the damn pair. I should, shouldn’t I?
But first, I think I’m going to cheer myself up with some brunch.
I am posting the pattern here instead of as a downloadable .pdf, because I’d like some feedback first about steps I’ve missed or errors. If someone (Manisha?!) would test-knit it and let me know if the instructions make sense, that would be even better!
STRIPEY SIDEWAYS HAT
Level of difficulty: Advanced beginner/intermediate. Should know how to cast on provisionally, do kitchener stitch (grafting) or a three-needle bind off, and pick up and knit in the round with circular and double-pointed needles. All you need, really, are the excellent videos at KnittingHelp.com, which demonstrate all these techniques very clearly.
Yarn: Worsted weight (I used Karabella Aurora 8, 98 yards/50 gms), 1 skein each in two colours – one main colour (MC), and one contrasting colour (CC).
Needles: 1 size 6 16 inch circular needle, 1 set of double pointed needles in size 6, 1 tapestry needle.
Gauge: 5 spi in stockinette stitch, 4.5 spi in garter stitch.
Size: Women’s regular, approx 21-22 inches in circumference. (The garter ridges in the central band stretch a bit, so you can adjust its length depending on how loose-fitting or tight you want the hat to be, to fit a man or a child.
Central band: (knit back and forth)
1. Using the ‘provisional’ method, cast on 20 stitches with the MC yarn.
2. Knit two rows – one garter ridge created.
3. Switch to CC yarn, knit two rows – one garter ridge created.
4. Continue in this way, alternating one garter ridge in MC and CC, until the band measures 21 inches. End with a garter ridge in CC. We shall call the needle with these stitches Needle # 1.
5. Undo the crochet chain at the provisional cast on, and pick up the live stitches on to the second needle (Needle # 2) (Cotton yarn is great for this crochet cast on, it prevents the fibres from the live stitches from snagging on to the chains.)
6. At this point, Needle # 1 has 20 st in CC; Needle # 2 has 20 st in MC.
7. Holding both needles together, Needle # 2 in front and RS on the outside, facing you, graft the edges together.
NOTE: If you don’t like grafting, you can always do a three-needle bind off. Remember to do the bind off with the WS of the band facing outside!
Shape crown: (knit in the round)
1. Using MC and the RS facing you, pick up and knit 120 stitches along the right edge of the band with a circular needle. Knit 1 round.
2. *K10, k2tog, repeat * all around for a total of 10 times.
3. Knit 1 round even.
4. *K 9, k2tog, repeat * all around.
5. Knit 1 round even.
6. *K 8, k2tog, repeat * all around.
7. Knit 1 round even.
8. In this fashion, continue decreasing every other round (k7, k 6, k 5, etc) until you have knit k1, k2tog. Switch to double-pointed needles as the stitches get fewer and fewer for the circular needles.
9. Knit 1 round even. (20 stitches on needle.)
10. K2tog all around (10 stitches on needle.)
11. Cut yarn, leaving a 4 inch tail, and threading it through a tapestry needle, draw yarn through remaining live stitches a few times, and pull tight.
Shape cuff (in the round):
1. Using MC and the RS facing you, pick up and knit 120 stitches along the left edge of the band with a circular needle.
2. K2, p2 all around.
3. Repeat step 2 for ten rounds, or for as long as you would like the cuff of the hat to be.
4. Bind off all stitches knitwise, to ensure a firm edge.
5. Weave in all ends. Wear hat, enjoy!
For the last few weeks a song has possessed me in a way that very few film songs nowadays do. This song, malaa zaauu dyaa na gharii (please let me go, it’s past midnight!) is the opening sequence of a Marathi film Natarang that is making quite a few waves in Maharashtra. Based on the eponymous novel by Anand Yadav, the music is by a new composer duo Ajay & Atul, and this song is by Bela Shende, who I have heard often before this, but I must say I will listen to more carefully from now on!
Mainstream Marathi cinema, it would appear, is experiencing a bit of a revival after decades of extremely mediocre popular comedy/family sagas, and marginal arthouse themes. This film is about the lives and struggles of tamaashaa artistes – a popular dance/theatre form of some vintage in Maharashtra, and is garnering great critical and popular reviews. I haven’t seen it, but I badly want to!
The tamashaa’s main musical ingredient, the laavaNii, is frequently invoked as maraaThmoLaa, the very essence of popular Marathi culture. The comments on the youtube page for this song totally get the dancing wrong – the choreography and dancing are actually very true to the tamaashaa form. The moves are not always smooth and seamless; the neck and shoulder movements, and especially the rapid jerks of the torso, are all classic actions. Although the influence of classical Kathak footwork and turns is clearly visible, the distinctiveness of this dance, it seems to me, is in these jerks, the feet apart from each other, the rough edges. The main difference from laavaNiis I have seen in earlier films, is that the dancers seem a lot thinner than they used to be. I think they haven’t ‘bollywood-ised’ the dancing here, even the music and look is also unmistakably more modern. Here is another dance from the same film which is also very stylised, but does a great job of following these basic laavaNii moves.
I love the sound of the laavaNii – just the familiar opening dholki rhythms, the ting-ting-ting of the strings, and the footwork is very stirring. The language is bawdy, colourful and deliciously alliterative, with quick back-and-forths between the dancer and her companions, with a high-pitched chorus that backs up her pleas or complaints. Of course, the filmi ones are not always the real thing, but they are still very good.
Here is a classic filmi one, bugaDii maajhii saanDlii ga (I’ve lost my ‘earring’ during that tryst to Satara). I used to sing this song often, way back in school and family musical gatherings. It features the gorgeous Jayashree Gadkar, doyenne of Marathi films of the ’60s-’70s. Sung by Asha Bhosale in the original, it was still pretty melodious, even too melodious for the form, perhaps, but I like it a lot.
One of the last ‘tamasha’-themed films I remember seeing was Pinjara, which I really didn’t care for, but whose soundtrack became wildly popular. It starred Sandhya, a terribly hammy actor who is not known as the most graceful of dancers. Sandhya usually did all her dances like an exaggerated laavaNii, especially the jerky peacock-like neck movements. Even in this one, below, she is over the top. But despite the exaggeration, the song and dance are vintage, raucous laavaNii, and part of film lore – aaho daajibaa gaavaat hoil shobaa he vagana bara nava (Really, Sir! Do behave, what will the villagers say!). I love the opening sequence, where the lines musically mock the pretensions to respectability of village folk, who are worried about what the arrival of this attractive dancer will do to local morals.
Performed by a female lead dancer with (both male and female) accompanists and (male) interlocutors on stage, mainly to a male audience, the laavaNii’s themes are usually explicitly erotic. These songs featured regularly in most ‘rural’ themed Marathi movies from the ’60s, which featured beautiful dancers, well-meaning farmers, anxieties of respectability, ill-fated romances, and evil, mustachioed and turbaned headmen. The kinds of gender roles and stereotypes the form has underwritten or transgressed, its role in shaping a lower-caste, popular culture, and most importantly, the problematic ways in which films have incorporated this popular theatre, have seen some fine historical and feminist analysis in recent times, which I don’t want to reprise here. This post is mainly to share this recent obsession and some old favourites, especially with Mary, if she’s reading this.
I narrowly missed seeing Natarang when I was in Pune last month. I wish I was at Prabhat Talkies right now, watching it with all the noise and whistles around me instead of a few snatches on youtube.
As I mentioned, I hazarded the pattern from a handknit hat a student showed me (she said she bought it in Edinburgh), and it turned out to be very simple. Photo-steps of the process:
I cast on 20 stitches with a provisional cast on (aside: cotton yarn is *perfect* for the crochet chains, the chains come undone beautifully without any fibres getting tangled in the stitches):
I knit in alternate garter ridges for about 21 inches (wrapped around my head several times to check fit):
I grafted the two ends together, with right side facing (the resultant seam is not a garter ridge, but looks ok):
I picked up 120 stitches along one end, and decreased every other row till I had 10 stitches left. (k10, k2tog, repeat all around; then, k9, k2tog all around the following time; then k8, k2tog all around, and so on):
At the other end I also picked up 120 stitches and knit k2,p2 ribbing for 5 rows, and then bound off all stitches knitwise, to give the edge some firmness:
Initially I was a bit worried that the electric blue would be too bright, but I don’t think so now. I absolutely love the stripes and the hat is very comfy and warm. I like this fit, where the sideways garter ridges give it some flexibility, and the tent-like, boxy shape also prevents it from being too tight at the top and flattening my hair.
Tech Specs: Needles: size 6 16″ circulars, and DPNS Yarn: Karabella Aurora 8 in black, and one unidentified worsted weight blue, both from stash, both less than 200 yards each. Manduka, if you’re reading this, do you remember what yarn this is? You had given me the skein long ago. Gauge: Didn’t bother, really, but it is in the neighbourhood of 5 spi. Size: The hat is about 7.5 ” deep.
Anybody know of a published pattern like this one? I don’t want to write it up as a detailed free pattern if there exists one just like this, even if I “unvented” the pattern by eyeballing a hat in the wild, so to speak.