Monday, February 20, 2006

Those Clever, Clever Russians

The knitting of the Orenberg Barbie shawl, it is complete. And let me tell you, I had no idea what an education an eight inch square could be.

I gushed in a previous entry (just after casting on) about the ingenious beginning of a traditional Orenberg shawl.

The ending, as it turns out, is equally so. After turning the upper right corner and knitting across the top border (as indicated by the arrow in my last picture), you turn the upper left corner, and then you graft the edges of the border together.

And you do it without sewing. There's just a simple process of slipping stitches from each needle one over the other, and suddenly the edges are grafted - including the yarn-overs - quite perfectly and without any apparent join. The pattern in the edging is completely uninterrupted.

When Archimedes leapt out of his bath, he could not have been more excited than I when I learned this.

In fact, I was so busy waltzing delightedly about the room with the finished object (to the tune of "Ainsi que la brise légère" from Gounod's Faust) that I forgot to take a photograph. I'll remedy that tonight.

I also realized in working on this little sample how much kaboom the Orenberg knitters get from the absolute simplest of lace patterns. Not that the patterns themselves are child's play, but they are all based on knit, yo, k2tog, and occasionally k3tog–and nothing else. If there are more elaborate moves, I can't find any mention of them either in the Khmeleva/Noble book or anywhere else.

From those stitches, the founders built 10-12 small, basic patterns (i.e., peas, mouse prints, cat's paw, strawberry, diagonals). And from those patterns, everything else is constructed.

This is a phenomenal achievement. I used to be dazzled by Orenberg shawls because they appeared so bone-crushingly complex. And now I've learned with my own two hands that every one of them comes from the skillful arrangement of an elegant set of common elements. And I am even more dazzled.

Let Us Be Gay

I usually shy away from making broad generalizations about Things Gays Like (hanging around with ass-kicking gay cowboys who've never heard of Ethel Merman will do that to you) , but I am perhaps willing to admit that there is some intrinsic attraction to ice dancing.

(Stop looking so smug, Brenda Dayne.)

As the temperature in Chicago is the sort that can reduce your nose to ice crystals within minutes, on Sunday C and I stayed in and had a very indulgent movie night. When the first feature (Close Encounters of the Third Kind–most amusing) wrapped up, up popped the ice dancing competition in full swing. Er, rhumba.

We found ourselves physically unable get off the couch until the scene had switched to women's speed skating.

I know part of it, for me, is the costumes. There's nothing like seeing an amazon on skates doing the samba while wearing a peptol pink skirt that appears to be strangling her. Or cheering on a perky little thing who let the designer highlight each of her breasts with a separate patch of multicolored rhinestones. Beep, beep.

But I'm infringing on Go Fug Yourself's territory now, so I'll close.

Next up: blocking for Barbie.

20 comments:

Rachel H said...

Reading about everyone's personal achievements through the knitting Olympics is giving me all sorts of ideas of things I wanna try that I never thought in a million years I'd wanna try. Pretty cool. Not so much good for the 'keeping focused' part though...

Love today's sheep. (any news on when you think you'd be able to start thinking about my project, btw? no immediate rush. just askin') AND my Venus de Knitting hoodie FINALLY arrived in the mail today, which is happily keeping me warm as I type this.

ambermoggie said...

Can't wait to see the finished piece and I must say am totally tempted to try a shawl. Can't be as bad as the d*** sock saga. I think I'm holding the record for the most frogged socks here

Lucia said...

Franklin, you are inspirational! Now I gotta do the Orenberg thing, if only to try that grafting trick. So much to knit, so little time...

Jacquie said...

Looking forward to seeing the final picture.

I have become a great fan of yours recently via coloradoknits.

I want to know how to do the grafting trick too - I don't like there being clever techniques that I don't know. Well, actually I do because I always want to learn new knitting stuff. Is there any chance of you posting the instructions just for that?

Kathy Merrick said...

I am with you, F., on the mesmerizing effect of ice dancing.
Or did I just love all the ice falling the couples did this weekend?
But, I feel it's become most necessary for the Olympic Committee to ban flame motifs from any and all costumes.

Marilyn said...

Did you not love the forward twizzles?

Ice dancing is my favorite, along with skeleton sledding.

But the crosscountry relay really was exciting. Too bad the Italians didn't have cute costumes.

Oh wait. They did.

goblinbox said...

I watched ice dancing last night with four straight men, and none of us could change the channel either.

Ice dancing is like the crack of Olympic television coverage - no one can get away from it.

The costumes! The moments in each routine when TWO ENTIRE HUMAN BEINGS ARE FLOATING ALONG ON JUST ONE SKATE, while the female is generally upside down or rolled up like a hulahoop! The twizzle! The shoulder-length hair!

It's crack, I tell you. Crack.

Franklin said...

I forgot to mention that at one point, C said he was going to change his first name to "Twizzle."

Did you just love the woman whose skirt was basically just a big, moulting dead goose? She looked like Las Vegas emu.

Sean said...

I'll have you know that I purchased the Orenburg Shawls book after reading your description of the construction techniques. The book is amazing and right up my "alley." I'm interested in techniques (they can be cooking or knitting) and/or recipes that are in danger of fading into obscurity. I love the ingeniousness of some of these little known places. I can't wait to knit the swatch and learn about this technique more. Thanks for the intro.

Elemmaciltur said...

Can't wait to see the pic! Did you get the pattern from some kind of book? If so, could you please give me the book info, please?

JoVE said...

I didn't watch any ice dancing but did watch the men's figure skating. I swear that someone was selling off costumes from bad '80s pop bands and those boys bought 'em all. Amazing.

Up here in the Great White North, we are more than a little enamored by women's hockey. And quite pleased (probably inappropriately and certainly impolitely) at the US loss to Finland that kept them out of the gold medal game.

Ted said...

Glad that the Barbie Shawl worked out, and that you now see what I've been telling you for a month. Lace is all sleight-of-hand, based on the simplest of knitting manipulations that gives you magic when finished.

Margie said...

I was mesmerised by the ice dancing costumes also. The Russians in particular. The fringing attached in very strange ways across her breasts somehow seemed ruder than the other skimpy bikini-esque outfits which revealed much more.

I was under the impression that bare skin on the ice was a bad idea but all of these women were wearing almost nothing and I couldn't see any skin coloured mesh over the "bare" bits like in the past. Yeouch.

Aidan said...

Franklin; Are you tellimg me that you are (Gasp!) homosexual? I'm shocked. All this time, I just thought you were witty, educated, erudite, a snappy dresser and quick with a comeback. I would never have quessed.

Jean said...

Thanks for the link to Go Fug Yourself -- I've added it to my list of regulars.

And for the tantalising reference to joining the ends of a lace edging without grafting, a la Orenburg. I've got to learn that one.

Mary Thomas (is that name right?)in her famous Knitting Book says that there are only 12 Shetland lace patterns, which she lists. Other writers have solemnly repeated this. But it's not remotely true.

Love Jean

filambulle said...

Oh lord! Now I am sobbing, because I didn't put the orenburg book in my cart yesterday night. I can't order overseas so often. But I'm agonising of curiosity...

Patti said...

Liberace was obviously a major influence on ice dancing.

Sally said...

Franklin, your knitting is superb, and I also want to learn that grafting method! Did you put the name of the book in your blog, and I missed it in the midst of Olympic knitting? To Margie, who commented on the ice dancing costumes--they are just making the mesh much more flesh colored and harder to see---it truly is there!

michelene said...

As a teenager, I really wanted to ice skate in the Olympics to the main theme from Star Wars(I still think somebody should use it.) Instead I had to placate myself by looking at Eric Heiden's bum.
Franklin too bad you didn't see the opening ceremonies. Think of a cross between Robin Williams in The Cage and Woody Allen in Everything You Wanted to Know about Sex. Plus the Italian dancer man totally ripped off the Bye, Bye Heart routine from All That Jazz.

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