Monday, February 19, 2007

The Slump and the Jolt

Elizabeth Zimmerman's immortal advice to the Yarn Addicted was to "Knit on, with confidence and hope, through all crises." And I try, Elizabeth, I do try, but at the moment my knitting is the crisis.

I don't know whether Jupiter has collided with Mars a bit too heavily, or the Moon couldn't find the Seventh House and went to the corner bar instead, or what. All I can tell you is every time I've picked up my needles lately, something stupid has happened.

Take the second Mother Earth sock. It's nothing remarkable, just another garter rib out of Sensational Knitted Socks–the sixth such I've made. I'm working it on two circulars and haven't had to pull the book out, because at this point the pattern has burrowed its way into my skull. This makes it all the more puzzling that I knit blithely down the leg, zipped through the heel flap, and then neatly and flawlessly picked up stitches for the gusset without turning the fricking heel first.

One of my other assignments is a piece of mystery knitting, courtesy of She Who Cohabits with the Black Bunny. I received by a post a nice parcel of her yarn, gorgeous as always, with a note instructing me to pick a stitch pattern, knit a square, and return it to her with no questions asked "or the mouthy sheep gets it."

You would think such a simple, straightfoward task is well within my grasp, no? She's basically asking for a washcloth, albeit in yarn you'd never want to touch a dirty dish. So why, darlings, why, have I had to rip back twice after inadvertently creating an amoeba and a trapezoid?

I'm hoping the deep freeze (which may, just may, be ending) has caused some lever in my brain to become stuck temporarily in the "off" position, and with any luck the onset of spring will unstick it. If not, I'm afraid my niecephew is going to be christened in a shawl that looks like it was knit in the dark, on a moor, during a windstorm, by one of the hounds of the Baskervilles.

On the Other Hand...

It was not a weekend without high notes.

First, in tandem with a good buddy I produced a chocolate soufflé (the first for both of us) with crème chantilly that, were it human, would be husband material. We shoveled it down with cries of delight, then felt rather sick, then realized what we'd just eaten was intended to serve eight.

It was still worth it.

And then my brain got a much-needed jolt of creative energy when Leigh Witchel parachuted into town and whisked me over to the Auditorium Theater to see what the Joffrey Ballet is up to.

I will admit that I'm not entirely in my element watching dance. I come to it with no more than layman's knowledge. I don't know Who is Who as I do in opera, so I can't keep score. I always enjoy myself, but with limited pocket money for tickets, opera wins. I only make it to the ballet when sponsored by a Generous Benefactor. Thanks to Leigh, I'm considering whether I ought to revisit that policy.

The Joffrey presented a triple bill under the title of Destiny's Dances. The first piece, Les Présages, is a period piece–an allegory (with appearances by Fate, Frivolity, Energy, et al) choreographed by Massine to music by Tchaikovsky. It wasn't engaging emotionally; few of the dancers seemed to buy into such drama as there was. So it came across as a series of extremely pretty late-deco café murals come to life. Me, I loved it. Chiffon, bouncy music, and symbolic characters striking portentous "Ode on a Grecian Urn" postures? Yes, please. And I'll have seconds.

The second piece was Balanchine's Apollo. I have a feeling this production won't be hailed by the cognoscenti as an immortal interpretation, but it was charming. And the fellow who danced the title role has what my late grandfather would have referred to as An Ass That Won't Quit. I was also deeply amused by Calliope. She was...qu'est-que c'est le mot juste...animated. So animated that from our seats in the fifth row she came across as both cross-eyed and insane. If Ricky Ricardo decided to do a Balanchine night at the Tropicana, and Lucy secretly locked the prima ballerina in a closet and took over the part herself, this is how she would have looked.

They wrapped up with The Green Table, an anti-war period piece. At first, it worried me. After a stunning opening involving grotesque diplomats dueling around a (surprise) green table, suddenly there were Weeping Women and Grim Soldiers and I thought...ugh. I'm a devoted peacenik, but it seemed a bit ham-fisted. I won't summarize what came after–I'll just tell you that within five minutes, I'd changed my tune. By the curtain call, I was damn near devastated.

Between the performance and the opportunity to Talk Knitting with Leigh, I'm feeling re-energized about picking up my needles and getting some real work done. So thank you, Leigh. If I manage to produce a square with four even sides that meet at right angles, I'm totally going to dedicate it to you.

37 comments:

Sister Sue said...

You know I know next to nothing about ballet, but this post reminded me of a certain performance we got to see at the Wang--remember seeing Romeo and Juliet? I still get misty when I hear that music--I play it for my students--and when I remember Lady Capulet whipping out that knife over the slain Tybalt! I also will not forget stuffing my purse with toilet paper during the intermission. It had not occurred to me until that moment that ballet could bring me to tears (in a good way), and I knew what was coming in the second half. I remember wondering if I'd have to be carried out in a swoon after the final scene, or if at the very least I'd make a nuisance of myself with my sobs. While I still know next to nothing about ballet, I certainly have a profound respect for it. One of my fondest memories, and it comes courtesy of my marvelous brother. Not surprising!

K8 said...

(delurking) I hadn't thought about the Green Table for a long time - not since I took dance classes in college. It's interesting to hear other reactions to it.

ted said...

I think several of us are in a knitting slump.

On Friday, just as I'd finished a *large* square of Shetland lace I put the piece down and saw a rather obvious mistake that I'd not previously noticed. It was about an inch above the cast-on edge, or about 15 inches below where I'd left off. Much kabuki followed.

whichy said...

Maybe the knit-fu was just whisked away by the below 0 wind chill.

I am also in the chicago area, and I have felt like my usually nimble fingers are betraying me. I Re-knit the heel turn of a sock 6 times friday night before I did it successfully.

Mary Peed said...

I don't get to see much ballet, but did see quite a bit when I was in Russia some years ago. The highlight was the Nutcracker performed by the Kremlin Ballet. The low was the very strange ballet we saw in St. Petersburg. The prima ballerina was *thunking* when she landed. Like a basket of bricks hitting the floor. We started taking bets 1/2 way thru on whether she was going to fall thru the stage. Apparently she was supposed to be jumping like a construction worker... very strange.
Hope your knitting mojo comes back soon...

john said...

Want me to be wearing ballet tights when I pick you up at the airport???

Barb Brown said...

Every now and then, when we get too uppity, our knitting likes to kick our asses in line. Don't worry about it.
Sometime in about my 25th year of knitting socks, I knit an entire pair, and didn't realize till I went to put them on, that I done the decrease for the gusset across the instep. I still can't figure out how I managed to shape the toes.
Barb B.

meg said...

I did the same thing you did on a second sock once - the entire experience bugged me so much that once I ripped back, reknit and finished the sock - I sent it to Afghans for Afghans. Spring is coming. Hold on.

Carol said...

Well, if we're telling sock stories, in addition to having done the same thing you did, I have also finished grafting a toe, only to find that my stitches were divided in half on the two circulars the other way, such that the grafted toe seam runs at a right angle to the ground.

Cindy said...

Hi, Franklin. I don't have any sock stories, and I'm sorry to be stalking you, but I sent you an email about commissioning your work last week. If it didn't get through, would you contact me (if you click on my name, my blogger account allows you to email me), thanks!

=Tamar said...

Hey, I've grafted vertical toe seams on purpose. They still fit.

But seriously, Mercury is retrograde. A friend has spent the last two days trying to leave town; things keep happening to keep her here. It's time to read, contemplate, be an audience.

marjorie said...

Yes, I've done it too--completely forgot to turn the heel. Swore a lot, ripped it back and fixed the mistake. I've never been able to abide opera, in spite of my mother's best efforts to convert me. I'm over 50 and still don't enjoy being screamed at by an operatic soprano.

Mel said...

Just remember, unless you're Lily Chin, nobody gives a damn how fast you crank it out. So if a bit of tinking and frogging has to happen, you're still pretty much par for the course.

Now about that chocolate soufflé....

Catherine said...

I've been knitting socks for years, and I frequently forget that pesky little heel turn. It's the price we pay for having gotten beyond the point of having to check the pattern for every round. Welcome to the club.

Lisa said...

Ahhh, Apollo, took me back to fond memories of my PR internship with the Pittsburgh Ballet. I would have given anything to see Lucy dance Calliope! Oh yeah and I used to live for pay day and all those perfect sets of buns in tights sitting on my desk...sigh...drool...

AnnaMarie said...

Well, if you knit another funky square there's always SEVERE blocking. Use handcuffs.

Yvonne said...

Well, Franklin, I hear that Mercury is in retrograde. At least, that's what my friend said last Tuesday night as we *all* managed to screw up our lace knitting into unrecognizable mutated tangles. As for the ballet - wish I had been there, too. I gave up my season tickets when we moved away from Seattle. Sigh.

April said...

Yeah, Mercury is in retrograde. Well at least it's not conjunct with Uranus. Thank you very much, I'll be here all week.

I always, ALWAYS, pick up the gusset stitches before turning the heel. How many pairs of socks have I knit? Oh, a dozen or so.

Leigh Witchel said...

I had as marvelous a time as you did; thank you for accepting my invitation. I'm working on my review; it will be in Ballet Review (I'll send you a sneak preview so you can see if our perceptions gibed.)

You know, Boston Ballet's R&J was the first live performance of ballet I ever saw, in 1981. I had been studying ballet for two years but hadn't ever seen a a real performance.

See you in April!

koffeefiend said...

You write humorously and entertainingly. I check you and Brooklyn Tweed daily to read your knitting ruminations. You give this novice knitter inspiration.
Thanks.

KellyD said...

Franklin, I have found that I simply cannot knit while ill. I was working on the We Call Them Pirates hat and was decreasing to the end when I noticed that it didnt look right. I ripped it out, tried it again. Still not right. Finally, I realized I had completely read the very basic graph wrong. Moral: no more knitting while flying with cough syrup.
Of course this isnt as bad as my having a brain f**t one night and not remebering how to turn a heel. I thought I was having a stroke, literally.
We all have our moments I guess. C'est la vie.

ElbowGrease said...

Good morning, Franklin. There's definitely bad juju in the knitting universe this last week. I won't enumerate my own debacles (see my latest post on elbowgrease.typepad.com), but I will say that reading your post reassured me that it's not just menopausal mind melt that has my 35 years of knitting experience feeling like so much OCD with sticks. (NIMH says this about OCD: "People with OCD may be plagued by persistent, unwelcome thoughts or images, or by the urgent need to engage in certain rituals." Ring a bell?

BrooklynMom said...

The sock error? Yup, been there!

Wystful said...

There is some kind of knitting hex in the air - I did the exact same thing yesterday, as if I hadn't made enough socks to do this in my sleep.... At least I didn't get more than two rows before I came to my senses....

AuntyNin said...

Don't know if it's Mercury being retrograde of just February blahs, but knitting mistakes seem to proliferate this time of year.


Case in point: this weekend, I managed to sew a cardigan front to the wrong shoulder of the back, not once but twice. Sigh.

TheAmpuT said...

Lucy at the Tropicana. hahaha.
I SO need you to review my next performance. You'd have a field day.

Tomme said...

Oh, my gawd, your review of Ballanchine's Apollo made me spew Dr. Pepper out my nose. That'll teach me to read your blog while drinking!

KnitNana said...

I did the same thing to my second Feather and Fan sock! Too funny (ok, no it wasn't funny at the time...)
And Ballet? (sigh) I studied for years, would have been a Prima Ballerina (if wishes were horses) and came to OPERA late! So glad you're revisiting ballet - I had to be coerced by working for an opera company to fall in love with it! They are both life-long loves, now...
(((hugs)))

knitica said...

I have seen many an experienced knitter make exactly the same sock mistake you did. Warmer weather is coming soon, so the brain should start moving again!

junior_goddess said...

Just chalk it up to the Lunar New Year...it's gonna be fine, lil' bubba!

;-)

anno said...

my husband got a bonus pair of socks I really couldn't afford to be his during the flurry of christmas knitting, when I closed the toe and weaved in the edges of the second sock (gift socks!) and sat back to admire them, and realized I'd 1x1 ribbed the cuff of the first one and 2x2 ribbed the cuff of the second..

there really just was no way I was going to frog back either one of those socks, they were finished and otherwise.. as perfect as I can get.. and also no way I was going to gift them to someone since they weren't..but really, who's going to ever even notice, but me.. eh.. my husband was glad to have 'em so it worked out.. but I had to step up the knitting a bit to get all the socks finished by my mail-by dates, since I was suddenly a pair behind schedule!

I'm looking forward to seeing what you knit for that new baby coming... my sister just got engaged over the weekend which means I'm officially expecting a future great-step-grand-neice or nephew in september.. eh.. it's complicated but I'm so jazzed that there's a baby I can knit for! but.. what to knit... I really am only good at socks and dishrags..

Anonymous said...

Ballet, knitting, opera -- I can't believe no one has commented on the really improtant thing -- the souffle! When I was in the ninth grade, a friend and I did the exact same thing: We made a chocolate souffle with Chantilly cream for 8, and ate the whole thing. It was perfect, even the queasy feeling afterward.

Anna-Liza said...

Well, the Asses that Won't Quit are a big part of the draw to ballet for most het women I know.

I'm glad to be warned about the universal knitting funk--I've started a work-related knitting group that meets for only the second time tomorrow, so I won't attempt anything too complicated. Only stuff I don't mind frogging!

David said...

I wish I had a niecephew. That sounds neat.

You would have had to call the paramedics if I attempted to consume a dessert that served eight.

I haven't seen dance in ages. I miss those buns..I mean the culture terribly.

Anna said...

I did the exact same thing you did with the picking up of gusset stitches without turning the damn heel. Luckily for me, it's just for some tiny baby socks I made, and although I hate that kind of mistake, I've decided to let it go. The kid's gonna grow out of 'em in a week and probably never catch the mistake.

Famous last words.

Andrea Rusin said...

I wandered in, lost and confused, to a performance of The Green Table (about 100 years ago, it seems). Holy CRAP! It blew me away, and at the time I saw it there was no US led invasion of random countries going on. I'm glad you liked it, too!

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