Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Stealth Knitting

Time was when I could have called myself a monogamous knitter: one project at a time. Okay, sometimes two; but the projects always knew about each other and agreed that an occasional tricotage à trois* added spice.

Now, much older and denuded of anything like wide-eyed innocence, I can no more claim fidelity to a single project than Empress Messalina could have sung “I Only Have Eyes for You” at karaoke night without raising a bumper crop of eyebrows.

I think it’s due to a difference in the way I approach my knitting. Once, I worked from patterns, and casting on was like cracking open a Dickens novel. The beginning was full of intrigue, the middle veered from high comedy to grim despair, and the end wrapped up with nary a loose thread. Off with one hat, on with another. Neat.

Working as I do these days, the clear narrative is blown to smithereens. I sketch, I swatch, I rip, and pieces have a disconcerting tendency to shape-shift in mid-flight. I’ve gone from Charles Dickens to William Burroughs.**

I already wrote about the winter hat. Was supposed to be for me, is instead for somebody with enough moxie to pull off a cloche. Since so many of you liked it (thank you!), I’m refining the pattern and I’ll be releasing it in a new yarn to be determined.

Likewise, Abigail’s Pink Thing started as a poncho and has become a cape and hood.


It progresses, by the way–or will, when the rest of the yarn arrives from the nice lady at Cascade. Turns out I didn’t ask for enough; I confess I’m being rather prodigal in my lavish use of 220 Sport. More fabric in the right places makes for a better twirl.

I still want to knit something for myself, and was going to attempt another hat. But a set of needles were thrust at me that changed the game. They’re called Blackthorns, and the suckers are made of–are you ready for this?–carbon fiber.

Things that are made from carbon fiber:

Stealth Bomber

Boeing 787 Dreamliner

My knitting needles
Blackthorn Needles

You know I’m not given to stereotypically boyish crowing over new industrial technology; but this gave me the shivers. Even adamantly non-knitting males in my social circle have been forced to concede that carbon fiber knitting needles are Pretty Freaking Cool.

And they handle, my dears, like a dream. Pointy. Light. Bendy as wood but not prone to snapping under the brute force of my manly fingers.*** And they have the perfect (to my mind) balance between slippy and grippy.

They’re US 00, which means socks, so I’m making some from Cascade Heritage Sock.

Bavarian Twisted Stitch Socks

The pattern is a pretty little motif in Bavarian twisted stitch. It fit perfectly (one repeat on each needle) and is taken from Twisted-Stitch Knitting, the superb one-volume English edition of Maria Erlbacher’s Uberlieferte Strickmuster–an out-of-print trilogy revived with much loving care by Schoolhouse Press. (Dear, dear Schoolhouse Press–if you were not fighting to rescue these books that would otherwise be lost to us, who would?)

So, socks. I think. For all I know, next week they might have turned into a soft-sculpture giraffe. Harry continues to suspect this is the pernicious influence of Wool Pixies; but that’s another blog entry and I’ve got to go make dinner.

*I have no idea whether this is decent French or bullpuckey, but I'm too lazy to look it up right now. It will have to do.

**Without the sex. Not that some of the silks I’m playing around with haven’t tempted me.

***Hey, share the fantasy.


Sarah said...

Good French or not, you made this Francophone chortle.

Empress Messalina? This is why I love your posts...I always have to go look something up.

Eventually the beautiful pink thing will be done. And, in my experience, she will outgrow it and wear it out and she'll beg you to make it longer and fix it. That is faithfulness and love in the truest sense of the words.

anne marie in philly said...

manly fingers, yes...but I like them too! smooches, dear one!

PS - word is "deship" has pulled into "dedock". bwhahahaha!

Diana said...

Love the Messalina reference...I was about to say you'll have educated someone today, but Paisleyapron beat me to it! And have you read "I, Claudius" and "Claudius the God?"

Anonymous said...

Every time I see/hear a reference to Messalina, I think of her final scene in "I, Claudius."
"Not my head!"

(verification word 'calmys' sounds like a fingering weight silk blend to me...)

Ann (yet another) said...

Oh God, you can get an embossed leather case for them as well. Be still, my little heart.

Aline said...

Your french is just fine and your sippy-grippy needles sound like such a treat!

Programmer at Arms said...

I obviously need some of those needles right freakin' now.

Kayten said...

I got to handle a set of those dp's last Friday at our spinning group. I'm waiting for the circs, though I'd have ordered some by now if I used dps. Textured almost like black wood, but then make that delightful 'clink' when dropped on a tabletop.

Google must be wondering at all the Empress Messalina searches. You teach us lots of interesting things!

Anonymous said...

carbon-fiber needles, uberlieferte strickmüster, and Roman Empresses, all in one post?

it would be impossible for me to love this post any more than I do.

goodness gracious i am jealous of those needles!

HipDroppedStitches said...

Wow, those needles are sexy! (And that hood is gorgeous... and the socks are stunning...)

WonderMike said...

Just fell down a Wikipedia Hole due to the Empress Messalina reference. God, I HATE all those names in the Julio-Claudian dynasty that sound like the same name. I mean, for heaven's sake, couldn't they make up a new name???

As for Blackthornes, I do like mine. I need to figure out where they're hiding.

JelliDonut said...

Those are some sexy needles!

Lynn said...

And priced like a stealth bomber, too. (word verif is "miess", as in "don't miess with Tiexas!")

Kate said...

Thank you. My knitting tool stash - very small and cratchit like is dreaming of Christmas.

nikki said...

Tell Harry I have some Wool Fairies here too. And those needles! Oh my! I think I may be having heart palpitations.

Jill said...

Twirl is key. Good uncle that you are, you know this.

Anonymous, too said...

Wasn't "Tricotage à Trois" the Star Trek episode in which a Ferengi kidnapped Deanna and Llwaxana? I think they managed to escape by taking apart a force-field's control pad with Deanna's carbon-fiber hairpins/knitting needles. . . ;-)!

The start of that sock is very intriguing. Does it pull in enough to help keep the sock up?

Ann said...

Ummmm. Those needles are dead sexy. Would one get cross-eyed if you knit carbon yarn with them (and yes, it exists--I've seen a sample)

twelfth-night said...

...I think "tricotage" is right? I think. Then again, my French is awful, so don't believe me.

The only gooey-eyed little girl of my acquaintance is too absorbed with K'nex to bother with Disney. Half of me is sad, half of me is grateful (not enough hours in the day, unfortunately).

Unknown said...

You slay me.

libraryleigh said...

I don't want to make my addi's jealous, but I am now lusting after blackthorns. Your socks are going to be gorgeous. I love the twisted stitch pattern.

Laura said...

My question: do the fancy stealth needles bend into little half moons after prolonged use and do the tips sharpen like hypodermic needles after your tenth pair of socks are finished? All of my sock needles end up that way, even the wooden ones. My gauge is...tight. And I am a needle killer. If your Stealth Needles can survive me, I must have a set.

Jamie Knits said...

OMG, I gotta get me some of those needles. I'm hoping some booth at Stitches West will have them...

A few weeks ago, Talk of the Nation's Science Friday had a piece on a professor at a college in Texas who has developed carbon nano-tubes that can be spun into knittable yarn. THAT could be cool as well.

beckeyknits said...

I'm so glad you wrote about the blackthorn needles. I've had my eye on them for a while, but wanted a trustworthy source to review them first! :) Thanks Franklin!!

Unknown said...

Also from carbon fiber? The coolest hardshell cello cases around - sexy almost invisible stripes.

The hooded cape is, I hope, going to become a pattern, yes? While my blood-related niece is now 21 and way too cool for knitted stuff from me, I do have a "adopted" 4 year old who would absolutely love it in purple!

My word is "proond" - as in "my lemon tree needs to be proond."

Anonymous said...

My favorite online yarn shop is getting these in and I'm drooling even though I need another set of size 0 needles like I need a hole in the head!

Julie Kwiatkowski Schuler said...

Now I'm thinking of all the scary, scary things W.S. Burroughs would have knitted.

Caroline said...

Also from carbon fiber: violin bows!

Stacy said...

Thanks, Franklin. For the first time in decades, I have dpn envy.

KarenJ said...

I loved the post.
I loved the needles.
I loved the cultural name dropping.
And I love the cape!
But Franklin, Please, please hurry it up. The grandchild is ageing even as we speak! She's already passed her first birthday. If we don't get that pattern all those eager little ones are going to be using the cape in question as a bed jacket when their grandchildren come to visit!

Kali said...

The Blackthorn booth at Vogue Knitting Live was mobbed with lustful fingers reaching to fondle the display pointies. I couldn't get close enough, myself.

I've put them on my wish list for birthday/anniversary/get-out-of-the-doghouse, what-have-you, etc.

Anonymous said...

And bicycle frames, Franklin. Expensive high-end bicycle frames. . .

Anonymous said...

PS: loved the aircraft pix. We're an aviation household here.
-- Gretchen

Ann in NJ said...

OMG IwantIwantIwantIwantIwantIwant.

The needles, the yarn, the socks. Take your pick.

(I can't make anything clever out of my word verification. "Veskingi" Sounds Norwiegan.)

Soraya said...

Carbon fiber knitting needles? Carbon Fiber Knitting Needles?! CARBON FIBER KNITTING NEEDLES!!! I don't think I have been this excited about about knitting since I made my very first scarf. Why had I not heard about these before? Suddenly, socks are on the horizon without fear of breakage. I will knit with wild abandon! I will not fear my needles being confiscated on planes or in security. And maybe, just maybe, they will live with my road bike instead of my pedestrian collection of bamboo needles.

Evalyn said...

Dear Franklin;
A man who appreciates both the importance of a "better twirl" in a cape, and the total uber cool of carbon fiber knitting needles is indeed one of a kind. *Sigh*

Rosi G. said...

I picked up a set of those needles at VKL. I luuurves them, too.

Anonymous said...

Where did you get the carbon fibre knitting needles. I think they are cool, my boyfriend does not.

JK_in_KC said...

The thought of encountering the stealthy invisible Blackthorn needle when I sit down on my similiarly dark colored couch has prevented me from purchasing them. They look dangerous!

AgTigress said...

The carbon fibre needles sound, and look, very desirable.
'Perfect balance of slippy and grippy': you really do have a way with words!

=Tamar said...

Perfect for the Kevlar yarn. Sure, it's so harsh to the touch that only Superman could stand it without a lining, but linings are easy.
Maybe if the price comes down a bit. *sigh*

Gail (nosenabook) said...

There's this thing about little girls and twirliness (and how good of you to Get It). With one simple word it became clear why a cape is better than a poncho.
Ponchos don't twirl.

Karen said...

I'm so sorry to tell you that I had to stop reading your blog the moment that you said you had some Blackthorns. My vision diminished, my ability to tell one letter from the other, and my absolutely shameless need to figure out how to break into your house and rob you blind took over all of my other basic skills.

I covet them. Like you read about. Like Lindsy Lohan wants a drink and some car keys. Like Charlie Sheen wants a hooker and a dentist. Like George W. Bush just wants to be left alone.

That's how badly I want those needles.

Unknown said...

The picture of your new carbon fiber needles has left me feeling... rather warm. And covetous. Those are hot enough to make me cheat on my magic loop.

Kate G said...

I fell in love with Blackthorn needles while designing the logo for them. They really are brilliant-- strong and flexible and they make easy work of fine knits. What's not to like?

Oh, and they make great swizzle sticks should a certain sheep be calling for her Long Island Ice Tea.

Unknown said...

Stealth bomber needles? They should have called them Blackwater instead of Blackthorn.

PainterWoman said...

Can't wait to see the hood/cape when finished. I finished a Red Riding Hood/Valentine cape last week.
Loved your literary metaphor about project-swapping and shifty fidelity.
Who new graphite was SO useful!

lostarts said...

The planes you show photos of in this post are, indeed, made of the same type of material. I went to the site, though, and they said that it was also used in the Blackbird, which, according to Wikipedia, is 85% titanium and only 15% composite materials. So, it may be partly true, but mostly untrue. It's probably true of some of the plane, but it's always been one of my favorite planes, so I'm impressed all to pieces.

But they look like SO much fun to knit with! And I may not have "manly" hands, but I've snapped so many Bryspun DP needles that I seldom use them anymore in spite of how much I love the points.

Thanks so much for the info and the wit!

Voie de Vie said...

Those are some kinda DPNs. Love the hood, too - she's a cutie.

Great range - thanks!

Sarah said...

Carbon fiber needles. I think I need them. My brain is frozen.

Harpa Jónsdóttir said...

Sexy needles? That is a new thought for me - but I like it!

Mary Peed said...

Love the capelet, looking forward to that pattern. I love the needles, too. I love knitting with bamboo, but break them often and so use aluminum for most things because I can bend them back into shape. I figured I could get a pair of these to try them out...but HOLY CRAP, FRANKLIN, they're $34.95 a PAIR! No WONDER the Stealth bombers cost so much, if a little tiny pair of knitting needles costs THIRTY FIVE DOLLARS.

Unknown said...

Don't forget Formula One Race Cars are also heavily dependent on carbon fiber for their go-fastness. I like to think that carbon fiber needles will turbo-charge my knitting speed.

dana said...

it's all about the twirl. for several years, at least.

shannonstoney said...

These are cool, but boy, a little expensive!

Unknown said...

I have snapped DPNs under my hopefully not as manly fingers -- Lantern Moon Sox Stix in Ebony wood. Nearly broke my cold unfeeling heart.

Anonymous said...

HOW have I not heard of those needles before? WANT WANT WANT

(my non-knitting mum is going to think I'm loony - she just got me the Addi interchangeable set for Christmas, and I just sent her an email linking to/pleading for the gorgeousness. A set of US1 DPN's, and there's be nothing stopping me from TAKING OVER THE WORLD. ::evil cackle::

Barb B. said...

I played with those carbon fibre needless at TNNA... I am in love and in lust. I break the wooden ones, and bend the metal ones (and I don't have your manly fingers!)

revl said...

ok...the dreamliner and the stealth and your you will fail to reach completion, slipping deadlines repeatedly...but no one will ever know!

Crafty Andy said...

They are a dream come true, I have not had the opportunity to test them yet, but I am hoping to give them a try. Good luck in Madrona. You were missed at stitches

Fiber Ninja said...

Don't doubt for one moment how manly you are. You do it in a classy, renaissance-man way, instead of a neanderthal-man way.

rosauraalasdiez said...

Good enough French.
I prefer to think of my projects as subplots. Dickens has plenty of those. Some of mine qualify for a Trollope novel- ten years later, those Moccasin Socks are still showing up in the Knitting Journal.
Because I had read the Claudius books and knew about Messalina, I was able to understand the family motto of Discworld's Death-"Non Timetis Messor."Being able to laugh right away is so much better than looking it up. said...

Quite effective material, lots of thanks for the article.

Philip (Ireland) said...

Just to point out (being the pedantic soul that I am), the F117 stealth bomber isnt made of carbon fiber and I dont actually know of any that are

angel Williams said...

I really like you so much. I can't really prevent it since I reside in one of the epicenters. I'll be going to my key subterranean sand soon, where I'll cover up out until it is all over. If the regional group victories, this may be Easter time.

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