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Regaining Balance: Wodehouse, Knitting, Math

5 July 2011
Wodehouse Knitting

The View from Bed: Several of my Wodehouse books have a little knitting on the back.

Giveaway winners, and a new set of yarn and books, at the end of this post. Feel free to scroll down!

So, people, the thing I haven’t mentioned is that I had surgery a couple of weeks ago. [I’m fine; don’t worry!] The recuperation has been a little longer than I expected – as in, I thought I’d be fine the next day, and instead I’m still building back to normal. I find it depressing not to be able to do everything I was doing before, and as a result I returned for a while to my primary comfort behavior: namely, re-reading books by P.G. Wodehouse. [Hey, you do your thing; I’ll do mine.]

In a few days, I read five Wodehouse books. I realize that this is a bit much, and even as I type this I wonder whether I should admit such excess to the world. But here’s what I realized: one thing I love about Wodehouse is that balance is restored at the end of his books. There are stakes, sure – mostly to do with social humiliation – but I do know that, in the end, girl will get boy, butler will get tip, and Lord Emsworth will have his pig returned to him. It’s funny; it’s safe; it’s serene.

Happily, one of the books Mr. Trask brought me included a little knitting in it, which gives me an excuse to talk about Wodehouse here. I wouldn’t say PGW was known for putting knitting in his books, but there are a few delightful moments, including this one (from Cocktail Time):

Old Mr. Howard Saxby was seated at his desk in his room at the Edgar Saxby literary agency when Cosmo arrived there. He was knitting a sock. He knitted a good deal, he would tell you if you asked him, to keep himself from smoking, adding that he also smoked a good deal to keep himself from knitting.

Sweater Swatches

Two of my five (count 'em, 5) sweater swatches. Sigh.

As a former smoker, I can attest that knitting keeps me from smoking – and also from over-eating. And a little knitting in my Wodehouse gave me the pleasant feeling that the universe might just be looking out for me after all. Why, yes, lying in bed does make me a bit philosophical.

From there, it was a short leap to the realization that I feel a kind of balance when I’m working on a top-down sweater pattern. I know, I know, I’m a complete dork, but there’s something about the way the increases lead into the sleeves and the math does its thing that makes me feel like there’s a geometric harmony to the universe. [Again, why am I admitting to the world that I think this way?] Anyway, I feel this way in particular when I’m designing a garment, because it seems magical when the math works out without much trouble (this does not always happen, of course, especially when I’m sizing a pattern).

I’d love to get a renewed sense of that balance, that harmony, and I have these 10 skeins of Spud & Chloe Sweater in my stash. Originally, they were going to be a blanket for a friend, and then I realized that she didn’t need a blanket – she needed a baby sweater – and so there they sat for a while. I think now’s the time for them to come out and play, because I also found last summer’s raglan-sweater-along on the Spud & Chloe blog. I’m not up for doing a whole design on my own right now, so I’ll be following along with what the group did last summer a bit, but making changes as well.

The first change is that I cannot imagine getting 5 stitches to the inch in this yarn. It’s wonderful yarn – wool and cotton, just right for a walk-the-beach sweater – but I have gone all the way down to a size 5 needle and I am at 4.5 stitches per inch. [This is the story of my life: weird gauge.] More importantly, the fabric I got on the 5s is about what I would like the sweater’s fabric to have – the stitches are tight and even, but not too crowded.  So my gauge will be 4.5 stitches and 6 rows to the inch, instead of the 5 st/inch the group has.  I know that I want to have a wide, boat-ish neck the way Wendy’s sweater has, but without the aggressive ribbing. Let’s face it: I’ll be making this up as I go. Plus, I’ll be doing some stripes.

S&C Sweater: Firefly

S&C Sweater: Firefly

S&C Sweater: Ice Cream

S&C Sweater: Ice Cream

S&C Sweater: Moonlight

S&C Sweater: Moonlight

S&C Sweater: Root Beer

S&C Sweater: Root Beer

S&C Sweater: Splash

S&C Sweater: Splash

That’s right – I have five different colors of this yarn (2 skeins of each, although a fair piece of my first yellow skein has been taken up by my millions of gauge swatches): Moonlight, Firefly, Ice Cream, Rootbeer, and Splash. I didn’t plan it this way, but those names do suggest a glorious summer night to me…at the beach, with a root beer float, perhaps? Am I taking this too far? At any rate, I turned to the Random Stripe Generator (a cousin to our old friend the Random Number Generator) to give me some ideas for my stripes. This is a great tool: you select the colors you have and tell the tool how many rows you want and how wide the rows can be, and it pops out a little stripe pattern for you. I probably won’t follow their instructions to the letter, but looking at different combinations of the colors gave me a sense of how much of each color I’d like there to be in this sweater.

I used the yellow skein for my swatches on purpose; I knew that I didn’t want too much yellow in my sweater. II’m a little concerned about the Firefly and the Root Beer – I think the brown could be too dark, too muddy, and the yellow too aggressive.  One might have to go.  What do you all think?  Who has opinions?

If anyone would like to join me in this here adventure, please do. Grab some yarn out of your stash and start swatching – a top-down raglan is fun to design and rewarding to knit. Onward and upward!

Stash GIveaway

Left to Right: 2 skeins of Canopy, 1 of Watershed, 2 of Claudia Fingering.

Stash Giveaways for This Week

The winners from last week were Andrea, Robin, Consuela, and Brooke. Check out Andrea’s nifty blog, too!  This week, there’s more fun to be had:

1. Two skeins of the Fibre Company Canopy Worsted Weight – one in Kaffir Plum and one in Orchid.

2. Two skeins of Claudia Hand Painted Yarn fingering weight – one in Blue Fields and one in Toast.

3. One skein of Neighborhood Fiber Co. Watershed in a lovely light blue that I suspect is the Randle Circle colorway.

4. One copy of Hannah Fettig‘s wonderful book Closely Knit: Handmade Knits for the Ones You Love.

As always, the yarn has lived in our one-cat, non-smoking home since it was purchased. I’ll be freezing the yarn for 24 hours before mailing it. Comment on this post by noon EST (GMT-4) on Saturday, July 9 for a chance to win one of these dandy giveaways. As always, thanks for giving my stash a home!

15 Comments leave one →
  1. 5 July 2011 5:09 pm

    I have some Wodehouse buried somewhere in the stacks, you inspire me to dig it out. Right now I’ve got James Herriot’s All Creatures Great And Small for bedtime reading and I decided to read Agatha’s The Pale Horse this week, before PBS shows their new Miss Marple movie Sunday. She’s not in the book, so it’ll be interesting to see how they adapt it.

    I can’t believe you’re still destashing, you’ve been so generous already! Thanks for the giveaways.

  2. Carolyn permalink
    5 July 2011 5:19 pm

    My treat arrived today. Thanks! I hope you mend quickly!

    Carolyn

  3. Michele permalink
    5 July 2011 6:22 pm

    What I love about Wodehouse is the absolute panache with which Gally sails through life. I recently was informed that I will present on a panel this fall to the plenary session at a conference we are hosting. I’m am being required to present and deeply wish I could appoint a representative to give remarks in my place. But I will perserve with the thought that Gally would just sail up there and tell everyone what they needed to know, perferably ending with a Fruity Biffen story.

    Thanks also for the quote about knitting, I never thought about taking up smoking to cut back on my knitting. Maybe it will work.

  4. 5 July 2011 6:22 pm

    My treats arrived the other day and they are gorgeous! I’m thinking faire isle socks? Of course I’ve never knit faire isle socks so we’ll see.

    I’m in love with the Spud and Chloe line but the price and the yardage always turn me off to it. They have a newly released blanket pattern that calls for 38 skeins of yarn (for the smallest size). I’m afraid to even do the math. I’m sure your sweater will look great in that yarn. I’ve done a baby sweater in it and had trouble getting gauge as well. Good luck!

  5. 5 July 2011 7:13 pm

    Not entering (I just won!) but I wanted to say…PG Wodehouse is MY thing, too! Audible has some awesome audio books that seem recorded only so I can knit to them. I hope your recovery from surgery continues apace. xo

  6. Robin permalink
    5 July 2011 10:43 pm

    Katherine- I received the beautiful silky wooly yarn – mallard is just a gorgeous color! Now just to figure out what to make with it – any suggestions? I wanted a shawlette but don’t know if 50g will be enough – hope your recovery continues to go well &thanks so much for your giveaways!

  7. Dovile permalink
    6 July 2011 10:29 am

    Thanks for the link to the stripe generator. I’m planning to knit a stripy scarf for my sister, but I couldn’t figure out how to make the stripes look random, so this is going to be a great help.

  8. Trudy permalink
    7 July 2011 4:21 pm

    I have a big fat volume of PG Wodehouse that I pull out from time to time for comfort reading. It’s such a wonderful world!
    Recovery from surgery is such a drag – it seems that surgeons think their patients will recover quickly – but they’ve probably never had surgery themselves.

  9. 8 July 2011 1:46 am

    I’ve never read Wodehouse, but you’ve piqued my curiosity. I don’t really read much anymore at all though… too much good television to watch while knitting 😛

  10. 8 July 2011 9:41 am

    Have heard much about Wodehouse, but never read. I’ll look it up. Hubby is going to a fab used book store next week and I am putting him on the hunt. Hope you are feeling better. Have you relocated across the pond, yet? I am actually finally bloggin again, I have been knitting the whole time, have some pics to upload. Take Care!

  11. ikkinlala permalink
    9 July 2011 8:09 pm

    I know I’m too late to enter your giveaway, but thanks for the link to the random stripe generator – it’s such a neat idea!

  12. 11 July 2011 4:30 pm

    Is this the yarn that was going to be a blanket, then a sweater as noted in this post, but now you’ve decided to go with blanket (again)? One of these days I’m going to read Wodehouse. I’ve gone so far as to download a book onto the Kindle.

  13. Consuela permalink
    12 July 2011 9:55 pm

    Sorry I missed this blog — all right, I don’t want to be greedy since I won one of your wonderful books last time! But I’m working on a scarf with S&C stripes too, and 3 of the colors you’re using! Here it is:
    http://www.ravelry.com/projects/Consuelala/shimmer-chevron-scarf

    I sometimes read Rumpole of the Bailey when I want something not too taxing but satisfying. Or Agatha Christie. Her books are so wonderful because no matter how many times I read them I always forget who did it so it’s a surprise at the end.

    • 20 July 2011 7:52 pm

      Rumpole! I love Rumpole. Now I’m thinking that I might make this yarn into a baby blanket after all…and then maybe I could make this scarf with the leftovers? I think I might have Knitter ADD.

  14. 16 August 2011 5:54 am

    I read your post with absolute delight.

    I’m a mere novice knitter of simple hats and scarves, but I a serious Wodehouse lover. Thanks so much for sharing the quote from Cocktail Time. I love Blue Gal’s suggestion of knitting and listening to Wodehouse audiobooks.

    You’ve inspired me to get try something a bit more ambitious than knitting scarves. I look wistfully at patterns, but they just seem to be another language. Perhaps I can knit a martini holder, or a pig sweater.

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