Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The Amazing Lace Challenge 1: Part Four -- The Interview

Shhh! Here comes The Amazing Lace reporter, Purl Stitch. Stop slouching Peacock --straighten out those markers and look lacey. Sock, you just duck down in that purse and keep out of sight!

Hello, Purl! Welcome to Team Top Frog Headquarters!

Yes, yes -- things are going quite well for our team. It’s all in the advance preparation and organization, you know. We have been training very hard together on a regular basis for quite some time. We are highly motivated and, of course, we get along so well together – it’s quite a joy to be both teammates and old friends.

No, Peacock doesn’t have much to say. She’s just a bit tired. She’s been working out really hard to maintain her prime conditioning, and prefers to conserve her energies for the competition ahead. It’s all about discipline and self-control, you know.

Sock? What sock? Oh. That sock. Er, that’s our, um, cheerleader! Yeah, our cheerleader! Uh, Cheeky Sock!

What? Well, yes, I guess his little DPNs are pretty cute.

Peacock and I are … oh, uh, they’re 6-inch size 0.

Now where was I? Oh -- Peacock and I are planning to use stitch markers on each repeat…um, yes, he’s a self-striper.

And we will install lifelines … oh, uh, Fortissima Socka.

We’ve color-coded Peacock’s pattern to… well, he’s Wendy’s Generic Toe-up sock pattern with a modified Easy Toe.

Yes, he does help keep our spirits up and makes sure we always stick to our training schedule.

Oh, of course! Cheeky Sock and Peacock get along very well – just like they were knit from the same skein.

OK, she’s gone. Peacock, would it have killed you to at least flash a stitch marker? And you, “Mr. Cheeky Sock” – I thought I told you to keep down. Well, it’s too late now. I guess you’re on the team. You don’t have to look so smug about it. Stop sulking, Peacock. Yes, of course you’re still the star of the team. No, no, no -- you won’t have to share your tote bag with him.

Monday, May 29, 2006

The Amazing Lace Challenge 1: Part Three -- Team in Training

The problem with a strict training regimen is discipline.

In which I seem to be sorely lacking.

I should be hard at work studying Peacock and coaxing her to perform training runs with her patterning. We are both really rusty and out of practice. Besides this, there are stitch markers that need to be built, and a toolkit to assemble.

But distractions abound. Chief among these is a pesky little sock playing peek-a-boo from my purse. I know it wants my attention for “just a few minutes.” After all, it won’t take too long to knit one more stripe with its playful self-patterning yarn, and turning its heel will only take a little while. These little take-along projects are so cute and quick, and they never seem to mind if I chat with friends or watch Pride and Prejudice on DVD.

Peacock grumps next to her tote bag, needles crossed, and glares accusingly at the cheeky little upstart sock…and me.

Sorry, little sock. Sorry, Mr. Darcy.

Duty calls. My teammate needs me.

Welllll … maybe just one more stripe. A little one.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

The Amazing Lace Challenge 1: Part Two -- The Diagnostic Exam

At first, Peacock seemed reluctant to cooperate, as if she doubted my sincerity. (She knows me pretty well!) But she’s a real trouper. Once I told her about The Amazing Lace, she was ready to do whatever it took to get back in the game.

(Well, I did have to dangle the promise of a good blocking at the end of the project – it’s always been Peacock’s dream to be blocked o she will lose those wrinkles forever.)

While Peacock had never been a particularly good team player, we both hoped that this time, it would be different. Team Top Frog is counting on her.

We started our preparations last night with a good overall diagnostic. Peacock’s out-of-order instructions can be reassembled for navigation purposes fairly easily. Her pattern enlargements seem well marked, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to locate our starting point. Her yarn ravels weren’t as bad as I feared, and can soon be wound back on the cone in an orderly manner. Her lifelines are uneven and pulled at odd angles, but intact. The stitch markers tangled in the YOs do need a bit of coaxing, but there does not appear to be any lasting damage. Considering all the years of neglect and poor self esteem, Peacock is in pretty good shape overall. Her attitude could still use some positive adjustment, but that’s to be expected.

Our project support equipment is another story. Over the years, Peacock’s dedicated toolkit has been disassembled and scattered amongst other projects: The marking pen can be easily replaced, but the large magnetic pattern board is in use by a younger project, and the extra color-coded stitch markers have been disassembled and re-crafted into newer styles. Before we can proceed, we will have to reassemble and replace these tools. The project tote bag, on the other hand, is still serviceable and ready to go.

But the greatest challenge is mine alone: I definitely have to spend more time in training, becoming re-acquainted with Peacock’s methodologies, meditating on the peculiarities of her pattern, and remembering the sequence of her mirror-image stitch reversals. While Peacock seems excited about The Amazing Lace, I don’t think she is motivated to change herself very much, so I am just going to have to learn to deal with her personality quirks and reluctance to perform.

I need some time to prepare myself for the long journey ahead.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

The Amazing Lace Challenge 1: Part One -- The Quest for Peacock

As I sat and read the rules for The Amazing Lace for the tenth time, I knew my path was inescapable. There was only one choice open to me, only one right thing to do -- but would Peacock still be fit enough to compete? Would she still be willing to team up with me?

It had been years since I had seen her last, but I can still remember her when she was fresh and new -- her crisp, unmarked pattern, her soft lavender lace-weight merino curling softly in the unwound skein. The future of our project seemed so bright and promising then.

Our working relationship wasn’t smooth, but we were both much younger at the time, and we thought we could work through our different styles. At first, I thought her instructions were simple, and we cruised through many repeats. But about halfway through, she became a demanding project, and often did not allow me to watch TV or visit with friends when we were working together. Then without warning, she would shift directions and insist on being repetitive and boring for endless stretches of time. I would get impatient and abandon her for long periods to entertain short, flashy projects. Eventually, I even found lace shawl patterns that I preferred to hers. Those other completed projects just seemed to make Peacock even harder to get along with. Her attitude became more and more surly, and our dissatisfaction with one another grew.

Our last parting hadn’t been pretty – mistakes had been made, harsh words spoken. She had departed the scene wadded up in disgrace and neglect. Who knows where she had gotten herself off to since then? Who knows what dark corners she inhabited?

In resignation and resolve, I steeled myself for the task ahead and waded into the deepest darkest bowels of The Stash. I struggled through endless unmarked containers, loose labels, and the strands of long-forgotten skeins from another era. Old bargains and odd balls lurked furtively in dark boxes. Once-popular pattern sheets skittered menacingly in the shadows.

Then I saw her. There she was -- barely recognizable, crouched in her dusty tote bag at the back of a shelf.

Time had not been kind to her. Her instructions were scattered and disorderly. Her once-gleaming array of stitch markers were tangled in her YOs. Her lifelines were listless and uneven. Her needles poked through her stitches at odd angles, and yarn trailed carelessly off her cone. But something told me her potential was still intact.

“Come on out of there,” I said gently. “Team Top Frog needs you. Pull yourself together and straighten yourself out. It’s a new day and we have work to do.”