Okay-Shokay Completed

Well that was satisfyingly quick and easy! In all I probably spent about 4-6 hours of time knitting my version of Ribbed Mini-Scarf (Raverly link or designer’s blog link), but life and other projects took much of my time, so it took a whole month to make.

It’s a good pattern and I recommend it if you are seeking a super-quick knit for a gift for someone.

The only thing I did differently was that I made the hole through which the end of the scarf should be strung through for wearing smaller, and made it more of a buttonhole for the really cool button I bought at Nancy’s Sewing Basket in Seattle. If you go to one of the links above for the scarf you’ll see that it’s meant to be worn in a manner that is far more interesting, than what I did, but I wanted the scarf to block-out more cold air.

Pattern: Ribbed Mini-Scarf by Celeste Glassel (free pattern)

Yarn: Shokay Shambala Yak Down in purple, one skein (100 grams, 164 yds/150 m – I had 15 grams left)

Needle: U.S. 6/ 4 cm

Finished dimensions: 4.5″ x 34″ (11.5 cm x 86 cm)

Gauge: 20 sts/4 in. (10 cm) in pattern stitch

Notes on the yarn: it is scrumptious to touch, but upon wearing it around my neck, it’s a tad bit scratchy which I find a bit disappointing, but that’s the nature of yak down, I guess. Also, it’s probably going to pill a bit, as when I frogged parts of the scarf as I worked to get the buttonhole just the right size, it released bits of fuzz, and then when I washed it, the water had a fair amount of fibers floating around; a bit of color also came off in the wash.

My son and I have been home sick with some kind of nasty cold lately, so I opened this mysterious package of tea my mother brought back from Japan last September:

Mysterious, only because I don’t read Japanese and all my mother knows is that it’s meant to be used when sick. I could break out my Kanji dictionary, but that would take about 2 hours of knitting time to decipher, and why would I waste my time?

Whatever it is, it’s quite good, and clearly has some green tea powder in it, some ume (plum), and maybe some yuzu (citron).

When one is sick, does one bake? Stupidly, yes. So as lousy as I felt yesterday, I made croissant from scratch and they were my best batch yet.

I have no idea why they turned out so well this time, except that there was the toddler factor: “Mommy, I want to see what you’re doing!” “Mommy, I want to stir!” “Mommy, what are you doing?” “Let me do it!” “Mommy, I need to go potty!” It’s a bonified miracle the croissant were so good.

Okay-Shokay Progress

“Progress?” You say. “What’s Okay-Shokay?”

Okay-Shokay is a scarf that is the result of pure lust and impulse buying, I have to admit.

From the instant I put my hands on that skein of Shokay’s Shambala yak down, I knew that there was no turning back. I had never felt yak down yarn before, and I cannot describe to you how wonderful it feels. I’ve heard it described as a lot like cashmere, but I think it feels much better than cashmere (is that even possible?). It feels like a soft cotton plant somehow had intimate relations with a cashmere goat and yak down was the result. I love it. I could not say “no” to that skein, however I did say “no” to any additional skeins (the stuff is expensive). I have no regrets, though.

Caressing my single skein of purple Shambala that night, I searched Ravelry to find a pattern to put the 164 yards (150 m) to good use with. Some have suggested that I incorporate the skein into a sweater with other yarns, and I politely accepted their opinions, all the while thinking to myself, “Are you absolutely insane?! Why would I mix something so delicious to touch as yak down with another yarn? ” I did appreciate their input, really, but I just couldn’t do that. Through Ravelry I found the pattern for Ribbed Mini-Scarf by Celeste Glassel and I think it suits the fiber perfectly, as it just screams that it needs to be next my skin. The pattern is written for two lengths and I’m making the longer one (26″ or so) since I don’t want to waste too much yarn. A very quick and easy knit, and it’s about 90% done.

Dyeing to know.

Okay, so a friend of ours who lives in Russia stopped by for a chat the other day with his Russian wife and, of course I just had mention my Orenburg shawl to her. Blank stare. And then she realized that I was talking about the shawls of Oh-rrhen-boorrg, and we proceeded from there. It’s funny how you learn to say a foreign word in you’re own native language, and then someone who speaks the language associated with that word corrects you, and you just realize, “Well, duh! How stupid of me to pronounce it with American English pronunciation!” I know, if you don’t speak that language, how are you to really know how it is properly pronounced? But then, one of my favorite obsessions throughout my life has been linguistics (I guess I should’ve majored in that in college). Okay, back to the shawl.

After we got my pronunciation of Orenburg closer to what it should sound like, I showed her my shawl. Her reaction was immediate: “But this is not the traditional color!”

“I know.” I wailed, and went on to explain how it is that I ended-up with that color.

So this brings me to the title of this post, because I’m thinking I should dye the shawl: what I’ve done so far and the other hanks of Orenburg. Is that crazy? Probably. I think of crazy things like this often. I suppose it’s possible, but I’ve never done anything that crazy. Well, maybe.

I’ve found that the Orenburg (a.k.a., Grand Duchess) is just too challenging for me at the end of the day when my attention span is less, my eyes are tired and my patience is greatly lacking, so Cabled Coat has become my evening project, and as bonus, when I make a mistake the yarn is a lot more forgiving. But Grand Duchess is the primary project I’d work on if I had more time.

Cabled Coat is coming along…slowly. I really would like to finish it; the design is so interesting. This is one side panel, and it would’ve been further along, but I frogged most of it a week ago when I realized I’d misinterpreted the instructions, once again. I hope I’m doing it right. I think it’s right….

Below is Matcha Market Bag. Not much to say about it, except that I like the stitch pattern:

Bird’s Eye (not pictured) is sitting at the bottom of my bag; a jealous child thinking it’s been forgotten. I’m letting her cool her jets.

Generally Inhospitable

My husband and I have just spent a good portion of Sunday in Neurology Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at a local hospital; by no means as much as many family members might. I can say even more than ever that I hate hospitals. I hate those places. I hate the way death hovers over hospitals. I hate it when I walk by rooms where patients have no one visiting (I know, maybe they went to the bathroom or to get something to eat). I love the healing and the miracles that abound from hospitals, but I hate the sadness, the sickness, the loneliness, the death.

I’ve spent a few days in a hospital bed, and I detested every minute of it, I wanted to heal so fast that I would be out faster that you could blink an eye. I mean, what strange place: you’re meant to heal in there and you’re supposed to rest, but in-between resident physicians making rounds and lab techs poking your arm for another sample, rest is anything but what you get. Oh, and then there was the time I was in the hospital and they were remodeling the floor below and for 8-hours a day I got to listen to the sound of drilling below. Yes, hospitals are good places and staff do what they can, but I just don’t like the nature of the beast. Some hospitals I have visited seem to have the unsettled souls of the disoriented dead hovering over them. That is what best describes the one I was in today. Dark, heavy, ghoulish. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking death, it has its place and we’ve all got to face it, I just don’t like that feeling that pervades places where it often occurs.

The halls of NICU seem to abound with red, weepy eyes, lots of hugging; vacant stares. That’s if you look at people, because after being there a while, you meld into the crowd of loved ones avoiding eye contact as much as possible. People walk past each other without bumping into one another all the while avoiding looking at the face of the oncoming person. NICU staff members, in between the light social workplace banter, are subdued as they read the faces of every loved one passing by for signs of breakdown.

My husband’s mother is gone. I don’t think she’s one of those lost souls hanging around the hospital tonight: she found who she was looking for.

Out in NICU reception a group gathered for a patient, sometimes breaking out in a mournful song in their native Samoan language; it was such a lovely sound, and in stark contrast to the beeping of respirators and hushed voices in the patients’ rooms. Not meant for my ears, not for my entertainment; I walked by barely registering notice.

Tonight a glass of Warre’s Tawny Porto will do. Who can sleep after a day like this?

I refuse to surrender! So far.

I continue to do battle for the Grand Duchess. It’s not that bad really, but when I mess up, what a rat’s nest it is figuring out where I went wrong, what I did wrong and undoing the error because of fuzzy mohair. Suddenly, my intention to do just one more row and then go to bed becomes an hour-long project when an error or two is at hand.

This week marks a milestone in Grand Duchess: I have successfully rounded not only Corner 1, but also Corner 2, and now am working on the body of the shawl. Make a mistake here and a row that would’ve taken about 30 minutes to complete suddenly becomes an hour fix-up job, but this doesn’t surprise me a whole lot. I’ve done lace before, although it’s been many years since I did anything of this complexity and size, and that was back when it was my first lace project, the Gibbie Shawl. Here I am, not having knitted the requisite smaller and easier shawls in the book before launching into the grand dame, just making Medallion anyway. Am I a glutton for punishment? Why, yes, yes indeed I am. Look at my other knitting projects: there’s Cabled Coat (a pain to follow the pattern for) and then there’s Bird’s Eye (which has become monotonous). And now Medallion in Orenburg yarn, which would be much easier if I’d just done it in some gossamer-weight merino or something and if the pattern were written with a little more explanation and charting that doesn’t add to confusion with one row being Row 2 on the right side of the shawl, but becoming Row 1 when you get to the left. It does make sense that the rows on the right are numbered ahead of those on the left, but only because of what happens at the beginning of the body, but this adds to confusion when looking at such huge charts. I can’t help but wonder if the first few rows should be numbered differently to accommodate the number shift, and then, once that point is past, the numbers on rest of the shawl (we’re talking hundreds of itty-bitty rows on charts) could be numbered so that the right is the same as the left.

What do I do to get around the fact that I haven’t done either the Diamond Trianglular Shawl or Pine Tree Pallatine Scarf, the introductory patterns it the same book, first? What do I do when I’m not sure about the instructions for Medallion, I go back and study that specific point in the other two patterns, both of which are written with more explanation and more charting than Medallion. It’s crazy, I guess, but I do stuff like this and end-up regretting it later. Hopefully I won’t regret it later this time. But I wanted to do Medallion and I wanted to do it in Orenburg yarn, and it will be a much richer experience for it.

As I knit, I imagine Russian knitters knitting just such a shawl, perhaps a 10-year old girl knitting her first one. I hear the voices of women speaking a language I cannot comprehend, perhaps I even smell a bowl of pelmeni soup with a dollop of sour cream in it as I go. Ah, I wax poetic. These are the things that come to mind when I do anything associated with a cultural tradition, be it making Armenian Easter bread , or Japanese okonomiyaki or sakura mochi, or pasta the way my Italian grandmother did, or French croissant: I hear the language, I see the country (or what I imagine it looks like), and for a moment in time I experience a brief culturel expedition, a mental vacation.

Sorry no pictures now. Sorry if my writing is rough no time for final proof.  Family emergency, check back later.