Thursday, September 13, 2007

'Seconds from the impact and moving way too slow'

After almost exactly two months to the day of working on the Vogue Knitting lacy dress, I'm finished — with the individual pieces. Now all that's left to do is the ever-so-tedious finishing. But before I do that, I have a very important decision to make: to leave the very obvious Amish flaw or to fix it.

I first learned about the Amish flaw theory last year when I was working at National Geographic, coincidentally around the same time that I learned to knit things other than long rectangles. I took a tour of the headquarters building, and the guide showed us a beautiful Amish quilt hanging in the corridor between the M Street building and Hubbard Hall. She pointed out a mistake in the quilt and told us about the Amish tradition of purposefully creating a mistake in the work because the only things perfect are of God. This tradition also reminds me of the Greek myth of Arachne. Arachne was a fabulous weaver in Lydia (modern-day western Turkey), supposedly better than the goddess Athena. Foolishly and pridefully, Arachne entered into a weaving contest with Athena. When Arachne's work turned out to be flaw free, Athena destroyed it in a fit of rage. Ashamed, Arachne tried to hang herself, but Athena took pity on her and turned her into a spider and the rope into a cobweb, which Arachne used to climb to safety. And her descendants have forever been exquisite weavers.

Pride and perfection aside, my Amish flaw is a fairly large and noticeable one, which was not put there on purpose. The dress pattern calls for alternating sections of the lacy knots pattern and the lace acorn insert. Having never made lace — or anything of the apparel category — before, it didn't dawn on me that the instruction "(k1, p1, k1, p1, k1) in the next st" meant to do all of that in one stitch (despite the very obvious "in the next st" directions). So my acorn inserts for the main body of the dress are a big jumbled mess (the piece on the left in the picture) compared with my correctly knitted inserts in the sleeves (bottom section of the piece on the right in the picture). I guess Weird Al would say this qualifies as an "Amish Paradise" (sorry, I couldn't resist). Urgh. What to do? I don't particularly want to redo 76 inches of acorn insert, but I also want the dress to look nice. I guess it's time to start frogging. Thank goodness Netflix just delivered a new disc of "24." And don't worry, I have a few other less noticeable Amish flaws worked into the dress. I'm not going to be turned into a spider anytime soon.

Monday, September 10, 2007

So I lied...

My first real post will not be about knitting as promised. I know all you faithful readers—all two of you—are severely disappointed. I may throw in a little knitting shop talk at the end just to spice things up. But for now, I present my beautiful, "new" parquet coffee table. Many of you already knew and loved this table in its youth. What a fun-loving and jovial kid it was. With a flair for obnoxiously bright colors and the uncanny ability to keep sticking around, this table has gone through several reincarnations since it first came into my life six years—almost to the day—ago. Here's a brief history of the table for those of you who don't know or have forgotten. I bought this table used for $5 at a sketchy back-of-a-warehouse second-hand store in Buena Vista, Virginia, when I was in college. (Oh sketchy trips to BV...but that's another story). My roommate and I decided to paint the table hot pink to match our living room decor and proceeded to slather on apparently hundreds of coats of shiny, sticky hot pink paint. I assume the table had the lovely parquet design and some sort of decent finish when we bought it, but that was sophomore year. A lot of it is kind of hazy now. We gave the table a loving and happy home for nine months with only the occasional college party—ahem—"get-together" abuse. The table stayed with me through college, moving into the sorority house and later the slightly more whimsical house I lived in senior year.

When I started graduate school the following fall, I decided hot pink was a bit too juvenile for my geriatric tastes, so I repainted it lime green, a so much more sophisticated choice. Obviously, I didn't first strip the pink paint, I just added on another couple hundred layers of ridiculously colored paint on top. Lime green table survived through graduate school and moved into storage during my first year in the "real world." Which brings us to May of this year, when it moved out of storage and into my brand new, beautiful, grown-up, working-girl apartment. I had new furniture and new decor and it was obviously time for the green to go. So I decided to refinish it. I read up about wood refinishing online and headed to my friendly, neighborhood Lowe's for supplies. I naively thought this project would take me a weekend. I bought only one jar of paint stripper and just a few sheets of sand paper. Now, numerous weekends and about $100 worth of paint stripper, sand paper, chemical-resistant gloves, stain, and finish later, I have a beautiful new table to show for it. I have to say, all the hard work was well worth the effort because my "new" table adds the finishing touch to my lovely grown-up living room.

And now for the knitting. See that pile of whiteness on the ottoman in the picture above. That's the fun, little summer project I started on two months ago. No longer summer and, frankly, no longer fun, the Vogue Knitting Spring/Summer 2007 lacy dress will be finished if my life depends on it. I'm on the last sleeve. And now that my table is done, I might be able to spend a few more weekend hours finishing it. Until then, I must get back to work...

Thursday, September 6, 2007


I used to hate blogs. I thought they were dumb. Then I worked for one. And I kind of fell in love with the short snippets of prose (caveat: I also like TV on DVD better than movies). But I moved to a new job in a new city and no longer had a blog in my life. So I decided to create one of my own. Which is where Subtropical Paradise comes in.

At this point, I'm as curious as you are as to what this *blog* will be about. I fancy myself a writer but do not write for a living. I knit as often as I can. I'm a scientist. And I love to travel. So the plan is to make all those things fodder for SubPar, and we'll see where it goes from there. In my first real post, I plan to showcase some recent knitting projects. Until then...