Why I Like Reading Old Avengers Comics

So of course this weekend I went to see Avengers: Age of Ultron, because I would not be true to my geek roots if I did not. It has made me remember how much I love Scarlet Witch and the Vision in the comics and I’m back to reading my old Avengers comics.

I started on the first one with the Vision which was published near the end of the 1960s and it’s hilarious. Comedy genius, though not deliberately.

Case in point:

Then we have some great scenes with Hawkeye and Black Widow who were cohabiting at the time, or at least hanging out in a rather intimate way. Uh. Upside down.

There’s so much to love about these old comics. I’ve also found an old 4 part series where Wanda and Vision are moving in together after getting married, and believe me I’m going to enjoy that as soon as I get around to it.

Comics are my next love after knitting so I’m delving into my obsession. That doesn’t mean I’m not knitting as well. I bought some gorgeous cotton to make a top with and there will be pictures of that soon enough – I’m not using a pattern because I’m an idiot, so I’d like to document the process.

Inspiration comes from everywhere

I find browsing Ravelry is a great start when I am feeling uninspired by any of my current projects. Not just the patterns section either: I love perusing my friends’ projects and seeing how they’re doing with their knitting and crochet skills.

Lately I’ve been finding a lot of inspiration in bright colours. This always happens when summer starts to come, which I’m told is happening even though it snowed last week. This has been especially true at work where I’ve been crochet covers for the arms of my co-workers’ chairs in a variety of bright and cheerful patterns, including one that looks like a snail, out of some old acrylic. This goes undocumented in photos since I work in a place where cameras are Not Allowed.

Recently the cotton/wool/alpaca blend linen stitch shawl inspired me, though that was mostly colour too. Now that it’s finished (photos coming as soon as I get around to weaving in the ends) the colours have become less sparkling to my eyes and thought I love it, I’ve realised it won’t suit me at all. I’m considering doing some kind of giveaway on here for it in case one of my fine readers would suit it better.

Sounds inspire me too, or rather singers do. Merrill Garbus of Tune-Yards fame is who I want to be when I grow up and her aesthetic fills me mind with all sorts of crazy ideas. This isn’t new, but now it’s coming out in a bunch of scribbled fair-isle patterns in my notebook based on her album art work.

Merrill_Garbus Tune_Yards-8 tune-yards

Inspiration can come from anywhere. I find it fascinating. Where does yours come from?

In Pursuit of Distraction

I’ve got a good thing going at work these days.

Earlier I mentioned that I have been crocheting covers for the chair’s armrests at work since they’re a little bedraggled. My chair is bright and cheerful in green and yellow acrylic (complete with a little flower) and it’s catching on.

First a co-worker crocheted her own for one of her arm-rests. Then people started asking me to make them for their chairs.

However much I like my co-workers, I don’t mass-produce even these things for free. As a result I’m getting a cup of coffee and a snack for every arm-cover that I make. It’s great. I drink a cup of decaff every morning (and quite often another later in the day) and it is how I let my brain know to get going, even if I can’t drink the caffeine. The snack is just a bonus.

So far I’ve finished two other sets and I’m about to start a third. It’s a great way to get the hang of new stitches and to play around with patterns. I’ve figured out a way to crochet it so it stays on itself without having to crouch on the floor and tie it on.

I love crochet for how adaptable it is. Even more, I love it for how many free coffees it’s getting me!

How to Be a Better Knitter

When I started this blog it was with the idea of documenting my rise from bemused beginner to a better knitter. I had only started knitting shortly before my first post and had no idea back then how much the craft would become a part of my life.

It’s my fifth year of knitting now and I’m still learning something new every day. That’s not an accident either: I am passionate enough about knitting that I want to get better, and getting better involves more than just idle practice of the same things over again. I’ve been thinking a lot about how I got past the initial stage of knitting straight scarves and grimacing at the thought of anything more complicated and this post is the result.

So here’s ten ways I’ve found helped to be a better knitter. If you have any to add let me know!

How To BeA Better Knitter

1. Know that you suck.

The first time I picked up the needles and awkwardly cast on I was terrified. Not because I might strangle myself with the acrylic yarn or stab myself with the aluminium needles, but because I was trying something new and had no idea whether I would be good at it.

That’s the problem with a lot of people when embarking on acquiring new skills: we expect to be perfect immediately without the normal learning curve or we abandon it. Yet without these times we’ll never get to the part where we can wield our tools without injury and/or embarrassment.

So embrace the fact you suck and don’t let it stop you. No one is an expert at first try.

2. Don’t be afraid.

The thought of tackling another skill, even one as fun and rewarding as knitting, can be daunting. What if you spend all that time learning and still suck? What if you waste money on lovely yarn you never use? What if someone laughs at your modest creations?

These thoughts are normal but they shouldn’t be all you think about. Sure, knitting is hard for most people at first but there’s no need to be afraid of it.

3. Find a knitting group

I’m biased in that I learned to knit purely because my friend started up a knitting group in my hometown but I truly believe that sitting with a bunch of other knitters will help you.

Maybe it’s osmosis, but I find that sitting with my knitter friends for any length of time makes me feel like I can knit anything ever. Maybe it’s the inspiration of seeing what other people are making or maybe it’s just the assurance of knowing there are people you can turn to when you have questions. Whatever it is, my knitting groups are the driving force behind my knitting addiction.

Plus they’re really fun.

4. Be patient.

As I said, knitting is hard for almost everyone when they first pick up the needles. If it is easy for you right off the bat you are, sorry to say, a bit of a freak. It takes patience to get through that initial stage no matter how frustrating it can be.

The largest chunk of your patience will be when you make a mistake and have to fix or rip it back. This is where you will need to take a deep breath, put down the needles for a few minutes, and back away from the flamethrower. It’s okay. You will get through this.

5. Learn how to fix mistakes.

After a solid week of knitting (I’m barely exaggerating here), I had a very long, far too wide scarf on my needles. I looked at it with pride and then, after a moment, with despair. It was not a rectangle any more. It was a strange off-centred shape where I had been added and subtracting stitches at the end of rows.

The scarf in question.

The scarf in question.

To most people it wouldn’t have been obvious but for me it was the end of the project. I threw it down and picked up a crochet hook then didn’t knit again for a few months. This was my first project (which eventually ended up covered in flowers and tied to a lamppost) and trying to fix it scared me too much to bother.

When I went on YouTube and figured out how to keep track of stitches and pick up dropped ones I began to see that fixing errors wouldn’t mean the end of the world and knitting became much easier.

6. Get on Ravelry.

Most knitters who read this blog will already be regulars of Ravelry. If you’re not you need to be. Even if you don’t frequent the message boards (which can be extra fun), there are thousands of patterns available both as a resource and a way of gaining inspiration.

You can search by yarn weight and yardage to find the perfect project for the skein you have instead of falling back on old ideas. You can see the many ways this creative culture shows off its skills. And if you get stuck, you can pop on the boards and ask a question with a few dozen answers in no time at all.

It’s not an exaggeration to say I wouldn’t be the knitter I am today without Ravelry.

7. Count Your Stitches.

This seems like an obvious one but it wasn’t for me. The way I became more than a confused beginner was by consciously counting my stitches both on the live stitches to find my place and the rows to see my progress.

Though this is easy enough on stockinette and only a little trickier on garter stitch, it becomes more complicated when we get to cables and lace-work. Working out how to read your knitting by counting the rows and stitches gives you an advantage as you’ll be able to spot when you go wrong much quicker. Even better, you’ll be able to gauge how to fix it without setting fire to it and/or throwing it out of the top floor window.

8. Try new things.

We are creatures of habit, us humans. We like to settle in with what we know and stick to it.

But that isn’t going to get you anywhere with knitting. Have a look around and find interesting things to try; Pinterest is a great resource for that, as is Ravelry. Pick out a new lace stitch and swatch it just to see what happens. Put a cable or two in your stockinette. Try short rows without bursting into tears.

If it turns out you don’t enjoy that new stitch, oh well. You’ve learned something along the way which is never time wasted.

9. Ignore other people’s fear.

When you whip out the DPNs and fingering-weight yarn you will probably get someone saying how they’ve never tried socks, they’re too hard. Or if you pick up the slender circular and cast on laceweight they will grimace and say they can’t imagine doing something that fiddly.

Ignore them.

There is nothing inherently difficult about turning a heel and yet I was terrified of getting to it the first time I knitted a sock. Not because I thought I couldn’t figure it out but because so many people had already told me how difficult it was. They told me to use lifelines and not worry because no one turns a heel the first time successfully.

And then, perched on the edge of my seat with my teeth gritted, I did it. I turned a heel. No fireworks, no triumphant trombones, just an adorable rainbow sock whose twin I never made.

10. Stop reading and knit!

The biggest barrier to acquiring any new talent is time. If you can’t find the time then you won’t have the skill. Knitting is more labour-intensive than many people realise and it gets even worse (or better) once you’re hooked.

Knit whenever and wherever you can: on the train, at work (if you’re allowed), at home in front of the TV, out in the garden. Wherever you can pull out the WIP, do it. Every single stitch you complete is making you a better knitter.

As my friend once said, if you can’t find time to do something then you probably don’t want to do it all that badly anyway. If you want to be a better knitter, find the time to knit.

How did you become a better knitter?

A Place for Acrylic

Confession: I don’t mind knitting with acrylic.

Yes, I prefer knitting with natural fibres. Of course I do: they’re more interesting in texture and generally make better quality items. Yet I still have quite a large stash of acrylic and don’t mind finding projects to use it up.

At the moment that project is a baby blanket for my sister’s unborn child. I am nervous about sending it to her due to the fact I have had many things go missing, but it’s something that I’m going to have to risk.

Knitting this blanket with acrylic was not an easy choice. I wanted to make one with wool but I knew it would be fiddly for my sister to wash it (she’s not a knitter) and though I could have got superwash, price was still a factor. There are other things that need my funds these days – little things like food and rent and keeping our many pets alive. So I picked acrylic.

It’s soft enough and cute too but I fear I don’t have enough of this pale blue colour to finish the blanket. To remedy that I’ve started knitting an intarsia heart into the middle of it and though I’m not sure if that will work either, it’s worth a try.

This blanket isn’t from a pattern. I’m knitting it how it wants to come out with little input from my rational mind, though I regularly get co-worker’s opinions. One co-worker likes it so much she wants me to write up the pattern so that’s promising.

The thought of seeing this wrapped around my future nephew like a hug I can’t give him is the best thing ever. Who cares if it’s acrylic?

When Crochet Attacks

I’m in the middle of knitting a baby blanket for my future nephew. It’s going well; though I’m only using acrylic (I’m only a part-time yarn snob), it’s coming out just how I wanted it to. It’s not from a pattern either and I’m thinking of writing it up when I’m done.

It started taking its toll on my tendons yesterday so I put it down and picked up the crochet hook instead.

At work we have office chairs that are not brand new (to say the least). I switched mine because it was wonky and this one has a crack in the arm, so I crocheted a cover for it and tied it on. It works really well.

No pictures since we are not allowed cameras in our office.

This is one of the things I love about crochet. It is so easy to look at something and make an object to fit it. It’s versatile and quick. Sure it’s not usually as pretty as knitting but it has its place and I’m glad to be bi-craftual.

Do you make little useful objects like this?

Geeky Pattern Collective: Terry Pratchett Edition

I can’t remember whether I read Terry Pratchett or J.R.R. Tolkein first. Between them they were the catalyst for my jump into the world of fantasy and though one had his tongue more firmly in his cheek than the other, both inspired me more than any other author had before.

Terry Pratchett was not only an excellent author but an excellent man. His books helped my Dad realise how much he and I have in common, and has helped grow our excellent relationship. Discworld was funny and it was fun, but it was also enlightening and helped me look at our own world in a new (and more critical) way. Terry Pratchett was – and will continue to be – a huge inspiration to me.

So here are some patterns I’ve found that do him justice.

Rattus Mortei

by Henneke Sieben

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“Picture a tall, dark figure, surrounded by cornfields…
NO, YOU CAN’T RIDE A CAT. WHO EVER HEARD OF THE DEATH OF RATS RIDING A CAT? THE DEATH OF RATS WOULD RIDE SOME KIND OF DOG.
Picture more fields, a great horizon-spanning network of fields, rolling in gentle waves…
DON’T ASK ME I DON’T KNOW. SOME KIND OF TERRIER, MAYBE.
…fields of corn, alive, whispering in the breeze…
RIGHT, AND THE DEATH OF FLEAS CAN RIDE IT TOO. THAT WAY YOU KILL TWO BIRDS WITH ONE STONE.
…awaiting the clockwork of the seasons.
METAPHORICALLY.” – Reaper Man

Mini Discworld

by Anxo Cunningham

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“The disc, being flat, has no real horizon. Any adventurous sailor who got funny ideas from staring at eggs and oranges for too long and set out for the antipodes soon learned that the reason why distant ships sometimes looked as though they were disappearing over the edge of the world was that they were disappearing over the edge of the world.” – The Light Fantastic

Flynn the Swamp Dragon

by Steph Conley

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“It’s a metaphor of human bloody existence, a dragon. And if that wasn’t bad enough, it’s also a bloody great hot flying thing.” – Guards! Guards!

Bloody Stupid Johnson

by Sarah Lilly

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“It’s got three keyboards and a hundred extra knobs, including twelve with
‘?’ on them.” – Men at Arms