Monday, February 04, 2008

umbrellas and knitting needles

Writer's meeting was Saturday. I took them about 40 pages of Trace--forty sequential, coherent, gapless pages of Curious Weather with some definite forward movement. "Okay, here we go!" somebody wrote at the end. I did some calculating last week and figured that I now have enough material outlined for two novels. "Horseflesh" would be the end of book one, and "Curious Weather" would be the beginning of book two; I figure book two will be somewhat less episodic than the first handful of stories.

While I was at the group meeting, Aly started teaching me to knit. It's long been a gap in my education. Mom taught me to crochet when I was little, but I never liked it much. Knitting, on the other hand, I find soothing. I'm not entirely sure why people claim it's so difficult to learn, either; I picked up the basics in about 20 minutes. I guess it's a hand-tension thing. "Soft hands, soft hands," Aly kept saying to me, and I grinned, because "Relax" is something I hear 50 times or more in a tai chi class. It did take an afternoon of practice, but think I've got the basic garter stitch down now. It's the perfect little repetitive thing for me to do with my hands, while my mind works on other problems.

Speaking of tai chi, we did a paid gig at a Chinese New Year's celebration last night. It was pretty fun. It was a variety show of traditional dances, singing, instrumental music, a firebreather, and a couple of martial artists. Three of us did the umbrella form and Sit did the taihui form. People really like that umbrella form for some strange reason. I guess it's pretty, although it's clearly still martial in nature; it's built from a lot of saber/broadsword moves.

The most fun part, for me, was going backstage. It was at a big university auditorium, and the backstage area and green room were some of the biggest I've seen. Whenever I walk into a black-painted wing full of ropes and pulleys I just feel at home, and alive with the excitement of making magic. It's weird, though, because I never pursued acting that much. I could have done more community theater--could still, if I were inclined--but the late hours and the little egos put me off. I think it's the symbolism of the backstage mechanics that fascinate me, because last night--despite the inadequate sleep--I had the "backstage" dream again.

That's a recurring symbolic one for me, where I'm slipping into dark corners and up black-painted ladders and through secret doors to get to a little isolated room full of all the wonderous things. I think that "backstage" room in my dreams is my creative space, specifically my writing space. Last time I dreamed of it was during divorce; that time I found my room crowded with people, having a party. Last night's dream was rather vague, but it looked a lot like that theater we performed in last night: unfamiliar, bigger, with some of the same important stuff in it but lots of new and intriguing things, as well.


Lisa said...

I find knitting to be soothing too, though I haven't had much time for it lately. It's pretty much defunct now, but I did have a knitting blog for a while.

When I first learned to knit the stitches seemed really hard and I was never able to stop throwing my yarn. After you do it a few hundred times, though, it seems really easy.

Holly said...

"Throwing the yarn," hmm? Haven't heard that one yet. I'm probably doing it and don't know it. The one that irritates me mostly thus-far is catching the needle through the loop underneath the one I'm supposed to be catching, which then leads to a double-loop.

Lisa said...

Do you knit Continental or English method? I learned Continental. Check out the photo this site has of the Continental method.

Do you see how the right needle is picking the yarn through the loop? It's a very efficient motion. I tend to stick the needle further through the loop and wrap )or "throw") the yarn around the end of the needle before pulling it through. Not so efficient.

I don't know the English method, but they keep talking about "throwing the yarn," so I bet I do some sort of mutant combo of the two.

Continental is supposed to be more efficient for the knit stitch, but English is more efficient for purling.

Even though I'm technically right handed, I do a lot of things lefty, and my guess is that's how I got into this bad habit, because it means I'm going a lot more work with my left hand than my right.

Holly said...

After you mentioned "throwing" I started Googling and found this terrific YouTube video comparing the English/continental method.

My friend taught me the English method, which works well enough and is probably better for learning on, since it's easy to see how the stitch is built and what is going where. But I knew it wasn't the super-efficient method I'd seen pros use. So I watched the video, said "Oh, I see!" and went home and taught myself to do the left-hand feeding. Works pretty darn well. I'll have to remember how to do both so I can adapt when Aly teaches me something new.