Saturday, 16 February 2008

Spinning a yarn

Right. So far, I've gone ahead and done the 34" bust size for that Lana Grossa Cotone no 5, pattern no. 5. I did the size smaller in the stella since I hear it grows 'some' and not much. I can live with that. Or rip it back if I'm not satisfied.

I've done it before.

The sleeves are more or less finished, although I have a fair few problems with the pattern. By the time you follow all the instructions, you're seven inches in, and yet the pattern asks you to bind off at six inches. Things that make you go, "*&^%!$ crosses."

So, last night, to keep my sanity, I took on a dare and started writing Sweet Valley High fanfic.

Not the high school/college variety, but the Sweet Valley Heights variety, when our well loved (and loathed!) characters are existing in their gated community and living out a desperately incestuous existence, what with all the boyfriend (now husband) swapping and the like. I used to read SVH and was always bemused at the fact that to date outside the SVH community was death.


So, someone said that John Barrowman reminded one of Bruce Patman at forty. He had that sort of charm that can be at times sweet, yet having a sinister edge. You'd be wanting to kill Patman, yet you would stay your hand and find some other punishment that sat lightly on your soul, because he was so *hawt*.

That was all it took and I wrote slash. Me, who shied away from writing slash in the HP fandom (and my OTP was a popular slash pairing), bust a move and wrote two stories featuring Steven Wakefield (the twin's older brother) and Bruce Patman.


I shan't link you to the stories because they are too risque, like Mr Barrowman himself.

I have a sickness.

Anyhoos, came across some yarn via ravelry. It's New Lanark, from Scotland. For 100 gs its about £1.80 for aran weight (150 m) and for 100 grams of dk it's about £1. Bargain. They have natural colours, some emerald colours and there's the option of 100 percent wool as well as a wool/silk mix. I ordered three balls to have a play with, because I want to do Nora Gaughn's tweedy aran cardigan that's for sale on the IK website.

The wool is relatively soft, and I hear it softens more on knitting and steaming. For all my anti-handwash vibe, I might have to bite the bullet and purchase more. I mean, I can make a man sized jumper for £18! £18! Compared to Rowan's price at £80! Bargain, that. It makes me wonder about the 'designer yarns' and their overheads.

Thursday, 14 February 2008

Any 'Fibre whisperers' out there?

I have a problem.

See, I want to knit this (look at model no 5 with the short sleeves) with Debbie Bliss Stella colour no 10.

Now, the Debbie Bliss Stella is comprised of 60% silk, 20% cotton and 20% rayon. All of these materials on their own are known to grow (silk grows when worn, so does some cotton and rayon, in my readings and experience) . However, I haven't really come across a complaint about this yarn growing while knit.

As such, I'm unsure if I should do size medium 36" bust, and just do size small (34" bust) instead, since I've a feeling that this yarn might GROW. Right now, I'm doing the sleeves first, and have sent out missives to those on ravelry who've used this yarn.

I do have my suspicions with the fact that Debbie Bliss tends to use a LOT of patterns with cables. Yes, ideally yarn needs to be elastic for cables, but Bliss also uses cables as some sort of structure with her yarn designs.

Help! I'm drowning, not waving.

Monday, 11 February 2008

Got gauge? Jazzy sings the blues

"Born under a bad sign/ been down since I learned how to crawl/if it wasn't for bad luck/then I wouldn't have no luck at all"

Homer Simpson from The Simpsons Sing the Blues.

Normally, I'd scoff at Homer Simpson's fatalistic caterwauling, but that was before last week (after my vacation in the Land of the Navel), and my gauge swatching. I've been swatching samples all week. I have yet to start my thermal because my John Lewis didn't have the amount of yarn I needed. So I've sent off for some. Meanwhile, I'm swatching and singing the blues.

Normally, the reason why it takes me so long to start a project is substitution and gauge. Most times, I tend sub the yarn used for varying reasons, but all have to do with the fact that I live in the UK, and I have to work with what I've got. Also, I tend to obsess over gauge and make sure that it's perfect, including calculations and everything, so once I start to knit, I never look back.

With my swatching of these squares, I've come to some inalienable truths:

  1. My gauge/tension is tighter on metallic needles.
  2. My stitches are much neater on wooden/bamboo needles.
  3. I spend a lot of time swatching.
So, what am I swatching? To the left in that purple/blue yarn is a short sleeved top by Filati, I think. I like the design but not the original yarn. Stepping into the substitute box is Debbie Bliss Stella - a silk, cotton, rayon mix. It's light and papery smooth to the touch, and the colour will work on me. Of course, the yardage sucks, and the yarn is 'high end', but I want it.

My swatch is on point for this yarn.

In the middle with that plum yarn: a Vogue top- raglan sleeves, with bobbles on the sleeves and a cable and bobble front. I love the bobble detail on the sleeves, but not in love with the bobbles on the neckline. I'm using Bergere de France magic. The 'magic' is supposedly for 5-5.5mm needles, but it's really chunky, and handled the 6mm nicely to form a good fabric. However, on my Aldi turbos (6mm), the tension is too snug, and on my 6.6mm bamboos, it might be a tad too big. I should have some 6.5mm circulars about, so we will see.

That teal yarn there? That's Cascade superwash 220 in Spruce. On my monitor, the spruce was a darker green blue. The tone was rather mysterious, like shadows in the snow in a coniferous forest. In real life, it's a TEAL yarn. I've nothing against teal, but dang. Anyways, it seems that the superwash is a bit thinner than its non superwash comrade. Crap. So, instead of me getting 18 sts to 4 inches on 5mm needles, I'm getting 20 sts. I don't want to go up a needle size (5.5mm), because it will look like lace.

Crap again.

Not many people make bamboo circulars, and once you go metallic circular with fine cords, you never go back. Good thing I don't mind knitting with straight needles.

Hopefully, I'll get something sorted, because I do want to wear more knitted stuff. Once you start wearing home made knit garments, its hard to pay scads of money for acrylic based clothing, really.


Friday, 8 February 2008

Yo, Joe! Jazzy courts nostalgia, you might want to pass on this post.

Readers, forgive me. It's been eight days since my last post. I've gotten my Rebecca magazine (I'm so casting on - once I've done my swatching) and wondering why people don't do double knit or sport weight patterns anymore. What's with all this aran and heavier yarn stuff? With 4ply and dk you can layer, will have garments that are light enough to wear in summer, yet giving you leeway for winter with layering. Also, it doesn't make you look like you've been doing a Winne the Pooh and getting stuck in the honey pot (or whatever vice you're stuck on). In addition, it really doesn't take that long to knit in 4 ply and sport weight. Really.

Also, I've been spending time on Ravelry as a volunteer editor, which just means archiving patterns and their links and prices as well as writing notes. These editing jobs are primarily the new Rowan RYC magazines, and the new Rebecca. I might do the new Filati too. Then, as the patterns get worked up, I'll be pestering people for pictures to pair with the new spring/summer patterns posted. The 'job' isn't hard, but it's rather time consuming.

Anyways, I haven't been knitting for the past couple of days, because I've become reacquainted with GI-Joe (the original Sunbow series, mind. Not the Dic series or the GI Extreme or Sigma 6), and have fallen in love with the cartoon and characters again - but for the first time.

Right now, I guess you know they are making GI Joe the live action movie to be released in 2009. It will be a good book end to the franchise, whose 25th anniversary is being celebrated this year.

GI-Joe was the first cartoon that I fell hard for. It was an ensemble cast of good guys fighting COBRA, a terrorist group trying to take over the world. Due to me living in the West Indies, we got the cartoon that was shown state side, so I know the "GI JOE, a real American hero" spiel by heart. At least three versions of the theme. Why, I can even sing the original song for GI Joe the animated movie (Cobra la) without prompting, and without irony.

Two variations of the songs. Flint (the guy wearing the beret) is pointing his hand in this one, the second version.

Duke (the blonde haired guy) leads the charge in the original. You see that black guy, Stalker, coming up to the front left of Duke? He's one of the original Joes in the comic- and helped formed the original team along with Hawk. Recognize.

What I remembered about the cartoon is the excitement, from Flint's shout of : "Yo, Joe!" and his gloved finger pointing in the direction of the charge, to the actual action of the cartoon episode itself, some life lessons (knowing is half the battle) and then the end credits which were just as thrilling.

The cast of characters were colourful as their names: Duke, Scarlett, Snake Eyes, Cover Girl, Flint, Lady J, Gung ho, Roadblock, Dusty and then later (in the cartoon series), Shipwreck and Hawk.

In every episode, additional characters came thick and fast: Mainframe, Dial Tone, Ace, Lifeline, Doc, Airbourne, Airtight, Alpine, Quick Kick... I could go on and on.

Of course, such good guys actually deserve colourful and worthy opponents, like the megalomaniac Cobra Commander, with his rasp of a voice, and an unwavering thirst for world domination, Destro the arms dealer who wears the mask as a nod to his ancestors, and the Baroness, loyal to both men, but never being less than herself in the process. Rounding off the Cobra ranks was Zartan, and his gang (The Dreadnoks), the mercenary Firefly and the capable Major Bludd, who is not a poet but doesn't know it.

GI Joe had a fair bit of action, most times than not, you'd find yourself in the thick of the battle, or meet the Joes gearing up for said battle. The Joes and Cobras would clash anywhere - in space, on the roof of the world, in alternate dimensions... and I'd go with them, a willing participant in whatever the cartoon was selling.

But really, what kept me coming back to GI Joes were the characters - considering that this cartoon was just made to sell the Hasbro toys to boys - that's something.

The banter between Cobra and Destro would have me in stitches each episode. You got the fact that although Destro had to defer to Cobra Commander, he didn't much like it - or him.
"Of course, my dear Cobra Commander", he'd say with sarcasm so rich and thick, you wonder why he didn't choke on it.

Tomax and Zamot, the Crimson twins (video PG13 for language) would finish each other's sentences, and were brilliant, charming and resourceful, because they would have been successful anywhere.

There was also the fact that characters on both sides - not just the good guys- had their own moral code and sense of loyalty. Way before I read the comics, I knew that Stormshadow wasn't bad, he just had his own moral compass. Zandar may have been mercenary, but when his sister was in danger from a Cobra scheme, he'd throw his chips in with the Joes to rescue his sister. Same with Xamot when his brother was being held 'hostage' by the Baroness.

Those character studies would have been enough to keep me coming back, but then the cartoons had recurring adult relationships which showed another side of the characters, and earned my loyalty.

You see, earlier cartoons might have had established couples, but you didn't really see anything other than a kiss on the cheek, ala The Flintstones, or just staid couples like Daphne and Fred in the Scooby Doo cartons. You knew they were a couple, just because... but nothing more. Or, if the cartoon was 'edgy', you'd have the main character falling for someone, but that character would be a one off, and they'd wave goodbye with hearts in their eyes.


GI Joe broke that mold by showing relationships with adults that weren't staid at all. There was kissing, the slight edge of jealousy, the sorrow of what could have been.

For the recurring adult relationships there was Destro and the Baroness, who were involved with each other, with kissing and all. Considering the fact that this was a kids' cartoon, such blatant sensuality between these two characters made my young life, and my heart go pitter pat.

Destro and the Baroness did more than just snog, Destro got jealous of her flirting with Flint (although it was part of a Cobra plan in the Eau de Cobra episode), and the Baroness actually destroyed Destro's ancestral home because his attentions were elsewhere (a blonde Cobra drone). Despite the drama, you got the feeling that they deserved each other and they wanted each other. That relationship was dark and exciting, and no less real to me than my parents' own. Sad but true.

On the Joe's side, you had Scarlett and Duke who were an item in the cartoon (but Scarlett and Snake Eyes were in the comics), but seemed more flirtatious and not as serious as Flint and Lady Jaye. I loved the Flint/Lady Jaye relationship just as much as I loved the Destro/Baroness one, because they were similar.

Both men respected their women enough to let them get on with what they did best (kicking you know what, taking names), expressed concern and flirted with their other halves. Love was never mentioned between the characters, but you felt it, and knew it. Flint's halting remarks when he expressed worry, his blush when Lady Jaye expressed hers (in front of Shipwreck), and the slightly snarky tones they exchanged were really a portrayal of a healthy relationship. No sacred cows, here.

However, those two relationships never made me pause and get a pang in my heart like the truncated one of Mainframe and Zarana in the episode titled Computer Complications.

Despite the fact that they were on opposing sides of the conflict, they had chemistry - and lo and behold, I found one of my kinks. Anything with truncated love affairs I'll read, so I can mourn over what could have been.

These characters were the ones that got me into the GI Joe comics - even though they were relatively expensive and hard to get in my neck of the woods (my brothers and I collected the Daredevil, X-men, and Spiderman series faithfully. I'd buy the GI Joes whenever I saw them, or read the ones my friends bought when they came back from the states). In the comics, I loved Stalker, Hawk's second in command as written by Larry Hama (but Stalker wasn't shown in the cartoons, Duke, the blonde haired blue eyed guy was pushed by Hasbro).

Then, I dropped out of GIJoe, because I didn't like the Dic series, and I thought Serpentor was nothing more than an overgrown toddler instead of the champion villain that he should have been (to his credit, Larry Hama explored it in the comics, but... I couldn't access all of the series). Optimus Prime of the Transformers died, and I moved on to other cartoons, like Gargoyles.

Of course, these things come full circle.

GI Joe came way before I got the internet. By the time I got the internet, I fell into the Harry Potter fandom, and for a good few years, I couldn't get out.

I've always liked GI-Joe, my first fiction loves and when I heard about the live movie coming out, I decided to google my favourite pairing, Flint and Lady Jaye. Were they still an item? Was Lady Jaye still snarky? In the comics she gave Flint a warm time, but then Flint was cocky, and his ego needed deflating anyways. Or did the comicverse break them up? From what I gathered, Covergirl was still around - and very much a member.

With this in mind, I toddled around the internet, pleased with the amount of stuff I remembered, glad that the magic of the series was still there, untouched by my adult cynicism. Real American heroes indeed.

I decided to read the files of the original Joes, still remembering my brothers and myself racing pell mell from school, dropping our school bags at the front door, sitting in front of the TV promptly at four.

In my readings, I mourned over Mainframe getting killed, and over the lost possibility of him and Zarana in my alternative cartoon verse. The Scarlett/Snake eyes relationship was shades of shock and LOL, in that he left her at the altar, his face got repaired, Scarlett reminds Snake eyes of his sister, there are Ninja Joes everywhere -and that they were still together. Shipwreck and Cover Girl were hooking up - in the cartoon he hit on her - and she gave him a cold shoulder.

Shipwreck ...and Cover Girl?

I can dig it. It could work.

Destro and Baroness had a child, I gather, but the child might have been kidnapped or mislaid. I smiled at reading that, because Destro and Baroness were always dramatic and tempestuous. If their path had run smooth, I'd have been disappointed.

Now older, I read the background to GI Joe, the voice actors, found out (to my surprise!) that I've watched ALL the Sunbow episodes, admired Larry Hama for putting up with so much for so long, and kick starting the mythos (for Hasbro) that made growing up in the 80s fun.

Tut tutted over the producer turning GI Joe into an international task force, since American military might doesn't sell so well overseas nowadays. You know, because the centuries of glory and honour of the armed services should be smeared by the last eight years (my dad served in my country's military. I have a great respect for the armed services. Shoot me).

Are you kidding me? GI Joe is very much an American institution, just like the stars and stripes, Old Glory, and the battle cry, "Yo Joe!" Only Americans can be so passionately earnest about God and country without it coming off as being ironic (Australians come a close second). Yes, the cartoon might have been a tad jingoistic, but hey, it was The Cold War. Besides, have y'all seen NATO operations in Afghanistan lately?

Annoyed, I shrugged that off, to find out about my favourite Joe pairing. I'd whinge about the approach and the casting to the live action movie later. Probably I'd weigh in on the whole Lady Jaye vs Scarlett debate on some message board and make my case for who was better. Later, after I see what Flint and Lady Jaye were up to.

Only to find out that Lady Jaye was dead.

Lady Jaye got killed.

So, I've spent the past week tracking down the DDP issue, as well as various back issues. It seems that DDP is losing the GI Joe license, and I was warned that the GI Joe comic books had a limited issue run, and I'd be lucky to get it, because this happened way back in '05. I ebay'd, and messaged and desperate, I went to my local Forbidden Planet to order the issue, only to find out that it was in store!

I bought the comic, and didn't read it until I came home. To be honest, the storyline didn't make sense, and for the world to fall at the Red Shadows' feet was laughable.

Although there were many things wrong with the storyline, the writer totally got the Lady Jaye/Flint pairing. In their last days together, Lady Jaye was angry, and totally blowing up at Flint even though he tried to placate her. In the last hours they had together, they have a real humdinger of an argument, and Flint drives away, leaving her to stew.

He's run off the road by Dela Eden (one of The Shadows), trapped in his car, Eden is sent to kill or capture him, whatever comes first, only to be foiled by Lady Jaye. lady Jaye drags Flint out of the car, and quickly tells him that no matter what happens, she loves him, and goes off to secure Eden, only to be caught off guard by her and gets killed (shard of glass to the heart).

I loved that part, the fact that Lady Jaye went after Flint, and told him that she loved him ("you big dummy"), and everything else was just noise.

In the epilogue (and normally, I hate the damned things, epilogues; most of the time they weaken the story), we get the Lady Jaye we know from the comics and the cartoons, the snarky take charge Lady Jaye. The one who joshes Flint, who can be at turns sharp and cool, shades of arrogant and prickly professional, but catches you off guard with astonishing warmth as well.

It's her funeral, and Lady Jaye is getting her final send off, the tones of the panels in the present are grey and sketchy, a contrast with the brightly coloured panels of Lady Jaye through the lens of Flint's memory; from their first meeting, his proposal, to marriage, to their reinstatement, and her death.

By the third to last panel, when we see Lady Jaye, arms open, face warm and wreathed with smiles, eyes bright telling him, "C'mere, Flint, you big lug. You know I love you, right?" I was already feeling the sting of tears. When Flint salutes her grave and says, "I love you too baby... I always will." I just broke.

That's the drawback to nostalgia, at times the ache overwhelms the sweetness of the moment.

With this in mind, I'm keeping an eye on the movie. If it touches me just a fraction of the cartoon and the comic books, I'll be content. The magic of the series is the characters, and how they are complicated and shades of grey.

I know it won't be all Flint/Lady Jaye and it shouldn't be. I'm hoping that it won't be all Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow, although to appease the GI Joe fan boys, it might be.

The comic and the cartoon series had a bit of everyone trying to do their best self - even if it was as base as getting paid for one's services, misguided as trying to rule the world or putting life on line for defense of honour and country.

I hear Larry Hama will be a consultant to the movie, but in his interviews he comes across as apathetic, or a bit bitter.

I harbour no great hopes for the movie, but I'm going to see it whenever it comes out. No matter how bad it will be. I'll be going to the theatre alone and I'll sit in the back, watching a piece of my childhood on screen, and remember magic. When the theatre goes black, and everyone leaves, and I'm alone, I'll stand up, punch my fist in the air and do the battle cry.

Yo, Joe!