Raccoon in Progress

Queen of quiet irony Jean-Anne keeps saying she's frustrated with my mentions of the raccoon jacket. She has every right to be — after all, I did start the thing last year, and put it down for a long, long time, so long that I had to disentangle it from the work-in-progress graveyard in the corner bounded by a couch, a bookshelf, and the outer wall of my living room.

It's back in regular rotation, though, and I'm desperately trying to get it done (amongst all the other things I'm desperately trying to get done, like my novel's first draft) before the Toronto summer hits us with all its hot and humid disgustingness. I love Toronto for three of its four seasons, about ten of the year's twelve months. I spend every Toronto summer wishing I had the money and means to spend it in New Zealand, though. I don't care if it will be raining — just find me somewhere that's cool, even cold, and serves decent tea where I can knit, write, and do Pilates in peace Then I'm happy as the proverbial clam.

Anyhow, back to the Raccoon Jacket. It's an Annie Modesitt design, and I knew as soon as I saw it that I must make it.

For me, making this jacket is an act of sympathetic magical revenge. When I first moved to my neighourhood, I had a lovely two-bedroom apartment in a four-plex built around 1920. It had a front balcony bigger than the living room. For the winter, the living room had a wood-burning fireplace. Because the street level is much lower than the houses (ie: every building has stairs going up from the street to the front door), I had an amazing view. Oh yeah, there was a smaller but serviceable back balcony too.

The raccoons destroyed it all. They were attracted by the bags of garbage the previous tenant left on the back balcony, and they didn't leave after I cleaned everything up. They used the balconies as latrines, and ripped up the attic so badly my heating bill almost matched my rent. They stank, they attracted insects, and according to my old downstairs neighbours they even made it into parts of building humans were trying to live in. They even left a "calling card" of a squirrel with its chest burst open like some urban residential version of Alien in front of my back door when I shooed them away as I went out one evening.

I now live in an equally lovely but raccoon-free sixplex that was built in the 1950s. I can see the front door of my old apartment from my new apartment.

The "pelts" on the Raccoon Jacket are made from short rows. Even the chevron stripes on the sleeves are made from short rows. I added ten centimetres to the sleeves to make them wrist-length. I have longer-than-average arms and legs, so "cropped" stuff tends to look just shrunken or otherwise wrong on me.

My only complaint so far is with the yarn — see the weird striping and clumping hear the cap shaping for the sleeve? That's because the grey mix yarn (the main colour) lost one of its two strands for several yards. This was the second time this happened, and I was out of spare yarn, so the darker clump to the right of the black triangle is me mixing in a strand of black to keep the furriness somewhat even. You can see the thin lighter strip I knit before I realised what was going on.

Oh well, in real life raccoons don't have ideal pelts either. Believe me, I've seen enough of the evil vermin to know. Don't even get me started on animal rights (which I normally support) or how "cute" they are. Nothing truly cute smells or acts like that.

I have one more sleeve, the collar, and the finishing to go. Instead of the fur coat clasps Modesitt recommends, I think I'm going to make frog closures out of some Butterfly 10 cotton. I also want to get this thing lined — the fabric is both heavy and stretchy, so I think it will need the support. Black or midnight blue satin lining, I think.

Here's hoping I can show the finished thing here soon.