31 August 2006

Toward a Surfeit of Pretentiousness

Ode to Mohair Lace a Stockinette Hat

(In free verse. Very free.)

Erudition and pedantry
Are my vocation.
I revel in my
Misanthropic calling.

But just now,
While I dissertate,
The importunate demands
Of my supercilious professors
Fill me with ennui.

Why stultify my mind
With turgid prose
And pallid, jejeune thoughts?
Why cower beneath the lambaste,
Nay, the fusilade of obdurate censures
From my serried colleagues?

Why supplicate, vapidly,
Why clothe myself in contrition
And obsequiousness
Before the tawdry miasma
That is
The academy?

When I could knit mohair lace,
When I could
Bewail my fate and
Bemoan the fetters of my penury,
While watching each sumptuous row
of lace grow and grow?

But wait!
What befalls me here?
A chasm! A morass!
A gnarled, distended freak of echinated string!
It will not be riven, it will not schism.
It is trenchant, it is ossified --
It is vile, turpitudinous string!

I wrest myself away --
I seek repose from this new torment --
My peripatetic heart
Finds refuge
In wool, in stockinette
Quotidian, motile -- nubile --

No more mohair
My inchoate zeal
Is now reserved
for my simple, pretty,
Red hat.

30 August 2006

A Ubiquity of Noesis

A bounteous blogger residing on a verty leaf has proffered munificent accolades, laurels -- not to mention bounty -- to any confrere of the blog-o-fermament concurrently both disposed and adept to conjoin linguistic units such as to impress the beholder with an affect of stupefication, veneration, and delight. Also, to perturb and mayhap to nauseate. Mais natürlich I was fain to assay my demure and unostentatious exertions. I would as lief compose this objet d'art for mere merriment or frivolous diversion; but for bounty??

Lest I trangress the regulations, the time is now for regaling you, fair plebeians, with the miraclulous phenomenon known to moi as the entwining of wondrous plied strands via erect, fusiform implements into textile artefacts.

Like Rodin's mannequin, I ruminate.

Though I sustain also my assiduity pertaining to the jaquard garment presently in manufacture, I have forthwith commenced to excogitate upon novelties.

Nay! Do not, in your spurious sagacity censure me! I will not brook querulous rancour from the perfidious among you! Fie upon thee!

Contrarily, I do not put in peril my belowmentioned resolve to frugally cultivate a mere sextet of undertakings synchronically. My exegesis of the matter is thus: the prevailing congregation of only two wooly contrivances is deficient. Such scarcity is enervating to the contriver, and engenders an arid blog. Ubiquitous representations of converging fibres induces hedonistic jubilation amoung the prodigal readers, and toward this ephemeral but obligatory reception I am much inclined. Verily, a frugal myriad of dulcet, divergent labors, some mayhap evanescent, is invariably fortuitous.

Hark! An inconsequential exemplar of the hosieric art:

Devise your benevolent adulatory locutions befittingly. Note bene: Lacking superfluous string, the sibling stock will disdain to emulate its predecessor. The noncomformist comrade will, I adjudge with sorrow, be provocatively accomplished with the florid alternate ribboning depicted herein. There is little dubiety that the ensuing visual effect will acquire a deleterious aspect, but extenuating factors are at play. Namely, my venerable spousal unit has intrepidly bespoken precisely the aforementioned conjugation. We must not impute to him a predeliction for the monstrously unaesthetic. Rather, his premature and transient occupation as a corporate advocate has imbued him with a prudent disinclination for prosiac accoutrement. Presently, as an aspiring intelligent, it is his privilege to be sartorially extravangant.

Co-occuring with the pre-described hose, I have nonchalantly submitted to my tenacious penchant for plaited motifs of gossamer cords on embonpoint needles by initiating procedures for the exquisite garb derived from a certain tome, circumscribed by the following simulacrum:

Scrutinize reverently its circuitous complexity. Without domagoguery, I opine that this undertaking will exhibit longevity.

Ultimately, we terminate in a tam. Comprised of peaceable fleece, it will modestly ameliorate the frigorific glaciality of the iminent season, succoring my head and ministrating to my shivery heatlessness.

Albeit undesirous of appearing antidisestablishmentarian, I submissively postulate that to prolong this inconsequential epistolary endeavor would be superfluous.

29 August 2006

Fair Isle


I'm having so much fun with Fair Isle.

How much fun are you having when your "knitting bag" looks like this?:

The Palette Sampler comes with 30 colors, 28 of which get used in the pattern (it leaves out white and cream - I'm planning a mock-delft tea cosy out of some of the many exciting leftovers I'll have...)

I'm still having fun, even though there was a little bit more frogging the other day.


It was a mistake in the pattern, and luckily I only had to frog 12 rows. I almost didn't frog it at all - I had that whole conversation in my head, the one I've had several times before, where I tell myself how much work those 12 rows were, and how long it took, and how much nicer it would be to be 12 rows further along, instead of at exactly the place I'm at now, after another evening's work. And how no one will notice the mistake. It'll look fine.

And then I stopped. And I thought about how much that mistake will bother me every time I wear the sweater. About how it'll be even worse when I do the sleeves, and have to decide either to match the mistake there, too, or do it right and make the mistake on the body even more noticeable. And I thought about how much I enjoyed doing those 12 rows, how gorgeous the colors looked running through my fingers, how my 2-handed Fair Isle technique is getting noticeably easier and more fun with every row, and how by the time I finish this pattern I'll miss doing it and wish I had 12 more rows to do. And I told myself how much better it will look when it's got exactly the right colors in the right places. And how, if I don't fix it, I will have to keep thinking about the mistake forever, as long as the sweater exists, whereas if I do fix it I'll have forgotten all about the frogging and the extra time in only a few days, and that by the time the sweater is finished I won't remember it at all, because I'll be so busy admiring how beautiful the sweater is. With no niggling regrets to detract from my admiration.

So, I frogged back 12 rows, and re-knit it the right way. It looks much better. I'm back to where I was when I discovered the mistake, and well beyond. I'm so glad I did it. Now that it's fixed, I can't imagine how I could have allowed it to stay the way it was. I've now gotten that much more practice knitting two-handed, and I'm that much better at it. I got to see the pretty blues go by again. I'm totally proud of myself.

The mistake? It's not on the errata page for KnitPicks, though I'm going to write them to tell them about it. The plain-color stripes that go between each FI color motif are mislabeled in one place on the chart. The order of the stripes on the chart is: black, black, ash, bark, bark, bark, wood, wood, etc. In the order as it should be, as it looks better with the Fair Isle motifs, and as it is pictured in the sweaters on both models, the order of stripes is: black, black, ash, ash, bark, bark, wood, wood, etc.

Which of course makes perfect sense.

I did notice, as I was knitting by, that it seemed odd to have only one stripe of ash. And I noticed when I did the first stripe in bark that it didn't look all that good next to the color motif right below it, and that ash would have looked a lot better. But I was enjoying watching how the colors changed subtly based on what colors were added next to them, so I thought that the pattern would explain itself as I went along, and kept going. When I'd just completed the second stripe in bark, I looked ahead on the chart and saw that there was still another stripe of bark coming up, and that seemed singularly odd. That's when I checked the order of all the stripes, and realized it didn't make sense. Then I compared the chart to the pictures that come with the pattern, and realized that if you squint, you can definitely see two stripes of ash there. And that that way definitely looks better. So there you go. If I'd been paying attention early on, I could have caught this, dammit, but I least I did catch it….

Actually, since then I discovered another possible mistake, which I decided to leave as-is, even though it was only a couple of rows down. In the last color pattern in the first column (for those who have the pattern and are planning to make it), the middle colors should, I think, be bark and petal, not wood and petal. It looks this way on the model pictured, and it makes more sense - each color is used three times (counting the pairs of plain stripes as "once"), not ever more. Except for bark. Somebody over at KnitPicks seems to have had issues with bark. Anyway, in this case the difference is very minor and I decided I really didn't care. In fact, I decided to leave it not only because I didn't think it adversely affected that color motif, but also because I like the look of 'bark' better than 'wood,' so I'd rather have more leftovers of the former! An inveterate stasher's way to make a decision.


As for the two-handed business: it was a little awkward at first, as I couldn't figure out how to wrap the yarn around my right hand to keep the tension even. Doing it the way I do with my left hand wasn't working, so I ended up just dropping and picking up the yarn anew with every right-handed stitch, but that was driving me crazy. So I asked my friend Aline, who, despite being French, knits "Anglo-American"-style (as does her French grandmother, who has lived and knit all her life in France), and she taught me -- the American who knits "continental-style" -- how she holds her yarn. She says it's not the way her grandmother taught her, but it works for her, and for me. I'm now wrapping the yarn first around the last three fingers of my right hand (from below), and then around the first two or three or all of them (again from below), and holding the few inches closest to the needle tips lightly under the pad of my right middle finger or around the tip.

This works beautifully, and the more I do it the faster I go. Cool!

(NB: Do not wear engagement ring on right hand while knitting two-handed FI, unless you want to spent hours picking the wool out of its setting.)

When I first learned to knit properly, I was taught in Norway to knit multiple colors with all the strands over my left hand (if there are only two, I crook the knuckle of my first finger between them slightly, to keep them from tangling and make them easy to pick). Like this:

This works pretty well, and as long as I keep the ball for the yarn closest to my hand on the left side of my body, the ball for the yarn closest to the finger tip on my right side, and a third ball (if there is one; not in this pattern, thank god) leading from the middle of my finger to a basket on the floor in front of me, then it all works without tangling, and is quite fast. But it's not ideal, because your hand is holding the tension evenly for all 2 or 3 yarns, but you're only picking one at a time, so that the tension over your first finger is always getting screwed up, and you have to constantly re-adjust. This isn't difficult, since with my left hand and using "sticky" yarn like wool all I do to keep the tension is run it lightly over the top of my first finger, under the second, and over the third. I can slide my hand in and out to re-adjust as necessary, but it's still awkward. That's why I wanted to explore the two-handed method.

However, I'm still doing it my old, one-handed Norwegian way for the rows that are only alternating the two colors 1x1. Since the spaces you need to carry the color not in use are so short, I find that I can do this all with my left hand with no tension trouble or puckering, and it's about as fast as knitting plain stockinette in one color.

But the two-handed way is much easier for everything else, and faster than the alternatives, as long as I'm only dealing with two colors. And even Norwegians recommended doing a third color, if it's necessary at all, in duplicate stitch later on, if you can possibly get away with it. Amen to that.

I also knit Fair Isle with the knitting hanging off the needles inside-out, so that the natural curve of the back of the knitting is slightly bigger than the inside, encouraging the yarn carried along the wrong side to be long enough not to pucker.

Contrary to the opinion expressed in a certain book full of all kinds of misconceptions (and some good info, too), this does NOT mean you have to constantly turn your work around or peer over it to see how the pattern is going! You just hold it so that the needle tips are further from your body, and the part of the circle not in use is right next to you. This puts the part of the work you're concentrating on face-forward at all times. And you can always flip it right-side-out at any time to look at the whole thing, and then turn it back again.

Now all I need to do is master steeks. Eep. Whimper. Help. It's not happening yet, though, and I'm encouraged by what looks totally perfect and stress-free in the steeks done with the same pattern here.

28 August 2006

I am Meme

Do other people actually calculate the percentage completion of WIPs?? I'm just looking at mine squinty-eyed and basically taking the measure of how much I feel I've made progress. I wonder what the difference between this, and the actual percent complete might be. I'd find out, but I'd have to do math, and I only do math if I'm going to get a sleeve or some nice bust shaping out of the deal. This issue could have some significance, however, in that I'm "measuring" the percent complete of my diss the same way I'm measuring it for my knitting. And telling my profs the number like it means something, ha! Of course even with math I couldn't know the real percentage on the diss, because there's no way to ever know when it's done. There's no final form it will ever take that says, "there's nothing more to be done but to wear it proudly." Even when/if it becomes a book, then you spend the rest of your life explaining to people how "research constraints" prevented you from doing the 900 things they think you should also have done, which are of course unreasonable.

No wonder I knit.

Thank you to everyone for the lovely comments. I love comments. Special thank you to my friend at The Purloined Letter for much-needed encouragement, as always, and congrats on your own progress!! I really think my new resolutions are helping already...I feel so much better, and my chapter seems better, but I think the weather may also be a factor! :-P

And I'm thinking about a "friends of Scandinavia" ring, but I think I may have an even better idea...will get back to that.

Palette Sampler is proceeding apace, despite a small glitch in the pattern. Details on that, and my experiments in two-handed knitting for next time. (But note to those who may be starting the pattern right now: black, black, ash, ash, bark, bark - NOT black, ash, bark, bark, bark!)

Before I leave you, it's meme time:

What kind of yarn are you?

You are Mohair.You are a warm and fuzzy type who works well with others, doing your share without being too weighty. You can be stubborn and absolutely refuse to change your position once it is set, but that's okay since you are good at covering up your mistakes.
Take this quiz!

Quizilla |

| Make A Quiz | More Quizzes | Grab Code

I came across this one over at Tygher Knits:

I AM: procrastinating.

I SAID: enough already, but I can't stop.

I WANT: more time to knit.

I WISH: I lived somewhere nicer, and quieter.

I HATE: extreme noise, dirt, and nasty smells - too bad all three are constantly right outside my window.

I MISS: fresh air.

I FEAR: random acts of violence.

I HEAR: screeching, fans, kids trying to kill other kids on bicycles, my husband whistling.

I WONDER: whether it's possible that someday I'll actually finish my dissertation and get a job.

I REGRET: having wasted so much time.

I AM NOT: sure why I can't make myself do certain things that need to be done, like answer the phone, catch up on (e)mail, finish my chapter, do the laundry.

I DANCE: not at all.

I SING: extremely badly, and only when no one else is around.

I AM NOT ALWAYS: so grouchy, but mostly I am.

I MADE: my own dollhouse out of shoeboxes when I was a kid. It was spectacular.

I WRITE: loquaciously.

I CONFUSE: even myself.

I NEED: more time, more sleep, more money, more peace.

I SHOULD: get in shape.

I START: new projects almost daily.

I FINISH: projects only occasionally, but with great fanfare.

I BELIEVE: we should all spend more time reading and thinking and listening.

I KNOW: a few things about knitting, a few things about early-nineteenth-century- Russian-cultural-and-gender-history (i.e., my diss), a few good writing tips, and a little bit of Russian. I've forgotten everything else I might ever have known.

I CAN: think of ten things I'd love to do right now, but none of them are what I should be doing to get my life in order and my work on track.

I CAN'T: imagine how I'll finish my dissertation anywhere near the deadline, but I know nearly everyone feels this way, and they usually do finish.

I SEE: how easy it would be to just knit all day, every day…until the checks stop coming and the rent can't be paid…

I BLOG: more often and more thoroughly than I should

I READ: more blogs than I should

IT PISSES ME OFF: that I lose several days of every month to migraine. If I'm not working, I want to be having fun.

I FIND: all kinds of things that I thought I lost - nearly every day.

I LIKE: slow, peaceful, quiet days of reading and knitting, somewhere nice with fresh air, with my husband for company.

I LOVE: many people, places, and things, but my husband most of all.

25 August 2006

Meditations, an FO and Some Rules

When I first read Stephanie Pearl-McPhee's At Knit's End: Meditations for Women who Knit Too Much, I thought it was a really funny pun on those serious self-help books like "Meditations for Women Who Love Too Much," but actually just a series of wonderful yarn-related jokes.

I was re-reading it recently, and realized that I really need the meditation...one of them, in particular:

"Everyone has one - a knitting monstrosity. It is not a surprise to me that everybody has one of those "What was I thinking" sweaters, because I have several. What is a surprise is how long the knitter must have ignored the writing on the wall. To get a finished monstrosity, hours and hours of patient denial must be put in. It is a knitter's unfailing and remarkable ability to believe, even when something begins to look monstrous, and keeps looking that way through all the knitting, that somehow it can overcome anything and will be beautiful in the end...that is the real surprise.

Not every project is meant to be."

(p. 14)

Two of my UFOs were monstrosities, and I am taking serious measures by recognizing this, and stopping now so I can save the yarn. You already heard about the black ballet sweater. In addition, I went to go look at the other major UFO, the pink microfiber Rosebud Pullover (though with closer-fitting sleeves and added bust shaping) after finishing the lace pillowcase panels a few days ago.

[this photo is the one showing accurate color]

I pulled it out of its bag for the first time in months. Nothing had changed since the last time I looked at it, except for my new way of thinking. And my new way of thinking was horrified:

The top picture shows the cap shoulder shaping, which I did with short rows. I figured it out myself and was very pleased with how perfectly it fit and how neatly I'd done the turns - until I realized that, unlike wool, the microfiber makes even the neatest turns stand out like flashing neons signs saying, "Mistake here!" instead of "brilliant, subtle shaping hidden here" being visible only to the experienced knitter. But all that was long after I'd already done the bust shaping and SHOULD HAVE NOTICED that it looked like a cat had pawed my knitting. The middle picture in the series above shows the left side of the shaping, which looks pretty good from the angle shown here, but more like the cap sleeve if you look at it straight-on. The bottom, truly hideous picture, shows the right side of the shaping, where I'd done yarn-overs on the purl side for each turn. That side always ends up loose for me on socks, too, though not so much that it looks bad, at least not in wool.

This microfiber, though - its gorgeous shine and drape -- the things I love about it -- are precisely what pulls those turns out of shape and makes them look like crap.

What was I thinking?? I was thinking that I was in Russia, my temporary Russian stash was still small, and I only had enough yarn for a sweater in this lovely pink microfiber. I was looking through the patterns I'd taken with me, and was feeling most compelled by the lovely Rosebud Pullover from Knitty. I was dreaming about wearing it in a lovely dusty-pink color. The only color I had happened to be the perfect color. I did a swatch, and it happened to knit up to the exact right gauge on the first try. Apparently, I took that to mean this was God telling me, "never mind that's it's the wrong fiber - knit it, girl! knit it!" Either God was wrong, or there was a little difficulty in my translation.

Now you know why I needed that resolution. Time to substitute animal fibers for animal fibers - and in the right color and gauge. And time to practice my short-row shaping!

So I frogged it.

And I've learned that frogging is a lot easier if:

- You concentrate hard on the new, wonderful, appropriate project you're going to make with this fabulous almost-new yarn you have, and
-You frog while listening to a friend tell a traumatic story, so you don't really have to think about the sweater while it's disappearing or hear the ripping sounds

I think I'm going to make a very plain, long-sleeved t-shirt style v-neck sweater with the pink microfiber that will take advantage of its gorgeous drape and have no shaping whatsoever (I'll leave slits in the bottom of the side seams, to accomodate my generous hips).

And I'm going to use the black baby alpaca/silk from the ballet sweater for a lacy scarf or stole, as the yarn no doubt intended itself to be used.

I'm also frogging the gauntlet mitten, so I can make two new, matching ones from scratch later on. I actually did find my notes from the first one, and they were full of - "do this next time," and "it would fit better if..." So I'm going to make a pair according to these adjusted directions some other time, probably in different colors. And I can't wait to someday cast on for Rosebud with the proper yarn, though probably still in pink.

I also frogged the couple inches I had, which was really more of a swatch, for a lace panel for a patchwork skirt. I didn't like how it was knitting up, and now that summer's almost over, I think it's wiser to take some time to plan what I want to do instead, hopefully so that I can do it right in time for next spring.

Another item on my list, the log cabin afghan, was unrealistic anyway (it should take 5 years, minimum, if done right). And then there were those lace panels....

At last, here they are, finished:

They're not yet blocked, much less sewn into the pillowcases, but that's because I haven't yet bought the pillowcases. Long story. But the point was to finish the knitting, since this lace has been haunting me forever, and now it's done!!

And I think that's about it for my UFO August. I'm really proud of my progress this month, and it feels fantastic to have all these projects out of the "guilt" corner of the craft closet and into a clothes closet (or back into yarn) where they belong. Even if I didn't end up with as many FOs as I'd hoped, I learned a lot and am in a much better place. Let's review my accomplishments -- here's my original UFO list with frogged or completed items crossed off (following on The Purloined Letter, I think making the wise but difficult decision to frog counts as getting rid of a UFO):

1. Brown Fair Isle raglan sweater

2. Felted pillow cases

2. Black ballet sweater. --SENT TO FROG POND.

3. Pink microfiber Rosebud pullover.--SENT TO FROG POND.

4. Lace panels for pillowcases, from Weekend Knitting.

5. Scarf for Hubbster out of Merino/Yak blend.

6. Socks.

7. Knitted panels for skirt -- SENT TO FROG POND.

8. Mason-Dixon Log Cabin sampler afghan.

9. EZ Mystery Mitten.--SENT TO FROG POND.

Ura!! And that's not even counting the dreaded Mom Sweater that had been making me feel guilty for more than 4 years and which I finished before August started.

You already know about my resolution to follow instructions in the next few months (at least). So, hopefully there will be much fewer projects grinding themselves into frustrated obscurity in my knitting future. In addition, I've thought up the following WIP guidelines for myself:

It's only fair to always have one of each of the following upon my needles at any given moment:

1. socks
2. lace
3. a sweater
4. a gift project, or something else that's small, quick, or not for me or Hubbster
5. a simple, portable mason-dixon project (warshcloths, bibs, absorbas, etc)
6. the almost permanent ongoing afghan project

Variety is the spice of life, and this range covers all my knitting moods very nicely.

This is the key point: I'm allowed to cast on one of each of these, but I can't start something new in addition to this list until I finish (or decide to frog) the first item in that category, or any one of the six items if the new item I want to start doesn't fall into any one category).

Swatching doesn't count.

Six at a time. Do you think I can stick to it? Could you?

I already started a sock, my first with a self-striping yarn, a few days ago to replace the yak scarf for knitting in the park. It's going - I swear - three times faster to knit a sock in stockinette rather than rib. They're for Hubbster, and I'm already almost finished with the first one. I did the short row shaping for the heel in the park, without instructions, for the first time. See - I'm learning the skills I was hankering after already!

And two nights ago I began my new sweater project, which is making me inordinately happy already. It's the 28-color Palette Sampler cardigan from KnitPicks. I bought the yarn with birthday money last spring and have been daydreaming about (and occasionally fondling) it since then. Although I like how I think it will look (worn WITHOUT the icky belt they always photograph it with, for some insane reason, and with pewter clasps instead of buttons, and in the much more vibrant colors the yarn really is than you see in the picture), I was dying to make it primarily to (a) play with this many colors, to (b) perfect my Fair Isle technique, especially to practice doing it two-handed and (c) to do my own steeks for the first time, and try crocheting them (my previous steek experience was in Norway, where they were machine-sewn and cut for me by the women who taught me to knit).

So far all these goals are being very happily met, and I have refrained from messing it all up with any wild flights of fancy. The yarn also has a lovely hand - I can only describe it as crunchy-buttery. I know that doesn't make any sense, but that's what it feels like to me.

I had this wild temptation, upon finishing the last row of the last lace panel, to cast on for one project in all of my six categories (except the afghan, since I already did that), but I managed to hold myself back. For now, the Palette cardigan is completely obsessing me, and the sock gives me something to do when on the move. I'll try to add on projects gradually, and wisely, from here...

(PS - If you haven't already, go see Eunny's latest post about how fast she knits even complicated color or lace patterns. She links to an older post, here, where at the bottom she mentions that the key factor in knitting quickly and happily is being able to read and understand your knitting, so you can jump in and go at any point, and free yourself from chart and instructions. I love this. For me, it's both a lofty goal to aim for, and an affirmation of what I already feel about patterned knitting. I think part of what has drawn me to knitting so strongly since my first Norwegian colorwork sweater was being able to cop on pretty quickly to the rhythm of the pattern and how it grows, and to knit happily away without much in the way of mistakes or reference to instructions. It is fast, and much more pleasurable. But, as I've said, I often mess myself up by unnecessarily altering everything to the point of going way past my real abilities, so that it ends up frustrating the hell out of me and requiring a lot of attention. And, since the internet knitting boom, I've been trying out new techniques so fast that I haven't been giving myself a chance to really take them in and understand them. Her theory explains how I knit Icarus so fast and almost effortlessly, while watching TV, for my first much-delayed and slightly feared lace project. It was easy to read, and once I got it, it just flew by. Eunny put this all so much better than I can, and I only wish I could ever aspire to knit, much less design, sweaters like she does. Inspiration. )

22 August 2006


I won a prize, people.

You don't know how cool this is.

I never win anything. Ever.

Yet, a few days ago, I won. I got one of the two prizes AmyDe offered to celebrate her first blogiversary - hurrah!!

The prize - which is actually plural, prizes, arrived today. Or maybe yesterday - we didn't check our mail until today. Anyway. Here's the really lovely hand-sewn prizes I received from the very generous Amy (sewn prizes is particularly cool, since I can't sew my way out of a pillowcase):

This is a zippered pouch, perfect for notions

And a smaller pouch, perfect for my cell phone, which is really nice because without it my husband was always walking off with my phone by mistake, since they're identical.

Tissue holder - and I'm very big on carrying tissues everywhere I go, so this will get a lot of use.

And these super-cool notecards. Each one as a word in the bottom right corner: captivate, bless, charming, pleasure, admire, beautiful. This is such a nice idea. I'm thinking about how there's a person I know that each of these words evokes for me, and what a cool thing to send each of those people a card, you know?

So ignore the title of Amy's blog and go visit it - and congratulate her on her blogiversary! Thank you, Amy!!

It's been a good day all around: today was also the day I was finally able to try out the first of three candles I ordered from the Dame Candle Company (yes, as advertised on Cast-On!). I always get headaches from traditional scented candles, although I love the idea of them. So when I heard about these soy candles that have beautful but non-threatening scents, I had to try them. I ordered three, in "wild spruce," "cool water," and "lavender sage." They came really fast, arriving several days ago (and pictured on this blog along with my Mrs. Beetons, for those who notice that kind of thing) - so fast, in fact, that the note in the package said that they'd just been poured and would work better if I let them cure until the 22nd. So we waited anxiously until today, and finally tried out the spruce candle. It's everything Brenda said it would be - beautiful but subtle, very natural-smelling with no chemically nastiness that brings on headaches. And it really does clean up much easier than petroleum-based wax candles - I dipped my finger tip into the liquid candle to pick up a fleck of burnt wick, and the soy wax left on my finger just wiped right off cleanly.

I can't wait to try lavender sage, actually, as that's the one I'm most excited about - what a brilliant combination of scents.

Tune in next time for the conclusion of UFO August for this knitter...

Geeky HTML Stuff

So Beth asked how one gets all those buttons and things into the sidebar. I'll take a stab at answering, although I'm no expert - I'm just going on some very ancient knowledge of HTML that goes back to the days before there were programs to do it for you.

Also, I'm amateur enough that I couldn't get !$%#$% Blogger to allow me to show the code - it keeps trying to intepret it, no matter what I do - I loathe "fool-proof" programs - so I just put the instructions in a separate, plain file which you can go to now:

Basic instructions for putting buttons in your sidebar on Blogger.

EDIT: Also check out Girl on the Rocks for a great recommendation (and instructions for inserting) a stat counter on your blog. She promises to post more about this kind of thing, so go visit her and leave comments to encourage her!

21 August 2006

Shoddy Pillow

I forgot to post about this earlier, when I was in my felting phase, although I think I mentioned it.

Around about that time I was re-reading Annemor Sundbø's Everyday Knitting: Treasures from the Ragpile, which is one of my favorite historical books about knitting ever.

She owns a "shoddy factory" in Norway, a place where they take old donated wool garments and process them into mattresses and quilt filler. There's a lot more to the book, and if you don't know it you should go look it up now, but for the moment I'm occupied with this whole idea of "shoddy," or wool scraps.

I had all these scraps of felt leftover once I'd cut up my felted sweaters into the right shapes for handbags and pillowcases. And it's against my principles to throw out anything that's 100% animal fiber. I can't even throw out the little tufts of wool that come out in the felting process, or yarn ends I've cut off from knitting that are way too short for a magic-ball or anything else. I've had vague thoughts about needle-felting these, but there's nothing to be done with teeny little pieces of felt, is there?

So I was thinking this, while reading about shoddy. And I remembered that pillow I was attracted to at that recycled products store in Brooklyn ("3R"). It was filled with bits of foam leftover from futon mattresses, and chopped into bits. The tag said that it's supposed to be good for your neck or something, on the same principle as those buckwheat pillows (and of course it was insanely expensive). Why shouldn't it work the same way with wool scraps? Only there'd be the extra-added pleasure of knowing you're putting your head down on pure, lovely sheepiness.

So I took one of the zippered pillowcase covers I'd bought for felting things in, and I started filling it with my wool scraps. Any pieces of felt bigger than about 1/2" by a 1/2" I cut into smaller pieces. It looks like this (only now there's much more felt in it):

And it's heavenly to rest your head on. It's quite a bit heavier than a foam or down pillow, but I think it's worth it. I've got one standard-size pillowcase more than half-filled now, and ideally I'd like to have two full ones eventually, so my husband and I don't have to fight over it. Those of you who haven't already been inspired to make a shoddy pillow of your own - do you have felt scraps you'd like to donate to my pillow project? Do you, too, experience guilt when you throw out pure wool, even in tiny, tiny pieces? Email me, and I'll tell you where you could send them...

19 August 2006

Progress, Relapse, and a Resolution

Like last time, I'll start with the good news. I've made a lot of progress on the lace pillowcase panels (from Weekend Knitting), on my UFO list.

I finished one panel - I had *just* enough yarn in the first skein - and have started the second.

Converting the instructions into chart form made all the difference in the world. Why any knitting editor anywhere has ever CONSIDERED publishing even the simplest lace pattern in words/abbreviations when it could be put in a chart is totally beyond my ability to comprehend. When I was trying to knit this according to the printed instructions, I spent all my time squinting at the text, scribbling on it with pencil and manipulating post-its and several kinds of row counters like a madwoman, cursing, tinking, frogging, cursing some more. I had to work on it in stolen moments, in a quiet room with no distractions, and I had to be mean to anyone who was dumb enough to try to walk into that room and inadvertantly throw me off. Finally, I threw the whole #@$@#$ thing in the closet. In days and weeks of working at it, I had finished about half of one panel.

Now, after I took 15 minutes to convert these same instructions into a simple chart, the knitting is fast, easy, fun, and mistake-free. I finished the panel in an evening. I can see at a glance where I am, where I left off, and that everything is proceeding as it should. I don't have to count a thing, I don't need markers or lifelines, and I can even watch TV (though not perhaps with my full attention on the screen very often). I am perfectly cheerful when my husband interrupts the knitting.

This is precisely as it should be for a simple little bit of cotton lace that's only 4 inches wide, for godssake.

What POSSESSED my adored and otherwise almost infallible Melanie Falick to ask knitters to "K4, yo, ssk, yo, sssk, yo, yo, k1, [yo, ssk] twice, k4, [yo, ssk] twice, k3" -- wait -- no, I mixed it up with the line below it -- it's supposed to be "K4, yo, ssk, yo, sssk, yo, k2tog, yo, k4, [k2tog, yo] twice, k3" -- when you could just print a pretty picture of the perfectly simple pretty lace, where each stitch looks just like what it is, and even a two-year-old could follow it???

Okay, I had to get that out of my system. The lace panels are well on their way, and I fully expect to finish them in the next day or two.

Now for the not so good news. I've been feeling so good about making so much progress on all these UFOs, that I got big-headed. Fool-hardy. Those of you who read the previous post might have seen it coming. After my triumph with the lace chart, I was feeling light-hearted, confident. Brilliant. I thought I could do anything. So I....cast on a new project. It wasn't on my UFO list. It wasn't even on my WIP list or my PP list. It wasn't on any list. It just called to me, and I did it. I'm ashamed. Well, okay, not really. Actually, I'm delighted, because they are so awesome. What are they? They're my Mrs. Beetons!!!

I know what you're going to say - you knew I was a lost cause the second I posted a picture of the yarn I'd selected for them, two days ago. You were right. I couldn't even wait till I got around to going downtown to buy beads. I just knit them without the beads. What can I say -- I was on a lace-chart-high, and I just lost control for a few hours.

I've finished them both, though the second one wasn't done in time for my little photo session earlier today. They're so quick, and the results are so incredibly pleasing! I've seen how people have noticed that they also make great Barbie dresses

(though perhaps a little too warm and fuzzy for evening wear)

But I also think they're irrestibly pretty just sitting there, curled up on themselves. Who needs beads?

Okay, I do. I want to make another pair, in lavender, with beads. I might even cave in and get the recommended yarns (since, oddly enough, I have no lavender in my stash of any kind). Not soon, though. I went straight back to my UFO the second these were done, I swear.

And now for my new resolution. It's not what you think - I already resolved to spend all of August finishing my UFOs, and I'm going to get right back to that this evening. This is a new resolution, for a new month. Starting in September, I'm going to spend a few months - possibly until spring, if I can stand it -- FOLLOWING DIRECTIONS.

Now, this may seem like heresy to some knitters. I know that creativity and liberating oneself from patterns is is The Way To Go, and I'm as big a fan of Elizabeth Zimmermann as anyone else, and more so than many.

That's the thing, though. I have so few issues with following patterns that I very rarely do it. I sort of put patterns in the same category as "authority" and I've had pretty much no instinct to follow either, ever in my life. As for creativity...well, I've always been rather full of ideas. Inspiration. New thoughts. Sudden and fleeting enthusiasms that exist only in my own head. I'm a "hey, why not this -- ?" kind of person. I see no reason not to do something just because I thought of it - quite the opposite - and I've always treated with intense suspicion anything that is described by anyone as a "right" way to do anything. My middle name actually is Mary, and I'm pretty contrary. Others have called it "stubborn."



I prefer "contrary."

But I've also always measured up a trifle short when it comes to...productivity. Stick-to-it-tiveness. Pursuing the lovely new thought more than two steps beyond the initial, thrilling moment of inspiration. I'm terrific at saying, "hey, what if I changed this here, and invented this new thing there, and totally altered this?!", and then failing to follow up these great ideas with the solid technique, practice, and drive to make it all work. This is true in every aspect of my life, but only really visible in my knitting (and in that pile of garments I never wear, or never finished, or which have disappeared under mysterious circumstances).

So the experience of doing UFO August has got me thinking about all this, and the result is that I've formed a resolution. I'm going to follow patterns, and I'm going to do things like I'm supposed to, and I'm going to enjoy my knitting, and I'm going to get nice, useful FOs. I need to reserve my creative energies for my dissertation. Because, I've noticed this summer (in the process of actually forcing myself to finish several big, troubled projects that in a previous period of my life I would have abandoned and felt guilty about ever after), that when I go wild with the modifications, inventions or embellishments, several things happen:

1. I spend many hours getting frustrated with the project at hand, because I don't have the skill or, primarily, the patience to live up to my own ideas.

2. I often have to do things two or three times, because I'm too impatient to think it through and do it right in the first place (or just because I really don't know what I'm doing). More often, I should do things two or three times but I only do them once, and the results suck.

3. I end up never really practicing techniques that I really want to learn well, and that would help with problems #1-2, because I'm always trying to do so many new things at once that I can't do any one of them with my full attention or care. Somehow, my mind is *always* elsewhere. Instead of trying and mastering so-and-so's great technique, I fall back on my usual half-assed way of doing things because I can't do the new technique and invent a new kind of collar in the wrong kind of yarn -- or whatever -- all at the same time without my head exploding.

4. I've wasted a lot of good yarn, and time, over the years, in giving full, enthusiastic-but-lazy rein to my creative side and absolutely no attention to learning craft.

5. On those occasions when I have followed a good pattern reasonably faithfully, I've been much happier with the process and the results. Usually. One innovation or modification at a time seems to be a happy medium.

6. I most enjoyed the creative outlet I got out of my knitting when my academic life was still in the stage of going through other people's hoops (coursework, exams, grant writing, archive work), but I'm moving on now in my real, professional life (writing and teaching) -- it's getting more creative, and taking up much more of my creative energy. And this is a good thing. So I need a different kind of therapy now - not art therapy, but a more basic and controlled kind, like physical therapy. I need to practice the same skill over and over until my muscles are in top shape, and I need to reserve my creative energy for the place it's needed most - the dissertation.

7. I'm feeling frustrated with myself more and more as I knit, because I want to be better at it than this. I have learned a lot and improved in all the time I've been knitting, but it's been a haphazard progress in which I forget 80% of what I learn and learn my best lessons only after I've done it wrong (and then 'forgotten' to go back and do it right, to cement the lesson).

8. In recent weeks, while dividing my time between the diss (it gets the majority, really! most of the time...) and my knitting, I've found that I go to sleep thinking about knitting problems or plans, and more often then not, I *dream* about knitting. I had one whole night filled with several dreams -- all of them about knitted socks! Has this ever happened to anyone else? My frustrations over re-doing bad hems and bad collars and funky sleeves are seeping into my subconscious and taking up space that really needs to be directed elsewhere. I like getting a collar right, but is there any reason why, right now, I need to spend all my mental energy figuring it out from scratch instead of learning it from someone else who already did all the work? No - my ambition is really not to design knitwear for a living. I want to knit, and design, for myself and my family, and I want to write history books for a living. Time to get my mind where it belongs, and make the knitting (more) mindless. Not forever, but for long enough to learn and grow from the experience.

So, at least for the next few months, maybe until my diss is done (deadline: March), and maybe for a while beyond, I'm going to follow patterns invented by other people, people cleverer and more careful than myself. I'm going to do what I'm told, I'm going to be modest and choose simpler projects, but I'm going to do it mindfully, and I'm going to learn. I did this recently when I made the Icarus shawl, entirely by accident because I was feeling a bit scared of lace (thanks to a certain pair of uncharted pillowcase panels, huff huff). It was perhaps the most enjoyable knitting experience I've had since my first sweater, when I also followed directions carefully and exclusively.

Here are the exceptions I will allow myself:

1. I can substitute yarns. I have no choice - must use the stash, and can't afford new yarn anyway. But I'll try to be wiser about changing fiber content or weight - or better yet, avoid that altogether.

2. I will convert any lace instructions to charts. This is simply a matter of survival.

3. EZ's non-"pithy" instructions are so simple they count as patterns to be followed, as long as I don't get into any extra-added stuff of my own.

4. VERY VERY BASIC simple waist and/or bust shaping is allowable, to be added to some sweater patterns, only when absolutely necessary, because I would look hideous in the sweater without it. I still don't want to spend X hundred hours to knit a sweater that fits as badly as a store-bought one! That said, I'll follow other people's directions for shaping instead of trying to invent it from scratch because I'm too lazy or impatient to go find the book that explained it.

So. I'm NOT going to change all the Fair Isle patterns in my KnitPicks Palette Sampler cardigan from those boring ultra-easy ones into something crazy and interesting that messes up all the color sequences and numbers, like I was thinking about doing. No. I'm going to do the incredibly simplistic (but pretty) Fair Isle as written and I'm going to perfect my technique in a way I've never given myself a chance to do before. I'm going to study how the color sequences work as I mindlessly knit around and around, so I can invent something more complicated some other time, later, when I'm ready to do it right.

And so on.

This relieves the stress of trying to force myself to take good notes, for once, since I won't be doing anything that requires extra notes.

I won't have any worries about making sides, sleeves, socks, etc., match, because I'll be following instructions every time.

I won't spend hours scribbling out bizarre unworkable ideas or doodling sweater shapes when I should be working on the diss.

Because -- appearances aside -- the doodling and the unworkable knitting ideas are really procrastination for me. Sometimes I get inspired by all these amazing, talented designers out there and I think, "yeah, I can do that" -- but to be honest, I can't and I don't want to. I like the idea of doing it, and I like the idea of earning enough money from it to buy yarn with no guilt attached whatsoever, but the only thing I've ever really been able to follow through on and truly do well is writing and teaching history. The immense uncertainty, crises of confidence and sheer panic inherent in the dissertation-writing process have led me to bury myself in (relatively) comforting knitting problems, so that I can ignore the Really Scary Thing that I most want to do. I hereby resolve to change this.

From here on out, knitting is for fun, and the diss shall occupy my dreams....

17 August 2006

Frog Pond

I have one more UFO completed, from my list:

The yarn (Regia) pooled in all kinds of funny ways, but I'm one of those people who is entertained, rather than annoyed by pooling. I swore to keep knitting these until I ran out of yarn, and I did, dammit.

And another that's not really on my list, but is cute anyway:

That's the mint choc chip handbag, of course. I said I was going to needle-felt a circle or spiral on it, but I decided it's perfect as it is. It's just the right size to take a pair of socks to the park in (hence the FO!)

But there's bad news.

For the first time in my knitting life, I've decided that a major project that is nearly done needs to be frogged. It's the black ballet sweater. It had a lot of potential. Here's the original design, which I made up by copying a commercial ballet sweater:

And this is how it looks right now:

The yarn is wonderful, too - it's a baby alpaca / silk blend that I got in Russia.

So what's wrong? Well. I didn't take good notes on what I was doing and then set it aside for over a year. The tiny yarn on big, slippery needles has been a problem throughout. Makes gauge measurements real shaky, too, and this is the first time I've ever tried to shape what is essentially lace knitting (though it's in plain stockinette, it's so loosely knit that the gauge isn't right until it's blocked, like lace), to fit my body. And I wanted this to fit well. And, it's a funky shape. Also, it's black, so -- like with the infamous Mom Sweater -- it's been difficult to see what I'm doing. So...all this combined means the thing just sucks. The shaping is all wrong, it hangs funny, and I can't possibly tell whether / when one side will match the other. But, you say - you're so close, why not just finish it, and block it, and then see what happens? Because the one sleeve that's almost done is also too narrow, and because the knitting of this has been miserable, and I just can't take the idea of frogging parts of what I've already done, much less finishing it, then frogging still more to make it work. The yarn has a delightful hand, but that's all the more reason to re-use it for some more pleasing project.

So, I haven't actually frogged it as of this moment. I'll stick it back in the closet until I actually know what I want to do with that yarn and until I've forgotten the pain I'm experiencing right now about all that wasted work. But it's off my UFO list.

The sad part is that my poor friend who I taught to knit is knitting the same sweater as her first real project, right now. Naturally, when I wrote out her pattern I did it without all the fancy shaping I added to mine, and she's using a normal yarn at a normal, appropriate gauge, and so - fingers crossed - hers should turn out just fine! Please please please....

In other news, I've been making myself feel a little better by thinking about new projects. Yes, yes, I'm still working on my UFOs, but that doesn't have to mean they're all I think about, now does it? I can't wait to start on a new pair of socks, now that the above-pictured albatross is off my neck. And I'm thinking about Fair Isle. And, while going through my stash for something or other, I came across a small selection of yarns that I think should turn into a nice set of Mrs. Beetons to go with my cherry-red winter coat. Here they are:

The colors are pretty accurate, on my monitor, at least.
A: Mohair, a slightly silvery-dark blue-green
B: Smooth, cobweb-weight wool, emerald green
C: Mohair, a grassy-ish lime green
D: Alpaca, sport weight, one strand of dark denim blue, with one strand of a lighter denim blue
E: Baby alpaca, sport or lace weight, pale blue-green
F: Alpaca, sport or DK weight, dark blue and silver
G: This is not yarn, this is a teacup

I still have to go out and buy some beads (and of course finish those UFOs), but in the mean time - which yarns should I use for which parts of the pattern? Thoughts?

Thanks for all the lovely comments, people, and I'll continue to add to the list of Knit Geeks!!

14 August 2006

Knit Geeks

Another Kate says in the comments that I'm getting famous with my Knit Geek Questionnaire. Maybe not quite, but I've seen a few more of these turning up, and I love reading them. So I'm putting the list of all the Knit Geeks I know of here, and I'll keep adding to it, and link to it on the sidebar, as I find more Geeks. If you fill(ed) one out and aren't on this list, let me know!

I really think this might actually serve a purpose of sorts.

How many of you also listen to Cast-On religiously, like me? You know how Brenda (yay, Brenda!!) is always asking us to subvert the genre, and has several times complained about those dumb journalists who keep talking about the new yoga, and filling up their space with a lot of tired jokes about grandmas and that condescending attitude? As if something that is often done by grandmas is automatically a subject of ridicule???? Hel-LO rampant sexism. Never mind that these people's knowledge about knitting or the people who practice it is woe-woe-woefully inadequate.

So I thought it'd be good if a budding nitwit journalist (a very different thing from a knitwit), just off on an assignment to cover a fiber festival or the Knit-Out in Union Square or something of that sort could google and find this list, and read the questionnaires linked here, and get just the smallest sense of the huge vitality and diversity JUST among this small group of knitting bloggers (clearly a tiny sub-set of knitters overall).

Cool, huh? So let's make the list long.

Knit Geeks (in alphabetical order)

Bonne Marie
Domestic Bliss
Got Gauge
Kate A.
Kate from Minneapolis
Laura from Affiknitty
Midnight Purls
The Purloined Letter
The Reactionary Knitter
Tygher Knits

Those who haven't done so - go copy the template and fill out your own Questionnaire!

Blog Admin Bookend the Second

As I explained below, I've just been posting a bunch of stuff, already available on the sidebar, so that I can keep it stored here on Blogger instead of on my home server.

One of these days soon, I'll also finally - after years of not getting around to it - update, correct, and make printable the list of Russian knitting terms, and whatever addresses I can dig up for yarn stores in Moscow and Petersburg (and for that matter, Ivanovo). I can't do it just yet, but I swear it's on my agenda. Those of you who may have emailed me about it (or about anything else for that matter) - I hear you, I'm thinking about it, I know I'm really bad about answering email, and I swear I'll do something about all the requests one day soon.

Random Picture:

Knitting is for Grandmas

Because knitting is for grandmothers, here are some of my grandmothers, most of whom must have knitted, though I can't say for sure of the ones who died before I was born (some of them looooong before). A fine bunch of Dutch ladies, except the one in the middle (actually caught in the act of knitting), who's Russian.

(Click on the image to see the bigger version)

The Chevy

Car Talk: Get to Know My '57 Chevy

This is the 1957 Brother Knitting Machine I bought on Ebay, now and forever after nicknamed "The Chevy." What a beautiful excuse to invest in some WD-40*, Liquid Wrench, an air gun, and steel wool -- all the sorts of things it's comforting to have around (though as a grad student in NYC I never exactly had a direct need for before). Anyway, with abovementioned tools in hand -- and those that came with the machine --I spent a blissful day or two reeking of oil, and managed to get it in sparkling, working order, except for one minor detail now in the process of being taken care of, known in its original form as the FELT BAR**. More on that below. I'm pretty proud of myself, as it arrived with the carriage sturdily jammed on a bunch of bent needles, though I otherwise have no complaints about the Ebay seller, who truth be told gave it to me for a song, even including shipping (the one downside to this beauty being its weight - it lives up to its nickname).

It came with only one missing part that I can detect, and even that I'm not sure of, as it isn't listed anywhere in the lists of parts in the instruction manual, so I'm deducing its presence on the original from the pictures and one mysterious reference to "gate pegs" mentioned nowhere else.

Speaking of the instruction manual, it's an entertainment unto itself. (NB: I do have it in PDF form, now, and can happily mail it upon request, although not necessarily right away, as I'm working from internet cafes while I'm in Russia. Special note to the person who wrote me about this many, many months ago and never received anything! I'm sorry! The planets were not aligned: my first couple mailings to your address bounced, then my laptop got stolen. I lost the original PDF and your address. But I re-scanned it and now have it, so please email me again!)

This photo, taken by the seller for Ebay, shows my baby before I scrubbed it to an even greater shine.

I don't know if Brother still makes them like this, but this baby is definitely a beaut. It came with extra needles still in their original paper envelope, but even the needles that got jammed in the carriage (for god knows how many years), eventually came out and even unbent right back into their original perfect condition with the help of a mere nudge from a needle-nosed pliers. With a little steel wool and a few drops of oil*, they, and the rest of the machine and accessories, look like new.

Now, I have just one remaining problem and a handful of outstanding questions. If you're on this page and have read this far, I'm assuming you must have some sort of abiding interest in knitting machines, may even own one yourself. Perhaps you can help.

**The problem: The FELT BAR (in later models known as the Foam Bar, as I learned from the kind folks at School Products, Inc[LINK], a store in NY that specializes in knitting machines and supplies) sits under the front of the needle bed and holds the needles firm, so you can pull them out to the knitting position and keep them there while you cast on. Or so I gather. You see, the Felt Bar wears down and needs to be replaced occasionally. The one I pulled out of this machine clearly was in need of replacement at least 40 years ago. Digging out the old felt and glue with a screw driver did some damage to my hands, let me tell you, but I'm left with a perfectly clean and serviceable metal bar in need of some felt. Or foam. My first trip to the hardware store resulted in some stuff that was too sticky and not nearly firm enough, but I have high hopes for the second trip to be taken soon. However, as this problem is going to come up again, I would much prefer to discover somewhere a lovely source of ready-made felt bars that would fit this machine. School Products showed me that the new models have a wider bar that won't work. Anybody out there have any leads or suggestions??

Answers to Outstanding Questions:

NEW: *This fact just in: Never ever use WD-40 on your knitting machine! Not sure why, but I have it on good authority that it can damage it very seriously. Damn!

This also just in: window insulation foam, available in strips at any hardware store, works very nicely as filler for the felt bar.


aastrikke AT yahoo DOT com

Above you see a scan of the first knitted swatch made on my knitting machine. Casting it on took over an hour, but knitting it took mere seconds! Until, that is, I started losing stitches and the carriage got caught mid-row and I gave up and decided it was a good time to learn to cast-off. The cast-off edge is the one you see at bottom in the photo - the large loose stitches on the top are the ones I cast on and knitted by hand, then placed on the machine's needle. There are seven rows of successful machine knitting.

100 Things About Me (Revised)

I deleted the version of my 100 Things About Me that was here for two reasons: 1.) I was bored with it and 2.) It has been increasingly dawning on me how many weirdos there are out there, and I'm in the slow process of removing or revising all the personal-ish information about me that I have control over.

So. Here's a new version. More vague, still accurate, and with the extra-added advantage of being shorter.

1. I'm a member of the MTV generation. I remember watching MTV the very first year it aired. I'm still a little nostalgic about the original VJs.

2. I grew up in the tulip capital of the U. S. of A.

3. My favorite color is red. Sometimes I forget to notice that other colors can be nice, too, which is one of the reasons that I like to read knitting blogs.

4. I can't cook.

5. I can't sing.

6. I can't dance.

7. And I am extremely clutzy.

8. I read and write a lot, and always have. Those are two things I'm good at, and like most people are with the things they're good at, I'm picky about them.

9. I'm a historian. I like and/or am interested in pretty much anything that's old.

10. The converse of that is that I'm often not interested in things that are actually going on right now. Unless they have potential for historical interest, later. I'm weird that way.

11. I also like pretty much anything that's foreign or new to me. I get bored easily, which I consider a character flaw.

12. But my love for all things new-to-me means I'm good at learning. Not so good at following through, though.

13. I learned to knit while living in Norway as a high school exchange student.

14. I've tried most crafts at least once, but the only one I've really stuck with over time and keep going back to is knitting.

15. I think because, for me, it's just the right balance of interest and mindlessness, creativity and simplicity, aesthetic pleasure and convenience. I don't really know, though - any analysis doesn't really encompass how I feel about it completely.

16. I recently learned to spin and I *love* it. Love.

17. I can't explain why that is, either, and I'm not sure it would stick if I didn't get a spinning wheel. But I'm so totally going to get a spinning wheel!

18. I let my driver's license lapse years ago and would love to never have to get one again. Hate cars.

19. I've been living in New York City for grad school and now I'll be working there in the fall and into the indefinite future.

20. I saw a New Yorker cartoon with a guy walking down the street wearing a t-shirt just like the "I heart NYC" ones except it said "I have mixed feelings about NYC." That's me.

21. I travel to Russia every few years, usually for a longish stay, for research purposes.

22. I'm right-handed, and apparently also right-brained. This was total news to me, when I did on online test recently.

23. I haven't had TV since the final episode of Seinfeld aired. I watch DVDs and the internetz.

24. This is largely because, when I do see TV, it raises my blood pressure and, in the end, leaves me feeling like I've wasted my time and probably killed a few brain cells.

25. I've become something of a moderate foodie in recent years. It happened under the influence of my husband. His reasons are completely about health and taste. I'm also concerned about environmental and animal cruelty issues, though not so much that I made very many changes on my own, before meeting my husband.

26. I have tried playing the violin, the flute, and the bassoon. These were not successful experiments.

27. I have a tin ear.

28. I hate being the center of attention. Can't stand it.

29. I'm an Aries.

30. My Jungian type is INTJ.

31. I'm a Ravelry addict.

32. I remember browsing the web with a text-only program called lynx.

33. That kind of crap makes me feel really old.

34. Biggest pet peeve: willful incompetence.

35. Favorite thing in the world: Time spent with my husband and/or a handful of dearest friends, preferably with access to tea, books, and yarn at the same time.

Aw, heck, I can only think of 35 things. Oh well.

Blog Admin Bookend the First

I'm going to "post" a few things that have already been available for a while from a link on the sidebar. The point of this is that these are small text files that had been sitting on my home server, and I want them sitting on Blogger's server, instead. Believe it or not, blogger is more reliable than my home server, so I'm trying to have everything on there. Right now, most of my images are also on my home server, so if occasionally they won't load, you know why. Blogger seems to be having trouble letting me upload images, but I'm working on that, too. (by posting them all from PhotoBucket, which rocks, so far). Anyway, the point of this post is to say - skip the following few posts; they're just here so I'll have a permalink to them.

Herewith a random cool picture because I have no relevant knitting picture to post:

10 August 2006

7 Things Meme

There's little blogworthy knitting to present today - working on socks tends to lead to that, doesn't it? Unless you're doing gorgeous, big, challenging Fair Isle ones, like Grumperina. I'm not. Mine have an inch or two more than they did yesterday. Ho-hum. Did some edge stitching on a handbag, too. Blocked the oh-so-boring scarf. Played with my diss chapter - not clear yet whether it helped. Blah. Have to do the dishes now.

So here's a pretty picture and a meme.

Something to keep us cool:

(This picture was taken in rural Russia, not by me, but by a friend. I was there, though.)


7 Things About Me Meme

In no particular order

Seven Things To Do Before I Die:

1. Go to Meg Swansen's Knitting Camp
2. Write a novel
3. Finish my PhD
4. Spend more time in Western Europe
5. Have children. At least one, preferably two.
6. Own a home
7. Get in good physical shape and, if possible, stay that way

Seven Things I Cannot Do:

1. Sing
2. Dance
3. Act
4. Play competitive sports of any kind
5. Be patient
6. Cook artfully
7. Appreciate the alleged appeal of beer, or coffee

Seven Things That Attract Me To My Mate:

(NB: is this supposed to be about me, or him? Grammatically, it could go either way. But I've seen most people write it about the mate, and that's more fun, so that's what I'm going to do)

1. He's hot - hot
2. He's got a perfect body. No kidding. Yes, this counts as an extra beyond just that he's generally hot
3. He's brilliant
4. He's a native speaker of Russian
5. He cooks well, and cleans usually before I think to
6. He says all the right things, and means them
7. He loves, loves, loves having things knit for him
7.5. No fair - I'm out of space before I'm out of Things!

Seven Books/Authors I Love:

1. Jane Austen
2. Dorothy L. Sayers
3. Georgette Heyer
4. Neil Gaiman
5. G. K. Chesteron
6. J. K. Rowling
7. Vladimir Nabokov

Seven Things I Say:

1. "Anyway."
2. "So…what was I saying?"
3. "Whatever."
4. "That's just wrong."
5. "I'm morally opposed to that."
6. "You know what I mean."
7. "That's so cool."

Seven Movies I've Loved:

1. American Beauty
2. The Trouble with Harry
3. Sense & Sensibility (Emma Thompson version)
4. Fargo
5. Grosse Pointe Blank
6. Harold & Maude
7. Breaking the Waves

08 August 2006

2 FOs in one day!

I finished the patchwork felted pillows - both done, down to the ties that bind them - and the Yak Scarf as of last night. Posted about them to the UFO August list. Ura! All this accomplishment is going to my head.

Here's the second pillow, front and back, not yet stuffed to show off how much worse it looks when it's deflated (er, or rather, how much better it looks when poofy, like the first one that I already showed off).

Here's the scarf, before blocking. It's about to go in the bath in a minute, which ought to flatten it out. I did it in the kind of rib that has garter between the stockinette strips, instead of reverse stockinette. Whatever that's called. It's pretty and soft, but god what a bore that was. I have a bit of leftover Yak/Merino - possibly enough for some fingerless mitts or something of that nature....

Worked a bit on the socks, too, but not enough to bother photographing. I now have a pile of cut-out felt ready to be sewn into handbags - more handbags than I could know what to do with - but I'm not in any hurry to work on them. I think I'll do them a bit at a time, as a break from knitting. The AlterKnits book (by Leigh Radford, which is where I got the idea, since Jenn asked in the comments, although I think the idea of felting machine-knit Goodwill sweaters and cutting them up for various purposes has been around a while - I'm pretty sure I've seen or heard of it elsewhere), anyway, the book suggests sewing them together by machine, but since last time I did this it was a royal pain to get my machine to sew through such thick fabric, I'm going to do again what I did then, and what I did with the pillows - sew them by hand with feltable yarn, so that the first time you wash the finished object, it felts the seams right into the fabric and makes it extremely secure.

Using yarn, the stitches do show, and of course I don't usually have yarn that exactly matches the store-bought sweater, so I usually pick something contrasting or otherwise meant to be noticed. It has more of a home-made look than the handbags Leigh Radford made, but I like it.

Oh, and btw, I noticed when I did this before that when you wash them after sewing them up, if they were really as felted as could be when you sewed them together, they don't shrink any further, and the stitches (if not right next to each other, as in blanket stitch) don't felt to each other to make the seams tighten up. They just felt ever so slightly into the fabric, making them more secure but not affecting the size and shape of the bag. Very nice. You could do the same thing by taking a felting needle to the seams, but I'm lazy so I just wait till the thing needs to be washed next anyway, and throw it in the washing machine.

Here's my work basket filled to brimming with potential handbags:

And here's what the cut-out pieces look like, all cut according to the pattern suggested by Radford.

I like this better than the monk-style bags I made before, but it really does work better if you start out with sweaters that are about a women's large. Mine were mostly young adult or women's small, and it made it difficult to get handles of appropriate length or width. So five out of these 7 (the one not pictured is the "mint choc chip" bag I showed in an earlier post), are really too small to be practical, at least for me. I like a bag to hold a book, papers, knitting, plus all the usual necessities. So they're cute, but I doubt I'll use them much, and I'll definitely give away a couple to friends or family who don't carry around as much stuff as I do....

Meanwhile, two more people have now filled out my Knit Geek Questionnaire on their blogs!!


And Caroline had a brilliant idea for an extra question, which I've duly added to the template (link at left, or here).

PS - Thanks also to Jennifer for the suggestion to use my newly re-discovered embroidery floss collection to knit dollhouse rugs and afghans. It reminded me of the episode of Cast-On in which Sage from Quirky Nomads regaled us about miniature crochet...while I don't want to go quite as small as she did, I'm totally going to try my hand at some mini knitting....It's a good use for my tiniest DPNs, too!