28 December 2006

Letter from Georgia

Just a really quick note on v e r y s l o w dialup from Augusta, GA to say hi! It was actually colder here than in NYC for our first two days, but the sun has come out and now it's lovely! The in-laws LOVE the felted slippers. There's sunlight to take pictures in. The other felted items came out mostly great, except for one pair of experimental slippers which are...now doing better, but shall be referred to hereafter as "the Frankenstein slippers." Are you in suspense? Dying for pictures? Soon - I promise!!

Back to red scarf knitting, cheezy detective-novel reading, and being plied with food and wine by my in-laws. Starting New Year's Day, I'm going to write every day and FINISH the last real chapter by the time we leave here. Really. Okay - finish a decent first draft. And, okay, parts of it are already written because they got cut out of the first chapter I wrote. But still. I think I can do it - this much sunshine, a comfortable, spacious room, food taken care of...and we get to sleep every night in total silence and darkness. It's heaven. And a washing machine into the bargain, as well. Heaven.

23 December 2006

Panic Time

Dudes. Things have been nutty around here. I'm sure you know what I'm talking about, because you're all going through the same thing and doing christmas knitting at the same time!

I've been frantically finishing up this chapter while also running the errands, doing the shopping and packing and phone calls and correspondence and plant/key-exchanging required before we can take off for my in-laws' house for the holidays. I've also been frantically trying - for no rational reason whatsoever - to finish knitting that doesn't really need to be finished but that I somehow don't want to leave sitting around for a few weeks while I do other, more travel-friendly projects. I've also been getting some AWESOME xmas presents, some of them knitting-related, which I'm dying to photograph and review for you guys. But, sadly, it will all have to wait because we've got one day left before departure and I still have massive packing to do (beside throwing all our dirty clothes in a suitcase to be washed in suburban luxury and remembering to throw the gifts in the other suitcase, we have to sort out all the papers, notebooks, disks and files required for me to start the new Chapter and Hubbster to study for orals while we're gone, at a minimum of poundage, plus I have to plan ahead for everything I might possibly want to knit, both on the airplane in difficult security conditions and while we're there, and you all know how hard that is), plus I have to finish typing in my last set of revisions. (At which point, yes indeedy, Chapter Three is being firmly dismissed to await Final Revision of the whole diss in February.) So, no pictures today at all, but I'll give you a hint of what awaits you later:

- Finished Peacock Socks. The navy toes don't look half bad at all, and Hubbster loves them.

- A tea cozy for our adorable new glass teapot. Believe it or not, this is the first tea cozy I have ever knit.

- Still more fuzzy feet. Even I'm bored now, but I did wacky things with color this time - really. Makes the red toe of the blue pair positively mundane.

- Got 3 skeins of worsted weight Wool of the Andes from Knit Picks to experiment with, as I'm plotting a sweater for Hubbster to be begun after the holidays, and right now I'm working on a gauge-swatch-sock (taking EZ's advice about swatches but making it a sock instead of a hat because I don't wear stocking caps).

- Also got a 16" US3 needle from the new KnitPicks line, also to experiment with just in case the opportunity presents itself to get the Options set at some point in the future. Loving it so far!!

- The knitting on the Palette Sampler Cardigan is DONE!!! Imperfect, but done, and done satisfactorily to my mind, since the point of this project was to learn a lot, and I've already done that, for sure. I started crocheting the steeks for the neckline and front, but it's looking like I won't have the time and/or peace of mind to proceed any further before we leave. And yes, that's a bit of a relief because I'm nervous about it. I'm totally okay with the sleeve steeks now, and have full confidence, as a result, about the vertical front cardigan steeks. It's the curved neckline steeks that make me queesy. Very queesy.

- I'm back at work on the Widdershins second sock. That and Red Scarves will probably make up most of my holiday knitting, as I also plan to be working a lot and will require mindless fiber-y comfort.

- In the biggest news of all: Santa brought me a set of KIPer bags!!!!! Will do a full review of them as soon as I can, and it will probably benefit from me actually carrying them around and getting used to them for a while first, but so far I love them. They look much sturdier (and less cheap) in real life than in the rather meager pictures on the web site, and their total, perfect utility has me in raptures. They're really perfect city bags - and not just for knitters! They should market them to New Yorkers in general, I think. The black color and sturdy, inexpensive construction is an absolute requirement for me, given that I need to be able to use bags forever, put them through a lot, and am constantly dragging them through the filthy subway. I've been idly daydreaming about sewing myself a perfect handbag set for years, actually, and now I don't have to because KnitPicks did it for me (yes, folks, it's been a KnitPicks' Christmas around here, can you tell??).

I will have internet access while I'm gone, but only dialup, so I can't promise much in the way of pictures, though I should be able to post at least a few times. Will make up for it all when I get back! I can't wait to do my felting, and will try very hard to remember to photograph everything.

One further thing I want to post here, but unless you left an anonymous comment recently about the Debbie Bliss "Marilyn" pattern linked to on my sidebar, you can safely ignore what follows and go back to your Bloglines with my best wishes for a very happy and knitterly winter break!


This comment was left anonymously on a previous post sometime today:

I was browsing through various knitting sights [sic] and came across your blog. I was looking at the things you want to knit..I am surprised that one would include the knitting instructions (refering [sic] to the Marilyn sweater) as well. Does the respect of [sic] copyright not apply here?

Since this comment was left anonymously, I have no other way to respond to the commenter than on this blog. I'm copying the following response both into the comments section right after the anonymous comment, and here, in the hopes that whoever left it will perhaps see it:

I did not scan and post a copyrighted pattern and never would. A glance at the URL for the Debbie Bliss "Marilyn" pattern linked to on my sidebar will show any interested parties that the scan of the pattern actually originates from the Interweave Knits site. They made it available free online because the magazine issue in which it was originally released is out of print, never to return, and this is the way they have kindly decided to meet the strong continued demand for this particular pattern (please follow this link and note that the pattern is not from the subscriber-only portion of the site and is listed by IK as being made available for free to anyone at all "with our compliments").

A simple glance at the pattern itself or the web site the file actually resides on presumably makes this fact quite clear to any conscientious reader, but I wanted to belabor the point here as I don't particularly appreciate the unwarranted and thoughtless accusation left by my anonymous commenter. I've seen much worse on blogs, of course, but that's precisely the point: this kind of thing is always unacceptable and I refuse to ignore it when it's right here on my doorstep, so to speak, even though the issue is in this case a fairly minor one and easily resolved. I refuse to pander to such rude carelessness by ignoring (or worse) apologizing for imaginary offenses. Sloppy thinking and sloppy communicating - both of which have the potential to be infinitely destructive - appear to be a rampant disease in our society and I for one am committed to resisting this disease whenever and wherever I can. I don't claim to be any sort of paragon myself, but I do claim to do my best, and I expect as much from others.

I took the trouble to find that link and include it in my sidebar after a previous reader saw the mention of the Marilyn pattern (without a link) and asked me in private email where the pattern was available. In good conscience I had to tell that reader that I couldn't let her have a copy of my copyrighted pattern, but since the original IK issue was sold out, I suggested she check out Debbie Bliss' site or contact her directly to find out if an alternative was available. It was only after this exchange that I discovered that Interweave had already solved the problem by making the pattern available via free PDF. Under these circumstances, I was happy to take the trouble to link to the file for the benefit of other people like this first reader.

All of which, again, should be patently obvious to anyone who takes a moment to look, and to think.

We should all remember to check our facts before we accuse anyone of any wrongdoing in any public forum, even (or especially) anonymously. If you haven't bothered to get your facts straight or to think before you type, then you are the one giving offense, and you are morally obliged to take responsibility for that offense. No one else.

Respect for copyright does apply here, as do good manners.

16 December 2006

Where do you go to buy a lottery ticket?

I won Krista's contest. This is getting crazy, folks. Really crazy. I never win anything. This is a well-known fact. Or was, until I entered blog land, and somehow now everything's changed. I can't explain it, but it does seem like a good time to buy a lottery ticket, doesn't it?

As always, I'm totally blown away by my fellow knitters' generosity. Krista is going to dye some sock yarn for me. Have you seen her etsy shop? This is one talented knitter, folks.

I need to get back to my chapter (which, I'm happy to say, is progressing well and is now right on the cusp of only needing basic clean-up: fixing footnotes, typos, unraveling bad sentences, inserting last-minute quotes, etc. Yahoo, people, yahoo!!)

So here's a seasonable meme. I saw this on the Yarn Liberation Front and My Fashionable Life.

Christmas Edition of Getting to Know Your Friends

1. Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate?
Both. But the egg nog has to be really good egg nog, and preferably fortified. I’m much less picky about hot chocolate. If it’s got chocolate in it, I’m happy. During this particular season, I like to melt a candycane into it. I’ve been doing that since I was very little – I use the cane to stir the hot chocolate, until you realize the cane is all gone but for a little chunk still held between your fingers. I drop that in, and really enjoy the gooey peppermint lump you get at the bottom of the cup. This is the only way I’ll eat candy canes.

2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree?
When I was a kid, mom always put presents under the tree, as soon as the tree was up (the presents had very likely been bought and wrapped much earlier). We would stare at them as long as we could stand it, then wear down our parents until they agreed to let us open one present every night until “christmas.” (“Christmas” was an arbitrarily chosen day somewhere between the last day of school and New Year’s, according to the schedule involved in driving down to family events in Illinois and blizzard conditions. Effectively, “Christmas” was about three days after we talked the parents into letting us start opening presents). Sadly, we haven’t really been doing “christmas” at all lately. My husband and I live far from all family, and usually see each of his parents, my mom and my dad (who live in far distant states) once a year each. So we no longer make it to the big family gatherings, and presents are exchanged mostly by mail. It’s sad, and I hope won’t last much longer. Someday I hope we’ll have kids of our own, and be able to host a big “christmas” whereever we live.

3. Colored lights on tree/house or white?
I love little white lights outside, especially when they line a city street (or campus path). Indoors, I’m still nostalgic for the huge, old-fashioned multi-colored lights, but only because they're so evocative of my childhood. I think my mom now skips lights altogether and just puts all wooden or paper ornaments (red, white or wood colors only) on a mini-tree. I have to say it’s really gorgeous, even though I’m nostalgic for the huge, tacky tree of my childhood. Someday I’d like to decorate a tree entirely with vintage glass ornaments or something like that.

4. Do you hang mistletoe?
Nope. Don’t really decorate ourselves at all lately. In any case, we don’t require excuses for kissy-kissy.

5. When do you put your decorations up?
We don’t. Like I said – sad. I used to have a box of xmas decorations of my own, but somehow most of them are now dispersed. Some got ruined in a sad mildew incident in my parents’ basement, some got lost in various moves, and some – like the Norwegian Nisse doll that my Norwegian host mother taught me to make from scratch and for which I knitted a tiny Icelandic sweater - are still in mom’s closet (mildew-free). I do plan to stop by one of the street corners where they sell xmas trees here in NYC and buy a pine bough. I like having the scent of fresh pine in the house this time of year, and it’s also time to put a giant pot of water with cinnamon and other spices in it – hydrates the air and smells divine.

6. What is your favorite holiday dish (excluding dessert)?
Ummm….Chicago pizza, actually. At my mom’s extended family gathering (in the old days when I was a kid), there were too many people to cook for (though grandma did do this for Thanksgiving, cooking an elaborate meal for about 100 people is a bit too much to ask twice in a row). So on christmas all the families would bring some kind of appetizer and/or cookie (we brought gingerbread cookies), all of which would be laid out on a huge table all day, and after the presents were opened they’d order a bazillion pizzas from Aurelio’s. This is not Chicago deep-dish (which is also beyond wonderful), but Chicago suburban flat pizza. It’s essential that it be cut into squares. I always liked the corner pieces. There’s nothing else on earth like it. (And don’t even talk to me about that puddle of grease on a slab that they like to call “pizza” in NY. Crap. Utter CRAP. And as for “Chicago’s Uno’s Pizzeria”? It’s a chain – a fake. They don’t even have the classic Chicago-style deep-dish pizzas on the menu. The chain Uno’s is to the original Chicago Uno’s as TGIFriday’s is to Delmonico’s, okay?)

7. Favorite Holiday memory as a child:
I’ll give you two: at home with my immediate family, it was opening the stocking-stuffers. I loved them best of all. They were always small, usually silly things, but I loved the surprise of not having any idea what would come next. The “real” christmas presents were usually some big thing that we’d been begging for all year, so not a big surprise, though exciting in its way. Second memory is at the big extended-family gathering: hanging out in the attic, at first, and in later years the basement with my cousins after the presents and the pizza were over, giggling so hard our stomachs hurt, and sending younger cousins down/up to fetch more cookies as needed. Bombarding unsuspecting adults with pillows whenever they invaded our territory. Building forts out of grandma’s orange furry futons. Oh wait – one more. Making the gingerbread cookies. Specifically, decorating them with frosting and sprinkles. Infinite fun – we always got carried away and made more cookies than even our family could possibly eat before they got stale.

8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa?
I don’t remember every believing in the Santa myth. I was a lot like the little girl in Miracle on 34th Street as she is at the beginning of the movie, though in my case it wasn’t my parents’ fault. I was just like that.

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve?
We always did it in the morning of whatever day had been designated “christmas.” But I like the idea of doing the gifts the night before, and having all of the holiday day to play with them, eat, and hang out. I might try to do it that way when we have kids someday.

10. How do you decorate your Christmas Tree?
See above. My mom is saving the ornaments I made, though, to give to me later when I have a tree. I also like the idea of all the ornaments being hand-made by all the members of the family…

11. Snow! Love it or Dread it?
What snow? Haven’t seen it lately. I love it when it’s fresh, and anywhere outside of cities. I can’t stand it in New York, Chicago, or Moscow, though, when it turns into brown, urine-scented sludge.

12. Can you ice skate?
Sorta. I love to skate in Wollman rink in Central Park. It’s set in a kind of low part, surrounded by trees, and then surrounded outside that by the much higher buildings. I love skating there as the sun sets. Sadly, though, I only make it there about once or twice a year.

13. Do you remember your favorite gift?
That question makes me think of many, many wonderful exciting gifts I’ve gotten over the years. Childhood stand-outs include the Atari set, shared with my brother (I was great at Frogger, man). The first Cabbage Patch Kid, which my parents happen to have stumbled upon almost the moment came out, before the huge craze kicked in, so they managed to buy it without having to fight for it or anything. It was a red-headed girl doll named Alison Coral, who I carried around with me everywhere I went for several years. She still lives in my closet at mom’s house, with a broken toe and crayon on her face. Another great present was my roller-skates. I skated for hours and hours every day of every summer, on the smooth concrete of an unused boat dock near our house. More recently, I’ve gotten lots of lovely knitting-related items from Hubbster.

14. What’s the most important thing about the Holidays for you?
Most of the things I love about it are not happening lately – being with family, the warmth and comfort of the food, and decorations. The leisure time to do the things you love best with the people you love best. Seeing my whole, huge extended family all in one place. All the plotting and secrets that go into making your loved ones happy – for this reason, especially, I love the idea of hand-made gifts, or small, difficult-to-find or especially personal things. Nothing that’s merely expensive, or can be picked up at the nearest shopping mall. Those kind of gifts don’t seem fun to me. This year, and the past few, and probably the next few, are really not much more than a chance to have one whole precious weekend with no work and no guilt, to see one small bit of family and apologize to everyone else for not seeing them.

15. What is your favorite Holiday Dessert?
This is easy. Much as I love almost every dessert every conceived, there are really only two xmas desserts that count. My grandma’s patented choc. chip cookies and home-made caramels. She has stopped making them in the last few years, but for about 30 years before that she made them faithfully every year, and for me christmas is still not quite christmas without them. I can replicate the cookies almost exactly now (after years of refining my technique), but not one of my dozens and dozens of cousins has managed to figure out the caramels.

16. What is your favorite holiday tradition?
I love everything about my family and the little, mostly silly things we do. I love the smells and warm sweaters and the music some of the more traditional music – hymns, classical, and jazz - when sung well, and many of the movies of the season. I love wrapping presents. I’m not so big on xmas in NYC. We usually only get around to ice skating after the new year, and to me that’s the only fun thing about winter in NYC. The weather is totally weird and hardly wintry (except the occasional days when it’s just ass-kicking cold out of nowhere). This year we’ll be in Georgia for the holidays, and that’s not terribly christmasy either. I much prefer Michigan or Illinois this time of year (of course I’m blocking out all the memories of being stuck on the highway in a blizzard). But I should say that, for me, it’s really a pagan holiday. I love the sights, and smells, and family traditions, and I love to celebrate the winter solstice and begin the countdown to spring. But for me, that’s something we can all celebrate together, and call it whatever we like. I’m really not big on the propaganda part of it, mainly because for as long as I can remember I’ve always found it incredibly hypocritical and commercialized. Those who really are filled with the Christian Christmas spirit don’t generally have to advertise themselves, or defend themselves against any “war on Christmas.” Just my view.

17. What tops your tree?
Don’t got one.

18. Which do you prefer giving or Receiving?
I really love figuring out something just right for someone…and get terribly frustrated when I can’t think of anything personal enough or “right” enough. And of course I love receiving things, too, especially yarny things or books or DVDs. And my mom has the world’s best taste in clothes. I'm just beginning to get better about charity giving, this time of year and all the rest, too, thanks largely to the fine example and useful suggestions I've encountered in the knit blogging world.

19. What is your favorite Christmas Song?
My favorite CDs to play at home on “christmas day” (whenever we decide that is) are Russian Romantic composers, especially Tchaikovsky. Sometimes Borodin. Kind of weird, but whatever. My dad started it, so you can blame him for the weirdness.

20. Candy Canes… Yuck or Yum?
See above. Just the traditional kind, and only in hot chocolate.

12 December 2006

FOs and Prize, Yippee!

It's been another really good day. Which is especially nice since the last three days were spent migraining and completely spazzing out about how little work I've gotten done lately. Pretty much par for the course for the holiday season, I suppose, but today at least I'm feeling completely at peace with the world.

That's what yarn can do to a girl, yes sirree.

I won another prize. This one's from Beth, for hazarding a guess at the purpose of her mystery object. All us guessers got prizes, and I might even (maybe) share part of mine with my husband, who also contributed a guess, though a mightily wicked one.

Take another look at that there yarn. Looky, looky, looky.

Cherry Tree Hill, and no picture could possibly do it justice. It's divine. And partly because it's in a red-family colorway, naturally these socks are going to be for ME, with no weird gigantic gussets necessitating funky toes. Mine, mine, all mine. I think I'll use my newly perfected formula for toe-up short row AND gusset socks, and maybe the Thuja pattern again just because I like it (and it's dead easy, which is still the level I'm at, sock-wise).

Lovely, lovely Beth also put in there some magnificent hot chocolate packets and mints that come in a little tin that says "Knitting Girl." I've already decided that when the mints are gone (won't take long - they're green apple!) I'm going to use the tin to keep my migraine meds in. I always need a new "indestructible" small container for my ever-present headache medicines, and this one should prove much more cheery than the one I got free from the neurologist - with a drawing of a person in pain, holding their head, on the top - is that really what you want to see when you reach for the imitrex, I ask you??

Beth rocks. Did you know her contest was related to the opening of her new spinning store in Michigan? I didn't even know there were such things as spinning stores before I "met" Beth, but sweet sassy molassy, that's a heavenly-looking place! I can't wait to go when we next head out to Michigan to visit my mom, who lives not too far from Beth.

Meanwhile, because of the migraine, I haven't been getting a lot of writing or blog-reading done (Hubbster banned me from the computer for the duration, since staring at a screen tends to make it worse), but I did at least manage to knit much of the time. I finished the striped leftovers handbag, ready for felting:

And also finished the red super-sized fuzzy feet, and started yet another pair, this time using the PGR toe-up method on 44 sts, just for variety. And for a little while there I lost my mind, dropped all current WIPs and started some Twinkle Toes from the bran' new issue of Knitty. It's okay, though, because they're already finished! Here's the obligatory ballet pose:

But I'd like to point out that they still look really cute even if you hold your feet like a normal person, and they're terrific for summer slippers or bed socks.

I made mine with random Russian yarn from the stash - 95% cotton, 5% lycra for stretch. Roughly a DK weight, kind of boucle-like in structure. I had no idea if this would work and never did check my gauge; I just made a toe, and it fit, so I kept going. I also had no idea how much yarn was in a ball; it just said 50g on the label, and the pattern used the same. Worked out fine - I ended up with about half a yard leftover! And that's after adding considerable length to the pattern. Even though it says they're really stretchy and the "adult" size should fit just about anyone, and even though I was substituting about the stretchiest yarn you could get, there's no WAY I could have gotten these suckers over my heel if I'd followed the pattern. I added 10 rows, in 5 sets of two, evenly placed between toe and heel. I might have gotten away with only 8 extra rows, but any less and I swear they would never have stretched far enough. But I've got a pecularly narrow size 10 foot, and it has become abundantly obvious to me lately that what other people mean by "average woman's foot" means, in my unique universe, "way too short and possibly too wide," so I will just have to always adjust accordingly. The beauty of this pattern is that it is absolutely clear, easy, and problem-free, and totally adaptable to minor adjustments. I plan to make another pair for a ballet-loving friend with especially small feet, and I think I'll start with fewer stitches for the toe, since the number given in the pattern was plenty for me, and her feet are miniscule compared to mine. Also, for my pair, I made the ties only 56 sts instead of 66, because I can never get ballet-style ties to stay up that high without cutting off circulation. So I made them shorter, tie them lower, and all is well. Still cute. And I love, love, love the heel construction. Will copy it, probably, on most future socks. It's pretty much exactly what I had finally concluded I needed to do to get a decent-fitting toe-up sock heel - that is, a full short-row heel plus a little bit of a gusset - all validated by someone else and everything.

I'm totally excited about the new issue of knitty. I love eiffel, and (obviously) twinkle toes, and piggle and sheldon. And I'm very likely to someday make center square, calorimetry, brown bag, argosy or legwarmer socks. And monkey adds itself to the long list of Cookie's sock patterns that I'm going to make just as soon as I can rely on myself to make a respectable stockinette sock, and can then begin venturing into the kind of territory where it would hurt very, very much to have to rip back 50 rows, you know what I mean? But several of Cookie's patterns - hedera, pomatamatamatamus, baudelaire, and now monkey - top my to-do list. I also really, really love the features in knitty. I always learn some major new thing every time, and am usually much amused and intrigued and better informed after each new batch. I particularly loved this issue's article about the yarn market, of course. Seems like we were all indeed on to something!

And just wait till we get the surprise. There might be something super-exciting in there from my perspective, especially. That's all I'm gonna say.

06 December 2006

All Good Things

Lots of good things have been happening, just when it was most needed thanks to holiday / end of semester stresses and that constant growling that's still coming from my two pairs of unfinished socks. I haven't touched the socks, and actually stuffed them in the closet so the growling wouldn't be quite so loud. But now that I have the plain blue yarn to finish the peacock socks with, I plan to do them while on vacation in Georgia over the holidays, since, of course, socks are perfect travel knitting, and by that time they'll both seem totally new to me and the angst about all that ripping (in one case) and yarn shortage (in the other case) will have faded.

In the meantime, I've been happily knitting up super-quick projects on huge needles using cheap leftover yarn. Yeah baby - just the right stuff for the current mood. It's all stuff for felting while we're in Georgia, in the handy suburban washing machine.

First, I finished the slippers for the in-laws:

Both in-laws have considerably smaller feet than I do (Hubbster's, though wider, are actually the same length - embarrassing). This is the sum total of my xmas knitting for this year. I've gone crazy in previous years - the scarf year, the felting year - and I think there may be a sock year in my future (most challenging yet!) but this particular year I decided I'd better just finish the bloody dissertation. I have the rest of my life to knit. (ooh, doesn't that sound lovely?)

And I actually went ahead and felted the blue pair of fuzzy feet, because I'd had to finish the toe in a different yarn (I don't seem to have good luck with blue footwear), and I wanted to hand-felt in this case to control the process. It turned out to be totally easy. This is the first time I've used Lamb's Pride, and I see now why it's such a good felting yarn - it starts felting really quickly. I love Paton's Classic Wool too for its reliablity, color selection, and price, but it does take a bit longer to get going. That's not a problem in a machine, but really makes a difference by hand. When I ran out of the Lamb's Pride I did the last toe in some 50-50 wool/mohair in red that was leftover from a sweater. It was made in Russia but called "Natural Mohair" in English with no apparent brand name - so I don't know what the heck it is. But it was exactly the same gauge as Lamb's Pride and similarly lightly spun, and in the end it felted exactly the same way. Since that sweater wasn't much of a success, I'm tempted to rip it up and make it all into fuzzy feet!

(The blue part in the corner above is from an unfocused picture that actually showed the accurate color). But so far I still have some leftovers to work with, so I'm experimenting with making another pair of fuzzy feet in different dimensions:

This one is a little bigger around (48 sts instead of 44) and much longer, because I want a slipper that's a little longer than the others, but much more tightly felted. Since stock. st. felts much more vertically than horizontally, I made it bigger in length than in width from the pattern. You never know if that sort of thing will work, though, and in retrospect I'm thinking it would have been a better idea to follow the pattern but on bigger needles with a double strand of yarn, to get more or less the same slipper but thicker. Anyone else out there experimented with this before??

Finally, I've been playing around with leftover felting yarns to make a handbag:

I wound random lengths of yarn into a ball, tying the ends (since they're just going to get felted anyway, I can snip the ends that stick out), and then just knitted mindlessly from the ball. This has been wonderful fun, especially since I forgot the order of the colors I'd picked as soon as I finished making the ball, so unwinding it as I knit felt like constantly discovering a new surprise. I think the level of fun I was having with this tells you something about my state of mind right now.

This is the body of the bag, hanging upside down over the back of a chair; I'm just working on the straps now. The bottom is a rectangle in black garter st. I picked up sts around, and just knitted a straight tube up. I didn't decrease at the top because I want the sides to sort of splay outward, as felting does with a large tube of stockinette. I'm loosely copying the shape of my Steve Madden handbag (which I found at Filene's for $20 and have been deeply attached to ever since, to the point where it's wearing out even though it's an incredibly sturdy construction). Except I want the straps to be just a smidge longer - it always drives me nuts that that handbag won't stay on my shoulder when I'm wearing my winter coat. I also wanted to make the braided straps that Laura showed us with a different, smaller handbag pattern. Of course, predicting exact length when you're not only felting, but felting a braid, is utterly impossible, but we'll see how it goes.

While I was working on my dissertation on this bag yesterday, the postman - the blessed postman! - came with a package! An early xmas present from my dad. So, you ask, did I wait, like a good girl, until the 25th to open it? Oh no. I saw the return address, and I opened. It was the DVD of Elizabeth Zimmermann and Meg Swansen's Knitting Glossary. I watched the whole thing all at once. I am in HEAVEN. I want to spend the xmas break (after finishing the socks) trying out every last technique in swatches. At first Hubbster was sort of giggling at me in an "oh, how sweet" way when I said I was going to watch "a knitting glossary" straight through for my evening's entertainment. Then, as he was reading his book nearby, he giggled in an "oh, isn't that adorable" way when I kept exclaiming things like

"Oh my God!"


"But that's...that's brilliant!"

...while watching two ladies knit quietly...

and then...he started watching. And then he started exclaiming! --

"Wow! That's really amazing! Can you do that?"

And I replied, naturally, "I can now!" :-)

I couldn't resist trying out quite a few things in the knitting I was doing at the same time - short rows without turning the work, two colors on the left hand in Meg's way, etc - which luckily I could do and undo in the handbag with no worries, since felting will cover any oddities in gauge. I decided to finish off the top edge of the bag in applied I-cord, now that I know how to do it:

This is just 2-stitch I-cord, which is neat because it's like the usual chain bind off, but instead of one chain of Vs along the top, you get one chain on each side of the top. I dunno, it's just pretty, and surprisingly fast. I never bothered to learn attached I-cord from any of their books before because it looked like it would be slow, and I never have patience for that kind of slow trimming/decorative thing. This was really no worse than most bind-offs, though, and there are so many possibilities for what you can do with it. And now that I'm working on the straps of the handbag - 6 skinny strips for the braids - I'm practicing knitting back backwards. I'm still a bit awkward at it, but I'm quickly becoming addicted, and the gauge I'm getting is no worse than my purling gauge anyway.

And that's not all! Actually, it seems the world is conspiring, for once, to make things nice in my little universe: the other day I received another exciting package in the mail - a music mix from Laura! I've long noticed that Laura has excellent, discerning taste in music. I used to be quite up-to-date with music when I was in college and had access to lots and lots of like-minded (like-eared??) people to trade with, but I haven't really discovered any new music since about 2000, partly because of lack of money, but really because of lack of access. I tend not to much like what's on the radio and don't really listen to anything but NPR, so I'm really dependent on hearing recommendations from people with similar tastes. And now, out of the purest generosity, Laura has sent me the most wonderful, amazing, huge music mix of totally new and wonderful stuff! I had no idea what I was missing!! I had also forgotten how well I work with music on, actually. In honor of Laura's mix, I finally went out and got the right cords to hook up the nice speakers my dad donated to us months ago, so we could play music in the living room/study. Bliss! Sheer bliss! I had really forgotten what a huge part of my life music used to be; somehow, in recent years, I just haven't even wanted to listen to old favorites, or haven't had anything but the computer to play them on, or whatever. Now I feel like I'm discovering music, new and old, all over again!

And that's not all! I ordered some of Wendy's candles for our various parental units' christmas presents, and since Wendy lives right here in NYC she graciously let me come over and pick them up instead of paying for shipping to get four candles across Central Park. So I met Wendy today!! She's just as wonderful in person as you would expect, and oh my God I got to smell the candles! Unfortunately I was trying to run a million errands in my "day out," so I didn't have much time, but I got to smell so many wonderful scents...I want them all...I think next on my list to try will be "Geisha" and "Lemon tart"...the ones I came home with are Pan, Lilac, Tranquility and Harvest Moon. They're all amazing, and it's going to be difficult to part with them. I am particularly in awe of the Pan and Tranquility scents, because they're so complex. They remind me of the scent machine Maude had in the movie Harold & Maude. Do you remember that scene? You were supposed to stick your nose in a tube, and you'd smell all the many smells of...I think it was New York City in the winter. Which is not necessarily an unremittingly good collection of smells, let me tell you, but luckily Wendy's candles really are just about the good stuff. But it's true that with "Pan" for example you smell first a kind of woodsy pine scent...and then you notice lavender, like your grandmother's sachet, and then spiced tea... It's really unlike any other scented candles I've ever encountered. I was really amazing, too, to see where Wendy makes them. As you can see on her blog, she's got this incredible shelf chock-full of the scent oils, and there are stacks of shiny stainless steel pots and the glass jars and little tins the candles go in. Everything about it is beautiful, and the whole room was rich with the scents when I stopped by, as Wendy was filling the orders that have come in in just the past fews days (yay!), since I first posted about it. The truly amazing thing is that even that really strong scent didn't bother my head in the least, even though I've only just gotten over another round of migraine. Miraculous!

So, music...candles...knitting...things are good. I hope you're all enjoying as many creature comforts as I am as we head into the homestretch of holiday knitting and/or end-of-semester writing and grading.

01 December 2006

Miscellaneous Notes

I'm revising my chapter right now (what? can't you tell?), but I had to just stop by for a few quick notes:

1. and most important: Go buy candles from Wendy's Dame Candle Company for everybody on your christmas list. Seriously. These are amazing, wonderful candles. I love mine to death, and even though I can't afford to buy them up like mad like I really want to right now, I at least want to know that Wendy will still be in business whenever I do have a little cash to put in that direction. I should say that I don't actually know Wendy - I "met" her because I bought her candles, thanks to Brenda Dayne's review of them on Cast-On, and I so LOVE the candles that I've been reading Wendy's cool blog since then. And now she says her little home-made company is in danger of folding. Don't let it happen!! For one thing, Wendy's candles are an *awesome* holiday gift idea.

Seriously - Lime & Violet were talking about how wonderful it would be to put the money we all spend this time of year into the hands of small-scale craftspeople instead of big, swindling corporations and I am SO in favor of this. I don't know about you, but I feel like I'm getting swindled left, right and center everywhere I turn, and I haven't purchased a product of quality of any kind from a large company in at least five years. And remember when there used to be this thing called customer service? Hubbster was a pension law lawyer before quitting for grad school, and let me tell you, the money we give these companies is NOT going to anybody who does real work. Meanwhile, thanks to online etsy shops and cafepress and so on, individual people -- people with passion and an actual work ethic and no CEOs to keep in luxurious elegance at the expense of the benefits and pensions owed to the people who actually work -- are now able to sell on their own, directly to consumers, without sacrificing our convenience. The problem is, they have to be able to get the word out, and consumers have to remember they're out there, instead of falling back lazily on the familiar (I admit I'm all too often guilty of this; I'm reminding myself, too). So let's buy candles from Wendy (a great choice for the migraine-sufferer in your life - trust me, these are the only scented candles that won't hurt them), and also check out Lime & Violet's awesome list of etsy shops that sell things for the fiber enthusiast...yessiree bob, that's a list for you to hand out to your friends and family so they can finally stop giving you machine-made GAP scarves (barf) and give you want you really want instead - the fiber to spin and knit your own damn scarf from scratch!

2. Beth (who also happens to own a wonderful little spinning store now, did you know?) asked that we pass around a link to this guy, who's doing a project for an MLA conference on memes. Link to him, and then ping here. (You don't have to know what "ping" means to ping - you just click, and go away feeling you've done a good deed). He's trying to show that we do read each other's blogs and get inspired to pass things on, and to demonstrate at what speed this might happen. Cool. I think it'd be even cooler if, through the same process, we could all help Wendy save her company.

3. Thanks to all my New Yorker buddies for the scoop on the Smiley's and P&S sales! After much deliberation, I decided to resist Smiley's, because they weren't selling the two things I actually needed, and I have absolutely no faith in my ability to go and not buy something else. None. I did go to P&S, and did succeed in buying only what I needed there - some navy Kroy for finishing off Hubbster's peacock socks, and a few skeins more of Paton's Classic Wool because the Galeskas moccasins that I'm making for my father-in-law just don't look right, and since I'm not felting them until we get there at xmas, I want to have the yarn with me to quickly whip up a pair of clogs instead, if the moccasins turn out to be a disaster (I could only find one person online who had knit the moccasins before, and she didn't mention any kind of problem, and I know I've followed the instructions correctly, but it still looks to me like after it felts the toe area will be very short - I can't see how toes are supposed to fit in there after shrinking. Should be a suspenseful felting experience). I had to wait about 45 mins in line for this purchase, and managed not to buy anything else largely because the yarn was only 10% off, which to my mind hardly counts as a sale. So, I got what I knew I had to have in case it wasn't available later, and I'll see whether I feel up to going back again in about a week to see if anything's left by the time the discount is much lower. If anybody goes over the weekend or early next week, I'd be very interested to hear the state of things. As it was, I made the trip count by also doing my grocery shopping at Trader Joe's while I was down there. And I have to say that I was even disappointed (slightly) in them-- and TJ's was really my last great hope for a company that I didn't hate. On my last two trips, I've come home with two items from produce that were already rotten (I couldn't see inside the packaging) and a package of "mushroom turnovers" turned out to be...empty turnovers. Seriously, half of them had nothing in them at all. I'm just completely disgusted by the apparent national, if not global, extinction of competence. Except in a few small corners of the world...the places where people knit, and spin, and make candles, and do it so incredibly well that the mind boggles. Thank god for those people - that is, for all of you! That's my thanks-giving, anyway (as opposed to the holiday, on which we grumbled through some needlessly high-pressure grocery shopping, then over-ate, then fell asleep - no great shakes, if you ask me, and not a good reason to feel thankful only once a year).

4. It's December already. AIEEEEE!! Chapter should have been done yesterday. Crap.