20 February 2007


I finished one! Well, if you count it as finished before the buttons are on. But it could be years before the buttons are on.

Elizabeth Zimmermann's Baby Surprise Jacket from The Opinionated Knitter (though I think it's in one of her other books too). In Araucania hand-dyed 100% wool. One skein of each color and I have a significant amount of each leftover, probably plenty for booties. I love how it has a kind of samurai look to it - which is much more pronounced if you look at it from the back. [Kate slaps herself on the forehead for forgetting to take that picture, too]. Will try to show you the back view next time.

And of course I started another WIP. Actually, I started a Marilyn sweater but decided that even though I had matched the gauge perfectly, the color was all wrong for me, so I started again on an EPS hybrid sweater for Hubbster using the same yarn (Canadian White Buffalo 3-ply that I got from Elann dirt cheap a year or so ago). I mis-calculated the gauge outrageously (i.e., I used the number of sts in 2" as if it was the sts in 1") and somehow didn't notice that this couldn't be right until I'd knit a couple inches, pulled it off the needles, and realized I had a hem for a house cozy. I can only blame the fact that my head is still all stuffed up with my endlessly lingering cold. So I frogged that, started again, and now I have two inches of an EZ EPS sweater for hubbster. It goes really fast on US10 needles, but I'm worried about the yoke/neck shaping being alright in this huge gauge. I'm thinking maybe I should just rip it all out and make it into a blanket instead. EZ has a nice garter-st blanket design in Opinionated Knitter that called for fluffy, bulky, wooly yarn just like this. Plus, I really don't like the color. Not only did I not get a very good sense of it on the computer monitor when I bought it, but I also bought it in one of those yarn-lust frenzies where all reason goes out the window in the fact of such a low price for 100% wool. I also like the idea that it's just three strands of pencil roving that get slightly twisted as you knit, not really a proper yarn at all. It's delicate to work with but very, very fluffy. So I told myself it was a pure forest green and that even if I didn't like it or look good in it, Hubbster would. Actually, it's a yellowy-gold forest green and doesn't really look good on either of us, I think. But Hubbster says he likes it, and now that I've told him I'm making him a sweater he'd be very disappointed to hear it's going to be a blanket instead. Even if he'd like the blanket more (after all, it'd be deliciously fluffy and warm and who cares if it makes you look a bit sallow when you're cuddling on the couch?), he so much enjoys knowing that I'm knitting something for him that I'd hate to tell him I'm frogging it now.

So it looks like I'll throw it in the basket and start something else instead. Argh. Feel free, all of you, to use me as an excuse for your own startitis (as some of you already have). Insanity loves company.

You can also vote on what I should do with the chunky 3-ply:

The blogpoll thingy doesn't seem to work, so we'll do it the old fashioned way: put your vote in the comments:

What should I do with my dark green White Buffalo unspun 3-ply?

1. Make EZ's seamless hybrid, plain
Make EZ's seamless hybrid with a big cable going up the front
Frog it and make EZ's chunky garter-st blanket, also from Opinionated Knitter
Frog what I have and put the yarn away again, until it tells me what it wants to be
Leave the 2 inches of ribbing I have now in the WIP basket until it calls to me again
Something else, which you'll explain in the comments

Meanwhile, I'm revising. And revising, and revising. And temping, because we gotta pay the rent. This makes revising rather more difficult, but so far not disastrously impossible. Luckily, I was able to swing a temporary, flexible job at my regional institute thingy here at my university, so not only are people fairly tolerant of my bringing a draft printout with me everywhere I go, but I'm working for all the same sort of people who can help me get jobs and postdocs and that sort of thing. Not a bad idea to spend a little time helping them organize their brown-bag talks and Lacanian conferences, no?

12 February 2007


So I've been starting one project after another, and usually throwing them down in frustration at some point, only to start some totally new project. But, a few things have gotten done:

1. The last first-drafts of the last chapter. Yes, folks, I'm basically done with writing from scratch...but there's a LOT of revising to do. Still, I'm feeling pretty good about that. I like revising.

2. Two out of the three red scarves. Couldn't get the third done by the deadline, so it'll have to wait until next year. Didn't even have time to photograph them before they went - sorry!

3. Widdershins. Finally. I used the sized-up numbers heroically figured out by David Demchuk, and graciously shared with math-impaired me. I still ended up having to fuss and re-knit the gusset on the first sock three times due to my monstrously misshapen feet, but the good news is, the pair is now done, the fit is PERFECT, as in - gosh - it's like they were made for me! You know, by someone who knew what they were doing. And now I do know what I'm doing, because I wrote it all down so I can repeat it on every future sock. Hurrah! The yarn is a truly wonderful in-house cashmere from School Products, with a little nylon. I think it cost all of $13 (I bought it a couple years ago, but I'm certain it wasn't more than that, since I've never spent more than that on one small skein of yarn, or even close). I was very pleased with how tall the socks ended up being - I knitted until I ran out, and literally had only a few inches leftover. They're soft, soft, soft, partly because of they're boucle structure - not to mention the 95% cashmere, of course.

I immediately embarked on a new set of socks, using the abso-fabu-gorgeous handspun Krista sent me. Remember howI was debating about whether I could really put yarn this gorgeous on my feet, or whether I shouldn't use it for lace instead? I came upon a perfect solution! I'm making moccasin socks, and using Kroy for the soles, and handspun for the rest! And since it looks like I've got tons of yarn here, I think they'll be tall socks. I'm using the Anastasia pattern from Pepperknits, not least because I loved the Anastasia Krupnik books. I'm completely, madly in love with the colors of the handspun. But I'm not so in love with the Size 1 needles at the moment, because I've just been too exhausted, shaky and headachy to deal.

Soooo....I also started a skirt. A sort of cheer-leader skirt, except in this really dull metallic color to tone down the effect a bit. I got the idea for a short-ish pleated skirt in a neutral color from an ad for Blue Sky Alpacas, though I can't find the ad anymore. But the idea kept floating around my head, then I made the mistake of mentioning it to Hubbster, and of course he's ALL in favor of a short skirt....(Update: found it. Mine's a little different, it looks like, but now that I'm started on it I might as well keep going and see what happens. Someday I think I'll make another according to the pattern, tho, with the super-lightweight alpaca. It does look nice...)

So here I am, having now had lots of practice with my 1x1 rib. The yarn is 50%-50% wool/cotton. It's not plied, but rather the kind that's knitted into a tube, like I-cord. Fun to play with. A little stiff, like cotton, but still has some bounce, like wool. I got it in Budapest and meant to make a baby jacket with it, since I think wool/cotton is the ultimate baby yarn (all natural but washable). The hot pink you see along the CO edge is not meant to stay - it's the waste yarn I used for the provisional CO. However, I have to say, I rather like it with the gray-green. Who knows, maybe I'll leave it there.

Speaking of baby sweaters, in a sudden fit of needing to knit something by EZ, I started a baby surprise jacket. Using two colors of Arucania 100% wool that I got on sale once, years ago. I've been wanting to try it out, but I find the handpainted variations too busy for most things, and the wool a bit scratchy for socks. I know, I know, if it's too scratchy for socks it's probably bad for a baby too, but I figure it would be a jacket worn over other clothing anyway. Mainly, I just wanted to play with this pattern and this yarn, and I'm totally enjoying it. Now I just have to find a baby.

Oh wait. Sorry. That's not one of my WIPs. That's one of Hubbster's. Going well though, I think.

Wasn't my last post with knitting content also filled with WIPs? How did this happen? What happened to my lovely rules?

Sigh. I dunno. Must rest. And then start revising.

07 February 2007


Stages of Dissertation Writing
And the Knitting that Accompanies Them

(because I had to get back to knitting somehow, and since I don't have anything worth showing you...)

Stage One

Writing: You have absolutely no idea what you're doing, but you have to come up with some sort of proposal or chapter outline or something or they won't give you any money. So you make up something that you think will satisfy this need, with little or no reference to What You Should Write because you have no idea What You Should Write.

This is a very productive knitting time. It's the kind of time where you start thinking maybe you should knit full-time for a living, since you obviously have no clue what you're doing in your chosen field. You might toy with a design concept, flip through magazines and books a lot, and maybe even swatch creatively.

Stage Two

Time has passed, your stipend check has been deposited, and you realize you need to start working for real. You look over whatever half-assed thing you wrote just to get started, and realize there's actually a few good ideas in there. All you have to do is delete the parts that are ridiculous, and you're left with a pretty good start. This is an encouraging time.

Knitting: Though you've now remembered that it's incredibly hard work to make a living through knitting, and that your shaping skills are really not quite advanced enough to realize some of the design dreams in your head, you're still feeling quite productive and confident about your knitting. You'll probably start a big project, one that involves a skill you want to practice, and devote yourself to it faithfully. Now is the time when you're likely to divide your time fairly and responsibly between writing all day and knitting for a couple hours in the evening.

Stage Three

Now that you've got a fair idea of what it is you're writing about, you suddenly realize how much work is going to be involved in this. You realize how many books and articles you really do need to track down and take a look at. You realize the number of documents you have to go through, and eventually translate, is staggering. You get real, real scared. It might even be a paralyzed kind of scared for a while.

Knitting: FOs start coming out of the woodwork. You whip up some mitts here, some dishcloths there, a few gifts, maybe a quick top...and your knitting blog flourishes. Needless to say, the time you spending knitting creeps up on and takes over some...or a lot...of the writing time.

Stage Four

The puzzle pieces finally start to reach critical mass. You have a file (or two or six) full of things you know belong in this chapter, and as you go through them, you start to see connections and patterns. This is an incredibly exciting and creative stage. You feel brilliant. You start writing the kinds of paragraphs that interpret instead of just latching together series of quotes that may or may not belong together. You wake up in the middle of the night with an inspiration for the intro, and you think almost non-stop about the chapter.

Knitting: You go back to only knitting for an hour or two before bed, but it's still very important - it's the only thing that slows down your buzzing mind long enough for you to drop off to sleep. The only things that can be knitted at this stage are stockinette, garter, or perhaps some very simple patterns that you've done before. It's a good time for an EZ seamless sweater or some log cabin-ing.

Stage Five

The fun part's over, and now you need to make this thing pretty. The stuff you thought was brilliant, upon re-reading, turns out to be rather sloppy, half-thought-out, and unsupported by the evidence you've gathered so far. You have to clean up the colloquialisms and untangle the more baroque sentences just to figure out what it was you were trying to say. Some of the brilliant revelations turn out to be rather pedestrian on further inspection. Even though you're quite far along in the process now and you do have - somewhere in there - enough substance to be going on with, this is still a very discouraging stage. It's the stage where, when people ask "how's your chapter going?" or even "what's the dissertation about?" all you can do in response is growl. The work is an excruciating daily grind of going back to the drawing board, deleting huge pieces of work, and generally feeling worthless.

Knitting: If not for knitting at this stage, you might do something really stupid. Knitting is your saving grace, and the only thing that gets you through the days. You knit during every free moment; while traveling, while waiting for tea to boil, while printing, and you wonder how you're going to get through a meeting with your advisor without knitting in your hands. At this stage, you're likely to concentrate on socks, for maximum therapeutic value.

Stage Six

The damn thing is finally starting to come together. It's reached a stage of respectability that allows you to show it to a significant other or very trusted friend, and when that person hands it back to you without any visible sign of pity or concern, you let out a huge sigh of relief and finally start to feel like it might be possible to do this. You proceed with final revisions - reorganizing for clarity, fixing typos, filling in missing footnotes, etc. This stage is fiddly, but it helps to know you're almost done.

Knitting: You suddenly abandon all projects you were working on before (because they are associated with so much angst and feelings of un-finished-ness), and you start something new. Maybe a couple new things. Something pretty, and soft, and not too hard or too easy.

Stage Seven

You give your finished draft to your advisor. You get back any number of utterly unsatisfying responses, as I described previously. Meanwhile, you've realized you're running head-on into another deadline ALREADY and this one's looming even closer than the last one and your last chapter was crap and you have to totally re-work it and this new one is a complete disaster and you have no idea where it's going and what the hell is the point anyway and oh god please help me I hate this and you have no idea where to start because you have way too many balls in the air all at the same time and you've got so many notes and drafts and printouts and files accumulated that you don't know what anything is anymore and why oh why didn't you come up with a system from the start and what happened to that damn book and HOW DARE THEY recall that other book now when I NEED IT and the whole world is against me and this thing will never be done.

Knitting: You schizophrenically jump from one project to another, none of them making any sense. You pick up a WIP or start something new, work on it for half an hour in a daze, realize you %$@&^ed it up, you stick in the closet and cry for a while, then decide that some nice garter-stitch knitting will be just the ticket, and you do that for half an hour and then you suddenly realize, in a moment of clarity, that if you have to do one more row of garter stitch you're going to stick one of the needles in your own eye just to make it stop. And so you open up an old issue of IK and decide now's the time to start that huge complicated sweater you've been lusting after for a year, and you decide swatches are for wimps and so is math and measuring tapes and so you knit away for another half hour until you realize that you've created a hideous monster. The thought of frogging it, though, makes you cry. And so your spouse takes you off to bed so you can get a good night's sleep. And start it all over again the next day.

Guess which stage I'm at?

Seriously, though, my troubles have been miraculously lightened every time I check my mail and see a new comment from you guys. I've been loving your blogs, too, though for the most part I've been too frantic and frazzled to comment. But I am reading a bit here and there to keep my sanity. But my sanity break for today is done - back to the grindstone I go...

04 February 2007

(Not-So) (Silent) Poetry Reading

You all are so wonderful...I'm still slogging through some of the bitterest and most difficult parts of this chapter, with another whole chapter deadline looming darkly on the immediate horizon, but I feel so much better thanks to all the wonderful comments you guys are sending my way. Really, really and truly, knitters should be running the world. I haven't had time for posting or knitting, but since everyone's posting a poem today, I thought I could at least do that much to show you all I'm still alive (barely).

Many of my favorite poets have appeared on your blogs, so I picked one favorite poem I haven't seen elsewhere. The subject matter of it is depressing as all hell, but the language is so spectacular that it restores my faith in humanity, every time. You absolutely MUST read it out loud, because it doesn't work any other way.

Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-89)
"Carrion Comfort"

NOT, I’ll not, carrion comfort, Despair, not feast on thee;
Not untwist—slack they may be—these last strands of man
In me ór, most weary, cry I can no more. I can;
Can something, hope, wish day come, not choose not to be.
But ah, but O thou terrible, why wouldst thou rude on me
Thy wring-world right foot rock? lay a lionlimb against me? scan
With darksome devouring eyes my bruisèd bones? and fan,
O in turns of tempest, me heaped there; me frantic to avoid thee and flee?

Why? That my chaff might fly; my grain lie, sheer and clear.
Nay in all that toil, that coil, since (seems) I kissed the rod,
Hand rather, my heart lo! lapped strength, stole joy, would laugh, chéer.
Cheer whom though? the hero whose heaven-handling flung me, fóot tród
Me? or me that fought him? O which one? is it each one? That night, that year
Of now done darkness I wretch lay wrestling with (my God!) my God.

EDITED TO ADD: I forgot to mention: you have to read it out loud, and FAST. Did you see the Sylvia Plath movie with Gwyneth Paltrow? Remember the scene where a bunch of Oxbridge poets are reciting poems as quickly as they can get the words out? Read it that way.