Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Today is what?!

I'm having some trouble figuring out what day it is. If my calendar is right, it's Tuesday already. How did that happen? Last time I turned around to look, it was last Tuesday, and now it's this Tuesday, and that's pretty disconcerting. I'm behind on just about everything: laundry, exercise, sleep, getting over this head cold, knitting, reading blogs, writing blog posts, email. You name it, and it's not done.

But it's been a great week.

My parents and my aunt arrived last Monday, and we had a lovely visit with them. They admired our tree.
(That tin foil star on top? Rick made it for our very first tree in our very first apartment together, lo these many years ago, when we only had enough money for a teeny-tiny tree, one string of lights, and a box of red ornaments. I love it, and we're never replacing it.)

We had our Christmas eve party, and it was declared a success by all, even those who don't like pickled herring. Of course, we also had aqavit, glug, pork pies, pickled cabbage, cucumber salad, ham, cheese, bread, and rod grod for dessert. Mmm...

Christmas went equally well. The girls got the things that they most wanted (walkie-talkies for their expeditions into the ditch which is the open space between all of the yards in this part of our neighborhood, plus lots and lots of books), as did I. I'll share pictures of everything later, but for now can I just say Golding spindle, roving, and yarn?

On Friday night, we went to the Wild Animal Park for the festival of lights, which was great fun. The lions were in quite a mood just at dusk, making all kinds of deep throaty huffing noises, to our shivery delight (we all admitted that we really liked the look of the inch-thick pane of glass between us and them). We took the bus tour, which is fun to do in the dark, as the animals do all kinds of different things than they do during the day. It was cold, but I'd warned my parents and aunt to bring warm coats, so that was no problem at all (and it was not cold, I am absolutely sure, by the standards of those of you living in more easterly and northerly directions than I). I forgot the camera, so no pictures, but it's not like you can get very good pictures of animals at night in any case.

On Saturday, they all left, and we flipped the house in a couple of hours to get ready for a visit from one of my very best friends who is out here this week from Hawai'i. She thought it was really cold, which made me laugh in the same way that all of you northern and eastern people laugh when I say it's cold here. We had a wonderful time -- her girls and ours get along really well, which makes it even more fun to be together. We went to the zoo on Sunday, where I handed the camera off to Older Daughter who is much better about remembering to take pictures than I am. Of course, it's sometimes hard to tell what she's taking a picture of... (a warthog?)
But she got some great shots of the pandas.
And the polar bears.
(There are better ones of his face, but I am terribly entertained that he lies there just like Tilly does when she's chewing on a bone.)
And the mountain lions.
And her sister.
And her dad in his new sweater.
Yesterday, I had brunch with another dear friend in La Jolla while our friends from Hawai'i went to Legoland, and this morning, we saw them off to Disneyland for the rest of their trip. The house seems very empty...

So, the girls are weeding the garden (they've suddenly decided that they want to grow their own herbs and vegetables, and Older Daughter spent hours last night researching what should be planted this time of year, so who am I to discourage this behavior?), and I am going to start some laundry and sit down to spin a bit. Then I'll work some more on my kimono (I'm twelve inches into the back). Then I think it'll be time for a nap. I can't kick this cold (of course, some people -- coughRickcough -- would argue that I haven't been trying too hard, what with all the activity and late nights and all), so I think that some rest is in order over the next few days.

I hope that you all have had as wonderful a holiday as I have, filled with much love and laughter and friendship and joy.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


I've managed to get everyone out the door on their various errands this morning, which gives me a few brief moments to post before I need to start all of the cooking that's to be done today.

I sat down yesterday to work on the first sleeve of Rick's sweater, but when I measured it, I realized that I'd gotten to the recommended 17 inches before starting the cuff. I thought I'd better get him to try it on before committing to finishing it up, which meant that I had time to knit up a swatch for the Dofuku kimono. I duly knitted it up: stockinette, then the garter ridge of the handspun trim yarn, then about an inch of the ribbing. I washed and blocked it, and then I took a couple of pictures to show you (as well as a few pictures of the Christmas tree), and I settled in to download the pictures and post. But my computer and my camera had taken agin' each other, and wouldn't talk, so that didn't work. I decided that any picture was better than none, so this morning I went for a photobooth shot, and here it is.
The colors are all wrong; the base there is more of a blue spruce color, but I think it gives a good sense of the way the yarns work together. I'm pretty happy with the results, so I think I'll go ahead with this. I'm using a needle one size larger than that recommended on the label, but I like the way the fabric feels; with that needle I'm getting about 5 1/2 stitches to the inch, instead of the recommended 5, but I did the math, and if I knit the larger of the two sizes in the pattern I'll end up with the measurements for the smaller size which is what I wanted, so that's going to be fine.

I also finished the first sleeve of Rick's sweater and am most of the way done with the sleeve cap on the second sleeve. Once that's done, the sleeve should go fairly quickly, and then it's just a few rows on the neck and I'm done. There's a small part of me that has hopes of finishing it for Christmas; we'll see. Does anyone out there have much experience working with cotton? Can I just wash it in the machine and dry it to finish it, or will it need a thorough blocking the way wool would?

The plan for today is to do most of the cooking for tomorrow night's get-together. That means two pork pies, pickled cabbage, cucumber salad, and rod grod (a berry pudding that doesn't translate well; imagine umlauts over those o's). Once those are done, tomorrow's work is mostly getting things heated up and put on the table, plus making the cardamom bread for Christmas morning, so getting most of it done today takes the pressure off.

This just in: we've just (as in, it's still getting loaded onto the tow truck) donated our (very) old car to the San Diego Rescue Mission. I can't watch them tow it away. It's an '87. I bought it from my dad after college, and I brought both my girls home from the hospital in that car (went to the hospital in labor twice in the back seat of that car, too). Before that, it was the car that I brought my carsick puppy home in almost fourteen years ago. I loaded our pets and plants into it when we moved down here. I got that car stuck in creeks (literally, and that's a story and a half), drove it on hundreds of miles of dirt washboard roads, drove it through blizzards and freezing fog on all kinds of adventures, took it to do fieldwork, and got more speeding tickets in it than I care to count. I've owned that car longer than any of my homes. It was freedom and speed and the open road when I most needed all of those things. It was road trips and loud music and adventures. It's time to let it go, and it's to the right people, but I can't watch them tow it away.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Spinning to match

Or not, as the case may be.

I think it was a good thing that I decided to slow down where possible, as I'm still fighting this cold. I thought yesterday, gleefully (and I'm sure that's when the fates decided to do a little gleeful messing-about of their own), that I had this cold kicked, but by the time we'd gotten home last night, my throat was hurting again, and I was feeling down. Younger Daughter's winter play went well, though; she and her classmates were cute in that way that young kids are cute when they're concentrating very hard on getting something right. They sang a few songs and performed a very short play called "The Crayon Box Talks Back", in which the colors in the crayon box get into a bragfest about who's the best color. Storm clouds come in and thunder at them and explain that while they're all different from each other (a list of differences was inserted, including the crayons with the funny names, which made me laugh out loud), they're all necessary, and that together they make a rainbow. Younger Daughter was a storm cloud, which made her very happy. She took her job seriously.
And she was pretty happy when it was over and she'd remembered her line.
(Having her cheeks painted with raindrops was also a thrill.)

I've spent some time over the last couple of days spinning. I was hoping to match the yarn that I'm going to use to knit the Dofuku kimono (Ravelry link) from Knit Kimono, but I don't think I succeeded.

Well, OK, I know I didn't succeed; the question at this stage is whether I can still use the yarn I spun for trim, or whether the two yarns are so different that there'll be trouble combining them. The yarn I'm going to use for the kimono is Knitting Notions Classic Merino Sport, in the ironstone colorway. That yarn is about 13-14 wraps per inch, right in the sportweight window; it's 390 yards/100 grams. The yarn I spun is 180 yards/100 grams, and came in at 11 wpi, which is a little heavier than a worsted weight. I was trying so hard not to spin the very fine laceweight that I've been aiming at lately that I overshot. Here they are together (mine on the left, Knitting Notions on the right):
Maybe this shot is better?
And here's the kimono I was thinking of.
So the lighter handspun yarn would be used where the black trim is. I know that I need to swatch to see how they work together, but has anyone tried this kind of thing before? Is the weight difference going to be a huge issue when I'm using so little of the handspun? Any thoughts?

I'm also working on Rick's sweater, and am halfway down the first sleeve. It's starting to speed up as I decrease stitches. I'm thinking that I'll get the kimono swatched today, though, as we're going to a play tomorrow, and the back is knit as a plain square, which will be perfect in-the-dark knitting; Rick's sweater is far too bulky right now for something like that. And now I'm off to bake 12 mason jars full of granola and to cook a pot of lentil soup.

Thursday, December 18, 2008


Well, aunt, really, I suppose. But uncle's what I'm crying.

To be honest, I cried it yesterday, and was going to post about that fact but didn't.

On Monday night, I cast on for my aunt's shawl. In veryvery fine, veryvery black, veryvery slippery yarn. I wasn't having fun, but I believed that I'd get far enough to make this whole thing work. On Tuesday morning I woke up knowing that I really just didn't want to be knitting this right now. What I really wanted was to be working on all of the projects that I'd set aside so that I could do holiday knitting, most of which are really simple stockinette-focused projects, the kind of projects that bring sanity to an insane week, rather than one more degree of craziness (and yes, a lace shawl on slippery black yarn would be an added checkmark on the crazy list; that way lies madness).

I wrote to a few people, all of whom were supportive and each of whom kindly told me that choosing sanity was not a cop out (I love you guys). And then Anne came up with the brilliant suggestion of giving my aunt a shawl pin as a sort of promissory note; the shawl will come for her birthday in September. By chance, I was going to Balboa park to some museums, and then to La Jolla for some holiday shopping, and I was sure I could find something in one of those places; if not, then I could rethink the giving up of the shawl. Long story short, I found a shawl pin, and a small pretty scarf (woven, not knitted), and I'm now covered.

My friend and I and our two older kids had originally gone to the park because this past Tuesday was the Museum of Man's free entrance day this month, and she'd thought her son might like the Egyptian exhibit there; I know that Older Daughter always does, so we went along. I like that museum (it's the anthropologist in me; they once had an exhibit on body art around the world, and it made me want to run out and get a tattoo instantaneously; gorgeous photos and beautiful art are a far worse influence on me than alcohol), and I think the mummies are pretty nifty, so that was all good. Then I saw a huge banner advertising an exhibit of kimono as art in the San Diego Museum of Art, with some on exhibit in the big museum, and some in the Timken, and it turned out that it was their free entrance day, too, so off we went.

People, those kimono were magic. Stunning. Rich and textured and layered in color and full of depth. I could have stood staring at them for hours. I wanted a bench, and for everyone to just Go. Away. so I could look at them as long as I wished. The artist used tie dye and overdyeing and hand painting and gold leaf and embroidery, all on textured silk (some of the silk was woven with thread-of-gold as the weft). I developed a case of covet like I rarely do in museums. I want those colors in my everyday life, I want to be able to rest my eyes on them and draw inspiration from them. Part of the exhibit is a set of some 30 kimono which are part of a larger group depicting all four seasons; they had fall and winter arranged around the edges of the room, each kimono's colors and themes blending into the next. Older Daughter was awestruck and kept commenting on how that's exactly what the real seasons do. The colors. Oh, wow, the colors. The exhibit closes on January 4th, and I think I'm going to try to get Rick down there before then; he'd like it. And I want to see them again.

I've been getting my checklists together for all of the things that need to happen between now and next week, and I was starting to feel like I could see how all of it was going to get done, when I got slammed yesterday by one of those really yucky head cold jobbies; you know, the kind where your head feels like a balloon, and your throat feels thick, and it hurts to swallow. I took a nap and had a yummy dinner (a soup made of baked mashed pumpkin with turkey broth and hominy, with tomatillo salsa and sour cream on top, and cheese quesadillas on the side), in the hope that I could drive this thing off post haste. I failed to get magically better over the night, though, so I'm downgrading certain expectations. A cookie decorating party on Saturday is now right out, and I'm giving myself permission to buy the dessert I'm taking to a friend's for dinner tonight if I don't feel like running to the store and then baking today. This is sanity. I'm going to do some knitting this morning, and then maybe take my puppy for a short walk (she's dying with all of this rain and no walks!), and then we'll see where we're at.

In the meantime, I've finished the sleeve cap of the first sleeve of Rick's sweater, which took forever. I finally got to spend some time last night with my drop spindle and the lovely Bunny and the Beast batt that Fuzzarelly sent me (that yarn, I think, is destined to be soft cuddle pillows for the girls' beds). I also found a couple of edgings in Nicky Epstein's first edging book (which may have accidentally slipped into my bag when I was buying my aunt her shawl pin -- oops) that I want to swatch for The Sweater for myself. And I think I'm going to knit myself a kimono from Knit Kimono (wonder where that inspiration came from?) out of another mess of yarn I have while I play around with swatches for The Sweater; I might even need to spin myself the yarn for the little bitty trim bits. That should keep me busy. (List O' Things To Do Before Christmas? What list? Shhh.... I'm knitting...)

Monday, December 15, 2008

Progress on the list

On December first (two weeks ago that is now, but who's counting), I laid out an ambitious holiday knitting plan (OK, I realize that it is in no way ambitious compared to the pros, but it felt big to me). I would first like to state for the record that prior to December the first, I had planned no plans with regard to the knitting of gifts. In fact, I think that it would be safe to say that my general attitude toward holiday knitting was something along the lines of, "I have plenty of projects on the needles, and I really want to knit myself a sweater, so if people want handknit gifts they can whistle for them". Actually, my thoughts were a bit more charitable than that, and what I really figured was that knitting for birthdays is a more sane plan of action, as they tend not to all happen on one day at the end of the year right after grades are due.

(This is only partly true, as there are an appalling number of June birthdays in our family, but I'm going to stand by that statement for now.)

Then the yarn sale happened. What I guess I'm trying to say here is that this is not my fault. Anyone, upon walking into their very favorite LYS in the world and seeing every single skein of yarn on sale, would have succumbed to the desire to purchase yarn. And anyone who feels guilty when buying large amounts of yarn this close to Christmas might find that it alleviates that guilt to insist to oneself that the purchasing is being done for the benefit of others.

(This doesn't exactly explain away the purchase of this yarn right here; but I'm not talking about that right now.)
(And anyway, can you say hello kestrel colorway? I had to buy it.)

Of course, many of you, being smarter than I, might have also realized that the haze of goodwill generated by yarn fumes should not blind one to the fact that the aforementioned yarn is, after purchase, still in need of knitting before it can be given to most people (this is not true if the recipient is a knitter, but I didn't have any of those on my list, alas). I, however, still under the influence of those fumes, trundled home and laid out the following ambitious plan:
A Swirl Shawl scarf for my sister-in-law
Mittens for my brother-in-law
Mitts for my niece
Icarus for my aunt

I may also have mentioned something about finishing Rick's sweater, and maybe some socks. See what I mean about those yarn fumes? More dangerous than a good single-malt, they are.

However, I am here to announce that two weeks later, I have achieved the following:
A swirl scarf for my sister-in-law
Mittens for my brother-in-law
A hat, which I'd intended to go with the BIL's mittens, but which looks so good on Rick that I think he's going to get it instead (don't tell, though, it's a secret)
Mitts for my niece.

This leaves me with Icarus for my aunt (her request), which I will be casting on tonight, just as soon as I'm done posting, and Rick's sweater. I think that I have reached a state of acceptance with regard to the sweater; it's not going to be done. As for the shawl, I'm engaging in some backup planning that involves wrapping up the unfinished knitting in a beautiful bag and giving it to my aunt for two minutes before demanding its return so that I can finish it. That should work, no? (Please tell me that there's someone else out there who's done this? I haven't tried it before, but I have read of it...)

Look! I even have photographic proof that I have, indeed, knitted as I say I have knat. (Can you tell I'm a bit giddy?)

First, the scarf. This is the Swirl Shawl pattern, which I modified to make narrower so as to knit a scarf instead of a shawl. I used Jojoland Melody yarn, which I found unexpectedly delightful; I'd definitely knit with it again. I ended up knitting a grand total of 31 swirls, which means 62 ends to weave in. I think I'm discovering the zen of end-weaving. I also did them a few swirls at a time, so that my zen wouldn't wear off (I know it's not supposed to, but I guess mine's not so solid yet).
(I should mention that these are all nighttime indoor photos; I have to send most of these off tomorrow, and with the rain we've been getting, there's not much in the way of good daylight in the daytime anyway.)

Then there were the mittens. We all know how traumatic that experience has been for me. I'd like to mention here that I asked Rick to try them on one more time tonight before weaving the ends in, and dang if they didn't fail to fit him again, but in a new and innovative way this time. I told him to go away and take his frightening mutant hands with him. How could I have known him for twenty years and never realized that he had mutant hands? Hear me now: I'm never knitting mittens for this man.

These are Anne's Lacunae mitts, made into mittens, and knitted from Cascade 220 yarn. I'm not so fond of the yarn, but the pattern is wonderful. The best bit about these mitts is that those warm little honeycombs almost completely disappear when they're not stretched out over a hand, and they just look like k2p2 ribbed mitts; but put them on and presto! You've got honeycombs! Love it.

The hat is also from the Lacunae pattern. I was requested not to do a full-face shot, as he's feeling rather scruffy today.

And then there are the mitts for my niece, being modelled here by Younger Daughter, who wants a pair. These are Tendrils mitts from MaryLou of Yarnerinas; I love this stitch motif, and had such fun knitting them that I'm thinking I might need to knit a pair for myself; I wish I could get a picture in better light so you can see how cute they really are. I used Lorna's Laces sportweight for them. I might actually be able to get another child-sized pair out of the skein. (Lorna's Laces, I should mention, has become one of my new surprise favorites; how did I miss how much fun it is to knit with?)

So there you have it, everything that got done in the last two weeks. I now have a week to get this last project done if at all possible. That and the rest of the holiday shopping, three plays, a party, cookie baking and granola making, and getting ready for Christmas eve and the big day itself, as well as for houseguests; oh, and I'd like to catch up on my blog reading. Crazy.

Friday, December 12, 2008

D.O.N.E. with a cherry on top

Well. There you go. I've graded and graded. And I've added and added. And it looks to me like I'm done. All that's left to do is to officially file my grades, but I'm going to wait until Monday to do that (I post all the grades online for my students to look at; this way, if I've made any mistakes, they catch them before I officially file the grades -- changing grades after they've been filed is a pain). But the work is all done.

With a cherry on top.

This means that I can go home and knit, right? I'm convinced I'm missing something, and someone's going to jump out from behind a bush somewhere with a whole pile of grading I've forgotten, shouting, "BOO!"

I have to give up my computer before I leave work today. They need to upgrade the system, and then they have to give me an external hard drive to back it up regularly, because it turns out that they can't persuade our servers to back up the Macintosh computers on campus. ?? I don't understand it, but as long as I'm backed up somewhere, I guess I'm happy (as an aside, this may fix my little problem with iPhoto, in which my photos keep randomly getting eaten). So, my access will be sporadic this weekend, but with luck I can pick my laptop up on Monday and it will be all fixed up for me to leave on sabbatical.

So, really. This means I can go home and knit. Right?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Moving meditation

I know I don't usually post two days in a row, but yesterday's post was so very blah, and I remembered my camera this morning when I went for my walk, so I thought I'd try to do a better job.

Now that I don't have to be at work by a particular time (the grading is always there, waiting patiently, or lurking menacingly, depending on how I'm feeling at any given moment), I can take Tilly for a walk every morning, instead of just on my non-class mornings. A real walk, on a trail, instead of one around my neighborhood. Neighborhood walks are very nice, and I love seeing what people are up to, what they've changed and left the same in their yards, but I realized several years ago that one of the things that is a guaranteed to lift my mood is to get my feet on dirt. If I can get my feet on dirt with a dog in tow, I can get almost anything into perspective.

There's something about watching a dog on a walk, off-leash, out where they can run, that takes me out of myself. A walk without a dog is good, but it never feels quite the same as one with a dog. Watching my dogs functions for me very much the same way that breathing serves to pull my mind back into the moment when meditating, or doing yoga. Dogs generally aren't worried about what comes next, or about what just happened; they are focused on the ever-present now, and when my chattering monkey brain threatens to become overwhelming, when I find myself running conversations over and over in my head, or fretting about something I didn't do or something I need to do, watching my dogs joyfully paying attention to each new thing as it comes along is infectious. And there was a lot to see on the trail this morning.
The green grass is starting to show under the fall's dead brown; we had a little more rain this weekend, and everything is trying to grow while it can.
I think I mentioned the lovely red berries all over the place?
It felt almost like December; when I started walking, it was even cool enough to see my breath. Tilly was happy as a clam. I kept trying to get a picture of her happy face when she ran towards me (doing her best impression of a cannonball), but she moved too fast.
She looks like a fox, doesn't she? Maybe it's the tail.
The open space where I've been walking more lately has a lovely riparian habitat in it, and a small lake where the creek was dammed some time ago.
There are herons and coots and ducks and pelicans there, and tules grow along the edges. Someone cut a bunch of them back recently, and they're lying in piles on the dam. I mention this because when tules are retted, they produce a lovely soft fiber that Native Californians used for lots of things (even diapering babies), and I have wondered lately whether the fiber could be spun (it wasn't, traditionally). Hmmm...
And finally, on the way home, I took the picture I'd wanted to share with you. This makes me inordinately gleeful every year when it blooms.
It's a poinsettia tree. A tree. Maybe ten feet tall. And every year, right about now, it bursts into huge, exuberant poinsettia blooms. Until I moved here, I always thought of poinsettias as these little potted things that last about a month before dying. Toto, we're not in Kansas anymore.

In knitting news, I finished the hat I was knitting for my brother-in-law, and after consultation with Rick, we've decided that I'm going to give him the set (hat and mittens) for his birthday in early January (he wants a camping lantern for Christmas), so I'll finish the second mitten later. This means that I've cast on to knit a pair of mitts for my niece for Christmas, which, with luck, won't take too long. Then I can make the call on the scarf for SIL versus shawl for aunt decision. My general theory is that as long as I can make a reasonable start on the shawl, I don't mind giving it to my aunt on Christmas day as a not-quite-finished promissary note, so my goal is to be working on it about a week before Christmas; this means that if I can finish the mitts quickly enough, I might be able to finish the scarf before starting the shawl. We'll see. Meanwhile, I'm off to grade...

Monday, December 8, 2008

Still no pictures, alas

I've been postponing this post all day because every time I went out, it was my intention to have my camera so I could take this one picture that I want to share with you all, but every time I went out, I forgot it. I'm sorry. Tomorrow, I promise. As soon as I hit "post" on this one, I'll put the camera next to my keys.

So, this weekend didn't go quite as planned. I'd thought I was going to get tons of knitting time in, as we had very little on the books. But life doesn't always work out that way. It wasn't a bad thing, though, and I'm not complaining. In fact, we spent a huge amount of time moving things hither and yon around the house to make it a space that more closely reflects the way we live. The way things were, our den had a couch, TV, Rick's desk, the piano, and my spinning wheels. Totally awkward. Now all the desks are in one room, and my spinning wheels have much more space (the hidden plot is revealed), and my rocking chair now resides in the den as well. And the girls have separate bedrooms; years ago they asked to share, and we've been waiting for them to decide that the time had come to not share anymore. Older Daughter reached that stage, I think, a little sooner than Younger Daughter would have liked, but they're both handling it well (with not too much bragging on one side, and not too much fussing on the other).

So I've been feeling thankful this weekend. Thankful for a husband who willingly schleps furniture from room to room with me, taking most of the burden so I can at least attempt to protect my back. I'm thankful for our relatives who asked the girls to stay the night on Saturday night (and in fact even gracefully made it sound like we were doing them a favor, since it gave their kids someone to play with, ha!), so we could go out to a leisurely dinner and have a real, live, uninterrupted conversation. I'm thankful that Rick's cousin (for whom I knit the spiral baby blanket) safely delivered a baby boy at 3:30 this morning (how well I remember what that's like!); I can't wait to meet him. Tilly and I went for a lovely walk this morning in an open space that I have recently come to appreciate, and I can't tell you how thankful I am to have found those trails, and to have a happy dog to walk them with me. The toyon berries are out, and it looks like holly -- very Christmasy and festive. And it was even cool, instead of being too hot (for my cold-weather readers, "cool" means low 50s; I know, I know).

Therefore, I'm not feeling too stressed out or unthankful about my Christmas knitting, which is proceeding, but not quickly. I was close to halfway done on the spiral scarf before I stopped to knit mittens and a hat for my brother-in-law. I'm done with the first mitten (except for that pesky thumb repair), and I'm hoping to finish the hat tonight or tomorrow so I can cast on for the second mitten. Then I'll start mitts for my niece (I've decided that walking away from colorwork mittens is the better part of valor here), and we'll see where we're at. I've finished one big pile of grading, and have four more big ones and a small one to go before the end of the week. And now, it's tamales for dinner and then some actual knitting time.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Done with a capital D

As of yesterday at 2:15, I was done with classes. Done, done, done. No matter how much one loves teaching (and I do), there is a sense of relief that comes with making it through another semester.

That isn't to say that I'm really finished yet. I still have six piles of grading to get through, five of which are coming in over the course of the next week. That's OK, though. I can hunker down and get that done, file my grades, and then I'll be D.O.N.E. with a cherry on top.

Meanwhile, knitting continues. I decided to knit Anne's Lacunae mitts for my BIL, making them into mittens as I go along; I'll also knit him the matching hat. I have finished the first mitten twice now, and am into my third iteration. I'm using Rick's hand as a model for fit, as his hands and Geoff's are about the same overall, although proportionately different (I couldn't use his hand to model gloves, for instance), and I am here to tell you that Rick's hands randomly change size from one day to the next. I tried the first unfinished version on him to see when it was time to start decreasing for the top. When I was about an inch from the top of his fingers, I started to decrease, finished it all up, started the thumb, and had him try it on. It was a good inch and a half too short. ?? So I checked how much further to knit the thumb and finished that off, ripped back the top, knitted an extra inch and a half, started decreasing, and then thought I'd better try it on him again before it was too late. And lo and behold, not only was the hand still too short, but the thumb was too long, in a sort of obscene kind of way. Grrr...

Back to the frog pond. I am now almost done with another pattern repeat, which had darned well better do the trick, or I'm giving up and giving these to someone else. I can't stand it any more.

I have a two and a half hour meeting this afternoon, during which I hope to finish up the hand of the mitten, and start the hat. The hat has to go faster than this, right?

And there should be some quality knitting time this weekend. Unless I take it into my head to paint the girls' bedrooms, which has been on my to-do list for a while, and which would add just the right amount of extra chaos to my life. There are good and solid reasons to do it now, but then again, we're how many days to Christmas? (I don't actually want an answer to that question, by the way, I'm in denial and so far, it's working for me.)

Monday, December 1, 2008

Turns out, I do still knit

But first (now that I've tricked you into reading this post by claiming knitting content), the salvaged yarn:
A little dark and blurry, but there it is. I got 530 yards out of the four ounces, and before washing, it came in at around 17 wpi, so even with the expected bloom, I'm guessing that it's between 15 and 16, a nice respectable fingering to lace weight yarn. The only question now is what I'm going to do with it.

I have a lot of time to think about it. My only concession to Black Friday was to go to my LYS for their sale to get yarn for Christmas presents. If all goes as planned, in the next three weeks I need to knit: a pair of colorwork mittens for my niece, a pair of cabled mittens for my brother-in-law, a lace scarf for my sister-in-law, a lace shawl for my aunt, and the sleeves and neck of Rick's sweater. Not necessarily in that order.

First is the scarf for my SIL, since I'll need to get that sent in the mail. I've started.
How great is that? It's the Jojoland Swirl Shawl (Ravelry link), except that I'm doing a modified, less-wide version for a scarf (I do have some sense of self-preservation). I'm using the Jojoland Melody yarn, which is very soft and fun to work with. I'm actually quite tempted to knit this exact scarf for myself out of my new handspun, except for the fact that there are so many darned ends (two for each of those little swirls). Aside from my relative dislike of weaving in ends, that does use up a not-insignificant amount of yarn, which I worry about with my limited supply. We'll see...

As soon as I'm done with that, I'll be knitting a pair of mittens with these.
The plan is to knit the Norwegian Snail mittens from The Knitter's Book of Yarn; I'll be using stash yarn for the third accent color. These are for my niece, who lives in cold weather. Can people who are near snow verify for me that superwash wool is still warm enough for mittens? (I have this theory that wool that'll felt a little bit would be warmer, but it's only a theory.)

Meanwhile, I want to knit Icarus for my aunt with this.
I may cast on for that soon so that I can take it to meetings this week; the beginning part of Icarus doesn't require a huge amount of concentration, while those swirls up there involve both the manipulation of multiple needles, and the picking up of stitches (which I have to pay attention to). We'll see. The thing of it is that this shawl can go up to the last minute, since my aunt will be here for Christmas and I don't have to send it. The scarf and mittens, though, have to make it into the mail.

As do the mittens for my brother-in-law, which I'll be knitting out of this (he asked for black, as did my aunt, what can I say? My relatives are trying to make me go blind). I want to knit Jared Flood's Druid Mittens, even though the only size he wrote the pattern for is women's small. My theory (and my, aren't I just full of theories today?) is that if I knit them in a heavier-weight yarn on bigger needles, I'll end up with bigger mittens. I'll cast on for the cuff and make Rick try it on; if it fits, I'm good to go. If not, then this yarn goes into stash, and we're on to Plan B. (No, I don't have a Plan B yet, but I will.)
I have an out here, though, since his birthday's in early January. If I realize (as we all know I'm going to) that there's no way on this earth I'm going to get all of that done before Christmas, I can pull the plug and call these a birthday present. I'll plan a backup something just in case.

Rick's sweater body is done, so it's just (ha! have I mentioned the condor-like wingspan?) the sleeves and neck to go. The real pressure, then, is on the first three. This is the first Christmas where I've planned to knit anything of substance for people (hats for kids aren't quite the same), so I make no promises. The funny thing is how hopeful one feels at this time of the month. Last night as I lay in bed, I found myself thinking that there was no way I wasn't going to finish these with time to spare. In fact, I thought to myself in a haze of sleepy delirium, I will have so much time when these are done that I can finish two of the pairs of socks I have OTN and give a pair each to the girls (I was feeling so happy with the world, in fact, that the plan was/is to give Older Daughter my beloved conference socks)(my delusion was not so complete, however, that I didn't make plans to call the dyer first to see if I could order more of the yarn for myself before giving this pair away).

Am I the only one laboring under delusions of a hand-knit Christmas? Am I letting myself in for late nights, sobbing into my yarn, drinking single-malt scotch and eating chocolate? Would I just be doing that anyway? Tune in next time to find out...