Friday, February 27, 2009

I think it's time for Plan B


How does this happen? OK, I didn't knit a gauge swatch. But seriously (before the finger-shaking starts), who knits a flat gauge swatch for a colorwork hat knit in the round? Not I. I did, however, check my gauge in the ribbed section and as I started the colorwork. I think I must have loosened up. A lot (fear of tight floats?). There has been some discussion on other blogs lately of the ways in which gauge kicks the butts of knitters everywhere, so we'll just leave it at this: gauge will bite you when you least expect it.

Mom, if you're reading, there's about to be a spoiler sort of thing going on here, which means that you should stop reading right now. Seriously. Cease and desist. (The rest of you, please stay; I could use some opinions.)

Mom, you were warned.

So, I asked Older Daughter to model the hat for me so I could take some pictures. I compared those pictures to the pictures of the lovely young thing wearing the hat on the Solsilke site (scroll down, you'll see it). If you compare them, you'll see that the one on the Solsilke site looks like a tam. The one I knitted looks like The Blob That Ate New York.

It looks marginally better from behind (could I ask my mom to walk around backwards? Probably not).
But I kind of think that she could fit a whole armadillo in there along with her head. No?

So, opinions? Is it as bad as I think? (Why do we ask questions to which we know the answers?) If we all agree that it is, the course of action towards which I am leaning strongly is a mild hand felting (lots of control), just to sort of bind it all together and shrink it up a little bit. As an added benefit, this will make it even more wind-proof, which is good on the toasty-warm side of things. Believe it or not, it's only about an inch and a half bigger in diameter than the pattern calls for, but on a head, an inch and a half makes a difference.

Meanwhile, another tragedy hit last night, this time in my spinning world. I was spinning in the kitchen, talking to Rick while the girls did homework, and I dropped (as one will) my Golding drop spindle. On a carpet. Where it broke into little bitty pieces. Irreparably. And there's not much more to be said about that. (Although I could mention the symphony of apologies between me and Rick as we tried to find all the little bitty pieces: (me) "I'm so sorry. I can't believe I broke the absolutely gorgeous fiber tool you got for me." (him) "No, I'm so sorry. I feel like I bought you a cheap fiber tool that breaks at the drop of a hat." Or the drop of a spindle, as the case may be. (me) "But it's not a cheap fiber tool. I love this spindle." *wail*)

In good fiber news, the shawl continues apace. I am most of the way through the first chart, after which the rows will start decreasing, and therefore speeding up. Nothing picture-worthy yet (you know how blobby early lace looks), but the yarn I am using is the exact creamy shade of pale butter, and it's beautiful, and so very soft. I can't imagine not liking this shawl. Once I've got that to the speeding-up stage, I think I'm going to dive into socks for a while. With luck, that will happen tomorrow morning, while Rick and the girls are off at a trail maintenance work party and I have the house to myself for a few hours.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


Well, we all know how that line ends, don't we?

We may have a problem. I've actually known this since Monday night, but haven't quite brought myself to face it yet. See, the problems involves UFOs. Not the Unfinished Object kind; in fact, the hat is pretty much finished. No, the UFOs I'm talking about are those big huge things flying around in the sky. And folks, if I were to throw that tam up in the air, that's exactly what we'd have. It's huge. I've been kind of knitting along, concentrating on following the chart, and on getting the tension right so there'd be no puckering and no loose floats, and wondering whether I'd finish in time, and whether I'd be left with enough yarn to make a tam for me (that would be a no), and I just never really noticed that I was making a manta ray sized hat until I got to the plain black bit and had time to stop and breathe for a minute.

I knew it was bad when Rick asked me whether I mightn't be able to decrease a bit faster towards the end. Since I'd already been wondering the same thing myself, I decided to go for it, and decreased three stitches (instead of two) at every decrease point every other row. Of course, this brought its own complications, since it means that the top of the hat is just a titch smaller than the bottom. I had two "solutions" in mind, and if they don't work, then there's always Plan B: frog and reknit the decrease section (this doesn't solve the essential hugeness issue, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it; horrible ideas like "slightly felting" come to mind...).

Solution 1: Block it. I don't know where I've picked up the idea that blocking cures all ills (probably from lace knitting; I've gotten so used to counting on the miracles that occur when blocking lace that I'm starting to assume that blocking will always perform miracles), but that was the first plan. So this morning I duly soaked the tam and laid it out to dry. It is so big that I have neither a plate nor a pot lid big enough to block it on (see why I have this nervous feeling in the pit of my stomach?), so I pinched the edges and flattened it out and am waiting to see what happens.
Don't get me wrong. I truly adore the colorwork in this hat. Doesn't it look like stained glass cathedral windows? The top is beautiful, too (although I don't have any pictures right now). But to give you a sense of scale, check it out with a coffee mug next to it.
Is it just me, or is that big? Maybe it's because I don't wear tams?

So you can see in that picture the other part of my potential solution (part 2), which is to fold the entire ribbed bit under, and to treat the first motif of colorwork as the hat band. This helps to even out the top and bottom, and I'm hoping it will solve at least some of the size issue.
And that motif does look nice as a hat band, no? Look at the pretty colors again; they're the perfect distraction from the general ginormous nature of the whole thing.
I'm starting to formulate alternate plans at this stage. Like, get a pattern and some yarn for another tam and give them to my mom and then take them back. Or, maybe, felting it just slightly? That would work, wouldn't it? Because what would I do with a giant UFO of a tam if I can't make this wearable? I'm not the only one having this problem this week; maybe it's an epidemic. Thoughts?

On another topic entirely, I'm still plying up the Bunny and the Beast fiber on my spindle (the first little bit of it, that is; the batt has plenty left to spin). I've been having so much fun playing with my spindles lately, and reading about spindles, that I may have accidentally gotten myself a supported bead spindle (oops). But seriously, how great is this?
It's from The Bellwether, and it came like that, in a little box, with a bowl for spinning in, and a bit of fiber to play with. Of course, I dove right in to try it out before realizing that I should probably spend some time just spinning it to get the hang of that. What I've found is that it's incredibly soothing to have it next to me as I'm reading (and struggling to write) on the computer, just flicking and spinning, flicking and spinning. I haven't even gone back to the fiber yet (part of that, to be fair, is that I'm still not spinning counter-clockwise as well as I'd like). This may have to come to work with me when I go back next fall.

In other knitting news, I'm working on the shawl. Because it's a bottom-up construction, the rows are currently taking me about a half-hour each, so progress is slow and not very photogenic. I'm about to say something that I know you'll all remind me of next fall when I'm griping, but I kind of miss meetings. I don't knit during the day at all now, and I used to get to knit during at least one, and usually two meetings during the week, which was rather nice. Somehow I don't feel justified in calling for a mid-day "meeting" by myself and knitting, so it's just in the evening, which means less shawl progress than I'd like. I know. I'm going to regret ever documenting this sentiment when I'm back in stressful budget meetings in the fall, so please just remember that I probably don't entirely mean it. I just need another excuse to knit during the day, that's all.

Monday, February 23, 2009

A day at the races

That's what yesterday was for us. We were all about the bike racing. We got up and packed some lunches and grabbed the sidewalk chalk and put on the old hiking shoes and headed for Escondido, where the last stage of the Tour of California was taking place. We drove up to the bottom of Lake Wolford Road, and then hiked about a mile and a half up so that we could hang out on an uphill climb, with a view of the road winding below us, and we waited. It wasn't just us, either; lots and lots of people had come out for the race. Some rode up, some hiked. We all got cheered on our way up the hill by people who had come earlier, or who had decided to stop further down. There's something exciting about being with a group of people who are all excited about the same thing. Everyone kept talking about what a thrill it was to see these world-class riders, right here in our backyard. And everyone kept saying how much they hope that the Tour comes back down to San Diego county next year. (And not a few of us commented on what an amazing thing it is in this day and age to be able to get this close to world-class athletes, and for free, even.)

While we waited, Rick and some other parents kept an eye on traffic, and the kids wrote encouraging messages for the riders.
That's me knitting in the background. I'd finished the colorwork portion of the tam, and was able to bring it along since it's all one color from here to the end. (Pictures when it's finished, I promise.)
Older Daughter wanted to know where the women were. I'm afraid I didn't have a very good answer for her. She wrote encouraging messages to Levi Leipheimer and George Hincapie anyway.

We were really close when the riders came by, and the girls shouted and rang bells, and we all cheered.
There's no way those guys had time to read the messages on the road; they were moving way too fast for that. But I hope they enjoyed the intent as they saw the colors fly by under their wheels.

Then we gathered up our gear and schlepped back down the hill for the drive into downtown Escondido. We wanted to see the finish. We ended up hunkering down about 100 meters from the finish line, near the big screen TV that was showing the updates, and kept our fingers crossed for Levi. I knitted, and watched all of the people. And there were a lot of them.
Unreal. The riders said afterward that they'd never seen crowds like they've seen this week outside the grand tours in Europe. And that was in spite of the weather (which, luckily for us, was really nice yesterday). We got the girls right up to the barriers, and they got to watch Schleck and Niboli sprint for the finish. It was great.

Conversation with the three teenage girls behind me:
Teenage girls: Who won?
Me: Frank Schleck took the stage.
TGs: ???
Me: Schleck won today's stage, and Niboli came in second. But Leipheimer won the whole Tour.
TGs: But what about Lance Armstrong?
Me: No, he didn't win this stage or the Tour.
TGs: But isn't he supposed to win something?
Me: No.

They seemed very confused. Heh.

Younger Daughter was tired afterwards.
But she declared that it was all worth it to see the guys whose names she hears all July long every year.

So, not much in knitting news. I am decreasing for the top of the hat, which means it should be done soon. And that means that I've cast on for something new. Since it's knit from the bottom up, the cast on edge has 522 stitches, so there's not too much to show yet, but with luck I'll have something to show for myself in the next few days.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Pearls of wisdom

Well, spurred on by all of the "it's easy" remarks in the comments, I decided to make a go of learning to purl with my left hand. I was also spurred on by a row with lots and lots of knit stitches in one color, followed by one stinkin' purl stitch in the other color, then back to the main color. I knit faster with my right hand, so when possible, I use that hand for whatever color I'm using most in a row. Of course, to date, I have also tried to use that hand for whatever color needed to be purled in a row, but in this particular row, my two organizing criteria came to blows.

The funny thing about learning to do something new like this is how all-body the experience is. You know how it usually is with knitting: the hands go merrily about their business, doing whatever it is that they need to do to get those stitches knitted, and the rest of you can do whatever else it wants -- watch TV, talk, read, whatever. (As an aside, have you ever watched your hands do knitting? It's a pretty remarkable thing to see; they have this little internal script all their own, as if they had little bitty brains in there telling them what to do. Sometimes I do this and realize that I had no idea at all that my hands knitted that way; my left had is all about keeping the stitches moving towards the knit zone - in many ways, it's busier than my right. Who knew? Don't think too hard about it while you watch, though, or it's like trying to pay attention to the way you walk - you start tripping over your own feet.)

So there I was, learning my hardest, and I suddenly realized that I was doing this full-body engagement with the knitting: my tongue was sticking out, my legs were tense, I was twisting my body the way I so wished my stitches would go (rather like a neophyte skier vainly turning her torso the way she wants to go, as if that might convince her legs to follow). It was pretty funny. The long and the short of it is that I did it, the stitches sit on the needle the right way and don't look funny, and it wasn't so bad. I'm still not convinced by those knitters who insist that the knit-to-purl transition is faster when the yarn is held in the left hand, but I can do it when I need to, and that's what I wanted.

I have now made it to the first decrease row, which is great. If I can just get through the colorwork section, I have no doubt that I can work the rest of the hat fairly quickly, so I'll be trying to spend some quality time with it this weekend.

Of course, the other thing I'll be spending some quality time doing this weekend is watching bike racing. The plan for tomorrow stands; we'll try to catch the riders on one of the ascent bits of this last stage of the Tour of California, and then head into Escondido to get as close to the finish as we can. I don't think I'll be bringing this along, unless I finish the colorwork, so I can put some quality time in with the anemone socks instead.

In the meantime, have you all seen the list of teachers Stephanie and Tina have lined up for the Sock Summit? I'm speechless. I would have squealed, dignity notwithstanding, but I was too busy having a heart attack. Insanity. The collective wisdom present at that event is going to be tangible. I'm a little awestruck just thinking of it.

Not too awestruck to make a list of the teachers whom I really, really wish I could take classes with, of course.
Nancy Bush
Pricilla Gibson-Roberts
Anne Hanson
Sivia Harding
Judith MacKenzie McCuin
Lucy Neatby
Tina Newton
Clara Parkes
Stephanie Pearl-McPhee
Meg Swansen
Barbara Walker
Anna Zilboorg

Or is that a little out of hand?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Still knitting

The tam proceeds apace. I am now well into the widest part of the hat, which makes for some interesting shenanigans with all of the knitting and needles and all, but in about eight rows I get to decrease a little, so that's very exciting. I must admit that the three-color rows kind of kick my butt from time to time, especially when there's purling involved. Turns out that I can knit just fine with both hands, so when I have a two-color row, each hand gets a color, and that's good. It's less good if I need to be able to purl with both colors, because I've never learned how to purl when I'm carrying the yarn in my left hand. I could probably find a tutorial online, I know, but when I get fiber time, I feel like I should be working on this hat, rather than playing around online (too much). And then when there are three colors, the manipulations get very wonky. It turns out that, so long as I don't have to purl, I'm actually better at carrying the two colors in my left hand and picking the one I want with my needle, than I am at carrying two in my right hand -- if I do that, I keep having to put one down and pick the other up, and that's time-consuming.

Note to self: must learn to purl whilst holding yarn in left hand.

We've been watching the stages of the Tour of California each evening. We're all very excited about this one -- there are lots of amazing riders, many of whom we've watched in the Tour de France every summer, and, get this, the final stage ends right near here in Escondido! Guess where we're going to be on Sunday? (In fact, the plan at this point -- subject to change, of course -- is to try to catch them at the top of one of the grades going up Palomar, and then to race down to Escondido to catch the finish; this may end up being a bit ambitious, but we'll see.) It's hard to actually "watch" the race on TV while doing stranded colorwork, but I'm doing my best.

In the meantime, I'm trying desperately not to string the beads onto the yarn to start the latest STR installment. I mean, look at those colors.
So pretty. I'm dithering over whether to knit the pattern that came with this installment, or another one by Sivia Harding (both Ravelry links). I'm really leaning toward the latter; there's something about it that I'm finding more inspiring, and it's not like I have any other beaded socks, so I want these to be something very out of the ordinary. But then again, maybe the former pattern works better with this variegated colorway. Opinions? Since I'm working on the anemone socks right now as my travel knitting, I can dither a bit longer.

It's been chilly and rainy these last couple of days, and Younger Daughter's teacher has been wearing the mitts I knitted on the playground in the morning; I'm glad I finished them before this last storm blew in. (Yesterday, the skies opened up on us as I was swimming laps with a friend. The temperature dropped by about 5 degrees -- and let me tell you, that makes a difference when you're wet, swimming outdoors when it's in the 40s is so cold that the pool steams! -- and it finally started to rain so hard that the life guard asked us all to get out of the pool since she couldn't see the bottom anymore; that was OK with us, as it was starting to feel like it might sleet.)
I bet the Tour riders are wishing they had something this warm and cozy.

And I've been spindling again. I'd been missing my spinning a lot, but with this tam deadline looming, I haven't wanted to start something big on one of the wheels. So I'm making time to spin the lovely Bunny and the Beast fiber that I got from Fuzzarelly; I adore this fiber in so many ways. The colors are stunning, and the blend is beautiful and soft, and the batt feels like a puffy cloud (Nancy, is that the right term for this presentation of fiber? I'm still not that up on my spinning vocabulary). If you're looking for a merino/silk/angora blend to spin, I can't recommend this one highly enough. I've been wanting to savor the experience, so I'm spindling it up on my Jenkins turkish spindle.
One of my favorite things about a turkish spindle is the fact that the spun fiber, if wound around the legs correctly, automatically makes a center-pull ball. So when I've spun enough, I can pull out the spindle shaft, then the legs, and ply directly from both ends of the ball (which I particularly love because, among other things, I always end up using every bit of the singles, as I don't have to worry about mismatched bobbins full of singles). The only thing that slows me down with a bottom-whorl spindle like this is the half-hitch I have to tie at the top (I know, weird). I've been wondering for ages whether it's possible to make a small hook, almost like at the top of a crochet hook, at the top of the spindle shaft? I figure there's got to be a reason not to do it, and the reasons I've come up with so far are: it would mess with the balance of the spindle, and/or the top of the spindle shaft is too thin there, and it might split. Maybe the hook wouldn't hold the yarn to spin? But you can use a hook on a top-whorl spindle, so I don't think that's it. (Wanda? Am I on the right track at all?) Either way, I love spinning with this spindle; it's light and easy to use, and last night I took the first ball of singles off and started plying.

I haven't quite figured out what I'm going to knit with the yarn yet. It's so soft and lovely that it could be something near the skin. The girls both adore this purple/pink colorway, so maybe hats for them? Or, what about dream pillows, maybe even embroidered, with bags of buckwheat and lavender inside? So many options... Meanwhile, it's nice to be able to take the spindle with me into different rooms of the house so I can spin socially when I don't feel like working on the tam. Last night, I sat at the bar in the kitchen and kept Rick and Younger Daughter company while they worked on her experiment for the science fair at school.
She is causing erosion by playing with water, sand, and slope. I think she's her father's daughter.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Not my fault

Nope. I will not take the fall for this one. It's most definitely not my fault.

It all started with Ellen. She knit this. Gorgeous, isn't it? I read her posts about knitting it, and I followed the links to Solveig's website, and I lusted. To be fair, I'd already gone through a small period of smit with these beauties when Stephanie Pearl-McPhee knitted one, but this was full-fledged luuurve. I held off, though, for any one of a number of reasons, not the least of which being that there is very little opportunity to wear a very warm, yoked and stranded sweater here in San Diego. I put it on the list of "someday" projects and ignored the little twinges of want and regret.

And then along came mom. Her birthday's coming up, and it's a big one, and when we were talking about heading up north to celebrate with her, she made a birthday request. (As an aside, I actually like getting birthday requests, especially when it's for knitting; then I know what someone wants before I commit a lot of time knitting something else.) She wanted a tam, because she really likes them and only has one. Well, no sooner had she said that then I remembered the tam for which Solveig has a kit (go to the Bohus* link, and it's the large lace tam and scarf; but guys, I just went over there, and she's got a whole new slew of hat kits available. Who knew? No. Wait, must focus).

It was serendipity. Fate. I had to get one of those kits and knit my mom a tam, right?

Right. See? It's not my fault. (Shades of Belushi, here.)

I should say right out that these kits are amazing. Solveig was so wonderful on email; she wrote right back to me with a price and had it shipped out in no time, and I had it less than a week after I'd ordered it. The yarn was all there, in little skeins, with a beautiful chart. The pattern couldn't be clearer, and everything was so well organized. I wound everything up into little (sometimes very little) balls, found my size zero needles, and cast on.

That's right, I said size zero. Ellen, can I just tell you that as much as I truly admired the knitting of your sweater, I didn't really understand what went into it until I cast on for this tam? All I could think as I was knitting the two inches of ribbing on those little bitty needles was that you had done this for a whole sweater. That's just craziness. I mean, I know one moves up to size one needles after the ribbing, but still. There is a certain zen in the whole thing, though; I found that it wasn't nearly as painful to knit all that ribbing as I'd thought, and of course once the colorwork starts, it's tremendously compelling. I finish a row and I think, I wonder what the next row will look like? And before I know it, I've found another ball of yarn, and I'm off to the races.

Races here, by the way, is metaphorical. I am the tortoise, not the hare. I've been working on this for days, and I'm about 16 rows into the colorwork (out of 69). I should be able to get this done before March 6th, right?
There's my progress, with all of the little balls of yarn. (That ribbing gets doubled over at the end, by the way.) Because this kit was originally meant for a tam and a scarf, there will be extra yarn. I'm selfishly hoping that there might be enough for another tam, because I love this hat. I weighed all of the little balls before I started, and I'll weigh them when I'm done and then evaluate my options.

The chart is very clearly labelled; each yarn has a number associated with it, and there are little ends of yarn next to each code color. And each skein of yarn came with a little label attached; I wound the yarn so that the label would stay on the outside.
See how well-organized this whole kit is? I love it.

I have more knitting to show you, including the mitts I gave to Younger Daughter's teacher, and the incipient project that's sitting on my desk, taunting me (I will finish this hat before I do anything else), but this has already gotten long, so I'll save those for next time. I did want to say thank you again for all of the question suggestions that you've been posting; I'm making note of all of them, and starting to formulate the questionnaire in my head, and I truly can't wait to see the answers to these insightful questions. It will be a while yet before it's finalized and I've got all of my ducks in a row to send it out, so if you think of anything else, please do let me know, and if you know of anyone else who'd like to comment, send them along. In essence, the two questions for the moment are:
1. What would you like to be asked about being a knitter/knitting/the knitting community?
2. Why do you think writing about knitters is useful or important?
(If you want to refer to my original, and longer, asking of the questions, the post is here.)

Thank you all so much!

(one last close-up shot, just for fun)

*Linguistic diversion: I realized that I'm not entirely sure how to say "Bohus" - Ellen, maybe you could tell us? - so I headed to Wikipedia. People. There is no entry for Bohus knitting, or Bohus sweaters, or anything else like that anywhere in Wikipedia. When one enters "Bohus sweater" into the search field, one gets a return query: "Did you mean: bonus sweat?" Why no, no I didn't.

Someone needs to write an entry. Post haste. Any volunteers?

Thursday, February 12, 2009


First, though, if you haven't read and (if you feel like it) commented on my last post, please do -- I have so enjoyed all of the questions that everyone has suggested for the (eventual) questionnaire on knitting, and there's plenty of time to play along. (While I'm thinking of it, I want to say that I'm responding to everyone whose address or blog I have a link to, but there are a few folks whose Blogger accounts don't have links -- so I want to thank you all here for commenting with questions. I find all of the suggestions incredibly intriguing, and I'm getting more and more exciting about hearing the answers. More on that later.)

For now, though, I need to say thank you, most sincerely, to Bea and Sallee, who both nominated me for an award. I am usually terrible about responding to these kinds of awards, for all kinds of reasons: I can't imagine why anyone would put me on their list, to start; and then I find it nearly impossible to think of a limited number of other people to nominate, so even if I manage to bring myself up to the fence of saying something about it here on the blog, I stall out at the bit where I have to come up with people to forward it on to. But here I am, giving it a shot.

The official rules are as follows:

1. Copy the award to your site
2. Link to the person from whom you received the award
3. Nominate 7 other bloggers
4. Link to those on your blog
5. Leave a message on the blogs you nominated.

This award particularly means a lot coming from Bea and Sallee, whom I both consider to be tremendously creative people and bloggers. Bea knits, and sews, and dyes the most gorgeous yarn (go ahead and check out her etsy shop), and she takes amazing pictures (I only wish my pictures of my dogs came out half so well as hers do). And have y'all seen Sallee's Nana Sadie Rose bags? Gorgeous, absolutely gorgeous. And she's a jeans and birks and lace kind of person, which I relate to. So thanks so much!

Lucky for me, they already got nominated, as did Ellen and Jan, and Erica, so that frees up four automatic spaces. Heh. So here are seven more, among the many many talented bloggers out there whose blogs I love to read (you all know who you are!). If I've tagged you, don't feel in any way compelled to come up with seven of your own; I'll let you off the hook.

1. Anne at Knitspot. I think you all know how much I love her patterns, but I also love her photography, and the amazingly clear and cogent and compelling way that she writes about her design process. I have learned so much about how a piece of knitting gets put together from reading her posts.

2. Stella at Knit Knit Frog. Are there any fiber arts that Stella doesn't do, and do well? And she, too, writes about the process, which I find intriguing; her posts always make me want to run out and try something new. (I also love reading about her wonderful family, what can I say?) She's teaching a knitting seminar this semester, and is looking for input on inspirational designers; if you've got someone like that in mind, pop over and leave her a comment.

3. Anne at KnitRedSox. Anne gets the most astonishing amount of knitting done poolside (how do you do it?), and she's always got something on the needles for a charity or fundraising project, which I truly admire. Not to mention, she's teaching her students how to knit; recruiting for the cause is important. Her daughters are also amazing photographers, and you can't beat that.

4. Sheepish Annie. Anyone who can work with teenagers all day and then comes home each night and writes a post that makes me laugh out loud inherently possesses levels of creativity (and humor) far beyond my reach. She can also knit and ride a stationary bike and watch TV at the same time. That alone deserves an award.

5. Willow at Willow's Cottage. Her photographs are a constant inspiration, and not only because the subject is often one of my favorite parts of the California coastline.

6. Cattywampus. I don't know anyone else who can whip out a sweater like she can. And get this, they always fit. Beautifully. Seriously. It's unreal. And I love the photographic walking tours she does sometimes of her neighborhood; travelling without leaving home is one of my favorite things to do (right after travelling while also leaving home).

7. One Scheme of Happiness is an amazing photographer, and her travellogue-like photographic tours are amazing. She's taking her readers to India right now.

So there they are. Do we notice a couple of themes here? Process blogs and photographic blogs. Hmmm... There are so many other blogs out there that I love (check out that list in the sidebar), but I'll stop here.

Thanks again, Bea and Sallee; I really appreciate being on your lists.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

What to ask?

I do have a knitting content post all planned out. I finished the mitts for Younger Daughter's teacher, and I started a project (wait'll you see this one -- craziness) for my mother's birthday, plus there are all those other things already OTN that I am poking away at. But for today, I have questions for you.

First, some background. I think I've mentioned that I've been contemplating for a while whether I should do something that I've been wanting to, and start a research project that involves this fiber world that I find so endlessly fascinating -- essentially, an ethnography of knitters. It's not just the fun of knitting itself that captures my attention, it's all of the people who knit and who are involved in that world and who write about that world. There's something there, I think, that deserves consideration and even theorization (there's the academic in me coming out) and to have its story told. When I've mentioned this here (and to people at, for example, my LYS) in the past, the response has been pretty enthusiastic, which I appreciate and find incredibly encouraging.

I should also say that the kind of research that I do in general consists of projects that are inherently collaborative, and that create something that (I hope!) is useful to the people I'm working with. I tend to think that's pretty important; there's something to be said for research that's grounded in the real world, and which responds to the needs of real people. I think that some of that is an inherent leaning I have toward what anthropologists call "participant-observation", that is, research which starts with the researcher immersing herself into the lives of the people she's working with, so she can start to understand what they do from their perspective.

Now, with knitting, to some degree I'm already hip-deep in participant-observation. And therein lies the danger. There's a serious temptation to think about what I find important about knitting, to answer the questions that I wish someone would ask me (Jocelyn, what do you find compelling about knitting? Well, Jocelyn, it all started for me...; I may have occasional split-personality moments, but that way lies madness), and to focus the story I tell that way. I often tell my students that while our personal experiences are not unimportant data, neither are they all the data; an N of 1 does not tell the whole story.

As I sat knitting and thinking yesterday, I asked myself how I could go about finding out what other knitters would want someone to ask them, and why they might think it's important to research and write about knitters and the knitting community. And then I thought, hey! I know a few people who knit. (Just to be clear, that would be all y'all.)

So, here it is. In the long run, what I'd like to do is to put together a questionnaire that people could respond to anonymously (I'd run it through another site so that this blog doesn't become Research Central); if anyone then was willing to let me interview them further (either in person or on the phone, depending on distance and circumstances), they could let me know that at the end of the questionnaire. But I need to figure out what questions are worth asking. I have some ideas, of course, but there's an inherent bias in relying solely on me for my input. And here's where I hope you'll come in. If you're willing to help me out, I have two questions for you:

Question the first: What do you really wish someone would ask you about knitters, knitting, and/or the knitting community? Remember, you don't have to answer that question right now; you can wait until your answer is wholly anonymous. What I'm asking here is what question(s) would give you a chance to talk about what you find most important/interesting/compelling about this fiber art we all engage in, and the world of people associated with it.

Question the second: If you happen to think that researching this community matters in some way (and you don't have to, by any means!), what is it in particular that you think matters? That is, why might it be important to document/talk about/explore the community of knitters? In yet other words, what purpose(s) could that documentation serve?

I, of course, have my own answers to these questions, and I'll share them with you after everyone else goes first (heh). You don't have to play along if you don't want to; we will return to our regularly-scheduled knitting content in the next post. But if you do, I'd so love to hear what you have to say. And if you think your readers/real-world friends/neighbors/colleagues might want to participate, too, please send them my way. If you've got questions to share with me that you don't want in the comments, you can always email me at jahlersATcsusmDOTedu. And if you want to create a completely anonymous identity to use in the posting of questions, please also feel free to do that.

And really -- thanks.

Monday, February 9, 2009


Or maybe the right word is "blizzard".

Either way, it was a very full weekend, which included all kinds of fun activities, and one (just one) actual photograph to show for it. As Rick said, "No one stood still long enough for me to take a picture." Ah, well.

We left on Friday a little after four o'clock to drive up to Mammoth. Rick insisted that it would be a five-hour drive (the Gilligan's Island theme song kept playing in my head as the evening progressed); he has an odd sense, sometimes, of just how long things actually take in the real world, instead of in the world inside his head. It took one heckuvalot longer than that. We hit traffic in Riverside, rain off and on the whole way through the Owens Valley, and then chain control at the bottom of the final grade going into Mammoth. The biggest bummer about the chain control was that there was no snow on the ground most of the way up the grade, which meant we had to drive really, really slowly to avoid destroying the chains on the bare asphalt. Grr... And even when there was snow, it wasn't anything that couldn't have been driven through just fine in a regular car. Double grrr... We arrived around midnight. Oy.

We were up early the next day and on the mountain in time to get the girls geared up and into their ski lessons. It snowed all day, so the skiing was gorgeous. The avalanche detonations were going on all day, and the top of the mountain was closed, but that was OK. The girls had a blast, we had a blast, and we all ate a nice big dinner and went to sleep early. Yesterday was amazing. I'd been demo-ing a pair of skis (long story short: I used to ski a lot, and own my own gear, but the skis I own were purchased before the multi-year skiing hiatus that came with two winter pregnancies - can I just say hooray for snowshoeing? - and young kids; turns out, skis have changed a LOT since then, and we're not skiing enough right now for me to feel justified in buying another pair), and I hadn't really liked them (for those who ski, they were equally flex-y in the front and back, and I felt like the backs kept washing out; I was working hard to make them work on the terrain I like, and by the end of Saturday, my legs were killing me). So I swapped them out on Sunday for a pair with stiffer backs and it made a world of difference (as with good knitting needles, equipment that works with one's style can really make or break an experience). We skied all day, and I felt better at the end of Sunday than I had on Saturday. It was a lot colder on Sunday, though, with the wind blasting down the mountain all day long. Lifts kept going on and off weather hold because the wind was so strong, and we were bundled to the gills; with wind-chill, I'm guessing the temperatures were around 0F, which is particularly cold when you're sitting still on a chair lift for long periods of time. We alternated between freezing on the lifts, and sweating in the bumps. But it was such fun!
Coffee break and run-planning session.

One of the best bits about this whole trip for me and Rick was to see how much fun the girls had skiing. When we've gone before, they've had fun, but have been really ready to be done at the end of a day, and have been leery (to put it mildly) of any actual speed while on skis. Neither of them does "out of control" so well, and while they were both intrigued by the skiing thing (and Younger Daughter was more than willing to go anywhere I'd take her if I'd let her cling to one leg; I have vivid memories of a three-year-old daughter clinging to my left leg and yelling wildly through giggles, "The trees, mommy, let's ski in the trees!!")(she is clearly an incipient adrenaline junkie), they were also nervous.

Not anymore. They had a blast. On Sunday, as it was getting to be time to pick them up from ski school, Rick and I decided to find them over on the learner slopes. We caught up with their class as the girls were bombing down the slope at speed, and watched Younger Daughter catch and edge and eat it. I snagged her lost ski for her and brought it up to her, to find her sitting in the snow, a mad grin on her face. She exhibited no surprise to find her mother standing over her, ski in hand, just said, "Thanks, mama!", clicked back into her binding, and took off after her class. Judging by the look on Rick's face, we were both feeling the same exhilarated sense of pride at watching her sheer pleasure in her new ability. It was great.

I did finish my mittens in time to take with me, but we spent so little time outside when we weren't on the mountain that I really didn't get to wear them.
I'm still going to make a little i-cord tie to go around the wrists, a la EZ.
I didn't get too much knitting done on the way up, since I drove most of the way. That, and I succumbed to the temptation to start an "interesting" knitting project, instead of just going with some nice simple stockinette socks, and the interesting project required daylight and non-windy roads to knit.
These are socks from last year's STR sock club, which I absolutely adore, and have been dying to cast on. The colorway is gorgeous, and the pattern is simple and beautiful, but it has crossed stitches, which I have to look at to do, which doesn't work so well for me on a drive like the one we just did.

We got home late last night after another long drive, and shovelled the girls into bed. They had both declared themselves well satisfied by the weekend, rushed though it was, and so we were satisfied, too.

I was crawling into bed, happy to be prone, when Rick came in and said "happy birthday". I thought he'd become confused, but realized that the big birthday present that hadn't come last week had arrived while we were gone, and he couldn't wait to give it to me. I love it.
It's there on the right. Years ago, I designed my wedding and engagement rings as a pair of intertwined rolling rings; I have long wanted (in a sort of long-term, on the list of non-essential desiderata way) a traditional rolling ring to wear on my other hand. Rick hunted and hunted (apparently, they are far less common than they once were) until he found one just for me, and ordered it for my birthday. This is a particularly big deal, as he isn't usually a jewelry-giving husband (I'm not complaining, btw, so much as observing), but he really came through in spades this time. Being the easily entertained person that I am, I'm having fun rolling it up and down my finger, watching the colors change. Heh.

We came home to rain, and I'm delighted (you can see in the mitten picture above that it's given me an opportunity to wear Kauni).
It's wet. And I love it. I've caught up on email, and will be catching up on blog reading slowly over the next couple of days, and now I can go get Tilly from the vet and get some work done.

I hope you all had wonderful weekends, too!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Monogamy, schmonogamy

Apparently, finishing this big project, the latest in a string of big, monogamous projects, has had an effect on me rather like that of the first day of college on a Catholic schoolgirl. (Not me, mom! It's just something I heard about, promise.)

I went back to work on Rick's gridiron sock. The pattern is good fun, and once it's established, it requires very little concentration. And, I'm using my lovely new needles, which make me very happy (I think I need a pair in a size 3, but that's a different story).
Aren't they pretty? The yarn is soft, the needles are wonderful, and yet, they just can't be the only thing I'm working on (for one thing, they're endless; Rick's legs are a thing of beauty to behold -- I have one word for you: biker -- but they are not small, nor are his feet short, and socks are quite the commitment, especially at this gauge). Well, they could be, but apparently project monogamy is right out for the month of February (or at least, for this week).

I have noticed all winter that Younger Daughter's poor teacher, who has morning duty, must stand outside in the freezing cold, non-sunny playground, watching the kids run around. Don't you think that means a pair of mitts? I did.
That's some Malabrigo I had left over from knitting the Calla purse (in The Knitter's Book of Yarn), and I'm using a pattern from this little baby. I treated myself to this book last week, in search of inspiration for the smaller amounts of spinning I do.
I like this book quite a lot, especially the way the projects are divided up by yarn weight; it will make it easy to look for projects that might match my yarn.

But that isn't all. It suddenly occurred to me that we're going skiing this weekend (I tell you, it's snuck up on me; I kept thinking that we're going the weekend before President's Day, which we are, but is it just me or is President's Day really really early this year?). And I've been dying to knit myself a pair of EZ's mitered mittens, but feeling like it was a rather ludicrous project to put on the front burner, given where I live, combined with the fact that we're apparently never going to have a winter again. But, I told myself, if I knit like the wind, I could wear them this weekend!
We'll see. They're a little tight -- I'm so used to sizing for mitts instead of mittens -- so I may not like this one once it's done. I'm using some of the Peruvian alpaca yarn from Shivaya Naturals; the other half of that skein went to an ill-fated (coughRickfelteditcough) neckwarmer.

I also got (among other wonderful gifts that I'll post about later) a wonderful book from my SIL and BIL that has me drooling. There are at least two sweaters in there that I want to knit myself (modified somewhat) for summer. Which is, apparently (have I mentioned?), now.
So much to knit, so little time.

And I'm back at work this week, in the sense that I've picked up my research and am preparing to plug away for the rest of the semester. I spent all day yesterday attempting to come to terms with a data tragedy that I'd thought might have happened, but had been in denial about (oh, that river in Egypt, how we do love thee). Apparently, in the (lamented and cursed) transition to Leopard, my entire language database (well over 600 entries, if I recall correctly) was utterly lost. Gone. Really and for true.

Part of the problem is the program. I was using a freeware (well-established, and one of the few good programs, free or otherwise, for creating language databases) program that I've used for some time. The problem is that the cursed people who make the program (and because I know that I'm currently feeling bitter bitter bitter, I won't use their name right now) have, for reasons only known to themselves, decided in recent years not to make it for Mac, and moreoever, to make it so that their older, Mac-compatible, program doesn't work on emulator-enabled Macs (like mine). So, one must use the version that works with Windows, and only ever run it through an emulator. The problem with that (there are many, but as far as I'm concerned, this is the biggie) is that my emulator won't see my USB ports or my disc drive, so I can't easily get the db off my computer. For this reason, I'd long been thinking that the time was coming to get the db out of that program and to try another one (like, oh, say, FileMaker, that everyone seems to have and that, if worse came to worst, someone could surely retrieve my data from). However, I would not have chosen to have everything I'd done disappear before I could even attempt to save it in some other format.

The plan at this point is to start trying to learn FileMaker, only entering things which weren't already entered into the db, and then to go and politely demand that the IITS guys Find. My. Data. But not this week. I'm far too cranky to be polite.

Think I'll go knit something for a while.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Wine dark sea

It's finished. And I've worn it in public, and received no funny looks in the doing.

I should perhaps apologize for all of the durm und strang chez Knitting Linguist, with regard to this sweater, but I figure the blog occasionally needs a shot of dramatic tension, so you can all share in my angst-ridden dithering over the details of sweater-knitting. Right?

It was almost dry in time yesterday to wear to the circus (which was wonderful), so I quickly wove in ends like a madwoman, leaving only the two in each sleeve that would allow me later to unpick the kitchenering and rip the sleeves back an inch or so, which I thought they might need, due to the growth issue that the sweater had developed during blocking. I then threw it into the dryer, on gentle, for about eight minutes to finish drying. When I took it out, it fit perfectly. Mirabile! So this morning, I wove in the last ends.

I think I've mentioned that when I first contemplated knitting this sweater, the goal was to provide myself with a slightly classier version of my boxy, comfy, charcoal gray wool sweater (the one I love so much that I wish I'd bought two all those years ago when I grabbed it at a sale at Eddie Bauer for $20). As I thought more about it, my vision coalesced into a desire for a sweater that made me think of the ocean; particularly the ocean in winter, with all of its dark, shifting, cold colors and textures. Pebbly beaches, and pebbly skin, and the happiness of a warm sweater to take the goosebumps away. And when I wrote to Chris and asked her whether she might have a colorway like that in her Grandma's Blessing yarn (a merino/tencel blend that is so shimmery and gorgeous that it was the only possible yarn for this sweater), she, prescient woman that she is, not only knew exactly what I was talking about (and didn't laugh at me for asking for a yarn color that way), but had it in stock already. Serendipity? Why, yes, indeed.

So, when I finally chose the two motifs for cuffs and hem from Nicky Epstein's Knitting on the Edge, it was with beaches in mind. And as I knit it, I was thinking of those cold northern beaches that call my name. So, now that it's done, I think it deserves a better name than The Sweater, and I've decided to call it Wine Dark Sea.* Better, no?
It's almost impossible to get this colorway right on camera; and I've noticed that the camera lens does funny things with the shimmer in the yarn, but you get the idea. Here's the cuff and hem. Doesn't that hem look like sand, sweeping out to sea as a wave washes away? (Well, it does to me, so just nod and smile, if you please.) And the twists in the cuff make perfect waves.

I decided to leave a little break in the cuff, just for fun.
And I think that this picture is probably as close as I've come yet to showing how dark and depthful the colors in the yarn are.
Fuzzy, I know, but a little closer to true. What I love about Chris' yarns is that they have a marvelous interplay of color, without striping or pooling. There are even little bits of purple and glass green in here that just make it that much more oceanic to me. The colors make me happy. I may just wear this sweater to every single faculty meeting for the rest of my career. And the best bit is that I have quite a lot left over (maybe 700 yards?), so I should have plenty to someday knit myself something lacy, and I can enjoy working with this yarn all over again.

So there it is. The last of the big projects that I wanted to finish before starting work again: two sweaters, three socks, and another biggish project that I can't tell you about yet. Tomorrow is the big day (I've given myself today off for my birthday), and I'm actually looking forward to digging in, which means that I did the right thing by giving myself this break before starting. I also feel like, by knitting all of these things I've had on my mind for a while, I'm freeing myself up to start thinking of new things. I have a couple of small but fun projects in mind, including some plans for the lovely Bunny and the Beast fiber that Fuzzarelly sent me ages ago, and that I haven't been spinning up as fast as I'd like (mostly because I'm dying to knit with it). I'm excited to get back to spinning in general. And I'm back to working on a pair of socks for Rick (with a couple of pairs for me in the queue once I'm done with those; I'll show you the yarn next time). I also ordered something special to knit for my mom for her birthday next month; I'll show you that when it comes.

Meanwhile, I'm off to be taken out to lunch by some friends, and then to make a quiet dinner to share with my family. Happy Imbolc, everyone!

*I love that phrase. I have always loved that phrase, but never more than when I started to study cognitive linguistics and learned about linguistic systems for naming colors in languages around the world. It turns out that it is possible, if one knows how many basic color terms there are in a language (and believe it or not, there is a good cognitive definition for "basic color term" that I will not go into here), one can predict with fair certainly what colors those terms will cover. If there are only two, they will divide the color spectrum up into dark and light colors (dark includes black, blue, and green; light includes white, red, and yellow). If a color system has three terms, the third will divide the light colors into white, and then red/yellow. If four, then it will either divide up red and yellow, or divide the dark spectrum into black and a term for blue/green (often called, sadly enough, "grue" in the literature). There are a few more steps, but you get the idea. The point here is that Ancient Greek had one of those "grue" terms (in fact, I think, but can't find the citation right now, that it was a two color term system, so it had one basic color term for all of the dark colors, and one for the light colors)(this does not mean, btw, that a language can't use derived terms to be more specific about colors -- lots of languages with two basic color terms also have words like "parrot-colored" for green, in the same way that we use "orange" as a color term derived from the name of the fruit). So since, in Ancient Greek, all of the dark colors got one name, what could be more poetic (not to mention mnemonic) than to refer to a winter-dark sea by comparing it to that most prototypical of all dark liquids: a rich, dark wine.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

So close...

Well, the knitting's done.

At least, I think the knitting's done.

I finished this morning, after kitchenering together the last of 210 pairs of stitches (between the cuffs and the neckline); my kitchenering skills have been honed razor-sharp by now. I'm not sure that I like the way the neck has turned out, so I decided to forgo weaving all of the ends in, in favor of giving it a thorough wet-blocking to see what happens.

This was a tough call, as we're going out this afternoon, and I'd kind of wanted to maybe have the option of wearing the sweater (I can't be the only one who feels this way about a new knitted item, right? It's like, when I was a kid, wanting desperately to wear new shoes home from the shoe store instead of the old ones -- thank goodness mom understood that one)(OK, I admit it, I still like to wear new shoes home from the shoe store, on the rare occasions that I buy any). And while it's warm today, it's not as warm and dry as it has been, so I'm not sure that the sweater will dry in time. But, I decided that I liked the way the stitches looked after I wet blocked the swatch better than I liked them after I steam blocked the sweater earlier this week. So, I soaked it, and put it out in the sun to dry.

It grew. I'm a little nervous about how much it grew, but I guess I'll see what it looks like when I try it on. Meanwhile, here's the concern I have about that neckline.
See what I mean? It's just a little messy. I'm wondering whether it would work to tack down the edging at intervals, to leave the waves like I like so much, but to smooth it out and even it up a little. I may try that, using a fine thread, instead of yarn, just to see what happens.

I still adore that bottom edging, so that's all good. And as a whole, it has the loose, comfortable look I wanted. (But maybe too loose and sloppy?)
I wish it would dry so I can see whether the whole thing is a disaster, or a really good thing. It could go either way at this point. Ah, the excitement of knitting... (Everyone think dry thoughts in my direction, if you don't mind.)

Even if it's not dry, though, we're going to have fun this afternoon, rather inadvertently. A good friend of mine called yesterday to tell me that they had unexpectedly ended up with four extra tickets to the Shanghai Circus, down in San Diego, and could we use the tickets? The answer was a resounding "yes", so we'll be heading out in a little while for a fun afternoon. The girls are currently taking naps, as we went out for a very nice dinner (early birthday) last night, and it lasted past their bedtimes. Between that and a busy week, what with Older Daughter's big history day project, they both needed the rest. (Of course, the naps were preceded by the usual griping and moaning, but the mere fact that the word "nap" engendered tearful fits was a good indication that I was making the right call.) This has given me time to fiddle with the sweater, hang the laundry out (the last load is drying now), and try to catch up on some email and blog reading (note the "try" in there).

All right, I'm off to check on the sweater. Keep your fingers crossed for me. Tomorrow's post with either be one of triumph or tears (anyone here thinking of The Wide World of Sports?). Stay tuned...