Sunday, August 31, 2008

Long weekends are good

And here's why. Because if you spend all day Saturday getting things done around the house, there's still a whole weekend left! (While I don't usually subscribe to the "more exclamation points is better" theory of writing, I truly believe that this statement deserves at least one such punctuation mark, and maybe two; but I'll restrain myself.) It helps a great deal that there are no soccer games on Labor Day weekend, so instead of our usual soccer-season weekend, during which we really have about a day to get anything done that isn't soccer-related, this weekend, we have three whole days. Wow. I could get lost in the pleasure of contemplation...

OK, I'm back.

Yesterday, farmer's market shopping got done, and the washing machine, dishwasher, and kids' toilet all got repaired (thank you, Rick!). I should note that the washing machine was not originally on that list, but it was apparently jealous of all the attention the other appliances were getting because yesterday morning as Rick was making his List o' Things to Buy at Lowe's, the washer started to make ominous noises and then completely gave up the ghost. Thanks to Rick's quick repair, I got load after load of laundry washed, dried, and folded. Whew! The farmer's market visit meant that last night's dinner was shrimp tacos with shredded cabbage and avocado, with a gorgeous herb and tomato salad. Mmmm.... I also got some knitting done, which was a lovely break between all the other general housework and straightening that was going on.

I'm testing out Laura's new mitt pattern, Sugar Push, which is coming out at exactly the time that it occurred to Younger Daughter that she was the only mittless person in the household. Not for long, baby.
Aren't they fun? Look at the way the lace swishes back and forth so enticingly. Laura already has some socks out in this stitch motif, which are lovely. I'm knitting the small size on very thin yarn, and they fit Younger Daughter perfectly. In fact, this is the yarn from The Knittery that I inadvertently knit Younger Daughter some socks out of earlier this year, so now she'll have a matching set. Go, me (you'd almost think I planned it, but then you'd be giving me a lot more credit than I deserve).

I'm done with the thumb gusset, so I should have this one done later today or tomorrow, and I'm guessing that the second one will go quickly, between faculty and Senate meetings this week (sigh...). Meanwhile, I'm in lace-contemplation mode. It turns out that I feel more lost than I'd thought I would, with no lace project on the needles. What does this say about me? I also have some yarn that I got for a sweater for Rick -- some soft organic cotton that I picked up on sale -- so I could start in on that while I wait for the perfect project to come up. And there's always the half-pi shawl which I have by no means forgotten, but which I'm taking my time with and using as my knit-in-the-dark, all-knit-stitch-all-the-time knitting project.

Meanwhile, we're packing up to go camping tonight, kids and dogs and all. Tilly's excited.
Kia's excited, too, I think, but it's harder to tell with her as she gets older and stiffer. We took her to the vet last week, who upped her dosage of some of the pain medication she takes, and added a new one, which she's tolerating really well, and which seems to be doing her some good. She's panting less, and looking more cheerful, so I'll take it. I'm glad she'll be able to come with us on this trip.

Meanwhile, I'm still contemplating the implications of McCain's VP choice. At the moment I don't have much to say except ??, but I'm sure I'll come up with something more verbal at some point. Also, in other news, my iPod has been unbricked, thanks to a trick that I didn't know existed, which is to push and hold down the menu and center buttons at the same time. Good as new.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

You know you love your dog when...

You smell stinky dog breath while you're standing in the kitchen cooking, and instead of thinking "eeewww", you think, "aww, it's Kia" and feel like all is right in your world.

I will add that you know your husband loves you when, after your iPod inexplicably bricks itself, he kindly lets you download your latest audiobook onto his, and then take it on indefinite leave until you figure out what to do with your own.

In knitting news, I got distracted by a shiny object before actually casting on for the pink socks. I haven't gotten far enough on it, though, to make photos worth showing, or to make a report very interesting, so I'll hold off on that.

I haven't knit as much this week as I have been lately, as my real job suddenly loomed up out of nowhere and slammed me in the face; can you believe these people actually expect me to work for my paycheck? Sheesh. So I've made it through my first week of classes as of today (meetings, however, are not yet over for the week), and I was reminded, as I always am, of why I love this part of the job so much. I'm teaching English Grammar and Syntax this semester (two sections), which I promise you is infinitely more fun than it sounds. And I'm teaching one of my very favorite classes in all the world: Gender and Language. I'm so happy with the group I've got this semester -- they're already talking, which is a huge boon, and makes that class great fun. The one bummer is that I have only two men in the class; of the four originally enrolled, one walked out halfway through the first class (maybe right about when I pointed out that "masculine" is a gender?), and the other didn't show up today. In fact, I only had one man in class today, but he was a very good sport about his singularity, so I have high hopes.

The other reason that I haven't been knitting as much is that my back is acting up, which doesn't show up in back pain, but in radiating pain down my leg. I don't know why it's doing that; the last time it did, I lived with it for almost two years before finally breaking down and having surgery to fix the ruptured disc that was causing the trouble. I am hoping that this is not an indication of problems of that magnitude, and have decided that for the moment avoiding all MRIs is the way to maintain that hope. Massage, walking, and rest seem indicated. We'll see where I go from there.

Tomorrow, amidst all the other meetings I have to go to, my on-campus knitting group is getting together again for the first time this semester, so with luck I'll have something fibrous to show for myself when I post again, which I'll try to do tomorrow. We have a quiet weekend planned, with a night of camping and a birthday party to attend. Maybe we'll squeeze some beach time in there, too. What's everyone else doing for Labor Day weekend?

P.S. I loved all the responses to my realization that I'm not knitting that particular pair of socks because I'm hating the two size zero circs. Each and every one was a beautiful example of mileage varying by knitter. I love a sport where it turns out that we're all here to have fun.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Sundays are for spinning

Although apparently not too much.

I've been feeling rather bereft since finishing the shawl, sort of at loose ends. (By the way, I've responded to as many comments as I had email for, but thank you all very much for all of your kind words and bated breaths; I'm sure it had a lot to do with my successful completion of the knitting.) So on Friday and Saturday, I finished the Kimono socks (pictures to come, but I don't have any right now; imagine that the second one looks like a mirror image of the first one, and you've pretty much got it; like this, but with one tie each). And then I sort of sat around, wondering what to do, in a fibery sense at least; laundry and general housework ensured that I had plenty of other things to do.

So Sunday I sat down to spin, and dang if I hadn't lost some serious mojo since the last time. I drafted like spit. Which is a bad thing, in case you're wondering. Note to self: spin regularly or else. It's a pity, too, as I'm working on the lovely Jacob roving that I first bought from the fiber lady at the farmer's market. I keep trying to get more, but the Jacob she's had since has been brown and white, rather than black and white, and hasn't been nearly so soft as this one is. This is sad, as I'd been hoping to get enough more to ply it with the black Merino that Stella gave me, and then to knit a sweater of the yarn, but now my plan is to spin this and ply it, then to spin the Merino and ply it, and then to see if I've got enough for a sweater with some colorwork at the hems and neck. We'll see. Of course, all of this depends on getting some mojo back, which depends on finding some time to spin, which may not happen as classes start tomorrow.

But we will not speak of that.

I also spent some time thinking about various UFOs sitting around my house. There's one in particular that I've been thinking a lot about, probably because I was knitting it last year at this time as I sat at various soccer games: the Boudica socks. I love love love this pattern, as well as the yarn, but I have stalled out several times and can't seem to get moving on them at all. I am fairly sure it's because they're knitted on size 0 needles. At first, I was knitting on four size 0 dpns, which were very short, and which felt like knitting with toothpicks. I hated them with the flaming passion of a thousand white hot suns. See my difficulty? Love the pattern, love the yarn, hate the needles. (Why yes, I do get whiplash talking to myself, why do you ask?)

I also had a small problem with Size Denial. These are toe-up socks, and I kept trying them on as I knitted, thinking, wow, these are really much too big for my feet (which is saying something, as I have duck feet), but I'm sure that they'll fit better once I've knit more of them. ?? Am I the only person with this problem in my logic circuits? I ended up adjusting the pattern partway up the foot to make them narrower, and am happy with the overall fit of the foot, so that should be OK now, assuming I can remember what I did if I ever get to the second sock.

So I decided to give the whole knitting socks on two circs thing a try. I mean, a lot of people whose opinions I trust love love love socks on two circs, and I was hoping for some love love love of the needles to go with my general attitude towards the yarn and the pattern (which, btw, if you don't know, you should check it out on Ravelry; I really do like it very much; ymmv of course). So, in order to really give the experience my best shot, I invested in two Addi circs, size zero.

Hated It With the Flaming Passion of a Thousand White-Hot Suns: Redux.

I think that it may be that the needle part of the size 0s is just so tiny, and I keep getting poked in the middle of my palms while I'm knitting; my hands aren't that big, so it must be the needles, right? Maybe the thing to do would be to give this whole gig one more try, this time with my Harmonys, as they are longer.

Meanwhile, I've gotten distracted by another shiny object, in the shape of pink socks. A dear friend of mine is walking in the three-day breast cancer walk here in San Diego in November (more on that later), and it occurred to me that anyone who is planning to walk sixty miles in three days deserves a pair of socks. Preferably pink. And then Lime and Violet came out with their intention line of yarns, and the pink colorway is the intention "love". So I bought a skein; clearly the Knitting Fates had A Plan there, and who am I to argue with fate? I'm still feeling a bit wavery about which pattern to use, but I've narrowed it down to two, and I think I'll take that yarn with me to soccer practice tonight.

Unless I get distracted by something else in the next forty-five minutes. It's been known to happen.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Thursday, 11:25 pm

Four and a half more edging repeats to go. Thirty-six more rows, 549 stitches.

No more yarn.

Let me back up a bit. Before getting to that place of horror, I had worked my way through several obstacles. When I sat down to knit, I still had 31 more repeats of the edging motif to complete, and I figured I'd knit until about 10, and then knock off for bed. As I approached my self-imposed witching hour, I counted and realized that I had somewhere around 16 more repeats to go, and less and less yarn with every row, and decided that a) sleep is overrated, and b) I wasn't going to sleep anyway, what with wondering how the whole thing was going to end, and c) how long could it take to finish up those last repeats, anyway?

Note to self: sixteen repeats at about 122 stitches per repeat is not a trivial time commitment.

An hour and a half later, I had negotiated a new sleeping place for Older Daughter, who wanted to sleep with me while Rick and Younger Daughter are out of town, retrieved her and put her back in bed when she went sleep-walking, untangled a nasty knot in my yarn to the tune of 20 minutes, and dealt with a break in the yarn. I had also completed eleven and a half repeats, and had a mere four and a half to go.

And then I ran out of yarn.

I could see it coming. By the time I got to the fifth to the last repeat, it was clear that I wasn't going to make it. There was a certain sick fascination in the whole thing, though, so I kept knitting. All the while, I was madly making plans to snip bits off of the cast on tail (all of four inches) and the tail left at the other end of the edging (about six inches), and to try pretty much any desperate tactic to see the thing through. I'd entirely given up on achieving any kind of reasonable bedtime, and was starting to calculate just how little sleep might still count as "enough".

And then a little voice in my head shouted what you're probably all already thinking:
"The swatch, dummy. Cannibalize the swatch."

And so I did. Here's how much I had left when I finished.
But I made it. By midnight, no less.

This morning, as I soaked the shawl, I realized that I don't have the right blocking equipment for a faroese shawl. Straight blocking wires I have in abundance. Not so much with the ones that bend. But when I started to spread the shawl out on the bed, I realized that as fine as this yarn is, I didn't want to stretch it as thoroughly as I might otherwise. Look, ma, no wires!
(That's a yardstick, btw, just so you get a sense of how big this is.) The arc isn't as smooth as it would have been with pins and wires, but I am satisfied.
Doesn't it almost look like an old Roman coin? There's something about the lacewings in that giant half-circle, coupled with the edging, that brings old coins to mind. And of course, my very favorite part of any lace piece...
The bit between the edge and the body.

I am in love with this shawl. As big as it is (and believe me, it is big), it is light as air, and moves in any breeze. The whole thing is a mere four ounces, but it is very warm.
(Please ignore the sheets I stripped off the guest room bed in order to block the shawl.)
Older Daughter modeled it for me. As did my desk.
I don't know about you all, but I am pleased as punch with the way this turned out. I am so glad I went with this yarn; it was perfect for this pattern, and the shape of this shawl. I think I'm a little bit in shock that it's finished. I wasn't expecting it to be done until Sunday, and I think my brain isn't quite in gear about it yet, because I know that I'm not conveying my mad deep love for this shawl at all.

To recap: This is Anne's new faroese shawl Lacewing; she's also doing a rectangle version of the shawl. I do believe that she's released the pattern as of today. Hang on... Yup. Go check it out right now. Hers is absolutely stunning, and her photography, as always, is far superior to mine. I knitted mine in Chewy Spaghetti Capellini in the colorway Honest; it's a handpainted merino/silk blend, 4 oz/1260 yards. It's lighter weight than the yarn that Anne used, so you can see how it would look in something closer to a fingering weight if you check hers out. I used size six and size four circular needles. The pattern was amazingly clear, especially given all the shaping and charts involved, and I enjoyed knitting it so much that I'm almost sorry it's done. I say almost because come on, look at that shawl. Who wouldn't want that FO hanging around their house? I'm considering bringing it to Older Daughter's soccer game tomorrow just so that I can pet it. Would it be weird to sleep with it?

But now what do I knit?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Halfway there

This morning I finished the first half of the edging on Lacewing while Rick and Younger Daughter were getting packed to go to the airport. Not having to sit through three hours of soccer camp every morning has put a serious cramp in my knitting style (I know, I know, cue the violins), but I am still hoping to get the second half of the edging done by the end of the weekend. For some reason, the camera is missing in action, but here's a PhotoBooth shot to prove that I'm not making this stuff up.
I don't know if you can see the lacewings along the edge at the bottom left of the picture, but there they are. And you can see what's left on the needles; I'll probably cast on the few stitches needed to start the right edging while waiting to pick Older Daughter up at school this afternoon.

I'm living in a state of trepidation, however. This is how much yarn I have left.
I think it's going to be a very very close thing. I'm really hoping that I won't have a repeat of the Icarus Incident, when I ran out of yarn over halfway through the cast-off row. At that time, the place where I'd bought the yarn happened to have one ball of kidsilk haze left in the right dyelot, which saved my bacon, but I'm not too sure if I'll be able to find this yarn again (Chewy Spaghetti merino/silk blend). I'll see how things are looking as I get through the edging before I crumble and call in the troops (read: post a panicked message on Ravelry), but keep your fingers crossed for me, 'k?

Meanwhile, Older Daughter is getting through her second week of school; she has told me that she no longer feels that constant low-level queasy feeling she had all last week when she was worried that she wouldn't know where to go or what to do. And she's made a couple of friends whom she eats lunch with (with the result that she appears to actually be eating lunch, which wasn't the case last week). This is all good.

Rick and Younger Daughter are off to the east coast to visit his parents and to go to his cousin's wedding. We would have loved to go, too, but didn't think that it was such a hot idea for Older Daughter to miss days of school in her second week. As a small silver lining on that cloud, Younger Daughter is getting her very own trip with her dad. She gets to fly in an airplane and stay in a hotel and see her cousin, all of which has been making her very happy. She's had a huge growth and maturity spurt this summer, and it's amazing to see that she is most definitely a girl now, rather than a little girl. Watching her play soccer last weekend was great fun, as it's clear she's starting to participate in the game in different ways, and she's enjoying it more as a consequence. I know she's going to love having this time with her dad when he's not working, and she's not going to school or camp. This morning she was literally counting down the minutes until it was time to leave for the airport (which drove her father completely crazy). I think this'll be a nice end to her summer, which comes to a crashing halt Monday morning when she goes back to school.

I don't have much else to report. I haven't been spinning, although I've been looking longingly at both my roving and the yarn I finished just before starting the shawl; I need to starting scoping out some hat patterns for Rick, which is what it's destined to become. Work on the Kimono socks has also slowed down; the edging of Lacewing doesn't require the fierce concentration that the body did, so I can do it in bits and pieces in the time that I was using on the socks. However, with faculty and Senate meetings starting up next week, I'm guessing that I'll be putting in some time on the socks sooner rather than later. I'm starting to think again about what to knit next, and about the things that I have OTN already that I'd like to finish up. Of course, we all know that I'll only be a short way into something else before the lace bug bites again, but it's best to be prepared for that little window of opportunity. Tomorrow and Friday I'll be on campus, xeroxing syllabi and finding all of my readings for my classes, and then Saturday is Older Daughter's soccer game. Maybe Sunday will be a quiet day? One can only hope...

Sunday, August 17, 2008

On the edge

In the best possible way, of course. That is to say, I'm finished with the body of Lacewing, and am on the edging. Now, don't get too excited; the edge motif is eight rows, and I need to do sixty repeats on one side of the shawl, plus another sixty on the other side, so there's still some serious knitting to go, but I'm feeling that pull of the downhill roll to the end of the shawl.

I know I'm going to miss it when it's off the needles, but the gravity well at the end of this knit, the one that's pulling me along, is the thought of having this baby pinned out on the blocking wires. I adore the shape of faroese shawls when they're all laid out like wings waiting for flight, and I covet and lust for such a shawl to be spread out on my blocking bed, instead of in pictures on someone else's. Mine mine mine. (I know, it's not pretty, but that's how I feel.)

What this means, though, is that I've spent every spare knitting moment on the shawl. I'm behind on reading blogs, I haven't responded to all of the comments on my blog, and I'm behind in email. I have managed to put together the syllabi and reading lists for my classes, so the absolute critical work is still getting done, but other than that, it's been kids and knitting all week.

Younger Daughter had soccer camp this week, which was at a somewhat awkward time, in that we had to drop Older Daughter off at school at 7:45 (which entails leaving the house at 7:15, thanks to drop-off traffic; I'm working on that), but Younger Daughter's camp started at 9:00. It felt silly to go home for 45 minutes, only to load up again and drive back out in that direction, but it also felt silly to plan to just hang out at the park for an hour until camp started. However, Younger Daughter begged me to do just that, so she could play on the playground and (as she said) "warm up for camp". I kept thinking, but this means I have to hang out in the park for three hours instead of two hours (long story; suffice it to say that hanging out makes more sense than driving back and forth to the house), until it occurred to me that we were talking about Knitting Time. I mean serious, in-depth, can't-do-anything-else, so-why-not-knit time (yes, I could do something else, but allow me my delusions). Three hours of it. So I graciously told Younger Daughter that I was willing to sacrifice myself for her happiness, brought my coffee and my beach chair and my iPod, and knit each morning this week. Heh.

I don't think I could possibly have gotten this far without that extra time, but I'm glad of it, as classes start for me in a week, and I'd like to have this shawl completed before that (it turns out I'm a serial concentrator, what can I say?).

Older Daughter survived her first week at school with flying colors. It was, I think, tremendously overwhelming, especially given that she's been going to a small Montessori classroom, where her class of 25 students included all of the 3rd through 5th graders. And now there are 100 6th graders, and eight classes in different classrooms. And she really didn't know anybody; two boys from her school also decided to go to this new school, but oddly, the boy/girl no-hang-out rule suddenly appeared out of nowhere, after they've been spending virtually every single weekday together for four years. Things are different at a bigger school, I think. All of that said, she was content with her week, which makes me content. We took her out to dinner on Friday to celebrate and make a deal of it, which I think she appreciated (for years, we've had a tradition of toasting successes at dinner together, as a way of celebrating the small things in life, and she got a big toast on Friday). In some ways, I think that week two will be more telling, as it is a complete week instead of a short one, and she'll be less shell-shocked, and more able to figure out how she's actually feeling about each day rather than being in touch only with that overwhelming sense of relief to have survived another day.

Yesterday, Rick and I made our annual pilgrimage to the Stone Brewery's BrewFest (he's been going the past five years, I've been going for the past four). It was on my campus this year, instead of at Stone, which caused a certain degree of cognitive dissonance (drinking beer in front of the library; weird). Luckily, I only saw a couple of colleagues, who didn't seem to notice me in the general mayhem, and one student, and the President didn't appear to have decided to attend (whew!). We had a great time, and Rick got to try beer to his heart's content, as I was not about to drink all of my tickets' worth of beer (I was designated, which I take very very seriously). The sheer range of humanity at this event never ceases to amaze and amuse me. Talk about spectacle. And, as usual, while I'm not sure I'd necessarily like many or most of the people I watched yesterday in a deep one-on-one conversation, I was reminded of how much I like people in the aggregate. Get a bunch of us humans together, and the things that we will do to self-identify and stand out, or alternatively, to hide and blend in, always amaze me. It's the online creation of culture, and it enchants the anthropologist in me.

Today is devoted to laundry and getting school shoes for Younger Daughter. And, of course, edges. I'll post when I can, and I'll try to bring pictures next time.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Next steps

Older Daughter started middle school this morning. It's hard to believe that it's come so fast. Of course, as a friend pointed out, it makes a difference that she's young for her grade and that middle school around here starts in sixth grade, instead of the seventh/eighth grade junior high of my youth, but still. She was excited and nervous this morning, with nerves starting to predominate as we drove over there, especially when we hit the drop-off traffic that we haven't been facing on our summertime visits. She kept asking why I couldn't drive to the right of all the cars to go around them, and I had to explain why it's illegal to drive on the shoulder. Heh.

Of course, the day involved all the usual first-day-of-school mishaps. I'd gotten her safely dropped off and was on my way to get a cup of coffee before Younger Daughter's soccer camp started when I got a call from Rick saying that Older Daughter had forgotten her lunch, and Younger Daughter had forgotten her sunscreen. Luckily, there was plenty of time before camp started to meet up with him and get those things. I spent the two hours of Younger Daughter's camp working on Lacewing (a treat to myself this morning, and one I think I richly deserved) before gathering her up and feeding her lunch in time to get back to Older Daughter's school at the beginning of her lunchtime to deliver her lunch (this is not, I repeat not, going to be a habit, but I figure the first day of middle school deserves a bit of consideration). I will be going back there in an hour or so to deliver her violin, as she didn't have a place to put it yet since orchestra is meeting for the first time today, and then I will be going back to get her. Younger Daughter also has soccer tonight.

This morning, when the girls got into the car, one of them said to the other (and I would swear that they did not even begin to grasp the irony of this): "Let's pretend this is a taxi cab!"

"Pretend, my left buttock," I politely failed to say out loud. I may have cackled a little maniacally, though.

Still and yet, it was a pretty big thing to watch Older Daughter, lugging a backpack that seemed very big, trundling across her new campus to her classroom first thing this morning. She looked older, which I'm sure was my imagination, and which may have had something to do with the new middle-school clothes (I'm so used to a uniform): khakis, converse, and those layers and layers of tops that kids seem to find so nifty these days. Who knew that she knew what to wear? Who knew that she could look so confident, even when I know she was just dying of nerves inside? It's a pretty amazing thing to watch one's child walk away from one, into the next adventure, looking collected and easy while doing it. I'm glad that this is still a relatively small adventure, not yet involving things like dormitories and moves away. That will come soon enough, and for now I'm enjoying the feeling of seeing more of who and what she is as she faces this challenge.

Meanwhile, middle school prep and the Olympics, and days at the beach (did I mention we spent all day Sunday lazing at the beach? why don't we do that more often?) notwithstanding, I have been knitting. I finished this:
and am about halfway down the leg of the second sock. It was awkward getting a picture of this one myself, as it really deserves a front shot, but I got a few angles.
These Kimono Socks (this summer's Knitscene) have been an excellent Olympics-watching project, as it's impossible for me to knit Lacewing while watching a close finish, and there have been plenty of those in this year's Games. However, work has continued on the shawl, which has now morphed into The Blob That Ate Manhattan, as you can see.
In that picture, it's eating my knitting bag for dessert. I'm about halfway through with the last body repeat, so I'm hoping to move on to the insect band (which I adore) by the end of the week sometime; after that, it's just the edging, and edging is fun stuff.
I feel like I'm getting to what I think of as the downhill side of this piece. Right about this point in a knit, when I am finishing parts, I feel like I'm sliding towards the end, faster and faster; it's a fun feeling, and very motivational. Clearly, this silly and deceptive sense of speed is purely psychological, given that this shawl is getting bigger with every row, and rows are now taking closer to half and hour each, rather than fifteen minutes, but I'm glad of it. Listening to Pillars of the Earth doesn't hurt, either.

The rest of this week will be devoted to finishing up my syllabi, which are starting to come together, and to figuring out some kind of routine with all of the kids' activities before Younger Daughter and I both start back to school. I'm sure I'll find some time to knit in there somewhere...

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Has anyone noticed

that the Google logo on their search page now includes what appears to be a sheep riding a bike?

A knitter has clearly run amok with the Google code.

All I can say is, it's about time.

(Note: Google image belongs solely to Google; do not send me any money based on my use of that image. Can someone with more experience in IP than I have please tell me if I shouldn't have this here?)

Friday, August 8, 2008

Food for thought

I mentioned to a friend of mine lately that we'd be watching the opening ceremonies to the Olympic Games tonight as a family; I am a sucker for the ceremonies, and for the Games in general (yes, I do get teary-eyed when I watch, why do you ask?), for reasons which I'm sure will appear in the blog over the next several weeks. She asked me how I felt about watching Games that are taking place in China, which I thought was a good question. I was just at the Yarnerinas blog, and saw this link, which I think captures some of my questions and hopes, so I'm posting it here. I'll be sitting with this one over the next several weeks, I think, as I watch the Games in hope.

None of us are free until all of us are free.

Edited to add:
I loved the opening ceremonies, which were, in my humble opinion, far better than those in Greece (YMMV). Among many other things, they reinforced for me my sense that nothing is simple, and that generalizations drawn about a nation of 1.3 billion people comprised of 53 ethnic groups, with a history reaching back thousands of years, are bound to be fraught, and flawed at best. The fact that, in this case, those opinions come from a citizen of a nation whose human-rights record is often characterized by heights and depths, rather than a steady progress, adds to the potential flaw-factor. We and our girls spent the commercials with our globe and the internet, looking up China and its history. I think I'm going to learn a lot.

Thursday, August 7, 2008


In which a near tragedy is averted.

Have I mentioned that this shawl is stretching me in all kinds of interesting ways? It's faroese, which I've never knitted before. And it's actual lace knitting, which I haven't done in any large-scale way before. Oddly, the thing that really got me the first couple of rows of wrong-side lace knitting was remembering to read the chart from left to right. I guess I've gotten used to only ever having to look at the RS rows, from right to left, and then just merrily purling my way across the wrong sides. Not this time, buddy. And even when I did remember to Do Things to my WS rows, remembering to read the chart the other way required a bit of extra brain work. I'm thinking of this as my anti-Alzheimer's exercise for the month (or the year, maybe?).

Well, it turns out that there is one more unforeseen consequence of lace knitting where stitch movement takes place on both sides of a garment: the propagation of dropped stitches. I found this out the hard way on Tuesday evening, when I took the shawl out to work on, and saw what appeared to be a gaping hole. I stared at it in bemusement for a few seconds, completely unable to parse what I was seeing, as I have had a consistent stitch count, and there was no reason for there to be any sort of hole in my knitting. But when I looked carefully there, lo and behold, were little stitches waving at me. Freely. Completely unattached to other little stitches.

I was horrified.

Further examination revealed that they all came from one dropped stitch. But what with all of the k2togs and ssks and sl1 k2 tog psso, that one stitch lead to another, and another, and dang if there wasn't the mother of all holes in my knitting. Oy. The best I can figure is that I somehow missed grabbing a stitch when I was executing a p2tbl, because I never lost the correct stitch count, which would have been a big enough hint even for me to notice.

So I grabbed the stitches I could see and proceeded to attempt to work them all into place. I ended up capturing everything, but it just wasn't looking quite right. What I ended up with was something that a non-knitter probably wouldn't notice in a blocked shawl, but a knitter would. I was disconsolate. But there was no way I was going to rip anything out; all of those yos and ssks on both sides would just unravel beyond repair.

And before you ask, no. I had no lifeline. I'd sworn to myself that I'd put one in, but everything was going so well (I know, this is like not getting health insurance because one is healthy at the moment).

I stared at it. I tried to decide if I could live with it. I stared at it some more. I showed it to Rick, and he could see it, which made me think that maybe I couldn't live with it. I cursed. Then I hit on the brilliant idea of calling my very favorite LYS first thing Wednesday morning and asking their resident diva whether she might be able to schedule me for an immediate emergency private lesson to learn how to repair knitting mistakes. I've been meaning to take her class on this topic for ages, but, like the lifeline, hadn't done it because things were going well. And because generally I can wing a repair well enough on my own. But not this time.

Debra said she'd help. Rick very kindly agreed to work at home yesterday afternoon so I could go kid-free (can we get a round of applause for a Very Good Guy?), and I headed over. Deb took one look at the repair and said nope. Nothing to be done. Sucks to be you. Prepare yourself to tink back nine or ten rows to get to that place and start over. We're talking thousands of stitches. In reverse. Double oy.

I must've looked horrified, because she explained very clearly that maybe she could repair it if it were her project, and she'd been working with the pattern for a while and knew how it went together, but that even then she wasn't sure, because it is difficult to pull a dropped stitch up in a project like this. I felt a little better that I hadn't been able to fix it, but was still having trouble accepting that we couldn't work through this together, like reasonable adults. Apparently, however, Debra likes a challenge, because after a few minutes of her saying no I won't do this, and me saying but I know exactly which stitch we'd need to drop to try again and come on don't be a girly-girl, we were somehow crouched over the table, knitting needles everywhere, teasing that stitch back down to the scene of its crime while she said over and over but I said no, do you see what you've done, I wasn't going to do this but here we are even though I said no... And then we were elbow-deep in chaos.

And by "we", I mean "her". It was an awesome sight. Over the next hour, I watched her reason her way through the pattern, figuring out just by looking at the repeats I'd gotten right (which is a bigger number than the one I'd gotten wrong, I should say) where each stitch needed to go next, and what floating yarn to pick up to make it do that. By the end, she had recreated something that was so close to what it's supposed to be that, when the shawl is blocked, I don't think even a knitter is going to be able to spot where I went wrong, without knowing where to look and using a magnifying glass. It was awe-inspiring.

And boy howdy, did I learn a ton. She was kind enough to actually talk me through most of what she was thinking as she went, and while I'm not convinced I could repeat her feat, I think I have a much better understanding of how to approach a problem like that, and in a simpler piece I might have a solid shot at it. People, this is why we need to support our local yarn stores and their invaluable resources of experienced human beings (preaching to the choir, I know). There is no way anyone could have talked me through this online, no tutorials on uTube that would have shown me what to do. This one came out of years of experience, and an incredibly sharp mind that has some sort of spacial genius that I might not ever develop. Thanks to her willingness to go through that hour with me watching, though, I think I'm a tiny bit closer.

And yes. I've put in a lifeline. See? I can be taught.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Sundays are for spinning

And clearly, I'm running a bit behind on posting.

Before I talk about the fiberous part of my world, a couple of thank yous. Last week, I was very touched to discover that I'd been nominated for two blog awards, by two of my favorite bloggers. Part of the award, of course, is to nominate further blogs, and I immediately went into Dither Overload, out of which I still have not really emerged, but I wanted to at least say thanks to those two bloggers, even if I don't have my own lists together. Willow nominated me for the Brilliante Weblog, and Wanda honored me with a Pico Y Arte. I think that what put me into a particular state of dither was to be nominated by people whose blogs I admire so very much. Willow is an astonishing photographer, and it is clear in every picture she takes how much attention she pays to the world around her; she sees beauty in places where I would miss it, and captures it in ways that I just can't make my camera do. Wanda's writing about her life amazes me; so much peace and love and acceptance comes through in her writing, and I am always inspired when I read her blog to look for the same qualities in the people and places around me.

I've been thinking a lot lately about the old adage, "seek and you shall find", not in any religious sense, but in a very concrete way. It has occurred to me more and more over the years that it is literally true that we find what we're looking for (this must be the cognitive linguist in me, hewing to the notion that we see what fits into our categories, and miss or ignore what doesn't). I don't know if you've ever had the experience of becoming attuned to some particular experience or object, and suddenly seeing it everywhere? I remember that happening when I was first pregnant with Older Daughter; before I was even showing, it was like there were pregnant women and babies everywhere. I'm sure that they'd been there before, but I was in a mental space where I noticed them; pregnancy and motherhood were suddenly relevant categories. The same thing happens when I'm hiking; if I'm looking for a particular something -- a hawk, or a coyote -- it's possible to train my eyes to look for that shape, those colors, that movement, and bang, they appear, as if out of nowhere. They were always there, of course, but the looking makes it possible to see.

I think we do the same kind of thing in more subtle ways with people. When we assume that the people around us are nefarious, or only looking out for themselves, or not to be trusted, darn if that's not what we see. And I think that seeing, we make it so, both in the fairly abstract sense that if that's all we are looking for then that's all we find (and there are some very interesting cognitive studies that show that we interpret another person's behavior based on our categorization of that person), and in the more concrete sense that people who are treated with mistrust tend to respond to that treatment in negative ways, fulfilling all of our most dire expectations. On the other hand, approaching people while open to the possibility of good, I think, creates more opportunity for good to happen. So to some degree, we create what we believe; we find what we're looking for.

I'm not always very good at maintaining that open-heartedness, but I do know that when I try, even on those occasions when I've been very hurt by people, I am happier with the outcome, more willing to accept that the person who has hurt me isn't evil (such an easy label to apply, and so loaded with condemnation and a lack of opportunity to change), but is focused inwardly, on their own Stuff. The lashing-out so rarely has to do with anyone on the outside. I'm not talking about a willingness to be abused, but rather about a willingness to start with hope and go from there. I'd like to grow into a person who can maintain that view more of the time, rather than just on those rare occasions when I scale to the heights of philosophical clarity before falling back again.

The reason I'm blathering on about all of this is because I get that sense of looking at the world with equanimity and open-heartedness from both Willow and Wanda, and I find myself inspired to maintain that particular view when I read their blogs. Thanks to both of you for thinking of me when you received your so-deserved awards.

Right then, on to fiber. On Sunday, I spent some time with my spinning wheels, and with my skeins of handspun. I went through and made labels for myself of each one, listing yardage, weight, and wraps per inch, so that I can more easily figure out what projects I could use them for. Stella pointed out recently that it has been useful to her spinning process to knit as she spins, so that she can figure out what's working in her handspun yarn, and what she could or should change to make it more useful as knitting fiber. I am inspired thereby to start finding uses for my own handspun, sooner rather than later. I finished plying the lovely green/brown merino that Stella sent me awhile ago, and am fairly happy with the results.
(sorry about the dark photo there) This one ended up about 14 wpi, and not (yay!) overplied. I'm thinking I'll use this skein and the earlier one to make a hat, and maybe mitts, for Rick, as the color will look wonderful with his eyes.

I've also been working on Lacewing, which at the moment more closely resembles a Lacy Blob. Look, it's eating my knitting bag.
This is the stage wherein knitting is happening (I've finished the second of four repeats on the body sections), but it's really hard to tell. It's taking me about 15 minutes a row right now, and I'm getting a lot of listening done to my latest audiobook, Pillars of the Earth. Heh.
However, this is most definitely not good soccer knitting, and as the season has started, I'm working on the Kimono sock, too, and progress is more visible.
The heel is turned, and I'm almost done with the gusset. I'm guessing the foot will move fairly quickly. These are very nice socks to knit, in no small part because they're mostly stockinette, with just enough going on to keep them from being a slog. And I'm really loving the yarn, which is the KnitPicks wool/silk blend, in the color Pumpkin. I will definitely get more of this in some of their other colorways.

Today we're off to get school supplies for Older Daughter, who has completed her orientation at her new school, has her schedule and student i.d., and will be starting a week from today. Where did the summer go?

Saturday, August 2, 2008


I have been meaning to post for what feels like days, but whenever I get a spare moment that can be used for what I think of as the knitting part of my life, I am drawn, inexorably, to the Lacewing shawl. Of course, it's at that stage where, even with all of the knitting I've been doing on it, it doesn't look like I'm making much progress at all.
It is getting bigger, though, I swear. And I'm giddy like a schoolgirl with this thing, no joke. It's challenging, in the best possible way. I need to pay attention, which is wonderful and absorbing, like sight-reading a good piece of music. I did go through a small period during which I was convinced that one particular 32-stitch section was cursed; every time I finished knitting it, I'd check my stitch count, but by the time I got back to it, stitches were inexplicably missing. It was a Bermuda Triangle sort of thing, and I found it frustrating beyond belief (seriously, no-one should have to spend a good hour of knitting time fiddling with 32 stitches). On the other hand, it most certainly was an opportunity to hone my skills at reading my knitting, so that I could see where I'd gone wrong. See what I mean? Giddy. Gettin' jiggy with it. You know it's bad when even a cursed patch is a fun challenge. I guess I've been missing lace.

As I said, though, it's not something I can knit when I'm going to be interrupted much. I did manage an hour or so each morning this week, especially on those days when I dropped Older Daughter off for her two half-day orientations at her new school (they went swimmingly, btw, and she even declared herself "much less scared (but still a little scared)" to start in a few weeks; this is good news), and Younger Daughter played quietly in her room. However, there was no way I could knit this while taking the girls to see the American Girl movie (very nice period knitted sweaters) or when going to an afternoon meeting, so I worked on the half-pi shawl during those. I also can't knit Lacewing while playing games with the girls, so I've been knitting the Kimono socks from the most recent issue of Knitscene.
I decided to only do one of the cute little ties; one was good, two seemed like a bit much.

Have y'all seen the recently-inaugurated Twist Collective? Anne has an amazing pattern in there, and there's a pair of Cookie A. socks that I might have to buy the pattern for, as well. So much to knit, so little time.

In fact, I'd just managed to pack the girls and Rick off to this morning's market so I could have a little quiet knitting time (on Lacewing, what else?), when Older Daughter came running back in saying there was something I had to see, right now. So I ran outside to see, and by gorr, she was right.
Do you see what's sitting there on a bag of guinea pig litter that the girls forgot to put in the garbage can?
Yup, a hawk (Sharp-shin, I think, although maybe a Cooper's). It didn't seem at all inclined to fly away, which made me nervous, so we trapped all of our animals in the house, and I started calling around to see who could come and rescue her from us, because there was no way on this green earth that I was going to try to capture that hawk; it may not have been flying, but the beak and claws all seemed in working order. I spent a solid half an hour on the phone, and had just gotten someone to give me a phone number to call, when she flew away. She only got as far as the lower branches of our oak tree, where she sits even now, so I am still a bit concerned, but I'll keep an eye on her. Meanwhile, I'm off to knit some more.