Friday, October 31, 2008

I have to say it

Fair warning: Political minefield ahead.

I've been contemplating this post, or one like it, for some time now, and have mostly put off writing it because I don't know that I have the words or the eloquence to convey these thoughts that are vitally important to me and that I have been refining in my own mind for so long, and because there are times when I feel that saying these thoughts badly would be worse than staying silent.

Several things have happened lately that have changed my mind about that; in fact, I have come to the conclusion that to not say anything would be immoral, that there comes a time when it's vital to stand up and speak. Thing the first. A friend recently put up election signs in his yard. They happened to be signs for Obama, and against Prop 8 (the proposition in California that, if passed, will create a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage). In the end, though, that is really neither here nor there in my story. What is important is that he posted his signs in his yard, and woke up the next morning not only to find them gone, but to find a Yes on Prop 8 sign posted smack dab in the middle of his lawn.

Thing the second. A colleague of mine got up one fine morning, threw on a t-shirt, and headed out to walk his seven-year-old daughter to his local public school. About halfway there, he realized he'd put on his Obama t-shirt, but figured ah, well, such is life. Apparently not so much. Upon arriving at school, another parent, seeing him across the school yard, shouted, with no apparent humor, "You're lucky you don't get shot wearing a shirt like that around here."

These incidents, combined with the slogans "freedom of religion" and "freedom of speech" appended to signs which support Prop 8, and combined with the latest rhetoric in the political campaigns which equates paying taxes with socialism, have me in a state of total horror.

Before I say more, let me tell you one thing about me that might sound silly, but you've got to know it. I believe, in the strongest possible way, in democracy. Not democrats, not republicans, not my senators or my representatives per se. But democracy as an institution. I am passionate about it, in a way that I don't talk about very often because it sounds idealistic or downright insane, but I truly believe in a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. All people. Not just the ones I agree with, or whom I like, or with whom I'd share a beer, or to whom I'd entrust my children. But all of them. Even the ones I think are complete blithering idiots with the brains of half-grown newts. Because that's what democracy means. (I'll be honest here and say that I think that good public education is a vital part of a working democracy, but that's a rant for another time.) When I vote, it gives me chills. Real, live, honest-to-god chills. People all over the world have fought and still do fight and die for the right to do something that I, and women like me, have been able to take for granted in the United States for the past 85 years (and yes, it has only been 85 years for those of us with a uterus, but that, too, is for another time). And I believe firmly that we should all feel that way about government, and about what it's for, and about voting. I tend to think that if we did, things might be a little bit different around here.

Because frankly, a proposition like Prop 8 is appalling. Not just if one is a supporter of gay rights (which I happen to be). I think that there are plenty of people out there who may think that gay marriage is a wrong thing for any one of a number of reasons who should still be terrified at the notion of creating a constitutional amendment to tell consenting adults how to conduct their private lives. A constitutional amendment. To me, this is one of the most upsetting things I've seen happen in politics in a long time. This is using one of our most powerful legal constructs to impose morals upon the population (Prohibition comes to mind as a lovely historical example of how well this works). Constitutions, state and federal, exist to protect the rights of all citizens. They do not exist to abrogate those rights.

Moreover, while laws in our nation exist to protect our rights as citizens, they do not exist to protect our sensibilities. It is not the job of law to protect us from seeing people whose lives offend us. A belief in the freedom of speech and of the right of our citizenry to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness must apply equally to all members of our society, or it's a farce. So it seems to me that this particular proposition is not a referendum on marriage; it is, at its heart, a referendum on democracy, and on freedom and rights. Do we feel that the laws of our nation, and the voice of our people, exist to protect the rights of all citizens, or not?

I think that what it boils down to for me is this. With rights come obligations. The right to vote, the right to freedom of speech and the freedom of the press, and the freedom to believe as we will, those rights are matched by obligations of equal depth and breadth. And at the core, those obligations come down to the obligation to support and uphold those social structures which give us those rights in the first place. Education, so our population can read and understand those matters put before them in the vote; health care, so all the people of this nation can participate in the possibilities offered by an open society; law and safety enforcement, so that we can safely exercise our freedoms. These things aren't free. And for them to mean anything at all, they must be available to everyone. Even those people whom we don't much like, or with whom we don't agree.

Because the day may come when we are the people with whom others don't agree, and what leg do we have to stand on then? If we do it right, then we have the strength of a society that protects the rights and freedoms of all citizens, however poor or marginalized. We have a society that acknowledges that its history is not a history of shared religion, or shared language or shared race or shared gender, but rather a firm and unbending belief in the rights of individuals under the law, and in the obligations of those individuals to the whole.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

They're heeeerrreee....

So, I had this whole post planned about this amazing package that came in the mail yesterday, and about how excited I am about it, and how excited I was to share my excitement with you. That's gonna have to wait, though, 'cause something else has come up, and what I need to share with you right now is a state of fear, perhaps even panic. (I feel like an SNL skit: "There was a light at the end of the tunnel, Seth, but it's broken.")

See, here's what happened. We have some very nice neighbors who live a block or so away and whose girls play with our girls. Yesterday, as I was picking Younger Daughter up from a quick swimming play date (have I mentioned that it is failing in all ways to cool off? Yup, still in the 80's and 90's around here; I'm coming to the conclusion that October is just not my month), the mom of the other girls mentioned that she'd been wanting to pick up knitting again. So, of course, I did what any of us would've done and told her unequivocally that I'd be happy to facilitate (I may even have jumped up and down a few times but I am sure that I did not squeal; I have some dignity, after all). We agreed to meet this afternoon for an hour of knitting while the girls played.

She and her daughters duly arrived at the appointed time and we sat down to knit. She'd brought her small stash of yarn and needles, and we fiddled with that for a while. She remembers how to knit and purl, and a basic cast-on, and wants to learn to knit lace and/or socks. I showed her briefly how to knit on dpns, and then headed inside to get some sock yarn from the stash (you know how it is -- half the reason to have a stash is to enable when necessary; pulling people over to the Dark Side of Fiber Love is a good reason to get out of bed in the morning). I grabbed a skein that I figured one of her daughters would like (kids' socks seemed like a better start than large grown-up sized ones), and my ball-winder and swift, and headed back outside. I opened the skein up, put it on the swift, went to untie the yarn holding the skein together, and that's what I saw it.

Little bitty weird gray granules on the yarn.

At a spot where the yarn was broken. Strands and strands of it.

I tried not to panic. I thought that maybe it was just schmutz. I hung on hard to the schmutz theory, because I figured that screaming and yelling and running in circles pulling my hair out would not impress the nice neighbor lady with my sanity and responsible nature, and after all, she does let her kids hang out here unsupervised.

But I knew what it had to be. As soon as she left, I was head-down in that bin of yarn, praying that I would find no more "schmutz". Please please please, Our Lady of Knitting, no more schmutz. Because we all know what that schmutz is, don't we?

Moth eggs.

I'm pretty sure that's what's going on there. I found two more skeins with moth eggs on them in that bin, and pitched one of them (it was a partial skein of Kidsilk Haze, which should tell you just how freaked out I am about this whole thing); the other one only had a little bitty bit. I went through all the other yarn that had been on that shelf and the shelf above it, and found nothing else, nor in my bumps of roving. I haven't faced my other bins yet, but they're further away, and I haven't seen anything flying, so I'm going to hope I caught this fast.

What did I do with the yarn in the bin, you ask?

Yup, that's my freezer (I'm really hoping to have the camera ready when Rick first opens the door; it's the only laugh I'm gonna get out of this thing, and I intend to milk the heck out of it). I've been busy ever since wandering around the house, distracted, watching for little flutters out of the corners of my eyes (and seriously, this is way too much for me right now, since I'm fighting the good fight against meal moths in my kitchen right now)(yup, I know: bay leaves and pheromone traps and sealed containers); I have a distant memory of Stephanie Pearl-McPhee battling moths and that it involved freezing the heck out of the little devils. That also works with meal moths (there's rice there in my freezer right along with my yarn), so I'm gonna leave it all there for several days, thaw it out, and then for good measure, freeze the little bastards again. Maybe I need to buy a giant case freezer and store all of my yarn and all of my grain in it forever and ever. Or would that be going overboard?

I don't think so.

No mercy.

Monday, October 27, 2008


That's how many steps I took on my long walk on Saturday with Anna and her Walk for the Cure teammate Nancy. Thirteen and a half miles worth. Four hours (it was hot and dry). I have to say, I'm pretty proud of myself. And my leg didn't hurt! (I know this doesn't sound like a big deal, but trust me -- it is.)

This was in the middle of a hectic day. The girls had soccer games in the morning, and as soon as I got home, we needed to head straight back out for one of my dear friend's annual Diwali party, which is great fun, and which involved me trying to get a sari on all by myself. I almost managed it, and required only minimal adjusting when I got there, and nothing fell down while I was in public (which I consider to be a feat worthy of recognition). I absolutely adore wearing a sari on this once-a-year occasion when I have an excuse to do so. Honestly, I so wish that I could wear one all the time; there's nothing like draping oneself in nine yards of fabric to feel all swishy and pretty. Alas that I was born in the wrong place. If I lived in India, I could probably get away with it, and if I were of Indian heritage living here I could probably get away with it, but being who I am living where I am, not so much.

Sunday was a more relaxing day. I spun another ounce of the Sanguin Gryphon roving; I am hoping to get it all spun and plied before my conference at the end of the month, so I can knit a scarf for myself out of it while I sit through talks. We'll see how realistic that is. I also got some serious knitting done on the baby blanket, and am through the skein of brown yarn, and onto the skein of blue. It doesn't look like much.
But it's progress. The little star in the middle turned out nicely.
We might be heading up north in a couple of weeks to visit, and I'm hoping to have it done by then, so I can give it to Rick's cousin in person. We'll see. It's a great project to knit while reading, which means, among other things, that I'm working my way rather quickly through Knitting America and will soon be on to No Idle Hands. (I should mention, by the way, that all y'all are some serious book-buying facilitators, not to mention research-doing supporters. I now know where to turn when it comes time to interview knitters, I think.) Knitting has finally made it so that I don't mind hardbacks so much, since they stay open while I knit (I mostly hate big books because I can't easily carry them around with me in the very small backpack I allow myself as a purse)(must protect the back).

Meanwhile, I started my day today with a lovely walk on one of my favorite local trails with both dogs (and Anna and her two dogs -- we were a herd!), who then spent the rest of the day sprawled around me at my desk while I worked on the presentation I need to give at that conference at the end of the month (eek!).
I was surrounded, as you can see.

Not a bad way to start the week. And now I'm off to start baking some butternut squash to go along with the sauteed sausages and peppers on pasta. Mmmm....

Friday, October 24, 2008


Well, I've gone and done it again. Books are my ultimate downfall. The girls know this well; they almost never ask for toys or the like when we're out places (although I do occasionally get, "I know we can't have anything, but if we could have something, I'd like one of these...", to which my response is generally something alone the lines of, "yup, that'd be cool, wouldn't it?"; I understand the joys of vicarious shopping). But if we're in a bookstore, they go instantly for the jugular, because they know that if there's one place where I am weak, it is in the face of books. If some books is a good thing, then how can more books be a bad thing? (I keep wondering when they'll figure out that I seem to have the same weakness in the face of fiber and get serious about knitting and spinning; thus far they haven't noticed that I also don't usually say no in yarn stores, though, and I'm counting my blessings.)

In this case, however, I contend that the books I've acquired are necessities, rather than luxuries. I found this contention so convincing myself that I feel almost no guilt whatsoever (go, me!). Let me know what you think when I'm done presenting and explaining. The first of the books that I got is Susan Strawn's book Knitting America: A Glorious Heritage from Warm Socks to Fine Art, and the second is Anne Macdonald's No Idle Hands: The Social History of American Knitting. Even better, I managed to get them in one of those "if you buy both of these, you get them cheaper" deals at Amazon. The first one arrived yesterday, and it's gorgeous. I mean, seriously gorgeous. It's a hardback with lovely pictures throughout, all glossy and colorful, and her writing is wonderful. It's incredibly well-researched; I can only imagine how much work Strawn went to in order to dig up some of these references and photos and patterns. I've read as far as the Civil War (I'm right in the middle of that chapter now), and I absolutely agree with Falick's contention in the introduction that it would be possible for someone to lay a finger down on almost every page and find an interesting point worthy of further research. It's inspirational. The second book arrived today, and I haven't had a chance to do more than glance through it, but I'm really looking forward to reading it.

Because here's the thing. It's been occurring to me more and more lately, in the wee hours of the night when academics think odd, academical, research-oriented thoughts, that I am developing a burning desire to spend more time thinking, from the perspective of linguistic anthropology, about the worlds of knitting and spinning that inspire my thinking so much of the rest of the time (might this mean, if I plan it right, that visits to my LYS would be tax-deductible because they count as fieldwork? one can only hope...). I'm not entirely sure yet what that might mean, although I am fascinated by all of the interesting ways that we are socialized into the world of knitting and into becoming competent members of the community of knitters. I also find the cottage-industry of knitting and spinning and dyeing inspirational as a balancing response to a work world which seems to demand more and more of our time and energy and selves. Surely there's something to be said about all this in the world of academia? It is my hope right now that reading some of these books will give me an idea of what people have researched before and how, and whether there might be something there for someone with my theoretical leanings. I'll keep you posted. (And I'd love to hear what you all think of the idea, if you have any thoughts to share.)

Meanwhile, I did visit my LYS today with more mundane purposes in mind. Rick's cousin, whom I adore, is having her first baby in December (she's due on Christmas eve, in fact), and her baby shower is coming up fast (I just got the invitation, so it's not my fault that I didn't realize quite how fast until just now). I won't be able to get to the shower, as it's in the Bay Area and I can't get up there on that weekend, but I thought that if I could knit something in time, I could maybe get it sent to her to open at the party. And if I don't get it done quickly enough, then maybe I'll have started it in time to get it to her before the baby is born (I can only hope...). I'm planning to knit the Pinwheel Baby Blanket, which I've seen around several times lately, and have loved. I got some Lorna's Laces worsted weight in three colors, and I'll knit it with the brown in the middle, then the blue, and then the cream. The picture isn't good, but this'll give you an idea.
The blue is more robin's egg than that. So, I'll probably cast on for that as soon as I'm done with this post and get started.

I also got a wonderful email from Cheryl about the socks. She got them, and they fit!! (Please don't cite me for Excessive Use of Exclamation Points there; I was worried, and now I'm relieved.) Her husband took a picture which she sent to me and said I could share here on the blog. What do you think?

Meanwhile, the hot is back. So is the cold. The joy of 10% (or less) humidity is the wide range of temperature possibilities on any given day, depending on whether the sun is up or not. When I took Tilly for a walk this morning on a local trail (she is becoming quite the nice companion on these trail walks), it was in the low fifties in the shade. In the sun, it was probably up in the seventies. And by this afternoon, I'd guess it was in the high eighties. Nice variability. If you like weather that is schizophrenic, that is. So, I need to go drink some water (and, thanks to Samantha, I now have a lovely word for what I'm feeling here: drouth; I will be using it often), and, now that Rick is home, ask him nicely to make me a mojito. The consensus of those who weighed in on this issue seems to be that a mojito, chased appropriately by water, is in fact hydrating, and I'd hate to go against the Will of the Blog.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Keep trucking

That's what I'm doing. Trucking along.

I so appreciated every single comment that you all left for me after my last post. It meant a tremendous amount to me to hear from all of you, and to know that I'm not the only one who has trouble facing things like this, and who struggles with finding a good response to a terrible tragedy. Thank you, truly.

Mostly right now I'm trying to remember my resolve to stay mindful. I went for a lovely long walk with the girls on Sunday while Rick was mountain biking (we kept waving to him from various parts of the open space we were in). We brought both the dogs along, and they had a lovely time, even Kia, who is getting slower and slower this year. We also saw a beautiful rattlesnake (eek!); thank goodness both dogs came immediately to be put on leash, and we were able to wait patiently until the snake had decided it was done with the trail and slithered off into the underbrush.

I've also spent a lot of time knitting and contemplating, but there's not much to show for it, from a photographic perspective. I'm working on Rick's sweater; I've finished the back yoke and the armhole shaping, and am ready to start the armhole shaping for the front half; once that's done, I can join the two halves and start knitting in the round. I'm trying to decide whether to then finish the body, or put all of that on a holder and knit the sleeves down first. I'm leaning toward the former course -- any preferences out there? I should mention that I'm still in love with this yarn; I may have found my preferred cotton. I wonder if they have it in a less bulky yarn? (It's Blue Sky Alpaca's 100% cotton, btw.)

I'm also knitting a scarf for a friend who sometimes reads the blog, so I'm not showing any pictures of that right now; with luck, it'll be done by the weekend. And I've wound the yarn from the latest STR sock club installment, which I adore. I love the colors, the pattern, everything, so these will be for me; I might cast on for them tonight while I'm watching TV (House and Fringe, and why is House on at the same time as NCIS?) so they're ready when I need a non-bulky project to carry around. And finally, I mailed Cheryl's socks off, so now I'm waiting with bated breath to see if they fit.

Meanwhile, we're in that long slow just-past-midterms period of the semester. I realize that there is something about this time of the fall that just isn't so good for me. The general theory could be that it's the loss of light, except that I like shorter and colder days. Thinking about it this week, I've figured out what my problem is with October in San Diego (I never had this problem when I lived in the Bay Area): the Santa Anas. There is just something about the dryness (the dryth? shouldn't that be a word? like warmth, except for dry) that does really bad things to my brain. Last week, the humidity was down around 7% for a while, and then it went up to a whopping 20%. And seriously, people, that isn't even enough to keep synapses firing. (I have lately developed some really complex theories about the way electrical impulses travel through liquid in the brain, or not as the case may be, and I'd rather not have my bubble burst if there are any neurobiologists out there thank you very much.) There's just no way to stay hydrated enough for anything in weather like that. And it does really bad things to your hair.

I spent the whole week feeling like my eyes were swollen and I couldn't make my brain work. I was drinking plenty (I'm sure you all can imagine the kind of evidence I'd cite if you were to ask), but it just didn't help. Dry dry dry. Turns out I don't so much like the dryth. I like damp. And coolth. Fog, gray, mist. Mmmm....

Not dry. Not this kind of dry, at least, which is, in my considered opinion, simply inhuman. (Not to mention the fear of fires; I don't think any of us are ready for another disaster like last year's.)

We got some fog over the weekend, which seemed to help clear my brain a little bit. But tomorrow is supposed to be dry again, alas and alack. Do you think mojitos help with hydration?

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Life makes you think

It's been a week. I want to say straight out that nothing bad has happened to me (except in the most minor sense; more later on a small knitting snafu); and let me further add my up-front apologies for taking you on a guided tour of my confused and jumbled thoughts. But two people I know have had friends lose children this week (three and five years old), and have had to face the horror of going to a funeral for a young child, and of trying to find any words at all to say to parents who are dealing with every parent's worst nightmare.

So, while I am not directly affected by these terrible losses, it -- necessarily, I think -- makes me think. I think that most parents try not to dwell on the possibility of facing such a loss; I can't even bring myself to write about it directly here (I've been trying to bring myself up to that fence all week, and I'm sorry, but I can't), and opening the door in my mind that leads to that nightmare quite literally makes me sick to my stomach. I don't think anyone could function while constantly focusing on the direst of possibilities. Denial is much easier. There are times, though, when that denial gets shoved aside, as it has for me this week. The temptation is to embrace the "live each moment as if it were your (or someone else's) last" philosophy, a hedonistic call to make each instant the best possible last moment there could be. But that's untenable, too. For one thing, I'd think it would get exhausting, and for another, I'm not sure that it would lead to any kind of good life in the end. I mean, if I knew that tonight were my last, I'd be curled up on the couch with my family, talking and laughing and sharing wonderful food, drinking Veuve Cliquot and never going to bed, but honestly, there's no way I could keep that up (or, I'm guessing, should).

So where does one go with this? What would I want, were I to find at some moment that a relationship with someone had ended, that the totality of my interactions with that person was complete, had already been encompassed? I think that what I would want is to know that I did the rightest thing that I knew how to do in each moment of that relationship.

Let me say first that I'm nowhere near that ideal. And let me say second that this doesn't mean that I think that the goal is to always make an unregrettable decision, or one that I wouldn't do differently at a future time; an important part of any decision is taking into account what has been learned from similar experiences in the past. I guess I am simply saying that it seems to me that the best thing I can learn from taking a glimpse through that dark doorway of potential loss is to be more mindful. To pay attention to each moment as it comes. To not act in distraction or out of habit, but to consciously be. (I know, I know, idealistic at best, right? This is a practice, not an achievement.) What I want then, is to take this reminder as a call, not to fear, but to engagement. I don't know if that's the best thing, or some attempt to feel less out of control of an inherently uncontrollable situation, but it feels like the rightest thing I know how to do with what I'm feeling right now.

I've also been hugging the girls even more than usual this week.

Of course, I've been knitting through all of these thoughts (isn't that what we do?). I've done so much knitting and thinking, in fact, that I've finished Cheryl's socks. I have been delighted with this yarn; it's been wonderful to knit (so soft), and the shadowed stripes are subtle and lovely.
The colors in these pictures are pretty true to life on my monitor.
To recap, these are a pair of socks whose design I improvised myself, knitted on my size one Celtic Swans, using the Bunny Patch yarn from NewHue Handspun Yarns, in the Oasis colorway. There are 200 yards in each skein, and to make these size eight socks, I used almost all of each of the two skeins I started with. Here's what I had left.
I probably could have squeezed out another inch on the foot or leg with these. I had such fun knitting with this yarn -- thanks, Cheryl, for letting me try it out! I've been contemplating my two skeins, in the gorgeous Jacob's coat colorway, and trying to decide what to knit with them. After trying on these socks this morning to take pictures (I couldn't find my sock blockers to save my life; my feet were clean, Cheryl, I promise), I think that I'm leaning towards knitting them again for myself. We'll see...

Yesterday, Rick came into our bedroom and asked me, "Do we know any babies who need a neckwarmer?" A pause, then he added, "Babies with small heads."

Yup, he accidentally (I'm taking him at his word on this) threw my lovely alpaca neckwarmer in the (shudder) washing machine. The brand-new washing machine. The washing machine that I now realize really is out to get me (it couldn't find an airlock, so it did the next-best thing instead).
Why, yes, that huge silver thing is the corner of my laptop, why do you ask? It is to cry.

Anyone have any suggestions for what to do with the softest, most inelastic tube of luscious felted alpaca ever?

Edited to add: I really debated whether to pull the trigger on this post. It sounds so much like, "Look, someone's faced a tragedy, let's talk about me!", but that isn't how I mean it or what I am feeling. It seems to me that, in all the collective wisdom of those of you who are reading this, someone might have a thought or experience to share, so I'm going to take a chance.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

My apologies

Or: Further evidence that I am not as smart as I would like to think I am.

So. Several weeks ago a friend of mine asked me whether I got an email every time someone put a comment on the blog. I said, why no I don't. I wonder if that's even possible?

Having the inquiring mind that I do, I hied myself off to Blogger and found out that yes indeedy, I can in fact receive an email whenever someone leaves a comment. This has been wonderful in so many ways. I don't spend nearly so much time pitifully hitting refresh on blogger in the vain hope that someone has left me a comment, for example. Also, when I respond to what people write, their comments are right there, in black and white, to remind me of what they've said (yes, I do have a short attention span, apparently). Finally (and here's the point we're going to have to come back to) it meant that I didn't have to search out each commenter's email address in my email program or on their blog; I could just merrily hit reply and send off my well-thought-out words of wisdom.

Or so I thought.

Turns out, though, not so much. In fact, it turns out (if my informal polling of a few people today bears out across the board) that very few of you have been getting any of my responses to your comments ever since I so intelligently (note the tone of irony there) started responding to the comments I was getting through email. Have I mentioned that I am not always so smart? More evidence of this appears on a regular basis.

Mea culpa.

Thank you all for so patiently continuing to leave me thoughtful and funny and sympathetic comments, in spite of the fact that those same comments are, from your perspective, disappearing into a giant black hole. Please know that I did, in fact, respond to each and every one of them, but that I am not going to go back through my sent mail for the past several weeks to find and resend my messages. (I hope you understand.)

I am, however, going to start doing things a little differently around here chez Knitting Linguist. So you should start hearing from me again soon (unless you tell me that you prefer the Black Hole method, in which case, I'll read your comments merrily and save you the extra in-box input; just let me know).

Meanwhile, we're all staying home tonight to watch the debate (Older Daughter's request), whilst knitting on the second Cheryl sock (which does indeed mean that the first one is finished; pictures soon). And to celebrate having made it through the midpoint of the week. Do I hear mojito?

Monday, October 13, 2008


That's what I have to say to everyone who has today off. I don't. Hmph.

Of course, in the interest of fairness (and I am nothing if not fair)(I heard that), I should point out that Mondays are the day I work at home, and given how behind I am at work, I'd probably not be doing anything different even if I did have today off (except I wouldn't have Older Daughter here, asking me a question every ten minutes or so). And while I'm under the influence of this fit of honesty, I should also mention that it's not like celebrating Columbus day is unproblematic for someone who works with Native Americans. So even if I did have the day off, it's unlikely that I'd be dressing up like the Pinta and sashaying around the city, hollering about how glad I am that someone finally found The New World.

So, all right. I take the phthbbt back. Those of you with the day off, enjoy it -- just drink a margarita for me, 'k? (I am on my third cup of coffee; alert the media.)

I am managing to keep busy. Among other things, we finally replaced our washing machine, and the lovely Sears guys delivered the new one today and hauled our old one away. It was time; that old machine was in our house up north when we first rented it, and then it stayed with the house when we bought it. It lived through two babies, plus all the stuff that comes with wet active dogs, and then moved down here with us six years ago. I have no idea how old it is, but it was starting to make really scary noises, and given that we've had it repaired several times, it seemed like a good idea to invest in a new one before we found ourselves in a washerless state of emergency.

So we got one of those front-loading, energy-saving jobbies. It's got buttons and lights and whirligigs, and can I just tell you something? I'm scared of it. Seriously. I'm going to avoid the laundry room until Rick comes home and convinces it to stop beeping and blinking at me. I keep waiting for it to say, "What are you doing, Jocelyn?" in a frighteningly calm tone. Thank goodness there are no airlocks in the house.

Meanwhile, I'm banging away at the computer in the kitchen, wishing I could knit instead. I am so close on these socks. I am also relatively low on yarn with this first ball, and am engaged in the whole Race To The End thing that I do. You know -- where you knit really fast in an effort to get to the end of the sock before your yarn gets to the end of the ball. I can't possibly be the only one who does this. Can I? (Lie to me.)

Check these out though. I'm in love with this yarn. I adore it. Truly, madly, deeply. It's soft, and the colors blend together in the best possible way. My only question at this point is whether to buy myself to skeins of this colorway to knit myself some socks, or whether to buy the roving in this colorway to spin into sock yarn to use for socks (note the optimistic assumption that I could spin anything resembling sock yarn).
Do you see how it stripes without being all, well, stripey? Sort of shadowed stripes. Love it.
That's the top of the foot. Do you see what I mean? Why I need some more of this yarn? (I know, I know, I have two skeins of the lovely Jacob's coat colorway; what can I say? I'm a bit of a yarn pig.) I'm guessing I'll have the first sock done later tomorrow, since I have a meeting and a soccer practice to get through, and then I'll get the second one started. Between Friday's nearly-three-hour meeting, and two soccer games on Saturday, I should make good progress.

And speaking of soccer games, the girls finally had a successful weekend this past weekend. Both girls' teams won their games (it's been a rough season, so this is pretty exciting). We got home at a reasonable hour, and I sat down to spin (I had to celebrate somehow, right?). I've spun a quarter ounce of the four-ounce bump of Sanguine Gryphon merino/silk roving I posted a picture of late last week. I divided the bump into halves, and then split those lengthwise into four strips, which I am spinning, four onto a bobbin; I'll then spin a two-ply yarn. It's feeling more even than usual and fairly fine. I have hopes of a fingering weight yarn, or close to it.
Those are the singles. Here's a bit of the singles plied back on itself.
Not too bad. I'll keep referring to that to be sure I'm getting my twist even throughout the spinning. This roving drafts so smoothly and evenly that it's a real treat to spin.

As I was spinning, the girls jumped up and down and demanded to finally (they've been pleading for a while and we've never had a chance) be taught to spin on my spindles. So when I'd finished my bit, I got them started. They loved it.
In fact, they got up on Sunday morning, and tried it again.
I think this is going to be one of those things that, like teaching them to like sushi, seemed like a really good idea until they start eyeing my stash. Then I'm going to regret it.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Ooh! Look over there!

A shiny object!

Apparently I am easily distracted.


This week, the shiny objects have taken several forms, but the most distracting of them is this:
What's that? Why, that is some absolutely gorgeous handspun yarn from Cheryl. It's her Bunny Patch Yarn, from NewHue Handspun Yarns. She dyes the fiber herself and then spins it into a lovely fingering weight yarn; a soft and cozy merino/angora yarn, no less (80/20). And the colors are gorgeous. That yarn is her Oasis colorway, and it's a deeper, richer, more mossy colorway than these two pictures show, with the colors running through the plies of the yarn.
Cheryl has been spinning for years, and has spun for several other producers during that time, but she's decided to go into selling her own line (that's her etsy link above). Cheryl asked Anne if she'd think of something along the mitt/scarf line to knit with the yarn (which is going to be amazing; this stuff is soft soft), and then asked me if I'd knit her a pair of socks with it so she could see how well it wears as socks. How could I say no? Look at the Joseph's Coat colorway that I'll be knitting into something for myself very soon:
It's more burgundy in real life,but you get the idea. So I sat down and tried and tried to figure out what kind of sock pattern I could knit that would show off the lovely color changes without obscuring either the colors or the pattern. I was pretty sure that either moss or seed stitch would have to come into it somewhere, but I wasn't sure where. I poked around in Barbara Walker's books, and thought that something in the eyelet family might also be nice, but I was feeling pretty attached to the seed stitch idea, especially with the lovely mossy colors in the Oasis yarn. I found a beautiful little motif from BW (the Wildflower Knot Stitch) that I thought would look nice, but I needed something more. I finally decided that I could wing something, that I had faith in myself, and I went with a series of travelling stitch diamonds, filled with seed stitch, running down the sides, and the knots along the front and back. I'm half a diamond repeat in, and I think I like.
That's much truer to the color, btw. I love the way this looks. I love this colorway (might have to get some for myself), and I'm feeling pretty proud of myself for figuring this thing out. I haven't decided if I'll keep doing the knots on the instep of the foot, the way I usually would, since I'm not sure how comfortable that would be, but I have some time. Maybe I'll just carry the diamonds down the side of the foot instead.

Meanwhile, I have not forgotten Rick's sweater, which I am knitting while reading and talking and watching TV (I always forget how nice it is to have one stockinette stitch project OTN for just vegging out with). I'm making some progress.
I realized that in my hysteria while writing my last post, I misstated the inches of the yoke; it's more like 22 than 29, but that's still a gracious plenty. This yarn is astonishing, though -- a cotton that I love and that doesn't hurt my hands. Wow.

I'm also working on another scarf from my handspun for another friend's birthday. I'm using the same stitch as last time (the cabled feather and fan) because I liked it so much (and because, let's face it, I'm a little lazy).
Now that I have a needle size I like on this one (three tries later) I think it'll go fairly quickly.

And last but not least, I got another package in the mail last night (Rick asked whether I've joined the "fiber a day" club; all I want to know is how do I sign up?). To be completely fair, I bought this with a gift certificate from The Loopy Ewe, so I'm not sure it really counts as part of my fiber budget.
What's coming out as a white/yellow in the picture is actually a deep gold, and the oranges are more pumpkiny. The final product will either be for me or for my mom; I haven't decided yet if I'm going to be able to give it up...

So, that's the week in fiber. Several projects going on, and a burning desire to spend some time at the wheel. Lucky for me it's a relatively quiet weekend, and if it stays as cool and grayish as it was today, it's going to be a good weekend for holing up with some needles and spindles. Meanwhile, I'm off to take Tilly for a walk while Younger Daughter goes to soccer practice.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008


I don't know about you all, but I find that sometimes I have to sneak up on things that I think of as hard. Attack them from the side, as it were. Generally what happens is that I'm going along, making plans to do one thing, while all along some back part of my brain is slyly making alternative plans and just when I think I know what I'm doing and where I'm going, bam, there I am doing something else.

This, I think, is how I got myself into spinning, for example. It was only after I'd started that I realized that I'd been wanting to learn to spin far longer than any other fibrous activity, but that I didn't know what I'd do with all that yarn. So I learned how to knit, and now I have lots of reasons to have that much yarn, right? (See last post.) Excellent example of the sideways attack. (And thinking about it now, this is how I became a linguist; there I was, going along, planning to become a trial lawyer (!!), when I took one class in linguistics and found myself getting a Ph.D. in the subject. Man, was that a shocker.)

My latest project is another case in point. Remember how I was saying just a few days ago that I was considering knitting the Sunrise Circle Jacket (Ravelry link) for myself? And that I was thinking of doing that because I doing my best to avoid knitting of a sweater of my own devising? And that I have the yarn and everything? Well, that was my intent. Truly it was.

Which is apparently why I'm busily knitting the Big Thaw Pullover from the Fall 2008 Knitscene for Rick. Oops.

See what I mean? It turns out (and I know this) that I am a wee bit afraid of knitting sweaters. I will merrily sign on to knit 1400 yards of laceweight in patterns of surpassing complexity without batting an eye, but suggest to me that I might think about knitting a (gasp) cardigan and I curl up in a small ball and try to look inconspicuous. Sweaters have pieces. Lots of pieces. And, perhaps more daunting, when it comes to sweaters, gauge matters. I mean, I know that gauge matters with lace, too, but the relative risk of a gauge error is less. How many people have you heard say that they can't wear that lace shawl because it doesn't fit? Not many.

Even socks and mitts don't carry quite the same pressure. I mean yes, things can go awry should gauge get misjudged, but assuming that one is paying attention, it usually becomes obvious that one is knitting elephant socks fairly rapidly. And frogging a sock is somehow much less traumatic for me (ymmv) than frogging a whole sweater (anyone remember the angst I dragged everyone through when I was deciding to frog Kauni almost exactly a year ago? No? Good, I'm glad the therapy is working...).

So sweaters are my personal Everest. Big, daunting, requiring a huge run-up before the actual leap. In fact, it's better if I don't even realize that I'm taking that leap until I'm already on the way over the edge (this life strategy may be, come to think of it, why I'm afraid of exposed heights; what if I jump because it seems like an interesting thing to do and only on the way down realize what a really bad idea that was?). And knitting a sweater for Rick is, frankly, even more of a commitment than knitting one for, say, Younger Daughter. He is, after all, 6'6". He has the wingspan of a condor. To date, I have knitted him socks, mitts, and a vest; note the strategic choice of a vest -- no sleeves (hey, I'm not stupid). But now I'm committed.

(I heard that.)

As evidence of exactly how long I can sneak up sideways on a project like this, I am knitting this sweater with the yarn I bought some time ago at the giant sale at Common Threads. Yarn that I bought with this sweater in mind. So clearly my backbrain has been working on bringing me up to the gate on this one for a while. I am in love with this yarn, by the way. It may be the only cotton I have ever loved. It's Blue Sky Cotton, in a lovely chocolate brown (the Toffee colorway on that page), and I'm glad I love it, since I'm clearly going to be living with it for a while.

In the meantime, I finished the socks that I was knitting for Anna. I took one bad picture (it was nighttime) before giving them to her, which I haven't uploaded yet so you can't see it, but I'll ask her if she can take a picture of them on her feet to share with us. I think that they turned out well, and Anna seemed happy to get them (but she's a nice person, so she might have been faking it). I think I mentioned how happy I am with the yarn (Lime and Violet's Intentions yarn that I got at The Loopy Ewe); I have some left over and I can't wait to knit with it again.

Other than that, I have something else on the needles that I can't post about since I think that the person I'm knitting it for might read the blog from time to time, and I don't want to ruin the surprise. I'll be knitting that whenever I need a break from feeling overwhelmed by knitting a sweater whose yoke is supposed to be almost 28 inches across (!!). Or by wondering what else my brain might be sneaking up on sideways while I'm distracted by this project (a terrifying prospect). Maybe what I really need is a single-malt scotch.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

My name is Jocelyn, and I like yarn

Isn't admitting the problem the first step to recovery?

It's not that I've been too bad, it's that yarn just seems to keep arriving on my doorstep, and I'm not knitting it as fast as I'm thinking of things I want to knit and getting the yarn to knit them.

First, though, the scarf is done and blocked and ready to go to my friend when I see her.
That's fairly accurate for color, although you can't see the stitch pattern so well.
Isn't it just nubbly and tweedy in the nicest way?
This is Barbara Walker's cabled feather and fan, which I found to be great fun and a nice match for this yarn. The one thing I didn't do that I would have if I'd had more yarn, was to knit to halves and graft them in the middle, because while the cables aren't clearly unidirectional, the feather and fan bits are. But I wanted to eek every last ounce out of this skein, so I didn't (as it is, it's on the short end for a scarf). I also didn't block this as vigorously as I might have, but I rather like it this way.

I have also acquired some yarn (as you may have guessed from the opening of this post). First, from Knitting Notions.
How gorgeous is that? There's a bit more greeny-gray mixed with the blue in real life, but that's pretty close. It's the Classic Merino Sport, in the Ironstone colorway. I'd originally gotten the yarn for knitting myself this cabled pullover that I've had in mind for a while, but my imagination was recently captured (again; I keep thinking about knitting it and then getting distracted by some other shiny object) by Kate Gilbert's Sunrise Circle Jacket, and now I'm wondering whether I can play the game where I knit a larger size to make up for a smaller gauge (it looks like I might be able to, if my math is right, but we'll see). One reason to put off knitting the cabled sweater I keep visualizing is that I'm considering going to a workshop in January that would involve taking a class on garment design, so maybe it'd be better to wait until after that to try to work on my vague idea for a sweater (or maybe that's just my excuse for not working out the math on that one...).

The other yarn I recently got myself is from Fearless Fibers.
This is her Merino laceweight, in the Majestic colorway. I've been wanting some purple lace for me, and when I saw this on Anne's blog, I promptly went off and bought myself about 1200 yards' worth. Oops. I don't have a plan for it yet, but I'm guessing that I am not going to have any trouble finding something lace to knit.

Tilly wanted to help take pictures.

Other than that, I've been plugging away on the socks I'm knitting for my friend Anna (the one from the contest post); I'm about to start the heel on the second one, and I have high hopes of finishing soon. I love this yarn, and will definitely be keeping an eye out to get some for myself at some point. Meanwhile, Rick's brother is on his way here for the weekend, and we have some friends coming to dinner, so I have a pot of chili to make.

Also, while I'm still waiting for all the pictures from my brother's wedding the other weekend (he's being slow), he did send me a few, including a rare shot of me and my mother (we're usually running around behind the scenes, and the chances of catching both of us standing still at the same time is slim; I'm also really not fond of pictures of myself, so I tend to avoid the camera).
Isn't she great? He also sent me a shot of the girls.
Have a good weekend, everyone (and keep your fingers crossed for us -- it looks like rain, and we could really use it).