Saturday, November 29, 2008

Quick update

A non-creative title, I know, but that's what this is.

Thank you all for the supportive comments yesterday (no-one indicated by word or emoticon that they were laughing out loud at me, which I truly appreciated); they certainly were a balm to my wounded ego. In the end, when one partakes of a craft as old as spinning, there is always the reassuring thought that there are probably no mistakes I can make that someone, in the last 20,000 years or so, hasn't already made. It's a relief.

The suggestions generally fell into two camps. Camp the first: take the yarn I already had, and ply it again -- this time in the correct direction -- to make a more balanced four-ply yarn. Camp the second: take a shot at running the yarn back though the wheel -- again, in the right direction this time -- to see if I could unply and the reply it. Joy (I don't have a link for you, I'm sorry!) even said that she'd recently read of someone else attempting that fix successfully, which was a very hopeful thought. I so appreciated how much thought everyone put into lending a helping hand (especially you non-spinners; I promise, knitting content next time!).

Since camp the second most closely paralleled my own hopes and dreams for this yarn (a nice fingering-weight two-ply), I decided to take them in order. I'd try to re-ply the right way, and then, if that didn't work, I'd make a nice four-ply yarn, thereby also increasing my plying repertoire.

Thinking (as I always do) of posterity, I actually took a couple of pictures of the yarn as it was after my disastrous plying session on Thursday.
Stiff, and not very pretty. Not to mention that a lot of it squiggled up onto itself.
Not attractive. This is also why I put camp the second as my first-pass option; I wasn't sure how well such squiggly yarn would ply back onto itself, and I didn't want to end up with a 260-yard skein of novelty yarn if I had another option.

So, this morning I put the skein on my (chewed-up, but marginally functional at low speeds) swift, set myself up with the scotch tension on my Traddie set very low, and started to ply. The right way. I rapidly developed a technique that seems to work. Pinch the yarn about a foot from the wheel with my back hand, treadle two to five times while watching carefully until the plies have untwisted themselves and start to twist the other way, then use my forward hand to pinch the twist close to the wheel, and guide it down to my back hand. Feed the yarn onto the bobbin, and start again.

The results?
That's not the clearest picture, but it's definitely yarn. It's much softer, too, than it was before (imagine that). It's also not as fine; because the plies are actually winding around each other at a consistent and even rate, instead of occasionally and grudgingly agreeing to twine (I had about 4-5 twists per inch on it before; I now have much more), this is not going to be the very fine laceweight that it was. The yarn is now rounder, and it appears to therefore be thicker.
I can live with that.

Friday, November 28, 2008


I can't tell you how much I don't want to write this post. I seriously considered not writing it, because this is going to be so embarrassing. And a little horrifying. But not talking about something doesn't make it go away, and I always appreciate it when other people admit that their projects don't all go perfectly all the time; sometimes things grow in The Bad Way (anyone out there read The Tick?).

Yesterday was lovely. Lots of cooking, lots of straightening up of the house. I had most of the cooking done and/or in the oven well before our friends were due to arrive, so I sat down to ply my lovely singles (the Sanguine Gryphon singles, which I finished a few days ago). Our friends came, we had a lovely dinner (turkey, gravy, stuffing, cranberry chutney, mashed potatoes, roasted butternut squash, stuffed cabbage, salad, pecan pie and pumpkin pie with whipped cream, mmmm), with good conversation and a few glasses of nice wine. After all was eaten and dishes were done and everyone had gone home and/or to bed, Rick and I sat down to watch a movie, and I kept plying. I finished plying, even, and skeined the new yarn up on the niddy-noddy. The four ounces came out to 530 yards. About 16-17 wpi. Definitely laceweight (btw, regardless of the way this story turns out, I am very proud of that fact). I was feeling good, although I was worried about the tendency of the yarn to wind back on itself; my fear was that I hadn't put enough ply twist into it to match the singles twist. But I decided to set the twist and see what happened. That done, I hung the skein to dry, weighted by a towel, and toddled off to get ready for bed.

I was brushing my teeth when it hit me. I looked at Rick and I said, "Oh my god. You aren't going to believe what I did to that yarn." And he said, joking, "What, did you ply it the same way you spun it?" And I said, "Why, yes, I did." He laughed. I said again, "Why, yes, I did." And he stared at me. Because, why yes, I flippin' plied that yarn in the same direction that I spun it.

I'm sick to my stomach. It's ruined. Seriously. And I'm so embarrassed. I mean, how did I miss the fact that it didn't feel right as it was plying? (And it didn't.) Why didn't I trust my gut? Why didn't I stop to think, carefully, about what I was doing?


I'm going to try to run it back through the wheel the other way, slowly, to see if I can either disentangle the two plies, or even, if I'm slow and careful enough about where the twist goes, re-ply it in the other direction, one foot at a time. I'd ask if anyone out there has ever done something like this, but I'm pretty sure that none of you are this foolish and oblivious, so I won't even go there. I have to wait for it to dry before I can try anything with it in any case.

Meanwhile, I'm going to take my family tidepooling with an old and dear friend and her new baby whom I haven't met yet. And I am going to repeat to myself as many times as it takes:
I am thankful for learning experiences.
I am thankful for learning experiences.
I am thankful for learning experiences.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


So, I got distracted again. I feel like the dog that one of my dear friends had in grad school. This dog's name was Romeo, and he'd be gleefully chasing a ball that we'd thrown, and then suddenly, out of the clear blue, he'd spy some new shiny object and he'd be off in another direction entirely, and we'd be left fetching the ball ourselves while he checked out the newest item of interest. We called him the Shiny Object Distraction Dog.

Apparently, I am the Shiny Object Distraction Knitter. What is the latest shiny object on my horizon, you ask? (And who is going to go chasing after my lost balls for me, I ask?)
Aren't they gorgeous? I can't for the life of me get the color of the yarn to come out right. It's gray today (it rained last night, it rained last night!!), and the light keeps coming and going randomly, but imagine that color less orangy, and deeper and richer, with more hints of gold, and you've got it.
Aren't they purty?

I finished the pair, even.
I love them. Truly, madly, deeply (I seem to say this a lot; what does this say about me?). The pattern is perfect; dainty without being too too, and they fit like a dream. And the yarn! The yarn is such a joy to work with. It's the Shivaya Naturals Silky Merino, in the sunset colorway, and it makes me happy. The best bit is that they'll go well with both browns and grays, which are my two base colors of choice, with a heavy leaning towards grays.

Which brings me to my next dilemma. This has actually been an issue of long standing. Ever since knitting my first sweater for one of the girls, which caused me to realize that I can, indeed, create actual garments, rather than only being able to make triangles and squares with strategically-placed holes in them, I have had it in my mind to knit myself The Sweater. You know, the sweater that can be worn all the time, anywhere, with anything. The one that, if you pack it for the weekend, you know you've got it covered. I already have a version of The Sweater, which I love very much. But it's starting to get beat up, and, moreover, it was purchased during my Baggy Stage, and isn't the most flattering garment in the world. (Alas.)
See what I mean? Not flattering. Not so good for work or dinners out. So, what I want -- what I really want -- is that sweater, except flattering and unique. (I don't ask for much, do I?)

I've been trying to distill the essence of the sweater for myself; this process reminds me a lot of my days in the naming and branding business, when we'd meet with a client who wanted a new name for her company or product or whatever, and we'd ask what kinds of names she might be interested in, and she'd say, "Something really unique, and absolutely perfect for us." Hmph.

So, to distill. I like the color of that sweater. I like its versatility; the fact that I can wear it with jeans, or with a skirt. Its shape is comfortable; I can move in it. It's lightweight but warm, so it can be layered. So far, so good; these are traits I can build from.

The next step, then, has always been to find the right yarn. What I wanted was a color that reminded me of denim, in the sense that it goes with everything. I also wanted a color (or colors) that remind me of the Pacific in winter; predominantly gray, but with blues and that ice-cold green that you can see in the depths. Both Anne and Rachael have commented numerous times on how willing Chris of Briar Rose is to work with someone (read: even a nut-job like me) to create a colorway, and how happy they've been with the results (and I must admit that the results have been uniformly stunning, and I love Chris' yarns already), so I finally worked up my courage to write to her with my weird and wordy description of the colorway I want. But I thought first that I'd better check her site to see if she already had anything like that in the Seapearl base yarn (merino/tencel). My goodness, but that woman can read minds. Because she did. I wrote to be sure that, in fact, I wasn't seeing things, and I wasn't, and she shipped it out instantaneously, and now I have this.
Seriously, how perfect is that?

The problem is (you knew I'd find one), that it's so perfect that I'm afraid to ruin it by not managing to create The Sweater. And since my sweater design experience is limited to one that I made for Younger Daughter last year (it turned out all right, but still), I'm terrified to commit to something. But I want that sweater. To quote a favorite character of mine, I wist it. (Wist, from wistful.) I wist it bad.

So, I'm starting to edge my way sideways into the design stage. (Again with the sideways edging!) I'm thinking something with a square neckline with a moss stitch edge around the neck. Knit plain otherwise with drop sleeves (or set-in? but I've never done set-in...), and a very simple lace edging, reminiscent of waves (if I can find one), around the edges of body and sleeves. Some waist shaping, and maybe a bit of flare at the bottom of the sleeves. The goal here is simple and versatile, but a grown-up version of that squared-off sweater up there. Something I can wear with or without a shirt underneath it, so a relatively small amount of ease (2 inches?). I ordered Maggie Righetti's book on sweater design from the library, so reinforcements are on the way.

Meanwhile, you all get to hear me dither. And quaver. And whinge. And generally worry that I'm going to "waste" (I know, I know, ridiculous) this perfect yarn on something that doesn't end up being The Sweater. I have to admit, though, that there's this sneaky part of me that's really looking forward to sketching and swatching and playing with possible stitches (this is how I trick myself into doing things that are new, apparently). Even the idea of knitting a whole grown-up sized sweater in laceweight yarn (did I mention? 6 sts/in on size 4s) doesn't have me worried. Do you think I can have it done by Christmas?

P.S. To Dawn: I loved your question about whether the a-mok reanalysis could be tmsesis; in this case, I think that it might be different than the examples you gave (abso-bloody-lutely being one of my favorites and one I use in class as a rare example of an infix in English), in that the reanalysis isn't happening at a morpheme break, as it does in the other words. Must do more research on the phenomenon...

Monday, November 24, 2008

Where everybody knows your name

I'm talking about my beloved LYS. I mean, really, how could I not love a place where I walk in, and people all greet me by name, ask how I'm doing, and then ask (this is brave) what my conference paper is about, and listen to the answer. Seriously. My students don't do that.

The downside to having a place like that in an almost direct line between my job and my home is the ongoing temptation to go there. I honestly don't go there as much as I'd like to, mostly because I'm trying to budget both my time and my money better (it's not showing, by the way), but it always makes me happy when I do. It also always makes me spend money, because these folks know yarn. I don't think I've ever seen a yarn store of this size with this range of yarn, not to mention the way the folks who work there (hi, guys!) are always willing to get involved in a discussion of pattern and color choices. And even to look something up on Ravelry to be sure there haven't been any changes since the pattern was printed (which really saved my tush on the latest new cast-on). And they know what I like. This place is better than Cheers.

So, in my quest to be ready for three days of conference knitting, I headed in. I came out with more than I'd bargained for (are we surprised?). What I really wanted was more yarn to make another pinwheel blanket for me and my couch. Deb and I played with color combinations for a while, and we agreed that this was exactly what I needed, even though the only yarn in the green color I wanted is a lighter weight than the rest, and I'll have to knit that part with two strands held together. I can live with that, because how happy is this blanket going to be?
I'm in love. I'm barely holding off on casting on by the skin of my teeth.

Because, have I mentioned? I am in the middle of a case of galloping startitis. I have run a total mok.* While I was there, I also bought myself three balls of Kidsilk Haze to knit the Cardi Cozy from the latest Mason-Dixon book. And I cast on. (As if I don't have enough on the needles already. At last count, three second socks to finish, a pair of mitts, Rick's sweater...) I'd thought that it might be good conference knitting, as it's mostly in stockinette, but I was afraid that the cables and the fine and slippery nature of the kidsilk haze might thwart my desire to be able to look like I'm paying attention to speakers' papers, so I decided to try it out at Older Daughter's first orchestra concert on Thursday night.

First, let me say that there is no way that there are not going to be a number of dying cat moments in any string orchestra's first concert, especially given that fully half of the members of the group picked up their instrument of choice for the first time in August. That said, they did better than I'd feared, and Older Daughter was very pleased with herself for getting through the whole thing; she'd been extremely nervous. I can also say that my fears about the nature of this particular knit were well-founded; it's not something I can do without looking at what I'm knitting at very frequent intervals. So, I took it along, but saved it for airplane knitting.
I like the idea of this sweater quite a bit, and I think that once I get through it, I'll wear it a lot (and who can complain about a sweater made entirely from three balls of kidsilk haze?). But there are some features of the pattern that I'm not fond of. I did change the yos that were in place along the raglan line, since they looked to me like a runaway dropped stitch. I'm using m1 increases instead, which creates a subtler line. The pattern is also written so that the body is knitted in one piece, but the sleeves are knitted flat and then seamed. I can't quite see why, so I'll be knitting them in the round, I think (which decision necessitated another hasty run to Yarning For You on Thursday to get dpns; I somehow was living under the delusion that I'd make it to a sleeve sometime this weekend). I would think that the seams were for structure, except for two things: this yarn is so light that it's not going to weigh itself down, and the body isn't knitted with seams for structure, which rather puts paid to that hypothesis.

Meanwhile, I still had the problem of what I was going to knit during everyone's talks. I decided that the thing to do was to knit a sock, but none of the second socks I'm working on were going to do the trick, as I couldn't knit them chartless. I needed something else. So, out came the yarn that I bought last summer when I was in Berkeley for a sock idea I've been wanting to try for a while, and I cast on for those on Friday morning on the plane (a 6:30 am flight, shudder). I finished the first one on Sunday during the last round of talks I attended, and cast off.
(Older Daughter is sock model.) This is the Chasing Rainbows Dyeworks yarn, a 50/50 merino/tencel blend, and I adore it. Madly, truly, deeply. Seriously. I'm going to be getting more of this to make something lacy, and maybe some mitts, and maybe more socks. In this colorway. It's much richer than this photo shows (I'll keep trying), and the color changes kept me in endless raptures, going from deepest purple, to green, to a lovely sepia and back again. Happy happy. It's the forest colorway, and you can't have any, because it's all MINE.

Sorry. The other thing I like about this yarn, from a sock knitting perspective, is that the skein is divided into two equal hanks. So I could safely knit this one toe up as far as I wanted to and not worry about whether I'd have enough for a second sock. I imagine that would be useful for knitting a shawl or scarf with a provisional cast-on from the middle, too.

What I really wanted to try with these socks was an idea for a different sort of toe-up heel than I've seen before, although I'm sure that everyone else out there has done this, and I'm just behind the times. I've been contemplating it for a while, spurred on by some thoughts I've had as I've knitted top-down, and by some things that other people have said about how nice it is when there's something cushy under one's heel.
So I knitted the heel exactly as I would have for a top-down sock, except I was knitting toe-up. This puts the slip-stitch heel flap under the heel, and the turned cup in the back of the heel instead of the other way around. I actually quite like the way they feel on the foot, although I would have turned the heel around more stitches, had I been thinking clearly, but I was already trying to work out how to maintain a four-stitch slip-stitch column up the back of the leg; I reduced the gusset stitches around that column instead of at the sides of the foot, which I think made for cleaner lines.
I don't know if you can see there, but there appears to be no gusset at all, even though there is. Then I branched travelling stitches out from that central column, around the front, where they met and crossed, and back around to the back of the leg. The crossings were rather messy; I need to work that out better, but all in all I like the way it turned out.
Things I'd change: I'd increase for the toe faster at first for a wider toe box; turn the heel around more stitches for a slightly wider heel; do a neater job of the slip-stitch column at the bottom of the heel; and I need to work out some neater crossings for the travelling stitches. I'll work on all of those on the second sock (when I get to it), and then we'll see if I need to rip this one out and try again. I don't think I will; the changes will be fairly subtle, but as I love this yarn so much (did I mention?) I want these to be socks that I will wear and wear and wear.

Meanwhile, I'll be working on Rick's sweater, which proceeds. With luck, I'll be on the sleeves by tomorrow.
And I'm going to try to finish plying my first bobbin of the Sanguine Gryphon roving.
That's it plied; I think I may have achieved something close to fingering weight at last...

I realize that I haven't talked at all about my weekend, which was fine. My talk seemed to go all right (no one laughed, and no one shook their head vigorously), and I got to go to Grace Cathedral to walk the meditation labyrinth, which is always good for my brain for weeks afterwards. But I need to stop now so I can get some grading done before writing my Thanksgiving shopping list.

Tomorrow: the new yarn on my counter, and the need for A Plan.

* I literally heard a man say this, describing his teen-age daughter, on an interview with NPR several years ago. It made me happier than I can say, because there's nothing better than watching linguistic change in progress. In the end, his reanalysis makes absolute sense; this is the same process that leads people to say "that's a whole nother problem". And lest anyone begin the head-shaking, people-today commentary, I should point that that this is the same process that led to the older change from the word "napron" to "apron". "A napron" was reanalyzed as "an apron"; "napron" was once, if I recall correctly, related to "napkin", and, now that I come to think on it, probably to "nappies" as well (this is also where the nicknames
Nan and Nancy came from Anne -- mine Anne becomes my Nan, and Bob's your uncle, you've got a new name). As a further aside, this is also why the English word "orange" does not have the "n" on the front that the related Spanish word "naranja" does. Here endeth the lesson.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The dreaded SSS

I don't really have it, but I begin to see how it would be possible to develop SSS (second sock syndrome) not because one doesn't wish to knit the second sock of a pair, but rather because there are so many socks just begging to be knit, and so much sock yarn to knit with.

I finished the first of the woodsmoke socks (Anne's latest gorgeous sock-in-progress). The pictures are bad, because I'm not really home too much near a camera when there's actual light for taking photos, but you get the idea.
That's the new heel, which I am so glad I went back to knit; I really like the way it looks. It has a much more finished appearance somehow than the heel I'd mistakenly knit before.
Can I just mention how hard it is to take a picture of one's own heel? Especially in bad light...
That didn't work so well.

I cast on for the second sock in my faculty meeting today (alas that my new closed door policy doesn't apply to actual scheduled meetings), and I'll be working on that this week, along with Rick's sweater. That sweater, by the way, in spite of the lack of photographic evidence, is proceeding apace. I'm almost done with the 13 inches needed below the armscyes (is that the right use of that word? because it's not something one hears in conversation all that often...) before starting the moss stitch edging. Once that's done, it's just the sleeves and the neck, and then I'm good to go. I'll try to take a picture when I have Rick try it on (soon); I just need to put it on waste yarn first. It looks like I'm going to have plenty of yarn, which I was worried about, as I thought I was cutting it rather fine when I bought the stuff.

Right now what's on my mind as I'm knitting is the question of what I'm going to take along with me to the conference I'm attending this weekend. I could take Rick's sweater, which is a fairly mindless knit, but it is not a small knit by any means, and as I will be in crowded lecture rooms, and walking long distances through the city to get there, it seems like a bad idea. The second woodsmoke sock is probably not good conference knitting, either, as I need my charts with me to work on it, although I may take it along on the plane. (One caveat: I cast it onto my Celtic Swan needles, which I believe I have mentioned I adore in ways that probably shouldn't be discussed in public, and I worry a lot about taking them onto the plane, because they're metal, and if the security folks took agin' them, it would kill me to lose them. I suppose I could take along a self-addressed stamped envelope in case of emergency, but I'd have to overcome my dread of post offices to pull that off, and I'm not sure I can bring myself to do it before I leave...)

I'm thinking that this might be the perfect opportunity to knit the second of Laura's lovely Kicking Leaves socks, whose chart is much smaller, and which I only need to glance at to remind me what's going on in a particular row. And I can knit the second one on my KnitPicks harmony wood needles, whose loss (should the screening people randomly decide that wood dpns are a potential security risk) would be a blow, but not an irreparable one (read: they wouldn't cost as much to replace as the CS needles). Then again, maybe it's the right time to finally cast on for the very plain socks that I want to knit in order to play with a toe-up sock construction I've had in my mind (something that I'm sure is not original, but that I've not seen elsewhere and want to try). And I could always cast on for the next pinwheel blanket I'm going to knit (oh, didn't I mention that I fell down in my LYS today? more on that in the next post), but that might end up having the same size problems as Rick's sweater, so maybe not. (As an aside, that pattern is frighteningly addictive; I think someone knows what I mean.)

In the meantime, I'm also still spinning, and am close to completing the singles on the roving I'm working on right now. And I'm looking at knitting books longingly, thinking about what projects I can cast on just as soon as classes end and I'm finally free of this whole pesky full-time job thing for a few weeks (seriously, don't you find that gainful employment really gets in the way of knitting time?). When we were in the Bay Area, we just happened to be near Pendragon Books on Solano while they were still open (no advance planning there, nosiree!), and I just happened to check out their new craft books (oops), and as I was standing there, trying to decide whether I needed the recently-published Alt Fiber, a very nice woman walked up to me, and asked me whether I'd like her 20% off coupon, since it was expiring that night, and she'd just spent an hour in the store and couldn't find anything she wanted (!!). Clearly, she wasn't human, but was, instead, a knitting angel sent to facilitate my purchase of knitting-related reading material, so I said thank you and skipped my way to the register to complete my purchase before the coupon turned into a pumpkin.

There are a lot of things to like about this book, and I'm really glad that I got it. In particular, I love the descriptions of different non-animal fibers, for the same reasons that I so enjoy Clara Parkes' book, which is one of my all-time favorites. It's not so much the patterns (although there are some great patterns in both books) as the way they make me think about the relationship between the yarns I use and the things I choose to knit with them. I think I'm a better knitter for reading books like these. And there are some really exciting patterns in Alt Fiber that I want to knit. The Rose Kilim sweater looks amazing, as does the Avery Jacket. And the Midnight Lace stole -- wow. (Wendy is knitting that one right now, and it's stunning.) And there are some mitts and socks that I'm going to have to try. But there are two things that I wish were different about the patterns. First, I wish there were more pictures of each of them. Particularly with the sweaters and jackets, some of the pictures don't give me a clear idea at all of the details of the garment (in fact, most of the details are obscured in some of the pictures), which makes it hard for me to make any kind of educated guess as to how it would look on me. Which leads me to the other thing that I miss in these patterns: a diagram of the pieces of the garment, the sizes of the pieces, and the way they relate to one another. I don't think I'd quite realized how much I count on that diagram to get a sense of a garment and how it works until I went to look for one and it wasn't there. I'm not sure whether the pictures and diagrams weren't included for space reasons, and I can only guess that it's expensive to put out a book like Alt Fiber; in any case, I'm still glad that I bought the book, so I guess the lack of those two things doesn't weigh more heavily for me than the content, which I really like. But I do wish there were there, too.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Knit, spin, frog

I'd say that those three words are a fairly adequate description of the fiber-related activities of yesterday and today, although the last is, as yet, more of a projection than a completed task.

Friday was, overall, a stressful day at work, at the end of a stressful week. Lots of politics, lots of intrigue, and it turns out that I just don't enjoy it. I'm going to have to start shutting my door and telling people that I'd rather not know what they know. So much simpler.

On the other hand, having things like that happen also give me a chance to realize how much better I handle them than I did even a year ago, which in turn was already exponentially better than I would have a year or two before that. A lot of things have happened in those four or five years that make the difference, including that painful back surgery I've mentioned, which certainly served the purpose of making me rethink a lot of priorities, but knitting and yoga have, I think, made it possible for me to implement that rethinking. Among many many other changes that those two activities have brought about, possibly the single thing that makes the most difference to me is that I now regularly get a reasonably good night's sleep.

I know that most women, at some point in their lives, have trouble sleeping. And I also know from talking to friends that there are lots of different ways to have trouble. Most of my friends have sleep troubles of the variety which involves going to sleep just fine, sleeping for a few hours, and then waking up and finding it impossible to go back to sleep. That has never been my problem. If I can get to sleep, then I can pretty much be guaranteed that I'll sleep until someone makes me get up. It's the getting to sleep that has been a problem my whole life. I remember as far back as high school lying awake in bed for hours, fretting and worrying, completely unable to go to sleep no matter how tired I was. That pattern lasted through the fatigue of the early baby years, right through grad school and into my new job. Exhaustion had no bearing on my ability to get to sleep. Trying hard just makes it worse, because if there's one thing in the world that doesn't respond to effort, it's sleep. And then I started taking yoga classes, and after a year or two, I found that I could lie quietly in bed and do sun salutations in my head, breathing along with the imagined poses, and that I would then fall asleep in (relatively speaking) no time.

The back surgery changed some things for me, making it near-impossible to take any kind of yoga class, or to easily practice at home, but as my teacher has always pointed out, one can always breathe, and those imagined sun salutations got me through a lot of post-operative pain and fear. More recently, I've found that knitting serves the same kind of purpose. Not just to help me go to sleep when I would otherwise be fretting over the day's events ("I should have said...", "Why didn't I...?", etc etc), but also to give me some space to calm down and step away from that fretting during the day. It's almost like having a mantra to mull over quietly, "knit knit knit purl purl knit".

Perhaps the weirdest thing about all of this discovery of peace is the part of me (the waiting for the other shoe to drop part of me, apparently) that thinks that there must be something wrong with me that I am not stressed out and losing sleep. As if it's somehow wrong and abnormal not to be in a constant low-level state of stress. And isn't that a sort of sick statement about what my life used to be like? I think I prefer it this way, my sense that I'm failing at something in some way because of my lack of stress notwithstanding.

So, what did I do to meditate the week's stress into a place where I could observe it more peacefully? Well, I started in on Anne's latest foot-covering beauty, the woodsmoke sock.
I'm knitting it in some STR lightweight from this year's sock club (I never got to the pattern for this particular one, although I will someday, but the colorway seemed perfect for this pattern). The greens there are more emerald and gray than they show in the picture. Look at those lovely scrolls:
I love the deep texture of this pattern. In the long run, I think that I'm more of a texture person than a multicolor person, although there are times when lots and lots of wild colors make me happy (like Kauni). But right now, it's all texture, all the time (think about Laura's sock that I just knit -- lovely lovely texture).

This is the project that needs some frogging, though, alas. My computer failed to save the latest version of the pattern, and I missed some of the nifty stuff that's supposed to be going on in the heel flap, so even though I'm almost done with the gusset, I'm going to rip back and try again. I am going to wear these a lot, I can tell, so they may as well make me entirely happy.

I've also been spinning. I suddenly decided that I wanted to finish the Sanguine Gryphon roving that I got at The Loopy Ewe so that I could concentrate entirely on the Fuzzarelly roving (what can I say? even I sometimes get overwhelmed by too many projects at once), so I've been pounding away at that, and have finished the first bobbin, and am halfway through with the second. Once I finish the last bit, I can ply those two bobbins together and pet the yarn while I move on to my spindle again.
I realized as I was spinning why I love this colorway so much; it's almost exactly the colors of the silk in the sari that I wear each year for my friend's Diwali party, and I adore the colors of that sari with an insane passion. I'm not quite brave enough to post any pictures of me wearing it, but imagine a whole nine-yard swath of silk in that gorgeous burnt orange, with green and gold in the trim, and you've got it.

Meanwhile, it is miserably hot and dry here. I know you're tired of hearing it, but people, it was over 90 degrees yesterday, and the humidity levels are below 10%. That's just fundamentally wrong for November. And the results are some terrible fires in L.A. and Orange counties. Please send wet and safe thoughts to the folks whose homes are in the way, and to the firefighters who are battling those blazes.

It does mean that I can do this, though, which is a small consolation.
So, it's off to the frog pond for me, with intermittent stops involving the clothes line.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


Which is all I have time for tonight.

We were gone all weekend, and had no internet access at the hotel where we were staying, which rather put the kibosh on my plans to post while we were gone. We got back late last night, and then I spent all day today grading 26 papers (whose quality, or lack thereof, shall pass unremarked)(has anyone else ever noticed how much easier it is to grade good papers than bad, even if they're longer?), so I haven't had a moment to post. I now have the time it takes Younger Daughter to shower (more time than you might think) and Older Daughter to practice her violin (less time than you might think).

We drove up north on Saturday morning; we might have liked to leave Friday afternoon, but Rick had a project meeting, and I had a (shudder) budget meeting, so that wasn't going to happen. But we got up early, threw our stuff in the car, and headed up the state. This trip was devoted to listening to the first half (about all we can get through on one 1,000-mile round-trip drive) of the last of the Harry Potter books, so the time went fairly quickly, and we were in Sacramento by about 4:00. We had a lovely evening with my parents (of which I have no photographic evidence), and after an unhurried morning on Sunday, we drove to the Bay Area. Rick's folks were in town, which is why we decided at the last minute to take advantage of Older Daughter's four-day weekend (Veteran's day), and the fact that my campus was closed yesterday, to go see them and Grandmom, and I'm so very glad that we did.

We always try to see Grandmom as frequently as we can, but since she started getting occasional hospice care at the beginning of the summer, we've been trying to step up our visits. She is definitely fading more each time, which is so hard to see, even though I know that, at 94, she feels like she's had a good long run, and is more than ready to let go. She keeps ticking though, which frustrates her (she can't hear well, and has macular degeneration in both eyes, which makes her feel shut away from the world), so we get to have a little more time with her, which both Rick and I value immeasurably. The girls, too, enjoy seeing her, even though it's almost impossible for them to have a conversation with her, as she can't hear their voices, no matter how loud they get (too high-pitched). But they have some relayed talks, and Older Daughter and Grandmom got to look together and Grandmom's album of her visit to New Zealand years ago, which I think means something to both of them.

It was also wonderful to see Rick's folks, who live far away. We went to the newly-opened Academy of Sciences and Steinhart Aquarium in the City, which was fun, although not quite as impressive as the hype (and price) might have led one to believe. In downloading my photos, I saw that Rick got a couple of nice shots, though, of the reef fish.
And of the jewel-like Mandarin fish.
I don't know if you can see in that picture, but those greens are emerald, and the blues are sappharine, and the reds are bronze. I want one in enamel for a shawl pin.

There were also chameleons.
And poison dart frogs. I'd take one of these guys done in enamel, too -- they're so colorful, they look fake.
And then, afterwards, we got to meet up with Rick's cousin, Jasmine, and her mother for dinner. Which meant I got to give Jas the pinwheel blanket in person. Rick kindly pointed out that it was knitted by me so that I could get full credit, which I appreciated (he's so good about being sure that people appreciate what I put into stuff like that; maybe because then he gets some vicarious credit for helping me to make space for knitting? If not, he should, because he does).

I got some knitting done in the car. I'm eight inches further along into the body of Rick's sweater, which means that I've got about seven inches to go if I'm doing the math right (15 inches from the bottom of the armhold to the hem). I'm still enjoying working with this cotton yarn, but I realize that I'm not so fond of the bulky. Ah, well. I didn't get to work on the second of the Kicking Leaves socks (they have a name!), but I did take some pictures tonight of the first of them on Younger Daughter's foot. Isn't it gorgeous?
That's actually fairly true to color, bad light notwithstanding. Here's a closeup of the baby cables, which I think are perfect.
To recap, this is Laura's newest sock pattern, Kicking Leaves (I just checked, and the pattern's up for sale), which is great fun to knit; I think I'll have to make a pair of these for myself someday. The yarn is Old Maiden Aunt (I linked to it in my last post, but can't find the colorway name right now; it's there). It's not a difficult stitch motif to master, so if any of you are thinking that lacy cables are scary, here's your chance to give them a try.

Meanwhile, I can finally post some pictures of the scarf I knitted for my dear friend Kim (hi, Kim!) out of my handspun (a merino/tencel blend that was such fun to spin), since I gave it to her last week. I used the cabled feather and fan pattern again, since it seems to work well with the lumpy nature of my earlier handspun yarns.
Not too bad, eh? I'm so happy with the way it turned out, and the color is perfect for her.

So, I'm working on spinning the Sanguine Gryphon roving, and the Fuzzarelly roving, and knitting Rick's sweater, and knitting that second sock, and I seem to have gotten distracted (oops) by Anne's latest sock (how not?), so I think I've got plenty going on. And the shower is off, and the violin has fallen silent, so it's probably time to hit "post".

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Yummy swifts

Tilly is nothing if not adventurous. Not only is she willing to go anywhere that we're willing to take her, invent a variety styles of barking to get our attention, and find a myriad of ways to jump onto the bed first thing in the morning, she is also willing to seek out and try new ways to be naughty.

Remember back in the day when all we had to worry about was her tendency to nip? Well, that is slowing down some (although she is by no means above grabbing a hunk of skirt in her mouth and attempting to haul me bodily wherever she thinks I should be; and she's still no good once she gets hysterical), but she's on to bigger and better naughtinesses. A couple of months ago, she decided that books looked like good fun, and that she should eat them when at all possible. A month ago, she decided that knitting books taste better than other books (alas for my EZ and Yarn Harlot collections). On Tuesday, she decided that my lovely wooden yarn swift was surely placed within her reach (I know, I know, my bad) for her chewing convenience.


Anyone know where I can find a lovely wooden yarn swift for cheap?

In other news, my foot is, in fact, tweaked. But it is not broken. It was hurting so much yesterday (worse than the day before, which I take to be a sign of not-healing) that I finally went to the doctor, who kindly x-rayed it and told me that it wasn't broken, but that all of the signs suggested that I'd done something to one of the tendons located along the outside of my foot. She then put a patch with a topical version of an NSAID on it, wrapped it up in an ace bandage and told me to take it easy for a while (I hate "until it feels better" diagnoses, but there it is). By the time I'd gotten home and installed myself on the couch, I was feeling veeeerrrryyy sllleeeeepppyyyyy. A little while later, my brains felt fuzzy. Somehow, through the increasing haze, I realized (and attempted, badly, to articulate to Rick) that it had to be that stupid patch. I fumbled the bandage from around my foot and ripped the patch off and threw that darned thing away. An hour or so later, I was feeling back to normal, although I admit to bouts of incoherence on and off through the night. Apparently NSAIDs knock me out. Who knew?

So today I'm making do with an ace bandage. I'm also wearing a long skirt, handknit socks, and Birks (the only shoes that fit over the bandage), so I look like a complete Berkeley hippie. Oops.

In knitting news, I'm done with the cuff of the socks that I'm test-knitting for Laura (she's over at Fiber Dreams, and in fact, she's having a naming crisis over these exact socks, so you can head on over and help her out if you're so inclined). The stitch pattern on these is great fun, and I have to admit here and now that the cuffs got me through Academic Senate yesterday, with its ongoing (and exceedingly long-winded) saga of budget cuts. (The chancellor of the system has told us that we can and must teach the same number of students using fewer resources, "without compromising academic excellence"; I keep wanting to say to him, in the immortal words of Inigo Montoya, "I don't think that word means what you think it means".)
Isn't that a great pattern? I'm knitting these in the extra-small size, since Younger Daughter needs a new pair of socks. The yarn is Old Maiden Aunt in the superwash merino 4-ply. I am loving the colors right now; the yarn is all spring green tones, and it's making me very happy. I'm using my size one Celtic Swans, which are also making me happy. So between the stitch motif, yarn, and needles, I'm having some fun with this one. I should be able to get the heel turned tonight, and then I'm on the home stretch. (Especially since tomorrow I have another long meeting about the budget, which is serious knitting time.)

And although I haven't said much about it, I think most of you can guess how much I'm enjoying it every time I hear "President-elect Obama" on the radio. Dang. We did good.

Monday, November 3, 2008

31,428 and fiber

That number is the number of steps I took yesterday on our 15-mile walk. (I don't know why, but the number of steps is somehow extremely impressive to me; check out what my feet can do!) I feel really good today, except for one thing. Last week on our long walk, I developed a giant blister on the base of one heel; I wore the same shoes yesterday (I know, I know), and I think I was walking funny in order to avoid hurting the blister, and I did something to the side of my foot (not to mention getting another blister under the first one, which is a total bummer). I tried to walk it off this morning, but that poor foot is hurting right now. I'm icing it and taking Advil, so I have high hopes of recovering sooner rather than later.

In any case, though, these long walks are feeling like a big deal to me, for a lot of reasons. One of those reasons is that I've never been a person who felt like her body was a particular asset on any level. Growing up, I learned to have faith in my brain, and in my ability to persist in the face of an intellectual or emotional challenge, but I didn't have a lot of experience with persisting in the face of physical challenges. I didn't really learn to enjoy pushing myself until well into adulthood, thanks in no small part to the patience of my dog (that's a story for another time). Combined with that lack of faith in my body is an absolute dread of disappointing other people. I'm a solitary learner in no small part because of that; I hate to make other people wait for me while I learn to do something new (I am also compulsively on time for the same reason), so working out or undertaking any kind of exertion with someone else feels like double jeopardy: my body might not hold up, and then I'd end up disappointing someone else and keeping them from achieving whatever their goal is. Shudder.

Of course, the last ten years have taught me a lot about having some faith in my body. I've made it through two pregnancies (not to mention the labor and delivery bit at the end), and two bouts of post-partum depression, a ruptured disc and back surgery involving the fusion of two vertebra together. I've also walked countless miles, fast and slow, and taught my daughters to enjoy using their bodies and to have faith in their own endurance. But I still have that hang-up about disappointing other people. So last weekend's training walk, with one woman who's a close friend, and another whom I didn't know quite so well, was a leap of faith in myself not only for its distance, but for its potential for holding people back. And yesterday, I walked those fifteen miles just with Nancy, whom I don't know as well as I know Anna. And you know what? I wasn't really worried about it before I went (which is saying a huge something), and I had a blast. So, injured foot or no injured foot, I'm feeling pretty good today.

I also had a good weekend on the fiber front. Last week, I alluded to a lovely package that I received in the mail on Wednesday. It was from Fuzzarelly, and look what was inside!
It's her Bunny and the Beast fiber (the link is the one above). I just can't get my camera to adequately show how absolutely gorgeous this fiber is; the colors are so rich, and the fibers have each taken the dye up slightly differently, which makes for a depth that is amazing, and there are some shiny bits that make it glow (is that the silk?). It's a merino-angora-silk blend, and those are an ounce each.

I decided that I wanted to draw the spinning of these out, for my own pleasure, and picked up my turkish spindle (one of Wanda and Ed's) to spin over the weekend. I haven't gotten a lot done, but I'm truly enjoying the process, and the pleasure of having gotten such a lovely gift (thank you!).
I should have time to spin more tonight after folding the laundry (I sit on one of our kitchen stools so I can spin more before winding on).

I also finished the pinwheel baby blanket that I was knitting for Rick's cousin. We're going to see her next Monday, so I'm glad to have this done and blocked. I ended up blocking it fairly loosely, with no pins or wires, both because that worked out (the saturated wool was heavy enough to stay put), and because I just wasn't feeling in the mood to be forceful with much of anything this morning.
To recap, this is the pinwheel baby blanket, knit with three skeins of Lorna's Laces Shepherd Worsted Solid (220 yards each), on size 7 needles. I ended up knitting four rows of a seed stitch border (or is it moss stitch? I did R1: k1, p1, then R2: p1, k1), which I like for this version of the blanket.

It was such a fun knit; I am seriously considering going back in to my LYS tomorrow to get more yarn to knit one of these for myself, both because I like the blanket so much (wouldn't it be a great lap blanket for the couch?), and because I really needed a mindless quick knit like this. Of course, I should get back to work on Rick's sweater...

I also finished the scarf I was knitting for my friend, and should be able to give it to her tomorrow, after which I can post pictures, and I have done a couple of repeats on Anne's latest scarf (the Butternut) just to run through the pattern; I absolutely adore the stitch she chose for this scarf, it has a lovely texture, and I think I'm going to have to keep it for my ownself, even though I started it with someone else in mind. Oops.

Meanwhile, tomorrow's the big day, people -- get out there and vote.