Monday, March 30, 2009

Warp speed

Wow, the whole time warp thing isn't slowing down at all. And I'm not the only one commenting on it, either -- the space/time continuum is obviously skewed. (Now that I think about it, The New Policeman -- a wonderful book recommended by Sheepish Annie -- talks about the same thing. I wonder if the main character's solution would work...) I thought we were supposed to be slowing down, not speeding up? The practical upshot of this is that the weekend is gone (where? who knows?), and I've hardly done any knitting, or read any blogs, let alone doing anything practical like vacuuming the house (laundry did happen, though). However, we did manage to celebrate Older Daughter's birthday in style, and I blocked the wisteria scarf, so that's something.

Saturday was Older Daughter's actual birthday, and we had a lovely quiet day for the most part. She got to go to the bookstore to spend a gift card -- her favorite kind of birthday present -- so we did that. Alas, the poor kid also had a piano recital to play at (they both did), but she did very well, and we came straight home to her dinner of choice: Dad's homemade ("baked" she insists upon adding) macaroni and cheese, peas, and Mom's carrot cake. Mmm...

Sunday was the big day. Her present this year was to go to SeaWorld and to take a friend. We've done this a number of years (this is the time of year when SeaWorld starts offering their "pay for a day and get in the rest of the year free" special), although we've never taken a friend along, and we always go on one behind-the-scenes tour while we're there. This year, she chose the penguin tour, which we hadn't done before (clearly, her experiences among the penguins in New Zealand last summer made an impression). It was a blast. First, we got to meet and pet an actual, real, live penguin. She was very polite about the whole thing (the penguin, that is).
The aviculturist later showed us the trick to encouraging the penguin to stay on that towel in the middle of the table -- ice packs tucked underneath it. (That's a macaroni penguin, by the way, so called because those feathers on her head look like the feathers that the Macaronis used to identify themselves in early American history -- yes, like Yankee Doodle). We were all amazed by how soft a penguin is -- I mean really, really soft. Their feathers are packed incredibly densely - about 70-100 per square inch, as opposed to a chicken's 12-20. Crazy. Her feet and wings were cold though.

And we got to find out why. The next step was to actually go into the exhibit (stepping in a disinfectant bath on the way so we wouldn't contaminate it), and to stand there in the 23-degree weather (we were wearing jeans and jackets and hiking shoes; some of the others on the tour were wearing shorts and flip-flops -- brrr!). Can I just mention that penguins are loud?
In watching them actually call to one another, I realized that they call not only on the exhale, but also ingressively, on the inhale, which means that they can make noise almost continuously. And they do. (Thank goodness my kids haven't figured that one out yet.) The lighting in the exhibit is dimmer than outside, since they keep the penguins on a southern hemisphere lighting schedule, which facilitates their breeding program; since it's going into fall in the southern hemisphere, these guys are heading into fall, too. In the summer here, the exhibit is dark or dim almost all the time. Very cool.

Of course, with three kids along, it wasn't all animals and education. (Although we did see the Shamu show -- we always see the Shamu show. Tess' friend: what's that orca's name? Us: Shamu. TF: Well, what about that one? Us: Shamu. TF: Are they all named Shamu? Us: Yes. TF: That's dumb. We know, kid, we know.) There were also roller coaster rides.
Younger Daughter gathered up all of her courage in both hands and we went on the ride once. Then the others went again while we stood and cheered them on. Older Daughter declared her day a success, and we all went home satisfied.

So all of that took up a lot of time. And we also had to get ready for these next two weeks, which involve Rick being out of town from early today until late Wednesday, me being out of town from Thursday morning until late Saturday, and all of us heading out of town early Sunday morning for a week. I did manage to block the wisteria scarf though. All in all, I'm tolerably happy with the way it turned out, although I think using smaller needles might have been even better. I completely forgot to take shots of it on the blocking mats, but here it is, in its milieu.
See what I mean about the wisteria? Same colors, exactly. No wonder I liked this yarn.
I blocked it very wide, rather than long, because the yarn is 100% silk, and in my experience, silk rectangles tend to stretch lengthwise in the wearing. I think that was the right thing to do, although I might try it differently next time. My goal was a not-overly-long scarf that would be wide enough to cover my shoulders if it's chilly, but light enough to wear as a smaller scarf.
I'm having trouble getting the colors to really show up accurately on the screen. They are much richer and less washed-out than this -- very much like the wisteria.
So, to recap. This scarf is knitted from Kaalund Yarns Enchante in the Lavender colorway. I used a stitch motif from the third Barbara Walker (I can't remember the name of the motif right offhand) and size six needles. The ball of yarn was 30g and 300 m; I used most but not all of it -- the scarf was long enough and I didn't want to sacrifice wearability in the name of finishing up all the yarn. I'll save the rest to pat in the dark of winter when I'm missing my wisteria most.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Friday? Seriously?

It can't be. Where did the week go?

I feel like I've been running in place, although I know that I can't be. I've put together something which might approximate a presentation for next weekend's conference, as well as a handout. My talk still goes solidly over time (it's not even a sort of talking-faster-towards-the-end kind of overage; this is more like I speed-talk for twenty minutes and then just keep going -- I have some editing to do, clearly), but it's a talk, and that's something. I've taken the car in to be serviced in preparation for all the driving it's going to do over the next couple of weeks, gotten presents for Older Daughter's birthday tomorrow, picked up pills for the old dog and made boarding reservations for the young dog, blah blah blah. But I still feel somehow like I'm missing a few days. I think part of it is that the list of things which must be done before I leave for the conference next Thursday is fairly long, and involves a few jobs which will take time; and I'm still not feeling entirely settled in my mind about this talk.

I'd almost decided not to post today, because I haven't yet taken pictures of the little lace scarf I'm working on. I think I'll call it my Wisteria Scarf -- you'll see why when I show you the pictures. I'm actually over halfway done, I think, and it's going faster now that I've gotten used to the stitch pattern, so I wanted to show that off, but that's for another day.

I've also been doing some small amounts of spinning on both of my spindles, so I wanted to show you that. You've seen what I'm spinning on the Turkish spindle, but here's what I'm working on with the Golding.
This is the merino/silk top I bought at Twist!, dyed by the owner in a colorway called Precious Metals. It really does look, in person, like gold and silver and an almost gunmetal blue all together, absolutely gorgeous. I'm aiming for something that's laceweight when plied, which is pushing this spindle to the max. But I'm working over thicker carpet now, so it's a lot less scary when I drop it.

Tomorrow is Older Daughter's eleventh birthday. I told her that last year at this time, I was in labor at home (after having gone for a long walk to kick-start things after my water broke and nothing further happened); by 3:46 this coming morning, she was born. It doesn't feel like it's been eleven years since then. I can still remember the whole thing so very clearly. It's an odd kind of telescoping feeling; there she is on the couch, large as life, entering into that interim stage between little girl and teenager, and yet here she also is, in my mind, just a tiny little 7 1/2 pound 21-inch baby girl. Weird...

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


I've spent the time since my post about spinning in pointless circles having Deep Thoughts about my Process. (Please feel free to snicker now, goodness knows I did.) There have been some realizations during this contemplation that surprised me a little bit, and that I think will help. For instance, I've been trying this semester to do most of my research reading on the computer; I find articles (as I usually do) through various online databases that I can access through the university, and I can download them and read them. I was making this paperless attempt for a number of reasons, not least because it seems ridiculous to print these things out, but also because since the Upgrade Fiasco of Ought Nine I have not, for the life of me, been able to persuade my computer to see our home printer. This makes printing difficult at best.

But I came to the realization that when I'm reading actual pieces of paper, I can scribble all over them in a way that I can't do on a computer, and in a way that either putting little inserted notes into the pdf, or cutting and pasting quotes and comments into EndNote just doesn't match. It appears that I think differently while writing than I do while typing, and that I end up being able to work out what I want to say about what I'm reading, or how it relates to my research, when I'm reading hard copies and scribbling on them and writing little notes to myself on cut up scraps of paper, and I don't do that when I'm reading on the computer. No wonder I've been feeling frantic about this upcoming presentation. I've been researching and reading and doing what I usually do, and having no thoughts (mind you, it's not like I usually have great thoughts or anything, but generally I think something at some point). It's everyone's worst public-speaking nightmare: standing up in front of a bunch of people in one's intellectual panties. So, I bit the bullet and sent a bunch of documents to Rick to print, and sat down yesterday and worked through half of them and then took myself off for a walk and dang if I didn't have a thought. I'm hoping for another one today.

So that's something. This plan also means that I spend less time sitting at my desk, and more sitting in various other chairs, or even standing at the bar (the one in my kitchen, people, sheesh), which I'm hoping will mean that my leg hurts less. Good all the way around.

Meanwhile, the finishing of the shawl appears to have broken some kind of knitting dam. On Friday, I finished Younger Daughter's socks. She was delighted and wore them all weekend. They had to be forcibly removed (I figure it's OK to wear wool socks more than once, but by the end of two or three busy days on kid feet, it's time for some washing).
(As an aside, those are my feet modelling those socks. My feet. Modelling socks that fit my younger daughter. Not ready.) You can see that the colors didn't line up, which was no problem (in fact, Younger Daughter was delighted to have socks that didn't quite match), except for the fact that the first sock lined up absolutely perfectly with the colors so that the heel flap didn't cause a hard line on the top of the foot. That didn't happen with the second one, which I knew would bother me, so I decided after a few rows of fretting to fiddle a little bit to break up the line, and dropped down on every other stitch to create a slipped-stitch line where the color break happened. I think it helped a little.

I also finished the first of my Anemone socks.
I love this colorway. What you can't see is that there are little bits of a lovely bluey, sagey, green near the blues and purples, and I'm just charmed to pieces every time I knit those bits. It's kind of crazy, but there you go.
I'm about three inches into the leg of the second sock, so with luck I can get them off the needles in the next week or so. I need to slow down a bit on them, because my wrist is hurting quite a lot; for some reason this particular stitch motif causes me to tense up a lot in my right arm.

I also knitted for several hours on Rick's gridiron sock on Saturday morning; I put it onto two circulars, which is not my generally-preferred method for knitting socks, but which really does make knitting a big sock much more manageable (another result of the Deep Thinking about Process). In fact, I was ticking along very nicely until I took a good long look at the thing I was knitting and realized that it was the size of a small person's sweater, and that while Rick's legs are, like those of many mountain bikers, muscular and all, there is no way his calves could possibly be as big as the sock. Riiiip. I'll put them back on the needles again at some point, but right now I'm counting it as one less project on my list of WIPs.

There's more (how come I always think that I shouldn't post because I have nothing to say and then I just natter on and on?), but for now I'll leave you with this.
They just burst into bloom last week, and now the air around our back patio is filled with a deep vibrating humming. It's not just little honeybees, either. Check these guys out. They're longer and fatter than my thumb.
Be afraid.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Come and get it! Get yer blocking shots here!

Maplewing came off the needles last night. I barely restrained myself from staying up late to block it then and there. (In case any of you are trying to figure out whence came this hitherto unimagined level of restraint, I will just say that whatever stomach bug the girls seem to have picked up, it is catching.)

This morning was a quiet morning. Younger Daughter was feeling well enough to go to school so Rick took her while Older Daughter and I stayed home. Older Daughter's fever broke last night, and she seems to be feeling much better this afternoon, so I have high hopes for a full recovery. After playing with my presentation for a little while (more on the realization I had regarding my personal research style and what needed to be done about it in another post), I could wait no longer. Maplewing was calling my name, and I had to answer. (Weak, I am weak in the face of lace. But we knew this.)

So I hauled out the new blocking mats that I have not had a chance to use since Rick gave them to me for my birthday. They're actually heavy-duty exercise mats, and can I tell you how very happy they made me during this entire blocking experience? Seriously, this is one worthy investment (and, given that they are the kind of thing you can pick up at Target, not a huge investment, either). Not only do they come apart for easy storage under the bed and lie flat wherever they are told to do so, they also take pins easily and hold them well, and make crawling around on the floor much nicer on the knees. It's the little things, I tell you.

After soaking, the yarn bloomed beautifully. I have adored this yarn throughout the process, but it's really come into its own here, soft and just the right amount of cushy, while still maintaining a lovely stitch definition. And the color! I know that cream seems like it could be boring, but this is cream the way cream should be, with darker and lighter bits, subtly blended throughout the whole; if I could whip it and put it on a pie, I would. It's Sweet Sheep laceweight in the Muse colorway. Gorgeous.

I used wires for the central column, as well as for the top edges, but then pinned each bottom point individually. I had enough t-pins, but only by the skin of my teeth; I think I need to have more for future projects. Running out would be terrible.

And then I stood back and admired. Wow. I don't know why, but the alchemical change from unblocked to blocked lace never ceases to amaze me. You start with a blob of wrinkled-up yarn, add some water and pins, and whammo! You get this.
Mmm... But I found as I was trying to take some close-up photos that the light in the study wasn't so good (it's been a grey day here). And that's when I discovered another wonderful thing about blocking on interlocking mats rather than on towels stretched over a bed. I could tip the whole thing onto its side and slide it down the hall to a place with better light. Dudes. Seriously. It doesn't get better than that.
I love the shoulder shaping. Gorgeous. And now a look up that lovely long center panel.
And a few close-ups, because we all know how much I love the holes in lacework.
Anne has outdone herself. This lace is intuitive and so much fun to knit, and the pattern looks gorgeous in every colorway I've seen it knitted up in. I can't believe I'm giving it away. Modelling pictures first, though, I promise. Just as soon as it's dry and off the wires.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


I have now reached that place, in both my work life and my knitting life, where I have so many different projects on the go that it is entirely possible for me to spend all of my time figuring out what I should be working on, rather than working on anything at all.

Does anyone else recognize this state?

You know, the one where it feels like you're standing in the middle of a room, turning in circles, thinking, "This, I'll work on this. But no wait! What about that? That requires immediate attention. Except for that other thing, which requires even immediater attention. But wait again! Where's my list?" Ad nauseum. Et cetera. Ad infinitum. (And other a propos Latin phrases.)

That's where I am.

In fact, listing all of the projects that I am not currently working on but that I should be working on has become a new project all in its own right. This strikes me as wrong, but I'm so busy engaging in this (possibly avoidance-related) behavior that I can't seem to stop. So I thought I'd share my lists with you (because I'm all about spreading the joy).

On the knitting front, the active WIPs now include:
Maplewing, which has only about 24 rows and the neck edging to go until it reaches completion;
Younger Daughter's rainbow socks, which are about 2/3s of a foot from completion (one of those feet with five toes, rather than the kind with twelve inches);
The anemone socks, from last year's Rockin' Sock Club (as an aside, I just accidentally typed "Rocking" there, and boy does that look wrong. Why is it that "rocking" is so much less rockin' of a word?). I'm almost done with the first one, but since (last I checked) I have two feet, that means I'm less than halfway done;
Rick's gridiron socks, which are languishing badly. I'm choosing to believe that the problem there is the needle/yarn combination, and that, now that they're on other needles, they will knit up like the wind once I pick them up again. Given the oft-mentioned size of R's feet, the more logical part of my brain thinks that the hopeful part of my brain is completely whackadoodle;
The pretty little scarf that I started and completely forgot to mention to you all (mea culpa), but which is about halfway done unless I decide I hate it and rip it out;
The sweater cozy, from the second Mason/Dixon book, which seems like it should be a fast knit but, it turns out, isn't;
Plus the three projects that I'm so dying to start that it already feels like they're on the WIP list (as if this delusional process didn't add to my stress), which include the little lace shell I'd like to knit for myself, the linen/flax shell I want to knit, and the beaded socks from January's Rockin' Sock Club installment.

And that's just the knitting. On the work front, there's:
The teaching grammar that I said I would write on my sabbatical (I may have even signed notarized paperwork to that effect, but I'm in denial);
The paper that I wrote ages ago that should be revised and resubmitted to the lovely journal that suggested that I do just that (I haven't signed any notarized paperwork about that one, thank goodness);
The other paper that I wrote ages ago that needs some buffing and polishing so that it can be sent out into the world to make its own way;
The paper that I presented last summer that I haven't started writing but really should (see how I keep adding pre-WIPs to my lists?);
The paper that I'm supposed to present at a conference the first weekend of April (this one's really making my hyperventilate);
The Institutional Review Board Human Subjects application that I need to write so that I can get approval to interview Human Subjects (that would be y'all, in case any clarification were needed) about knitting, being a knitter, and all things knitterly;
Plus all of the other little odds and ends that make up an academic life, like thinking about syllabi for next semester, looking at the proofs that I just got via email this week, responding to various whackadoodle emails from various colleagues, et cetera, ad nauseum, ad infinitum.

So, what am I doing about all of it? Apparently, I'm writing a blog post.


Maybe I should go stand in the middle of that room again and look for something to do.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Rolling along

That's what I've been doing this weekend on the shawl, just rolling along. It feels like I'm on the downhill part of the ride now; all the hard work done, and smooth sailing ahead. The rows keep getting shorter and shorter and faster and faster. I think rows are taking less than 15 minutes each now (instead of the 30 minutes/row at the beginning); and since there are three repeats of the section I'm on now, it feels familiar and easy. I'm halfway through the third repeat, then it's just the shoulder shaping and neck edging and I'm done. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it'll happen by the middle of the week, but we'll see. It feels like it's been ages since I've blocked lace, and we all know how much fun that particular form of alchemy is. (And, come to think of it, it has been ages; I don't think I've done any big lace blocking since Lacewing.)

I also got quite a bit of knitting done on Younger Daughter's second sock yesterday, as we went to see the play Shipwrecked! at the North Coast Repertory Theater yesterday, and darkened theaters and lace don't mix. We weren't sure we'd make it until the last minute, since Younger Daughter developed a hideous stomach flu on Friday night (trust me, you don't want the details; heck, I didn't want the details, but I'm her mother), but she was keeping food down and had slept a ton and was dying to go, so we took a chance, and it worked out beautifully. Both of the girls loved the play (they were enthralled, in fact; it was almost as much fun to watch them watching the play as it was to see the play itself), so I'm glad we took the chance.

I've also spent some time this weekend playing with this beauty.
This is my replacement Golding spindle.
I think I mentioned a few weeks ago that we'd had a tragic accident chez Knitting Linguist, in which I dropped my drop spindle (this happens, as the name suggests) on a rug, and the carved wood part of the whorl shattered. I was devastated, Rick was devastated, there was a general devastation fest around here. He wrote to Tom Golding who told him to send it back and promptly shipped me this lovely replacement. Talk about stellar customer service; they were amazing, and so very nice about the whole thing. It spins just as beautifully as the old one (I do so very much love this spindle), and I'm spinning over a thicker carpet these days, so it's all good. This evening I was working on the merino/silk blend top I got the other week at Twist!, and it's absolutely stunning. For some reason, I've been working with my two spindles more than my wheels lately (the Turkish spindle still has my lovely Bunny and the Beast on it; I'm working through that batt little by little); I'm not sure if it feeds some need to slow down a little, or to worry less about production and more about process, I just know that it works.

As I've been talking lately about the knitting and fiber-related books that I've been acquiring, I have to share my latest, entirely unprovoked, acquisition. Each week during Younger Daughter's Irish dance lessons, I get to spend time with a friend of mine whose son is taking lessons with Younger Daughter. We both knit and hang out and talk about books, which is a very nice 45-minute interlude in my week. A couple of weeks ago, my friend mentioned that a friend of hers had given her a knitting book years ago that she didn't use and probably wouldn't ever knit from, and said that she'd bring it to me. Of course, a new book is always an exciting prospect, but I was completely gobsmacked when, last week, she produced this from her knitting bag.
(Can you tell from the blurry photo how excited I was? Photographic evidence notwithstanding, it's in fabulous shape, virtually brand new.) I mean, seriously. Can I just tell you how much I've wanted this book? I took it out from the library a while ago, and drooled over it until the library made me give it back (I wiped it down first, for anyone else who's checked it out since then from the San Diego County library). I have been thinking of getting a copy, but haven't quite made the commitment, and now I don't have to. How cool is that?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Reporting in

We're still adjusting to the time change over here. Why is this one always so tough? I mean, I know why it is, but it still amazes me how much losing that single hour of sleep matters in a week. It doesn't help that it is now dark again when we get up; I find that I'd almost rather have the light in the morning kicking me out of bed than in the evening when I'm done and home for dinner in any case.

So, knitting has been a little slow this week, as I've been falling over into bed earlier in the evenings. Somehow I've felt more like reading than watching TV (there are times when the noise that is an inherent part of television just feels like it's too much to deal with, and even audiobooks feel somehow loud), and my lace project is not one of those things that I can knit while reading. But I am making progress; I'm halfway through the first repeat of the next charted section, with two more repeats after that. It's starting to get that going-downhill feeling that comes with hitting a point that feels like the halfway mark. It isn't really halfway, but as the rows are getting shorter rather than longer, it certainly feels that way.
Everyone else is finishing theirs up, and Anne has been posting pictures of this shawl in all of the gorgeous colorways that people are using to knit it; the reds and oranges and purples of some of them are just stunning. Anne has said that she'll probably release the pattern soon; this is a really fun and intuitive knit, so if you're feeling lacy, it's a good one to check out. (I should also mention that while I was a titch concerned about how I would feel about the bottom-up knitting thing -- that was one long cast-on row -- I am loving the realization that the rows are getting faster and faster, instead of the usual slower and slower.)

I would be much further along with it had I been able to knit on it at all this weekend. I had two major chunks of potential knitting time available: during the stretches of the drive that Rick was at the wheel, and while we were at my parents' house. The problem with the latter was that my aunt (who will be receiving this shawl for her birthday in the fall) was also at my parents' house, and I really couldn't knit it in front of her, as it's a surprise. And the problem with the former is that a) there are charts to be keeping track of while knitting (therefore, no knitting in the dark, for example, or on windy roads when I really need to be looking out the windshield more often than not), and b) seriously, I'm just not sure I can keep track of lace while Rick is plowing up the state at 80 miles an hour. Someone's got to keep us on the road, right?

So I started a pair of socks for Younger Daughter. Plain, stockinette socks. This isn't something that I do too often, but I've come to realize lately the benefit of plain knitting. It can be done in the dark, at the movies, in the car, while reading -- basically all kinds of places where I (speaking only for myself here) can't do more complicated knitting (where complicated knitting includes lace, cables, shaping, etc etc). I think that I need to do this more often. And this sock yarn is especially conducive to plain stockinette, as you can see.
How fun is that? It suits Younger Daughter to a T, and in spite of the fact that it seems to me like it should be far too big for her (this might even fit me, but I'm not trying it on lest I become tempted to abscond with it for myself), it isn't. This is knit out of Zauberball yarn from The Loopy Ewe. I got the ball a little while ago when I realized that it was time and past time to start acquiring some sock yarn that I would actually be willing to knit into socks for other people. My problem is that I love my stash too much, and don't want to part with any of it. I wanted to try this yarn, so I picked a colorway that I wouldn't normally choose for myself but that I knew Younger Daughter would love. My new problem is that I love this yarn. It is so soft and squishy and stretchy that I want these for my ownself. Another time. I do need to get a ball in another colorway for Older Daughter, though; she loves these, too. Meanwhile, I've cast on for the second sock. I tried to wind off enough yarn to match the colors, but I didn't quite succeed. The dark blue band at the top will be thicker on the second sock, so all of the other colors will start a little lower down. Younger Daughter likes it that way, so I think I must become resigned.

And now, as promised, another book!
My brother and brother-in-law sent this to me for my birthday last month, at my request (thanks, guys!). I'd gotten it out from the library and realized that I wanted to have it in my library as I go forward in my attempts to knit my own sweaters without patterns. It definitely has its good and bad points (the good obviously outweigh the bad in my mind, or I wouldn't have asked for it). Maggie Righetti's voice is highly opinionated, which I tend to find entertaining, but which other people mightn't. What I like about the book is that it discusses points of sweater design that other books don't usually address explicitly, like which types of sweaters flatter which kinds of body shapes. Again, she has some pretty strong opinions in this area, and doesn't hesitate to share them (it's her book, why should she?), but I take them with a grain of salt, and her discussions certainly make me at least think about things that I might not otherwise have considered.

Some of her points about fabric and sweater construction struck me as odd until I realized that she came at designing knitted sweaters from a background in designing garments using woven cloth, and then I understood why she emphasizes the points that she does; I find that to be interesting (among other things, by doing some reverse reasoning, I now have a better idea of what kinds of limits garment designers come up against when working with woven fabric that I had less sympathy for, having only ever worked myself with knitted fabric). It also helps me to understand why traditional knitted garments are designed so very differently (and why people with a background in other kinds of garment design tend to design sweaters in pieces). So I'm very glad to have this in my library, and I'll definitely be referring to it as I start to work out the details of the little lacy summer shell I want to knit for myself with the skein of SeaSilk I got myself last week.

And in case anyone ever wonders what Tilly does all day while I'm working here at home? Here's your answer.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

A fitting end

I realize that I've been missing in action this weekend. I had hoped to write a quick post on Friday morning, but things just didn't work out that way, and I've been on the run ever since.

Older Daughter's school had a half day on Friday, so we packed up and headed north to celebrate my mom's 70th birthday on Saturday. (Knitting moment: As I was packing, I asked Rick what sweater I should wear, and he said, "I think Kauni always looks nice and it goes with everything". Who knew that he even knew the names of my sweaters? Let alone which ones have maximal matching ability.) The drive north was fairly easy, and we were up in Sacramento by about 8:30; not too bad, all in all. The girls love going to visit Memere and Grandpa, and since my aunt was there, too, it was a full house. We went for a long walk on both Saturday and Sunday mornings, along the American River. Everything was green and growing, and since the weather was gorgeous, the trail was full of bikers and walkers and strollers and dogs. Tilly loved it.
So did the girls.

On Saturday night, we all got gussied up and headed out for a nice dinner to celebrate mom's birthday in style. I gave her the hat at the restaurant, even though I knew she wouldn't be trying it on until we got home. She admired it greatly.
(This is a woman who knows how to make a fuss over handknits; she's not a knitter, but she sews beautifully, so she understands what goes into something like this.)

And when we got home again after a lovely meal, it was time for the moment of truth.
It fits! Doesn't she look fabulous in it? Hooray! (And whew! What a relief.)

Sunday was another perfect day involving a nice long hike with the dog and the kids, and Monday morning we were up bright and early (actually, less bright and more early, thanks to the time change) to drive to the Bay Area for lunch with Grandmom, Rick's cousin, and her new baby Tyler. It was the first time we'd gotten to meet the baby, and I must admit that he got the lion's share of the attention. The girls held him.
I held him.
Rick held him. (He looks smaller when Rick holds him; this is generally true when Rick holds babies.)
Grandmom held him.
He's an incredibly sweet (and patient) baby. I so wish we lived closer so we could spend more time with him; they grow fast at this age.

And then we headed home, over a Bay that was the exact color of my sweater (Rick tried very hard to get a picture for me, with no luck), and through hills that were bright green.
I got some knitting done on the drive that I need to take some pictures of, but this morning, I'm facing a frighteningly full email inbox, and an equally frighteningly empty refrigerator. I wonder what one can make for dinner from a couple of eggs, an apple, and some cheese? Hmmm...

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


I realized the other day that I've been doing a great deal of (mostly) non-fiction reading lately, generally in two areas: knitting, and food. And in so doing, I've acquired a number of books, all of which I am very pleased with and am delighted to have in my permanent library (assuming that Tilly doesn't re-enter the book-chewing phase; so far, so good -- knock on wood for me, please). So, I thought that it might be fun to talk about them here once in a while (when, for example, I am knitting lace which is increasingly unphotogenic), and to hear what you all think of them if you have them or have read them, and to get more suggestions for books that I "need". (This last bit could be dangerous, I realize.)

Last week, I got a package (hooray for packages!), which contained a copy of Knitting the Threads of Time: Casting Back to the Heart of Our Craft, by Nora Murphy. I decided that even though it was the middle of the day, I could call it "research" and promptly made myself a cup of tea and sat down to read. I'd rather thought that this might be my kind of book, based on the back cover and the descriptions I'd read, but by page four, she had me hooked. One of the things that I'm most looking forward to when I finally do the knitting survey and get to read everyone's answers is to hear why people knit. And because I've been anticipating that, I've been thinking about why I knit, and about what drew me to knitting (and, I should mention, to spinning and cooking as well). And Nora Murphy pretty much said it for me:

"What these modern artists [that would be us] often don't see are the remnants of an ancient lineage to which they belong. The grandmother, the young mother, and the girls are all descendants of the women around the globe who have transformed fibers into clothing to protect their families for tens of thousands of years. They are the heirs to goddesses who understood that human survival depends on the cloth. These ancients -- from China to Egypt, from Peru to the Pacific Northwest -- understood that clothing contains the power of creation. The modern knitter is no different." (4)

That sense of connection, of reaching back through time as well as across modern space, has always been one of the most compelling aspects of knitting for me. What Murphy does is to weave her research about knitting and weaving and spinning communities across time and space into her own story about knitting a sweater for her son. She faces all of the hurdles that we've all faced at some point in knitting (and heck, in life): techniques that are difficult, parts of the project that don't work out and have to be redone, successes that are sweet. And each of these hurdles becomes an opportunity for her story to reach out to other communities of women working with fiber. Her research has covered communities ranging from the Hmong to the Dakota to women in South America, and more. I love her inclusion of the "New World", which is so often disregarded in more Euro-centric discussions (including a food book that I read recently that had me foaming at the mouth; more on that another time). The fact that she's a grant-writer for, among other communities, several Native American communities local to her home, and that she weaves their stories into this book, just makes it that much more synchronous for me.

I should also mention that the book includes a wonderful bibliography of references. I am a sucker for references, and she cites some of my old favorites, but also mentions a slew of books that I haven't read, and will now have to look for. In that way, this book is like a good knitting project: there is all kinds of fun to be had in the project itself, as in the reading of this book, plus the opportunity to think about where to go next. It was also a peaceful read; Murphy's writing is quiet and contemplative, and it's the kind of book that can be read in small chunks, and then thought about until the next time. So I would say that if anyone is looking for a nice non-fiction book about knitting that reads a lot like fiction and that contains many gems that are food for thought, this is a good one.

Next time it's time for a book post, I'll talk about the lovely book that my brother and brother-in-law sent to me for my birthday (thanks, guys!). It's been on my list for a while, and is an excellent reference book.

Meanwhile, in the interests of honesty, I should mention that my acquisition of books has not, somehow, precluded my acquisition of yarn. This is true in spite of the fact that I've been trying not to bring in more yarn than I knit up. It's not entirely my fault, though (wow, am I pitiful or what?). For example, yesterday I was up at UCLA for a lunchtime talk and as I was leaving, my colleague there (a fellow knitter) told me that I absolutely had to visit her new favorite LYS, which is walking distance from her house. Now, I couldn't disappoint a friend, right? I mean, how do you say no to a thoughtful and enthusiastic suggestion like that? So I swung off the freeway on my way home, and popped into Twist: Yarns of Intrigue (seriously, is that a great name or what?). All I can say is, wow.

It's a tiny little shop absolutely crammed with the most astonishing range of gorgeous yarns I have seen in a long time. I had no idea that lines like Malabrigo and HandMaiden had that many different kinds of yarn (it was probably better that I not know, but there's no putting that genie back in the bottle). And spinning fiber. And Cathy, the wonderfully kind and attentive shop owner, dyes her own fiber and yarn. Wow. I managed to slide out with only two bumps of spinning fiber (one a merino/silk blend, the other a camel/silk blend) and a skein of SeaSilk. Oh, and a button. I'll post pictures next time. But was that not tremendously disciplined? I mean, it's not like I could just walk away without doing my bit to support a wonderful shop like that, right? (Imagine me wearing my self-congratulatory face now.)

But what this means is that there are now two small sweater/shell-like objects that I'm dying to cast on for (since one of those would be a wing-it design, that would involve swatching, which might be the way I soothe the craving for the time being). Plus at least two pairs of socks. Plus the two pairs of socks already OTN. And the Autumn Mantle shawl (which is ticking along quite nicely). Oh, and a baby sweater that I should really finish before the baby in question goes to college. Have I mentioned that this work thing really gets in the way of my knitting time?

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Moving on

I finally bit the bullet today and went for it. I've been avoiding the tam all weekend. Yesterday, I went to the farmer's market, cleaned the house, started another batch of bread, did laundry, and knitted on the shawl. (Sweet peas are finally out at the market, and the house smells great.)
So it's not like I wasn't doing things that needed doing, but I must admit that part of the drive to stay busy was that I wasn't quite sure I was ready to commit felting.

This morning, I made cinnamon rolls from the last batch of bread dough.
I also made a loaf from my new batch, which we had for dinner.
All of these are coming from the Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day book, which I checked out from the library after someone else tried it, and I'm so glad I did. I will definitely be buying this book for myself. The bread has turned out really well, and the time investment is minimal; to be fair, the commitment of refrigerator space is not minimal, but I can live with that. I like fresh bread, I like knowing what's in my bread, and I like being able to have fresh bread relatively quickly. And the book has all kinds of other things one can do with the bread dough (for example, those cinnamon rolls up there). Yup, I'll be adding that to my library.

I also worked on the shawl.
I've been wanting to get through the first chart, which I did this morning. That felt like a big hurdle, since the stitch count starts going down after that, which makes me feel like I'm on my way. The lace motif around the edge is just gorgeous.
And once that was done, there were no more excuses. It was time to felt. So I wove in all the ends, boiled up some water, dug out a bowl and rubber gloves, and got started. I scrubbed and kneaded, and shocked the wool by alternating between hot and cold water, and after about 12 or so minutes of work (with lots of stops to see how I was doing along the way), I decided that it seemed like I'd shrunk enough (it had gotten to just over the 12-inch-diameter mark), and it was time to stop. So I wrung it out (and can I tell you how weird it feels to do that to a piece of knitting?), and shaped it to dry. And then I asked Older Daughter to try it on again so we'd have a fair comparison. I think it's much better, and I actually like the texture rather better, too; it's weightier, and feels more windproof, which I'm happy with.
And for comparison.
Is it just me, or is that better? The first one looks much more like a hat, and much less like The Blob. I just need to hem up the ribbed edge, and it'll be done. Does this mean I can cast on for something else?