Thursday, October 29, 2009


That's what I appear to have done -- completely stalled out. I hauled the jacket in to work on Monday, to share with a friend there who's also a knitter. The nice thing about showing it to her was that it validated both my knowledge (and it is definitely knowledge) that it's just too big, and my sense that I just don't much like those big swathes of brown. She suggested that I try to sell this one and then buy more yarn to knit another, which would indeed solve the problem of my complete inability to make myself start the frogging process. (She also scared the heck out of me by wondering out loud whether frogging was going to ruin the yarn -- eek! I'm choosing to believe that it won't, but frogging sooner rather than later would probably help to ensure that.) But I just can't imagine asking someone to buy a jacket in a style and colors that they wouldn't choose, so that course is probably out. I've worked out how to include the brown without it being overwhelming, which is a good thing. Now it's sitting on the back of one of my knitting chairs, waiting for me to just suck it up and unweave that first end. I have this sneaking suspicion that it's probably one of those jobs that feels huge and overwhelming in the contemplation stage, but that turns out to be not nearly so bad once it's started. We'll see.

Meanwhile, I haven't been doing any knitting to speak of. I'm not sure how much of that comes from the fact that I feel like if I'm going to be playing with yarn, I really should be frogging that dratted jacket so I can start it again (note, btw, that I'm not dreading the reknitting, only the frogging), and how much of it comes from my general feeling of overwhelmedness these days. I had the sudden and semi-shocking realization the other day that I'm going to be out of town for five of the next six weekends. And the one weekend I'm home is soccer play-offs (all weekend). That was a pretty crazy thing to come to grips with. And in the meantime, I still need to finish up my classes, prepare the talk I'm giving in early December (the last of those trips, and the one for which I wanted, and still want, the Elektra jacket), write letters of rec, etc etc. And Rick's been out of town this week. So each evening, once I'm done with the usual evening stuff, I'm just beat, and all I want to do is to lie down in bed and reread some of my favorite novels (this is a long-standing coping mechanism of mine; if I reread a novel, I don't get nearly so caught up in it and I can put it down -- important when the rest of life is crazy -- and I don't have to put nearly so much mental effort into tracking what's going on; I get to visit with old friends instead, which is a very relaxing feeling when everything else is durm und strang, change and chaos). So that's what I've done. I think there's something to be said for honoring the need to hole up sometimes.

And in the end, that's what this long slide towards winter solstice is, right? A time to reflect, to start gathering up those stored energies for the wait until spring.

My knitting has gotten some use, though. Not only has it finally started to cool down (it was 45 degrees when I left the house this morning, which feels chilly to my unacclimated southern blood), but Younger Daughter had to give a school presentation this week on Edith Nesbitt (her choice). I figured surely Nesbitt wore warm woollen shawls as she sat writing her books, so Younger Daughter got to wear Dovecote for its inaugural trip out into the world.
Since I was on furlough today, and since she asked me if I would, I got to come and see her give her presentation (memorized, three minutes long). She did very well, and only forgot one sentence. I don't usually do so well in my public presentations!
The looks on her face in both of those pictures are classic Younger Daughter (I think if you click, you can embiggen and see what I mean). Heh.

That's about it. We're off to Cincinnati this weekend, where more of my knitting will get a workout. I think that the Urban Aran will be the woolly warm thing of choice for the trip (it's only for the weekend, so I'm trying to keep the packing to a minimum). I have my travel knitting ready to go (a scarf, and Rick's socks, which should get finished soon), and my reading (The Knitter, and the IK holiday issue, not to mention Robert Jordan's latest book); I just need to decide whether I should bring one more skein of yarn and a sock pattern, just in case...

Sunday, October 25, 2009

It's a very lovely...



It's finished. For the first time. Because it looks like I'll be knitting this one again. Score: one for the sweater, zero for me. I worried about this, and fretted, and told myself that the swatch and my measurements all said that I should knit the medium, and that the garter stitch and the wool content would mitigate against the habits of silk to grow and grow and grow.

Not so much.

See what you think. These pictures aren't to show off the colors or anything. They were taken indoors in a mirror, so they're not good. But I think they give you the idea.
See? Too long, too big (and the sleeves are rolled up there). Not flattering. Here's a side view.
It hits in the worst possible spot. Now, if I pull the collar up and roll it so you can see what a shorter length would look like, we get something more like this.
And this.
(It's still hanging funny in the front, but I think you get the idea.)

Dudes. It's got to be frogged. All the way back to little bitty balls of yarn. I spent some time in bed last night trying to think of ways to salvage any of the pieces, by maybe snipping a bit of yarn and then doing some grafting, but the construction of this jacket -- which is what makes it so cool and drapey and swingy -- means that there's just no way to do that. The worst of it is that I wove in all of the ends, so now I'm going to have to find and unweave them all; luckily, I left little dangly ends on most of them, figuring I'd let all the weaving-in settle down before cutting them all the way back. Unluckily, the way I seamed the sleeves was to use the ends so that I could seam each bit with its own color. (That's actually why I wove the ends in, even though somewhere in the back of my mind I worried that this was going to be the outcome; I needed to see how it fit with the sleeves done, and the weaving-in bit just came with the territory.)(Also, I'll confess here that hope springs eternal, and I was still hoping until around 11:00 last night. Then hope died.)

I might also think about the colors while I frog. I've got lots more yarn that I needed: a whole skein of the dark blue, most of a skein of the brown, and an extra skein each of the green and the handpaint. I'm wondering now about the brown, whether it belongs in this particular jacket or not, so I might think about leaving it out, now that I know I'd have enough of the other three yarns to make up for it (especially knitting it a size smaller).

Thoughts? Opinions? Condolences? Manic laughter? I will take any and all.

Saturday, October 24, 2009


I am so close to being done with Elektra that I can taste it. I only have four more rows on the collar to go, and then I need to mattress stitch the underarm seams, and weave in the ends, and it's done. I should note that as short as that list is, it's going to take longer than it sounds like to complete. First, I have no idea how to mattress stitch anything, let alone a garter stitch seam whose colors change every little while, so that's going to require some studying and figuring. Second, because of all of those color changes, the whole weaving in of ends process is going to take a while. On the bright side, weaving ends into garter stitch is a cakewalk. So, as soon as this post is up, I'm going to start a load of laundry and then settle down with an audiobook and my knitting to wrap this project up. I figure it might be good luck to wear it to the girls' playoffs the weekend after next, as I've spent every single game this season working on this thing. It seems appropriate.

While I don't have any knitting to show off right now, I do have a few acquisitions to share. I have been on a very serious yarn diet, and have been really good about following it (having two sweaters on the needles hasn't hurt), but I will confess that I bought some fiber. Some of you may remember that, quite a while ago when I first bought my Traditional, I bought some lovely Jacob roving at my local farmer's market from Kathy of Rancho Borrego Negro. I spun it up into a two-ply yarn which I have long adored.
It's been in the back of my mind for quite some time now that I'd like to spin myself a sweater's worth of yarn (I have heard again and again that spinning a pound of a particular fiber is a great way to work on consistency and control in spinning), and, given how much fun I had spinning this yarn when I was a rank beginner, and how much I love the results (this yarn has a lovely soft hand), it seemed like it would be a good idea to attempt to get more of it.

Thanks to Kathy's efforts and her willingness to search throughout her storage area, I succeeded.
That's about a pound (probably more, I need to weigh it) of the loveliest Jacob roving you've ever seen. I am really looking forward to spinning it up. It's going to take some work to reproduce the grist of the original yarn, which I like, but the lesson in control will be good for me. I'd very much like to spin it on the Lendrum, but I think I'll need to get more bobbins before I do that; I only have four right now, and I've been told that in order to increase the consistency of the final yarn, the best bet with something like this is to spin all of the singles onto lots of bobbins, and then to switch the bobbins out during the plying. The other option is to spin the singles on one wheel and ply on another, which I may do. We'll see.

I have also acquired further knitting-related reading material.
That magazine is the new British one that I've mentioned before. I like it a lot. It's not cheap. I should probably subscribe, which might save me some money (not to mention the fear that I'll miss one of them at the bookstore, since it's a monthly issue). I love that hat on the front, and there's a sweater in there that I may very well have to knit for myself at some point (although I think I've done enough of that lately; it's time to knit some things for the girls). I haven't dug into the Clara Parkes book yet (The Knitter's Book of Wool), but this is one that I've been waiting for with bated breath ever since I heard it was coming out (there are two fantasy books that I'm waiting for in the same way, but for various reasons, they are not nearly as on time in their publications as this one, alas).

The sock book is by Janel Laidman. It is one of those rare pattern books from which I would gladly knit a vast majority of the patterns. Honestly, I like nearly every single one, which isn't always the case with a book of patterns. But I think I want to knit myself the Traveler Socks first.
I don't know if you can see it in that picture, but there's a pocket in the side of that sock. How cool is that? I must have a pair for my very own self. Both of the girls have already found the book and picked out socks for themselves, too, so I guess I'd better get busy knitting.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Quickly while I can

Where does the time go? In my case, at least some of it went to a back injury on Saturday. I picked something up (a four-year-old) as I ought not to have (I forgot just how limp a four-year-old can get when he doesn't want to be picked up) and hurt my back. I've never done that before. Aging is an interesting process...

I'm knitting, truly I am. I spent all day Sunday sitting on the couch with a hot water bottle on my back, a book on my lap, and knitting in my hands. I finished the book, and I finished the second sleeve on Elektra. I also picked up the stitches to knit the right front panel. Once I'm done with that (no color changes, hooray! so this is actual meeting knitting again), and the second front panel, then it's just the collar and the weaving in of endless ends.
I don't know if you can see what's happening there, but that's the right sleeve I'm holding up. The big triangle that is the back of the sweater curves around underneath the arm, and that big blue patch is the start of the front panel. That front panel folds back when the jacket is worn. Trust me, it all works, and in hanging this about myself (as is increasingly possible as more of it is knitted), it would appear that I chose the right size and this is not going to be too big. But we'll see.

As a parting gift, I have an embarrassing story to share, but fair warning first, it involves both grammar and cursing. Are you ready?

In class today I was talking to my students about different kinds of affixes (prefixes, suffixes, you remember these things from eighth grade, right?), and I mentioned to them that there's a nifty kind of affix called an infix that is inserted right into the middle of a root. It's often hard to explain this one, I said, because English only has one. (Here's where I also warn my students about what's coming, because you should see their faces if I let the f-bomb rip when they aren't expecting it; somehow my warning that all language is data doesn't always sink in at the beginning of the semester.) The only infix in American English is "fuckin'", and it's used as an infix in things like "unbefuckinleivable", where it's inserted right into the middle of "unbelievable". British English can use "bloody" in the same way. So a student made a comment suggesting that this must be a recent change (it's not), to which I, without thinking, responded, "Oh, no. Fucking actually goes back a long way."

Lots of laughter. Followed by a very red-faced professor trying to retrieve the conversation and to keep it from turning to talk of the world's oldest profession. Some days you can't win for trying.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Life continues

Thank you all so much for the supportive comments. The roughness is smoothing out, and that's a good thing. I've been wearing my Urban Aran these last couple of days, as it's cooled off just enough (caveat: cooled off by SoCal standards, so there's no need to mock -- I know it's not actually cool at all) that I can wear it in the shade if it's breezy and I have a short-sleeved shirt on underneath. Heh.

I ended up restitching the zipper in the sweater more neatly, using the original stitching as, essentially, basting, and making the stitches even and more hidden. I think that this is probably the way to install zippers in general (I'm also guessing that everyone else in the world already knows what I'm about to say, but you know me -- I've just got to learn things the hard way). The basic process was to first pin the zipper in place in the sweater, while the zipper was zipped up, so that I could adjust it to sit evenly when closed. Then baste, with the pins still in and the zipper still zipped up (it is almost impossible to do a nice job of sewing this way, but the benefit is that it is possible to continue to check that everything is even on both sides as you go). The last step is to then open the zipper, and to sew each side in much more neatly, paying attention to hiding the stitches underneath the slipped stitch on each edge, and to making the stitches even and close to the zip on the back side.
I don't know how clearly you can see that, but I think it looks much neater than before, and I will leave it this way, with the shorter zipper. As nice as the collar looks standing up, that isn't the way I'm most likely to wear it, given the weather I live with, and it makes much more sense to have it be a deep folded-over collar, which is how I've been wearing it. It has a bit of the shawl-collar feel to it, in a good way. (That's how I'm wearing it in the pictures from the last post.)

I've also finished the first of Rick's socks and have cast on for the second. I'm most of the way through the toe increases, remembering as before to increase only half of them evenly on both sides, and the rest only along one side so the socks will fit Rick's feet more closely. The trick is going to be to remember to make the heel flap on the correct side so that this second one will be for his right, rather than his left, foot. I'd better be sure not to start the heel flap in a meeting...

I've also been doing some spinning lately. I'm still working on the last of the fiber that I need to spin so that I can ply the heel and toe sock yarn from the Institute this summer. But I decided that I needed to work on something else, so I brought out the Pipy this weekend and spun up some of the absolutely gorgeous Bunny and the Beast fiber that Fuzzarelly sent me too long ago to mention. I'd been spindling it up slowly, but I decided I really wanted to go for it, and a wheel was needed to get the job done. The fiber is a merino/silk/angora blend, and it is an absolute dream to spin. And the colors! Man alive, that batt had the most gorgeous colors in it, and in a two-ply yarn, I think they really came out.
I'm sorry there aren't better pictures, but I realized that if I waited until I was home in daylight to take them, I wouldn't post until the weekend. I hope you can see the gorgeous raspberries and violets and deep purples in there, because they're incredibly rich. My mother-in-law saw the little skein that I'd already spun on a spindle (in front there) when she was visiting a bit ago, and made drool-y, admiring noises, so I told her (in a fit of inexplicable generosity - since when am I generous?) that this would be her birthday present. (Note, in the interests of full disclosure, I should mention that I have another batt, all in blues and greens and gold, stashed away where no-one can drool at it in front of me. Mine, mine, all mine...) So here it is, about 80 yards of heavy fingering weight loveliness (I haven't measured wpi yet).
I think you might be able to see both the colors and the weight a bit more clearly there. I soaked it and hung it to dry, and I think I got the ply twist just about exactly right, as it hung straight and true after its bath. I'm quite happy with it, and I just hope that there's enough for my mother-in-law to do a little something fun and luxurious for herself with it.

In other news, I just got today a book that I preordered some time ago, and have been waiting for with much anticipation: The Culture of Knitting. I'm very excited about reading it, especially as I start to really dig into getting ready for the paper I'm presenting at the beginning of December. This book is definitely geared towards the textile side of things, which I know much less about than I do about the community side of things (which was what my questionnaire was geared towards), so it's going to be a fascinating read, although I imagine that I'll miss some nuances that a textile expert will catch (Stella, do you have your copy yet?). Today I also downloaded, for the first time, a pdf of the results to some of the questions from the questionnaires. Given that most of the questions now have between 2100 and 2400 responses, there is a lot of data to work through (we're talking between 65 and 75 pages in each printout). I still haven't closed the survey down, though, so if you know someone who's been wanting to take it, it's available.

I'm looking forward to getting away from politics a little bit more, and to spending some more time doing what I love to do: teaching, and thinking about this research project (plus a couple of others that have just been kicked off in my other field of research), and preparing to present some of that research to other folks in my field. (OK, I'm not sure I actually enjoy that last bit -- presentations give me the cold sweats -- but there is something to be said for actually saying some of these things out loud and getting feedback, so I understand the worth of the process.)

(Little Freudian slip there: I originally wrote "cold sweaters". Heh.)

Saturday, October 10, 2009


So, I don't know how many Monty Python fans there are out there, but there's a wonderful little sketch in The Life of Brian that seems to sum up this past week beautifully. In this scene, there's an old man who's about to be stoned to death, because he said that a lovely piece of fish was fit for Jehovah. As he's waiting for the stoning to begin, he says Jehovah again, and the man who's in charge of the proceedings tells him not to make it any worse for himself. "Worse?" the old man says, "How could it be any worse?" We've been quoting that sketch quite a lot around the house this week.

I've been putting off posting this week, because until last night, all I had to talk about was the workplace horror that was Wednesday; since then, I've discovered that standing up in a meeting to propose something difficult only to find that all of your supporters but one are either not in attendance or have been struck mute isn't nearly as difficult as having everyone, friends and colleagues alike, completely ignore you afterward. It's been a lonely couple of days. In fact, the stress has been bad enough that (get this) I haven't been knitting. I knew that the way my hands kept shaking and my stomach kept twisting, if I tried to knit anything I'd just mess it up and have to redo it, and that would add to the persecution complex that's developing nicely these days.

That said, I did, finally, finish the Urban Aran. In plenty of time for that end-of-the-month trip to Cincinnati. Yay! I need to get a better zipper for it; the "best" one I could find at my local fabric store was not very good (hence the quotes around "best"); at one point Mary Lou kindly recommended an online zipper store to me, but I appear, in the kerfuffle of the last several weeks, to have lost that recommendation -- maybe someone knows of somewhere? I want to get a 24-inch two-way separating zipper. The color might be a bit hard to match -- we'll see. So, there's my caveat: the zipper installation isn't the best, because I know I'm just going to have to take it out, so I didn't fiddle too much with it. Otherwise? I'm happy as a clam with this one.
See? I'm happy. (Ignore those circles under the eyes.)(Ignore also the double chins; Rick appears to think that he must take sweater-modelling pictures of me while looking up from below -- there's no way to avoid double chins when being shot from such an angle.)

Actually, I am. This sweater has been a solace knit all the way along. Look at that yarn. Is it not one of the most beautiful things you've ever seen? The colorway is amazingly subtle; I kept noticing new things about it in different lights as I knit the sweater. This yarn came from Chris, who watched me drooling over her sample Urban Aran for the better part of a week whilst at Sock Summit (I am, apparently, not at all subtle) and told me that she was dyeing me some yarn and I'd better tell her what colorway I wanted. I, being the difficult human being that I am, told her that I wanted the California hills in the fall, all golds and browns, and with that lovely haze of green that comes from the live oaks. (It is a testament to Chris' everlasting patience and grace that she did not fling my email to the ground and stomp on it before throwing it back at me. I don't deserve friends like that.) And dang if that's not exactly, 100%, what she gave me.
Knitting this sweater has been like having a friend sit with me quietly as I worked. I could see Chris' artistic ability in every color change, and knowing that she'd dyed it with me in mind was like a little hand-holding, a small hug, just when I needed it most.

You can see there that the zipper is, indeed, too short. Once I have the longer one, that collar will stand up (it really wants to already). I knit the size XS, and then wet-blocked it. I probably oughtn't to have done that latter; I was afraid that it would be too small (have we not heard this before?). To give myself credit, usually when I'm afraid something'll be too small, I knit it in a size that's too big. I didn't do that here. I measured me, and I swatched, and I trusted my swatch and my measurements of myself enough that I knit the size that matched my measurements. I think this one has worked out better, in terms of fit, than almost any other sweater I've knitted. I just wish I hadn't blocked it quite so aggressively -- anyone know how to convince a sweater to shrink itself back up a titch?
So, to recap. This is the Urban Aran Cardigan (Rav link), which is a redo by Jared Flood of the original Patton's design. I didn't end up steeking the fronts, I just knit them separately. I decided that with everything else in my life, the last thing I needed to do was to hack into my knitting. It's knitted from Briar Rose Fibers Charity (which doesn't seem to be up on the site?), using size nine and ten needles (the nines were Addis, the tens were my Harmonys from Knitpicks). I fiddled quite a bit with the seams until I got a good rhythm going, but now I'm very happy with them, and with myself for figuring them out. I find that as I knit more, my finishing techniques are getting better and better; I can weave in ends now well enough that I can't always find them again. As I get better at doing things like seaming and weaving in ends, I find that I don't mind doing them so much (I know, this is not the revelation of the year, but here you have it). So while the finishing on this one took quite a bit of time (I'd say six or seven hours, all told, maybe a bit more), it was actually rather fun to see all the bits go where they belonged.

The cables on this were very fun and intuitive (barring that one little glitch that I blogged about a while back); it was always easy to tell where I was in the pattern, which I appreciated.

I also really like the way the sleeves came out. They fit well, without being bulky, and the cable makes me happy.
So, there it is. Evidence that this really is a knitting blog, rather than a freaky life blog.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Bullet dodged

What a week. The final installment of the Jury Saga (I know, it sounds grandiose, but hey, I've now invested so much of your time in talking about this that I was hoping grandiose might make everyone feel better about the whole thing, heh) is almost anticlimactic. I reported at the courthouse at 9:30 on Wednesday morning, as ordered, knowing that if I didn't manage to persuade the judge that cancelling classes for 110 students who would not be able to replace those classes at this late date constituted a hardship, I'd have a chance at my voir dire appearance on October 15th to convince either the defense or the prosecution (or both) that they really didn't want me on this trial. One of the court attendants told me that she thought we'd be done and out of the courthouse by well before lunch on Wednesday.

I sat on the cold, hard floor of a courthouse hallway with about 150 other people (who thought they'd get through 150 people in a few hours?) until I was called in with the last group at about 3:30 in the afternoon. I spent a lot of that time reading for the paper I'm presenting in December, chatting with the professor from Palomar who was sitting next to me (and preparing to make the same argument I was before the judge), and finally, when I just couldn't focus on anything meaningful anymore, reading Kathy Reichs' new book (picked up from the library for just this purpose) and knitting Rick's sock at the same time, to the great entertainment of everyone around me (apparently knitting and reading at the same time is a sort of parlor trick in sophisticated courthouse circles; I recommend it highly for anyone in a similar position -- it's certainly a quick way to start a conversation, at which point you will no longer be reading and knitting, you'll be talking and knitting, but you'll at least be entertained).

At 4:00, a very nice judge asked me if serving on a trial of this duration would be a hardship. I told him it would. He asked why, and I told him about my students. He agreed that it would be a hardship for them and dismissed me with very polite thanks. I gathered my things and hied myself hence before anyone could change their minds. It was all extremely anticlimactic.

But I was still a little giddy and discombobulated in classes all day Thursday. Ask my students. (Whom I informed should be extremely grateful to me for pleading their case so effectively; between the furlough and the politics this semester, there was a teeny-tiny part of me that thought maybe sitting in a peaceful courtroom from 9-5 for five days a week for eleven weeks wouldn't be the worst thing in the world.)(Which I suppose says something about how bad things have been at work these past two weeks; I spent a not-insignificant portion of my break times at the courthouse responding to texts and voice messages about work politics, sigh...)

This means that I have not much new to report. I have finished the first sleeve on the Urban Aran, meaning that I have precisely one sleeve, one collar, and several seams to finish before it's done. I'm also on the second sleeve of Elektra, having attached the first successfully (a more complicated maneuver than I would have thought). After that, two fronts and a collar to go before that one's done. I'm on the ribbing at the top of Rick's first sock. So projects continue, even though the photographic evidence is lacking.

I can share with you, though, the Largely Unbloggable Project that I finished the other week. I only have blocking shots at this point, but I promise that once the ends are woven in, I'll get some action shots.
This is Anne's Dovecote Triangle, in the petite size. Talk about a fun pattern! This just zipped right along; I couldn't believe how quickly it knitted up.
And the motifs are gorgeous, and, as always, the pattern just makes sense, which I love. This is knitted up in the yarn from Elemental Affects that I mentioned the other week, a gorgeous two-ply Shetland that bloomed beautifully upon soaking.
Because this is a woolen-type yarn, rather than worsted, I wasn't sure how well the lacework would show up, but once it was blocked, I think everything showed up very nicely. It's a warm, rustic shawl, and I think it's going to be particularly toasty and light because of the air that will be trapped in the more loosely-spun yarn.
Edgings, of course, make me particularly happy. Aren't they wonderful?
And now, the long shot.
Very nice.

For now, I'm off to cast on a second sleeve, and then maybe just maybe, take a nap.

Very nice.