Saturday, February 27, 2010

Sticking the landing

Olympic Gold.

I did it. I finished this baby last night, in time to wear to Younger Daughter's school open house.
I think that one is closest of all to the color of this gorgeous yarn.

Project details: This is Anne's henley; the pattern isn't released yet, but I'll be sure to let you know when it is. It's knitted out of the absolutely gorgeous Grandma's Blessing that Chris sent to me; I love this color more every time I look at it. It's exactly the complex set of shades in the bark of a live oak tree. It's knitted on size four lace Addis, except the edging, which was knitted on size two Addis.

And here's the kicker. I cast on during the opening ceremonies of the Olympics, February 12, and sewed on the last button yesterday afternoon at 4:30, February 26. By my count, that's fourteen days. To knit an entire sweater. With lace. And cables. Craziness.
I think I really nailed the fit on this one. See that shoulder seam? It's sitting exactly where it ought to. (And as an aside, I think my seaming skills are getting better; not perfect, but definitely better enough that I'm willing to post a picture which focuses on a seam.)
Yup, just right. And it's tremendously comfortable. I'm wearing it over a t-shirt in these pictures, and have been all day; the yarn is soft enough that it's not been a problem at all. And the lace/cable combination is forgiving enough to have a lot of room for movement, so it's not at all tight, even though it's very fitted. I haven't blocked it yet (let's be honest, I haven't really taken it off except to sleep), but I think that I'd like to, as it'd help the button band to lie more nicely.

Things I've learned from taking on this crazy Olympic knitting insanity in the middle of a month full of deadlines at work:

1. It's a really really good thing that I can knit 2x2 cables without a cable needle, because this sweater has 2x2 cables every eight rows, and I never would have been able to finish this in time if I'd been mucking about with a cable needle.

2. When living cheek by jowl with a single knitting project every spare minute of every crammed-full day for two weeks, it really helps to absolutely madly adore the yarn and the pattern. I did, and so I still do. (Note: I have not declared that I can't bear to look at this thing again now that it's finished. I'm wearing it now, and have already begun to devise a way to wear it every day this week without looking like someone who's finally gone around the bend.)

3. My family is tremendously patient with my weird knitting obsession, and is willing to pick up a lot of extra slack around the house so I can knit madly whilst muttering to myself in a corner, so long as they know it's only for two weeks. (Note the second: We are all supportive of one another's obsessions; today we went to the beach with Rick so we could watch the tsunami come in. It was not particularly observable, involving less than a foot of amplitude difference, but the rain and wind certainly were observable. And wet. Nevertheless, it was exactly the kind of thing that charms the heck out of a hydrologist.)

Aside from those smaller things, though, I also really learned a lot about my own process when I have a lot to get done. These kinds of realizations, it seems to me, are some of the best things about getting older. I've read in many places that it takes at least ten years to truly master something, to really understand it, and to begin to make significant contributions to whatever field of knowledge it is that you've mastered. And given that none of us comes with an instruction book, or a preexisting academic literature, or a master from whom to learn, it seems to me that it's reasonable to expect that it'll take a bit longer than ten years for me to really start to be a mistress of the knowledge of myself. Maybe this is why women often say that they finally feel like they start to come into their own when they turn 40. Maybe it takes a good 15-20 years of adulthood to learn oneself. Or at least to start to know where the dark corners are, and to develop the clarity of sight that allows one to penetrate the gloom. Maybe it's just me.

Either way, my experiences of this past month reinforced something that I've long suspected about myself. I really can't be incredibly self-disciplined in more than two areas of my life at a time. And I appear to have a four-week limit on serious self-discipline if it's happening in two areas at once. By self-discipline, I don't mean getting to the usual day-to-day stuff, or even a big project or two; I mean the kind of thing where I have to do lots and lots of things that are hard for me, that I have to work to make myself do, that require effort for me to plan for and execute. But in this past month, I've had to prep two classes, help develop the fall schedule for linguistics, write an 8,000-word chapter, prepare and give a presentation, write a performance review letter, write three or four letters of recommendation for students, write a grant application, write a peer-review for a journal paper, help write and present a huge committee report, prepare a proposal for a special edition of a journal that I'm co-editing, and help plan for a huge teach-in and rally that we're hosting on campus next week. Not to mention the usual rote stuff: teaching and grading and dealing with student and colleague emails, and taking notes at meetings and preparing minutes, etc etc. Getting all of that done has meant that when I sit down at my desk in the morning, there has quite literally not been time to indulge in a little blog reading, or a little Dilbert laughter, or a little checking with the International Herald Tribune to see what's going on in the world. This whole month I've known that if I didn't get through the day's tasks before it was time to do the next day's tasks, the entire house of cards was going to come crashing down around my ears.

And on top of that, I knitted a sweater.

First of all, I realize that I said yes to all of these things myself. (Although I would note that it's not my fault that every single academic anybody seems to think that February is a great month for things to be due in -- everything from letters of recommendation to review committees to the fall schedule to book chapters all seem to come due in February; I'm not the only one who's noticed this, either, it's been a major topic of conversation in my hallway lately.) But the point I'm trying to make isn't that I need pity or anything, just that I can do all of that in a month. I totally can. I know, because I did.

But what I can't do, is do all of that and, for example, stick to, oh say, a diet (to pick something at random). I can eat well, but I can't lose weight during a time like that. Nope. Nor, apparently, can I lift weights. Because those things, for me, take effort to make myself do. And what I'm realizing is that I only have so much effort of that kind available to me. And now I'm kind of done for a while. I guess what I'm saying is that I need balance, and I am finding out how long I can be out of balance in one direction before I need to swing back, and how long that swing needs to be before the pendulum comes back to rest in the center.

Tonight, I'm going to celebrate the fact that I'm almost through with all of these deadlines, the fact that I have finally learned to schedule a break for myself after four weeks of being on top of everything, and the fact that I have a fabulous sweater to wear next week. I'm a little surprised I manged it, but very happy.
Now, where's my gold medal?


EGunn said...

Oh, wow. The sweater looks great! Congratulations! That is a lot to balance all at once, even without the knitting Olympics. Enjoy that's well-earned!

(Oh, and I also love, love the color.)

Mary Lou said...

You do look happy. Aren't you glad there isn't a tv photographer zooming in to see if there is a tear in your eye? I don't know if anyone can be super self disciplined all the time. I finally learned that I work best in spurts. Slack off then work like crazy. I've tried the slow and steady and I'm less productive that way.

Alwen said...

Yeah, that "The more I absolutely have to do, the more I get done" effect. Like the semester I had four term papers all due at once. I was definitely riding the unicycle along the highwire while juggling for that one.

And the sweater! That's a gold, all right!

lori said...


Sheer gorgeousness. And you get a gold medal for making it through the month, too. Dude.

Cathy said...

Lovely sweater! You get a gold medal for simply surviving your February!

I am so jealous of your weather. We're under at least 3 feet of snow right now...more on the way. Great knitting weather when we're not digging out.

Geri said...

What a great sweater and it fits wonderfully! Great job. You are the needles.

I feel incredibly lazy now reading about every thing you've done this month. Wow.

Rachel said...

Great job Jocelyn your sweater looks great including the seams and everything else and after all that you achieved this month you certainly deserve a break, I hope you enjoy it.

Rachael said...

Sweater is gorgeous!!! Fit is perfect, go you!

And go you with all that other stuff too, take a much deserved break and feel good about getting all that done - quite a list of accomplishments! :-)

Stell said...

The sweater looks amazing ( thanks to you and Anne), I think I need one. I thought my month was busy, and then I read your list, oh my, you survived and excelled, a gold medal methinks, and celebrations. Seems the whole pacific coast was on alert( we were as I found from the radio whilst driving along the harbour road).
I'm still buzzing for your amazing finish line performance.

Lynne said...

First and foremost: congratulations on achieving more in one month than would put most people in the madhouse in a semester!

The sweater looks fabulous on you. Since oak trees are not common in this area being non-indigenous (to say nothing of the fact that they grow too big for average suburban yard) I will take your word for the colours.

Thanks, too, for the insight into yourself. I am over 50 and I have yet to learn how much I can realistically take on at any one time (hence the burn-out and the leave from work!) so reading your insightful post has given me food for thought. Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

Such an interesting post! We are currently in the process of building a house in another state (5 hour drive away), getting this house which we've been in for 22 years ready for sale, trying to pack for a 2 1/2 week trip to S. Africa beginning Tuesday And it is all getting done, but we are not eating healthy meals, and I am not sleeping. Interesting to think about the limits of what I can do...... maybe after the 19hour flight to CapeTown??????

Barbara M.

Jane said...

Think you deserve a medal after that month. I think it's having the knitting that keeps you sane whilst doing the other stuff. Congratulations on getting it finished, it is beautiful, in design and colour. Enjoy it

Anonymous said...

Beautiful sweater and it fits you perfectly! Atta Girl!


USA Knitter Ayers crosses the finish line, and it's a New. World. Record! (Yay! U-S-A, U-S-A Yay)

Seriously, sounds like an intense but not altogether bad month. I appreciate your insights and sharing them with us.

(You somehow found time to post on my blog, and to answer your question from there, the book is Cat Bordhi's Personal Footprints for Insouciant Sock Knitters.)

twinsetellen said...

You deserve a basketful of medals! The sweater is luscious and your insights on knitting it are dead on.

I am sure we only have the mental capacity to handle so much - in fact it has been studied. One recent paper demonstrated that a group asked to memorize a two digit number was better able to resist an unhealthy treat than a group asked to memorize a seven digit number. If five measly digits of extra effort is enough to throw some off their healthy eating plan, I think you can feel quite proud that your accomplishments for the month didn't create a weight gain, nevermind the lack of weight loss.

Oh, and going for the wordiest comment ever, Malcolm Gladwell espouses 10,000 hours to excellence. Sure we've been ourselves for much more than that (it's a bit over a solid year), but how many hours of our lives have we been truly focused on being ourselves instead of on writing presentations or letters of recommendation or any of a myriad daily tasks and goals? (Another reason quiet, reflective knitting is so important!)

Kim said...

Oh Jocelyn, you so STUCK that landing!!!!! Way to go girl!!!! I can't wait to see you at the medals ceremony when they're playing the Star Spangled, and they put that gold around your neck!!!! The fit is AWESOME!!! You totally look hot in that sweater. LOVE IT!!!!

Teri S. said...

A most excellent job! The sweater is gorgeous. And to finish it before the closing ceremonies with a beyond crazy work schedule is simply outstanding! Congratulations!

twinsetjan said...

FABULOUS! That looks like a sweater you will be wearing and loving for years to come. I love its complex simplicity. And I love your thoughts about the complexities of understanding our own selves.

Nana Sadie said...

And yes, I agree, it takes women a while to figure all that stuff out about themselves, and I'm just getting there here in my 50s.

That sweater is stunning - you look great! The puppy looks especially happy.
(I may very well have to knit that sweater, myself)

And I'm delighted you have the supportive family you have.

(You didn't add in there that you've also been a very supportive friend during that month, btw, but I know you have - I've been on the receiving end of it)

Bea said...

Love it. It looks fantastic on you! That yarn is gorgeous too.

elizabeth said...

I absolutely love your thoughts! I am the same way with only being able to focus on a couple of challenging things at a time, and thank goodness the winter Olympics are only every four years! Your sweater turned out beautifully - well done!!!

Katie said...

And the crowd goes wild! GREAT sweater! I totally want to know when the pattern comes out. It's gorgeous! Congrats on your gold metal - stand tall on that podium!

Anonymous said...

Sticking the landing indeed! Cheers to you for accomplishing so much so well.


gwen said...

Gold Medal for All of it! Amazing sweater, amazing knit and finish job, amazing that it's been only 14 days (and a few million work deadlines! Good Heavens Above!)

Amazing that you're still with us. Break time!

RobinH said...

Oh, it's utterly gorgeous! And the fit is perfect! Congratulations! And that you pulled it off in such a busy time is amazing. Terrific job.

Anonymous said...

Beyond beautiful. Who needs a medal when they've got that sweater!

chihockey said...

LOVE your sweater! Congratulations on a really fun (and wearable) accomplishment.

Willow said...

That sweater is absolutely, totally, completely beautiful! It is truly deserving of gold.

Kym said...

Absolutely lovely! It's a beautiful sweater and you did a marvelous job. I want one. . .