Monday, February 28, 2011

Early, on time, late

Here's what I have today - a pile of knitted items for the mail:
In that pile, there are:
Early:  My mom's sweater, lacking only buttons and a final steam-pressing of seams and collar;
On time: Five hats for various Congresspersons, for the Warm Hats Not Hot Heads project;
Late:  My aunt's Christmas socks, finished very soon after Christmas, but not yet mailed.

It turns out that I am not much of a grown-up when it comes to certain kinds of errands, and going to the post office is one of those kinds of errands.  I can always think of something that I should (or would rather?) be doing instead, so I never go.  Today I went and got envelopes/boxes and stamps for everything.  I then came home and packaged up the hats - they are now in the mail.  My aunt's socks will hit the road tomorrow.  Mom's sweater (her birthday is next week) just needs some buttons, but its box and label and stamp are ready and waiting, so it can get packed up and dropped off (no need to get out of the car, even!) as soon as the buttons are sewn on.  Now if only stopping by the fabric store weren't another one of Those Errands that I tend to avoid...

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Mail, and some thoughts

So, since my knitting is not all that interesting (look! another hat!  look! a second sleeve!), I thought I'd share some of the lovely things that have arrived in the mail lately. (Warning, Illuminations Sock club SPOILER.)  As a quick update, though, the second sleeve is finished, the pieces of the sweater are blocked, and all that's left is seaming and knitting the collar.  I have one more hat to knit, too; when Ellen posted on Rav this morning that we've got almost the entire Senate hatted, I figured I could do a bit extra to get us all the way there, right?  In light of the fact that public discourse continues in its trend of calling for violence against people exercising their right to free speech (in this case directed against union supporters), I think the hats and their call for civil discourse are more critical than ever.

So, first up was a lovely surprise from Erica, she of the DesigKnit blog which I so enjoy reading.  Erica began experimenting with dyeing a while ago, to my great delight (because it meant that I could live vicariously through her; her weaving adventures serve the same purpose for me), and she has now, to my great delight, started an etsy shop!  The colors that she's working on are just lovely (I have my eye on a couple of those rovings) - I don't think that there's a one that I wouldn't knit or spin.  If you look at this post, as well as in the shop, you can see the results of her experiments with shaded depths in her colors.  You could also look right here:
Isn't that lovely?  I had some terrible trouble capturing the colors - they're very rich, and the range is amazing.  Erica may have gotten it better in the first picture in this post.  See what you think.  In any case, I am so looking forward to spinning this lovely Corriedale - I think I may have found the fiber that will go on my wheel for my March spinning - thank you, Erica!

Also on the fiber front, I inadvertently hopped onto a bandwagon that I didn't realize was in existence.  Towards the end of January, as I was poking about my fiber stash looking for my next spinning project, I happened upon a little baggie of silk hankie that I'd bought some time ago (in Ohio, maybe?), and remembered reading about Ellen's experiment with spinning silk hankies.  A little poking around on Knitty later, I had a plan.  I decided to knit them unspun, which turned out to be much more fun than I thought it would be, actually, and I was working out what I should knit, when the Yarn Harlot posted about her lovely silk hankie mittens (on my birthday, actually - I can't seem to link, but if you look at her February 2 post, you'll see them).  In that post, she happened to mention how many grams of silk hankie it took to do that - to wit, 30g.  I had 9g.  It occurred to me, then, that I wasn't going to get very far with 9g (alas), and that I'd better do something about it.  What didn't occur to me was that ordering silk hankies from BMFA right after the Yarn Harlot had posted about silk hankies from BMFA was going to be rather like hopping on the freeway in LA after someone's announced an imminent tsunami.  Crowded.

But they have arrived, and I love them.  It's only 20g, but I think I can do what I want with that (fingerless mitts), and I'm dying to get to it. 
That's the Blue Brick Wall colorway, and I just love it.  I also love that if the mitts turn out and I want to knit a hat to go with, I could get some yarn dyed up in the same colorway to do that.  Very cool.  See that hint of purple at the top right?  So pretty...

Last but not least, I got my Illuminations Sock club package! (Here comes that spoiler!)  I was very excited about this - I signed up for two sock clubs this year, the Rockin' Sock Club, and the Illuminations Club - the point of the latter was to kind of kick me into colorwork gear in a nice sort of way.  Which made it very entertaining that the first RSC kit was colorwork (not to mention all the freaking out that engendered on the discussion list - many people feared that it was a sign that the whole year would be colorwork).  Nevertheless, RSC won't be socks, so I was very much looking forward to seeing whether I'd want this kit to be socks or not.

I do.
Look how pretty!  These are absolutely my colors (the colorway option I chose for this club was "surprise me" - and I am so happily surprised here!), and I love both the patterns, but think I will do the leaf one.  I have never tried Shibui, which is what this yarn is, and it has silk in it!  Silk!  We all know how I feel about silk.  Mmmm....

So, all in all a week of good packages, don't you think?

Sunday, February 20, 2011


I don't have any pictures today of all of the knitting I've been doing, but I realized that if I stopped to take pictures, I wouldn't ever get to writing a post, so I'm just dropping in quickly.  We got some serious rain on Friday night and throughout the day yesterday, which gave me the perfect excuse to hole up at home (I didn't put any shoes on or go outside all day yesterday, and today's looking to end up the same way) and make some progress, in an entirely relaxing and renewing sort of way, on some projects.  I finished the book I was reading (I love the fact that an ereader stays open while I knit!), and got all the laundry in the house done (how often do I get to say that?), and made a huge pot of chili (which we forgot to put in the fridge last night before going to bed, so that was a wasted effort, alas).

On the fibrous front, I finished the back of my mom's sweater, as well as the first sleeve.  Hooray!  I now have two fronts, a back, and a sleeve finished, and I'll cast on for the second sleeve this afternoon.  With luck, I can have that done this week, then next weekend I will seam the sweater and knit the high collar.  I really do need some buttons, though...  Just as a reminder, I'm knitting Moonstruck, in the colorway pictured there, out of Gaea yarn, which is a pleasantly squishy merino.  It's nice to think that this might actually get finished in time for my mom's birthday (she says, ducking and waiting for the knitting gods to smite her).  I need to be a grown-up and go to the post office to get a box for it, as well as envelopes for mailing my aunt's socks (remember those? the ones I finished a month ago?  pitiful) and my hats for the Warm Hats Not Hot Heads project.  (I wish I understood what my aversion is to the post office specifically, and to running errands like that in general, but there it is.)

Yup, I said "hats".  I finished the second hat for the project; it turned out that I had enough yarn from the skein for the first hat to knit another Paris-Roubaix hat, this time a bit longer and bigger.  I played around with these a little bit; with one of them, I carried the pattern through the decreases at the top, with the other I didn't.  They're both nice, though; I would wear either of them, in public, and that seems like a reasonable criterion for sending them off.  So the second one (being bigger) will go to Rep. Darrell Issa, and the first one will go to Rep. Susan Davis.  Depending on how the second sweater sleeve goes, I may see if I can finish one more before the deadline; we'll see.

I am also spinning; I have finished the second third of the fiber that I posted a picture of last time, the lovely top of superwash BFL from Sincere Sheep that I got at the Dixon Fiber Festival in October.  Once the last third is spun, I'll be able to ply.  I'm trying to decide what socks to knit out of it (it may depend very much on how many yards I end up with).  Right now I'm dithering among three choices: another pair of the Kimono socks (because you can't have too many pairs of those, right?); a pair of Hyacinth socks (which have the advantage of being short), or a pair of Rivendell socks (for which I have had the pattern for literally years, waiting for a chance to knit them).  Meanwhile, I can dither pleasingly whilst spinning.  Which is what I am off to do!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Coming together

I want to thank everyone for their thoughtful comments on my last post.  So many comments just reiterated the point that I was hoping to make: this isn't about political party - there is more than enough incivility to go around.  No group of people is innocent of its vitriolic members.  Alas.  But I can't help but think that speaking out for civility is worth doing.  As a linguist, I have lectured to my students about the difference between freedom of speech and hate speech; I have talked to them about how absolutely, fundamentally necessary it is to insist upon free speech, upon the right of every human being to speak their mind without fear.  Hate speech is not free speech - hate speech makes freedom of speech impossible to practice.  It shuts free speech down by creating fear and hate.  So, as a person who has always stood, passionately and publicly, for freedom of speech, I also stand for civility in the practice of that freedom, so that it is a freedom that we all can enjoy - even, and perhaps especially, people who think differently than I do.

One of the best things about reading everyone's comments was seeing yet again how really diverse everyone who comments here is, in politics, region, race, and religion (just to name a few).  And yet, here we all are, commenting civilly and supportively (whether or not we're in agreement about any particular thing), brought together only by a shared interest in fiber and the manipulation thereof.  It makes me wonder if, as a second act to the knitting of hats, we shouldn't descend upon the capitol with fiber and our fiber manipulation implements of choice, to teach our representatives to knit, crochet, spin, weave, whatever it is we know how to do best - wouldn't you want to be a fly on the wall to hear the conversations that might take place then?  You may say I'm dreamer...

A few other things came together this past weekend as well.  On Friday afternoon, knowing that our girls were going to a school Parents' Night Out (fundraiser for Younger Daughter's class), Rick and I were dithering about what to do with our sudden spare time when a dear friend called to tell me that she was sure it was too late and too much but she suddenly couldn't use her tickets to the Kodo drummers, and did we want them?  Why, yes!  Yes, we do!  And off we went.  It was unreal.  Like standing in the middle of a crashing wave.  I don't know what to say except that if you ever get a chance to go, grab it and don't look back.

Then, on Saturday, Rick took the kids and that same dear friend's son and went to see the naval airshow down in San Diego.  They had an absolutely wonderful time, and I got five hours alone to do laundry, clean the house, and then (as my reward) spin and knit.  As part of my commitment to myself to spin at least two ounces of fiber a month, I sat down first to spin the superwash BFL from Sincere Sheep that I bought at the Dixon fiber festival last fall.
I split the four ounces into three equal bumps, and am spinning them worsted, with the goal of making myself a pair of socks from the results.
Much as I love woollen spinning (which, for me, is rather like petting kittens, in that it is great fun and has variable results depending on many factors apparently beyond my control or ken - things might go smoothly, or I might end up with fur everywhere - who knows?), it is nice to go back to worsted spinning - it appeals to the control freak in me.  Hello, my name is Jocelyn, and I know where my twist is.  Heh.

I am also plugging away on the sweater for my mom. I can't remember if I posted the starter picture of the first half of the front?
There it is again.  I am now done with that half, and almost done with the second half of the front (I should be able to finish that tonight).  I need to get another hat knitted, and then I can cast on for the back.  I am still very happy with the general squishiness factor of the yarn.  I am also, being me, a bit worried about the size.  I have knitted my gauge swatch, I got the measurements from my mom, but I'm going to fret about it until it's on her body and it fits.  Am I the only one who seems to think that fretting is a crucial part of garment creation?

I'm also working away on the yarn from the first RSC shipment of the year (warning - SPOILER).  Much as I loved the two patterns that came with this shipment (if you're interested, you can pop onto the Rav thread - there are pictures), they were both stranded colorwork knitted in mediumweight sock yarn (quite thick), and while I actually cast on to start a pair, I knew in my heart of hearts that I'd never wear them here in sunny SoCal, so I frogged them.  I decided instead that this is the perfect yarn to finally knit myself a Daybreak Shawl, and I have cast on and am working my way through the first, solid colored, section.  This will be a slow, long-term knit, to be picked up when I go to a meeting or am reading a book.  Lots and lots and lots of stockinette.  I don't have a picture of what's been knitted, but here are the two yarns together; I am delighted beyond words with these colors.
I will be wearing this one a lot once it's done, I think.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Warm Hats Not Hot Heads

I finished the hat for my Representative!  I need to block it before I send it, but it's done.  I may knit another (Ellen, I'll be sure to tell you who the next one is for if I can get to it in time).
Something happened the other day that drove home to me (as if I needed any more evidence, after reading about the death threats levied at a 78-year-old woman, for example) the need for everyone to see the humanity of not only those with whom we agree, but also those with whom we disagree.

I was getting blood drawn at my home (nothing serious - just an insurance thing), so the insurance company sent someone to my house early on Friday morning.  We chatted a bit as he set up his briefcase and got out the things he'd need to get the job done, and he settled down to fill out my forms.  When he saw my name, he said, "Jocelyn.  Huh.  Do you remember Joycelyn Elders?"  I agreed that I did.  He went on, "Talk about a waste of a human being."

I was floored.  Waste of a human being?  Really?  I couldn't believe that someone was sitting at my kitchen table, saying something like that, as if I would agree with him.

He went on from there, and you can imagine what it was like.  But it was that initial statement that stuck with me.  Talk about hateful and inflammatory rhetoric.  There are grounds upon which one might disagree with someone's politics.  But to dismiss their humanity, that's something else again.  That's dangerous.  To relegate someone with whom one disagrees to sub-human status is to free one up to do some pretty frightening and inhuman things.  It is exactly this sort of demonization that we all need to stand against.

I'll tell you something else.  I was a coward.  That man, sitting in my home, was about to stick needles into my body, and I said nothing.  I mean, actually nothing - I sat in total silence until he ran down and changed the subject.  That was pretty cowardly.  I hope that this hat is a little louder than I was. 

Saturday, February 5, 2011

A real weekend, at last!

I know I'm not the only one who feels this way, but I really appreciate weekends that don't start off already filled up with plans.  There's something about knowing that I will have time to do the laundry, start to finish (rather than ending up with heaps of clean laundry, unfolded, on top of the dryer; surely I'm not the only one who does this?), clean up a little bit, knit quietly in the sun (as opposed to at night when I'm so tired I can hardly count stitches), walk the dog, drink that second cup of coffee.  As much as I enjoy the linguistic documentation work I do, it's hard to have to get up at 5 on a Saturday morning, knowing that I won't get home until Sunday night, with Monday morning staring me in the face.  This weekend is one of the quiet ones, hooray!

It's a nice end to a series of birthday celebrations.  My birthday itself was made so much nicer by many little things.  I woke up to a lovely birthday and happy Imbolc email from Mary Lou.  And right next to that in my inbox was a new pattern from KnitNana; another sweater that I'm dying to knit!  And Lori wrote me a birthday blog post (thank you!).  Then, three of my fellow committee members, at the first meeting of my day, sang me the Mexican birthday song (really, a seranade), which I'd never heard before - it's really lovely, and much more romantic than "Happy Birthday".  Talk about a wonderful way to kick things off; those five hours of meetings didn't hurt nearly so much after such a nice morning.  Everyone's thoughtful, funny, wise, and cheerful birthday wishes here made my day, too - more evidence that there's a lot to be said for getting older.  You all gave me a lot to look forward to!

I spent much of the day in anticipation of Rick's surprise plans for the evening.  He threw me surprise parties for both my 20th and 30th birthdays, but I'd told him this year - no surprise party, in no small part because most of my friends were taking me out to lunch on Friday, and overkill is, after all, overkill.  But he went one better.  He drove us out to a new restaurant for dinner - a place with absolutely delicious gumbo (mmm...gumbo), and then we headed over to the California Center for the Performing Arts in Escondido, where their free first Wednesday concert was a zydeco band!  Go, Rick.  Starting a new decade with great food and live music is absolutely the way to go.  And when I got home, there, waiting for me, were flowers from my parents, and a little package from Stella, with a beautiful bottle (literally - the bottle is quite lovely; I don't have a picture of it, but you've got to trust me on this one) of gorgeous saddle brown fountain pen ink.  I don't know how she knew, but I'd just cleaned out my favorite fountain pen (the one Rick gave me for my 30th), so I promptly filled it up, and now I spend my time trying to think of excuses to write things instead of typing them.  All in all, I felt very spoiled!

I also wore my new pair of socks.
These are my second pair of the Kimono socks; my first pair (after years of wearing) finally got thrown into the dryer (I think) and are shrunken shadows of their former glory.  I really do love these socks, though; they're very elegant in their simplicity.  These are knitted out of Sanguine Gryphon Bugga - my first pair of socks out of this yarn (although I have used it to knit socks for Rick), and man, is it nice.  Not every yarn about which the knit world makes a fuss is worth the hype, but this stuff is.  The yarn itself is lovely (a bit of cashmere is a good thing) and the colors are rich and saturated.  And, judging by Rick's pair, it wears astonishingly well, given that cashmere content.  I have a lot left over, too; I need to weigh it and see whether another pair of socks might be eeked out of the skein (hooray for small feet!).
The original pattern calls for two little ties at the side; in both this version and my other pair, I only knitted one tie.  It seems better to me that way.  Aren't the little eyelet lines nice?
I have been working on other things, too.  I finished my third pair of Noro socks, and promptly wore them.  (I finished them while in Tehachapi on Saturday, and on Sunday it was cold enough that it was snowing at the higher elevations, so I was glad to put them straight on.)  But I don't have pictures of those.  I also finished the Lune shawl that I was knitting out of my handspun.  It's a bit smaller than I'd hoped, but I think that blocking will make it a nice little bit of warmth for the back of the neck.

And I've been getting set up for several projects; I think I'm ready to go in just about any knit-friendly circumstance.
Am I the only one who does this?  When I've finished a few projects, I find myself getting things set up for the next several projects, with the yarn wound up, and put into a knit bag of the right size with needles, a copy of the pattern, and whatever notions I need to get through it.  I try to have a range of projects.  For example, the small purple bag contains my second Babushka (this one in blue), the small blue bag has the yarn, pattern, and needles for my hat for Warm Hats Not Hot Heads (to be cast on as soon as I hit "publish post"), the big purple bag has my mom's birthday sweater in it, and the gray bag has the start of my new project with the RSC yarn.

My mom's birthday is coming up at the beginning of March, and I am knitting her this sweater.  As soon as I saw a picture of that sweater, I thought, that's mom's sweater.  It's more her than I can possibly tell you.  I am using Gaea, in the colorway that's pictured (her choice - this isn't really a surprise present, which is why it's safe to post about it).
I cast on last night for the right front, and made good progress. The yarn is absolutely gorgeous - so very soft and easy to work with - this is going to be a pleasure to knit.  I have high hopes of finishing this for an on-time birthday present, but I hestitate to make a 100% firm statement, as we all know how the knitting gods are about hubris.  So we'll just say that it's looking good, and I'll go and pour a libation to alleviate the potential for a giant knitting smack-down.

Happy weekend!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Taking stock

I don't know how it happened, but today is my birthday.  (I mean, I do know how it happened - birds and bees and all - I just can't figure out where the heck January went.  If anyone finds it, could you send it my way?  I'd meant to use some of those days to get things done...)  It's one of those birthdays that people call a "big" birthday, and big birthdays, like New Year's Day, somehow seem to call for taking stock.

In many ways, it's a funny sort of birthday, because I keep getting questions which are all variants of "Aren't you bummed/freaked out/sad to be getting this old?"  I feel like I'm disappointing people, because I'm really not feeling any of those things.  (I will, however, freely own up right now that the fact that Older Daughter is starting high school next year is sort of freaking me out, but that's because she's getting so old, not because I am.)(It just occurred to me to ask: Mom, does this mean that you're finding my big birthday more thought-provoking than your last big birthday?).  So I've been trying to figure out why I'm not feeling those things (I'm all about analyzing data).  It seems like as good a way as any to step back and assess.  There is, of course, no single reason, but there are a lot of things that add up to me feeling, far from upset, actually pretty damn good.

My usual response to the variants of the EEEK comment, which seems flip but isn't, is to say, "it's better than the alternative".  But I'll tell you, I mean it with all my heart.  I sat at two deathbeds this year, and while both women had lived full lives and were ready to let go, I was utterly aware in both cases of all the people I know and know of who were not, and who would have given anything for more time with the people they love.  I have friends who have faced and are facing life-threatening diagnoses, and I am grateful beyond belief that I am not.  And I am fully aware that the only reason why I am not is the luck of the draw.  It could be me, and it might be me, so I appreciate that it is not.

I think it also helps that almost every single one of my close friends has already hit this milestone (and the rest are coming up right behind me in the next few months).  Some of them are more than a decade ahead of me, in fact (which means I'm already not dreading the next big birthday - thanks, guys!).  I have trailblazers, and they are blazing some pretty impressive trails.  What is there to be afraid of, or regretful of, when I can see just how great it is on the other side of this one day?  (In fact, the woman in the office next to me just came in to confide that she found this birthday liberating.  I'm with her all the way.)

In fact, those friends, the trailblazers and cheerleaders in my life, are a huge part of why this birthday is a good day.  I am lucky to have friends (including so many of you whom I met right here on the blog - you know who you are) of rare ability, thoughtfulness, and skill, and I find myself inspired by all of the amazing things that they do - I have tried so many things, and become better at so many things, and thought carefully about so many things, because of that inspiration.  I feel like I should be taking all my friends out to a great big birthday dinner and toasting every one of them and saying, thank you!

When I look back at the last couple of big birthdays and assess where I was then and where I am now, I can honestly say that I am happier now than I have ever been in my life.  I am healthier, both physically and (much more importantly) emotionally.  My relationships are better.  I am more confident in myself.  I have walked through some pretty big fires and I find that, far from lamenting my scars, they seem to me to be badges of courage.  I have a lot more faith in myself now.  I've got a lot of growing left to do, of course, and I know (past performance in this case being a perfect indicator of future returns) that life isn't going to stop throwing curveballs.  I think what I'm saying is that I trust myself to be able to deal - not without some kicking and screaming here and there, but a bit more gracefully each year.  That is the gift of time. 

If I had to describe, in two words or less, how I feel about the next year and the years after, I think they would be:

Joyful anticipation.

And I can live with that.