Wednesday, February 29, 2012

This and that

I can't believe I'm actually managing to write a quick post on a Wednesday!  I have this theory that twice-weekly posting (Sundays and Wednesdays) would be nice, and keep me on track.  But lately (as I'm sure you've noticed) it's been a miracle to make my Sunday post.  However, I have gotten past three big deadlines this week (just hit "submit" on the third), not to mention scads of grading (including one of those twelve-hour piles - as in, it takes at least twelve actual hours of grading to get through it; I have to spread those out or I find myself getting bitter and failing people just because my butt hurts from sitting too long).  So I figure I can reward myself by thinking about fiber for a few minutes. 

I still don't have any shots of me actually wearing Poplar and Elm (although people have seen me wearing it, so it does exist).  With luck, that will happen this weekend, when Rick is around to take actual pictures.  Having Rick around is also a prerequisite to getting a picture of the first Blunnie Sock, which I have finished (no-one else's feet are even close to big enough to model his socks)(I should also say that I immediately cast on for the second sock in order to ward off the dreaded SSS).  Nevertheless, there are other interesting things to show off. 

I have been spinning, off and on.  Spinning makes me happy.  I got through this:
That is four ounces of Polwarth top, in the Misty Water colorway, handpainted by Erica (whose fiber I adore - every one I've tried has spun up like a dream, and the colors make me very happy).  I'm trying a little experiment here.  I spun that up woollen, fairly fine - Polwarth seems to cry out for woollen spinning, and this turned out light and lofty.
The experiment part comes next.  On her blog, Erica has occasionally shown braids of some of her colorways wound together (that temptress); she made the mistake of showing Misty Water with a braid of BFL in SeaGreen, and I snapped them both up.
The plan is to ply them together, which isn't so experimental.  But the plan is also to spin the BFL worsted, which is the kind of spinning that BFL seems to me to cry out for (all that lovely shine just gets maximized that way).  So the hope is that I'll end up with something that blends the traits of that warm, light, fuzzy Polwarth with the long, strong, shiny BFL.  Stay tuned.

The more I get to try different fibers, the more I'm intrigued by immense range of texture and function that the fiber world offers.  So when I saw that Ellen and Jan had each gotten a sampler of fiber from Woolgatherings, I jumped on the bandwagon (they are kind enough to not seem to mind).
And that's not the half of it!  There's a whole other layer in there - 24 total.

I made Rick stand and feel each one while I told him their names (he, too, is a patient person who humors me).  The names make me so unutterably happy I can't tell you - how can one not be excited about fiber like Shetland Humbug?  I mean, really.  The plan is to choose a couple of these each month to research and spin up, and to compare notes with Jan and Ellen.  I am really looking forward to it.  I'm teaching a class at my LYS on the 17th on getting to know one's fiber, both for making good yarn/project pairings (for knitters) and for spinners who want to think about the range of fiber possibilities available to them.  As an inspiration for me, Erica sent me a huge bag of all kinds of wonderful fibers I'd never seen or touched before, and I'll be showing those off to students (I need to get a picture of that, too).  So while I'm hoping I might inspire some local folks to take an interest in playing with me, I don't have a study group like that yet - I love that I have a long-distance one, with people who are as nuts weird interested in learning new things as I.

And speaking of ranges of possibilities and fabulous names, look at what I'm knitting right now.
That is Rams and Yowes, a lap blanket pattern by Kate Davies, she of the famous Sheepheid (which I also now have yarn to knit).  I love that she wrote both patterns to celebrate the immense diversity of colors of Shetland wool - the blanket has nine different colors.  And oh, the names!  We've got gaulmogot, and mooskit, shaela, and yuglet.  I (naturally) started poking around, looking for etymologies of the names, but only have been able to find information for two: sholmit and moorit (if anyone knows about any of the others, please, please let me know!).  Sholmit comes from a Gaelic word meaning "Having a white face, as of ox or cow"; and moorit comes from a root morand-r, meaning "brown mingled with black and red" - it is cognate with English murrey, and French moree, and comes from an older root mor-.

Wool and language all mixed together.  It just doesn't get much better than that.

Friday, February 24, 2012


So.  I actually did finish the sweater last Monday night, in time to wear it to teach on Valentine's Day (one of my regular students, who has taken many of my classes and knows me well, knew me well enough to ask whether I'd knitted it, which was kind of nice).  I have been putting off posting until I could get some pictures of it (and of the new happy project I have OTN, plus the spinning I'm working on), but I have not been able to motivate myself to get my camera out and get cracking.  So I thought I'd better post in any case.

It's been a rough month, frankly.  I lost a friend at the end of January, and very soon after that, another friend became very ill - the kind of ill that sometimes turns out in the worst possible way.  The very good news is that she is recovering, but those things have been on my mind, in unpostable sorts of ways, and it's been making it hard to get myself moving.  It doesn't help that February once again (I seem to remember this happening last year) turned into a month of deadlines, so that what little motivation I have had has been expended on those, and I have been letting everything else fall by the wayside in favor of being at home with my family.

I have been thinking, though, about the role of the internet in both of my friends' illnesses.  In different sorts of ways, their experiences had an online presence, which gave friends and family from near and far the ability to know how they were doing, and to send their loving thoughts.  And now that their illnesses are over, one way or the other, that record of their experience, and of those loving thoughts, remain.  Part of what got me thinking about this is the fact that in both cases, I tended not to log my responses to this online presence through comments - for some reason, when it comes to things like that, I tend to prefer either private email, or real person-to-person contact.

Like many of you, I am old enough to remember clearly a time before the interwebs (I did not invent the world wide web, mind you - I just remember what it was like before it was created, heh).  And, for that matter, before email.  A time when people sent, you know, letters.  Written on paper.  With ink.  And as the use of email expanded, I would occasionally soliloquize mournfully (in my head) about the loss of these artifacts, these letters, and wonder what future generations would think of us, when there was nothing concrete remaining of these quotidian messages, windows into everyday lives?  (Note the irony: I have never been good about writing letters, EVER - I am a much better email correspondent than I am a paper mail correspondent.  The post office gives me hives.)  But honestly, I think I have always thought of electronic media as ephemeral.  (And, in my defense, if you've ever had a hard drive wiped, or lost an entire linguistic database because of a computer upgrade that somehow left it behind because your new Parallels H-drive can't see your old Parallels H-drive - why yes, I am speaking from experience - then you know why I thought of e-media as ephemeral, and in fact, as aggressively and capriciously ephemeral.)

But here's the thing.  Right now, my friend's words live on, even though she can't write any more.  And the love and worry and support that her friends wrote to her also live on.  My other friend regained consciousness to find an entire record of her friends' love and concern for her, all expressed while she didn't even know it was happening.  But there it is, out there in the ether, in little electronic impulses of 1s and 0s (if I understand this right) - ephemeral but somehow, simultaneously, entirely real and enduring.

Come to think of it, that sounds a lot like love itself, doesn't it?  Utterly ephemeral, and entirely real.

That's not where I thought I was going with this, but I think I like it.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

So close to a sweater

I really am very close to a sweater now - I have two sleeves, a back, and one front.  The second front is cast on. While knitting that piece, I must contemplate the edging.  The pattern calls for crochet, but I am not all that fond of crochet, both as a process and as a trim - I've done it on sweaters before and have been less happy with it than I might be (I admit here and now that this could be because my execution is poor - please do not read this as a condemnation of the craft in general).  I may do i-cord instead.  I may leave it as is.  Only time will tell.

What sweater, you may ask (it having been so long since there was much in the way of knitting content around here)?  Poplar and Elm, I reply.  I am knitting it out of HazelKnits Entice, and I can find no flaw in this yarn.  I'm liking the pattern rather a lot, too.  I did get a titch paranoid about whether I was knitting a size that will be big enough for me, though, so I blocked the back and sleeves before casting on for the first front, just to be sure.  (I'd like everyone to be proud of me for a moment here, though - note that I did not just knit a size bigger than it seemed like I ought to, just to be sure it would fit, as I have done in the past.)
It's all good.  I wasn't so worried about the sleeves, but it was a relief to see the back block out as I'd hoped it would.  I should mention that the one modification I've been making to this pattern is to make the body three inches longer than called for (and I'm relieved to have enough yarn).  It is written as a fairly short garment, meant to fall above the waist-band of jeans, for example, and I know that that's just not my style (nor particularly flattering to me), so I adjusted.

The motifs on this are quite nice, pairing, as they do, an openwork increase on the sleeves, with the same motif using M1 increases for the body.  I am particularly enamored of the body motif, I must admit (this is why I haven't cleared the blocked pieces off the end of the dining room table yet).
Isn't it beautiful?  Just the right amount of texture, and this yarn shows it off wonderfully.  The sleeves are nice, too.
I didn't block them aggressively, both because they didn't need it for the size, and because I know from experience that sleeves tend to open up in the wearing in a way that the body of a sweater (or a shawl) just doesn't.  So I took it easy on that. I didn't even pin any of this out - just got the pieces good and wet, and then stretched then out on the blocking mats and let them dry. 

My spinning is calling to me, but I am so close on this that I think I'll plow through until the second front is done.  Maybe even this weekend?  Hmmm...

Thursday, February 2, 2012

A dark week

It's been a long week, for lots of reasons.  The upshot is that I didn't post on Sunday, and that I have no photos of any of the knitting I've been doing (Poplar and Elm has a second sleeve, and I'm about six inches into the back).

Today, however, is Imbolc*.  Halfway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox, Imbolc reminds me that the light does come back - truly it does!  It's also a day that people often post poetry on their blogs, and while I don't usually do that, I thought I would today.  This one has been in my mind this week.

To laugh often and much;
To win the respect of intelligent people
And the affection of children;

To earn the appreciation
Of honest critics
And endure the betrayal
Of false friends;

To appreciate beauty,
To find the best in others;

To leave the world a bit better
Whether by a healthy child,
A garden patch,
Or a redeemed social condition;

To know even one life had breathed easier
Because you have lived.
That is to have succeeded.
          Ralph Waldo Emerson

*Actually, some years Imbolc is February 1st, some it's February 2nd.  I'm sticking with today because it makes me happier.