January 1, 2011

The New

Well, I thought I had better check in before the new year really got rolling and it would be too late to recap everything from the old one.

Wedding shawls are over.   Thank god.

They were done in time, they were lovely, the ladies loved them, enough said really. It came down to the wire with blocking done at someone else’s home on the way to the airport. But when we got on the plane, they were all safely tucked in the carry on bag.

The wedding was a wonderful blur. It was like a mini vacation with lots to do and lots of running around. Highlights include snow (!), getting my hair done in a salon in Kentucky where the d├ęcor was half angel figurines and a half tiger posters, and of course getting to be there when my best friend got married.

I learned things about wedding dresses I had never known. Like just how intimate you must be with the bride to get her into said dress and to tie up bustles. It was an informational good time!

In the end it was a blur of good times. I did manage to knit on the trip, finishing my mother’s Christmas socks in record time. It helped that there was lots of travel and down time with little to do but sit. Also, a lengthy delay on the way home helped. 004 (16)

I felt good getting home with the one thing I said I would knit done. That freed me up for other knitting projects. I had a short time of knitting free fall when I realized I didn’t have to knit shawls any longer. It was like a yarn candy store! I’m afraid I got around quite a bit that first week back, working on so many projects at once.

But I mostly settled on Keith’s mother’s sweater. I took to heart his urgings recently about working on it and told myself it was like another knitting Christmas present to him. Not something I could give him to wear, but making him happy by finishing it. I am happy to say that I am on the final sleeve piece. All that remains is acres upon acres of seaming which I am absolutely terrified of. That will be an interesting adventure for 2011.

I also managed to cram in some quick projects before Christmas, like a great bulky circle scarf knit from all scraps in shades of reds and oranges. It felt amazing to knit bulky yarn on size 10 needles. It flew!

After the not so stressful Christmas knitting, there was a week of amazing downtime until New Years. I didn’t do anything I had planned, but I think I’m ok with that. I knit some, I set up the new laptop that I ended up buying myself when my old one bit the dust over Christmas, and I relaxed.

I went to knit night for the first time in a long while and thoroughly enjoyed seeing everyone and relaxingly knitting the sweater arm instead of frantically focusing on shawls. 036

I even planned, cast on, and knit up a last minute gift for a second Christmas with Keith’s family tomorrow in a single day. The Anthropologie scarflet is cute and blocking downstairs as I type. I’m even going to get a second one for Bret out of the single skein, which will be a great little extra gift for her.

The single greatest Christmas gift this year was a yarn ball winder from Keith. I have been wanting one for so long. Last Christmas, someone at the lovely Cast Away talked Keith out of a yarn ball winder! He told me later that he had gone in intending to get it for me and they had convinced him I could always have them wind yarn for me and didn’t need it. I love all of the ladies at the store, but boy were they off the mark!

I never plan things that far in advance. More often than not, I find myself casting on at 11 p.m. with an unquenchable desire to knit this exact thing RIGHT THEN. So there is a lot of wasted time as I wind up a ball with my improvised swift and the pvc pipe nostepinne. It takes forever, especially when the yarn is lace weight, as in the case with all 5 shawls!

So the new ball winder is the best gift of the season in good company with a whole bunch of other useful things like boots and a bike computer.

Our New Years was very fun and relaxing. Good friends, good food, several dogs, and a lovely home located on a knoll in the Dry Creek valley overlooking vineyards. It was kind of like a 24 hour retreat. And there was even another knitter. Nothing like a warm house filled with good company and yummy food with foggy, gray, rainy countryside outdoors to make me feel like knitting.

So it’s a new year, and I am happy to let the rain rinse away the remains of the last one. It was good in many ways, challenging in others, but ultimately it was a year in which I felt like I had finally gotten the hang of being me. Not that the ups and downs and bumps ended, but that I think I was able to cope and handle them with grace and calm that was not possible before.

It is the last new year of my twenties. It was the year I finished the largest personal work of my life, my thesis. And the achievement of my staff position. It was the year of personal career growth for which I am immensely grateful.

For 2011, I don’t have really specific goals. The little evil self image gnome in the back of my head says I should put a number to the weight loss I want to continue this year. He even wants me to tack on a date to lose it by (hint it’s a round number divisible by both 3 and 10). I ‘m not sure if I want to set that goal, but I do resolve to keep doing what I have been, staying active and pushing myself harder. It is an energizing and motivating way to keep myself going by realizing that every year since 2005 has been better, I have been lighter every year, and most importantly, I have been the happiest I have ever been as a result of good health and a better self. So I will keep that going.

I will strive to be me (sometimes challenging, often confusing) and to meet what the year brings with strength. And knit on through the rough times.

Happy New Year!

November 26, 2010

Home Stretch

010I finished shawl number 4 today, and (almost) immediately cast on for number 5. I have to admit to a brief break in between where I cast on for a pair of socks. I reasoned it thusly: I will be working on my own shawl (the last one, number 5) right up until the deadline most likely. This will mean last minute blocking and craziness right before we have to leave to catch planes and get to the wedding. I will not find time to put something together to bring with me on the trip to knit, which would be a travesty. So I rationalized that in order to preemptively prevent this outcome, I needed to cast on for the socks today.

These socks might very well be the only hand knit gift I knit this Christmas, which makes me very sad. But I was determined to get them in there somehow because my mother has been ill and I have been unable to get home to see her due to a crazy work schedule which has me working pretty much every day of the week. I feel bad and guilty, and I want to make it up to her. Also, she has asked for socks specifically in the past and I know she knows how much work they are and will appreciate them. Socks for Mom!

How’s the lace going you ask? You clearly didn’t notice that I was avoiding that topic did you? Well, it’s going well, mostly. I had planned to be a little further along at this point, but life (and the above mentioned work schedule) had other ideas. I spent two weeks camping in a tent, running a huge project involving 25 person survey crews, planning and helping Keith cook meals, and generally being on call to a host of teenagers, parents, undergrads (not much better than teenagers), grad students (not much better than undergrads), and various other folks.

Besides the fact that it’s hard to knit in a) the dark, b) cold weather, c) rainy weather, and d)while being asked a million questions, I attempted to knit by campfire on a couple nights a week. I got very little done, and just made the shawl I was working on dirtier and smell like smoke. But when I returned home, I cranked that baby out and now just have mine remaining.

In a great streak of luck, I actually was forced into thinking ahead. I knew eventually there would be blocking, and that it was going to be a bitch. I hate it normally, and I am not good at it. And I lack the skill or the tools to do it right. I was discussing this at the knit night at Cast Away a couple weeks back and they (as all knitters do) had advice. But it was good advice and I listened. And one of the ladies even had a blocking board and steamer she would let me borrow! You can’t beat knitters for niceness. So on a rainy night last week, I acquired a blocking board and steamer, and purchased blocking wires from the store.

Anxious to see how it would work and to take a break from knitting, I jumped right into blocking. It was a slow learning curve at first, but by shawl two I had it and it was amazing! I know the transformation when I block, but I had no idea how pretty these little grubby balls of knitting would become. Kassie’s blue shawl is stunning and the bridesmaids’ are lovely too. It was such a breeze with the wires. I will NEVER not use 020them for this sort of thing again, especially to get straight edges. Wow.

I sent the first one off in the mail to the waiting bridesmaid, praying that the post office doesn’t lose it somehow along the way. I have blocked the bride’s, and have two finished shawls waiting to be blocked. I will do that before Monday so I can send the three out together to Cincinnati. Then I will crank out mine as quickly as possible. I have motivation. I want to work on something (anything) else.

After a bustling Thanksgiving thrown at our house this year (a first for us both), it is so nice to sit quietly on the couch and knit, plan, and look at patterns while Keith sleeps (snores) on the other couch. It’s late, so I should go to bed, but it’s still novel being able to relax and stay up late with a) lights and b) no responsibilities tomorrow.

October 1, 2010

Two Months of Lace

That’s what I’ve just signed myself up for. Well, it will be more like three, since I’ve been knitting lace for the past month as well. Let me back track and tell you why.

My best friend in the world, Kassie, is getting married. She’s getting married in December. In Cincinnati. In an aquarium. Sounds chilly right? Well, besides the high likelihood of cold air in skimpy dresses, there’s the whole best-friend-in the-world aspect. I just don’t know how else to express my great affection for someone without using handknits. Especially when I am 2,400 miles from where the bride lives and where the wedding planning is taking place. As a bridesmaid, I feel like I need to contribute something to the process and I am no help at venues, catering, shopping expeditions, or all the other crazy wedding-related planning.

What I can do? Knit. I picked out a shawl to knit, picked out a yarn, even mostly picked out the color scheme for the wedding because she was too busy and overwhelmed. And then I started working. Early on in the knitting, I thought how great it would be if all the bridesmaids could have something special like this for the wedding. I thought about it for probably what amounted to two minutes before I was online offering my services to my friend and the other ladies. It was heartily accepted and I had added 4 more shawls to the list.

If I had thought about it at all before I made the offer, I might have reconsidered. It was then early September, I was just getting into the first shawl and it was very slow going. Lace can be that way, especially for someone who hardly ever knits it. But I was excited. They were excited. I offered.

First mistake whole-heartedly made, I immediately hit trouble. Color choices are hard. Kassie is not terribly color savvy and wasn’t sure what colors to choose. I put it up for discussion, but got mixed responses. Finally, I made an executive decision due to the realization that time was dwindling quickly. Then I went to order that color, and found that just about every store everywhere was sold out. Who knew gray could be so popular? So I had to re-evaluate and choose another color. This led to a week of dead time. I don’t know why I bother to count that week as I was still busy knitting away on the brides shawl and wouldn’t have been able to start another anyway. But I do.

So I have a 3/4 finished shawl, and yarn for 4 more on order. My brain is filled with time calculations that I must meet in order to finish by December 12th. I think I worked it out to a shawl every 2 weeks. Can that even be done? I don’t know! There are other variables which I keep trying to factor in, like will I speed up because the pattern will become etched in my brain by the 3rd or 4th? Or will I slow down because I am super bored with repeating the same pattern in the same color this many times? These are the exciting things I am wondering as I knit as fast as I can every spare moment.

Can it be done? Stay tuned to find out!

August 27, 2010

A Long Lapse, but Back in the Spin

So . . . knitting happened. It’s funny that in a regular blog I sometimes lapse due to a lack of things to write about besides the mundane day to day. It’s rarely that I’m too busy to write, though that sometimes happens. In the knitting blog, however, it seems to be the opposite. When I am busy knitting, I don’t write about it. Why would I want to put the needles down if things are raveling along smoothly?

It was not any different this time. I think what derailed me was the lack of a direction with work. I say ‘work’ but what it really feels like I should keep saying is ‘school’ or ‘degree.’ I guess that’s why someone came up with ‘career.’ It is neither just my job or a purely academic pursuit. I have a career? Go figure!

After my defense, I was rudderless for a bit. I wrapped up the loose ends on my project and at the end of last month submitted the FINAL version of the report (because we all know the report is the import part, the part the client is paying for, not my thesis). After that . . . I didn’t have a lot of work. I actually had a week of NO work, which scared me and depressed me while simultaneously it thrilled me because I got to spend almost a whole week at home by myself doing whatever I wanted, which included a good deal of knitting.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         But even that wore off when I realized the money would also stop when the work did, and that meant less knitting in the long run. So then I scrounged up some work. But it was just that, work. It wasn’t something I cared about. It was someone else’s projects, it was things I am only providing labor for and nothing else. I can wash artifacts like nobody’s business and even mostly enjoy it (if the weather isn’t too shabby), but it’s not mentally stimulating and it has nothing to do with my ‘career.’

I knit. A lot. In fact I think I attempted to replace my lack of mental stimulation at work with knitting. And it seemed to work for awhile. However, I then went through a brief internet-blog related depression. While I struggle indefinitely to live up to my own harsh expectations, it makes it even worse to be able to see how others fly beyond my sad little attempts by miles. The internet is very good at this – making me feel small, terribly inferior and about as creative as a slug. So while I had a brief dream-fantasy of wondering what it might be like to make a living knitting and blogging about it and throwing in equal measures of gardening, canning, and other homely pursuits that I love, it was shortly dashed by the reality that several people much more creative and more interesting than myself already do this. And I long ago came to terms with the fact that I am just not a risk taker. I am a play-it-safe kind of girl and while it makes me sad sometimes, I realize I cannot change it. Or at least not to the degree that I could talk myself into attempting a ‘career’ in knitting.

Anyway, I got over the malaise. See? This is what happens when I am not mentally stimulated and don’t have enough work. Luckily it seems infrequent. When we happened to get a contract for excavation in the Presidio in San Francisco early this month, I jumped at the chance. So while not exactly a ME project, at least I was too busy and physically exhausted after 8 hours a day for 3 weeks to do much day-dreaming. I barely had the energy and hand strength to knit.

There have been a lot of projects slipping on and off the needles between the dish towel and the present. Too many to list and a wide variety of projects. Currently, I am working on socks for Keith and I and a raglan sweater knit from the unraveled Lady Sweater I knit last year and hated. There are other things floating around and a project for Kassies’ wedding also in the mix.

Today I decided to return to this blog because I have been offered a full time position at work (finally) and will be starting a very exciting new chapter in my career (this time without quotes) and am looking forward to the challenges of the new position. So you see I will once again return knitting to it's proper spot in my life. Not that it isn’t important (because it most certainly is) but it isn’t my career, and I don’t think I really want it to be.

June 10, 2010

Dishtowel Ditty

Do you ever purposefully prolong a project because you love knitting it?

I do.

I am enjoying the hand-painted shawl/wrap I wrote about last so much that I am finding ways to knit sparingly on it so that the project will last longer. It seems like a silly idea, but I find myself only knitting on it when I can pay attention and fully enjoy the project. If I can’t, then I pick up something else to work on. This has led to very chaotic knitting over the past week or two. I work a little here, a little there, and nothing gets finished.

I’m ok with that. In fact, it’s feeling pretty good. Normally, this makes me feel frazzled and anxious, but right this instant, it feels like I am comfortably busy and that I am an accomplished knitter who can juggle all these various projects with ease and smoothly move among them. I hope that proves to be true, or else I will have a lot of messes on my hands. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

So besides my great wrap, I have a pair of complicated toe up bayerische socks, my two log cabin blankets (1) (2), Michelle’s sweater (which I am kind of secretly avoiding) , and a pair of knucks. I feel rich with options!

I didn’t need to start something new to keep my occupied, but in a moment of feeling down, I decided to stop by Michael’s and grab a final ball of grey wool for the log cabin and indulged in a little retail therapy. I proceeded to purchase several balls of cotton and cotton-ease yarn and a few things to make stitch markers. The great thing was that I only spent $35 on all of it and it made me feel even richer.

As I said, I have been really enjoying the wrap and part of that is that is the cotton in the yarn. I love the cool feeling, the non-hairy yarn, the smoothness. So I thought it might be nice to work on some other cool cotton projects too. Hence the spree. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I got home and immediately cast on a dishtowel pattern in summery lemon and lime. It was very satisfying and has inspired me to try all sorts of combinations and colors. The entire time I am knitting it I am envisioning other versions. I am also thinking ahead that these could be great gifts, as in Christmas gifts for the family. I might end up giving this color combo to my sister as a house warming gift when they move to San Francisco next month. And I have another couple planned as surprises for Keith to go in our kitchen. So many dishtowel varieties to consider!

While sometimes it is great to knit lovely, gorgeous knitted items and get admiring looks and compliments on them, it can be equally rewarding to knit useful, un-glamorous work-horse knits. And where it used to be hard to part with, or even use these kind of items, it has grown easy and exciting to think of my entire extended family scrubbing their dirty dishes or wiping their greasy hands on my knitted goods.

June 1, 2010

Shall I Knit Another Shawl?

I think my knitting now has a mind of its own. And that mind is demanding more shawls, of varying sizes, patterns, and yarns. It’s something I can’t seem to control. I specifically decided I was done with shawls after the last one, which I managed to finish without killing myself or others and looks pretty damn good OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         (others have expressed this besides me, so I am quoting it as fact).

I decided I would try to use up the rest of the Very-Splitty Alpaca that I knit the Springtime Blues with and be a good, economical knitting woman. Ha! My sneaky knitting brain has other ideas and threatened me with my worst nightmare – an unsatisfactory project. There is almost nothing worse than a project I just sort of like enough to keep going for a bit. It’s a sure sign that I will a. hate the finished project, and b. never actually finish it if it requires anything else to be done to it after casting off. Those projects just kill my will to knit.

I tried, I really did. I cast on several different things with the stash yarn. Yes, many of them were still shawls, but they were meeting the requirement of using up the yarn, so I looked the other way. Each thing just didn’t inspire me. I don’t know what it was, but each time I cast on, after the first row I would lose all interest in whatever it was. I thought perhaps I was just getting spoiled by so many great projects lately and I would force myself to carry on. So I kept knitting Bitteroot all through a whole evening at knit night before unceremoniously frogging it the next morning.

I don’t know what was wrong with me, but my knitting mojo was temporarily lost. I decided I was bored with shawls, and bored with the yarn, and maybe just bored.

Saturday morning dawned and as I planned the rest of the day after a wonderful 35 mile bike ride, I decided that it might be time to swing back by Balls and Skeins in Sebastopol and use up my gift certificate. This in itself wasn’t a bad idea, but several subsequent decisions made it less great.

Keith came along. Even though I know the consequences of this one, I seem to make the mistake of bringing him a lot. He becomes impatient, he rushes the decision, and I end up with odd things. Plus, he doesn’t help with the decision making process as he doesn’t much care what or how or when I knit as long as I am happy. Nice, yes. Helpful, no.

So I went in with the vague idea that I would either get some new yarn for something completely different (no socks, OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         no shawls), or I would splurge and by myself some nicer needles. Did I do either of those? Of course not.

I have trouble with that store on a normal day. Something about the layout, combined with the type of yarns and the kind of hap-hazard design of the store make me indecisive and not fond of the place. So I wandered aimlessly. Keith became impatient. I ended up buying a lovely and insanely variegated skein of Misti  Alpaca Cotton Silk hand-painted, in a colorway called Ambrosia.

In itself, a nice item. But, I only have a single skein, it’s so outrageously hand-painted that it’s not suitable for many small projects, and the weather just turned very warm, making the thought of things like hats, scarves, and gloves unbearable.

In my dilemma I of course cast on another shawl.

I did think it through a little. The colorway will work with the pattern, I can use a whole skein up, and the cotton/silk will make a nice, lighter shawl/kerchief. I’m just not thrilled to be knitting yet another one when I set out specifically not to.

I’m not sure how far the yardage will go on this, but I am hoping it will be long enough that I might be able to use it as a sort of beach sarong for around my hips/waist with a bathing suit. It seems like it would work well like that.

The funny thing is that I am enjoying the knitting of the thing immensely. I love the feel of this yarn, it’s not hot and sticky to knit, it has just enough pattern interest to make it fun, and watching every stitch be a different color and the crazy patterning are mesmerizing. And it made for perfect beach knitting over the Memorial Day holiday when we took an impromptu trip up the coast.

I can never seem to figure out how this process works. My brain likes to keep it all a big mystery.

May 14, 2010

Pinpoint

I’m not exactly sure at what point I lost my mind . . .

It may have been when I decided to pick up the ultra fine alpaca and attempt a foolhardy modification of the wonderfully simple Springtime Bandit shawl. I vaguely thought it would be nice to use two of the three colors of the alpaca, both to use the yarn and to keep myself from being bored by a single color. That’s kind of where the insanity began.

That was Monday when I was deep in a mental quandary and funk. I came down with poison oak from fieldwork and was both mentally and physically miserable. In this state of mind this project seemed light-hearted and simple and perfect for a spring knit.

I swiftly worked through the stockinette stitch increases and proudly worked out the simple math to add the extra stitches that would be needed for another pattern repeat. That was earlier in the week. Last night I arrived at the point where I would jump into the actual lace pattern repeats and simultaneously begin hastily planned color work. 003 (7)

I blame two things. My impatience and the fact that I wanted very badly to go to knit night. I only brought the shawl with me to work yesterday, leaving plenty of works in progress needing finishing at home. I worked the last of the simple rounds just before I walked into knit night. And then I began the complicated process of two color stranded knitting while chatting and listening. While I appeared to do a good job of paying attention to the pattern, never once missing or adding stitches, I failed to really think through the stranding.

First, is stranding all that great for a shawl? NO! It’s a one-sided garment, not a tube like a sweater or sock. Second, if you’re going to do stranding, you should a)really know what you’re doing, and b)make sure you leave enough on the floats for blocking of a fairly lacy pattern. Combined with the impatience and the fact that I HAD to work on it at the time, you can see where this is headed.

I’ve read recently about several knitters who defiantly continue on in denial. I could identify with it but never think of an instance in which I had participated. Oh boy, now I can! I continued determinedly onward, telling myself that you really can’t tell what it will look like at first and I should give it at least one whole pattern repeat to decide. I kept on keeping on.

I even continued after I got home from knit night, all through several episodes of Entourage, still fooling myself that it would look ok. I should know by now that if I don’t like it right off, nothing I can do in subsequent rounds will change that fact.

Finally, I gave in and ripped it back. It was a mess! I managed to painstakingly pick up the hanging stitches before I exhaustedly went to bed, but had a few rows to tink back.

So today during lunch I got myself back to the starting point with the correct number of stitches and everything in order and tried to figure out what to do. I didn’t want to give up on the color idea. I couldn’t find another edge pattern I liked quickly enough. I weighed my options and before I could talk myself out of it, began winding make-shift bobbins of yarn to proceed with intarsia!

006 (7)This may be just as foolhardy as the stranded idea, but it will eliminate the floats and the tightened scrunch that won’t block well. It will add (ugg) a million little ends to weave in, but that doesn’t scare me too much (at the moment). I have never done intarsia really. I think I may have done some tiny little things playing around, but not a ‘real’ project. Just the first round of bobbins makes me a little nervous. It was Monday night that I had another bout of insanity while trying to re-ball the other colorway of this yarn and spent hours (I’m ashamed to admit how many, but lets say I was up until 2:30 in the morning) untangling. It has a nasty way of adhering to itself and I am an OCD maniac who doesn’t like to break yarn. Combined, this is a disaster.

So here’s hoping this works because if it doesn’t, I have a million tiny bundles of the yarn to figure out how to use and will have to rip back another ill-conceived plan, possibly creating the Tangle of ALL Tangles. And at that point I don’t think there will be another option besides just ending it in garter rows and sulking.

April 20, 2010

Free At Last!

So as of yesterday morning at 10 a.m. I am a thesis free woman!

I defended at 9 after several days of nervous and stressed out stupor. I won’t go into details, but let me just say that I was in the Wal-Mart (which I boycott and haven’t shopped at for over 4 years and never did regularly) buying an ink cartridge at 9:30 the night before. I was so upset by the fact that I had to buy something from Wal-Mart that it sort of over-shadowed the nervous panic I was in.

Though a little sleep deprived and perhaps a slight bit under practiced (though you can go too far the other way and be OVER practiced, I’ve seen it), I made it through with flying colors. I answered my committee’s questions like a pro and graciously took suggestions from the graduate coordinator whom I am personally not fond of, and survived.

I looked damn good too. I had several non-solicited compliments on my appearance that had nothing to do with my presentation. I was thrilled because over the weekend, I had hit a new low on the scale. A number I have never seen in my adult life and a huge goal. It was such a boost. That and I had a brand new hair cut from my amazing friend Amber, and a new outfit courtesy of a shopping expedition with my mother. If those things don’t prepare you for 90% of life’s problems, I don’t know what will.

I was having a little bit of an over-stimulated melt down by last night and feeling low for a bit. Some drunken celebration with friends brought me mostly out of it and when I woke up this morning, felt like a huge weight had been lift and I was emerging fresh from a dark place. I am free! I am free to think about other things, not feel like I am wasting time by knitting instead of working on my thesis. While knitting has never been side-lined during this process, and in fact can be credited with helping me through it, I will no longer have that slightly guilty pang when I pick it up instead of the thesis. Hurray!

So now what? I don’t mean what will I do with my life, career, and free time, but what will I knit?

April 9, 2010

On the Defensive: Put your Knucks Up!

It’s been a very busy month. Good busy mostly. Several projects all going at once and inspiration out the wazoo. I seem to have more projects that I have yarn and needles for than I can possibly keep up with. I have four things going simultaneously, not counting a few WIPs that I know I will return to. So on the knitting front, things are good. Except for the lack of time I seem to have for knitting these days.

Mostly that’s because work, and my thesis project which is part of work, have taken over my life. The thesis is done, minus a couple edits here and there from one more advisor. But the tweaking and the final steps seem to take longer and longer. So besides regular work, I have this extra weight sitting on me.

That weight has now shifted into the forefront as I have a scheduled defense in a week (and two days). I alternate between excitement that this long, long process will finally be over, and terror at standing in front of a room full of peers and colleagues and superiors and proving what I know. I can usually calm myself down by reminding myself that I know this thing in and out, backwards and forwards and no one else does. I add that I know, like, and respect all of these people who will attend, and mostly I think they feel the same about me. So no one will be harshly judging me and most will be actively rooting for me. These thoughts mostly work when I start to breath rapidly and my blood pressure rises.

See I’m kind of terrified of presenting, but I also secretly love it because as unlikely as it is, I’m good at it. I have all kinds of reasons for why this is, chief among them the fact that I have been overweight most of my life (wait, I’ll explain that so it makes sense, it actually structures most of my life these days). Having been always a fat kid, an overweight teenager, and an obese adult for 25 years, I grew quite accustomed to hiding and hoping no one’s attention ever rested on me for more than a second. I also cultivated the almost requisite sense of self-deprecatory humor that is required by overweight individuals (I am still waffling on whether this is purely in self defense, or because the general public expect fat people to be jolly).

The key point in this explanation is that I then lost all the weight. Funny how this can change almost everything in your life, even really silly, simple things you would never think about. Like public speaking maybe. I didn’t get confidence right away when I dropped the pounds. That takes years and years and a lot of hard work mentally telling yourself you deserve to be proud. For a long time I was still the shy fat girl in a new body I could no longer hide behind. I felt very exposed. Luckily, I had a couple tools at my disposal. I now I wanted to be looked at and accepted and approved by others, it aided in my own approval of who I had become. I also had the handy ability to laugh at myself, a great trick when trying to put others at ease.

Turns out these are also awesome tools for public speaking. I always hate presentations that drone on and on and never make even a passing attempt at lightness or humor. Yes, we all have to be here, yes I know you need me to hit certain key points and phrases to prove what you and I both already know: namely that I know my shit and you can feel ok about signing your name and attesting to whomever cares that I do. But why in god’s name do we have to be bored the entire time? I will never understand those who can’t even crack a small joke or a smile. I think they must feel that ay humor would mean they aren’t serious about their topic, which is a silly misassumption. I am dead serious about my topic and protecting the archaeological resources I have worked very hard to identify from destruction. I dare anyone to question that. It doesn’t mean that I can’t crack a couple jokes at the expense of Lake County or the ridiculousness of having to imageschedule fieldwork around pot seasons to avoid dangerous growers with guns.

Anyway, I’ll get off that tangent now. I think I’ll be ok and I will hopefully make a few people chuckle and smile along the way.

What this post was really about was knitting, and in a round about way we got right where I was going. I am knitting for my defense. Not the actual presentation obviously (though I may knit during the OTHER presentations if I feel it is appropriate). I decided to knit fingerless gloves for my two most important advisors. I know each of them will appreciate the hard work and time it takes me to make them and I know they are extremely useful to archaeologists (mine go into the field with me every time and they are a life saver when it’s cold and you still need to pick up artifacts, write up a record, and other field tasks). In fact my chair apparently used to knit as a boy back in England, which I found very cool. The other member has admired mine and I feel confident is a hand-knit appreciator.

I feel a little lame not knitting them for the third, but I don’t know him as well, he didn’t provide as much input, and I just don’t have time. (see previous  post re:me and deadlines). I think I will get him a bottle of wine (the standard advisor gift) and call it a day.

So I need to finish two pairs of knucks by next Monday. I think I can manage that. If I can push through the boring finger knitting, they go pretty quickly. My only worry is that they will fit. I am using Keith as a hand model (dear knitting gods, please don’t let Keith ever get sick of being my test-knitting subject and all around fit model, thank you). I need to focus on these and not let my brain wander into the exotic world of what to cast on next. I already reprimanded myself for beginning a swatch for a sweater last night. It can wait a week if I’m really serious about it, right?

Oh, and before I sign off. I should share a little heart-warming tidbit about knitting, knucks, and gifts. My family (me, my mother and father, and sister), her boyfriend and Keith all went on a little extended weekend vacation over Easter. We thought it would be nice to invite Keith’s dad along for a couple nights. So the seven of us all shared a house at Sea Ranch. At one point we were talking about knitting and Keith and I pulled out all of my hats, gloves, shawls, and socks that we had brought to wear and put multiple of each on to be silly. I then realized that every single person in that house owned a pair of my hand-knit knucks. Different sizes, colors, and states of wear, but we were all united by their importance to me and these simple little gloves. And when I started thinking about it, it grows. I have only knit them for two other people who aren’t family, my best friend Kassie and Corey. I don’t even think about making them for someone unless I know them well and they mean a lot to me. It’s like a Kate-initiation gift. If you have a pair, you are seriously important to me.

March 11, 2010

March Madness

So I failed. I failed in the very best way possible. I went out in an attempt to do something insanely beyond my ability and giving it my all. I’m disappointed, but I’ll live to knit another day. Though I did need a break after the constant heavy garter stitch to revive my wrists.

I switched from one deadline to another and attempted to finish Keith’s socks by his birthday, almost a month after the original deadline of Valentine’s Day. Yeah, I’m lame.

I’m feeling like I should re-evaluate how I knit. More specifically, how I knit for others.

I don’t do it nearly enough, though I have started trying to give more in the last year. I am getting to a point where if I just keep knitting for myself I won’t be able to wear it all and the house will fill up with knitted items.

The problem is that when I decide to knit something for someone, I hate to be forced. I don’t like deadlines that are hard and fast. Even when they are stupidly self-imposed, they always seem to screw me up. I have come to realize that my knitting is not something I can rush, or even predict. Sometimes I can finish something in record time and it flies off the needles, others I just can’t and I end up horribly behind the due date.

So I ended up finishing the socks a day late. I think he likes them and didn’t seem to mind, but it still hurts not to be able to make the deadlines I set. And it seems to be on a roll, because now I am jumping right into another gift for a baby shower this Saturday. At least this one is, by definition, small and contained. I am making a pair of super simple baby socks and am halfway through one already. I may add in a bib or two, but that is optional and thus doesn’t stress me out.

I much prefer to give gifts as I see fit, randomly and when I happen to think about someone. Sometimes knitted items just seem to fit a certain person and I am inspired to make them. Those are the best type. I wish more people understood that, or that I could remind myself more often. I fall into the trap myself of trying to force the creative process and it doesn’t work. I find myself relying on knitting as a fall-back gift option, because I can, because I enjoy knitting, because often it is cheaper than an alternative gift.

I need to remind myself that in order to enjoy this so-called hobby and pastime that I should not abuse it with strict deadlines that sap the enjoyment. But, like the Knitting Olympics, sometimes the challenge is welcome and you want to see how hard you can push it. There must be a middle ground here somewhere.

On the subject of pushing it, I have also begun attending a local knit night at the Cast Away yarn store. I wasn’t sure I would enjoy such a thing, but I got Naomi to attend it the first time with me and tonight will be my third. Occasionally it meets in a wine bar down the street, which was a great combination of good things. Regularly it meets in the back of the store and it’s a nice way to spend an evening and get a good amount of knitting done when nothing else can distract you. So far it’s worked well for all these projects with deadlines.

I’m working on being more social and trying new things again and this definitely qualifies. It’s not as scary as attending my first organized spin class (last night, also with Naomi for back up), but it’s on the list. I had a good run of pushing myself into slightly uncomfortable situations and trying to challenge myself and it really changed my life. I feel that I have slipped back into the easy, solitary thing again, so it’s time to push myself back out. So far I have enjoyed each step, so I’ll keep it up.

February 25, 2010

WIP Dancing Wrestling

The extended silence here has not been for a lack of knitting. More along the lines of excessive knitting.

I have been trying desperately to finish my gigantic log cabin blanket for the Ravelympics. It seemed like such a great idea. It would finish a giant project off, get it out of the project bag it has taken over and onto a bed where it belongs, showing off all it’s amazing garter beauty. 4002331303_c63e6a8b9b

But there were several things that I see in hindsight that I did not contemplate adequately.

A. Blankets, after a certain point (and that point usually come up quickly) are not at ALL considered portable knitting. When you are trying to rapidly finish a project and sneak in knitting time whenever and wherever possible, it is not ideal that the project in question is too large to leave the house. Other downsides to the thing getting so large? It feels like I am being swallowed by my own unfinished project. To turn back across a row requires me to nearly stand up at this point!

B. Endless garter stitch is not nearly as simple as it first appears. I thought about what projects I could do long and hard. I only had a couple WIPs that qualified for the Ravelypics and this was one of two log cabin blankets I really need to finish. Besides starting something new, which I felt would have been irresponsible given the current number of projects I have going, there were no other options. I figured that at least it was all garter stitch, so that would make it somewhat faster, and I could knit it while watching tv, movies, the internet. Mostly that has been correct. The only thing I failed to consider was that endless garter stitch can wreak havoc on the muscles needed to execute said stitch when performed for hours and hours at a time. Add to that the weight of the blanket at this  stage, and you have a first class wrist-wrencher. Ouch!

4002330785_e365095685C. I don’t know if you are familiar with the log cabin idea, but let me sum it up for you – you start with a knitted square and pick  up stitches along the edge to add a stripe, and then you cast off and do it again along another edge, and another. Round and round. The part that you should read into this is that  - IT GETS BIGGER every time. You’re thinking ‘duh’ right now aren’t you? Well, it sneaks up on you (or maybe just me) and takes you completely unawares. At some point you are going around merrily and the stripes are flying by and you are all excited and giddy about your forthcoming blanket. And then the ratio strikes. You reach a point where the stripes take longer, the picking up is an entire night’s work and the speed at which you were knitting stripes declines, throwing off your entire calculation. I need algebra to figure out the exponential increase in stripe knitting time as stitches are added. So while initially two stripes a night seemed perfectly plausible, it is no longer even remotely feasible. I can barely force my tired hands to get through one or 3/4 of one. Beware the ever-increasing stitches!

D. Some of the idea that was originally behind the knitting of a blanket like this was that I would enjoy the time it took. I knew that I would neither have the time, stamina, or yarn budget to complete the thing within an immediate time frame. I cast on fully aware and in fact embracig the idea of always having an on-going project like this, ready for when I needed simple garter stitches for tv purposes, or when I could afford another ball of yarn to add another stripe. It was all calculated into the process and I was happy about it. Somewhere along the way (perhaps in an over-zealous blog and Ravelry reading afternoon) I came up with the idea that the blanket would be the way to go. I may or may not have been drugged at the time. I believe I may still have been suffering from ptks (post traumatic knitting syndrome) brought on by my holiday run-in with the notorious seed stitch scarf. Whatever the cause, I may find myself not on a podium at the Ravelympics because of it.

I will keep trying. That is what this is all about. I am challenging myself to work through the pain in my wrists, to knit faster than I ever have before. I can’t very well give up, can I? (If that’s an option, would someone let me know?) So I will keep on, hoping to somehow miraculously finish 7 more stripes in the time left (roughly 3.5 days). I might be able to crank out 2 in the next two days, leaving the lion share for the weekend when I am home, but that would require me to knit through the entire weekend . . . not likely.

We’ll see, I’m not throwing in the towel yet, just wishing I had knit one instead.

 

(note: pictures are from before the recent push, so don’t reflect the (measly) progress I have made in the past two weeks)

February 9, 2010

Not So Easy Being Green

I’m not sure what I got myself into with this latest pair of socks for Keith. They started out so simply, using up a yarn in the stash that was the perfect color and a good weight. I had it all planned out – I would cast on and knit these great socks for him from Knitting Vintage Socks, and he would love them.

Except nothing else played along. I tried several different patterns, both from Vintage Socks and from More Sensational Knitted Socks, and even from the ravelry (the internets can’t lead me astray, right?). In each case, I liked the ribbed cuff and hated the way the pattern looked. At first I thought it was the pattern, so I switched that. No luck, it still looked like crappola.

I eventually (I will not admit how many restarts were attempted, a lady does not reveal such things) caught on that this yarn, Berroco Ultra Alpaca Fine, while a lovely yarn and a great green color, was not made for my socks. It lacked stitch definition, which I guess I like to see in my knitting, seeing as no variation looked right. It was splitty as well, which didn’t really bother me, but it was another strike against it when I finally decided to give up.

Still thinking I might be able to solve this problem simply, I stopped by Knitterly, the local yarn store in Petaluma on the way home from the city on Saturday. I haven’t been there in a long while, so it was a chance to peek in and see what they had. I also thought they would be a good place for a good green sock yarn. No such luck.

They had lots of yarn, lots of sock yarn, but nothing in the green I was looking for. It was disappointing. And odd that I walked out of a yarn store with nothing. So I decided I would make an extra swing by Balls and Skeins in Sebastopol. I don’t usually go there, they just aren’t my kind of place. Nothing wrong with the store and they have been helpful in the past, but they have a limited selection and just don’t compete with Cast Away for shop vibe, or Village Knitters for yarn selection. But I have a gift certificate from Christmas there, so I figured it might be worth it.

They didn’t have what I wanted either, and by that time I’m calculating in my head the number of days until Valentine’s and the pace at which I knit socks and the various other factors which could influence this time ratio . . . and decided to take a risk. I bought a less-than-great shade of Cascade Heritage sock yarn. I like their yarn. It’s priced well, is ok to knit with, and is durable for Keith.

But the closest thing they had was a wretched citron green which no guy would pick out himself.  I wouldn’t even wear socks that color, and I like almost all colors. But then I had an aha! moment. I recalled that I have been wanting to dye my own sock yarn. I had researched kool-aid dyeing and a few other techniques for hand dyeing at home and this terrible green was just the chance!

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So I bought it and another skein of clearance sock yarn which I haven’t had a moment to touch given the looming Valentine’s Day deadline. I brought it home and didn’t show it to Keith, just nonchalantly put it in my basket. I didn’t have time to get to it until yesterday. On the way home I looked for kool-aid in appropriate colors while doing my weekly grocery shopping. Nothing. Arg! I hastily re-did the calculation of time remaining and promptly decided that I did not have time to check multiple stores for kool-aid flavors on the off chance I might find lemon-lime somewhere. I re-evaluated and decided that though I didn’t want to, I would have to use fabric dyes.

I stopped by the JoAnn’s and eventually settled on some options. I got a bottle of Kelly green, and powdered teal, royal blue, and navy blue. I headed home with a vague idea about how this would all work.

I started by immersing the yarn in a water/vinegar mixture for half an hour. I prepped the dyes by putting a little into separate small cups and adding vinegar and water. They all seemed dark and probably used more dye than I needed. I then laid out the yarn on plastic wrap and started dabbing these colors on with a foam brush. This method, while possibly good for un-dyed yarn, didn’t really seem to be working well for my already green yarn. So I did a little more dabbing of the darker colors, especially the blues, and then gave up.

Next, I heated water on the stove and poured it and a mixture of the various dyes into a bucket. I used a lot of the green, a little of the blues and all of the yellow in hopes that it would mix with the rest and make a more yellow green. I immersed the yarn and let it sit for maybe 10 minutes, poking at it occasionally and checking the color.

I pulled it out and was amazed by the change. While it wasn’t exactly what I was going for, it was still a great color and a vast improvement over the pastel original. I rinsed the yarn in warm to cool water baths and then wrapped it up in plastic wrap and put that in an open ziploc bag. I microwaved this bundle for one OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         minute increments with cool down in between for a total of maybe 4 minutes. Finally, I rinsed and rinsed with cool water until most of it ran clear. I wrung it out and dried it in a towel, and then hung it up on the side of the bath tub hoping for rapid drying.

I became impatient and worried about starting the socks with so little time left, that I actually pulled out the hair dryer and started gently blowing it dry! It worked and shortly I had a beautiful skein of dry, greenish yarn with hints of blues. Interestingly, the patches where I dabbed on the blues before giving up are now visible only as slightly darker areas which give great variety and depth to the over all color. Unexpected bonus!

So now I’m on track. I cast on last night for the Gentleman’s Sock in Railway Stitch from Knitting Vintage Socks and it’s looking great. I haven’t finished the cuff yet, but I am anticipating that the pattern will be more defined than with the Berroco.

Now, can I knit out two of these in roughly 5 days with work and a fresh round of thesis editing in progress? I think I can!

February 4, 2010

Knitting Frenzy

I don’t know what it is recently that is bringing this on, but i have become a fiend. I am only interested in knitting, I talk about it constantly, and I have more projects actively going than I ever have before. I’m excited to be into something this much, but at the same time it scares me a little. Will it somehow wear off and leave me high and dry with a million unfinished projects and no desire to complete them? I’m not sure.

I thinks it’s the post-thesis free time. I turned in the completed draft about a week ago and since then the free time has multiplied exponentially. It’s misleading when I say it like that though. I hardly ever worked on the thesis at home, only in the last few weeks of pushing to get it wrapped up. I compartmentalized it at work and tried not to bring it home too often for my own sanity. It worked well and I think I did a good job of navigating the stressful process. So what do I mean by all this free time then?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         I think I mean mental free time. While I may not have been physically working on the thesis, I was mentally focused on it. I would think about it in the shower, in bed, watching movies. It was always there, in the background, waiting. I liken it to a refrigerator (I know, weird, stay with me). You don’t really think about the refrigerator most of the time, just when you are actively hungry or want something, but it’s always there in the background humming. My thesis was like that.

Now that the humming has ceased, my brain suddenly finds itself with crazy amounts of ‘free time’ in which to contemplate all kinds if wacky projects. So while I am constantly scheming about knitting, other things such a making my own cheese and yogurt, building a chicken coop, and rigging complicated bike pulley systems in the high-ceilinged kitchen have also wormed their way in within the last week. It’s crafty overtime in there.

I appear to be lucky that this has only manifested itself in an increase of knitting projects thus far. Next week might find me elbow deep in milk and live cultures desperately hoping that they form the thick gooiness that I love to eat. So counting the projects I intend to return and work on in the next month or so, I now have 7 in progress. Yikes.

There is also the possibility that the weather has had something to do with this obsession. Currently it’s pouring outside and has been quite rainy over the past few weeks. I think I am getting a little stir crazy from having to spend so much time indoors. I want to be out in the garden or hiking around, or riding my brand new bike. Instead I am stuck inside and constantly dreaming up new projects.

I think I’ll go work on one right now. If I keep my hands busy, they will not be tempted to browse ravelry for yet more new projects.

February 1, 2010

Stealthily Socking

So instead of working on the seemingly endless projects I have going right now – shawls, Michelle’s sweater, or 2 blankets, I pulled out my sock books and plotted a second pair of socks for Keith. I rationalized it as a Valentine’s gift that will need to be finished before the 14th. But I’m still not really certain that was the reasoning behind it.

I love knitting socks. It satisfies every need that I require of knitting in one easy, small, portable project. Socks are my go to comfort project. They require me to pay attention, to concentrate, to precisely measure my gauge and the wearer’s foot. In short, they force me into good knitting habits. There are a whole host of other reasons that I enjoy knitting socks however:

1. They are usually intricate and detailed. I love watching all those tiny little stitches move around the small shiny needles.

2. They are one of the best ways to show someone just how much you love them. While any knitted gift is good for this, socks (to those in the know - as in they have watched a knitter moving the aforementioned tiny stitches around on those toothpick-sized needles and heard the indelicate cursing under their breath) are by far the best. Alternately, they also appear to be a very valuable gift when calculated by cost of yarn and human hours spent knitting. Everyone always asks me how much I could charge for a pair of socks, and I explain in detail that no one would ever pay what it would costs me to make a beautiful pair of socks with hand-painted yarn to fit the wearer. (estimate $20 for the skein of yarn, and then what? even at a sadly underpaid wage, they would still come out above $50 and who pays that for socks?).

3. The wide-eyed look of fear the 5 DPN needles and the tube of fine-gauge yarn gives the uninitiated. It is a great way to improve your knitting reputation. The minute you pull out that little mess of tiny needles and fine yarn, people are fascinated. They seem to be able to grasp straight knitting somehow, but in the round makes them nervous.

4. The feel (and knowing that those you knit socks for will also feel) the warm, squishy soft feeling of wearing them. For awhile, I only had a couple pairs of hand knit socks for myself (they were too costly to give away to just anyone!) and I wore them sparingly. I had rules, like only when I was really cold, only around the house, only without shoes that would wear them out faster. I followed these until one day I just gave myself a mental scolding. What was I waiting for? What was the point of knitting them if I didn’t wear them? What did I think was going to happen? That they would wear out? That was the beauty of it, if they wore out I could knit more! And since I love knitting socks, was that such a bad thing?

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5. The secret joy of walking around wearing hand knit socks. I liken this to the feeling you get when you wear fancy underwear beneath your normal clothes. You know it’s there, and no one else (or at least not anyone you haven’t specifically chosen to show it to) does. It’s a little personal secret.

6. The extreme warmth. I am a constantly cold person. I cannot get warm in the hottest places, and forget about ever having warm feet in the middle of January. Hand-knit socks are the closest I can get to being really warm. If I curl up in may fleece pajamas with a pair on, I can achieve almost perfect warmness. For that, I love the socks most of all.

It makes me happy knowing Keith appreciates my knitting, and socks most of all. He wears them frequently around the house and I want him to have a few pairs so that he too can move beyond the ‘special wear only’ taboo. He rarely asks me for anything knit, but I know he likes them. So these will be a good gift if I don’t blow the secret.

 

 

January 26, 2010

Knitting Together

It never ceases to amaze me how something as simple and common as knitting can bring so many people together. Let me tell you about a very special project.

I met my boyfriend just over a year ago. We hit it off really well and we had tons in common. The dating turned into more and here we are, living together, parenting a small poodle, and weathering storms both literal and figurative (as I type it has been raining for the better part of 10 days).

When we met we shared a lot about ourselves as I think is usual. I told Keith about my weight loss, about my cranky dog, and about my knitting obsession. I even confessed to the plastic bag project which had taken over my life at the time.

Keith told me things about himself, and since they were shared with me and not this wide-open blog world, they will remain with me. Except one. He told me about his mother. She had passed away within the last year after a struggle with breast cancer. As you would expect, the story made me sad. What I didn’t expect was the way that sadness would change. 008

It went from a general sadness as the loss of another, to the concerned worry of a girlfriend wishing I could ease his pain, and recently to the very painful realization of what I have lost as well. Never getting to know her, to laugh together at silly childhood stories, the family history that only mother’s seem to know. The loss seems to grow bigger with every step, knowing that we have so far to go in our lives and each milestone will be missed by someone special.

I like when Keith talks about her, it lets me feel a little closer to someone I won’t get to know personally. It made me so happy to know that she was a knitter. It brought me an extra bit of closeness.

No one in my family knits. I am the lone carrier of this skill. Everyone always asks me how I learned to knit, and they wait expectantly for the story of how mother taught me. They seem a little puzzled and disappointed when I tell them I learned from the internet. I feel a little like that myself. But I don’t tell them the more complex version. My grandmother knit. Or I guess she must have at least learned. I never saw her knit. In fact, I never saw her do much in the way of anything crafty. She seemed to enjoy when my sister and I would be creative and encouraged us at every step – making messes, gardening, painting, etc. But I never saw her pick up a needle or a hook.

When my grandmother started to lose herself to dementia, I spent a great deal of time at her house, taking care of her, spending time, providing moral support for my mother. It was a rough time, but now seems very precious to me. I learned a lot about my grandmother, and even more about my mother and myself during that time.

One day while sorting through some things, we stumbled on my grandmother’s sewing basket, a disaster of thread and yarn and random things untouched in years. I pulled it out and went through it. I had just recently taught myself to knit, and I was eager to see what she had. I merged her collection of needles, stitch markers, and row counters with mine. In a strange twist, I knit her a small blankie out of old baby yarn; something soft to hold onto after she could no longer speak. So while she didn’t teach me, I still feel that my grandmother had a large part in my knitting. And I remember her every time I pick up her needles to knit something new.

This isn’t the sort of story you can cheerily volunteer when someone you just meet in line at the movie theater asks you how you learned to knit. It’s a bittersweet memory of loss and pain and love that I usually keep to myself.

So the stage was set for yet another way that knitting would bring people closer.

013 (2)Keith’s dad visited us last weekend as he sometimes does and we had a nice time cooking and eating and going out to eat (this is what dating a cook is like, you eat A LOT) and chatting. I could tell that Keith’s father was getting more comfortable around me. He’s an awkward man made more so by the lack of a woman to smooth things out for him, but he seemed genuinely at ease staying at our house on this last visit.

While we were all sitting on the couch, and I was (of course) knitting. He noticed and told me about a project that his wife had been working on before she passed away. He recounted how he had tried to get a family friend to finish it, how she had declined and brought it to yet another woman who also declined. He wondered if I would be up to the task of completing it.

I was a little shocked, but very honored that he had asked me. I agreed to take a look and see what I could do. He happened to have it in the car – a little puddle of bright blue on tiny needles and a cone of the same fine yarn tucked into a plastic bag. It was the start of a sweater for a close friend.

I nervously took it out and glanced at the pattern. Lord love her, she had copied the page from the book it was from and hi-lighted the stitch counts for the size she planned to make! It was like she had known. It only took a quick count and a little scrutiny to figure out where she had left off. I sighed in relief, I could do this. I could do this well.

There had been no pressure, but I felt the emotion behind the request. It was a moment when I realized I could do this seemingly small thing to aid in healing a much larger hurt.

Keith talks about his mom more and more (and like I said, I enjoy it). I feel like I know this woman a little, and I think it entirely in keeping with what I know that she has managed to bring me into a circle of her family and friends in this way. Knitting us together, if you will permit me the cheesy pun.

January 17, 2010

The Perfect Pattern

When last I wrote, I was in the middle of knitting a beautiful textured shawl. As is the norm for me, when a project it enjoyable, I tend to knit it quickly. I wish I could drag it out, make it last, but it never works. So the shawl was finished and though I could hardly stand the anticipation, I blocked it for a day.

It seems recently that I’ve been trying a whole bunch of techniques that I tried out as a new knitter several years ago and moved away from after the initial taste. I have felted recently, I have knit a shawl/wrap, and I have blocked. All things I tried out in my neophyte knitting days and found to be too complex. I think I felt that they weren’t worth the effort I had to put into them.

Well, I don’t know if I am just maturing as a knitter, or if I am getting bored or what, but I have enjoyed the recent diversity of projects. The blocking was frustrating because I don’t ever have a surface that works and I never seem to get it quite right with my stupid pins. I think I lucked out with the textured shawl, it just doesn’t require me to block the hell out of it. I don’t need a giant, blanket-sized thing to cover me. If I did, I would pick up one of my blanket WIPs and work on that. The shawl also doesn’t really have any lace, so that helped. My wimpy blocking did the trick, with a little cursing along the way.

I also used the Eucolan that Keith gave me for Christmas. Yes, you read that right. A man (and I happen to date him) went into a yarn store and picked out several great knitting items that I would likely never buy myself because they are splurges, including balm for my hands and the wash. And while I’m bragging, he even managed to buy me a sweater that a)fits and b)I love.

Anyway, back to the shawl finishing. It went well. After blocking it as super soft and flat and instantly a fixture around my neck. It is the perfect accessory. Large and soft and warm, but not too big and was super easy and short. I am happy.

After it was over I found myself in a knitting malaise. I have several recently purchased skeins kicking around. I have several amorphous pattern ideas floating around in my head, none of which I felt like starting. And meanwhile, my sister’s unfinished gloves were sitting on the table, glaring at me reproachfully. I had felt ok letting them sit while I finished the shawl. It was a recovery project, something to keep me sane after the frantic Dad scarf incident. But a little voice in my head (and a not so subtle nagging by Keith) warned me that if I let two projects go by, then they might never get finished. So after not-so-gentle pushing from Keith, I picked up the gloves and finished off the second one.

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It was like the weight was lifted and I could return to knitting whatever the hell I wanted with a guilt-free abandon. What I wanted was a small kerchief that I saw at Cast Away. It turned out to be a version of the Silk Kerchief by Kate Osborn knit in Malabrigo Lace with an added ruffle finish. So after some initial struggles with the crochet provisional cast on (I may or may not have expressed loudly some unkind words concerning crochet, lace-weight yarn, and the cruel sadist who invented this method) I managed to get it going. And I love it! It’s so light and airy and soft and easy to knit. A perfect conversational knitting piece or for watching movies, like we did last night. It’s non-intrusive and a pleasure to work on.

January 6, 2010

Security Blanket Shawl

I wish I could be always knitting.

It has been very frustrating going back to work and school after the holiday break. I spent almost all my time knitting and researching knit projects and had gotten fairly used to it. So this week when I had to return to the real world, it has been hard to find as much time as I’d like to knit.

I carry my knitting everywhere with me. I did this with all sorts of things as a child. I would cart around an entire stack of new books. I can never quite recall what the idea behind it was. Did I think somehow that I would finish all 4 of them and need that fifth on the 30 minute trip to the store with my mom? More likely, I think I just liked to look at them and know they were there.

The bundle of knitting that I cart to and from work, never finding a chance to work on, serves a similar purpose. It reminds me that I have something to look forward to. It reminds me of the peace and comfort that await me when I can find the time. It’s sort of a security blanket. Or in this case shawl.

My co-workers have gotten used to the odd jar-o-knitting sitting around my desk or in the case of December’s pre-Christmas knitting insanity, projects being worked on in the odd bits of time between programs starting up (my office uses ancient machines and it can take a good 10 minutes to open GIS). the Yarntainer was a novelty for awhile, but has faded to normal.

It frustrates me that I can’t seem to find the time to knit during the day, but it somehow comforts me that it’s there. I know that should some unforeseen event cause me to wait or have to kill time, I will have just the thing to do. This has rarely happened of course, but it doesn’t stop me from bringing it anyway. And it creates an even greater anticipation for when I actually do get time to knit. It is more satisfying when I finally get to sit down, open the container and pull out the soft cozy project and lose myself in concentrating on a pattern moving through my hands.

January 1, 2010

Cloak of Calm

There is something deliciously satisfying about sitting alone in my pajamas in a thoroughly clean house with a snuggly poodle, some knitting, and rain pouring down outside. It feels as if I am in a secret world all my own. Everything is put away and in order, no noise except those I create and the sound of rain. I can do exactly as I want.

Which as this moment is to alternately knit on my newly started shawl and catalogue a giant collection of patterns I just received. Knitting and organizing, two of my favorite activities. It feels like a good way to start off the new year. I only feel a slight twinge of guilt for starting a new project intended for me while the second glove for my sister sits idle in the basket. I’ll get to it eventually, I swear. 

I just wanted to start something beautiful for me. Something calming and soft and may I call it ethereal? The yarn is lovely for a readily available, non-artisan yarn and it just floats onto the needles. It’s a lovely shade of light gray that almost perfectly mirrors the mist in the middle distance out the back windows. The yarn seems to have connected with the forest behind our house and brought something back from the woods.

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Alright, maybe I’m just overly happy to be knitting it and am getting a bit carried away. But I am sure others have noticed how knitting can take on the mood of the day or the weather, or the company around you. Knitting is like photography for me. Within a project is captured the feel of the moment, the place, and the people. The finished object can always bring me back to that time, remind me of how I felt and what was happening around me. The only other medium which does this for me is music. I can be transported back in time by certain songs and albums.

It makes me smile to know that this new shawl might transport me back to this moment. Remind me of this calm, of the slow passing of a dark afternoon, of the metallic clank of rain occasionally hitting the oven range. In my hectic life, it would be nice to be able to reach for a cloak of calm misty rain to sooth me. And the freshness of the new year may linger on, reminding me of the hope and possibility of the unknown.

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December 31, 2009

Should Have Known

So the quick-finish project high led me to do something I should have known wouldn't work.

I thought I would knit up another ipod cozy. It would be quicker and easier and this time be for me. So I pawed through my yarn stash looking for scraps of wool. I came up with two different types, both chunky and similar in feel and weight and with complimenting colors.

One, Brown Sheep Bulky, in orange, I have felted with before and knew what to expect. The other, I had my doubts. It was Lion Brand Landscapes. I read the label, 50% wool and 50% acrylic. I started to put it back, knowing that acrylic will not felt. But then, I spotted something . . . a tiny little label that proclaimed that the Landscapes felts when washed!

I was skeptical, but wondered how else they could put that label on it if it didn't felt, so I pulled it back out and cast on.

I cast on fewer stitches for the bulkier yarn and followed the same pattern as before. Finished up even quicker, threw it in the wash this morning, same conditions as the other.

And . . . ick. So it kinda felted, a teeny-tiny weeny bit. It was a fraction smaller and more solid, but other than that, nothing. So I threw it back. Another cycle only helped a little more. So I threw in heavier towels, upped the cycle to 30 minutes, and let her rip.

And the verdict is that the Landscapes does NOT felt, but could be possibly called felt if you squinted and had maybe never seen felt before in your life.

So it was a failure. The resulting bag would not be so cozy for a ipod. It might be cozy for three or four though. It could possibly be used as a bag for something else, but I haven't hit upon what yet. So much for the satisfaction of a quick knit.

December 30, 2009

Instant Gratification

I so often get so involved in knitting projects. I pick out challenging, or interesting projects, or things like knucks that require a lot of parts and pieces even though I find them simple now. I rarely try smaller things, and I'm not sure why.

I think it might be because I enjoy the knitting process while making the project. So when I choose something more complicated or that takes longer, I get more enjoyment out of it. And when I choose knits to gift to people, I also get the enjoyment out of knitting them.

So when someone knocks me out of that routine, it's quite a change.

Keith came home last night all fired up about a cozy for his ipod. Knowing that there would be hundreds on ravelry, I did a quick search and found a simple felted one. If it's going to be done, it might as well be fun and something I want to work on, right? And because I was still indecisive about my next project, I jumped right in.

It is such a novelty to be almost done with a project within 30 minutes. It was energizing. I wrapped it up this morning, and threw it in the washing machine. I had to do some quick reading on felting in the front loader, but it seemed easy enough. Put it in a lingerie bag on hot with some other items, added a little soap, turn off the spin. And presto, instant felt. I ran it through twice to get it small enough, but the felted fabric was good and thick after just one trip through.


Now just waiting for it to dry before I can sew on a button and make it pretty. Since this is his case, it can't be too pretty, just smoothed out and trimmed up to look nice.