Friday, August 1, 2008

Long time no (mumble mumble)

Maybe it would be kindest to let this blog die a natural death. It'd be a sad thing, but I've been amazed and overwhelmed how much writing a dissertation takes up one's time! I know it sounds obvious, but I'm still surprised. It's not so much that I write for hours, but I have to spend a lot of time looking up things I'd forgotten, and a surprising amount of time just _thinking_ about what I'm trying to say. Honestly, there's not much brain-power left for anything else. Sigh.

Still, it's an amazingly solitary exercise too, and I miss the community of knitters! I _have_ done some knitting:

It's Wendy Johnson's Summer 2008 socks (Ravelry link) in Cherry Tree Hill 'Life's a Beach.' It's a sign of how crazy and brain-dead I've been that these took me a whole month! On the upside though, this yarn was so pretty and soft that I felt like it was a reward and not a drag.

I've been working on some other things, but need to grab one more cup of coffee and run to the library, but I wanted to add that I have the pattern for Henry (below) available as a free download on Ravelry now. I don't know if anyone wants to knit a giant octopus, but I wanted to make it possible - I enjoyed coming up with it so much that it seemed sad to keep it to myself.

Anyway - I hope it won't be another month, but I can't make any promises. We're about to head off to Provence for 10 days, so who knows what'll happen?!?!

Saturday, June 7, 2008

A pleasant surprise

Once upon a time, before graduate school swallowed up all my time and/or mental resilience, knitting was a part-time activity that shared space with several other crafts. One by one those crafts have fallen to the wayside as they took up too much time, or were too fiddly, or took enough concentration and analytical focus as to be in direct competition with school rather than filling spare time.

The saddest for me to lose was beadwork, which I've been doing for nearly 20 years at this point (yes, I started when I was 12, though I've gotten a bit better since then). It lost its place because the kind of work I do requires careful decisions with the placement of nearly every single bead. Obviously a little too close to essays, and maybe more stressful! Early this week I achieved the coveted ABD (all-but-dissertation) status and as all of the little fiddly academic projects cleared away - granted, to make way for the mother of all academic projects - I found that my beading mojo was returning. I took some time at the end of the week to make this:

It's hard to tell scale from this picture, but the whole thing is about as big as my little finger. The beadwork is done over a piece of abalone a friend gave me years ago and called out to me finally this week. I really enjoyed beading again - though trying to photograph this piece REALLY has convinced me I need to invest in a decent camera! - and I think that with a little determination I can add it back into my life without risking my dissertation. Which is good, because I have half of a beaded life-size iguana that's been laying around for about 6 years that I'd really like to finish!!

Monday, June 2, 2008

I'm not making eye contact

I figure if I just edge into the room as if I hadn't been away for 6 weeks or so, no one will notice that I was ever gone. I feel especially delinquent, since I was promising updates and exciting happenings, but if I just go on with things, no one will probably even remember. Bwa haha.

All I can say to justify myself is: you know that boss that has high expectations of you but will never tell you what they are, and that boss that is out of it and disorganized but always notices when you forget something, and that boss that expects tons of work and attention from you but never entirely manages to do the work you need him/her to do? Well, if you combine all those into one person and make that person the chair of your department, that's who I've been working for this semester. Truly a wonderful person and professor, but anxiety causing! And distraction causing. As was endless grading for the last month. But it's all done with for the summer - yay!

Here are some beautiful things to be distracted by:

These are Having Hope by Diane Mulholland, in Mama Blue's SeaMerino in Beekeeper. I bought the pattern when I saw that the sales benefitted cancer research, but it's a glorious pattern even if it only benefited the author. I'm definitely making a pair for the BikeJerk too.

This is the Asphodel Scarf I was working on before, and finally finished!

Look how lacy and cashmere-y! I have nothing else really to say about this project except: yay! the sun's back!!!

And, London, as promised - I love London, and one of my favorite things is how the modern and the not-modern coexist in the same place:

This was taken in the Tower of London, which would have been truly irritating, what with the approximately 50,000 teenagers crammed into a few rooms with us (and who paid less than the $30 a piece that we did), if it weren't for the lovely outdoor areas, which were filled with Beefeaters and ravens (as well as tourists). Ah, London.

This picture is from our hotel (and remains sideways here even though it's upright in any file I can find of it on the computer - why?). These guys are the primeval giants that were supposed to be in Britain before the Celts got there. Which returns us back to school and my research, and there we go...

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Catching up

Thank you all for your encouraging comments on my Fratello socks - I don't really _hate_ them, I just got frustrated, so it was nice to hear some positive views!

And as for the cat picture from my hit and run post - Chowder-cat was so intimidated by that huge ball of yarn (no trick photography, it really is that big!) that she couldn't tackle it right away! She slyly left the room before running in and leaping on it, then running away upstairs at top speed. I think she thought it might be a competitor rather than a toy!

So, after my own personal March madness (which had nothing to do with basketball, though plenty to do with college students), I'm beginning to catch up with things. I've picked up my dissertation work (why, fancy meeting you here), started to prepare the garden for incipient spring, and, in knitting, moved back to interesting projects from the simple 'keep my hands busy' ones that aren't really worth posting about.

I have much to talk about, including a whirlwind trip to London, but first, a catchup post, tying up the loose ends I left...whenever I left these hints:

These socks are Cookie A's Hedera in Yarn Pirate's BFL sock yarn in Solstice (from last summer's yarn club). I realize that it's hard to tell that this is the Hedera pattern, which looks so demure and graceful in a solid yarn, but for some reason this busy-ness I don't mind. Maybe because the blue(purple) is so very blue(purple)? In fact, I love these socks - they've been worn many times already. I think I may love BFL more than is entirely healthy.

This is the beginning of the middle of the Asphodel scarf, which is complex enough that I have only just picked it back up after over a month. It's a nice pattern (the projects on ravelry show it better than my picture OR the ones offered by Misti Alpaca), but the best best thing about it is that it's made in Filatura di Crosa's Superior, which is a silk cashmere blend. Around Christmas, Claire-who-has-no-clever-blog-name-yet bought me two balls of this glorious stuff when she noticed I couldn't stop touching it. I still can't, though I think it's slightly less embarrassing in the privacy of my own home. It _is_ a little scary to think about leaving the house with this scarf when I finish it - I'm going to be petted by strangers, I think! (oh, and I'd like to point out that the asphodel is the flower that grows in Hades. Perfectly cheery, no?)

This loveliness is the Three-cornered Shawl in Clover pattern, from Victorian Lace Today, in HelloYarn's BFL (are you surprised?) lace yarn. I'm really pleased with how it came out - I've never used such tiny yarn before (it's really 1-ply, though it calls itself 2ply (perhaps because there's nylon in the mix somewhere?)), and it made such a delicate fabric that I can hardly believe it. None of my pictures really do justice to the rich, variegated orange of the yarn, but what can a girl with a crap camera do? Enjoy a couple more pictures:

My only problem with the shawl is that I kind of feel frumpy in a triangular lace shawl. Anyone else?

Finally - I finished the Laila Estonian socks:
I'm entirely in love with these, with the variegations in the handspun, with the successful fair isle work (which I'm not used to), and with the fact that they actually, miraculously fit. What joy! I need to get to work on a new fair isle project that will actually be seen by people other than me now!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

I hate to blog and run...

But I'm doing it anyway. I swear I'll be back later this week. In the meantime, my cat contemplates a rather large ball of yarn:

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

A tiny fraction of my madness

Well, the madness hasn't really let up, but I feel like if I'm going to take up the bandwidth (or whatever it's called), I should occasionally write something, just to pay the rent or show I'm still alive, or because I miss the old days where I actually had time and energy to devote to the joys of fiber. Also, I'm a little loopy from grading 31 midterms, mere days after grading 31 papers.


Thanks to those who guessed at what these are:

They are actually Fratellos (or Fratelli as the former Italian student in me insists on saying), and I actually got the kit, so the yarn is Wollmeise. The Yarnissima kits are totally cool, by the way, with the professional looking bound pattern, the laminated card for travelling, and a few little treats, all nicely wrapped up. That said, I don't think I like Wollmeise for this pattern. First, it's a little too variagated - even in real life you can't clearly see the twisted stitch pattern on the toe and ankle area. Second, IT'S REALLY SPLITTY!!!! I actually quite like the yarn - the dye is so vibrant and the many plies give it great sheen, but those very plies are the devil when you're doing a lot of twisted stitches with tiny needles. Not that I'm agitated about it or anything!

It also pools in the first gusset increase area, at least for me, in the small size (boy, don't my feet look TINY in this picture?!). Btw, for those who like twisted stitch patterns, have you seen this beauty?

Just one more quickie before I go back to going insane:

These are Laila's Socks from Folk Knitting in Estonia by Nancy Bush. I've always loved them, but always hated the untwisting of yarn that comes with fair isle/stranded knitting. I decided to try again, but using the two-handed method of stranded knitting, and I love it. Suddenly a new path has opened up before me. Also, I used my own handspun for the orange, and I love that too. Look how it changes:

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Coming attractions

I have been, and _am_ insanely busy being the head teaching fellow for a largish course (in which the professor expects me to take over doing everything except giving the lectures), as well as personally teaching ~30 students and grading all their papers and midterms, etc. etc.

So I'm a little insane, and don't have the time to post, but here are some things I'll be posting about soon:

Monday, February 11, 2008

And now for something completely different

The Yoga Hoodie, she is finished! And, more importantly, she fits! First the glamorous photo shoot, then the specs and pattern review:

(Look, at me, I'm FIERCE. Or confused?):

This is the Olive Branch Yoga Hoodie from WEBS, which is a $1.49 download. As I mentioned before, I got this pattern with the intention of finally taking the time to measure and try on and calculate to make sure a sweater I make actually fits me. I had to shorten the sleeves by a couple of inches, and I decreased from the 38" size to the 34" under the bust, and although it's very plain, I'm quite happy with how it turned out. I'll definitely be wearing it a lot!

This is the first time that I've used one of those cheap download patterns that a lot of the online yarnstores are selling these days, and I'm here to report that you DO get what you pay for. Not to say this is a bad pattern - there were no mistakes in it - but it lacked some things that you expect in a pattern. Pictures of the front of the sweater, for instance, and schematics with measurements. The pattern called for making 2 pockets, which weren't pictured. I had to make one, just to see what it looked like. (I decided it was too small (why have a pocket your hand won't fit into?), plus I couldn't decide exactly where to put it):

Frankly, I bought the pattern because I liked the design on the back, and it was worth $1.49 to me to get that pattern. I think it was also worth $1.49 to realize the shortcomings of the cheap download. The lack of a measurement schematic was annoying since I was trying to modify the fit. Equally irksome was the inconsistancy in the way the stitch count was presented - the sweater is a raglan style, knit top-down in the round, with markers at the raglan increases which divided the sweater into 5 parts (left and right front, left and right sleeve, and back) - at points where the pattern changed, a stitch count would be given, but only for one section, so it was impossible to confirm the count without doing math. I hate math.

It wasn't a grievous burden to do the math, draw the picture, make a pocket, etc., but I have learnt that when you buy a pattern, in a book or magazine, or as a pricier download, you're not just paying for the creator's idea, but also the extra time and work that are required to provide the details that make it as easy as possible for the knitter. Of course, I've also learnt that it's not impossible, even for me, to do the math and make a pattern. (musing on future plans....)

Tuesday, January 29, 2008


Wouldn't you know it? The spring semester starts tomorrow* and I'm going to be the head teaching fellow in a large course, so in the midst of running around doing all the start of term administrative nonsense, I worked hard and finished my hoodie so that I could feel extra good for the first day of classes. And so I went downtown today and bought a zipper. And when I got home and had pinned the whole thing in preparatory to sewing... wouldn't you know I bought the wrong kind of zipper? The kind that doesn't separate at the bottom? Sigh. I just hope it's not a sign of how the semester's going to go!

* Yes, the semester does start at the end of January, what of it? Just because everyone else in the universe is sensible and has fall term finals BEFORE Christmas doesn't mean that we have to. This is a venerable institution we're talking about here (starts with H, rhymes with "cardboard"), nearing its 400th anniversary, and if horrible, horrible schedules have worked for that long, well.....

Monday, January 21, 2008

I never promised you a rose garden

But I did promise some non-sock knitting.

First off, my long-term-early-morning-full-concentration-lace-project:

It's the Three Cornered Shawl in Clover Pattern from Victorian Lace Today, knit in Hello Yarn's BFL lace (and of course it's impossible to photograph well since it's very fine yarn, I lack a macro lens, and it's winter, but...). The pattern's fairly simple, but it's slow going because the yarn is so tiny. It's a single-ply lace (strengthened with a little nylon) and it tends to get caught on itself and the stitches hide under each other. I had to switch from my original choice of pattern because it was a true lace and had many areas where there was a single strand of yarn stretching over a great hole, which didn't seem like the best of plans for such a fine yarn! Still, the color is fabulous, and I think I'll actually wear this triangle shawl in it.

This is my semi-endless boring knitting:

As I mentioned ages ago, this is the first sweater I've made in a long time because I've been so disappointed with my efforts in the past. I've just been too lazy to modify the pattern to fit, and so (unsurprisingly), it doesn't. This one (the Olive Branch Yoga Hoodie from Webs), I've been trying on at every step, and measuring constantly, and it's very promising. (More on this pattern (and yarn) later! or, What I've Learned about Cheap Downloaded Patterns.) It's also very boring - all stockinette. But I do have a solution for that:

This is the view of my knitting-while-reading setup (with a quick stockinette cap for myself, in Malabrigo (mmmm!)). It's just a cookbook holder, but I can read while I knit this way - get some fun reading done while getting through the dull bits of my knitting. It's perfect. So perfect, once I'm ensconced with it, that's the end, nothing else is getting done that day!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Sock meditations

First off, to all of you who left such kind comments on my last post: thank you! It really means a lot to me that you'd offer your thoughts and prayers to essentially a stranger - though I shouldn't be surprised since I see so much generosity in the knitting community! I'm not at all going to turn this blog into one on his illness and therapy, though with preventative chemo starting up in two weeks, I'm sure it'll sneak in here and there!

Now I'd like to talk a bit about socks and sock books. I want to talk specifically about Cat Bordhi's newest book, New Pathways for Sock Knitters, vol. 1. I don't tend to give book reviews, but I got very excited when I got this book - I (however boringly) knit mostly socks, and this book gave me a whole new way to look at them. Your basic sock is like a blank canvas - once you have mastered knitting in the round and understand the heel and toe, you can simply fill in any pattern on the leg and foot of the sock. It's intensely and satisfyingly simple, as has been capitalized upon in the Sensational Knitted Socks books.

In New Pathways, Bordhi lays out architectures that approach sock construction in whole new ways, mostly to do with the increases and decreases around the heel turn/gusset area - by moving these increases to new places (on the top of the foot in rows, in a spiral, in an expanding v shape), she entirely changes the types of stitch pattern that can be incorporated into a sock and expands the creativity a designer can build into her creation. It's not only an exciting development in design options, but she also includes endless numbers of good knitting tips - better ways to conceal the wraps in a short row, more hidden increases, etc - that can add to anyone's repertoire. Below is my first attempt at her "Sky Architecture," where the increases start at the center of the ankle in the front and move downwards in an inverted V shape (as you can see on the right foot). It's in Woolly Boully merino sock in Kelp Seahorse:

Here I will insert my caveat about the book: it's really not for beginners. Nor is it particularly for someone who just wants to knit some socks and not design their own. If you were to work just from her patterns (as I did here) rather than involving yourself in learning the architectures and applying them to your own work, you'd find yourself rather irritated. The patterns are intended to show you how to do it yourself, essentially, and constantly refer you to other sections of the book for heel constructions, gussets, toes, and how-to details for her special increases, etc. It'd drive a girl batty to just sit down to make a sock and have to do so much work for it (and most of the patterns are not really exploiting the full potential of the architecture either, just displaying it). Still, it's pure genius. Let a sock maker look at this heel and not be amazed - it's so entirely new:

Thanks for listening as I blather on about my sock crush! I hope it's of interest to others who knit too many socks. I _am_ working on non-sock items too, which I'll hopefully post about soon, weather conditions permitting!