Saturday, December 30, 2006
For months I have concealed my urge to warm the hearts and necks of nice eastern Europeans I met while I was abroad during the summer. The dam has burst, and I am well into knitting three little scarves destined for a long journey east. First, of course, I have to knit a scarf for Agi, the clever girl from Budapest who kindly made me her companion for trekking the streets of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. I just hope she likes the yarn I got for her.
Olive green and pink isn't a color combination I normally reach for, but I picked this yarn because I couldn't resist the way it makes me think of rosebushes in full bloom. Agi can be critical sometimes, and I am worried that I should have picked a safer color, but, hopefully, she will also see roses. I think this stitch pattern (is it called "herring bone"?) shows off the yarn's color variations to great effect. It's Malabrigo Yarn, a kettle dyed pure merino wool, which is amazingly soft for 100% wool. I'm zipping along on this scarf and will probably finish this weekend, but I should probably be spending more time working on other things. What things? Let's zoom out a bit, shall we?
Ready for a shocker: school starts next week. (Now imagine me repeatedly hitting my head against a wall.)
Sometimes I can be a big old procrastinator, and I haven't exactly been rushing to take my qualifying exams. I saw a member of my QE committee about a week ago, and he introduced me to someone as "the girl who's afraid of QEing." Ouch! My biggest resolution is to finish this up ASAP, which means I have a BUNCH of reading to do/review and writing to finish. To be honest, I started to get depressed yesterday while I was with Dan at a bookstore because I couldn't help thinking about all of the knowledge I am lacking in my chosen fields. Do I have time to smell the roses? Probably not, but it's cold in eastern Europe.
Saturday, December 23, 2006
Personally, I also like to make my holidays linger. The longer it lasts—the more celebrating to be had. My mother's side of the family is Jewish, and my father's is Christian, and I grew up in a fairly secular household. But, we always celebrated holidays from both cultural traditions: any good reason to have a party, my mother once told me. We got eight full days out of Hanukkah (with a big party for everyone we knew on one night), and my family also found ways to string Christmas out for at least two days. When we all opened gifts, I loved to hand them out so that I could make it last as long as possible. We took turns watching one another open gifts, one at a time, and I loved the way the excitement lingered.
This winter I am with my husband. We aren't traveling to see more family because Dan couldn't get time off work, and the holidays really are an awful time to travel far. I miss my family tremendously, but I'm not worried because I still feel their love, even when we are far from each other. In some ways, the gift exchanging will linger even more. When, I wonder, will the package come? When, I wonder, will I finish the last bit of my holiday knitting and send it north? New Years, perhaps?
Knitting also has a habit of lingering. For example, take a look at the scarf I finished for Dan about three years ago. I have completely lost track of my original reason for making it. Was it Christmas? A birthday? Or, maybe I was making him a random gift. It took me years to knit this thing. It's a light weight baby alpaca yarn in something that I remember calling a "fisherman's rib" stitch pattern. It was basically a normal k1, p1 ribbing, but each knit stitch was into the stitch below, which meant that I had to LOOK at what I was doing ALL the time, and I wasn't as fast then. I know I worked on it for more than two years, maybe three. I think I began it around the time we moved in together, and added a few rows when we visited friends in the evenings, a few rows on buses, some time in a box, more after the wedding, more after the move to CA and the beginning of graduate school. Years of lingering with this as my primary project. Now, I am still wholeheartedly proud of its warmth, beauty, and simplicity. What better sign of commitment and love?
So here is my advice, from a girl who is no stranger to lingering knitting projects: If you are still working on a holiday knit, don't be sad if it isn't/wasn't done "in time." Instead, see it as an opportunity to let the joy of the holiday linger. You will also be stretching out the holidays for the lucky recipient: in January, or February, or August when the present is done, they will get a special reminder of how much you care for them. What is central to the holidays if not celebrating our relationships with family and friends? There's no reason not to let that celebration linger.
Happy holidays to everyone!
Thursday, December 21, 2006
The really exciting thing about Odessa is that it has BEADS! (Can you stand the excitement?) I was worried that knitting with beads would be difficult, but, no, it was a snap. The fabulous Grumperina, who designed the hat and maintains a lovely and interesting blog, created a very clever and clear pattern, and she gives more info about knitting with beads here. As you can see in the picture above, you string the beads onto the yarn before you start knitting, and then you just slide the beads along as you knit, manipulating them so that they are sitting on the yarn as you pull a stitch through in the places where you want to add a bead.
The other very exiting part of this project is that I used the "magic loop" method for knitting in the round. You see, I don't own circulars in the correct size (16 inch) because my fabulous Options Needle Set doesn't go below 24 inch circulars. Since the whole point of the Options Needle Set is to avoid buying more needles every time I start a new project, I figured it was about time to learn the magic loop method so that I can use larger needles even when the circumference of what I am making is small. And, again, it was easy! I googled it, and found some very helpful information here about how to magic loop my way to success....
Well, actually I'll let you tell me if you think my endeavors were successful. What do you think?
(I just love the way this thing swirls around to its apex, but it felt like it took a bazillion tries to get a good picture of the top of my own head.)
I'm afraid my gauge was a little smaller than the pattern called for, and it feels a bit tight on my head, but I didn't change it because its intended recipient has a much daintier noggin than my own. The little hat is currently on its way north, and, according to the post office employee, it will arrive in time for a special someone to open it up on Christmas. I hope she likes it.
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
And of course there was festive holiday knitting taking place at the bowling ally. Tee-hee. Very good times indeed.
Holly, who was also knitting, has really improved her technique since the other time we bowled together. She has this amazing way of walking up to the lane and dropping her ball (THUD!) just so. Then it slowly glide/floats to the pins. "Very Zen," Dan commented, and I agree. She almost beat Shane (who's technique includes a very charming hop as he approaches the lane) in our second game of the evening.
But wait. What's that next to the bowling shoes?
Could it be an almost finished Odessa? Why, yes it is!
Monday, December 18, 2006
Fish were my primary knitting all summer. They came with me to Israel in July, although I didn't get much knitting done while I was studying at Tel Aviv University, but in August and September I was a fish knitting machine. After I rounded the corner of 200 fishes in October, I figured I had enough to make the blanket, and the project stalled. Of course there were several reasons for my fish lull: 1) school started in full force, with all its stresses and demands on my time; 2) finishing (such as blocking, sewing edges, or hiding ends) is my least favorite part of knitting; and 3) I craved other projects. Thus, November was all about knitting scarves—not sewing fishes.
Last week I took my giant bag o' finished fishes over to visit Erin, and I arranged them on her floor to see what pattern would be best for sewing them up. Then, a bevy of new stumbling blocks appeared, and the fish didn't want play together nicely. Instead, the orange fishes, which I originally knit up in order to "brighten" the blanket, jarringly refused to mix with the other colors. Then, the fact that I didn't have the exact same number of all the fishes became an issue. If I want to have an even and consistent pattern, I will have to leave out several fishes and/or knit MORE fishes.
The present fishy breakdown goes something like this:
17 dark red
21 light grey
19 dark grey
19 dark blue
21 dark green
22 light green
(I might use one orange fish.)
Total = 207
But I still don't know how many fishies it will take!
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
Monday, December 11, 2006
I remember the day my father showed me his musical saw. I was probably around 7, sitting on the couch in the living room next to my dad as he waxed poetic on the wonders of the "singing saw." I think my mother was also there, and probably my sister. But mostly I remember my dad, happily telling me how lumberjacks and folk musicians play their saws, and he played his saw a bit (I think it had a painting on the side of trees), and then he played a tape to show us what an experienced musical saw player sounds like. As I remember it, the sound was a serene warbling gently floating along the tune. I wasn't supposed to play the saw myself, because I was too little and might hurt myself or the saw, but, at the time, I really wanted to. It looked like the most wonderful, exotic, exciting musical instrument ever! Imagine: that dreamy, ethereal sound came from a saw!
The first time I came to Santa Cruz, I saw this statue of Tom Scribner and immediately remembered my father's infectious excitement 20 years ago about his musical saw. I'm sure it's been at least 15 years since I saw the instrument, and my father has moved on to other interests—including mason bees, flower frogs, taekwondo, and kettlebells—but the statue still awakens a warm sense of childhood awe. According to the plaque at the base of the statue, Tom Scribner was a lumberjack, writer, political activist, musician, editor, and humorist. I'm betting he was a fabulous Wobbly. (You can click any of the pictures in this post to see them bigger.)
And so, I hope this new "Best Scarf Ever" will also kindle happy, proud thoughts later on, after I have produced other scarfly loves. Its simple and beautiful "mistake rib" stitch pattern, its lovely soft yarn from scraps and leftovers, its ordered (yet) random two row stripes—all of it adds up to WONDERFUL! Like the singing saw, it may not be my favorite later, but it certainly is today, and it will always be special. Hopefully, a certain silly sister will agree.
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
There is a certain polite, vaguely confused smile I see when strangers notice what I'm doing. If you photograph yarn, I'm sure you're also familiar with that particular look in a person's eye when you catch them watching you. It says: "Maybe if I smile this weirdo nut won't be threatened."
Anyway, my life is very busy right now (end of the quarter = avalanche of grading), and my work yesterday demanded multitasking. Thus, as I walked out of the bank, I realized that the light was good and the cement had a nice pebbly texture that would probably make a nice backdrop for photographing my new yarn. After furtively glancing around, I decided the sidewalk near my car was sufficiently distanced from the bank, and I could probably get away with snapping some pictures without drawing too much attention to myself. Pulling yarn and camera out of my car, I quickly set about my business.
There I was, squatting to take a few fast shots, when a woman walked directly up to me. I tried to look small.
"Did you just buy that yarn?" she asked.
"Oh, recently," I answered.
"It's very pretty. Nice colors."
"Yah, I like it."
She then proceeded to ask me where I got it, fondle it a little, note the fiber content, and wish me a nice afternoon.
I was left thinking: wow, we really are everywhere.
By the way, I decided to make my new acquisition into this popular pattern. Clap if you think it's a good plan.
Saturday, December 02, 2006
If anyone knows about how to upload pictures in the new "Beta" version of Blogger, will you please help me? I have pretty new yarn and knitting progress to show... I will post more cute pictures of my fuzzy cat if it will help...
Edited to add on 12/3/06:
Well, I finally had a few minutes to figure out the problem. I talked to a friend who also updated her Blogger account, and she was not having the same issue that I was. I searched through the Blogger help files and found one reference from September where they said that some users were unable upload pictures because of a separate "fix" they made to the program. The solution was to delete all of my temporary Internet files. Yay! I'll post some new stuff later today, after I fulfill an appropriate requisite of grading, reading, and being responsible.
Saturday, November 25, 2006
With blue skies shining, how can I tell that it's winter on the CA cost? Well I spied a few signs of the season that I can share with you. First, Niko grew her winter coat and is now fantastically fuzzy.
Second, Dan is also working on his winter fur.
Third, my scarf saga has reached closure. Behold my NEW alpaca scarf.
It's a simple scarf, made with knit 2 purl 2 ribbing in a symmetrical stripe pattern that I like. The yarn is Plymouth Baby Alpaca Grande. I've used this yarn for several projects, and I always enjoy knitting with it. It sheds a bit, and the finished project can be a bit fuzzy, but I love it for hats and scarves because it feels soft and cozy. Plus, I enjoy these colors tremendously.
Now my hat has a mate again, and I am wearing both almost every evening when I'm out and about with the ocean chill in the air.
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
Purrdy colors. Oh, and the sunsets have been amazing recently. I took this shot from the middle of a parking lot because I couldn't stand not documenting the moment.
Happy Thanksgiving to everyone who is celebrating. And to my family, you know I love you and my thoughts are with you. Always.
Thursday, November 16, 2006
I made this scarf using a half ounce of Habu silk mohair blend, and it's super soft. The recipient helped me pick the yarn, and she requested something simple but light and a little lacy. I knew, in theory, that knitting every row in a skinny mohair on larger needles (I went with US size 9) would create an open almost lacy effect, but I'd never done it before. Personally, I'm really happy with the results. I just hope the Birthday Girl is also pleased.
Below is a picture I took of the scarf when it was about half way done. As you can see, I used the new Knit Picks Options Needles, and I really liked them. They arrived, as a late birthday present from my father, on the day I was ready to cast on. Clearly, I was fated to use them because they even matched the yarn!
Knitting it went by in a flash, but I procrastinated a bit with the blocking. Really, I'm not super experienced when it comes to blocking my knitting, but I've read so many places about the benefits of blocking, particularly anything lacey, that I decide to make an attempt in the hopes that it opens, evens, and lengthens the scarf. But, as you can see, I haven't yet perfected my blocking setup.
Dan joked that I'd made a runway for the cat. Luckily, she stayed away from it after the first time I chased her off. Most of it was pinned to a towel on the kitchen table, but it was a little too long, so I tied one end to a chair. Dan observed that the process looks like I put my knitting on the rack. What do you think?
I know it's not the ideal way to block a scarf, but, if anything, it's a little cleaner and fresher now that it bathed and straightened up for the party tomorrow night. I'll try to get one final shot of the Birthday Girl in her clean new scarf to add to the blog this weekend.
Edited to add: Here's a picture of the Birthday Girl backdropped by a ridiculous amount of booze for her 21st. She seemed happy with the scarf, and wore it until she got worried about the possibility of an encounter between the scarf and the earlier mentioned booze.
Thursday, November 09, 2006
Eventually I made a matching hat. For some reason, I had sharp pangs of desire for a hat with earflaps. I played with designs for a while, eventually making something up that I was happy with. I felt quite cozy and styling with my matching alpaca hat and scarf.
Then, last spring, tragedy struck: I left my scarf on the bus. I knew immediately and turned back, but the accordion door was already shut and the bus moved on. After many calls to the bus station and several visits to their lost and found, it was clear: a stranger had my scarf.
What to do? After a period of anger—at myself and the scarf thief—I decided that the only course of action left to me was to find more of the yarn, and to make another scarf. I mean, really—the hat simply wouldn't look so snappy without its mate. Now, that mission is almost complete.
In this picture you can see the two scarves I knit during the past week. One is a delicate silk and mohair scarf for a friend, and the other is my NEW scarf. Both need a little more attention before they are complete (ends to hide and blocking to be done), but I'm really happy with both. I'll post another picture of each when they're completely finished. In the mean time, I have a bunch of bits and partial skeins left of the alpaca yarn. I think another scarf, perhaps for a very nice sister, is in order.
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
This started as a response to one of my fellow gradstudents when she displayed frustration with her students after they were unresponsive in an early morning section meeting. First I told her to make them dance and sing. Then I wrote this, but it became too long to just be a comment on her blog, so I decided it can be a post on mine.
OK. Here's a real suggestion for sections:
When students come in, tell them that they need to do a little writing and that you will collect it at the end of class (sometimes I use these to take role). Write instructions on the board:
- Spend 4-5 minutes brainstorming themes from the readings.
- Write down 3 "significant" or "memorable" details from the reading (with page references or quotes).
- Then I usually end it with one more definition type question that relates to something they SHOULD know at this point, but many are still confused about (for example, in my Russian History class: "What's the difference between a peasant and a serf?").
After giving them enough time to do this stuff (I love watching them writing and thinking), make them share their themes as a big group. Write them on the board. If their really reluctant to share, make them go in a circle. Then make them get in small groups to share their details from the readings and talk about how they relate to the themes on the board. After they've had time to share, make each group report on what they talked about (Encourage them during this point with statements like: Did you come-up with similar details from the text? If not, were they related to similar themes? etc, etc.) Encourage other groups to ask questions of the group that is presenting. Then, after all groups have shared, make some nice transition statements to move them to the last question they had to write about. Make them turn to the person next to them and share their answers. Then, after they shared, ask them what the answer is. After they figure it out as a group, ask them why this is an important issue...
Then class time is probably up.
As you can imagine, there are many possible variations on this recipe for a section meeting.
Oy, why did I write this? Now someone else has to tell me how to concentrate and be productive when I'm supposed to be reading student papers.
As for knitting, I'm done knitting both scarves, and now each just needs a little finishing so that they can be pretty. Pictures and finished object posts to come.
Sunday, November 05, 2006
As a child of the North West, I am a devout follower of the layering school of dressing. Will it rain all day? Is that morning grey deceiving? Will we have sunshine, winds, or rainbows? Or maybe, all of the above? Here in costal central California, my heavy wool layers are not necessary, but my scarf is a must. Observe, for example, Halloween.
This town has Halloween festivities at least 20 times larger and more raucous than any other place I've lived. About half the population of the city converges on a one mile stretch of downtown. And although many of the revelers are scantily clad, don't let looks be deceiving: even here, nights are quite cold in late October.
This guy, and others dressed like him, must have been freezing. Me? I was fine—I wore a scarf.
Perhaps in reaction to witnessing all that shivering on Halloween, I have gone completely SCARF MAD. After less than a week, I have almost finished knitting two scarves, and I have plans to knit at least one more ASAP.
I took this picture yesterday at knitting group. More knitting progress has taken place since then.
Say it with me: "WE LOVE SCARVES!"
Sunday, October 29, 2006
Anyway, I've never been good at ranking favorites. As a small child I remember being nervous if I had a favorite stuffed animal (what if it hurt the other animals' feelings?). Even now I abhor surveys where I have to rate things by numbers (How do you feel? 1-10), and I don't really believe in grading (even though I've been responsible for determining my students' grades for the past 3 years). It's not that I don't think some things are better than others; it's that people often don't discuss what characteristics they ascribe the most value to. Thus I want to clarify how I chose my "favorite." Was it be based on the yarn or pattern? Or, perhaps the utility or attractiveness of the finished item? Hmmm.
Here are the criteria for my "favorite":
1) difficulty of project and effort invested;
2) how much I learned while making it;
3) pride in finished results.
Without further ado:
I made this baby sweater and matching tam using a pattern from an old issue of Interweave Knits. My family sent pictures last winter after my little niece grew big enough to wear the outfit her aunt sent. I love these pictures (so cute!), but you can't see the sweater design too well. It crosses over in front and buttons on top of the shoulders. Plus, the pattern uses plain stockinet, ribbing, and seed stitch.
In one picture she looks like she's about to take a bite out of the hippo. It makes me smile. The ability to make people smile should also be on my list....
Thursday, October 26, 2006
No knitting to show you. I did finish seaming the baby sweater, but I didn't block it. Should I? Does it matter? Personally, I'm not sure.
OK. Time for some inspiration. This is Corrie:
I took the picture during knitting group a couple weeks ago. See the sweater she is wearing? She made it almost entirely using a pair of chopsticks. Yah, chopsticks. And the yarn for the sweater? Well, she got that from recycling a thrift store sweater. Inventive, creative, and resourceful--that's Corrie. Plus, she's completely humble about the whole thing. She said she made the sweater a few years ago when she was completely broke and desperate to knit.
See? Amazing things are completely possible.
Back to work.
Friday, October 20, 2006
I saw this car as I was leaving my favorite coffee shop, and I couldn't help but snap a picture. I'm hoping the yarn-loving car owner doesn't mind that I'm posting this online.
As for my knitting, I am an awful procrastinator when it comes to the non-knitting finishing elements of projects. The baby sweater is still waiting for a bit of attention, and I just realized this morning that the fishes are almost done. . . . which means that soon I will have hours and hours of sewing and HUNDREDS of ends to hide (And, no, I am not exaggerating when I say "HUNDREDS". I will have over 200 fishes, each with two ends, plus any ends created in the sewing-up process. (Though, I have been imagining using fish ends to sew with, which might head off more end creation, but at the moment this is all purely theoretical.)).
An end hiding party is clearly in order. Anyone game? Perhaps we can watch Project Runway on DVD and drink tea?
Ends! You cannot defeat me! I WILL PREVAIL!
Sunday, October 15, 2006
I am one of over 1800 participants in this year's Socktober festivities. Many of the participants are avid sock knitters, skilled in their craft and with fantastic socks flying off their needles. Me? Well, I'm not that much of a sock knitting girl. So far I only have one finished sock to my credit. But to my defense: it is a lace patterned knee-high. Sadly, it wants to fall down, and I am having a hard time bringing myself to finish its match. Unfaithfully, last spring I turned to a new sock project for solace:
Where did I get the pattern? Well, I wanted to try the toe-up method, so I used the tutorial on Knitty. Creating the toe was an exciting process, and then I started zipping around and around the foot. Unfortunately, I don't know how to make the heel from this direction. So I turned to my only book about knitting socks, Cat Bordi's Socks Soar on Two Circular Needles. But there still remains one problem: I am using double pointed needles, not two circulars.
I know that experienced sock knitters can make conversions between sock patterns in their sleep, but I am not yet a member of that happy club. Sadly, the little purple sock, with its neat little rows of stitches, sat without attention or progress for the summer.
Happy for me, Socktoberfest is the perfect time to pickup my neglected sock. It is now getting the attention it deserves, and, maybe, I'll have another finished sock to be proud of by the end of the month. If only the two matched....
Oh, and I have a sweet new t-shirt, thanks to my fabulous sister. Other "knotty knitters" can purchase their own here.