Thursday, June 29, 2006

In Tel Aviv

I am sitting in the hallway of the dorm where I am staying in Tel Aviv. There is wireless Internet on this floor, but I didn't bring my computer to Israel, so I am borrowing this one. It is very hot, and I need to take a shower. I have only knit a bit, but I hope that I will do more soon.

Today I went to a street market in town and bought a hat. It cost 20 shekels (about 5 dollars), and I drank lemonade with mint at a coffee shop where they didn't have a menu translated into English, so the waitress translated for us. I can only sound out Hebrew, which doesn't really help much, but I could read the word "milkshake."

I haven't found a yarn store yet, but I have a month to look and plenty to keep me busy until then.

I will post pictures next week.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Happy Me!

I didn't realize how excited I would be to have total strangers ask about my knitting! It makes me so happy! Now I'm so eager to answer people's queries that I'm writing this entry instead of compiling final grades...

First, the close-up issue:

This is the best I can do right now. During the original photo shoot, I tried to take a very close picture of the scarf so that people could clearly see my stitches, but for some reason that shot wasn't in the camera when I hooked it up to my computer. Now the scarf is far away, unavailable for pictures. In the above shot, I cropped and zoomed in on the other picture in order to give you a close-up, but the camera I'm borrowing is a few years old, and 1.3 megapixels doesn't get you very far until all of the stitch definition becomes completely obscured.

Now for the pattern:

The stitch pattern, according to the Big Book of Knitting Stitch Patterns, is called tweed. The "right side" of the work forms a pretty V pattern. The "wrong side" makes nice speckled horizontal stripes and is more bumpy to the touch. Here is the basic pattern for the stitch, but following this directly won't give you a scarf like mine:

Use an even number of stitches and two colors (A and B). Always carry yarn on the right side of the work when you are slipping stitches.

Row 1 (right side): With color A, * k1, sl 1 as if to p *; repeat from * to *, end by knitting the last 2 sts.
Row 2: With A, * p1, slip 1 *; repeat from * to *, end by purling the last two sts.
Row 3: With color B, repeat Row 1.
Row 4: With B, repeat row 2.

Now, I desire symmetry in my scarves. So, decided to make alternating blocks of the "right side" and the "wrong side" of the tweed pattern. I'm sorry that I didn't write it out while I was doing it, because now I can't remember the exact number of stitches I used, but I can tell you the general strategy.

Cast on about 36 sts (must be an even number). Knit the first 10 stitches as for the right side of the pattern, the middle 16 sts as for the wrong side of the pattern, and the last 10 sts as for the right side again. After about 20 rows, switch so that the first section is the wrong side, the middle is the right side, and the last section is the wrong side again. Repeat and admire!

I hope this is clear. I'm afraid it might sound confusing, but it becomes fairly clear once you get going.

For next time: "What's that on the fence?"

Friday, June 16, 2006


My father is not very good at mailing things, and, thus, I don't feel too badly that I won't mail off his Father's Day/Birthday gift until tomorrow. I distinctly remember receiving last year's birthday gift from him six months late. I have come to accept that timeliness doesn't matter--it's the thought that counts. (You see, I come by my procrastinating mailing habits totally honestly.)

The difficulty arises when I am sending packages to people other than family, or perhaps institutions with deadlines. This was the case with all of my application materials to Tel Aviv University for their Summer Yiddish Program. As early as December I decided that I would attend this program; yet, my application materials slid in just before the deadline months later. Luckily everything has worked out, and the little package made its way around the world to show someone in Israel that I will probably be a good addition to their program--probably.

Anyway, I am leaving in one week. Crazy.... I will speak of this more at another time. Back to my father's package...

When I was in Portland in December I picked up some lovely alpaca yarn with the intention of knitting my father a scarf. The results were fairly exciting. I wanted to do something with a slip stitch pattern that would look almost checkered. After experimenting with a variety of stitch patterns that I found online and a few I happened to memorize while loitering in the bookstore, I discovered the one I was looking for. Here are the results:

I hope you all like this picture. It's my first experiment with taking pictures of my knitting with the digital camera Kelly kindly lent to me. I decided to get creative with a shrub across the street. I think it works. Tomorrow the little scarf will start its travels up to Portland. I hope my dad likes it!

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Reply of a Knitting Apologist

"Why knit? Shouldn't you be reading or grading or something?"

Well, it's true the pile of books on my desk threatens to rival the Leaning Tower of Pisa, in height and precariousness, and my professors and students don't expect me to offer presentations on lace instead of the Russian Revolution, but knitting is an important activity in the life of this young aspiring historian. Perhaps I can make my position clearer by describing the siren call of knitting.

Reasons I knit instead of reading:

  1. I can create beautiful things with my hands.
  2. It can be as challenging or as simple as I choose.
  3. Knitting gives me a sense of visible progress and accomplishment. (Something difficult to find at this point in my academic life.)
  4. Yarn is pretty.
  5. Social knitting offers both playful and intelligent conversation, and it furnishes opportunities for meeting lovely people who don't judge me for knitting instead of preparing for my upcoming qualifying exams.
  6. Historiographical essays don't keep my neck warm, and my loved ones never ask for book reviews as birthday gifts.
  7. It offers a different kind of puzzle.

"And," you may ask, "why are you—knotty historian that you are—writing a blog about knitting? If you have time to write shouldn't you work on your research?"

Your point, dear interlocutor, is well taken. I am often behind on my written academic work, and my dissertation proposal will probably have a larger impact on my future than a blog about knitting. Also, on the other hand, I am not a fabulously experienced or productive knitter. I am not an expert in knitting techniques or design. No, I am simply a dedicated amateur.

Yet, I am determined to create this blog. Reading knitting blogs is my secret (not so secret any more) addiction, and now I feel a strange compulsion create my own. This compulsion has driven me to forsake my studies, borrow a digital camera, and write this apology in order to make my position clearer for others. One cannot study all of the time. Blogging about my knitting adventures (and misadventures) will give me opportunities to exercise my creativity, play with low-stakes writing, assume a place in the online knitting community, and, on top of it all, it will furnish additional motivation to knit more! (and more... and more...)

Thus, I lift my head and sing out: I am a knitter! History can wait!