Saturday, December 30, 2006

Time to smell the roses?

First, I want to say "Thanks" for the kind words about my Odessa. Dear Lynn likes it too, which is the most important thing. Now, onto other business.

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


I came downtown tonight to sip coffee, look at stuff online, and, maybe, work a little while my sweetie has some time to himself in our tiny apartment. As I turned past the post office, I saw that the giant menorah is still completely lit. That's odd, I thought, last night was the last night of Hanukkah, wasn't it? After a few seconds questioning my decision to light all eight candles last night, I realized that the city must have decided to leave the lights on for extra holiday cheer. The giant metal menorah seems to have replaced the more common giant Christmas tree, and, perhaps, those in charge thought it would be festive to leave the lights (which were carefully lit one-by-one over the past week) shining through the holiday weekend. Letting it linger, as it were.

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


Well, since I flashed my Odessa at you last time, I figure I better spill the entire bag of Odessa beans. I also heard a rumor that the person it's for doesn't see my blog often, so I don't have to worry about present surprise spoilage. Plus, to be honest, this was such a fun and interesting knit that I really am bursting to share. (I already influenced/convinced one other knitter to start hers. But really, it wasn't hard: she'd been thinking about making one for a while and we were at a craft store. Eazy-peazy.)

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

Good times, good times

Nothing like a little holiday bowling with friends. So festive. It was only the second time Dan has ever bowled.

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!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Happy Hanukkah!

Monday, December 18, 2006

Many little fishes

Well, I started the tessellating fish blanket many months ago, and it still isn't finished. Ack! My goal was to have it done by now. I originally saw the pattern floating the blogosphere last year, and I really liked the concept of knitting a blanket of little tessellating fish. The concept tickled my nerdy little heart, reminding me of a childhood love of M. C. Escher paintings and Square One TV. Then the pattern disappeared off the web for a while, and I was afraid that my fish knitting schemes were foiled. When a friend rediscovered a slightly altered version, I immediately snatched it up and started knitting last June.

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
22 red
22 pink
21 light grey
19 dark grey
22 blue
19 dark blue
21 dark green
21 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

The Day Grades Were Due: a portrait

Rain, rain, rain.

Grade, grade, grade.

Knit, knit, knit.

Sleep, sleep, sleep.

(no picture available)

Next time: How many fishies does it take?

Monday, December 11, 2006

Best scarf ever!

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

Caught in the act

I have no problem knitting in public. But, though I've maintained this blog for just over 6 months, I'm still not quite accustomed to photographing my knitting in public. My cave-like apartment is not ideal for taking attractive pictures, and, because of this, I'm often driven into the streets in search of adequate lighting.

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


Ack! Blogger is all confusing! I upgraded to the newer version of Blogger, and now I can't tell how to upload pictures. It's very annoying because—let's be honest here—the pictures are key to any knitting blog. I'm sure some people read what I write, but I know for a fact that others just skim the pictures and move on. What will I do?

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.