Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Not approved for travel

This week has been very quiet. Branden is in Brazil for work, so I'm puttering around the house by myself and ignoring the glares from our resident felines, who appear to feel that the way I mix their food is inferior to Branden's technique. Really, they don't want me to mix their food at all. They want brand new food every time, even when they don't finish what's in their bowl. It's apparently tantamount to kitty abuse to mix in wet food from the last meal. Somehow, I don't think that food a couple of hours old will kill them, though they appear to think otherwise. They'll be happy when Branden returns on Saturday and rescues them from my disciplinarian self. (Actually, he does the exact same thing, but they're used to getting food from him, so I think I'm held to a higher standard or something...)

I thought that I'd get a lot of crafty things done this week, with all this extra time to myself. I did finish the quilt (which is good, because it's being given away in a little over a week), but I got that done on Saturday. I haven't done much since then. I've been working on the sweater a little bit, but my hands simply won't allow me to knit much this week.

I think it's because I've been writing this week, which means sitting at the keyboard all day. Between typing at work and knitting at home, my hands have started twinging at the slightest provocation, and sometimes without it. So, not much knitting, which is making me crazy, given all of the free time I have on my hands.

I did a little bit of spinning, and a little bit of carding on the seemingly infinite amount of alpaca fleece I have to card, but haven't really gotten into it. I have a book to read, but the other part of sitting at the computer all day is that my eyes are tired by the end of it, since my glasses aren't quite right anymore. So, not too much reading, either.

At first, all of this not being able to do anything was making me crazy. Crazy, crazy, crazy. I am not the sort to sit still, and when I am sitting still, I want my hands to be busy, at least. But, I have caught up on listening to podcasts, and I have been getting to bed early most nights, which has been nice. And, of course, with the whole writing a thesis thing there are lots of things to keep my mind occupied. And, I suppose, enforced breaks are sometimes important. And really, it hasn't been all that bad.

Of course, I just realized this evening what I should have been doing all week. We're leaving on Monday for a week in Pennsylvania. A few days in Philly, and then a couple of days at the wedding. This, of course, means plane flights and travel knitting, and I have absolutely nothing planned to bring.

I know, it probably makes no sense at all to plan to carry a bunch of knitting around with me when I haven't really been able to spend much time knitting lately, but it would just be wrong to travel with no knitting. Air travel is not approved without pointy sticks. Not that I need to explain that to you.

So, between now and Saturday when Branden gets home, I must decide on some projects to bring. I'll bring the sweater, because it's not that big and it's mindless. I'll probably bring the bamboo socks I haven't touched in a week, provided I can pick a stitch pattern. The real reason I haven't even looked at them in a week is that I am now past the toe and need to decide on a stitch pattern. I'm thinking something leafy, but I'll need to spend some time consulting with Walker to be sure.

And that leaves just one more project. Three projects is the right number for me; two can get a little tedious sometimes, and something like socks might run out. Something small, preferably easy, and something that doesn't require too much planning. Hmmm.

I've been so sunk in Alpaca Oblivion that I haven't really thought about other projects lately. It's been really nice to just know that I need to knit. A lot. In circles. And then switch colors, and knit some more. I'm kind of wondering when the creative designer-ish side of my brain will come back and be impatient about mindless knitting, but so far there isn't much sign. Which is great, really, because there's a lot of mindless knitting in this sweater. And really, the nice thing about knitting is that I don't really need to feel designer-ish if I don't want to. There's a project for every mood. Now I just need to go find one that fits...

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

It's a stretch

This has not been a knitty week. The temperature dropped back down to normal on Sunday, and then just kept on going, so it's been a great week to quilt, which is good considering how quickly the deadline is approaching. It's been cold, wet, and rainy all week, which is just perfect for curling up under a big blanket and stitching away.

I did start a pair of socks with the new yarn (the tan and green skein). I got about 3 inches in before realizing that bamboo is another sock yarn that doesn't stretch. I don't like baggy socks, so I usually make them about 15-20% smaller than my gauge would suggest so that they stretch to fit just right. When there's no stretch, that means that they're 15-20% too small. I thought that the increases would be fast enough that a narrow toe would be fine, but not quite. The sock fits on my foot, but it doesn't actually fit.

I pulled back most of the way and tried increasing faster, but I don't like the way it's looking. The yarn is really nice, and I know that toe will bug me, so tonight I think I'll pull all the way back and start over. Or maybe I'll play with some stitch dictionaries to figure out what I'm going to do once I get past the toe...

Friday, August 15, 2008

Not for grannies?

My iPod is always on shuffle. It helps me to vary my podcast diet, since I can just put in the headphones and get the day's random selection. It also means that I am often months behind the times in listening to my favorite shows, since they come up all out of order. Today, I heard a YKnit podcast from June. If you're into podcast listening, you should give this program a try; it's one of the better shows out there, and I really enjoy it.

This particular podcast was called Hot for Harlot, an interview with Stephanie Pearl McPhee. This may be the best interview with her that I've ever heard, largely because it was so informal. It wasn't so much an interview as it was time spent hanging out with the Yarn Harlot. I was listening on the bus, and it was all I could do not to laugh out loud. Good episode. Go listen.

One of Stephanie's comments was about how she is relatively young compared to other knitters, and that some of her more philosophical "discoveries" are things that older knitters have known for a long, long time. This particular thought, mentioned only in passing, has been rattling around in my head all evening.

So often, when something is "rediscovered," we forget that it has a past. We use its long history to validate our interest, but we don't stop and really learn that history. This happens in science all the time; someone discovers something "new," cites an old paper to show how long it's been important and not understood, and never reads the older literature.

While this does help us to feel like we're doing exciting and edgy things, it doesn't necessarily help us to truly appreciate the depth and the nuance of our topic. So much of the knitting craze has been about the newness of knitting, how it's "not for grannies anymore," how young women are "taking back" craft, how we've "left behind" the gaudy acrylics and the itchy sweaters that Grandma made that no one wanted to wear.*

I know that much of this focus on what knitting used to be and isn't anymore derives from a desire to uproot stereotypes that might keep people from wanting to knit. I know that becoming a knitter is a process of discovery for each and every person that tries it. This wheel is reinvented every time a new person learns to take two needles and some yarn and turn it into something more.

But I wonder if we're not missing out on the true, lasting culture of knitting in our haste to define our hobby as different than that of our grandmothers. We're so caught up in the fad that we miss the fact that many people have been knitting longer than we've been alive. It's always interesting to hear the reasons why a person starts knitting, but wouldn't it be just as interesting to know why so many have kept knitting, even when doing so classed them as hopeless throwbacks to a repressive culture and shelved them as old women?

Many of the new and enthusiastic knitters that are so prominently displayed in the media (of all kinds, not just the professional media) are newcomers to the field, as I am myself. Our discussion of the "knitting experience" so often lacks the deeper, more resonant tones of experience, abandoning them for the lilting excitement of new discovery. Younger knitters bring a tone of wonder and excitement to an old craft, but we don't yet have the perspective that years and years of participating in and living with knitting will give us.

I wish that there were more interviews with old knitters, people who have a lifetime's worth of stories to share, and who probably feel a bit shut out of the rebirth by all of the hype about knitting now being a hobby for the young. They've been knitting longer than we've been alive, and very likely will continue to knit quietly in the background long after the current knitting fad passes. Some of the new knitters will undoubtedly also continue to knit after the craze dies down, but it will take us years to gain the sense of knitting over a lifetime that others among us have today. We talk about knitting culture, but do we even know what that culture is? Have we ever really asked? Even if knitting isn't just for grannies anymore, I can guarantee that there are a bunch of grannies out there knitting. I'd really love to hear more of their voices in the discussion of what knitting means today.

*I have to add here that my Grandma has only made me one sweater, when I was about 10. It was a pink short sleeved shell, and I absolutely loved it. If I hadn't grown out of it, I would wear it today. It was made with a very nice yarn, beautifully knit, and absolutely not itchy. I'm not sure whose Grandmas made ugly, itchy sweaters, but it sure wasn't mine.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Meant to be?

Last week, Kris posted that she'd updated her shop selection. Now, what else could I do but go and look? I'm not really looking for yarn; I have projects to last me forever at the rate I'm knitting. But I fell in love with these:

I've been wanting to try bamboo/merino sock yarn for quite a while now. I love bamboo silk, but don't really wear things that I'd make from it. Bamboo sock yarn seems the perfect way to knit with bamboo and maybe even make wool socks a bit less toasty (one of the biggest reasons I don't wear them much).

So, I broke the rules and bought yarn without a project in mind (I'm allowed to do that sometimes with socks, since it's not that hard to know how much yarn to buy).

Today was one of those days where all you really want is to get home and knit and forget that the outside world exists. And then, when we got home, there was a package of yarn just sitting on the doorstep! It was a great way to start the evening. I've been petting it all night. (Thanks Kris!)

I've been working on quilting all week rather than knitting, seeing that the quilt needs to be done in just over 2 weeks. Unfortunately, quilting does not allow for simultaneous blog reading like knitting does, and so I am behind. I decided to do some knitting tonight and catch up on blogs rather than quilting. It was in the 90's today and I just didn't have it in me to sit under a king-sized quilt, no matter what the deadline.

In catching up on my blogs, I saw Anne's latest post, and I think I fell in love again. (This is twice in one week...I have to be careful not to make a habit of this, or I'll be falling all over...)

It just so happens that Tudor Grace calls for merino/bamboo sock yarn, and the colors in Anne's version are very much like the colors in the pink/purple skein that arrived on my doorstep this afternoon.

Usually I choose my projects, but I think this one may have just chosen me. And who am I to refuse, when fate sends yarn and a pattern all in one day?

Friday, August 8, 2008

10800 stitches

10800 stitches = one sleeve.

It is a pretty sleeve, though.

I didn't like the abrupt color change when I switched from dark to light grey. So, I decided to feather the edge a little bit. A few sketches later, I had this:

Which turned into this:

Which I like much better.

I don't want to talk too soon, but this sweater is going pretty quickly, considering how fine the gauge is. And the fabric is so soft...

Thursday, August 7, 2008


There is nothing like a garden to keep you attuned to the rhythms of the year. I would really like to remain in denial about the rate at which the summer is passing, and yet it is time to plant the fall greens so that they'll be ready for September planting.

My neighbor's maple tree started changing color the other day; there are little bits of red poking in among the green here and there. Though, in this land of no seasons, that might not mean much. The trees seem to have their own ideas about when to drop their leaves around here, and it's not necessarily when the calendar would dictate. I wonder if it's governed by the sun? Maples in New England shed their leaves in September, but the lattitude is lower, so they get sun longer in the fall. It's certainly not based on temperature; this is the warmest week we've had yet...the only hints of frost have been wishful thinking, Norwegian snowflake patterns (candidates for the Oblivion colorwork band) and fruit smoothies.

I like feeling the rhythms of time passing, watching the seasons change, seeing projects run their courses. I'm sad to see the summer fading so soon; I have a lot to get done before the fall, and I'm running out of time.

I'm also sad that that's the first thing that comes to mind when I say that summer is drawing to a close. There were so many things we wanted to do this summer, and they just haven't happened. Life has been too busy to really stretch out into the long, lazy days. Maybe that should be our focus for the next month - to savor these last few weeks, to stop for a bit before winding up for the fall quarter. I'd like to let go of the need to "get things done" at work, and slip into a less frenetic pace for a while.

Fall is my favorite season, so I don't dread its coming. It is the season of comfort foods; squash and potatoes, soups and stews. It's also the season of comfort clothes; the cool weather returns, and the sweaters come along with it. It's the best time for knitting, curled up with a cup of tea, preparing for the winter to come. No, I don't dread fall. But I do wish summer would draw out just a little bit longer. I'm not ready for it to be over, just yet.

But, I suppose I had better get knitting on my sweater, and this weekend I will plant the fall greens. Have to stay in step with the seasons, after all.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

A comment on comments

I am a lurker. I'm the person that sits in the knitting group and listens rather than talking. I just don't talk much unless I have something to say (this habit is also the dominant cause of sporadic blog posting). If someone else has said what I was going to say, or if there are already several comments on the post, I don't tend to add my voice to the chorus. But I am listening. The problem with blogs is that people can't necessarily tell that you're paying attention, unless you leave comments. I keep telling myself that I need to be better about this, but old habits die hard. So, if you're commenting here and I'm not commenting back, I'm sorry. I just wanted to let you know that I am listening.

I'm curious, do you decide where and when to leave a comment?

Excuse me...I need to take a moment and indulge my scientist side and admit out loud that this informal survey is inherently flawed becase it's asking people to comment about commenting, therefore biasing the results toward those that tend to speak up, and potentially missing the ideas of those that lurk.

There, I think the inner scientist is satisfied now...

Friday, August 1, 2008


I made it to the end of the sweater, and had yarn to spare. Granted, it was probably only about 10 yds extra, but it was enough. I blocked it on Wednesday, and it's finally dry now. We've had some unseasonable rain this week, and things have been a little damper than usual.

At the end, the v-neck seemed to be suffering from a tiny bit of bias in the fabric. I swear it wasn't there in the swatch, but there's a little bit in the final piece. I'm hoping that a stern blocking has fixed it, as it was only a minor difference.

A larger difference is that the two sleeves seem to be different lengths. I can't tell you how many times I measured them. One measurement would come out exactly the same, the next an inch different. Back and forth. I obsessed. I am fairly certain that I even counted rows at one point. I measured again and again, and decided to just attach them already. Attached to the body, they looked different lengths to me. But after blocking, I can't detect a difference, by eye or by ruler. I just hope it doesn't come back when the sweater is worn...

For better or for worse, it is blocked and done:

And it is plenty grew quite a bit when wet. It might even be long enough to fit for more than a few months (the recipient is sprouting like a weed).

I also spent some time with the alpaca. Mmmm...alpaca.

Two nights, 9 inches. Not horrible.

What is horrible is that my hands have decided to put me in time out. On Wednesday they started the unmistakable tingling that means that knitting must halt, or at least slow down a lot. So, I've been sulking about not being able to knit, and trying to do other things instead. The good news is that the lack of knitting means that I have the whole sweater planned out and sketched, measurements taken, and stich numbers calculated. There are worse things to do while in time out. I am hoping to be allowed to play more tomorrow.

I'm also hoping to get back to this: