Monday, April 30, 2007

In which I write yesterday's post

Yoga for Knitters led by Maureen Braun. The ad in our community college's flyer caught my eye, and I asked for the class as an early birthday present. Headed off at 10:45 on Sunday morning for 5 hours of "me time." Just being kidless for five hours, much as I love them, was a gift in itself...and getting to knit AND do restorative yoga AND have a leisurely lunch? Bliss.

Being a chicken blogger, I didn't take any photos during the class, but here's a still life from the day...the start of my tea cosy, in rice stitch; the patterns; my notepad from The Chrysalis Inn & Spa, a great location for this class; and Maureen's Yoga For Knitters book.

Here's how the day went:

INTRODUCTIONS: There were about 14 people, all women, in the class. Some were experienced knitters--one woman had supported herself knitting for 22 years, knitting commissions and garment samples and owning a retail store--while others were pretty raw newbies. Yay for the newbies! I'd say I was on the low end of total time knitting, but the middle-to-upper end of skill.

Maureen, the teacher, talked about the similarities she sees between knitting and yoga: ritual, repetition, and rhythm. She shared some stories about herself as a knitter and how she came to change from a product to a process knitter after giving herself a repetitive stress injury in her shoulder trying to finish a shawl.

This story really made me think about how I've been so focused on finishing M's chevron socks that I've neglected my health...knitting with a sore shoulder & elbow, etc.

We then wrote our own centering thought for the day, and Maureen had us couch them as "how can I" questions rather than "I must/need" statements. You can see mine in the photo above.


We made a little i-cord, which was, surprisingly, a new skill for at least half of the knitters, and then started off with the cable cast-on, also a new skill for many. I started visiting with the woman next to me, who had just moved here from Juneau, Alaska, where she taught in an alternative high school. That particularly focused buzz of knitting and voices in conversation filled the room.

The project I chose, of the two options, was a tea cosy in rice stitch. The original pattern (used with permission) is in One-Skein Wonders and calls for cashmere. (Um, why would I dress my teapot in cashmere?) I brought Paton's Classic Wool, which has been on sale at JoAnn this week, two for $8!

(The other project option was a dishcloth with a knit/purl pattern of hearts and I'm sort of dishclothed out right now. And why would I want anything other than my favorite Mason-Dixon pattern?)

Here's a bad macro shot of the rice stitch used for the cosy:

It's a super easy stitch that comes out looking like long johns. Love it!
Worked over an odd number of stitches (45, in this case):
Row 1 (RS): (P1, K1 tbl) until last stitch, P1
Row 2: K
(I'm pretty sure this is an old and common pattern found in lots of stitch dictionaries, so I don't think I'm breaking any copyright law by posting it here. Anyone know otherwise?)

We knitted until lunch, then took a 90-minute break. My friend & neighbor Analisa and I walked about a third of a mile into Fairhaven and lunched at the Colophon Cafe, one of my all-time favorite Bellingham places.

We returned to class, did an hour of restorative yoga using Maureen's cool book containing all her original drawings, and then closed with reflections.

The yoga was almost all chair yoga, I guess because one knits, typically, sitting? We did a little bit on the floor at the very end. As we stretched, I reflected on how I tend to rush through stretching when I do it on my own. Focusing on the sensations, the breathing, and really being present for your body...that's what I like about yoga--it forces me to stop and both think deeply and not think at all.

My only beef with the day--and it's a tiny one--is I wish they had just raised the class price $10 and given us the books instead of having to purchase them there. It was optional, of course, but I felt it added a little unnecessary commercialism to the day, and I also felt I needed to buy the book because I otherwise wouldn't remember much of the series of stretches we did. Again, a small thing.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

In which I debate the value of drool

Antique glass. That's the colorway name of this sock yarn, handspun by a local spinnery selling its wares at my farmers' market.

I stopped, two kids in tow, and lost myself in the plies, the interplay of the greens and blues, the absolute gorgeousness of this green-blue-aqua-water fiber. Just looking at it, stroking its wooly goodness, I felt peaceful and calm.

Until I checked the tag.

$36. For 175 yards.

Unless I'm knitting footies, that meant $72 for a pair of socks. My sense of calm fled, followed by a sense of frustration and, dare I say it, guilt.

I want to support local artisans. I admire the chutzpah of anyone who tries to eke out a living teaching mosaic classes, or making mead, or being a potter, or growing basil (and not the OTHER herb for which Northwest Washington is famous). And I WANTED this yarn. But $72 is a hefty investment for me for ANYTHING. Living on one teacher's salary with a mortgage to pay and a hope of retirement before age 92 and a burning hatred of credit card debt--lets just say that M and I are very careful with our money.

I felt frustrated and outraged by the price point, and then I felt guilty for being frustrated, because, after all, they have to earn a living, too, and clearly being the sheep-to-skein creators of this fiber entails much of the proverbial blood, sweat, and tears.

I hope someday I can afford better to support my local artisans. In the meantime, though, my reality is what it is. So I found another way to support them--I found their website and sent them an encouraging e-mail instead.

Friday, April 27, 2007

In which I lace up

I'm finding that whenever I think, hmm, I don't know why anyone would want to knit X, I usually end up wanting to knit it within a few weeks. This category has included, but is not limited to: socks, fair isle, entrelac, and mitered squares.

My recent reading of Eunny Jang's archives got me thinking about lace, and this afternoon during a rainy, quiet hour when both children were napping, I cast on for this shawl.

Before, lace seemed too delicate, too fussy; now, after weeks of man-socks-on-size-1s it now feels positively decadent, and a bit clumsy, to pick up size 4s.

I'm working, like Eunny says to, on learning to read the knitting, searching for understanding of the purpose of each stitch to the pattern rather than being welded to the chart. This is working pretty well so far, and now that I finally seem to have conquered my block of which direction k2togs point vs ssks...well, I'm in business.

I think this is a lovely pattern, and I'm working it in an alpaca/silk blend in "true red". I envision wearing it over a black turtleneck. I'm hoping the vivid color will temper any possibility of Jemima Puddleduck syndrome.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

In which I experiment on my spouse

The Trekking socks progress, a pair of fraternal twins.

Harvey, on the left, is the sensible one, definitely the left-brained older sibling. His heel is traditional heel stitch, bordered by a 3-stitch garter selvage. He asks nothing extra, says "please," "thank you," and "excuse me," and cleans his plate. He'll settle into a shoe with nary a complaint. Flying under the radar, Harvey's quiet class will always be underestimated.

Harry, however, is the rebellious, artsy second child. His heel rocks the eye-of-partridge stitch with a twisted German chain selvage. He is fussy, meticulous, and high maintenance. He will rebel against shoes--Fight the man!--wanting to show off his rockin' bod to the world. Though we live in the land of birkenstocks-and-socks, I'm doubting my mild-mannered husband will indulge Harvey's desire to be on display.

As the Yarn Harlot says, the only reason for making socks in this day and age is because you love someone.


Speaking of loved ones...seems all of my artful still-lifes have earned a fan and an imitator...sincerest form of flattery and all that.

I heard the camera beeping the other day, and witnessed Mr D, age 4, walking purposefully about his room, arranging and recording his belongings for posterity.

A sample:

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Tangled web

Um. What do you get when you decide to knit lace for the first time and you can't find the center of a 636 yd ball and you just start pulling?

Yeah. Mess.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Fear of Blogging

You wouldn't know it from the number and frequency of my posts, but I think about blogging all the time. Before I launched this baby blog, I thought about writing all the time. Letters to the editor, magazine articles, curriculum guides, non-fiction, spins in my head like clothes in the washer all day long. Now I think about snippets of bloggage...phrases I like, thoughts I think, reactions to daily events, reviews of books I've read, responses to others' blogs.

Why then, the inaction? The inability to put fingers to keyboard and press PUBLISH?

Some of it is discipline and opportunity. I am a notorious procrastinator, having gotten away with it all my life while earning good grades and good reviews and good evaluations in my jobs. I'm the person rushing around the house 30 minutes before the in-laws arrive, cursing my lack of cleanliness. I'm the girl waiting outside the computer lab fifteen minutes before that big paper is due because her printer ran out of ink. So I put off the posts until someone else is on the computer, and then I use that as an excuse to get grouchy.

Some of it, though, is plain old perfectionism. It's no secret that perfectionism is a self-defeating and self-sabotaging behavior. I fear failure, so I don't take up something I can't be perfect at. I exercise for weeks and when I start to get close to my goal, I eat like crap because having that margin of non-achievement of goal allows me to rationalize poor choices.

I realized, too, that I was afraid no one would be interested in what I'd have to say, particularly about knitting. I'm late to this blog game, and I kept thinking, well, anything I'd have to say has been said before. No one wants to hear about my socks and what kind of heel stitch I used. No one cares what I think about the book March and whether I think it should have won the Pulitzer or not. (Not.)

This hypothetical audience is paralyzing me.

But what the hell? Who am I writing this for, anyway? Who is my audience? The blogs I read I read because I like what they have to say and HOW they say it. The care they take with their photos, the humor they use, the bravery to lay up selected details of their lives for the scrutiny of others.

So I'm resolving to post each day until May 11 as part of my trifecta of birthday goals:

1. Exercise/be active every day
2. Post to every day
3. Post to knitsmith-wordpurl every day

I think I just need to get over myself and write.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Not Much Progress

Though the weather remains rainy for the most part, we did have a day of sun over the weekend for yard work, and I saved these lovely tulips from the deer. They don't eat the tulips on the side of the house, just the ones in the back. Go figure.

As for the sock progress...well, I could basically post the same picture as last time. In true tortoise fashion, I am just inching--not even inching, just millimetering--my way down the legs. Man socks on size 1 needles--what was I thinking? I must really love the guy. I'm really looking forward to the excitement and danger of the heel flap. (Did I really just write that?)

Meanwhile, the siren call of other projects haunts me. I'm contenting myself with some sketches for now...

More to come...

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Little Chevron Rib

And so I start another pair of two-at-a-time socks.

These ones are for M, who chose the 10-stitch, 4-row Little Chevron Rib pattern from More Sensational Knitted Socks (love that book almost as much as the original!).

At first I really didn't like the way the knit/purl pattern interacted with the dark parts of the self-striping yarn (Trekking XXL color ). Now that I'm a few inches in, though, I like the way the purl bumps pull up lighter and darker colors into the stripes, and the texture is fantastic. I'm using size 1s (gulp!) and my gauge is 8.5 stitches per inch, so the fabric is really taut and interesting. I'd love to see what this stitch pattern looks like with heftier yarn.

Speaking of size 1s, this is also a showdown of the needles: I'm trying to decide whether to take back the Addi Turbos I bought a couple of weeks ago...impulse purchase when my KnitPicks circulars hadn't arrived yet, and $25 can buy more yarn. So I'm using one KP and one AT circular to see if I can discern any difference or preference. So far I've definitely noticed the weight differential--the Addis are much lighter, as Grumperina posted about a while ago--and I have to have a tip transition whenever I switch, but I don't know if I feel strongly about one over the other, nor do I think I'm appreciably faster with one over the other. I do feel strongly that $5 is more reasonable for a needle than $12.50; on the other hand, I love all my larger Addis and DO notice a speed difference with them. Anyhoo--

Back to the socks: I was able to read much of Helen of Troy by Margaret George while knitting on these this week. I'm not a huge historical fiction buff, but this one was good.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

A Work of Heart

I haven't posted about this project before, maybe because it's been absorbing so much of my time and thoughts. It's the first project I have branched out and "designed" on my own: the Easter dresses for my daughter and niece.

The fabric, above, was the catalyst. It's shirting fabric, handed down from my Great Aunt Iva. (That is to say, scavenged from her home after she passed away. She did not waste much, did my great-aunt. It lay in a drawer, perfectly pressed, with a paper pinned to it indicating yardage.) Iva was an amazing seamstress and weaver, needlepointed, baked, and knew how to knit and crochet, though family lore indicates she didn't ever enjoy knitting.

I wanted to make Easter dresses for my daughter and niece and fell in love with a picot-edged dress in Debbie Bliss's book Special Knits. I knew, however, that I didn't have enough yarn--only two balls of KnitPicks Ambrosia--for full dresses.

The solution: a knitted/sewn hybrid.

At first Aunt Iva's fabric seemed perfect because of how well the blue/purple yarn coordinated. But when the first ball of periwinkle-ish Ambrosia ran out halfway through the first armhole edging and I needed to do the armholes in green instead, I got cold feet. Did this color combo work?

I even purchased an alternate fabric, one with both blue and green, plus some other spring-y stripes:

I decided that my original choice worked better than the seersucker--there was just too much going on between the seed stitch, the picot bindoff, and the stripes--and the second fabric is now destined to become curtains in Baby E's room.

OK, so how to attach fabric, inherently un-stretchy, to knitting, inherently stretchy?

I thought about gathers. I thought about casings. I set the whole project aside for fear of the skirt. Finally, I decided to keep it simple, and, using a Butterick pattern as my starting point, cut out a simple skirt front and back. The top was 22" around, so, I made a small casing and threaded 22" of elastic into it. It gathered simply and naturally and I evened it up as much as I could by hand.

I then hand-stitched the bottom of the casing to the cast-on row of the top, being careful not to stitch through the elastic, catching the purl bumps, and leaving lots of slack so the skirt would still have some give to it. After that I did the same thing with the top of the casing:

I used the hemstitch on my machine to make a pretty blind hem:

And here's the final result:

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The Universe is Telling Me Something

I recently read Revolutionary Road, by Richard Yates.

I had never heard of this book until I was reading Blue Shoe, by Anne Lamott, and one of the characters mentioned it. I got a wild hare and requested RR through the library and read it in just a couple of days.

So, more than usual with me, the reading of this novel was the result of a completely random occurrence. No friend recommended it, I didn't read a review of it, nor did I have to read it for school.

So then I'm reading my latest Entertainment Weekly (Hermione's on the cover!!!!!! Harry Potter trivia!!!!!!) and I see that Revolutionary Road is being made into a movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet (big news, because it's a Titanic reunion, o' course).

Isn't that strange that I would have read the book within weeks of the movie being announced? The book was written in 1961, so it's not like it's Oprah's latest choice or anything. Very odd.

As for the novel--I highly recommend it. It comes with cover blurbs from Tennessee Williams, Kurt Vonnegut, and William Styron hailing it as a masterpiece and a classic. It explores the post-WWII lives of the children of the 1920's, a generation I'd never though much about. Full of black humor, tragedy, and ennui, it's not for the faint-of-heart, but was thought-provoking and is still with me weeks after reading it.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Bumper Stumper: Attitude Problem

Driving home from Tacoma yesterday, we spotted this little beauty:


To me, this represents all that's wrong with our society. Our focus on individualism to the expense of community, our focus on--ahem--assertiveness to the expense of courtesy, our general short-sightedness about the value of other people.

I've read three different blog posts in the past few weeks about commenters who range from insensitive to just plain rude (here, here, and here).

Part of this is the illusion created by blogs that because you've been reading about a person, you have reached a MUTUAL level of comfort and knowledge. But part of it is a genuine lack of courtesy in our society.

Being rude--or lacking the writing skills to write carefully when commenting, as I suspect is often the case--on blogs is just as bad as being rude in person, and using your car to call total stranger a**holes is, well--takes one to know one, eh?

Now, lest anyone think I lack a sense of humor about bumper stickers, the same car with the attitude problem also had a aqua ribnet proclaiming "Support Strippers."

Now THAT I found amusing.