Friday, December 30, 2011

Knitting Book Review: Brave New Knits

Knitting Book Review: Brave New Knits: 26 Projects and Personalities from the Knitting Blogosphere (2010, Rodale Press, 242 pages, 26 projects. Source: personal purchase.)

By: Julie Turjoman. (Turjoman provides the editorial content; 26 contributors provide the knitting projects; Jared Flood of Brooklyn Tweed does the photos.)

Nutshell: 25% blogs/designers most knitters already know about unless they’ve been living under a rock, 25% oh THAT’S who that is, 50% projects you may or may not want to knit.

Background: I didn’t come early to the knitting revolution. I know there are some online communities dedicated to knitting that have been around for nigh on decades (the Knit List listserv springs to mind) but I personally didn’t discover the crazy, teeming world of knitting-related blogs and websites until I impulse-bought Mason-Dixon Knitting back in 2006 and got the needly bug. (I wish I had earlier; might have avoided the gauge issues that torpedoed my early attempts at knitting in the late ‘90s!)

I found Kay and Ann’s blog through their book, read all of the back entries, and visited every blog on their sidebar blogroll. I also lurked heavily on the Mason-Dixon Knitting Knit-along blog (which now seems to be, sadly, defunct) and from there realized that there were a lot of people JUST LIKE ME who liked to knit and wrote interesting and helpful and sometimes hilarious things about it...and I had a newborn baby and a newborn obsession (an actual baby, and knitting, respectively) so I spent A LOT of time holding a nursing infant with one arm and clicking on links with the other to see if people had written anything new that day. (This was before I discovered Google Reader. I like to think that the link-clicking built character.)

Nearly six years later, I still have a healthy roll of blogs, not all completely devoted to knitting, that I keep up on. I’m also a Ravelry member, occasional blogger, and voracious knitting book reader.

I was interested to read Turjoman’s book because the concept seemed clear: how has the internet, specifically the market shift represented by blogs and Ravelry, changed the world of knitting? I could not have been more her target audience if I’d auditioned.

Synopsis: Turjoman’s book features 26 bloggers-slash-designers-slash-knitting celebrities whose work has gained notoriety and prominence in large part due to their online presence. These folks range from the incredibly prolific and famous-for-knitters, such as Clara Parkes, Norah Gaughan, and Jared Flood--to the relatively unknown, such as Sean Riley, Hillary Smith Callis, and Jennifer Hagan. The book is divided into two sections: Garments and Accessories, which include a variety of sweaters, jackets, hats, socks, mitts, and scarves/shawlettes, all beautifuly photographed by Flood. Turjoman introduces each design with a two-to-three page article on its designer, focusing on his or her body of work, style, and connection to/thoughts about the online knitting community.

Sample: Soon after starting her blog, Kirsten [Kapur] was approached by Amy Singer, editor of, about contributing a pattern to the online magazine. “That’s the wonderful thing about the whole explosion of the online knitting world: we get to find out about the new, up-and-coming designers, and they get a venue to work in.” The publicity from her appearance in Knitty gave a huge boost to her profile and her blog traffic. (176)

Woot: I’m impressed with the variety of designers featured. Some are the predictable online rockstars; others were new to me, and each feature article competently showed the designer’s journey and how the internet helped them on their way. The designs are, for the most part, fresh and interesting, and each is a clear reflection of its designer’s style. I added a few projects to my ravelry queue and a few blogs to my Google Reader after finishing this book.

My particular favorite designs: Jennifer Hagan’s Global Cable Coat, Wooly Wormhead’s Lenina Cap (and not just because it’s named after a character from Brave New World), and Ysolda Teague’s The Orchid Thief Shawlette. (I have a skein of Dream in Color Starry just waiting to be made into that last one.)

Meh: The subtitle says “Personalities,” but I beg to differ. Because Turjoman chose to write each profile in the third person, incorporating quotes from each designer, the profiles have a sameness that, when read cover to cover (‘cause that’s how I roll with the knitting books), gets a little tiresome. I also found her transitions awkward and, occasionally, as in the sample above, I had a hard time following how the quotes fit with the editorial commentary. If I were her editor, I would have tightened up each profile--two pages, tops--and focused more on revealing the designer’s voice through her or his words, not through the writer’s editorializing. Have Sean Riley TELL the reader in his own words that he was sad he had to close his yarn shop, don’t write awkwardly maudlin sentences like, “Despite heroic efforts, the economic downturn of 2009 forced him, with great sadness, to close the shop. In his sadness, he thought he’d take a break from knitting altogether” (206). Using “sadness” two sentences in a row like that is bush league writing.

Another meh: weird little sidebars (Knitters’ Guide to Essential Blogging Terminology) that define supposedly-blogging-related terms like Etsy, meme, ISO, and frog. Yes, I suppose it’s possible that folks new to the online knitting community might not know them, but they seemed like space-filler to me. I would have rather have read sidebars that showcased the designers’ writing (they are all supposedly bloggers, no?), favorite blogs, or best/most popular designs instead of tired, google-able terms that most computer-savvy knitters already know.

Boo: No real boos, here. A reasonably solid book, competently written, clearly well-researched, nice variety of patterns and projects. If anything, it needs to follow through on the promise of its premise; let the personalities of the knit-o-sphere shine on the pages, through their stories and their designs. Most knitters will find the profiles of interest, and I’d guess there are at least a few patterns of interest as well, although there is a noticeable lack of patterns for men. Also, a quick search for errata reveals errors in 10 (!) of the 26 patterns. What was that I was saying about an editor?

Audience? Female knitters with a computer who may or may not read blogs; knitters who are interested in expanding their knowledge about how the online community has affected and is affecting knitting.

Sequel-worthy? There is certainly no lack of designers who are using blogs, Ravelry, and other online media to create careers. The combo of personality profiles and patterns has great potential (for alliteration, apparently.) The question is whether the book publishing cycle is nimble enough to keep up with the online world.

I hope this review is helpful! I plan to continue to go through my shelves and highlight books--some new, some not--of interest to other knitters. Let me know in comments if there are any unanswered questions, or features you’d like me to consider adding, As with any review, my comments are intended to educate, illuminate, and entertain; your mileage may vary.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Giving vs. Gifting

I've noticed an interesting linguistic trend of late: saying "gifted" instead of "given" or "gave." As in, "A swap partner gifted me this yarn."

Why the difference?

It seems like folks are using "gifted" to emphasize the intent behind the yarn or object. If it's bought as a gift with the recipient in mind, it is "gifted" yarn. (No word on whether using gifted yarn makes one a gifted knitter.) If the yarn is simply passed on for free, it has been given.

Here's the distinction:
Example 1: My sister-in-law had bought some yarn thinking she would knit or crochet a baby blanket. She tried, gave up, and then stuck the yarn in a closet. When I started knitting, six years ago, she passed the bag of yarn on to me. She gave it to me.

Example 2: By contrast, when I started knitting, I became semi-obsessed with Noro Kureyon after seeing these armwarmers in Stitch and Bitch Nation. My sister was living in Japan at the time, so I (erroneously) assumed it would be easy for her to find Noro over there, and I asked for Kureyon for Christmas. She couldn't find any, at least on Okinawa, so she searched the interwebs for the perfect color combo for me and I received a bag of shade 124 (now sadly unavailable) for the holiday. I finally found the perfect pattern for this yarn in Carol Feller's Spoked Cardigan, and now have a gorgeous striped sweater made from the yarn she gifted to me.

Given is great; gifted is better...and we now have a new verb in our lexicon!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


How is it we've lived here all these years and never trekked out into the wilds of the county for U-Pick?

How is it that thirty minutes and eight hands and four buckets and one race can yield


Oh yeah, blackberries. You know you're next.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Almost Fandom

Back from vacation, back from teaching at a workshop, back to my dropped projects and cozy house...

We have been enjoying what feels like our first weeks of summer. Consistent, warm weather (warm for here: low 70s); relaxed days; denial about the amount of work that has to happen before my students walk through the door after Labor Day.

Since the days themselves feel like a lovely mosaic or collage, in which I flit from thing to thing, mostly free of drive or focus, I thought a blog post in that format--a winding path through my summer brain, if you will--would be appropriate.

1. War and Peace. My book club decided to tackle this monolith over the summer. We are all teachers, and after reading Anna Karenina last summer, we thought another Tolstoy was just the thing. I'm struggling. I've read tons of 19th century lit as well as lots of historical fiction (which is what Tolstoy was writing: the book was published in 1869 but set in 1805-1812) so that's not the's just that I don't have enough historical "hooks" to read the book without constantly consulting the footnotes and Wikipedia and the list of characters. When I get in flow, like during our week on Camano Island, I really enjoy it...but it's a daunting task. It wouldn't have been easier during the school year, though, so I'm continuing on. I won't say slogging, because it's not a slog, its just like rolling a boulder up a hill when you're constantly being seduced off the path by flowers and bunnies and gins and tonic. But you really need to get this boulder up the hill!

2. Wil Wheaton. I am just enough of a "Star Trek: The Next Generation" fan to be inordinately excited that I discovered Wil's blog and his podcasts...and I'm just enough of an oblivious semi-fan that I didn't hear about them until TWO YEARS after he first put them out. Just finished listening to "Memories of the Futurecast," where he reads excerpts from his book Memories of the Future, which covers his memories and pretty funny synopses of the first 14 episodes of the series...the series which is now, conveniently, is on Netflix Streaming. The kids and I watched a bit of episode one today while we were folding laundry. My son said, astutely, "This looks like 'Galaxy Quest.'" Sigh. The perils of watching a parody before one has seen the source material.
(Note 1: Wil Wheaton was the one and only boy I ever cut out of "Tiger Beat" and put up on my wall. What that says about me, I don't know.) (I do know; it says I'm a mega-nerd and completely proud of it.)
(Note 2: Wil has a beautiful, touching post on his blog about the 25th anniversary of the film "Stand By Me." If you saw this movie in the '80's and loved it, read this post.)

3. Couch-to-5K. I have been a runner on and off since I was in college. It is absolutely the best way for me to enjoy exercise and get in shape...but it's also a tough habit for me to sustain and I tend to binge and crash. After a year with some tough health stuff, it became very apparent to me that being a super-slug and feeling sorry for myself was not the way to regain fitness. I'm on week 5 of this Couch-to-5K program right now, and am feeling great! Got new Nike Free running shoes, am not having any trouble with my joints or shinsplints, and signed up for a local 5K for the end of September. Given my personal set of issues, I'm not sure if I'll ever tackle more than the 5K length (doesn't it seem like everyone is doing half-marathons now?) but we'll see...

4. Ysolda Teague and Carol Feller. Knitters: run, don't walk to get a copy of Little Red in the City by Ysolda Teague. I love it so much that I have already spilled coffee AND wine on it. I also already knit the sweater Skelf in one crazy gulp back in June/July and it may be my most favorite thing I've knitted EVER.
If Ysolda is like a knitting rock star, Carol Feller is like the cool indie band that's just hitting the circuit. I ordered her book Contemporary Irish Knits pretty much sight unseen (only a few patterns are up on Ravelry now, but they all look like winners) and as soon as I hit "confirm order" on the Amazon cart, I started to notice her name everywhere--Interweave Knits, Knitty, Twist Collective--I just didn't notice before that a bunch of patterns I love were all designed by the same person.

5. The Temeraire books by Naomi Novik. I've been having trouble paying attention to War and Peace in part because of Ms. Novik's fascinating series. Again, I'm late to the party, it already being six books--but my husband and I are really enjoying the heck out of what feels like a combination of Jane Austen, the non-cheesy parts of Anne McCaffrey, and Patrick O'Brien.

All right, people: my actual to-do list ain't getting any shorter, and then I can go back to my honeybee-like existence

Thursday, July 21, 2011

My daughter and I have been into nursery rhymes lately. Her fledgling reading skills are blossoming (excuse the mixed metaphor) with texts that rhyme and have predictable patterns and rhythms.

So as we were reading Mother Goose the other night, I stumbled over this rhyme, one I'd heard as a child but never really thought about before.

Draw the latch,
Sit by the fire and spin,
Take a cup,
And drink it up,
And call the neighbors in.

This isn't a fun rhyme to teach counting or a silly rhyme to make children laugh--this is emotional instruction! Coping skills passed down as a poem!

If you are feeling grouchy or overwhelmed,
Take some time for yourself,
Be comfortable and do something with your hands,
Have a cup of tea (or something stronger?!)
Then, open the door to company.

Mother Goose's version is, of course, more catchy.

Most knitters will agree that knitting can get them into a flow state, the same one experienced by athletes, or anyone engaged in something absorbing and enjoyable. And repetitive activities are proven to lower blood pressure and reduce stress. (Dr Oz says to choose doing the dishes over watching TV to wind down!)

I love the idea of women generations ago recognizing that solitude + spinning + tea = Serenity Now!

OK, fellow Crosspatches, do you find that your knitting or other handwork helps you to recharge?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

iPad lust

I have a serious case of iPad lust...

And this post Is. Not. Helping.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Live Oak Reminiscence

There wasn't very much that was lovely about that apartment complex. It was old-ish and musty, surrounded by newer, jazzier gated complexes, with bad parking and scary laundry rooms and a pool continually closed by maintenance issues.

We chose it because it was the least expensive option while we lived on one income in this hot, hot, place so far from home. This place of cockroaches and strange poky grass and hibiscus and great food and bad pollution and oil and music and sprawl.

But the one thing I loved there were the live oaks.

I don't know what makes a live oak different from just a regular oak, but they are beautiful. Soaring, knobbly branches; tiny, lovely acorns; scratchy, weathered bark. They decorated our neighborhood and our courtyard, and during the three months I both lived and worked in that dingy little apartment because my boring unfulfilling office job ended abruptly, I would open the windows and listen to the breeze (when there was a breeze) blow through their lovely, gnarled branches, and dream of the Northwest.

No tree here--maybe because we have so many, an embarrassment of riches--makes me quite as happy.

So, when I saw Rosemary Hill's pattern for the "Live Oak Shawlette" in the latest issue of Knitscene, it just spoke to me.

This half-circle shawl flew on and then off my needles in a crazy-fast way--just a couple of days (and couple of long Tour de France stages) from cast-on to bind off.

It's pictured here about two-thirds bound off, as I caught the waning gray July-in-the-PNW light. Tonight it's going to take a bath and then get blocked to its more lovely, leafy, tweedy glory. I'm not even sure what its fate will the adventure that took us so far from home and taught us so much in the land of live oaks, I'll let the universe guide me.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Do you like bright colors? Many many bright colors, in different patterns, the more the merrier? If so, you and Miss E would get along. She is a fan of all things bright, and at age nearly-five she can pull it off with aplomb.

I'm not one of those moms that dictates clothing choices for the kids. We have had to add limits on, say, shorts in winter (it has to be at least 50...remember, that's warm in the Pacific Northwest), and for some occasions (weddings, parties, picture day) we have put our parental feet down and, shall we say, steered the fashion ship a bit.

But mostly, for Miss E, it's bright colors and patterns and lots of layers. (That is when she's not running around with her big brother with bare feet and no shirt.)

This summer, I was searching for a project that would use up the skein of KnitPicks Chroma Fingering that I bought with her in mind. (The colorway is called Pegasus--how perfect is that for a four-year-old girl?) I had just bought Sock Yarn One-Skein Wonders and had been poring over it for a while. I saw this sweater pattern, and though it was only sized for a 6- or 12-month baby, I thought I could adapt it. I really thought it would look great in the Chroma because of the combination of the striped yoke and chevron-lace body.

I cast on more stitches than the pattern called for, and used a bigger needle, too. (Details are on my Ravelry project page if you are so inclined.) It knit up quickly and easily, and aside from a knot in the yarn and then a reversal of the color pattern (thank goodness I noticed that!) I really enjoyed working with the Chroma.

And we found the perfect buttons!


Saturday, July 09, 2011

Book Review: The Lost Gate by Orson Scott Card

I do a lot of reading--so I've decided, inspired by my friend Laura, again, to begin posting, on occasion, reviews of what I read. I'll do fiction, knitting books, other publications--whatever's on my bedside table. Let me know what you think!

Review: The Lost Gate by Orson Scott Card (2010)
384 pages. (This review is of the hardback book club edition.)

Nutshell: 45% American Gods + 45% Percy Jackson series + 10% Twilight
AKA: Ancient gods are the new vampires.

Orson Scott Card is the author of arguably the most popular YA novel for boys of all time: Ender's Game. This is not to say that Ender's Game isn't a great book for both genders, but its male protagonist, futuristic-videogame-combat setting and slight seasoning of ethical dilemma seems to especially resonate with males of a certain age.

In The Lost Gate, Card reaches, stretches, and fails to capture the EG magic, creating a novel with an interesting, if unoriginal, premise--that the "Old Gods" of mythology still exist in our world (paging Mr. Card: have you heard of Neil Gaiman or Rick Riordan?)--and a protagonist, Danny North, who swings wildly from believable teen to laughably this-is-how-adults-think-teenagers-talk-think-and-feel. There's a secondary/companion story that hews closer to European-influenced fantasy: medieval-ish setting, castles, intrigue, secret identities.

I have my own personal beefs with (and love of) Card's books, having read the Ender series and (almost all of) the Alvin Maker series.

Let's start with the admiration: Card unabashedly loves America: American folk beliefs, accents, dialects, and geography. He's able to describe magical abilities on a near-molecular level, helping the reader understand and almost almost believe that the abilities could be real. He knows how to pace an action scene. He writes dialogue, particularly dialogue in dialect, without sounding clunky or too stereotypical, and has a naturalistic way of sliding in the vocabulary of the world of the book, making it seem acquired rather than alien.

That said, Card's style also often leaves me cold. He forces his personal belief system into his novels, and as soon as he does, they lose their magic and become clunky allegory. (That's why I stopped reading the Alvin Maker series.) He doesn't write female characters well; they come in three flavors: subservient/flavorless, scheming, and Auntie Mame.

So, then: The Lost Gate.

Synopsis: Danny North, pre-teen and seemingly-powerless member of a powerful family living on a hidden compound in western Virginia, discovers he's powerful, after all, and explores the dangers and joys of his newfound abilities. Meanwhile, on another world, a nameless, memory-less, ALSO seemingly-powerless character known as Wad is involved in his own mysterious journey of self-knowledge.

He tried to understand what it meant to “serve” stone or water, wind or the electricity of lightning in the air. But the stones bruised his fingers and moved for him only if he threw them; the wind only blew his hair into a tangled mop, and storms and ponds left him wet, cold, and powerless. Far from being precocious, with magic he was slow. Worse than slow. He was inert, making no visible progress at all.
Yet, except for the loneliness, he didn’t hate his life. His long rovings in the woods were a pleasure to him. Since neither tree nor animal was drawn to him, he simply ran, becoming swift and tireless, mile after mile. (15)

Nice descriptions of magical abilities, and creation of a believable system of magic. Card is able to construct the system without the “and now you’re getting the anthropological background of how magic works in this reality” section so prevalent in fantasy novels, usually bringing the narrative to a screeching halt. The tone shifted believably between Wad’s and Danny’s worlds.

Some meaningless episodic stuff happened in the middle that then got dropped in favor of the overall arc. Danny discovers a murdered family! (What?) Danny wants to go to public high school! (In a cafeteria scene that reminded me so much of Twilight that I wanted to scream, he inexplicably heals a bunch of people and, basically, no one bats an eye.)
Additionally, the whole “gods still walk among us” trope seems a mite played out, especially when (as I mentioned above) Gaiman did it so well for adult readers, and Riordan continues to for middle readers. Perhaps Card intends this series (it’s clearly not done yet) to fit in the middle ground for high school readers? The scatological humor and sexual situations point this direction... (Which brings me to:)

One boo to stereotypical adult characters. Who here has ACTUALLY had a sadistic gym teacher? A “climb that rope, kid, because I don’t like you” gym teacher? I didn’t think so.
Two boos to gratuitous and creepy sexual content. One adult female character could have just as easily been portrayed as the crazy she was without having her make inappropriate overtures to Danny.
Three big boos to semi-sadistic violence without plot or character purpose. (Which is, I guess, what gods do. But still!)

Those who liked but have grown out of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. (I’d recommend The Lost Hero, also by Rick Riordan, over this one, though.)

There were enough good things in The Lost Gate to make me open to reading a sequel, although the female characters make me feel all squirmy inside. But I’ll check any subsequent books out from the library; not buy-worthy.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Storm Warnings

I first read this poem in high school, taking a practice test for my AP Literature class. I think its unexpectedness paired with my need to ANALYZE-THIS-IN-40-MINUTES-GO! indelibly printed it on my mind.

In college, I kept it framed on my wall (that, and the lyrics to "Mystery" by Indigo Girls...yes, yes, melodramatic, I know) still fits my optimistic-yet-fatalistic-with-a-dash-of-melancholy inner self.

I later read more Rich poetry (and, yes, it is rich/Rich on many levels) and always find her profound and a bit inscrutable. Just the way poetry should be.

Storm Warnings
by Adrienne Rich

The glass has been falling all the afternoon,
And knowing better than the instrument
What winds are walking overhead, what zone
Of grey unrest is moving across the land,
I leave the book upon a pillowed chair
And walk from window to closed window, watching
Boughs strain against the sky

And think again, as often when the air
Moves inward toward a silent core of waiting,
How with a single purpose time has traveled
By secret currents of the undiscerned
Into this polar realm. Weather abroad
And weather in the heart alike come on
Regardless of prediction.

Between foreseeing and averting change
Lies all the mastery of elements
Which clocks and weatherglasses cannot alter.
Time in the hand is not control of time,
Nor shattered fragments of an instrument
A proof against the wind; the wind will rise,
We can only close the shutters.

I draw the curtains as the sky goes black
And set a match to candles sheathed in glass
Against the keyhole draught, the insistent whine
Of weather through the unsealed aperture.
This is our sole defense against the season;
These are the things we have learned to do
Who live in troubled regions.

Thanks to Laura of What She Read for this blog hop!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Which character from William Shakespeare's plays has most dramatically or lastingly shaped your thinking and actions? Why?

Thanks to Laura for posting this thought-provoking question. Many thoughts flew through my mind...Hamlet...Juliet...Portia...Desdemona...Hero...Horatio...Ophelia...all of whom I've loved and thought about over the years. And when my mind, like a whirring slot machine, clicked into place, even I was surprised by what it settled on:

King Lear.

It's been years since I read Lear, but I read it intensely in both high school and college. Poor Lear, foolish Lear, foolhardy Lear, too-powerful-to-see-his-own-power-until-it's-too-late Lear, who gives up the love of a good, true daughter because the selfish, shallow daughters stoke the fires of his vanity, and because Cordelia stings his pride.

As I ponder this, I also realize that Lear is the tragedy of a parent, and so it speaks to me in the place I am in my life: the parent of two young children. Lear's children turn on him, and what parent doesn't fear that down to the core? And his own foolish, selfish actions cause him to permanently damage his relationship with the remaining child, the one who continues to love him against all reason.

That fine, scary balance of love, influence, and coercion that all parents walk...the eternal question of nature vs. nurture...and the unspeakable tragedy of the loss of a child, either through death or emotional distance--this is why Lear speaks to me, why I can't think of that poor, misguided, blind, blinded man without tears.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Slippermania 2011!!!

It has been a positive slipper-fest this past month. I am on pair # 5 since February, and still going strong. Clogs and French Presses abound. First, M wore through his first pair of clogs and waited patiently through me finishing a sweater for him. When I started to murmur about other projects him-intended, he stated (gently, but firmly): "All I want you to knit for me are slippers. I don't want anything else until I get new slippers. Please please please PLEASE make me new slippers." He then waggled his toes through the holes in his old slippers' soles.

Right. Duly noted.

The kids helped me pick colors for him: bright green and navy blue. Pair #1.
Then, my school's scholarship auction rolled around. I made one pair of clogs, size men's 10-ish, and one pair of French Press slippers, size women's 8.5-ish. (Sadly, because--as usual--I was up against a deadline, I neglected to photograph these and now feel too weird about asking my colleagues for pictures of their feet.)

I also decided to donate a pair each of custom slippers to the auction. Interestingly, the custom pairs were more the rage and brought in more cha-ching. So, enter pair 4, clogs in Husky purple and gold (just the soles, but finished product to come):
And pair 5: French Presses in beautiful navy blue (in progress):

It's been percolating that I'd like to do a toe-to-toe comparison of how various so-called "workhorse" brands of 100% wool match up when they become French Press Slippers.

During my slipper-felting career I've used: Patons Classic Wool, Cascade 220, Stitch Nation, and Wool of the Andes. I know there are other wools out there that people swear by, like Brown Sheep Lamb's Pride Worsted, Lion Brand Fisherman's Wool, and Valley Yarns Northampton.'s the plan:

I will knit at least 5-6 pairs of slippers in these wools and chronicle the experience.

Here's where you come in.

Do you need some slippers?

If so, leave a comment with your shoe size and color preference. Send the link to friends, foes, strangers. First six commenters win. It may take a while, but I'll get there. And having the intentionality of you in my mind will help.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Names: family and otherwise

This week's Top Ten Tuesday from The Broke and the Bookish is: Fictional Characters and Literary Figures You'd Name Your Children After...


My child-bearing days are likely over--unless by typing this I have somehow tempted The Universe into a big ol' "we'll just see about that," in which case I leave my options wide open--but I will, I hope, continue to name pets, plants, cars, and bicycles for many years to come.

And I already have one daughter named after (depending on which day you catch me): Elinor Dashwood, my favorite Austen heroine, or Elanor Gamgee, my favorite baby hobbit, or Eleanor of Aquitaine, my favorite bloodthirsty queen, or Eleanor Roosevelt, my favorite knitting first lady, or Eleanor Rigby, my favorite sad and lonely person (where do they all come from?). So the precedent has been set.
  1. Laura, as in Ingalls Wilder. I also have two lovely friends named Laura, plus a much beloved cousin, so this name is a natural fit in my life. (The name Almanzo, however, does not make the cut.)
  2. Max, of Where the Wild Things Are. Who wouldn't wish for an imaginative, boisterous, amazing boy such as this?
  3. Rita, as in the lovely Meter Maid.
  4. Meg, Margaret, Megatron--Miss Murry of Madeleine L'Engle's Time Quartet (and many other companion books) who guided me through quite the ugly duckling phase myself. Although why she and Calvin named one of their daughters Polyhymnia is quite beyond me.
  5. Claire, of the Outlander books by Diana Gabaldon. Though the books' quality has ebbed as the series has worn on, and on, and on...Claire in Outlander is a feisty, sexy, smart heroine we all can love and hope to emulate.
  6. Edward. Or Jacob? I can't decide. (JUST KIDDING!)
  7. Neville, as in Longbottom, as in the unsung hero of the Harry Potter books. He's one who, though not ordained by any prophecy with overwhelming responsibility (though he COULD have been), chooses love, good, and Herbology despite daunting odds. Neville is The Boy Who Chose. And can't you see a cat named Neville?
  8. Penny, as in Lane and also as in the love of Dr. Horrible's life.
  9. Pearl, as in Prynne-Dimmesdale, the girl who took what life handed her [mother] and lived to fight another day--in Europe, far away from those nasty Puritans.
  10. Bryony. Bryony is one of the brave piglets in Mr. and Mrs. Pig's Evening Out, by Mary Rayner, the first book I ever read--really read, not just memorized--a book that is quite possibly (I'm just realizing) the headwaters of my Anglophilia and love for sunny texts with dark shadows.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Duh! Ask The Blog...

Once upon a time, I was into cross-stitch.

Now, I have absolutely nothing against this lovely pixelated craft. Like all crafts, it can be used for good, or for evil. I have several cute items that I cross-stitched over the years and I love them dearly, especially for the memories that are embedded into them. I have the "Life is a Chair of Bowlies" one I finished the year I was a newlywed. I have "Bloom Where You're Planted" which is so pretty and just needs to be framed. I have one I started in high school that is all different quilt blocks and it took on even greater meaning when I worked on it during a time of great grief when I was in my twenties.

Lately, I've noticed a resurgence of cross-stitch, done in a tongue-in-cheek ironic fashion. (Warning: some links on this site NSFW.)

That said, the only thing I'm ever going to build one stitch at a time now is a sweater.

In addition, I've been resolving to de-clutter my life. And when I went through my craft bins stored in our sadly-non-Harry-Potter-esque cupboard under the stairs, I found an unfinished cross-stitch, taken up in a fit of "I'm on maternity leave, I have so much time!" insanity.

It's a sampler intended for a baby's room...and the baby I intended it for is now...


I've posted it on Facebook as a freebie. Needles, floss, and a 95% finished sampler! C'mon, people!

No. Takers.

I've posted it on Craigslist in my community.

Again. No. Takers.

So, as a last-ditch effort before this goes to Goodwill: It contains love, care, and intention in every stitch. If you have a baby or if there is a baby coming into your life, or if you've ever seen a baby, consider picking this up where I left off. It's not that it's not cute, and sweet, and perfect. It's just that I want it to go to a baby it's meant for, and I know if I put it out to the universe (e.g. Blogland) it will find a home.

Any takers? I will pay shipping. Frame included.

(PS: the message around the border says: "I see the moon and the moon sees me. God bless the moon and God bless me." It's a nursery rhyme.)

Saturday, January 22, 2011

My Scarlet Letter

A prompt posted by my friend Laurie over at That's What She Read. Do pay her a visit. (Of course, she already has a bajillion visitors and commenters whilst I doodle with my thoughts about knitting and unfinished posts...but still going to plug her because she's Just That Good.)

Discuss a work of literary merit that you hated when you were made to read it in school or university. Why did you dislike it?

In tenth grade, I met Nathaniel Hawthorne. Mrs. S, my chain-smoking, desk-jumping, craziness-cultivating (and we loved her for it) honors English teacher slapped the book down upon our desks and said, "Dive in." Unfortunately, for many of us, the pool had no water.

I dreaded every chapter of this book, and finished it only begrudgingly, happy to move on to shallower waters, leaving Mr. Hawthorne and his horrific heroine behind. I got a glimpse of his nasty magic again in college, reading "Rappaccini's Daughter" for a American lit survey course. Hmm...themes: Control of women? Women are deadly and evil? Men should control women AT ALL COSTS? Should have sent me back to SL, but, alas...

Then, years later, I got a job as AN ENGLISH TEACHER. And, lo and behold, was assigned to teach 10th grade honors American Literature. And, you guessed it--Hester Prynne was on the menu.

I spent no small amount of time reading about SL. And I realized what I wasn't mature enough to see at age 15--that I blamed the book because I didn't understand it. I didn't have the skills, or, perhaps (sorry Mrs. S), the guidance to feel my way through Hester and Dimmesdale's maze. When my reading and thinking skills met their first big wall, they couldn't scale it, and so I hated the wall.

I've taught the book seven or eight times now and grow to appreciate it more and more--not as a heart-pounding page turner (because that it is most emphatically not) but as a morality tale, a fable, a parable, a uniquely American mixed-up and self-questioning text, full of ambiguity and paradox.

My students get angry at Hawthorne for playing God. I say--get angry at the Puritans; they started it. They rail against the injustice of a tale without a happy ending. I say--isn't it? And because I can argue both sides, and because of the cracks that I see open in each student's personal wall--I love this book.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The coziest of candles

Is that what I think it is?
Why, yes! A garter stitch candle.

Saves the trouble of knitting a candle cozy, I guess. (If willie warmers exist, why not candle cozies, I ask you?)

With regret, I did not purchase said item. I know the black black hole that is impulse shopping at Target, and I resisted the urge.

That said, if I go back, and they're still there, I may get one for my newly cleaned-out yarn storage area (AKA the cupboard under the stairs).

Comes complete with benevolent god:
Yes, that is Barry Manilow. Yes, there is a long story involved. Leave a comment if you want to hear it!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Sleeveless near Seattle

Meet Tweedy Pine. It's a man-sized sweater.

I started this for M back last spring with yarn I'd bought at Apple Yarns at their New Year's Day sale.

If you've knitted a man-size sweater, even for such a non-burly man as lives at my house, you know that it can seem like a forever-long slog. Especially if you decide to modify the pattern to knit it in the round--there's something about knitting around and around and around a body that, even though it's probably less TOTAL time, is still deceptively time-consuming.

I knit up to the armholes, and then finished the back by the end of the summer. Then, I accidentally pulled out one of the shoulders, and got irritated, and left it in time out under the stairs.

Guess what? when I returned to it, the shoulder thing was an easy fix, and I decided to start on the sleeves--easy in reverse stockinette--finish them, and then go back to the fronts.
Sleeves ahoy!

Whilst knitting away on the sleeves--so easy! so fast! no cables!--I started to get that nagging know the one. Like you've been standing in line at Costco for ten minutes and you realize you might. not. have. your. debit. card. You check your pockets and your wallet and all the nooks and crannies of your purse and suddenly it's just you stuck in a long line with a tub of red vines, seventeen chicken breasts, twelve million baby carrots, and one large lump of lead in your gut.

Sure enough, there was only one ball (of the original seven) left in the project bag, and it almost certainly wouldn't be enough to finish the sleeves, let alone the fronts, too. But I know I had enough, I checked the yardage! I thought. I checked my various yarn bins, but I had just cleaned them out the weekend before, and I certainly would have found it and put it with the project. I can only conclude that either I converted the yardage incorrectly when I subbed the yarn, or just plain bought the wrong amount. Yeesh!

I called Apple Yarns, but they no longer carry this yarn (Naturally Tussock Aran 10 ply, from New Zealand). Andrea, the wonderful proprietor of Apple Yarns, suggested I check Ravelry, but the only person with this for sale or trade in their stash had only .75 balls left of a different dye lot. I performed the ancient art of google-fu and saw this brand is sold at Paradise Fibers in Spokane, so I called them up.

Me: Ineedsomemoreofthisgreenyarndoyouhavedyelot6761?
Laid-back Paradise Yarn guy: We have that yarn but not in that dye lot. You'd probably be OK but you might want to add a contrast stripe or something to split up the dye lots visually.
Me: becauseI'mrunningoutofyarnandyou'remyonlyhope
PY: I hear you. [Makes general noises of commiseration.]
Me: Canyoutellmewhichothercolorwaywouldcontrastbutnottoomuch?
PY: [patiently goes through each colorway over the phone, and recommends Navy.]
Me: [lights credit card on fire and orders two balls of the green plus one of Navy.]

And that's that! Magical yarn is winging its way to me from Eastern Washington. Man sweater will be finished, by hook or by crook. My working plan is this:
  1. stop working on the sleeves to conserve original dye lot
  2. finish fronts using original yarn, unraveling sleeves (sniff....sniff) as necessary
  3. add a navy stripe to sleeves in consultation with recipient of sweater (want something that says "sporty sweater!" not "dorky kindergartner!")
  4. finish sleeves and neckband with new dye lot
I hope this will work. Apparently this yarn is "going away," (that sounds ominous) according to the Paradise Yarns guy so it will only be more difficult to replace as time goes on.

Luckily, M. is worth it.

(And, now, if I could only find my debit card.)

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Strawberry shortcake slippers

Miss E's class is the Strawberries. Her sister class is the Shortcakes. She loves both teachers fiercely.
She asked for red and pink slippers for them for their holiday gifts.

We made two special trips to the yarn store to find the perfect yarns. Trolling the button aisle at JoAnn, she found the perfect buttons for each.
I sneakily scoped their shoe sizes, possibly causing them to think I had some sort of fetish.

Luckily they were about the same size as me, so I could felt to fit.
Thanks to the magic of Ravelry, I discovered a modification to the French Press Slippers pattern that let me do them in one piece--mildly fiddly, but nothing in comparison to the seaming I normally do.

The best part? Her pride in giving her teachers something that they love and use, made specially for them.