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.