30 November 2006
I’ve been a little bit disappointed with myself lately. Last Thanksgiving I ran my first 5K, was dating a hot doctor and was preparing for my first upper-level undergraduate course. This year I was knitting knee socks.
I suppose my year-end reflection period is kicking in a month early. I’m starting to feel that knitting is getting in the way of living. Or perhaps it's better to state that I'm using knitting as an excuse for not living. The problem is not giving up a Friday night out on the town to settle in with knitting and Netflix. It’s the random weeknight that I choose to spend knitting rather than going to the gym. Or more accurately, it's the night I skip the gym and plan to have a night of knitting but end up foofing around the apartment and doing absolutely nothing, crafty or otherwise. It’s the hours I spend absent-mindedly reading blogs rather than engaging with life, on-line or off. It’s planning projects, or just day-dreaming about them, rather than planning healthy meals.
Granted, last year's doc was a dud, my 5K crawl would’ve made many of you real athletes cringe with shame, and I’m not sure my students learned a darn thing, but as last year came to an end, I was excited and happy. I had things to be proud of and things to look forward to. I know that to a degree that’s still true. Things are moving on my dissertation and I've had several successes professionally lately. I just don’t feel the thrill that I felt a year ago and I’m trying to address why and most importantly, how to get it back.
I suppose I'm writing this only because blogging felt a little 'off' last week when I was in Missouri. I was obsessing about all those things I should've done, said or written, emails never sent, workouts never completed, friends never called. And to no surprise, obsessing over what wasn't done left me zero motivation to do anything about any of it.
Today at the office we cleaned for an upcoming move and in a matter of hours we filled a small dumpster with student papers from 1987, edited drafts of newsletters published in 1998, and disks full of materials prepared on obsolete versions of WordPerfect. There was a spirit of glee as we pitched, even from the most notorious of hoarders (ahem, that would be yours truly).
I keep this Emerson quote on my nightstand as a reminder to stop my obsession and guilt but as I start the last month of the year, I feel like I need to be reminded of this a little more strongly. Here's to ending the year on a high note.
29 November 2006
Seems strep throat hit hard and landed my mom on the couch rather than by the stove. At that point it was going to be too expensive to change plans so I loaded onto my early morning flight, worried that my cousin and I may be put in charge of the feast. For safe measure, I wrote down the turkey hotline number running on CNN in the airport restaurant. I don’t think we were the only ones concerned about the fiasco potential in letting the younger generation be in charge of the festivities. Just when my grandparents were about to call in help from the pizza delivery boy, we pulled it together and ended up putting out three turkeys, a ham, two kinds of dressing, five pies and enough side dishes to fill two tables. Yeah, three turkeys… don’t ask. I think we had too many surprises planned for one holiday.
Of course, just to keep it interesting, as soon as my mom recovers, we get a call that my brother is in the hospital with a severe case of the flu. I suppose my immune system deserves a raise since I was able to escape the various plagues without so much as a cough.
With a large part of the group feeling a bit under the weather and another large contingent assigned to a weekend of moving my aunt and uncle into their new abode, I had some time to snuggle into a comfy recliner and work on my Socktoberfest socks. Knee socks here I come. Or that's the plan at least. I'm sure there will be some more surprises along the way...
21 November 2006
Last summer I found these great vintage curtains at a rummage sale and added them to the stash with the intention of someday turning them into something great. I'm not sure if the Amy Butler Betty Shopper bag will be great or not, but I'm excited to use goodies from the stash.
To be honest, the faces on the little ladies are a bit more little tramp than anything so I'm guessing these goodies were meant to teach all the future tarts of the world how to go from bath to ballet with only seven applications of blue eye shadow. And let's not go into what that may say about me turning the curtains into a very large bag. I just promise that I won't fill it full of powders, pomades and perfumes.
19 November 2006
Seems I kinda just skipped over several of those details… like binding off two stitches at the beginning of the row four times. Guess I shouldn’t assume that just because I’d already knit one sleeve the right way, I’d be able to master a second sleeve. Should I just fudge it at the end? Maybe it wouldn’t matter. It’ll all block out even, right?
Yeah, been there and tried it and you know what? Cheaters never win… especially in knitting.
So yesterday morning, I ripped. Besides the health benefits of choosing soy nog over my usual knitting night cap, I have to say that it’s a good thing I was alcohol-free Friday night and therefore rational enough to know that ripping should be done in the daylight with coffee.
Later tonight, I will begin again, carefully reading the instructions this time.
While ripping is perhaps not the most enjoyable aspect of knitting, I do like the do-over factor. *Poof* It’s like the goof never happened, well, aside from the fact that at one point I had a finished sleeve and now I have a sleeve that needs a few hours of work. Essentially though, I get to rewind back to Friday evening, before the goof, before the movie made me forget how to read directions.
Sometimes I wish more of life had a do-over factor. This week sorta flew by too fast for me to catch the slip-ups or even read the directions. I started several blog entries and never finished them before they were made obsolete by the need for a new blog entry for a new day. Then it became a week’s worth of entries and I thought I should do something, well, pretty darn neat. But, er, em… I just don’t have pretty darn neat in me right now. I had a good week of observing an expensive and complicated experiment which has absolutely nothing to do with my own research, attending an amazing Broadway-type show, and enjoying several outings with the girls. But for some reason, that’s all I’m going to say about it for now.
Maybe I’m feeling quiet since I’m in reading mode for my dissertation, the weeks where you soak in all you can and become a sponge lurking about the library in search of some little detail that you don’t have yet. Maybe I’m feeling quiet because my knitting and crafting have been on the non-existent to dull side lately. Maybe it’s just the fact that it’s 4 p.m. and dark here. Whatever it is, here’s to wiping the slate clean and starting over on attempting to blog and craft and keep up with the world.
13 November 2006
Although counting calories isn't nearly as much fun as counting stitches, I think it may mean that I can justify a crack dealer scale for dividing sock yarn more precisely, er, I mean, measuring my din-din more precisely.
12 November 2006
I did find a chance to start a donation for a mitten collection for Buffalo children. I'm hoping to put together a few pairs in the coming weeks, even if I do end up buying them at T@rget on the night before they're due! This one may be an oops since it ended up more grown-up size than kid size, but maybe there's some cold, mitten-less mutant six-year-old with extra large hands and darnit she'll need some lovin'. Yeah, or maybe I'll just bury this one under the store-bought goods and hope no one associates the freak donation with the single girl who clearly has no clue about the wee ones among us. I'll post pattern and yarn notes when it's finished. I grabbed whatever was on top of the stash and can't decide if this is yarn that should be blasted with vehemence or used for all future child-friendly projects, even if those projects won't fit any child under the age of 25.
Finally, I finished another square of the Lizard Ridge afghan, but we're not really playing nice right now. I want to post something a little more, um, diplomatic to the group knitalong to get advice, but there was much swearing and a bit of teeth gnashing over how this skein knotted up on itself as I was knitting. You knit from the inside and outside of the skein at the same time, and I swear those two pieces of yarn were magnets for each other. It was like they were felting together in mid-air. When I was working the first square, I mis-read the directions and ended up cutting my yarn after each section so there wasn't a long piece to tangle. Zip zap, that square just came together as fast as I could knit it. Since I'm 80% sure I'm going to put a backing on the afghan, I can do a messy job of weaving in the umpteen hundred ends, right? Anyone have any Noro tips for knitting on both ends at the same time? You gotta keep 'em separated! (Hope I can keep my ends separated so I don't have be separated from this gorgeous project!)
11 November 2006
06 November 2006
Today was a yummy, yummy day. I got to spend the entire day in a sunny corner of the sofa being reminded of why I actually wanted to do the PhD in the first place... the wonder of discovering something new in the pages of a book.
I'm starting research on London's Great Exhibition of 1851 and today's read was an account of the affair written in the 1930's. It's a scholarly publication, but with more charm and gusto than most things written now. It's pretty clear that the author was busting to tell the story of how bird sh!t nearly ruined years of planning and work. For various complicated reasons, they had to build the exhibition hall around the trees and as sparrows are wont to do, they loved taking up residence inside. They couldn't shoot the pests with glass ceilings and all, and the various methods of using nets were equally problematic. The greatest minds of the day were stumped. Luckily, an elderly Duke or General or something stepped in with the answer, "hawks." I can only imagine the carnage in this place that was to go on to be one of the greatest wonders of the 19th c.
I mean, really, imagine if the birds had kept the public from seeing such wonders as this: "There was the usual buttonless, reversible, self-sustaining, self-opening, ventilating, one-piece, and even 'mathematical' underwear." Self-sustaining undies? Only the Victorians...
Some of his presentation of the domestic arts is interesting in its quirks. Despite making quite a few points about the "industrious poor" and attempting to defend the lower classes, he nonetheless dismisses any of the presentations of cotton textiles to move on the silks, despite reminding us that England made its fortune in cotton. Beauty before function, I suppose. As he says, "It was a period that took a sensual pleasure in stuffs, when fifty guineas worth of silk were cut to swing and rustle round a single pair of legs." A reasonably successful engineer in the 1860s made 100 pounds/yr, and a guinea is slightly more than a pound, so if his wife wished to prove herself higher than her middle class status, she'd take up half his salary for one ball gown, and that's not including the "extras" that we all know go into a proper ball ensemble. Beauty always comes at a price, doesn't it, dahhhling?
The crafty among us might also enjoy this little gem. "Lace and embroidery included many curious objects, loyal and sentimental, the produce of long evenings and lonely firesides." We have a long way to go to shake the notion of the crafty spinster, toiling away in borderline misery with her needles.
Unfortunately there are no pictures of "mathematical" underwear or the silk chess sets which were submitted by lonely women, but I'm going to try to scan a few of the images in to share over the next few days. There are some gorgeous depictions of the goods on display and I love how the catalogue arranges common goods like scissors much like the Martha Stewart art/cataloging pictures of today. Yummy, yummy stuff.
Of course there was much about the Exhibition that's troubling and the book does only a fair job of demonstrating that. "There was a twelve-shilling rifle specially designed for purposes of barter with the African native, side by side with totally different models for the purpose of shooting him down. Also from Birmingham was a selection of shackles, leg-irons, manacles, fetters, and handcuffs made for export to the Southern States of America. The sword, unfortunately, is far more interesting than the plough-share."
And how disappointing (but predictable) to find this statement: "And so we finish the British section: only the colonies lie between us and the foreign exhibits in the eastern nave. But nobody who can remember Wembley will want to linger long over Antigua, Canada, Jamaica, New Zealand, St. Kitts', Van Dieman's Land, or even over the immense display of the East India Company. To our great grandfathers, the Indian section was half the fun of the whole show; they pored and gloated over the objects of brass and bamboo that had taken fifty years to make. To-day, when the art and wisdom of the East command a less unquestioning respect, they would be spread in vain before our eyes."
Yikes! Go back, go back, I wanted to tell my literary tour guide. I want to linger over that space of the colonies. I'm spending years of my life reading about those things that were found in just that space that you ignored. Sigh... and this is why we need modern research, to pick up where our charming, quaint but terribly flawed predecessors left off. (Just as those that follow us will have to correct all our quaint but horribly flawed ideas.)
(Apologies for the history lesson. I just get so, so terribly excited about my nerdy stuff. I actually had a few wonders arrive in my mailbox today so yarn porn tomorrow, provided I make it through another long, lonely night making lace by the fire.)
05 November 2006
I am finally starting to let go of the yarn "mistakes" that I made early in my knitting obsession. A whole box of unidentified brown chenille yarn that sheds? Um, gotta go. I had visions of a dark chocolate afghan but then I woke up and listed this one on ebay for another yarn newbie. I guess if you actually liked knitting with chenille, this would be the mother load, but that's for another knitter out in Internet land. I may even break into the general Lion Brand stash* tomorrow and do a complete clean sweep. Anyone else have some "oops-es" floating around the stash?
Even my computer was cluttered! I can't say that you can see much of an improvement, but at least I know that many, many photo sessions of knitting projects have been sent off to the electronic graveyard to allow room for many more photo sessions of knitting projects. I can handle yarn taking up space, but pictures of yarn have got to go!
*Not that I've only made mistakes on cheap yarn. I've got a pricey skein of silk something or other that was for a beaded purse class... because grad students have so many opportunities to use a beaded purse out of pale pink that would show every speck of dust. Not ready to admit defeat on that one yet, but the day may come and if it does, you'll be the first to know.
04 November 2006
... just to make the fun last. That's it. It has nothing to do with not finishing them in a month, not at all...
(Really, I just want to finish them so I can wear my striped socks in a picture like the button design!)
03 November 2006
Noro Silk Garden #232
Fake Isle hat from November Magknits
(Yes, I'm an English teacher that loves crosswords. Go figure.)
02 November 2006
Tonight I had my second Knitter's Guild meeting and of course I had to face the "what to wear" dilemma. I mean, c'mon, a room full of knitters and you best be bustin' out the good stuff. I went for discreet and safe last time. No seams to inspect or stitches to analyze in a pair of handknit socks tucked safely away from discriminating eyes.
But now that I've officially been allowed to join, I figured it was high time to show these ladies (all 200 of 'em) just what level of mediocrity they're letting into the ranks. It's time to wear a handknit sweater in a room full of knitters. This could be bad, bad, bad...
Since it's now gotten rather chilly here, it's time for the wool sweaters. I actually finished this one this summer but I never blogged it because I just couldn't face putting on a wool/mohair blend concoction in the hot weather. Wimp, yes I am. For some reason I also thought I didn't like the fit but I don't think it's so bad as I imagined. In the book, you're supposed to wrap the two sides of the collar over each other, but I like it better loose, perhaps because I'm wearing a loose t-shirt under it today.
Pattern: Lara from the Debbie Bliss Alpaca Silk collection
Yarn: Brown Sheep Lamb's Pride worsted
Needles: I think I used 8's, but I'm not entirely positive
Dates: February - August, 2006
Recipient: me, me, me
Notes: This is a great pattern and one that I will be making again. It curls a bit at the bottom so I'm considering going back and doing a crochet edge, but it doesn't bother me enough to not wear it as is. My side seams are also wonky where I cast on stitches, but I actually saw another woman wearing this sweater tonight at the meeting and she had the same issue with the side seams.
I really like the Lamb's Pride yarn but I think I'd make this in a different yarn the next time. The mohair content makes it just a little hairy and itchy for me. I tried this with a short sleeve t-shirt and there was no having that nonsense, even though I'm not particularly sensitive to wool.
So I guess I'm a real blogger now. I've made the Lara and done the Rachael pose. And I really be a real blogger soon since I think Clapotis is moving up in my knitting rotation.
Oh, and other big news, I'm going to get to update (or redo) the local Guild's website! I suppose it's a sign of true dorkiness that this makes me inordinately happy.NaBloPoMo post #2
01 November 2006
My weekend junk store partner came bearing her own treasures to offer… a vase made by her very talented husband. He is pursuing a master’s degree in ceramics while she works at a production jewelry company and pursues her own art work in metals. Can you imagine the kind of amazing Halloween costumes their children will have one day? Cool Christmas gifts? Or science fair projects?
Anyway, I’m honored to display art work produced by friends. Maybe someday my friend will let me show off and brag about her own work that she is much too modest about.
On an entirely different level of creative production, I decided to go into my craft room/pit of destruction and pull out the first sewing project that I came across and get at it. Nothing like digging out a quilt that was promised to your brother years ago. And the really horrible thing is that I was able to complete the piecing in two nights at the machine. Oops, guess I shouldn’t have filed that one away for so long. I still have to finish tying this, but I may just have a finished gift to bring home at Christmas.
This is one of my favorite quilts to make. I made a large one for myself years ago and use it pretty much year round. I’ve made one as a wedding gift for another friend and have at least two more planned. It’s pretty much a no-brainer sewing project and you can feel good about making good use of old jeans that are too worn out for the Salvation Army. I hit the jackpot a few years ago and scored two garbage bags full of jeans for a quarter a piece so I’m set for a good while. If you’re on my Christmas list, you may just be getting a denim quilt under the tree…
And since I’m really trying to do this post-a-day month, I may just post instructions for this no-brainer, just for the heck of it. After all, Lone Knitter, you’re going to need some simple sewing projects when you convince your mom to give you her machine!
On a not really related note, it seems the commercial world has decided that since Halloween is officially over, it is time to bombarb us with messages about the holiday season and its all-too-quick approach. Actually, I saw Christmas cards at Target a few weeks ago, but they were discreetly displayed in the back of the store for the super-organized among us to start those letters. Today, I came across three Christmas internet ads while doing my usual poking around. Ugh. In my own little act of celebrating the giving aspect of the holidays while staving off the last-minute panicked run to the mall, I'm going to try to prepare and/or give a gift of some sort every day for the rest of the year. This may be getting together something for the numerous family and friend birthdays coming up as well as actual Christmas gifts or donating a "gift" to charity, be that a financial gift or an item to take to Goodwill. I must admit that this is partly a selfish act as it would be nice to start the new year with a lighter closet and a few checkmarks on my list of crafty projects that I'd like to make for others. Hopefully it will also keep my own urge to get into the holiday panic (and the accompanying credit card bills) at bay.
National Blog Posting Month Entry #1