13 July 2007

Sticking a Toe In the Water

Well, not exactly a sprint at this point...

I've started my Baudelaire socks for the Tour de France Knitalong. Started both of them at the same time, actually. And yes, if you look closely at the picture, you'll quickly realize that they don't match.

For once, that's on purpose.

Start number one involved my Sz. 1 Addis and the increases as specified in the pattern. And then it involved some disappointment. The yarn, needles and increases just weren't melding together in the kind of yumminess I was expecting. I'm using Koigu for the first time and I've got to say, so far I'm kinda disappointed. I was looking for 'sproingy' and I got 'crunchy.' The yarn seems really rough and tumble, especially as I was coming off some super soft Wooly Boully yarn that I'll show you later.

I decided to try the larger, pointier Sz. 2 Knitpicks and I'm much happier with the feel of the stitches, although there's still the crunch factor. Not to be a princess with a pea, but I don't like the feel on the needles.

Just for my records, I ended up increasing on every row as opposed to every other row and went up to 68 stitches. I like the fit of this toe but I probably should have done some straight stockinette rows before jumping into the lace, just to put the lace a little further away from the end.

I suppose I'm rather nonplussed at this point. I still really like the pattern, love the yarn color and am okay with the progress on the larger needles. I'm trying to meet some major writing deadlines in the next two weeks so in all honesty, it's likely I won't even get the first sock completed, let alone a pair. I wouldn't be surprised if I need to rip this first start and try a different combination of yarn and pattern. As wiser knitters than I have noted, ripping is just a chance to do more knitting and we like to knit.
I'm giving this project one more night to impress me before it goes into the break-up pile.
Anyone with Koigu experience? Does it soften up? Is the crunch a good factor in the final product? Am I just being overly-sensitive?

08 July 2007

Tour de France, Buffalo Style

Yesterday, a group of hot men in very tight pants set off from London for an intense test of endurance, will and physical prowess. Today in Buffalo, a girl in baggy jammies will plop herself down with her knitting needles for a frantic three weeks of sock knitting. Will she stick to her project or will she wander off the path to sample from the vines of other WIPs? Will she be able to navigate the tricky road of a sock pattern with multiple sizes? Will her fingers blister or her behind bruise as she races against the clock to put two new stockings on her toes?

Although the world will not be watching our version of le Tour, the knitters’ version of the race of races promises to be c’est magnifique. The pre-race blogging has already been impressive (a dictionary of French terms AND a catalogue of hotties to cheer for? Um, yum…). It sounds like the knitting is going to be even yummier.

I’m competing in the green jersey section, for speed. This will likely be the only time in my life I get to call myself a sprinter, so I’m enjoying every minute of it. My goal is to complete a pair of Baudelaire socks in Koigu. If I happen to enjoy a tail wind and complete those, I have some Sweetgeorgia sock yarn in the Paris colorway which I may also dip into. Or there’s always that French Market bag that I’ve wanted to do. But being realistic, completing the single pair of socks is likely a challenge enough for now.

As part of the race hoopla, our local paper ran an article with area bike tours. The second part of my race challenge is to complete at least two of these tours in the upcoming weeks. I’d like to do more, but as they require crossing into Canada and the bridges are being uptight about documentation, I may be confined to Stateside routes. Nonetheless, hopefully my Baudelaires will be displayed in a variety of scenery on their road to completion.

Happy knitting and riding!

06 July 2007

Giving Thanks

Although this isn’t the time of year set aside for giving thanks, I wanted to take a chance to thank Kathy from Pink Chalk Studio for the cutest little pincushion she sent my way. If she’s not already on your reading list, go visit her blog. Great pictures and tons of wonderful information. Her tutorials are amazing!

Now doesn’t that make you want to sit down with a nice cup of coffee and a quilt project? Hmm, might even inspire me to sit and sew down a binding on a quilt that needs to be gifted. If you’ve ever had to sew a binding on a flannel quilt in July, you’ll know that’s really saying something about the inspiring abilities of the pincushion!

I recently volunteered to do some test sewing on a new pattern that Kathy put out, the Note Taker.

This is a great project that I’d highly recommend to anyone interested in sprucing up her office supplies. As I was working, I was reminded of many of the Amy Butler projects from her recent book (for more reasons than just the need for Timtex), so if you’re a fan of Ms. Butler’s work, you’ll enjoy this one.

Unintentionally, I went into the stash and came out with the perfect Project Spectrum color scheme. I haven’t been doing a very good job of participating in this group but oh well, such is the crafty life.

I think I see more of these in my future. If you’re on my Christmas list, you might be seeing one of these in your future as well!
Just a few knitting notes:

* Today is the last day to sign-up for Mystery Stole 3. Go, go, go if you haven't already. Even if this isn't a good lace moment for you, give it a look-see. I plan to start this one around September 1 if anyone wants to do a late to the party unofficial knitalong.

* I think you have until tomorrow to sign up for the Tour de France Knitalong. You have three weeks to knit on anything "French," to be interpreted as you see fit. (Okay, I admit that I'm just in it to see all the pics of cute riders that they're posting!) I'll post about my plans tomorrow but wanted to give you the necessary links if you want to add some new groups to your list of things to do.

04 July 2007

How I Spent my Summer Vacation Contest

Not only was June my birthday month, but it also was my second blogiversary! In typical fashion, I think it’s time to celebrate these events and ignore the fact that I’m late to the party, even my own party.

I wanted to put something together to reflect the way I’ve been spending my summer without making this too stressful on anyone. Stress and summer just don’t get along, do they? (We’ll ignore my previous post where I confessed to be a stress ball 24-7…)

So the contest is simple. I have four prizes that I’ll be compiling this month. All you have to do to enter is leave a comment. You get an entry for every comment left between now and Wednesday, 25 July so come back often and visit my little corner o’ the internet. (My side of this bargain is to do my darndest to blog every day between now and then. I miss writing here when I go into hermit mode.)

What you want to know… the prizes…

I’ll be putting together packages around four themes. The contents will be determined somewhat by what I find in my shopping expeditions between now and the end of July and somewhat by what I think the winners would enjoy. Pics to come every now and then for inspiration.

How I Spent my Summer Vacation

Wreadin’ and Rightun’: You just can’t escape the book learnin’, even in the summertime. This prize will be the fun kind of book love and will include things like a pretty journal, some new pens, tea or coffee treats and a book I think the winner will enjoy. Don’t worry, I won’t give you Dickens unless you’re a sick and twisted individual like myself who likes big, fat books about misery and absurdity.

Craft Time: Didn’t you just love craft time at camp? Bring on the popsicle sticks, baby! Don’t worry, we’ve evolved and this prize will reflect the winner’s interests. Expect a handmade goodie or two and of course, supplies for your crafting hour (or seven).

Come on Baby, Work Your Body: Although I’m certainly not training as hard as some of you nuts (who are totally inspiring to me as I read your blogs and sip my latte in the air conditioning), I am trying to get out and about this summer. You won’t have to do sit-ups to earn this prize, but it will give your inner Jane Fonda a treat or two. There will be goodies for everyone, even if you prefer your exercise routine to focus on walking between the sewing machine and the ironing board.

Leavin’ on a Jet Plane: This summer I’m lucky enough to see our lovely country from sea to shining sea. For a Midwestern girl, any ocean sighting is a big deal, but two in a few months is pretty gosh darn exciting. This prize is still in the formulation stage, kinda like a summer vacation where you know where you’re going but have absolutely no idea what you’ll find when you get there. Possibilities include a gift from my upcoming travels to the Pacific, general travel supplies for your own journey, or a virtual vacation to my home turf by way of treats from Buffalo. Don’t worry, vegetarians, I won’t try to ship you any of our famous wings as personally, I can’t stand the nasty little buggers.

So, to kick things off, say “hi” and let me know how you’re spending your summer. Any goals or big projects? Exciting trips? Fun reads for the beach or pool?

03 July 2007

So You Say It's Your Birthday...

The beginning of wisdom is the beginning of discipline. ~Solomon

Last week I had the good fortune to usher in my thirty-first birthday. Unlike last year’s fete, this year I celebrated quietly with a night at home, knitting and thinking. I hope I didn’t put off my friends and family with my generally misanthropish nature, but I just felt like being alone with a clear calendar and some yarn.

So, in the spirit of my contemplative night home alone, I decided to indulge in a self-reflective post to get myself back into blogging.

The nice thing about a summer birthday is that it’s like a half-way point to check in on those New Year’s Goals, hit the restart button and get a fresh start when everyone else is in the midst of blowing diets at barbecues and sloughing off any self-improvement projects by spending hours lying at the pool. Not that I’m not doing those things too, but at least I get the chance to see how things are going and where I need to kick it into high gear.

So… about those goals…

Improve my Health

1. Go to a personal trainer once a week and exercise on my own during the week.

I’ve stuck with the trainer and have even kicked it up to twice a week for part of the summer, but the regular exercise hasn’t been happening as much as it should. There’s just always so much going on that I feel like I have to choose between work and the gym. I think this is just the nature of the grad school beast and I’m resigned to just hanging in there and working more on the workouts once the writing pressure eases a bit. So much for fitting into smaller jeans for fall…
2. Bring athletic activities such as biking, swimming and hiking into my regular routine.

Well, see above. I did buy my bike this spring and have been using it on my errands about town. I’m thinking about signing up for the Tour de France knitalong and making biking a certain number of miles part of my goal. Of course, this also corresponds with a writing deadline on July 29 so we’ll see if this actually pans out.

3. Devote time to regular meal planning and cooking.

Yeah, not so much. This is what fall is for, right? To be continued in September…

Improve my Intellect

1. Work on my dissertation at least one hour a day.

An hour? Only an hour? Out of necessity, this has taken over my life. I’m actually okay with that. I want it to be over, my advisor wants it to be over, my family wants it to be over, yeah, you get the picture. Write, write, write… then write some more.

2. Increase my professional activity with conference attendance and submission to journals.

I can’t really talk about it, but I got three big ol’ points in this area. If I really get going this week, I may even make some headway on a fourth. Still much more work to be done, but I feel like things are finally starting to move.

3. Read twelve non-dissertation books.

I have no idea where I stand on this goal. Do knitting and sewing books count? I did some reading while home in January and somewhere around here there’s a novel I started as a “fun” book. Who am I kidding? I think the only way this one is going to be checked off come December 31 is to revise it to say “Read 12 magazines, skipping the majority of the articles and only looking at the pretty pictures and make-up tips.” Oh well, next year…

Improve my Domestic Life

1. Avoid yarn and fabric purchases and minimize other expenses as much as possible.

I’ve done fairly well with avoiding shopping and purchases, especially of the crafty variety… except for that trip home in April when I went a little nutty with fabric sales. Oh, and except for that trip to Chicago when I found a great little yarn shop with a great sales bin… And I might have slipped up at the fabric shop in New Jersey… Basically, if I just stayed home, I’d be okay.

Honestly, this has been a big deal for me and something I’ve wasted a lot of thought upon. Since I started Ravelry, I’ve been slowly cataloguing the stash, a project which is either quite fun or quite disturbing. I feel guilty for having so much yarn and fabric, especially when I come across something that I honestly forgot I had. But… I also enjoy crafty purchases, especially unique finds like hand-dyed and specialty yarns or Kaffe Fassett prints that pop up here and there. I guess really I have a love/hate relationship with my stash but overall, I know I’ve cut down both my trips to JoAnn’s and my splurges at the regular yarn shops to nearly nothing so I’m pretty proud on this one. Eventually I’ll start to see a difference in the size of the stash… maybe.

2. Throw away or donate one item to charity every day.
3. Complete one cleaning or organizing task a day.

I’d put these things together as pretty hit or miss. I’ll get inspired and toss together a bag for Goodwill and then forget to drop it off until it sits in my car for a month. I’ve cleaned out a few dresser drawers or boxes in the storage room, but nothing consistently or nothing significant enough to really see or feel the progress. I’d love to just dive right in and start tearing apart my closets but at this point, I know I’m procrastinating more than cleaning. This will be something to work on over the next year. It really helps to think about the possibility of moving in a year as inspiration for at the very least, not adding more clutter to the chaos.

Improve my Overall Life

Search for happiness in every day, opening my eyes to new opportunities for joy wherever possible.

Nothing like a lofty goal hidden in simple language, right? In general, I feel my current attitude is better and I feel more optimistic, but eh, truth be told, on many most days I want to choke people, splurge on thousands of dollars of yarn and fabric and a million Oreos, and give up writing entirely to live a life of mystery and debauchery. I guess life at the moment is a constant struggle against stress. I’m a worrier by nature and being a grad student provides so many opportunities to run with that frame of mind. Will I finish the diss this year? Will I get a job? What do I need to do to improve my chances? Where will I live? How much weight should I lose to look nice in my interview suit? I need to eat healthier and cook more. Maybe organic, yeah, go organic. So expensive. How can I afford this? Must make more money. Can’t work any more hours and get writing done. Must cut expenses. What can be eliminated? Must list things on ebay. So much to be done, so much to be done. Oh, and friends and family… do they know I’m even alive? Add being social to the list… and blogging… and … and …

I’m really working to shut down that inner monologue of insanity but it really is a constant battle to shut it off. I guess it’s pretty obvious to any of you who read this that when I disappear from the blog, I’m not doing so well at turning down the volume on the stress voice in my head and I’m off freaking out somewhere. Best to be silent rather than subjecting you all to that, trust me!

But the thing that’s improved in the past year is that I can eventually shut it off. I can get myself in a complete tizzy and then jump out of it, at least to some degree. I’m learning when I need to be quiet and when I need to stay home by myself. I’m accepting that I will only be able to get to so many knitting and sewing projects a year, will only be able to workout so many hours a week, will only be able to keep up with my friends once in a blue moon, and will only be able to keep the apartment clean enough that the health department shouldn’t be called in for emergency evacuations. (Aren’t you glad that you’re just reading and not planning to visit?)

I'll always have more plans than hours in the day and more desires than energy or funds to make all those dreams come true. I suppose with age comes the wisdom to accept those unfulfilled desires as a sign that my resources are being devoted to those dreams which are truly important. It seems that for me, the process of maturing has been a process of choosing to let things go, give things up, release pressures and responsibilities. It seems counter-intuitive as we're supposed to increase our lives as we age, bringing in new pursuits and activities. That certainly has been the case to a certain degree as I've expanded my knowledge of the world and what it has to offer, but the moments which have made me feel truly "grown up" are those in which I've been able to say, "Thanks, but no thanks."

I suppose this is all in how you spin it as I could just as easily say that I'm focusing my life to become more specialized and skilled in my chosen pursuits. Rather than dabbling in a million crafts, I'm trying to improve my skills in just a few. In the place of training for a decathalon, I'm just working out enough to keep the heart pumping and the jeans fitting. Does it also work to say that instead of keeping up on email and maintaining a clean home, I'm becoming a messy hermit but choice? I suppose the idea of choosing your focus only goes so far...

Anyway, all in all, I’m pretty happy to be starting on 31, or at least as happy as a grumpy worrier in the midst of a dissertation can be!

And enough of me, I've got a contest to present, thanks to offer and some actual knitting content for the next post!