Thursday, March 30, 2006

Trying to Wing It

There are three rules for writing the novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are."
— W. Somerset Maugham

While I can not in good conscience call myself an experienced or adept knitter, I have amassed my small measure of skill in the five odd years since Terri taught me to cast on. I've made a few projects I'm quite pleased with: a sweater from Vogue Knitting, some lace scarves, a felted bag. I'm probably the most accomplished in my small knitting circle. And yet, there's something I've never managed to do, that even the most novice knitter can probably handle. I've never knit without a pattern.

It should be so easy. You cast on a few stitches, you go around a bit, you try things on, you keep going and then you stop. I see people who've just learned to knit making hats this way all the time. But unless I have that little road map in front of me, I can't even start the journey.

I'm not like this in all of my creative endeavors. In fact, in my writing, I can't outline or plot at all. I once tried to write a book with the entire plot written out in a detailed outline, as many published authors do and recommend doing. I wrote 30,000 words and abandoned the project. I was bored. I felt like I'd already written the book and was simply typing it out. When I wrote my just-completed first novel, I had the opening scene and few details about the characters in mind when I started. From there, I just wrote, and all the incidents that came later occurred to me, somehow, just before I wrote them.

A lot of knitters I know (some personally, some online, some through their writing) speak of knitting as a creative outlet for them, an expression of individuality and aesthetic principles. For me, it's something different. I feel I'm exercisingg my judgment and creative abilities when I write. Knitting is more of a meditative, physical thing. I love watching my project grow, physically, with each row. I love touching the yarn and seeing colors and patterns form.

Maybe that's why I don't feel a need to step away from the pattern. I like having a blueprint. I like that someone else took the time to plot and plan and count and calculate. For me, it's enough just to knit.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Dad-Take One with help from the FLITGIRL

" I neither knit, nor sew

I cannot tie a bow,but

I love my toastie toe socks.”

…Theresa’s Dad

In the spirit of full disclosure, I must start by stating, that I am not Theresa, I am merely her Dad.

Terri, as she is known to her family and grammar school through high school friends, or Theresa, as she is known to her Kindergarten and post high school friends, is currently in Copenhagen or Hamburg, depending upon the time of your reading this. (Her name preference at a demarcating stage of her life actually helps us out quite a bit, as we can tell the chronological dating of her relationships by how someone addresses her.)

She is buying a car in Sweden, factory direct, much akin to visiting the Alpaca that contributed to her hat. As you can tell from her itinerary, that includes stops in New Jersey, Denmark, Germany, Sweden, the Netherlands and Scotland. The journey is as important as the destination.

Since I am not a creator of hand-crafted woolens, but a fortunate recipient, my perspective is different from that of most of this blog’s readers.

The love, beauty, time, tenderness and thought that she weaves into each of her beautiful and unique works of art are relived each time I put on one of my socks (I own 2 pair, #53 and #91). I faithfully wear each pair once a week. Each week at least twice, I am reminded that I am loved by someone in Rhode Island. At first, I was afraid to wear them… worried about wearing them out, staining them, sweating in them…but then, I remembered the Neruda ode that Terri enclosed with my first pair: is beauty twice over

and good things are doubly good

when you are talking about a pair of

wool socks in the dead of winter.”

P. Neurda

High Maintenance? Just because I wear a BROWN MED hat!

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Meet the Cast

Go through your phone book, call people
and ask them to drive you to the airport.
The ones who will drive you are your true friends.
The rest aren't bad people; they're just acquaintances.
-Jay Leno

Thanks for all your good wishes for safe travel. I'll be sure to have a good time, and I'll be back in two weeks. In the meantime, you guys are going to be having a great time at Knitting Underway. I have such an exciting schedule of guest bloggers lined up for you I almost don't want to leave. (That was a lie. But they are exciting.) There will be a new post every other day or so, and I hear rumors of superfun posts in the works, so stay tuned and leave encouraging comments. I've given them access to the blog and free rein to say whatever (family-friendly) things they'd like to say, so I'm taking the liberty of some introductions.

Meet the Cast

My Parents: You've met them here before through my knitting (Mom and Dad), and now you're about to meet them in a whole new way. I have great parents. Really, the best. But you'll find that our for yourselves soon. And the fact that my mom, who isn't the world's biggest computer person, is actually tackling this blog posting thing, well that's just more proof that I have the best parents ever. Remember one thing, however: No matter what they tell you, Hannah is a high-maintenance dog.

The Flitgirl: Flitgirl and I met in 6th grade when she borrowed a library book from me and made it overdue. It wasn't an auspicious beginning, but when someone threw a piece of bread into our 7th grade social studies classroom, well, that was it. We've been best friends ever since; I even taught her to knit. She writes for magazines, her novel, and her own blog, and is currently sunning herself in the Carribean with her fiance, so be sure to ask her how the trip was. (And if she tries to write embarrassing things about me, remind her about all those photos I have from the early years and especially from that time in Verona, Italy . . .)

Shosh: My randomly-assigned freshman roommate is proof that I was born under a lucky star. How many of you became best friends with your freshman roommate? In fact, the last time I went to Europe, Shosh and I caused a traffic jam in Seville (or was it Cordoba?), got offered a ride on a garbage truck, and ran through the streets of Madrid at 5am, at which point she saved my life by keeping me from falling onto the subway tracks. Good thing I'm so much older and, er, wiser now, right? So is she. Shosh is a rabbinical student, and while she neglected her knitting for a while to crochet kippot, she's coming back to it. I'll let her tell you all about. But don't let her forget that I taught her how to knit.

Kate D.: Another best friend from college, Kate and I shared everything. Books, classes, a cooking group, an obsession with Joshua Lawrence Chamerlain, and even double-blind dates (don't ask). Still, I could never convince her to knit. (She did wind my hanks into balls for me, though. That was nice.) I tried again when I went to Seattle to visit her, but to no avail. She's plenty crafty in other ways, however, and made me all those lovely sock boxes. She's finishing up student teaching, writing a novel, and shares a blog with Flitgirl. In fact, I introduced from friend from forever and my friend from college. I think they met, what, twice? Three times? And then they started a blog without me. That may be why I started my own. Ironic that they're not guest blogging, isn't it?

I'm A Winner

I was waiting for some sun to take these photos, but it looks like I'm going to have to wait another two weeks (especially given the weather reports in northern Europe these days). LOOK at what Leah sent me! I won a contest on her blog during the Knitting Olympics and she sent me some lovely Lorna's Laces. She also sent me some chocolate which us, uh, unavailable for the photo shoot. Don't ask me why.

What a treat. As you've noticed, I've already cast on. I'm thinking Pomatomus. By the next time you see me, I might be wearing these.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

The State of the Knitting

For we seek not the worldwide victory of one nation or system
but a worldwide victory of man. The modern globe is too small,
its weapons are too destructive, and its disorders are too contagious
to permit any other kind of victory.
- John F. Kennedy, State of the Union, 1963

All rise! The President of the Knitting States!

[Applause and handshakes on both sides of the aisle as the President makes her way to the front.]

Voiceover of reporter #1: We see the President is widely cheered and welcomed at this momentous State of the Knitting Address this Year.
VOR#2: Yes, Bob, but do you think it will last? After years of being known as a domestic president, she is about to embark upon a six nation goodwill yarn-buying tour.
VOR#1: The President brings the name of the Knitting States of America to all those around the world who look to us as the torch-bearer of knitting freedom.

[President reaches podium and motions for applause to die down before speaking.]

Madam Speaker, Madam Vice-President, Justices of the Supreme Court, and my fellow Knittarians. I come before you tonight to tell you that the State of Knitting is Good. [Applause.] For four years we have focused - and focused hard - on our domestic lives and policies and have been richly rewarded. In addition, we have cultivated good relations with our great neighbor to the north based on their wonderful wool traditions and favorable exchange rate. Tonight we will do two things. First, let us examine the ongoing knitting projects that are maintaing our reputation for greatness and moving us forward into the twenty-first knitting century. [Applause]

It is the time of the red sweater, and the two in progress are progresing nicely, thanks to the hard work of our Kniti-Corps Volunteers. These courageous young people have made incredible progress, completing both sleeves and nearly all of the right front of Trellis, and both sleeves and the entire cardigan body of Rogue up to the armhole shaping. Not only have they knit so much, but they have made important changes, such as making the twisted stitches in Trellis mirror images around the central cable, and adjusting Rogue for serious row gauge issues. Please recognize our Kniti-Corps volunteers for their success in perpetutating the cable-enhanced red cardigan as a bulwark of Western civilization. [President points to the knitters in the gallery. Applause.] The future is bright with these young knitters willing to work so hard for their country.

Even more than red cabled cardigans, socks are the marker of a great nation. Ever since Valley Forge - when the heroic revolutionaries under George Washingknit fought so bravely with their cold feet - we have worn socks as a marker of all that we stand for. Warm feet and a warm heart.
The Friday Harbor socks are almost completed, and will be worn on my upcoming international tour as a symbol of the beauty of the Knitting States of America. The yarn is from Montana, the pattern inspired by Washington State, and they were knit entirely in the good old K.S. of A. The "Plain Joe" socks are a simple 2x2 ribbing, an affirmation of the solid, middle-class foundation that makes this country great. They progress slowly but surely when we need to ground ourselves. The Chalet Socks are a bit fancier, a Knittarian adaptation of European traditions that pays homage to the blend of old and new. And the Argyle socks blend several other knitting traditions, and remind us that we still face challenges ahead. The State of the Knitting may be Good, but there is always room for improvement.

As befits a good-will tour of our future allies, I will be wearing Am Kamin [Applause] and Rosedale in Denmark, Germany, Sweden, Norway, the Netherlands, and Scotland. I will be knitting lace. [Applause] The lace of Branching Out. The long-neglected lace of the Cashmere Leaf Lace Scarf. And an entirely new Rose Trellis Stole. But I will not neglect our historical mission to reinvigorate the tradition of handknit socks around the world. I will be knitting Birch Leaf Lace Socks and possibly Pomatomus as I spread a message of world peace through knitting. For the only thing brighter than our past is our future, and it is a future that we face together with our wool-wearing allies. [Applause]

May God Bless Us, and God Bless the Knitting States of America. [Applause]

VOR#1: A record number of applauses in that speech!
VOR#2: What an honest summary and a creative vision for the future of the Knitting States of America!
VOR#1: What can the Crochet Party possibily have to say in return? Stay tuned for their response after this message from our sponsors.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Aunti Meme

Tag! You're it!
-Playgrounds everywhere

I posted late yesterday, but go back and help me with my hems.

So, you may have noticed that I'm not all about memes. But this one is actually about knitting (and knitting blogs) and is just a rocking good time.

Check out the rules at Jen and La, and then join in - they've tagged the whole world.

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1. A blog which you think people have not discovered: Twin Knit
Jennie in Appalachia has cool knitting that she displays against a backdrop of moutains and waterfalls and other gorgeousness . . . and she also has a really cool life. She goes contra dancing and buys cakes in decorated boxes.

2. A blog whose author lives close to you physically. Just get as close as you can, it’s all relative: Silver Arrow Knits.
I got a really fun email a couple of weeks ago from a college friend. She was at work (at the hospital where I spend too much time) and surfing knitting blogs instead of working . . . and she surfed onto mine and realized that we knew each other. I didn't even know she knit - how fun is that?

3. An unusual or weird animal picture: None.
I feel morally obliged to sit this one out. There are plenty out there without me calling attention to them.

An entry that made you laugh and got you strange looks from family or co-workers: Oscar Knit at Knit and Plenty.
Check out this spoof on the Oscars - "Good Knit and Good Luck," "Stash," and "Berocco Mountain" are all competing for honors. Too funny.

5. An idea you wish you’d thought of: The Knitting Olympics.
It opened up a whole world of competitive knitting to me. I love it.

6. Something you’d like to knit: Everything at Have sticks, will travel . . .
I'm giving you the general link to Marina's blog instead of to a specific post, because it's guaranteed to be something phenomenal, and probably involving stranded colorwork. This woman is amazing - every post involves not one but three different works of art in progress. I feel so inadequate.

7. A picture of something you consider beautiful: Frost Flowers Shawl by See Eunny Knit!
This has been in the back of my mind for a while, but the seafoam green (the color of my mom's bridesmaids' dresses) in the pattern doesn't come close to Eunny's deep claret version. This also qualifies for "Something I'd like to knit," but the photos are also just stunning.

8. A blog whose author you’d like to one day meet in person: Knit 'n Lit.
There are so many bloggers I'd love to meet in person, but Jenn and I came soclose to meeting a week or so ago that now I feel cheated.

And I'd be remiss if I didn't mention A Little Loopy.
I'm moving to San Diego this June, but I've been living vicariously through their blogs until then. They went skiing recently and wore sweaters - doesn't that sound promising?

9. A blog of someone you have already met in person: Lickety Knit.
Proof that technology can bring us together: I met Rachel when she found Team College Hill and quickly became a star addition. The good times have continued - last week we got together at her house and knit while her husband and his band played their acoustic stringed instruments downstairs. See how much better my life is because of Rachel?

And because I need two for this one: Med Student Who Knits.
Kristin and I met at a Yarn Harlot book signing last year, and it turns out we have lots in common. Like we're med students. And we knit. (She stole the title first.) We have big plans to meet up again soon.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Topsy Turvey

Each time I see the Upside-Down Man
Standing in the water,
I look at him and start to laugh,
Although I shouldn't oughtter.
For maybe in another world,
Another time
Another town,
Maybe HE is right side up
And I am upside down.
-Shel Silverstein, "Reflection"

In one of the heady early days of Team College Hill, when we had just met Rachel and we were knitting furiously, giddily, with a single common purpose (and chocolate), before our illusions were shattered by the trauma of Cutting Edge 2: Going for the Gold, way back in February, Rachel and I talked socks.

She's making her second pair now (in the Gryffindor sock yarn - I am so jealous! It's sold out everytime I try. See the "0" available?), and back in the day she asked me how I made my socks. I was very clear: top down, heel flap, French (half-handkerchief) heel, wide toe. Minimal variation for the occasional historically-accurate version in a Nancy Bush pattern, but that was it.

Meet the socks that turned my world upside down:
Little Arrowhead Lace Socks
Pattern: Little Arrowhead Lace Pattern, by Nancy Bush (free online)
Yarn: Artyarns Supermerino in pink varigated
Needles: Brittany Birch US 3 dpns
Notes: I changed the top to a picot hem, the heel to a short row heel, and then, because I was sitting in a history lecture and feeling extra-spicy, I did my first-ever short row toe. Awesome.
Best Thing About This Project: Do you think Susan likes them? I'd say so.

Check out the cute cute grafting along the toe:

I love grafting. It boggles the mind that I can sew a row of knitting. And it works. (And I love the macro funciton on my camera. How cool is that?)

But I do have a problem:
What's up with this hem? (And every other hem of my recent provenance?) Why does it stick out at a funny angle perpendicular from the sock? I thought it would get better with blocking, but it didn't fix it all the way.

Anyone with experience with hems - of any sort - please help. I'm in the middle of a major life change (with regards to sock knitting), and I can't do it alone.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

I Can't Stop

Live your life, do your work, then take your hat.
-Henry David Thoreau

I think I have issues with small, round objects. Remember the Christmas ornaments?

Meet the Strawberry Hats:

You know the ones - the Ann Norling pattern. It's incredibly popular, and for all the right reasons. It's supereasy, supercute, and a hit at any baby shower. It's always good to have a few little gifts stashed away, and I thought I should actually use some stash yarn before the Stashalong ends.

It's the perfect marriage of convenience: while not very romantic, plenty of progeny. So far we have an heir and a spare. And there may be more to follow.

ETA: You may notice some new contributors on the sidebar - I'm getting ready for a trip and preparing some special blog suprises for you. All will be revealed in the fullness of time. . . . like next week.

Monday, March 20, 2006

About That Color Thing . . .

Souls have complexions too: what will suit one will not suit another.
-George Eliot, Middlemarch

So what was it I was saying yesterday about not participating in Project Spectrum?From 12 o'clock: a Strawberry Hat, Rogue, Branching Out, and Trellis.

Sense a theme here?

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Still Knitting Along

I have always let friendship lapse into well-wishing acquaintanceship when there is a dailure to observe that certain things should be hot - as tea, coffee, curry, most dinner plates, sitting-room fires, heating pipes in winter, and especially bath water.
-Doris Langley More, Pleasures

And this week, we have a new and exciting knit along to add to the list - check the bottom! With Doris Langley More (British socialite, early 20th c.), I believe that certain things should be hot enough to grab your attention, and knitalongs fall into that category for me. I love seeing all the Project Spectrum stuff around blogland (and everything I'm currently knitting is either red or pink), but color isn't my game, so to speak, so I'm sitting that one out.

And with that editorial comment, here's the weekly-ish knitalong update:

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I have some new stash projects this week - my Branching Out for Purls of Love and some hats you'll see tomorrow. I'm determined that my stash will at least LOOK smaller by the end of these three months of not buying yarn. . . although I love Lynda's suggestion that if we want new stash without buying new yarn, maybe we should lay down a nice blanket in front of the fire, open a good bottle of wine, and look for interesting merino-silk or mohair-cotton blended offspring.

Count Your Socks
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Add one more to my tally! I finished my 92nd pair of socks last week, but now that they've reached their destination I can blog about them. For now, you can see them at Susan's blog. I'll do an FO post this week.

Knit the Classics
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Reading: Yann Martel's Life of Pi. This may come to Europe with me next week, because I don't think it's happening before then. Or maybe I should skip ahead to Moll Flanders for April? With so much history reading (3+ books a week), I'm clearly having trouble keeping up with this knitalong at the moment.
Knitting: I'll come up with a project when I start reading.

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I changed my pattern to the Chalet Socks from Folk Socks. I even have a photo, just for Stephanie, who really really wants a pair of her own. That would be sock one on your right. Since then, I've actually turned the heel, so it's progressing. No hurry; I have until May.

Sock Yarn Addicts Club

Here's my newest knitalong. So new it doesn't even start until April 1st. It's a support group of sorts for those of us with a little, er, problem with sock yarn. I've heard rumors that some of us (not naming any names, of course) have enough sock yarn to knit more than 30 pairs of socks. Or maybe have 6 socks on the needles simultaneously. I, um, er, don't know anyone like that. She'd be really weird, wouldn't she? The best part is that I'm going to be in the mecca of all sock yarn - Germany - the last week of March. Is it wrong to stock up on more sock yarn before starting a sock yarn reduction project?

Friday, March 17, 2006

The Wearing o' the Green; or Kiss Me, I'm Irish

I arise today through
the strength of Heaven,
the rays of the sun,
the radiance of the moon,
the splendor of fire,
the speed of lightening,
the swiftness of the wind,
the depth of the sea,
the stability of the earth,
the firmness of rock.
-St. Patrick's Breastplate

I have knitting to talk about, but St. Patrick's Day is a grand holiday all over, the blog included, so we'll celebrate with some photos of me wearing the green. I mean, if the bishop gives us a dispensation from Lenten Friday observances, surely we can take a little break here.Rachel was kind enough to help me out when I realized that all of my modeled photos of Am Kamin involved a gold medal. So for posterity, here's my green as it it usually seen on the Main Green on campus.

Wear your green, and kiss me, I'm Irish.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Branching Out

Life is the first gift, love is the second, and understanding the third.
-Marge Piercy

You've all heard of Branching Out, the lovely simple lace scarf from Knitty a while back, right? It's taken me about a year to get around to it, but a pattern this classic never goes out of style. I'm using Madil Kid Seta in a lovely pink that I had left over from the Cherry Blossom shawl (Interweave Knits Spring 2002) that I made my sister a couple of years ago. This is the equivalent of the infamous Kid Silk Haze, a silk and mohair blend that is truely otherworldy. It is lovely, although it takes some getting used to, especially on US 8s for a laceweight yarn. As I said, I've had this lone ball of leftover yarn, saw the pattern, and stuck them in a bag together for the better part of a year. I had no particular reason to make this scarf. Until now.

Enter Sarah and Judy Brady and Purls of Love. Sarah writes about their purpose more eloquently than I can:

After my mother’s recovery from cancer in 2001, our lives began to slowly return to a certain and welcomed sense of normalcy. With the gift of survivorship, however, came the realization that our worldview was forever altered. Out of the basic need to demonstrate our support to other women with cancer, the beginnings of Purls of Love was born.

We knew from our experience how powerful a simple gesture could be. We decided to knit scarves, from funky to functional, and to give these scarves to women undergoing chemotherapy. We wanted each scarf to be as beautiful and unique as the women who would wear them.

I've always struggled with the idea of knitting for charity. I like to knit for people who appreciate it (especially myself). If people need hats to keep their heads warm, it makes more sense to me to buy a whole bunch of warm hats more cheaply and more quickly than I could make them. But now, with Branching Out, I'm branching out into knitting for others.

Purls of Love is not just about staying warm. The very point is that it is a handmade scarf, a sign of someone caring enough to give the work of their hands. It's not that women undergoing cancer therapy get cold necks; it's that they need to feel like women rather than guinea pigs, like humans rather than patients. The gift of a handknit scarf - practical or frivolous - acknowledges that humanity and the woman as distinct from her disease. A scarf has nothing whatsoever to do with cancer, and therein lies the beauty of the gift.

I'm making lace. I hope you'll join me.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

The Socks Go to the Shaker Village

My life goes on in endless song
Above earth's lamentations.
I hear a real tho' far off hymn
That hails a new creation.

Through all the tumult and the strife,
I hear its music ringing.
It sounds an echo in my soul.
How can I keep from singing?
-"How Can I Keep From Singing,"
Traditional Shaker Hymn

On Saturday, Katja and I decided to take the socks to the Canterbury Shaker Village (NPS link) in Canterbury, NH.

Here's Friday Harbor (on the left) and Katja's stockinette stitch sock (on the right) enjoying the historical buildings:
Shakers were known for the self-supporting nature of their communities and had many workshops and farm buildings, in addition to residences. A large community such as that at Canterbury would also be divided into distinct families who lived and dined together.

Dangling before the whitewashed fence:
Shaker communities were known for their order and cleanliness, as is their furniture.

Reclining on the stairs of the meeting house:
Shaker worship services were renowned for their singing and dancing.

And, of course, enjoying the medicinal herb gardens:
Shakers were the first to package seeds in little paper bundles for sale.

As for the contest, several people got the Shaker connection, and several of those were specific enough to realize that this was the Canterbury, NH Shaker village. Rachel was the first to guess Canterbury, and Jenn and Nikki followed her with that. But Erica (do you have a blog?) emailed me with the results of her extensive research: And I'm not entirely certain, but my best guess as to the specific place the socks are is the fence surrounding the Dwelling House. How close did I get? I hadn't realized anyone would get close enough to identify the fence. Erican also informed me that it was sheep-shearing day in Canterbury when I was there - how did I miss that? Way to go Erica!

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Lord, I Was Born a Ramblin' Man

Trying to make a living, just trying the best I can. -Allman Brothers

While we're all trying to guess where my socks are traveling these days (if you haven't, go enter yesterday's contest), let's look at some other traveling socks. I started these when I was in Norfolk, finished the first sock in Seattle, knit them through Christmas in Pennsylvania, and (finally) finished the second sock in Providence. Not only that, but the stitch pattern is one of traveling stitches. Isn't that clever?

Canal du Midi Socks
Pattern: Knitting on the Road by Nancy Bush
Yarn: Lanett Superwash 100% merino fingering weight in pale blue
Needles: US 1 dpns
Notes: My first star toe - supercute.
Best Thing About This Project: The way you can read the pattern off the socks once you've set up the repeats. It's just like carrying a pattern with you, but one less thing to lose. Perfect for traveling.

Stay tuned tomorrow for the exciting conclusion to "guess where my socks have been." Competition is tight - this one might come down to the wire!

Monday, March 13, 2006

Guess Where

Hands to work and hearts to God.
-Attribution to follow

Who can guess where my Friday Harbor socks are reclining?

Saturday I took a little road trip to enjoy a beautiful winter-spring New England day and see a beautiful, classic New England site. It's within a day's drive (return trip, too) of Providence, RI, the Mountain Colors Weavers' Wool really liked being above sea level, and we went even though it was closed for the season.

Let's make this a contest. Leave your answer in the comments or email me at knittingunderway AT gmail DOT com by noon on Wednesday, and I'll send a little fibery prize to whomever can guess. Be as specific as you can. Persons (ahem, Katja) with inside knowledge because maybe they were there, too, should not comment.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

I Knit and I Vote

There never will be complete equality until women
themselves help to make laws and elect lawmakers.
-Susan B. Anthony

I do not believe that women are better than men.
We have not wrecked railroads, nor corrupted legislature,
nor done many unholy things that men have done;
but then we must remember that we have not had the chance.
-Jane Addams, 1931 Nobel Peace Prize recipient

I knit and I vote. So what is it that has my ire? Sknitty and Knit'n Lit Jenn pointed me in the directin of this article by the political director of NOW (National Organization for Women):

Why Not Take Up Knitting? Looking Ahead to the 2006 Elections

By Linda Berg, Political Director

Are you tired of complaining about corrupt, unprincipled members of Congress? Do you cringe every time you hear George W. Bush or Dick Cheney's voice on the radio? Have you taken a new interest in the crossword puzzle since the front page news seems to deteriorate daily? With George Bush in the White House, Congress controlled by the right wing, and the Supreme Court possibly lost for a generation, why not take up knitting?

Do I somehow lose the ability to stay abreast of current events because I'm knitting as I'm reading my newspaper and listening to NPR? I don't think so. I'd argue quite the opposite: That knitting - as both a creative, expressive act and as a communal activity - actually increases my social capital. It makes me more - not less - involved in my community, a community that is local, national, virtual, and global. It gives me a community that spans lines of class, race, national origin, education, religion, and fiber preferences. I'm not knitting to avoid the political-social-economic realities of my day. I'm knitting to engage them. If the assertion of the 20th c. feminist movement is correct - that the personal is political - then I'm knitting as a political act, as a statement as to the worth of the human person and the work one woman can create with her hands. And if feminism, that radical notion that women are as equal as men, is about choice, then I choose to knit. Because I like it.

The only way for a woman, as for a man, to find herself,
to know herself as a person, is by creative work of her own.
There is no other way.
-Betty Freidan, 20th c.

And for the extended entry (except that I can't do that in Blogger):

A historical note to read if you're interested in some great links, and because I've been reading a lot of 19th c. American history this semester:

The American women's suffrage movement spent a lot of time claiming that granting women the franchise would fundamentally change politics, make it cleaner and more genteel and a better forum for reforming the vices of a degraded industrial capitalist society. (And their opponents agreed, and thus opposed them.) Time and time again, first in the Western states, then on a national level, this proved not to be the case. (Especially interesting in then-polygamous Utah which granted female suffrage in the 1870s.) Women vote, it turns out, just like men. (In fact, for several reasons, they vote more than men.) Women tend to vote not as bloc of women voters, but as church-goers, Southerners, African-Americans, liberal-listeners-of-NPR, environmentalists, and especially, given the feminization of poverty, wage earners.

I resent the assertion that only women should be concerned for women's rights or "women's issues." If women as workers brings down the average wage to below a living wage, it lowers the average wage for men as well. This was as true in 1836 when the seamstresses went on strike as it is today. Reproductive issues - in the absence of ground-breaking new modes of conception I have not yet heard of - clearly involve men as well as women. Women serving in the military and whether they serve in combat or non-combat roles and their safety in military institutions - clearly, these are not simply women's issues. Even something as apparently self-evident as the Equal Rights Amendment was opposed by feminists who contended that it would subject women to the draft.

Friday, March 10, 2006

It's Here

There are two mistakes you can make along the road to truth:
Not going all the way and not starting.
-Gautama Siddharta (Buddha)

It's here. The post-Olympic startitis. We all knew it would be coming sooner or later.

You know what I'm talking about, right? Casting on project after project, knitting a few rows, a border or two, maybe even a whole repeat, but then always moving onto the next thing. Happens every now and again, right? (This, by the way, is my greatest defense of my stash. How else can you start a new scarf at 2am?)

So what have I started?
  1. Ann Norling's Strawberry Hat in Sugar and Cream cotton
  2. Friday Harbor socks from Knitting on the Road in Mountain Colors 4/8 Weaver's Wool
  3. Trellis from Knitty in bright red Cotton Ease for a baby boy due this May
  4. Reverse Bloom Washcloth from Weekend Knitting/IK
  5. the second Checks and Charms mitten to match this hat
I'll take a group photo if the sun ever comes out. I'm off for my first daytime shift in the ED, which should be a nice change from all the trauma and general craziness at night (or so I can hope). Oh, and our weekly KAL update? I think I might follow Marina's lead and move it to Sunday. Friday just doesn't seem to be working. Stay tuned.

Thursday, March 09, 2006


Feeling and longing are the motive forces behind
all human endeavor and human creations.
-Albert Einstein

I'm so jealous.Here's my Olympic teammate Katja and a small fraction of her new yarn. This is, I believe, Jameson's Shetland with an idea to make some fair isle - a hat and mittens, perhaps. Really, it is Stash. Yarn bought because it's good yarn and it's on sale and someday, somewhere, somehow you might get around to making something from it.

I haven't bought yarn (except 2 skeins of sock yarn on the free day) in something like 10 weeks, which I'm fairly certain is a record. I even missed a 40% going out of business sale. This is getting desperate. (The fact that I seem to have just as much yarn as ever is entirely not the point. Clearly, it's reproducing on it's own.)

How much longer is this Stashalong?

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

A Swinger of Birches

I'd like to go by climbing a birch tree,
And climb black branches up a snow-white trunk
Toward heaven, till the tree could bear no more,
But dipped its top and set me down again.
That would be good both going and coming back.
One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.
-Robert Frost, "Birches"

I have a book of Robert Frost's poems illustrated by black and white photographs of New England - a beautiful book, the kind that it almost doesn't matter what's inside because it is so beautiful by itself it can stand alone, be it's own justification.

That's how I feel about my Brittany Birch knitting needles. The smooth, hard wood, the lovely turned points and the size carved in, both US and metric. Ideal for wool or cotton, they may not be as fast as my Addis, but the pleasure they add to the knitting more than makes up for it. With my Brittany's, I come as close as I ever close to that Zen-like, relaxed, one-with-the-knitting state other people seem to acheive so effortlessly. I use the 10" straights for sweaters, scarves, and anything else that size I'm knitting flat. I use the dpns for nearly all of my socks.

Maybe it's because I use them so much, maybe it's because wood is not as strong as metal, but sometimes I break a needle or damage a tip. It happened on my Lantern Moon needles, once I pulled the cord out of the needle on a set of bamboo circulars while in the White Mountains for a ski trip - miles and miles from the nearest yarn store - and I've even damaged my Addis by getting them caught in the car door and bending the metal. But when I damage my Brittany Birches (normal use only, not in car door incidents), I email the company and they send me replacements. Over the years, it's mostly been a couple of dpns here are there - US1s and 2s - but recently they sent me a whole new pair of US 5 10" straights after I wrote telling them about the chips in the wood in the points and how it was snagging my yarn. A whole clean new pair to replace the damaged pair. When they say guaranteed, they mean guaranteed.

What a great company. What great needles. Doesn't that make you happy?

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Sometimes, I Knit

It is of great importance to begin well.
-John Adams to Abigail Adams, June 1776

For a change of pace, today we're going to discuss knitting. As in knitting that I've been doing. Recently, not several weeks ago.* Incredible, right?

I've actually been doing an incredibly small amount of knitting since the Olympics. I think it's a combination of crazy ER shifts, papers to write, and what I can only call post-competition recovery. It's not a physical recovery - my hands were feeling fine by the closing ceremonies - it's more a let-down, a sense that nothing on my to-knit list is pressing, nothing is in a hurry, and I can't really decide what I feel like knitting.

So what do you knit when you feel like knitting but don't know what you feel like knitting?

Socks.The socks you see above you no longer exist. The corrollary, in my life, to doing very little knitting in the past week is that I've ripped pretty much everything I've knit. At least twice. Above you see the beginnings of my sockapaloooza socks. A Cascade Lace pattern from an old Cast On in some lovely blue Sisu. Nice pattern. Nice yarn. Such a waste together. The Sisu is a Norwegian sockyarn with a hard twist, and it just wasn't loving being a summer lace sock. It really wants to be twisted. As in Bavarian twisted stitch patterns. As in the Chalet Socks from Folk Socks. I was wearing mine yesterday when I decided to rip, and it just spoke to me. I think I've been inspired by Stephanie's. I'll show you something when it's more than 6 rows of 2x2 ribbing.

(Actually, I think it really wants to be stranded colorwork, but I'm the adult here. It's going to be twisted stitches, and it's going to like it.)

There are other socks on the needles - a supersecret-superspecial-surprise pair that I can't show you (Marina - that's what I'm making with my Stashalong free day purchase), those d*&*^d argyles that Chris won't let me forget, and a lovely pair of the Birch Leaf Lace socks from A Gathering of Lace by (who else?) Nancy Bush for my Team College Hill teammate Katja. So the answer to any question today is socks. (And for Lynda, our sock counting maestra, that'll take me up to 95 pairs when done.)

*Apparently, I wasn't very clear when I presented Winter Folly as a finished object yesterday and some of you got the impression that I knit that in the last two days. I knit it in January and early February and finished it the day before the Olympics. I've been wearing it ever since.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Winter Follies, Spring Flings

A little madness in the Spring
Is wholesome even for the King.
-Emily Dickinson

Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls, without further ado, please put your hands together for the lovely, the talented, the incomparable Winter Folly:This is Winter Folly's debut into cyberspace as a completely finished sweater, but through no fault of my own. She is a busy sweater, difficult to pin down to a single location long enough to snap some photographs. She looks great with jeans, khakis, and gray trousers, is appropriate for every situation from casual to dressy, and appears to be suited to a wide range of temperatures. Her alpaca-ness is soft and warm, but her 3/4 sleeves and laciness make sure she doesn't get overheated under the bright lights of stardom. In short, ladies and gentlemen, this is a sweater that can - and does - go everywhere and do anything.

Winter Folly
Pattern: #2 from Vogue Knitting Fall 2004
Yarn: Classic Elite Inca Alpaca, 7 1/2 skeins for 37" size
Needles: Brittany Birch US 5s, and, briefly, Lantern Moon US 5s (remember the tragedy?)
Notes: The pattern is a disaster. Knits and purls are reversed on the chart - with no errata posted! The number of rows in the pattern repeats are 10, 16, and 18 - if I were writing a knitting pattern, they would line up better for ease of knitting, as I don't think the appearance is much affected. I posted about my frustrations with the pattern here and here, and others have told me that many Vogue patterns are similiarly nonsensical.
Best Thing About This Project: As my sister put it when convincing me to move it to the top of my list, this sweater is so "me." And it is.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Oscar Knit!

When the Academy called, I panicked. I thought they might want their
Oscars back, and the pawn shop has been out of business for a while.
-Woody Allen

Go visit Knit and Plenty and cast your ballot for Oscar Knit. Any contest that involves Berroco Mountain and Good Knit and Good Luck is bound to be down to the wire!

Saturday, March 04, 2006

A Day Late and a Dollar Short

It's never too late to be who you might have been.
-George Eliot

Didn't I tell you that this week was going to be all about recovery from the Knitting Olympics? Blog maintenance, etc. Well, that was before I spent my whole week confusing my circadian rhythms with overnights in the ER. But we'll get there. We have a couple of KALs for the Scrapbook this week, so I'll try to do them justice in our weekly knitalong update.

The Knitting Olympics
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You've heard so much about the fabulous Team College Hill and our Knitting Olympic spirit. For anyone joining us now, here are the photos of our gold-medal projects, and a tour of the February archives is pretty much all Olympics, all the time.

Crossed in Translation
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My Olympic gold-medal winning sweater was Am Kamin for the Crossed in Translation knitalong. Many thanks to Cara at January One for introducing this sweater to the knitting world. I love it more than words can say. Final comments are here, but don't be suprised if it shows up in every photo of me you ever see. It's that amazing.

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Still stash-alonging . . . So why isn't my stash getting any smaller? I keep knitting and knitting, and the big bin of yarn in my (non-working) fireplace doesn't seem to get any smaller. How does that work?

Count Your Socks
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Add one more to my tally! I finished my 91st pair of socks for my dad's birthday. The Gentleman's Fancy Socks from Knitting Vintage Socks. I've said it before, I'll say it again. I want to start a Nancy Bush fan club. One of these days, I just might.

It's Not A Gift
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Jenn is closing this post-holiday Knitalong. Since I've knit almost exclusively for myself since Christmas, I think I more than held up my end of the Not a Gift bargain. It's been all about lovely sweaters for myself:
Thanks, Jenn, for the excuse to knit for myself!

Knit the Classics
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Reading: I completely skipped February. Remember the Olympics? But March is going to be a good month for reading. The novel is Yann Martel's Life of Pi (hey Amanada - I borrowed it from your bookshelf), which I've been hearing about for a while.
Knitting: I'll come up with a project when I start reading.

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Socks are all I've been able to knit since the Olympics, which is good for my sockpal. I cast on and have knit at least 6 rows of ribbing.
Yarn: Sisu, a superwash fingering weight wool blend in a bright blue (cornflower-ish, maybe?)
Pattern: Cascade Lace Socks by Anne Woodbury in Cast On from Summer 2004.

And now I think we're caught up. Unless I joined any other KALs that I forgot about. Possible, but let's call it done for now.

Friday, March 03, 2006


Man was made at the end of the week's work, when God was tired.
-Mark Twain

I left the hospital this morning all full of vim and vigor, energetic in the morning sun, ready to come home and write the usual Friday update - all the knitting along excitement that's been going on since the Olympics.

And then I got home, sat down, and all the tired from a week of overnight shifts in the ER caught up with me. No knitting updates today. I'm too tired to knit. I'm too tired to even think about knitting.

For you interested medical types, however, I did an awesome lumbar puncture last night - a thing of beauty, straight in, right on the first try - not my first, but definitely my best.

For anyone interested, if your only injury is getting hid in the head with an ice cube, please take pity and don't come to the ER. Thanks.

Your regular knitting updates will resume after some sleep, because there actually is much knitting goodness these days, including some new stuff.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Two for My Family

If you cannot get rid of the family skeleton, you may as well make it dance.
-George Bernard Shaw

Welcome back to another installment of FOs (finished objects) for documentation purposes. The birthday socks for my dad have finally arrived at my parents' (OK, OK, I finally got to the post office) safe and sound, so let's talk details.

Birthday Socks for Dad
Pattern: Gentleman's Fancy Socks by Nancy Bush, Knitting Vintage Socks
Yarn: GGH Marathon sock yarn, ball band long gone
Needles: US 1 Brittany Birch dpns
Notes: I have a standard sock pattern in my head that I usually plug most stitch patterns into, but not Nancy Bush patterns. I learn something new in the details every time I knit one of her patterns. On this one, the wide toe actually has you grafting the last stitches together perpendicular to the floor, if that makes sense, creating a band that wraps around the toes. Looks great, and I learned something new.
Best Thing About This Project: Warm feet for my dad, vintage style.

I believe this is the blogging debut for the following - you can see why there wasn't much to discuss.

Plain Jane Mittens
Pattern: none, 36-ish stitches, ribbing, thumb gore - you know, mittens, trying them on as I go
Yarn: random black bulky wool from stash (see that Stashalongers?)
Needles: US 8 Brittany Birch dpns
Notes: I call them Plain Jane mittens for a reason, but they were a special request from my sister.
Best Thing About This Project: Keeping my sister in handknit warmth. She has a blue winter coat that is hard to match, and I made her a black feather and fan scarf a while ago. Shortly after requesting them, she bought a black coat and has started wearing it with the Cherry Blossom Shawl (Interweave Knits, Spring 2002) that I made her a few years ago. She probably won't wear the black mittens that much now, but they were already on the needles. Now she has options.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Charmingly Checkered

Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure . . . than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat. -Theodore Roosevelt

I am astonished and amazed at all the amazing comments on Am Kamin yesterday, and all your collective support for the Knitting Olympics. Thanks so much. While I would follow Lynda's advice and never take it off, I didn't want to wear it to the hospital.

Yes, the hospital. Even 4th year medical students have to work occasionally, and I'm doing a fun month in the ER. It's great to be back seeing patients. It's less great to be working all night (check the timestamp - seriously).

Between the ER swing shifts and my lack of any knitting motivation these days, we're going to take this week to revist all the projects I finished during pre-season training for the Knitting Olympics. One of these days, I might even update my photo galleries. In the meantime, here's a hat. You've seen it here before, but here are the specs:

Checks and Charms Hat
Pattern: Checks and Charms Hat and Mittens from KnitPicks
Yarn: KnitPicks Merino Style in the Fog colorway presented. The youth size (20") made a hat and 3/4 of a mitten with one ball of the MC, and, of course, plenty of the CCs leftover.
Needles: Addi Turbos US5, with some metal US5 dpns for the top
Notes: we're going to talk about weird hems soon
Best Thing About This Project: it's just too cute