Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Time, talent, treasure

Time, talent, and treasure: your hours, your skills, and your financial resources. I hadn't heard this phrase, but a minister I know once rolled it off his tongue like it was common knowledge. Apparently it's a formula for members' participation in a religious or other organization. You might be asked to give any one of those things to that institution. Your time on a committee, your skills as a leader, organizer, singer, or your financial pennies, however (in)substantial they may be.

As a graduate student, I think a lot about the pennies. Especially when it comes to yarn. Yarn forms the bare bones, the basic materials, without which a knitter's time and talent would be without purpose. Before the yarn swap last week, I had only a few paris' worth of sock yarn, and after, I gained this - fun colors, ones I might not have picked out in the store, but ones that will, no doubt, be fun to knit with.

Magic Stripes.JPG

Then there's the yarn that requires a real expenditure of treasure. Last week, I heard that Knit Happens was having a big sale online, including some hand-painted yarns, so I splurged and jumped at the chance to get something I normally wouldn't, and ended up with this beautiful skein:

Fleece Artist skein

That's Fleece Artist sock yarn in the Autumn colorway. Just the thing as September approaches, I thought. Putting my feet in socks made from that yarn will be like walking through a path covered by autumn leaves. It arrived on my doorstep yesterday and I've already rolled it into two equal balls with the help of a kitchen scale.

Fleece Artist -

Even if I had the treasure to expand my stash, would I really do it? I wouldn't have the time to justify it, would I? Time spent knitting sparkles. Lack of time keeps the lack of treasure in check.

Talent does its share as well. I enjoy knitting and have become relatively good at it (not great, of course, but that's OK). I like the movement of my fingers. I like the feel of the yarn, the colors, the finished garment, the enjoyment that I or someone else might get out of wearing it. I have fun, and that, as Coffeeboy reminds me when I drop a stitch, is all that really matters.

Where is the balance in knitting one's time, talent, and treasure? For me, I think the emphasis comes down to talent, to what's become a love of knitting. I make time for it; I set aside treasure for it. And overall, I'm the happier for it. Now to give my time to learning toe-up socks,* my treasure to this gorgeous skein, and my talent to what I hope will be an enjoyable learning experience!

*There's so much lore out there about toe-up socks and how to start them that I'm feeling a bit intimidated. Any favorite methods?

Monday, August 28, 2006

Got WIP?

Kristina wanted to see Cozy; Keri commented about having "only 3 UFOs" so I figure, what the heck. I might as well show you some pictures of these UFOs.

First, Husband Socks, otherwise known as the sock that went to the library and his unfinished mate, the sock that was born while it was sprinkling on a camping trip.

Trekking 100

Second, the PNW shawl continues. I'm through the trees and the sand dollars - though not without the pain and suffering of Saturday. Making lace really is like playing the French horn. When you mess up, it's quite noticeable, at least to anyone able to see or hear the mistakes. Luckily with lace you can go back and fix them, unlike during the middle of a solo in, say, Dvorak's New World Symphony. And with lace, fixing things gives you beautiful trees like these:

PNW trees

And third, Cozy. It's so soft. Such a pretty smoky blue, just like in the picture. I could really have used a Cozy about my shoulders when I was in the dairy/freezer aisle of the grocery store this afternoon. One day, one day... when this is, oh, 10 times as long.

Cozy begins

I actually have more than 3 UFOs. There are at least 2 other WIPs that I can think of. One is Eris; the most recent photos are here. The other is a scarf? wrap? shawl? on very long size 15 needles, made up of random scraps of yarn in colors that... don't quite match with each other. You know those lovely afghans you see made of every kind of yarn imaginable and yet, they all go together? This scarf doesn't quite match that description. That's why it's sitting in a bag in my stash. It's not that bad, so it might make an appearance, but really, it might not.

Finally, I had a chance to join Blogger beta. I was going to post here and say "if my blog disappears in two days after I've made the move, that's why." However, I joined the KAL for the Pacific Northwest Shawl, which then got linked to my blogger profile, and on my next login, the blogger beta option was gone. This is fine by me, as I like my template now. The only thing I'd really gain would be "categories," which I take to be blogger's version of tags. I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Fixation socks and lace frustration

First, the good news! As promised, I have an FO to show!

Pretty Comfy Socks

Pattern: Pretty Comfy Socks - a birthday gift for my mom
Needles: size 3 dpns
Yarn: Cascade Fixation in color 5104
Time: very little, but I worked intermittently
Yarn left over
: plenty to make another little something
: It was a very easy, quick pattern. Except I messed up. I forgot to flip the page in the middle of the pattern, so I only did through row 13 or so, rather than through row 16 or so. It results in a little unevenness in the YOs, but I almost didn't notice it so I didn't fix it and just pretended the pattern was written differently! I love how fast things go on size 3s with Fixation. My mom loves the socks and says they fit just fine, which is nice to hear! Her feet are a tad longer than mine, so I made them a row or two longer than if for me. Plus, the yarn is stretchy, so I figured that if they fit me, they'd fit her! Finally, they were my first short-row heels. The first one didn't go so well, but the second one was a little cleaner. I enjoyed knitting the heels; fewer purls than with the heel flap and I find short rows rather fun. I'll have to do another short row heel to see what my heels make of them!

And now the bad news: Well, it's not really bad. Just frustrating. I spent a couple of hours unknitting lace last night. Not my idea of a fun way to spend an evening, but it's done, fixed, and looks the better for the effort.

Finally, the ugly news: it's raining out. The sky is grey. We were going to go for a nice walk along the canal this weekend, had the weather turned out, but it's been raining, misting, and drizzing non-stop. I've done a bit of exam prep work, but mostly I've been knitting and re-knitting the aforementioned lace frustration. The rain isn't conducive to much except knitting if you're me, sleeping if you're a fuzzy cat, and playing computer games if you're Coffeeboy. I'm going to try to do some more reading, but the yarn and the mist are conspiring against it.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Destashing the blues

In preparation for a yarn swap at my knitting group, I dug out my stash. And I, the perennial lover of all things blue, discovered that I have too many blue yarns!

Did you ever think you would hear me say this? I doubt it. But it's true.

Going through my stash, I discovered a lot of blue acrylics (that I'll never use, and many of which went to the exchange), blue Cascade 220 (ooh!), blue ribbon yarns, blue sock yarns (mmm!), blue lace yarns (mmmm!)... with a few purples, greens, browns, tans, and reds thrown in for good measure.

Do you see a pattern there? Never mind that I actually have yet to make myself a blue sweater (that fits; there's the ill-fitting Grecian Plait from a few years back); there's the heathered brown raglan, the "spice" colored Eris (a UFO), and the recent red Soleil. Where are the blue sweaters? Even among my (horrors!?) store-bought ones, they're not all blue... Oh yeah, that's because I have way too many blue long-sleeved shirts of every shade and variety.

It was interesting reading all of your comments about how you decide what to knit next. For me it's usually a combination of having a long, usually mental, list of things I'd like to knit, both in terms of generic types of knitting and specific patterns. And I'm generally somewhat picky about making sure it's the right yarn for the project. Sometimes it's motivated by the need of knitting a gift, but I don't go crazy with the knitted gifts. I'd rather take the time to have the gifts be more meaningful and I'd rather take the time to do them right.

I finished something yesterday (which has been sent to its recipient and can be revealed in a few days), and am down to three UFOs: a plain stockinette pair of socks for Coffeeboy, the PNW shawl, and Cozy, which I started this weekend (in order to make it the subject of the knitting in the new banner). This leaves me with two big lace projects, one that requires peace and quiet, and the other which I can do while talking or watching TV, etc.

Cozy has been on my list since it came out on Knitty; I just never quite got around to it. I'm using a gorgeous alpaca-blend yarn for it that's oh-so-soft (Berocco Ultra Alpaca; it's on sale at an LYS). I'm really hoping to have it done for fall wearing, but we'll see. I'm also fighting off the urge to start a pair of patterned socks... Jaywalkers in that lovely blue Trekking, for example... and successfully resisting for now.

It's time, after all, to return to "real life."

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Housekeeping: New stuff!

Just a quick update to say that I've been doing what feels like a lot of blog housekeeping the past couple of days, including:

  • new buttons in the sidebar (including a "Made on a Mac" one, yay Macs!)
  • a Flickr badge of FOs in the sidebar
  • ... and, the result of (we'll just say) way too much work, a new banner/header to replace the old (relatively boring) blue one.
So, if you're reading this through Bloglines, etc, come take a look! (Especially for the banner, 'cause as we all know, most of you out there are on a Windows machine, and since I'm on a Mac, I have no idea if the new banner is readable, and if it isn't, would love to make it so!)

Monday, August 21, 2006

Weekend in the woods

First of all, a big THANK YOU! for all of your positive comments last week after I finished my exam! And thanks, also and especially, for all of your encouragement while I was studying!
Juniper by the tentThe camping trip was wonderful. The preparations were a bit crazy, taking most of Thursday. We, for example, had to set up our tent for the first time, which we did in the living room, vastly confusing the little cats.

Friday started out beautifully, sunny, not too hot. Coffeeboy and I set up our tent and went for a nice hike up hills, across streams, and through the woods. It felt so good to be out of doors, not studying, just enjoying the world in a way that I really don't do enough.

We cooked food on sticks over the campfire, ate plenty of s'mores, had some beer and wine, and enjoyed being with people who we don't get to see nearly enough. Saturday (Coffeeboy's birthday), we went on a short hike in the morning to Bash Bish Falls (which everyone kept calling Bish Bash Falls, for some reason), passing by an amazing set of cairns in the stream that ran down from the falls.

Bash-Bish Falls

River cairns

Saturday afternoon and evening it began to drizzle. Not a lot, but enough to make us rethink plans time and time again, and also explaining the lack of carefully-posed knitting pictures. Coffeeboy and I took another hike, protected from the rain by the tree cover above. In the evening, the former Girl Scouts in the group discovered that despite having done scouting on different coasts of the country, we shared more than cookies: we all had the same method of making tinfoil dinners and had all had the girly experience of making "sit-upons," or little pads we could tie around the waist so that when we sat down, we'd have something to "sit upon."

CampfireThe rain kept coming down, and I managed to snap a few fireside photos before we put up the umbrellas and deserted our lively campfire for a covered area with picnic tables.

Overnight, the rain really came down hard, thundering on the roof of our tent and its rain fly. I kept reaching out to touch the corners of the tent to see if it was wet. It wasn't. I'm not sure what this did except keep me awake and worried; if it had been wet, there wouldn't have been anything I could do about it, not when it was thundering and pouring out.

Sunday morning, wet, damp, and muggy, last night's rain dripping from the trees, we packed up our soggy campsite and headed for a nearby diner, where they seated the 11 of us in several booths and brought out heaping plates omelets, coffee, and pancakes. Happily fed, we got in our cars and headed home, tired but full of what, for me, were pleasant memories and a very fervent desire to go camping again.

I'll be taking some time over the next few days to work on the blog layout, design, etc. This post represents my first experiment with Flickr (as opposed to blogger's very slow photo uploader!), so let me know if things look amiss.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Done, and we're off!

Yay! I took my first PhD (general/qual/comp) exam yesterday, and that one is over with! I feel pretty good about it, so long as that's understood within the parameters of "perfectionism is really going to hurt right now.") I took the full amount of time to do it (8 hrs) and nearly fell asleep during my congratulatory dinner with Coffeeboy last night. The room I was in was kind of cold, so my Charlotte's web shawl kept me nice and warm. All that typing seems to have taken its toll as my cyst is back - oh, well.

Today I slept in and then ran about town to get ready for a camping trip this weekned with Coffeeboy and his friends. He and one other guy are turning 29.999999 (repeating... i.e., 30) and so a bunch of our friends are gathering for camping up in upstate New York. I haven't done much camping in recent years, but as a kid, it was one of my favorite summer time activities. This time, it will be with knitting! And a cake, precariously packed in a cooler.

Now that exam #1 is done, I'll be taking a few days off to recuperate and, of course, to knit! Expect to hear more about that after I return on Sunday! Until then, have a wonderful weekend.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Perfect present

Yesterday I received my first knitblogging-related package: my prize for posting the 300th comment to Rose's blog! A skein of Trekking 104 and a pretty little card!

I'm very excited because... I love this color! She was exactly right that the colors here are just perfect for me. (Look at all those blues! I'm swimming in blue happiness!) What she probably didn't know is that I already have a skein of that same Trekking yarn. Which just goes to show her good judgment in helping me to have more!

The presence of two skeins of Trekking leaves me with a conundrum: do I make two pairs of socks? Or do I make something else, like a shawl with variegated blues? I was initially planning to make a pair of Jaywalkers with this yarn. And, after about a day, the corner of my brain that carries on an ongoing thought-process about yarn and knitting has decided that I probably won't go for a shawl. It just feels like a sock yarn to me, for some reason. In fact, it's feeling like becoming a sock out of Nancy Bush's Knitting on the Road, though I haven't picked which pattern yet. (I'd love to, but then I might cast on, and really, I must resist until after Wednesday. And until after I have another FO.)

This is the joy (one of them, at least) of knitting: deciding what to knit with all the gorgeous yarn one has in one's stash (or that could be added to the stash; let's be honest here). I have a list of projects I'd like to make, and very obviously too little time in which to make them. I'm thinking (in that same knitting-related corner of the brain) about how I decide what to knit next, and I wonder: how do you decide? Gut? Intuition? Desire? Impulse? A long list of possible projects? The promise of a new technique? A to-die-for yarn that just calls out to you? A color? A season? A gift?

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Soleil is done!

Yes, that's right, I have an FO! Soleil is done!

Pattern: Soleil by Knitty
Yarn: Elann Sonata
Needles: size 4 circs
Time: about a month
Thoughts: It was a really easy knit. The lace at the beginning as fun, and went quickly, as did everything else. (A month for me on something like this is pretty good, I think).

When I saw a friend wearing Soleil in June, I got really excited to make it, because hers came out so well! Mine is, well, it's OK. Overall, it doesn't fit me like I'd like it to fit. The shoulders don't lie flat, and they're a bit too wide as well. Had I known that would happen, I would have adjusted them to be slightly narrower. Perhaps I should have knit the smaller size in order to get the suggested negative ease, but I thought it would be too small if I did that, so I didn't.

I had to do some steeking to get the shoulders and the seams under the arms to lie at all correctly. The pattern calls for some increases as one approaches the bust, but on me, it was just too much material. So out came the sewing machine, in went the steeks. You can see in the blocking photo (below, pre-sewing) how much it increased just before the armholes. With that fixed, I think it fits a lot better. I also steeked the upper left corner of that shoulder strap on the left below, which, when worn, stuck up like a space-age garment.

My exam is a week from this past morning. I'm reviewing my notes now, making outlines, etc. I alternate between thinking a week is plenty of time and wondering how, on earth, I will possibly be ready by then.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

My sock is jealous

Recently, there have been a flurry of posts around the knitblogging world from the point of view of a sock. All of them have been wonderful, creative posts... but they've left my sock a little jealous. No amusement parks, no hikes, no airports, no this, no that... Not even a Trek down the street, for he is a Trekking sock. (And he's a "he" sock, destined for Coffeeboy.) Nope, this sock, in his own telling, sees just the library.

Inspired by the adventures of these other socks, he wants to let the knit blogging world know what his unglamorous life is like. They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Thus, although I know this isn't exactly a new type of sock post, I hope that it might nonetheless amuse or entertain.

His day begins by being secured in a clean plastic bag and then zipped up inside a backpack. He'd like you to know that the knitter doesn't even let him help drive. He just sits in the backpack, until....

"Freedom!" thinks the sock. The "set-up" is complete: big table, computer, bookstand... the sock is so excited! He is out of the plastic bag!

As usual, the knitter begins to knit the sock, and to read the book, and the sock is happy. The sock feels useful, loved, like he's growing in size, the gusset shrinking appropriately every other round.

But wait! What's this? The sock has been put aside... he's been put in front of the book! "It's ok, the knitter will pick me up again soon," thinks the sock.

...which indeed happens, and knitting and reading resume.

Soon, though, the sock feels himself placed behind the computer! Oh, the horror, the horror! "The knitter has put me aside! Behind the computer is very, very bad! She mustn't be able to concentrate on the reading because of me. Oh, the guilt! But she should be paying attention to me!"

"Oh, it gets worse! The book is off the book stand, it's in her lap! That means she's really not going to pay attention to me for a long, long time, and it'll be all about that stupid book, while I'm back here all alone!"

Eventually, the knitter returns to the sock, and the sock is happy, until he realizes that ... drumroll...

The knitter has finished reading all of the required books and articles for her general exams! The sock realizes, with growing horror, that this means no more long days in the library. The knitter will be too busy reviewing notes and typing outlines to hold the poor, neglected sock.

The sock knows he might end up on the upper shelf of a bookcase - away, thankfully from the nasty claws of cats (the knitter is at least that kind!) - but possibly very, very neglected. [The knitter would like the sock to know that she still needs him, he won't be forgotten, and will be able to journey with her to school everyday, even though the reading is finished.]

Unbeknownst to the sock, if all goes well and I do take my first general exam a week from Wednesday, the sock will be taken on a real, live camping trip to celebrate Coffeeboy's birthday. To be continued...

Friday, August 04, 2006

It's beastly hot out

The weather here has been absolutely beastly the last few days, with temperatures up into the high 90s. Last night we had a cold front come through which dropped the heat into the - positively balmy! 80s or so, with a heat storm (thunder and lightening without rain) last night.

I have been knitting (including for several hours on Wednesday at the SnB), but other than that, not as much, as I'm trying to push through the last approximately 5 books of my list. I still think I will finish Soleil this weekend, though.

This morning as I walked from the car to the library it felt like I was slogging through physical water, the humidity sticking all over me like some sort of physical film. It got me thinking about fall, yet again. Those pumpkins out in the yard that we might lose to the mildew keep me thinking about fall, about crisp, cool, clear air sparkling on my cheeks. None of this dank heat, please.

Are there any fall-themed knitalongs coming up for those of us who are dreaming of cooler days?

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

A late summer garden

Our tomato plants fell over!! Notice how some of those poles are leaning to the right? They're not supposed to do that! The plants got so large and strong that they have simply broke their stakes. We tried to stand them back up, with the aid of metal fence posts (!) and had some success, but we might lose some of the plants from all the drooping.

Nonetheless, they are producing wonderful fruit! There is little better in the summertime than freshly picked tomatoes garnished with fresh basil, mozzarella cheese, and a dribble of olive oil and some balsamic vinegar.

Our pumpkin plants have suffered a bout of powdery mildew, which is unfortunate. We've had to trim back most of the leaves on the plants that sprawl for 10-15 feet out from their starting points. They have some green leaves left, as well as three pumpkins. These are pie pumpkins, so they won't grow as large as jack o'lantern ones, but as you can see, this one is already turning orange.

We have some flowers in our garden as well; my favorite, perhaps, is the lavender. I have 5 lavender plants... I know, I got a bit obsessed. One is "Provence," and I have two each of "Hidcote" and "Lavender Vera (true english)." I believe this is one of the Veras; the Hidcotes are taking a while longer to flower. They are young plants, so the yield of lavender stalks has been kind of small this summer.