Saturday, December 27, 2008

Hats off to the holidays

My previous felted hat turned out well enough that I decided to do some quick knitting, and I finished up two more felted hats, one for my mother-in-law (blue and black), and one for my mom (in her favorite shade of green, to match a scarf I knit a couple of years ago). 

Black felted hat Green felted hat

I figured the moms would prefer it if a lampshade modeled the hats, rather than their faces! Both women admired their hats and forgave things like seeing the hat drying on the bowl+orange juice jug hat-drying contraption and seeing me stitch the contrasting bands onto the hats in their very presences... during which I'd reveal that this hat was not, in fact, another felted knit for myself, but something for them to take home. I didn't exactly intend it to go this way, and would have preferred the whole official opening-the-present routine, but life being what it was, I'm just glad they were finished on time!

Coffeeboy and I had a lovely week with first his mom, and then my mom and her friend. We celebrated the first night of Hannukah one night early with my MIL, and then we celebrated Christmas two days early with my mom... and ever since then, my clock has been somewhat messed up!

The big triumph of the week, on December 21st, was getting the antique wheel to spin!

Eleanor spins

I haven't had too much time to play around with Eleanor yet, but I really want to confirm that she still works! I've found out that she was most likely not an old family antique; my grandmother says that neither her mom nor her own grandmother were spinners, so the wheel, so far as she knows, doesn't come from them. She had no idea where my aunt and uncle got it from, but all I can say is that I'm grateful it came from somewhere, because it's a beautiful treasure to have.

Speaking of being confused about the time, Coffeeboy and I head off to Austria and Munich, Germany, tomorrow, for a fun New Years' trip! His dean asked him to return to the early January conference he went to last year, so this time we took advantage of the advance notice and booked a trip for the two of us the week before the conference. Tomorrow we're off to Europe! I will certainly keep my eyes out for any gems of a yarn store in my travels!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

A very special WIP

When I drove home from New Jersey last week, I packed a very special item into my car.  I took it apart carefully, I wrapped it in towels and secured it with seatbelts, just as you would a new baby you're bringing home for the first time.  (OK, not quite just as, but nearly so). 


Still confused? I may have alluded to this particular WIP a couple of months back, during my September trip north. I can't seem to find a reference, though, so we'll just have to pretend that I warned you that at some time in the future, something really, really cool would be coming home with me from New Jersey!


This is an antique wheel that, for as long as I can remember, has stood in the front entryway to my aunt and uncle's farm. Ever since I started knitting, and then spinning, I've eyed it occasionally, and when I visited my relatives in September, they got to asking about how spinning worked, and whether or not the wheel in front hall had all its parts. Finally my uncle just came out and said, "what we're driving at is that this wheel is just decorative for us, and we'd love to see it put to use by someone who knows how. Would you like to talk it home with you?" To which I said, in a voice full of emotion, "I would love that."  

This most recent trip, we cleaned and polished the wheel. My uncle has an interest in wood-working, and my aunt in horses (so she knows about leather), so with their help, we took parts of the wheel apart, cleaned it with a wood cleaner, and "fed" it with some Howard's Feed n' Wax.  My aunt soaked the leather that holds the flyer in some leather toner that she uses for her saddles, and my uncle brought in an awl and mallet to help with some of the small pegs, as well as finding soft cloths and the cleaning and polishing items.  

When I headed home, I put the wheel in one seatbelt and wrapped it with a towel, and the bench behind the other passenger seatbelt.  I wrapped the wheel's posts, the mother of all, and other parts, in towels on the floor of my car, and upon arrival at home, after greeting Coffeeboy, immediately set to putting it back together again.  So now my home has been graced by a truly beautiful wheel. My aunt thinks she remembers seeing it in her grandmother's home -- my great-grandmother's home -- so in her honor, I'm calling the wheel Eleanor.

The wheel has some problems: the maidens and mother of all were wobbly; the flyer and the bobbin don't quite fit right together yet; the drive bands are sometimes crooked and fall off.  But with help from the internet (and especially the Antique Spinning Wheel group on Ravelry). I'm getting her put back together again.  Hopefully I'll have this WIP up and working in just a little while! 

Monday, December 15, 2008

Third hat's the charm

Well, in my second-to-last post, I showed some funny pictures of a hat that didn't quite fit.  The saga has ended, but not without some to-dos in between.  The first hat ended up like a glorified cat bed.  There was the second hat, a Stirling cloche (Ravelry link) made out of Berroco Ultra Alpaca that ended up looking like a bit of felted muppet.  The third hat ended up - just right! Third time's the charm, they say. 

Remember this hat?  The cat is for size. 


Well, here you see the hat on the left - after felting - with a normal-sized beret to the right. Oops!  


Glorified cat bed, indeed...   Obviously, that wasn't going to work, and I wanted an actual, honest-to-goodness felted hat, only this time, I thought I'd try a nice, classic cloche.  So I knit up a bunch of Berroco Ultra Alpaca, foolishly held double.

Stirling 2A

Thus, the felted muppet. Again, oops. 


So, I tried again, determined to get it right this time. Third time's the charm, right?  This time, I broke out the Cascade 220, the size 10.5 needles, and about 100 stitches, and cast on for what I hoped would be a charming hat.  Cascade 220 is supposed to felt like a charm, right?  So why not give it a go, I thought. 

Stirling1B    Stirling-1a

This time, it worked out far better than I could have hoped!! 

Stirling2B Stirling2C

I love this hat! I love it so much I've cast on for another for a holiday gift, and am hoping to do yet another. When I really put my mind to it, I can crank out a big loopy stockinette hat in a few hours, and hopefully have them done for the holidays.

Unfortunately, the other hat - the interview - didn't land me a job.  I had a good experience at the interview, though, and learned a lot about what I could do better next time.  Now we just need to keep our fingers crossed for a good outcome for both Coffeeboy and myself, somewhere, but that good outcome is looking farther and farther away, much to our disappointment.  We started the fall with many good possibilities, and they are all disappearing.  I keep trying to keep my chin up about it all, but sometimes it's hard to look on the bright side.  Maybe a happy holidays will make the time and waiting pass a little bit better.  

Monday, December 01, 2008

Finding a hat that fits

We've all heard the phrase "if the shoe fits" and "wearing many different hats." Well, this week my life has a little bit of both. 

Luckily, it's not shoes, but socks, and these socks fit admirably and they even match!

conference socks FO

These are the conference socks made with Regia (details at Ravelry link) that I knit in Chicago and in California, finished a couple of weeks ago and finally photographed. I love that I was able to keep the stripes aligned! This took some doing, unfortunately, in that about halfway through the second ball, there was a knot, and after the knot, the pattern started going backwards. Yes, backwards. So I had to wind down to the end of the ball and re-wind it from the outside in in order to get the colors to stick together. This happened somewhere on the middle of the foot of the second sock. As you can see, it all ended up just fine!

Slightly more scary of course are the hats I need to wear. This hat, for example, is scary just because of its sheer size - its unintended sheer size. Here is Gretel, and it's not half-done yet and it already envelops my face!


Clearly at this point I started thinking about making a felted cabled beret, not just a cabled beret! I also started wondering if this was one hat I just couldn't wear, one that was just too, too big.

There's another really big hat I'm desperately fit my head into (or around, as the case may be), and that's an on-campus interview!!! It's a rural SLAC (that's "small liberal arts college") in Pennsylvania, given that I'm not yet finished with my PhD, I'm really honored to have been asked to campus. Regardless of what happens with the job, this will be an excellent, if nerve-wracking, experience to have. So, while I've been working on a hat that's just plain too big, I've been preparing for my interview.

The toughest part to prepare is my sample class. Can you believe it, I've gotten through graduate school without having to plan my own class from the ground up? I've only been a teaching assistant, meaning that I've led entire classes on material other people (the professors) have picked out. So I have to give a sample class on a topic from the survey course they'd want me to teach. I need to create something that's engaging, that demonstrates my very-much still-evolving teaching style, that fosters discussion and also reveals how do at speaking for a longer amount of time (so, a very very short lecture), and that requires absolutely no advance preparation on the part of the students.

A big hat to put on, indeed.

The Gretel hat, certainly, came out too big. Way too big.  This is not a tam, nor a beret -- as Coffeeboy said, it looks like I'm wearing an orthodox Jewish woman's headcovering.  I thought perhaps I needed to grow a lot more hair and shape it into dreds or braids to fit the hat around, but either way, this is no tam. 

Gretel FO2 Gretel FO1

I can only hope that the hat of aspiring scholar, teacher and professor fits a little better... but first, we need to felt this fiber and see if it's destined to be a nice felted tam, a cozy cat bed, or something else entirely!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

A little belatedly, I'm wishing all of you a wonderful, happy thanksgiving, full of family, friends, and good food.

Thanksgiving table 08

Coffeeboy and I, after a summer and a semester of too much traveling, decided to stay home this year and have a cozy vegetarian Thanksgiving for two, complete with leftovers. We ate a soup in a pumpkin (a childhood favorite, always risky given the pumpkin's tendency to collapse; this we avoided by using a pie pumpkin), a cheese-nut loaf, cranberry relish, stuffing, and of course, pumpkin pie.

Mine turned brownish-gray and looked kind of gross, but it tasted fine! I'm not sure why this happened. Coffeeboy's google research reveals that this might have had something to do with either the inclusion of alcohol, too many spices, too-old cloves, or a lack of brown sugar. Whatever the cause, it was my first time using my great-aunt's recipe, which includes brandy and scalded milk, rather than no alcohol and condensed or evaporated milk. I also forgot to read my mom's notations ,which said things like "use 1/2 brown sugar," "use more spices," and "use 3 T brandy instead of 1 T." Given that her pies were never gray or brown, I bet it was my forgetting of brown sugar. Coffeeboy says this confusion necessitates a great deal of experimentation into the methods of pumpkin pie preparation. I'm inclined to agree! ;-)

Thanksgiving foods 08

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Fiber Flirtations: Corriedale

It's been a busy few weeks, as I've worked on fellowship applications and Coffeeboy has prepared for a campus interview. We just returned from that interview yesterday, and he feels it went well. so far as one can tell. The trip took us both across the country for a few days, to the state where I grew up, California. The weather was hot and hazy from fires, quite a change from the early winter temperatures we're having in Western NC.

Thanks for all your good wishes after the conference! Now we'll need them to make it through the next hurdles. We won't know anything else from them until a month from now, though, so it'll be a sort of crazy month of waiting. Meanwhile, he's had another on-campus cancelled for funding reasons (or something like that) and another scheduled for sometime in late January. I'm still waiting to hear from my one interview school, but am not expecting anything until next week or the week after. And of course, if I hear nothing, then that answers that question...

Meanwhile, I've been remiss in updating you on the spinning! As you might guess from the post's title, I'm going to start a "series" of "Fiber Flirtations" in which I'll post about my experiences spinning with different fibers. After all, I collected such a variety at SAFF that now I need to be able to talk about them!

My first "flirtation" isn't really a flirtation, but more of a long series of dates. I spun some Corriedale pretty early on in my spinning adventures (remember this deep red gift yarn?) Corriedale, as I understand it, is a longish wool, very good for beginners, so it made sense for me to spin with it both when I was starting out, trying to go thinner, and also once I wanted to go thick again. The giftee of the red yarn gifted me back with some gorgeous tweedy light-blue corriedale, a whole 12 oz. of it, which I spent much of the spring and early summer spinning. I ended up spinning it much thinner than I'd anticipated, going for a three-ply, hence the long time spent working on it.

Light blue corriedale 1

I ended up with varying amounts on the bobbins, so I had 2 skeins of three-ply, one of 2-ply, and one of navajo/chain-ply. I think I spun and plied the yarn at a 10:1 ratio and ended up with something between fingering and sport weight. All told there's something like 930 yards there, plenty plenty to make something really nice. I think it'll have to marinate in the stash for a while while I figure out just what's right!

Light blue corriedale 2 Light blue corriedale 3

My next spinning adventure in Corriedale took me to Colonial wool, in a navy multi colorway from Paradise Fibers that Coffeeboy gifted me with last year. This time, I wanted to spin it thicker, aiming for a worsted. I got something closer to heavy worsted or bulky than true worsted, but oh well.

Navy colonial wool heather

The yarn is 8 oz, a three-ply, about 250 yards. I don't remember the ratio I spun this with; probably either 8: or 10:1. I also spun up 8 oz. of the same fiber in a multi-red brick colorway, but I haven't taken pictures of it yet... I think I ended up with about the same amount of yarn, though.

I'm not yet sure what I'll do with all these new yarns; the colonial wool will probably become a hat or a cowl or something like that, I'm just not sure! What I do know is that I have 2 weeks to get a passable draft of the next chapter of the dissertation finished, and that I should probably turn my attention in that direction for a while!

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Conference socks

The conference went well; Coffeeboy's interviews went particularly well, as evidenced by the two campus interviews he's already secured!  My interview went, so far as I could tell, as well as could be expected for a first-time interviewee, so we will see what happens.  I don't expect to hear from the school I interviewed with for at least two weeks, so I need to hang on and be patient. 

The conference itself was - get this - right across the street from Grant Park, site of Obama's recent victory speech and screaming crowds.  When we left the hotel Tuesday morning -- the very same hotel Obama would later await the results -- workers were hanging red, white, and blue flags around the hotel; red, white and blue lamps created bright streaks of color on the hotel's facade, and security guards and police cars already waited across the street at the park.  

Later that evening, after we'd spent most of the day on the airplane, we arrived home in time to watch the first results come in.  As the conclusion came ever closer to a victory for Obama, we had a sudden feeling of regret that we hadn't stayed right there in Chicago one more day, just so we could say that we were there when the nation elected its first African-American president.  But no matter, we were home, and at least among the humans, no eye was dry, and even if we weren't there ourselves, our hearts most certainly were, and are.  

At the conference, while flying, and while hanging out with friends and family before the conference, I got a fair amount of knitting done, as you can see!  The colors of the Regia sock really caught my attention, and I even completed one whole sock in the course of the 5-odd days we were away! 

Conference socks 2008
Since I've been home, I've been getting back into the spinning. I have a lot of longwools to show you, some Corriedale and some Colonial wool (which I gather is pretty similar to Corriedale?)  that I've either just finished recently, or have been waiting for the right time to post. 

This weekend, I'm hoping to get more sock knitting done, as Coffeeboy and I drive north to Virginia Beach for a family reunion. I have a wild dream of getting some work done while we're away, but I'm not sure it'll happen. 

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Off to a conference

Tomorrow, Coffeeboy and I head off to our big annual gathering of scholars of religion.  This year we are both interviewing; it's my first time on the market and he's on again after a year off.  He has lots of interview (count 'em, five!) and I have one. I'm really really proud of my sweetie for netting so many interviews!  My interview is at a school I'm interested in, plus I'm still ABD, so I'm not terribly surprised I only got one.  I'm taking some knitting along, a basic sock for Coffeeboy and a plain vanilla sock for myself.  No need to stress myself out with difficult knitting.  

Araucania ribbed
Coffeeboy's sock #1

This week, when I haven't been prepping and researching for my interview, I spent time thinking about fiber. Last year's SAFF got me all excited about spinning; this year I got very excited about bettering my spinning, and took too few classes in that regard, so I've been reading Ravelry spinning forums and perusing some of the books on my shelves.   I think I got myself thoroughly confused over whether I'm a right- or left-handed spinner; I write with my left hand, but I apparently spin right-handed (with my left in front and my right hand in back).  I also decided to try the fast flyer on my Lendrum, for the first time since getting it a year ago, and wow! What a difference!  It's really fun to use.  I love treadling slowly but getting such a fine yarn. Maybe I'll be able to spin 3-ply sock yarn after all.  

In making these explorations, I did try several new things at once, never a good idea: a new flyer, different hand positions, and merino fiber, which I haven't spun all that much of yet.  It seems to have gone well though.  I've been playing around with some plain white fiber and have spun a first layer onto two bobbins, mostly because I felt the need to spin in order to relax the interview nerves.  

After this conference, I can get into my next goals for spinning, which are to explore this new flyer more, and to try out different types of fiber.  As I think I hinted before, I bought a whole lotta different fiber at SAFF, and a measly amount of sock yarn, comparatively speaking: 

SAFF loot 2008

SAFF sock loot 2008

For the fiber, there's merino, merino-silk blends, alpaca, alpaca-wool blends, mohair and blends - not all of it is in that picture; some of it Coffeboy has, um, stashed away for all the various events of December (birthday and holidays).  I tried to go for a range of multicolored and more solid-colored fiber, too, but gave myself free range to indulge the blues.  That big giant bag is about 30 oz. of fiber, hopefully way more than enough to make a sweater for Coffeeboy (I decided to err on the generous side).  I might have chosen badly; the color looked so perfect for him but the fiber was made up of "little bits" rather than anything more official or "nice."   It felt nice, though, and like it would draft well, so I decided to go for it. We shall see. 

The sock yarn includes two skeins from Miss Babs, and one in "Sea Silk" from the Sanguine Gryphon - yum! 

Since I have to get up in a few hours to make it to the airport, though, I'm going to have to leave this post with that oh-so-tantalizing image of fiber fun to come.  Wish me luck with the interview, Coffeeboy too, and all our friends who also have interviews! 

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Handspun, much fun

This past weekend, we fiber-fans living in the southeastern United States -- and anyone else who cared to join - celebrated all things fibrous at the Southeastern Animal and Fiber Festival, or SAFF. Unlike last year, where two of my best friends were waylaid in various ways, this year, one of them was able to come visit, and she was on a mission: to take a spinning lesson and choose a wheel. Her mission appears to have been wildly successful! (I'd love to link to her blog, but I'm not sure she wants me to.)

My mission at SAFF (which Coffeeboy chose to accept and enable!) was to find different types of wool and other animal fibers - but I'll have to tell you more about that when I post pictures of the loot! Instead of offering you a really long post, I have some more finished objects and spinning catch up to share, plus a picture of a 4-day-old baby goat that stole the show, so to speak.

Before I took my trip to New Jersey in September, I spun up a 4 oz. braid of BFL in "Mahogany" from Liza Souza, and also 4 oz. of a merino-tencel blend from Three Waters Farm. I liked the results of these so much that they immediately turned into quick little projects! In fact, the merino-tencel finished drying on a clothes
hanger as I drove north, much to the amusement of my aunt and uncle. (Their amusement had a happy result that I'll get to share with you one day!)

I turned the BFL into a scarf for Coffeeboy, using the Yarn Harlot's one-row handspun scarf pattern to make a very nice husband scarf.  I think it makes a great manly scarf, with the vertical ribs balancing the stripes of color.

Handknit scarf BFL far

Since the yarn excited me so much, I never even took a picture of the fiber or the finished skein!! However, I did take this close-up, which gives a sense of the yarn:

Handknit scarf BFL

The yarn had fantastic give and sproingyness, and was just a joy to knit. I knit it all up into this scarf in a matter of days, and presented it to a hubby who is very happy to have a lighter-weight scarf (well, lighter than his bulky weight, wrap twice around the neck winter scarf).

The merino-tencel turned into a short "My So-Called Scarf," using only about half of the finished skein. I don't even remember how long the whole skein ended up being!  I started this one in New Jersey as well, and finished it in Charleston last weekend during our quick vacation, when the weather turned unexpectedly cold.  I found myself eager to wear this scarf, so I cast it off with just enough for a short scarf held closed by cool wooden shawl pin I bought at SAFF last year. This was my second time spinning with this type of fiber, and I think it came out quite nicely, not perfectly even, but certainly better than my merino attempt!

Autumn Sunset scarf 

Autumn sunset scarf 1 Autumn sunset fiber

As for SAFF, I had so much fun this year in terms of looking at fiber, introducing my friend to fiber and exploring the festival with her, that I didn't actually do too much of the other online knitter meetup stuff. I brought my wheel and planned to sit and spin, but that didn't happen - oh well, there will be other opportunities! - and ran into surprisingly few of the knitters I know who live in this area.  I'm sure they all had as wonderful a time as I did, visiting with a baby goat and bringing home a bunch of loot.  But more on that in a day or two! 

Star the Pigmy Goat      SAFF Sheep

Now, if I'd brought the goat home, it would have been a really great kidnapping, wouldn't it have been! 

Monday, October 13, 2008

Handspun catchup, part 1

In the first of what promises to be several catch-up posts about what I've been up to, fiberwise, I give you a spontaneous cowl knit out of merino handspun. For some reason, the yarn didn't come out very even; I think I was too excited by the pretty colors to think too much about the spinning; plus, I'm still getting used to merino. I love knitting with it, but it's a bit slippery in the spinning. 


I spun this out of approximately 2 oz. of variegated merino and 1.7 oz. of teal-blue fiber, and then plied them together. With the extra 0.3 ounce, I navajo-plied that and used it at the top and bottom of the cowl.

Handspun cowl Cowl over face

You can see the more solid colors at the top on the left; on the right, you can see how the variegations in the handspun from the multicolored fiber created a striped effect despite the tweedy barberpoling. 

This weekend, my FIL was in town, and we took him up to the Blue Ridge Parkway to go hiking, where the temperatures would be cooler (high fifties to low sixties, farenheit) and the fall colors further along.  We were not disappointed in our quest! I got to wear my new cowl and get it photographed for the blog, and I also had a chance to take many pictures of North Carolina's finest fall showing.  

Ivestor gap 5

It's funny, now that I've been here a year, I've started to really notice the differences between fall foliage here in Western North Carolina, and  the foliage in New England and the northeast, which will always be for me the quintessential autumn tapestry.  Last year, I was still determined to like it here, and wanted to see the best in the WNC's mountain display.  This year, though, as I've come to realize that this place is yet another temporary place to live, I find myself really wanting to move back north, to somewhere with real winter, with autumns of maple and oak covering the hillsides, and a real crisp chill to the air, a chill that hasn't quite hit where I live now.  Certainly, the mountains do often provide this idealized setting, making it a very pleasant reality, as this photo shows:

Ivestor gap 2

Despite glimpses like this, other scenes remind me that I'm not quite where I want to be.  Fall is my all-around favorite season, so it's not surprising that I'm picky.  When the mountains reveal scenes like this -- 

Ivestor gap 4

-- scenes that are admittedly very, very gorgeous--I can't help but also see how the shrubs and the land are just somehow different from the pictures in my mind.   I am probably being overly picky in my fall foliage desires, and should try harder to be happy with the fall I have, not the nostalgic fall of my memories or my imagination. At least I have a fall to enjoy! But still - but still. As I go through the academic job search this year, I find myself checking out the potential for fall in the places to which I've applied, and I haven't limited myself to places where that idealized fall could be a reality again.  Whether I ever get back to that kind of a place again, such as I enjoyed in relatively-rural New Jersey, in Boston, and in Western Massachusetts, I don't know, but I do know that I'd like that very, very much. 

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Bringing back the blog?

Hi folks, it's been a long time, hasn't it!  My summer ended up being rather crazy-busy, and if dissertation summer camp didn't indicate a busy start, it only continued from there. I left my camera, too, all the way across the country at my brother's, and it's due to arrive back with me sometime this week, allowing for actual blog pictures. 

Until the camera returns, I'll just give you a brief recap of what I've been up to: 
  • three weeks traveling for research
  • two-and-a-half weeks traveling to visit family
  • one room-painting project (our bedroom is now a nice yellow "butterfly-bush" color
  • some hiking, but not quite enough
  • bunches of fresh veggies from the garden and markets canned or preserved
  • one week-plus visit to my academic home in New Jersey
  • twelve years of microfilm read
  • little bits of dissertation written, certainly not as much as I'd have liked to complete
  • rather a lot of reflecting and getting myself back on track worked on
  • one Foliage Shawl completed
  • one pair of socks completed, plus another, one of which was way too short and needs some work
  • one cowl out of handspun, one scarf for Coffeeboy out of handspun
  • a bunch of light blue corriedale handspun completed after many months of very thin spinning
  • several academic job applications sent off (and an appropriate number of anxious dreams to complement them)
I think that just about covers the most of it! 

As for why I'm returning to the blog after a several-month absence, I have a few reasons.  Chief among them is that I had started to lose track of my projects, and figured the blog would be a good way to get back on-track.  I could also use Ravelry for that, but I haven't been good, lately, about updating there, either.  In fact, once the camera returns, I'm not entirely sure if I'll blog or use Ravelry.  

I've usually blogged about either my fiber adventures, my academic life, or about Coffeeboy's and my adventures in things like cheesemaking, gardening, hiking, or other activities that attempt to get us closer to the source of things.  Sometimes I fear that the blog spent too much time on academics, and not enough on fiber.  So many of you are so reflective about your pieces, about your process, about your choices or the ways you change a pattern, that my fiber-blogging always felt so matter-of-fact by comparison.  "Here's an FO! Yes, it looks just like the picture.  No, I didn't wildly change the pattern.  I like how its [insert 'blue' or 'autumn colored' here]. I wish the sleeves weren't quite as tight as they are, but I'll try to block it and see how it goes."  So you see, it doesn't exactly make for exciting blog fodder.  And on a purportedly fiber-focused blog, too much ruminating over the minutiae of the dissertation or the job search just might bore many of you.   

Maybe that's precisely the point - no, not to bore you - rather, maybe the blog reflects the place fiber has in my life.  It adds color and texture and warmth, it adds some challenge but is primarily there for relaxation and enjoyment.  Especially of late, the dissertation has been challenging enough to work on from what still feels like nearly the middle of nowhere.  If I'm working harder on that (or on other stuff that's taking up mental or emotional space), I want the knitting and spinning to play a different, more relaxed role.  I almost think that in order for it to be relaxing, I sometimes need it also to be private, which means I don't need the extra effort of blogging about it.  I guess this is what happens when an introvert tries to blog. 

Then, there are those friends who don't particularly care for all the fiber-stuff, and would rather hear about my life than about knitting and spinning - but since to my mind this is still, among other things, a blog about knitting "between the lines" of everything else going on in my life, the fiber will still play a role -- and I expect I'll also still write about schoolwork, hiking, or those other activities that Coffeeboy and I've taken to calling the activities of "amateur homesteading."  

If you're here for the fiber or here for a general idea of what I've been up to in other areas, I imagine you'll still find both.  

So, with that, I'll leave you with a good-faith gesture, a picture  or two of "socks on a train," my handspun socks that I worked on while Coffeeboy and I chugged our way from Colorado to California this summer: 

A sock in a dining car Scenery and a sock Obligatory train wine-and-cheese

And finally, the supposedly finished socks, made of handspun BFL, too! Don't they look cute there on that train seat? 

Finished socks

Of course, in my eagerness to finish them while still on the train, the second sock ended up being 1/2 inch too short... a month later and I have yet to undo the kitchener and actually finish it, but now that it's [Sock]tober, I might as well! 

Monday, June 16, 2008

Dissertation Summer Camp

I haven't been to summer camp in many, many years, but that's all I can think of to compare with what I'm doing now. I'm in Chicago, staying at the International House in a dorm room. A real dorm room, with a twin bed, a desk, a small bookcase, a small dresser, and some kind of wardrobe to hang clothes in. All in all it looks like a smaller version of my dorm room senior year of college (except this mirror was taken from a fun-house, and my mirror in college, as far as I can recall, didn't make my face look like the face in Edvard Munch's "The Scream.")

Dorm room
(Image taken with my computer's camera)

There are other things that make it feel like summer camp. For example, I'm here for two weeks - so often a classic campy amount of time.  I just got here yesterday and  I don't know anyone except a friend from school who happens to be here too. I don't know my way around either this dorm facility or the streets outside (but I'm learning as fast as my directionally challenged self can). I'm still figuring out where to eat and what the best routes are to get from here to there.

And I'm spending at least eight hours a day working intensively on something. When I was a kid, this something was French horn playing. At music camps I learned I could actually play for many, many hours in a day (and my lip got really, really good.) This time, of course, I'm hanging out in an archive all day, doing dissertation research.  (I brought a hoard of knitting with me, and plan to knit while listening to audiobooks after hours, but haven't gotten to it yet). It feels so similar because there's that same sense of focus and purpose, the sense of having come to this place in order to pursue a particular goal.

In this case, that goal apparently involves having my research interrupted by the cutest of all animals, cats. The papers I'm working with are owned by a seminary, and stored in a separate building other than the library. This building houses a few students, a few offices, a bunch of manuscript archives, and best of all, two cats! I was delighted when the librarian told me not to be alarmed if a cat wandered into the room where they'd set me up to research - and indeed, a cat came trooping along and even, after I'd put away my papers for the day, plopped down next to the box I'd been perusing, and posed for my computer's camera.*

Archives cat

Every archive, it seems, has its pluses and minuses, and this one, so far, seems good for the entertainment value. It's sort of amusing to be in a dorm again (especially since there's a very definite time limit on my stay), and totally incongruous that I get to research with cats (not something I'd ever expect to see again). Even if it's weird and lonely to sit here in a dorm room with the unfamiliar noises of a city I hardly know, it's strangely comforting to think that just a few walls over, someone else is going through a similar set of feelings, just as if all us grad students were once again enthusiastic and scared little kids at summer camp.

*Normally I'd be concerned about allergens in close proximity to precious historical materials, but I'm really careful, and believe me, if that box hadn't been closed, the cat wouldn't have been on the table!

Friday, June 06, 2008

All my (book)-bags are packed

Yup, that's right, all my books are packed and I'm ready to go.


Except, that is, for two books that I'm pretty sure I returned in April. I really hope the library just failed to scan them in and they're happily on the shelves! 

My school, in a fit of brilliance for their retention of books, but not for anything else like my sanity, my saving of gas, or a useful way to spend my time, requires all books checked out for the year-long period be renewed in person.  Yup, all however-many bags of them.  Minus whichever two bags I'm returning, to lighten the return trip load, you know!  

Tomorrow, I drive north all day with all the books, for Part II of my very busy June.  Our quick trip to the midwest was a lot of fun, and passed quickly. I didn't get much knitting done, but I did get some dissertation work done. I met a whole bunch of Coffeeboy's extended family - second cousins  neither of us knew existed, giant family pictures, and way, way too much good, tasty food.  In the car we listened to The Time Traveler's Wife, which was a really great book (and a fun one to listen to, too!)

The world seems suffused in heat.  Asheville currently is beating out Miami by about 15 degrees, and it's not much better up in the mid-Atlantic, either.  Here's to staying cool this weekend, or enjoying the heat, whichever you prefer!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Lilac yarn and mountain laurel

Last week, I finished my lilac yarn, but I haven't had a chance to let it dry / take pictures / upload them until today, when I'll share them with you!

Lilac puddle

I'm really happy with how this yarn came out. It's somewhere between a fingering and sport weight, 350 yards, a merino-tencel blend. Look at that tencel shine!

Lilac in sunshine 1 Lilac skein

I'm very happy with how it came out, as you can imagine!  There seems to be a clump of blue and a clump of pink/lilac, and then other colors, green, grey, and violet, in between. I'm looking forward to making a nice scarf out of it for next year's spring - maybe Palette or Lace Ribbon (knitty spring 2007 and 2008 respectively).

Lilac blues 

Coffeeboy and I also took another hike this past weekend, and we saw some mountain laurel blooming (no rhododendrons, yet!)

Laurel blossoms
(This one is by Coffeeboy himself, lover of macro-flower-photos!)

It's been amazing to watch spring and then summer come out in the mountains. This weekend at a juncture between trails, we stopped for a few minutes and listened to the birds chirp, and to the wind rustling the trees. It reminded me of when I was a kid, living in the suburbs, hanging out at my friend's house. There I'd listen to the wind in her pine trees and think of hiking and camping in the Sierra Nevada mountains (we lived in CA when I was a kid). It was lovely just to take a moment to hear the wind in the trees.

Tomorrow, we're headed out of town, to go visit Coffeeboy's family in Chicago and Milwaukee for a family event. We're driving - still cheaper than flying, especially where we're coming from and since we're going to more than one city - so we've downloaded some books to listen to, and I'm debating whether or not knitting will make me carsick! Sometimes it does, sometimes not. I'll definitely have a range of projects to choose from, though!

When I get back, my busy month of June will already have started. I'll spend a few days renew books at my home library; much of that time will be spent traveling, also. Then, a few days after that, for the last half of June, I'm off to Chicago (again!) for two weeks to do a whole lotta research. If any of you live in or near the Windy City, let me know of some good fiber haunts to check out!