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!