December 29, 2006

Procrastination at its finest

So I have a 200 page system specification to revise for Tuesday.

This entails the reading of 100 pages - 100 single-spaced pages - of meeting minutes and six months of emails sent between an eight-member project team and an entire Indian outsourcing firm prior to updating said specification because NO ONE UPDATED THE SPEC IN ALL THAT TIME AND IT WAS UTTER CRAP TO BEGIN WITH. Not that I'm bitter. And not that I left doing this huge amount of work until the very last minute.

So what am I doing tonight? I'm drinking wine (insert mandatory shout-out here to new guy coworker that gifted me with said wine, clearly not realizing we don't actually do "holidays" or "gifts" on my team) and reading Fricknits at stalkerish levels.

Holy crap! How could I have missed this blog? How could I find it right when I have all this work to do?

Cruel, cruel gods of the blogosphere to present me with such delights at a time like this.

Take that, stupid yarn quiz!

I've officially redeemed myself from the dishcloth cotton. Not that this has been bothering me. For two whole days.

Anyway, it's possible everyone else in the world has already taken this quiz, but I've gotta recommend the "Which Rat Pack Member are You" quiz. And not just because I'm Dean Martin, baby.

Well maybe just because I'm Dean Martin. But who wouldn't be flattered by the phrases "self-contained castle of easygoing cynicism" and "sarcastic to the point of cruelty"?

Yet more gifts

My birthday is in mid-December. Combined with Christmas and, for the first time, a December anniversary to celebrate, the gifty goodness just keeps rolling at Casa Librarian-in-Training.

This is what my wonderful, ridiculously thoughtful boyfriend got me for our one-year anniversary:

His reasoning was that I’m always willing to buy myself yarn but I don’t ever seem to buy myself needles. So he got me one in every size from 3 to 10.5. I now have the needles to knit just about any damn thing I want.

And what needles they are. Birch needles seem to be the perfect compromise between slippy and grippy. And, compared to the infuriatingly dull Clover bamboos I usually favor, their points are ever-so-perfectly pointy. It’s so much easier doing complicated stitches with these bad boys.

So to do the gift justice, I’ve cast on for a quick baby cardigan. The pattern is Bamboo Baby, shown on the front cover in pink with white daisy-shaped buttons. It seems ingeniously simple thus far, knit on the diagonal, with yarn-over increases forming the triangle shaped fronts and doubling as button holes, but we'll see as I get into the shaping and seaming, etc.

I am one seriously lucky knitter.

December 28, 2006

Petty rebellion

I’m working this week, a week everyone in my company traditionally takes off for the holidays. I don’t actually mind. Usually, it’s a nice, quiet time to catch up on things. But it does gall me to have to dress up to go into a deserted office where I will talk to no one and receive exactly one work-related email over the course of two days. So I wore jeans today.

Would dishcloth cotton wear jeans to work? I don’t think so.

December 26, 2006

I'm not dishcloth cotton

Thanks to the latest issue of Yarnival and the selection that mentioned the 'What kind of yarn are you?' quiz, for the first time in my life I have been described as thrifty, practical and born to clean.

It's hard to type through all the laughing. Not that there's anything wrong with dishcloth cotton, but I'm really more of an acerbic Shetland wool, thank you very much.

You are Dishcloth Cotton.You are a very hard worker, most at home when you're at home. You are thrifty and seemingly born to clean. You are considered to be a Plain Jane, but you are too practical to notice.
Take this quiz!

Crisis averted

Or not so much averted as never really a crisis in the first place. In my own little Christmas miracle, I had more than enough KnitPicks yarn to finish this.


Handsome, isn't he?


The funny thing is, the heel flap and gussets are a mess, and I'm pretty sure my four-row repeats vary from three to five rows. And I absolutely do not care.

This was my first attempt at a patterned sock of my own design. I know what I did just isn't all that complicated - find a stitch pattern you like, cast on in a multiple of four, then knit your standard sock recipe in that chosen stitch pattern, etc.

And I also know other knitters are both more skilled and hugely more prolific, but I'm still so damn proud of myself.

So I keep looking at the sock and grinning. Not just because I made it. But because I designed it.

I'll still cast on today for its mate, but now that I've finished the first experimental sock, I'm officially allowed to start my next knit. I wasn't really sure what the next knit would be, but now I'm damn sure it's gonna be a baby knit.

Why am I so sure? Because of Christmas dinner. Last night, the boyfriend and I went to Christmas dinner at his family friends, Eleni and Michael's house. I'd never met Eleni, let alone her parents, so I was taken completely by surprise (and charmed to no end) when Eleni's parents gave me this:


Turns out, Eleni and Michael, in addition to being smart and funny and cooking a mean Christmas dinner, are both occasional knitters (and he is apparently a much better knitter than she is). Plus, they just made themselves a damn cute six-week old baby.

And this is one lucky baby, what with a mother, father and paternal grandmother that all knit, and maternal grandparents spreading the fiber love with ultra-soft cotton yarn and cute baby knit books.

The boyfriend's sister is also due in about six months, and she and Eleni are thrilled to be having babies so close together. So I'm thinking two hats, one white with green trim and one green with white trim, for the two friends' babies.

Hope everyone had equally wonderful and equally knitty holidays.

December 24, 2006

I do knit...

Just not much these days. I finished the decreases on the experimental sock-in-progress and I'm going to run out of yarn.

At Thanksgiving, I said I was thankful for this craft that constantly surprises me. Now I realize I was just asking for it when I wrote that.

Because the KnitPicks yarn has suprised me by almost running out four inches into the foot. If your feet are my size, that's a lot of foot left to knit.

Now, math has never been my strong point. But the KnitPicks skeins are 231 yards, compared to 215 yards for Lorna's Shepherd's Sock. It seems to me that no matter how bad I am at math, 231 yards is bigger than 215 yards. I knit a pair of socks out of two skeins of Lorna's on size 1 needles (casting on 80 stitches), with enough yarn left over to knit a good two or three inches more. Now I'm knitting using bigger needles (size 2s), fewer stitches (72) and 15 yards more yarn AND I'M GOING TO RUN OUT.

How is that possible???

December 23, 2006


Sometimes when the view from my porch looks like this...

I feel a distinct lack of motivation. Such is today. All I want in life is to stay inside, wearing what I call my "happy" pants.

Alas, there are last-minute gifts to buy and family dinners to attend. No more happy pants for me.

December 22, 2006

State your purpose

There are some people that always seemed to have a purpose, or at least a clear set of goals. They came to college knowing what they would major in and left college knowing where they wanted to work, and planned where they wanted to live, and knew they wanted to get married and have a family, etc.

Not me. I don’t generally have a clear plan for next week, let alone the next few years of my life. I’ve been told that having a clear sense of what you want to accomplish makes it easier to actually accomplish things, but usually I think that’s just crazy talk.

So when I had to write a Statement of Purpose for my grad school application, I struggled mightily at first. I couldn’t just say “I want to be a librarian because I really like books and working for a gigantic corporation doesn’t always sit well with my activist tendencies,” though that’s pretty much how I decided to go to grad school. However, I soon discovered I had a lot of very strong opinions about what being a librarian might mean. And this week I was wondering how I would feel, after several semesters in the program, about what I wrote back then.

In my Statement (and yes, I always do think of it as a capitalized "S" Statement), I talked about how similar my role as a systems analyst is to being a librarian. Both roles are ultimately about getting relevant information to people in an accessible and useable format. My classes, particularly Services to Underserved Populations, reinforced, and actually politicized, the value of this function. I fiercely believe equity of access to information is one of the fundamental prerequisites for a functioning democracy. Inequity of access, due to disability or poverty or lack of educational opportunities, is a worthwhile thing to fight against.

In the second part of my Statement, I was much more explicit about the activist potential of librarianship. I said:

While several of my friends complained recently about the dearth of good role models for teenage girls, I realized I did have many of them as a teenager, courtesy of my mother the librarian and her insistence that I balance my steady diet of Sweet Valley High and Seventeen Magazine with a very different kind of literature. I grew up reading stories prominently featuring bright, brave, physically strong women and girls: the female knights and sorceresses in Tamora Pierce’s novels, brave and brainy Meg from A Wrinkle in Time and many others whose triumphs and struggles had little to do with a dreamy boyfriend, radiant complexion, or giraffe-like thighs. I want to help promote these radically different visions of femininity and success by exposing other young women to these kinds of role models at the critical juncture of adolescence.

Two years later, I still believe this. My Young Adult Literature professor did manage to convince me that teenage boys exist and are important too, but really, I got into this business mostly because of the girl books.

And that’s why what my mom sent me yesterday is so incredibly touching.

On the outside they look like just another teen fantasy series, perhaps featuring a feisty young woman who triumphs over various obstacles through her courage and pluck. While I do adore those sorts of books, it’s actually ever so much cooler.

Check it out.

Tamora Pierce is pretty much my hero - though she herself, adorably, prefers the term “shero” for her characters. She has been my hero since I first read the novel Alanna close to twenty years ago. Every time I open one of her novels, I am intensely grateful someone is writing these lively, wonderful, empowering-but-not-preachy stories for young girls, and she continues to inspire me whenever I reread her books.

So having a book signed “women rule” by her? So freaking cool.

And my mom? So freaking awesome.

December 17, 2006

The knitter behind the curtain

Pay no attention to her - she's not actually knitting anything so much as weaving entertaining yarn tales to distract you from the lack of knitting progress.

A few months ago, I knit my first colorwork hat, from an old yard sale pattern book uncovered by my knitterly friend and coworker, Awesome Meredith. I enjoyed the pattern so much that I knit it two and a half times. The first time, in brown, I bunged up the decreases, then abandoned it for a while. Then I reknit it in green, and it turned out quite nicely. Then I revisited the brown version and finished it up months later. Full story here and here.

Both versions were knit with the same type of yarn and on the same size needles. With very different results. The brown one is a good three inches wider than the green one. I thought this would be totally fine, as I am a large-headed lady. (Seriously, "one size fits all" hats just don't fit on my head. And sometimes I can't pull tight-fitting turtlenecks over my head without hearing popping sounds at the seams.) Even given the enormity of my head, the brown hat is simply way too big for me.

So I've been hoping I could give the brown hat away, but after a few unsuccessful attempts I'm pretty sure there are few melons mightier than my own. Imagine my joy when a friend nicknamed "Big Jay" came over last night and complained that it was cold AND he'd forgotten his hat. Dude!

I almost injured myself in my eagerness to grab the brown hat from the ungifted FO basket, fully expecting that someone with Big in their nickname should have a truly enormous head. But guess what? Still too big. Sigh. I see felting or frogging in this hat's future.

In other news, my ladies and I went to the Bazaar Bizarre yesterday for last-minute gift shopping (so awesome - if there's one in your city you should absolutely go).

I spotted this kit there at a table full of gorgeous yarn. The kit had been featured in Bust magazine as a cool gift for a crafty lady, and I was lusting in a powerful way. But I resisted ordering it. I resisted again and again yesterday at the Bazaar. Resisting was no doubt made more difficult by the number of times I walked past it. And the come hither looks I swear it kept throwing my way.

As we were leaving the Bazaar, my friend Megan said "I bought you something, but I'm afraid to give it to you. If I give it to you, we won't see you for the next two weeks."

Then she handed me a delightfully squashy rectangular box. The box that contained three colors of roving, a spindle and instructions on SPINNING YOUR OWN YARN. The box that was an official acknowledgment that my fiber obsession has gone to a whole new level.

When I told the boyfriend about it gleefully, he just gave Megan a very disappointed look and said "You're her friend. You're supposed to be HELPING her with her problem." Hee.

December 16, 2006

New arrivals

We are happy to announce the arrival of Gustav, aka Blogging Central. 43" X 24" and quite a lot heavier than he looks.

More importantly, my kitchen table, Blogging Central's temporary and remarkably awkward home, is back where it belongs. In the kitchen. With kitchen things around it. Not a wire in sight.

Gustav/Blogging Central was a birthday present from the boyfriend, who is clearly in the running for boyfriend of the year. The nice flowers in my kitchen came from my aunt in Arizona. And the truly delightful Barefoot Contessa cookbook was one of several fabulous gifts from my best friend.

It takes a village to make a birthday this awesome. And the village came through in a big way.

December 14, 2006

Happy birthday to me

It's a freakishly warm, sunny 50 degree day in mid-December. My best friend is in town. I have the next four days off.

And of course there's this freshly-turned heel.


Plus, we're heading out to IKEA in a few hours.

I was completely and perfectly content with how my birthday was shaping up and really thought it couldn't get any better. When suddenly my best friend - my resolutely non-knitting best friend - uttered the magic words:

"Will you teach me how to knit?"

December 10, 2006

Leftover sock yarn fun

If I were a better person I might say I planned to make wee sweater ornaments for everyone on my list, but weaving in ten ends on something this small is more than I can bear.

The original pattern used three separate colors instead of self-striping yarn, so by my calculation there would be at least 24 ends to weave in, not to mention the seaming up of sides and arms. On a palm-sized mini sweater. Crackhead pattern writers.

Still, awfully cute for an hour or so of work...

My best friend is better than yours

I got this early birthday present in the mail yesterday, from my best friend Sarah out in California.

She took all my Flickr knitting photos and made them into a calendar! It has all our friend's birthdays marked on it, as well as the anniversary of my first blog post and adorable entries like "Wear green socks for St. Patrick's Day."

The best part? She's not even a knitter, and the October page is boldly headlined "Are you ready for Socktoberfest?" Her awesomeness can barely be described in words.

I'm sure your best friend is wonderful in many ways. But clearly I have the best-est of all possible best friends.

December 9, 2006

More fun than is legal in some states

To dye your own yarn:

First, you'll have to haul your sorry hungover ass out of bed to buy a microwave-safe container and a crappy pot. There's really no way to avoid this unpleasantness.

If possible, try to avoid spilling coffee all over yourself three times while walking to the housewares store. If you attended your corporate holiday party the night before, the yarn gods will understand if you do not succeed in this.

Second, assemble your components while you give your yarn a nice bath in some lukewarm water with a bit of mild detergent. Some people use a special yarn-friendly detergent like Wool Wash. I just used my regular Method stuff.


Take a moment to marvel at how the yarn really does look exactly like spaghetti. Give it a few gentle squeezes while you're there.


Mix more Koolaid than you think you need with a bit of water in a microwave-safe container. The rule of thumb is one packet per ounce of yarn.

Do not blithely assume that your yarn label will tell you how many ounces of yarn you have in your skein. It's possible that your yarn will be measured in grams. If you don't have your laptop with you or any grasp of basic conversions, just use all the damn Koolaid you have. I used a 4-cup Pyrex measuring cup, and a total of 20 Koolaid packets for two 440 yard skeins. Next time, you will probably want to use more Koolaid.

Place yarn in microwave-safe container with the Koolaid.


Freak out a little bit that you are about to put yarn IN THE MICROWAVE, but assume all the nice bloggers were not playing a cruel practical joke when they suggested doing so.

Microwave on high at two-minute intervals, waiting a few minutes in between, until water is mostly clear. Mine took six minutes for most of the dye to be absorbed.


You can also set the dye on the stovetop, but the microwave method seemed easier.

Allow yarn to cool, then rinse in lukewarm water.

If you want to hand-paint for a more mottled effect, put your yarn in something that you don't mind getting messy. Pour dye all over as desired. I'm pretty sure there's no wrong way to do this. I dribbled some fruit punch on, then dipped the whole thing in a mix of orange, cherry, more fruit punch and lemonade. Then just microwave as above.


Finally, do wear gloves. You may think you can just touch the dye quickly, then rinse your hands immediately. But you will be completely wrong.


After a thorough rinse, spread your yarn out to dry.


And be sure to stroke it lovingly every time you walk by.


I seriously can't remember the last time I had this much fun with my clothes still on.

December 7, 2006

Rewards, continued

I took the day off on Monday to finish off the library school semester. I spent most of the day writing a rather grim final paper on library services to incarcerated populations. Did you know that something like 40% of inmates don’t have a high school diploma or its GED equivalent? Screw No Child Left Behind – what about the adults who got left behind ages ago?

Anyway, I did take a super-fun break around noon to go to physical therapy (I know how to have the Best. Vacation. Day. Ever). I’ve been going once or twice a week since I hurt my back in October, focusing on core strengthening. During my initial evaluation - which consisted of lots of twisting, poking and prodding and “does this hurt” and “how about this” to which I answered yes (aloud) and “I hate you” (in my head) - the therapist pronounced me “loose.” After realizing he didn’t actually know me in college, I guessed “loose” was his euphemism for “completely lacking any kind of core strength.”

So I do lots of crunches and other improbable things while awkwardly balancing on an inflatable exercise ball and cursing the fact that I have a core and that it requires strengthening to avoid further excruciating back injuries.

Despite all the cursing, I do work my ass off. Because as it turns out, other people’s pain is remarkably motivating. Take my last visit - the other chick in the room had had a tibia replacement, followed by several really gruesome-looking knee surgeries. She was working on just being able to bend and put weight on the knee and it appeared to be remarkably painful, what with the squealing and the grunting and all the heavy breathing.

If she could do her exercises, by god, so can I. Seriously, it’s like having a roomful of personal trainers, but it’s free. Well, free except for that whole excruciating back injury part.

I even got some knitting done on the train ride back and forth. No pictures, though. For some reason my camera now staunchly refuses to take an in-focus picture of the sock-in-progress. Everything else is in-focus, but the sock appears to be warping the space-time continuum. Or I might just be twitchy from all the coffee. Not sure.

Most importantly, the semester is over. As a well-earned reward, Saturday will be All About Dyeing Yarn. 44 hours and counting.

December 3, 2006

Sock quickie

I did some poking around and went with Deborah's suggestion to cast on about 10% fewer stitches than I thought I needed based on my measurements. This seems to have worked out fine with the experimental sock-in-progress, though exact gauge is way less important with socks as stretchy as these.

Incidentally, in poking around, I found misocrafty's super-helpful sock knitting resources. I'm pretty sure there's an answer there for every sock question anyone might ever have.

Later on I saw (blogless?) Bettina's comment about how sometimes the sock yarn wants a size 1 needle and sometimes it wants a size 2. This "listening to the yarn" thing is a wonderful idea. Normally, I think I've been assuming that all yarn wants to be knit crushingly tightly on whatever size needles might sort of get me gauge, regardless of whether this is what would best serve the yarn. Because the yarn is not the boss of me.

But if I swatch, I have the opportunity to adjust for my tight gauge and get a soft, drapey fabric (if that's what the yarn wants) or a tighter fabric (again, if that's what the yarn wants).

That way I can knit something that fits AND show off the yarn to the best of its abilities. It's not wasteful or boring to swatch. It's respecting the yarn that I love so much. Awesome.

December 2, 2006

Simple rewards

I'm supposed to be writing my final paper for the library literacy class, but I've run into a stumbling block. If by stumbling block you mean I've been doing rather more of this than I should:


Clearly, this is not a ten-page research paper on library literacy services to incarcerated juvenile populations.

It is however great fun to knit. So much fun that I've had to implement a knitting-as-reward policy. Read one article. Knit one row. Read one article. Take pictures of experimental sock-in-progress. Read another article. Ad infinutum.


Next up - the Justice Department's spine-tingling page-turner Juvenile Offenders and Victims 2006.

I think I get a whole four-row repeat after reading that bad boy.

November 30, 2006

Hell hath frozen over

I finally decided to do the virtuous thing. I decided it would be way less wasteful to swatch than it would be to pick a random number of stitches, cross my fingers that the sock would fit, spend a lot of time pretending everything was fine until the first try-on revealed the (obvious) fact that it was entirely too small. So I swatched AND I measured my leg.

The Knit Picks pre-dyed gave me 8.25 stitches/inch on size 2s after blocking, and my none-too-large leg is 11 inches around at mid-calf.

But I don't know how many stitches I should cast on as a result. It turns out knowing my gauge in advance is not helpful to me in the slightest because I don’t know how much “give” to expect from sock yarn.

I see a lot of sock patterns that start with 64 stitches. It can’t possibly be that I need to cast on 80+ stitches, can it? My legs are on the skinny side and unless every other sock knitter in the world is a willowy-legged midget, I imagine I need to factor in some stretch.

Other sock knitters, please advise?

I didn't get the memo

Today is officially green argyle sweater day in my office. I’ve spotted three already, including a particularly festive kelly green, navy blue and orange sweater where each diamond was practically the size of a toaster.

Is argyle cool again? Why don’t people tell me these things? And how do you knit argyle?

I did snap out of this intarsia daze when I realized that "checking out the knitwear" can look suspiciously like "staring at your coworker’s chest."

Knitters would understand. Hell, they’d take off the damn sweater mid-meeting and insist that you touch it and see how the intarsia looked from the wrong side. Non-knitting dude wearing mass-produced sweater? Much less likely to buy ‘Really, I wasn’t checking you out, I was just wondering how I’d knit the little Xs in your argyle.’

This knitwear entrancement is a sure sign that I haven’t been knitting enough the past few days. I’m doing some secret gift knitting that came up three stitches short at the end of the last row and has been sent to the corner - where the bad knitting goes - for a time-out.

I’ve also got a sinking feeling that I'm going to run out of yarn midway through the second Sunshine Yarns Jaywalker, given my microscopic yardage-sucking gauge and largish feet. I've thought of revising the foot length downward by a few inches and giving them to a tiny-footed friend, but then I remember that I love the sock more than she would and would give it a much better home. Plus, I’m a selfish, selfish knitter.

I even squeezed in a visit to the Koolaid section of Shaw’s earlier in the week, where I was disappointed to see they are now marketing a clear Koolaid that has ALL THE CRAPPY FLAVOR but NONE OF THE SOCK-DYEING COLOR. Bastards.

My final paper and presentation for the literacy class are both due next Tuesday, so it's probably just as well that there are no obsession-worthy projects afoot. I just hope my coworkers don't mind me looking at their knitwear a little dreamily until then.

November 28, 2006

This one goes to 'e'

Previous posts notwithstanding, I do realize that dyeing and dying are not at all the same thing. That missing 'e' makes all the difference. Sneaky 'e'.

Realizing I had no idea how to spell dyeing was just the excuse I needed to spend some quality time with the Oxford English Dictionary. Or, as those of us in the know call it, the OED.

Besides providing more information than you could ever want about a word, including it's definitive etymology and amusing quotations, the OED is in the midst of a massive revision, and they post new words periodically to edify and entertain dorks like me. I enjoy this so much that having access to the OED Online might be my very favorite part of library school. Now that I think about it, buying the complete 20 volume set would be a significantly cheaper thrill than library school...

In any case, the latest round of updates included ghetto fabulous and kidney stone. Not to mention a new definition for the word woody (yes, that kind of woody), my new favorite word, scrote .

Plus man bag, which I assumed was, uh, lexically similar to scrote . Sadly, I believe man bag is actually a slightly manlier version of man purse. Because, while they may have nine different definitions of the word 'poop', the people working at the OED probably aren't ten-year-old boys at heart.

Unlike some librarians-in-training I could name.

November 26, 2006


Deborah commented earlier that the Knit Picks dye-your-own sock yarn was soft and delicious, and damn was she right. And how do I know?

Yep, the Knit Picks box arrived yesterday. And the clouds parted. And a golden beam of celestial light shone down to caress the pale, silky smooth fibers of the sock yarn ever so gently. And a choir of angels descended to sing the yarn's praises as one Boston area librarian-in-training embarked on her yarn-dying journey.


Or not. Unfortunately, in real life I have a research paper to write for class, so I really can't afford to spend a whole afternoon dying yarn. So what to do?

I don't really have the strength of will to completely ignore the box full of lovely yarn just sitting there in my living room, so I've decided permissible interim activities include:

- buying a large crappy pot or microwave-safe bowl
- stocking up on saran wrap
- Koolaid shopping
- stroking super-soft super-cheap yarn every time I walk past it
- forever renouncing Lorna's Laces Shepherd sock (see previous item)
- swatching (I may also have purchased some pre-dyed yarn, just for, uh, comparison's sake)

November 25, 2006

I'm having a thought

Which can be dangerous. I'm pretty sure I've reached that stage of knitting knowledgefullness where I am well-equipped to get myself into trouble but not quite equipped enough to readily get myself out of trouble again.

Still, undaunted by common sense - or by the need for some serious Christmas gift knitting - I've been thinking about my sock problem. Namely, that I can't seem to find the perfect combination of calf decreases and heel/arch width to make the sock stay up on my skinny ankles and still fit well on the strangely chubby parts of my feet. The obvious answer is ribbing. But oh I do hate knitting ribbing.

Then I remembered how gleefully I knit the faux-spiral rib handwarmers from Last-Minute Knitted Gifts, which are just 2 x 2 ribbing scooched over by one stitch every four rows. The scooch makes all the difference. It's motivating. Just four rows to the next scooch! Must knit four more rows!

So couldn't I knit a sock in the same rib pattern? It will be super-stretchy, not boring to knit, and as long as I keep everything at multiples of four, I should even be able to continue a version of the spiral rib on the instep, no?

November 23, 2006

Gratitude and thanks

This year I am grateful that my friends, family and loved ones are happy and healthy.

I am grateful for a wonderful boyfriend, good friends and for this craft that constantly challenges, surprises and amazes me.


I'm also thankful to have found such a smart, funny, vibrant knitting community this year.

And I'm ever so thankful to have just eaten an absolutely shocking amount of food, and in excellent company.

Happy Thanksgiving to all - cynical me will return tomorrow.

November 22, 2006

Plus, I'm always meeting new people

This is how easy it is to get me really excited (no, not that way) - I unloaded my knitting from my purse before going out to lunch today. When I got back, I walked into my cubicle, saw a pile of knitting on my chair and actually thought "Whee, someone left a yarn present!" Not remembering that the someone was me and the "yarn present" was MY OWN KNITTING.

I'm trying to see this as proof of a deep and abiding love for my sock - I even like it when I think it's someone else's knitting.

Or, you know, early onset dementia, whatever.

November 20, 2006

The new me

Every weekend I think next week is the week when everything will change.

Next week will be the week I'm productive and focused, write clever things in my blog, knit brilliantly, and floss every day. I will make simple, yet inventive meals that just happen to be healthy, do yoga every day, and make everyone around me laugh (but not in an obnoxious attention-hogging douchebag kind of way). My life will look like a Real Simple photo spread, only more indie and less pastel. I will, of course, have fabulous hair the entire time. Starting next week.

On some level, I do realize that change is incremental and expecting to radically change my life overnight is unrealistic. I realize there are no shortcuts or quick fixes, so I should just keep plugging away at making simple, positive changes in my life.

But sometimes I buy fashion magazines anyway, because the covers tell me such sweet little lies. Take this month's issue of Glamour, which promises to deliver

- Private sex advice no one else will tell you

- Sexy dresses for your shape

- And, most importantly "The lazy woman's guide to a better body" AND "How to look like a pro did your hair every single morning."

Dude! All kinds of filthy dirty sex secrets that other people know BUT ARE NOT TELLING ME, how to be thin without exercising, and how to look good in the (mercifully brief) period before my half-assed exercise program whips me into shape, with perfect hair the entire time??? It would be downright irresponsible not to shell out the $3.99 to find out.

So I spent a shameful hour or two of quality knitting time yesterday reading Glamour, and this is what I learned:

Regarding the filthy, dirty sex - my lady friends are a salty group. Glamour's got nothin' on them.

"Fabulous dresses for your shape" actually wasn't bad, but they didn't have any recommendations for the shape that is squidgy around the middle, despises pantyhose and half-asses the leg-shaving come winter time. Imagine. I really was initially encouraged by the cover line "Not a size 4? So what!" But it appears that Glamour only goes so far. Most of their recommended dresses are only available up to a size 14.

The "how to get thin while being lazy" exercise program recommends, among other things, doing squats while watching TV, doing curls with your grocery bags and running up and down stairs for five minutes at a time several times a day. Now If I were the kind of person that did anything other than eat and drink beer while watching TV, I would BY DEFINITION, not be a lazy woman. And running up and down stairs, willingly, more than once? They clearly have no concept of how profoundly, gleefully lazy I really am.

And finally (and most crushingly) the hair: as I have long suspected, the secret to salon-perfect hair is an amazing number of hair brushes and products, combined with the upper arm strength of a Russian weight-lifter and the precision of a fighter pilot, plus significantly more time than I have ever spent even on special-occasion hair. Most days I consider it a miracle that I've managed to leave the house without forgetting something crucial, like my pants.

Glamour magazine, you've lied to me for the last time. I see through your dirty tricks and your tangled web of lies. I hereby declare myself immune to your siren song.

November 19, 2006

Too late

I am a weak-willed woman.

It was the knitty Kool-Aid dying tutorial that did me in. Such cool colors. I see something in mandarina tangerina-orange variegated in my near future.

Which is good because clearly I don't have enough orange yarn (all three completely different yarns purchased separately for completely different purposes - possibly need a shock collar that zaps me in the presence of orange yarn):


Then there was Kristy's suggestion that I check out the Affiknitty tutorial, wherein Laura says she expected dying your own yarn to be like giving yourself an at-home brazilian (messy, painful) and discovered it was nothing of the kind. Seriously, I'm a sucker for comparing knitting to pubic maintenance.

So Knit Picks natural undyed merino is on its way to my house. And not just one skein. Like I said, the will is weak and I really want some variegated orange sock yarn.

I'll make sure to meticulously document the dying process. I have a very white kitchen in a very stodgy rental apartment, so even if you aren't interested in dying your own yarn, I can almost promise an entertaining disaster in the near future.

Thanks, ladies!

When that happens, just think of baseball

So I stumbled across the Knit Picks dye-your-own yarn page today, and I'm having those naughty feelings again.

The yarn seems improbably cheap - $3.50 for a 440 yard hank of undyed fingering weight. Throw in an acid dye pot or two and you have 440 yards of custom-dyed yarn in the color of your choice for less than $12, significantly less if you skip the professional dyes and just use Kool-Aid.

Has anyone tried it? How's the yarn? Does the color hold? Is there anything I need to know before I succumb to the delicious Burnt Orange and Fire Red colorways?

And their regular yarn seems awfully cheap too. I've been buying Lorna's, which is significantly (in fact hugely) more expensive. Is the Knit Picks ok?

Please note, I'm really hoping to hear "it's utter crap and you shouldn't buy any of it" because, really, I'm on a yarn diet and all and "thinking of sports" isn't making the naughty feelings go away. Work with me.

November 17, 2006


The Easy Mitten pattern is easy, as promised. I'm knitting the size large, on size 6 needles with the nicest skein of Malabrigo. It's fitting nicely, and I'm more than a little smitten with its pinky-orange goodness.

I haven't used Malabrigo in a while and I'd forgotten what a joy it is to work with. And when I say "forgotten" I mean "willfully blotted from my consciousness so as not to spend rent money on yarn".


So soft, such amazing colors. I keep petting the mitten and holding it up in different lights to see all its different colors. And I DON'T WEAR MITTENS. I smoke (only outside the house, away from the yarn), which means mittens are completely useless to me. That's how much I dig this yarn.

And after so much fingering weight yarn for socks, I feel like I'm blazing through this bad boy. Only 36 stitches in a row! And five rows per inch! Progress is fast and gratification nearly instant.

The way gratification should be.

One-Skein Wonders review

Let’s just get it out of the way – I love this book. Over a hundred cute, approachable patterns were compiled from yarn shops around the country: that means 101 socks and scarves and shawls and hats and baby sweaters, all of which (theoretically) can be completed with a single skein of yarn.

“One skein” is a bit of a stretch in some cases, as a few of the projects call for some hefty skeins (500+ yards). This may surprise no one else but me, but it appears this book will not single-handedly provide the perfect project for every one of my solo skeins. Alas.

That said, it’s a very useful book, not least for its organization. I am, after all, a librarian-in-training, and I do love me some strict organization. The book is broken down by yarn weight, which is excellent if you’re looking for a project to fit a particular yarn, as I am. Less so if you’re looking to knit a particular kind of project, say a felted bag or lace scarf. That would require a bit of browsing.

The browsing, though, is remarkably pleasurable. The especially cool thing is that there are so damn many good-looking, straightforward projects, in such a variety of yarn and stitch patterns. For a fairly new knitter like myself, without a huge amount of experience with different yarns and patterns, it was a joy to see so many options all at once. The book is now positively bristling with post-its. So many ideas! So many colors! So many thrilling new yarns! [Insert stern reminder to self here regarding using up existing yarns, not buying new yarn].

Design and layout could be a bit better. Each project is accompanied by a not terribly helpful two-color photo in the margin. There is a section in the middle with glossy full color shots of most (if not all) of the projects, but they aren’t in the same order as the projects themselves. This necessitates a lot of flipping back and forth between picture and pattern to decide if you’re really interested. Plus, the pictures are shot the tiniest bit goofily.

Move beyond the goofiness. It will be worth it.

I can’t yet vouch for pattern clarity or accuracy. But I figure if I can cope with the staggering number of errors in Last-Minute Knitted Gifts, I can certainly deal with anything this book got wrong. More details as I get on with the knitting.

First up, Easy Mittens. Perfect for that lonely ball of Malabrigo in the Carrot colorway!

Lastly, in poking around on their website I noticed that Storey Publishing (squeezably cute publishers of this book, the Yarn Harlot’s books and the Knit Hats!, Knit Scarves! books among others) has an opening for a Creative Director. Not that I was looking at their jobs.

They specifically say you should have an affinity for gardening, crafts, etc. (in addition to the zillion years of book publishing experience I don't have). Just in case anyone is looking for the coolest job ever.

November 11, 2006

A reasoned financial decision

I bought it.

Single skeins are hereby put on notice.

Your days they are numbered.


I have been knitting. Capering like an imp over the election results hasn't consumed all of my spare time.

The Sunshine Yarns Jaywalker is mid-heel flap and just as lovely and colorful and chaotic as it was when I started.


But I'm just not feeling the love. In part because I'm not a very fast knitter, and at 10 stitches per inch progress is slow.

But really, the problem is that I want to start a sweater. I know this because I keep re-reading the Yarn Harlot's sweater chapter in Knitting Rules and eyeing the Hourglass Sweater in Last-Minute Knitted Gifts longingly.

Still, I don't buy the yarn. In general, I buy single skeins in pretty colors with no particular project in mind. I'm pretty sure if I added up my many lonely solo skeins, I would have more than enough for a few sweaters. So it's not as if I've made a reasoned financial decision not to invest in yarn. Yarn diet? Who said anything about a yarn diet?


(Though I have almost convinced myself that it would be a perfectly reasonable financial decision to buy One-Skein Wonders to deal with my solo skein problem - I can convince myself to buy almost anything book-wise)

So it must be a commitment issue. As you may have noticed, I'm not a relaxed person by nature. I don't just make a firm decision and stick with it. I worry and then I dither, and then I worry some more. Buying that much of the same yarn is a statement: it says "I am going to make something big, something beautiful and time-consuming that may not work out. But I'm a fairly good knitter and I think it will be just fine."

And I tend to make mistakes. I blithely ignore the pattern. I twist my knitting in the round. I knit with the tail end of the old yarn. And I loathe swatching. “Fairly good knitter” might be pushing it, now that I think about it.

None of these things are conducive to confidently investing in ten skeins of yarn and diving eagerly into a weeks (or months)-long project.

Then I tell myself I have knit one sweater, although it was a baby sweater.


The pattern is a modification of the Placket-Neck Pullover in LMKG. I didn’t do the placket because I thought it was busy and who wants to button things on a squirmy baby anyway. Props to the Subway Knitter for inspiring me. I used about 1.5 balls of Lamb’s Pride Superwash in Cinnamon Twist, on a size 7 circular needle. Seriously quick, easy and cute.

In fact, after I finished it, I was so pleased that I left it draped over my couch for a week, pausing to admire it every time I walked by.

The especially cool part is that this is essentially the same pattern as the lusted-after Hourglass Sweater. Bump up the stitches, add some waist shaping and fussier hems (and a whole lot more time and patience), and voila, you have a grown-up sweater. I can totally knit that shit.

And imagine how much I would love a full-size sweater if this wee thing made me squeal and jump up and down with pride?

November 8, 2006


Democrats won the House, and it looks like we might even take the Senate. We finally elected a Democratic governor in Massachusetts. Rick "man on dog" Santorum lost his seat. North Dakota overturned its abortion ban.

AND Rumsfeld resigned (all that took was losing both houses of Congress - who says Bush doesn't listen to the American people).

It's like Christmas and my birthday and Easter and Halloween and every other holiday where you get presents and candy, all rolled up in one.

I feel like I should break my yarn diet to, you know, mark the occasion.

And I should probably buy this book while I'm at it. Just to really get into the, uh, celebratory spirit.

November 4, 2006

Embracing chaos

I'm a little on the anal retentive side. My books are alphabetized by author within strict subject areas. I love making lists. I fold my underpants and stack them neatly by type (everyday cotton, special occasion, cute but horribly uncomfortable, etc). I like tidy stripes. I do not do well with variegated sock yarn.

So why am I knitting this?


The sunshine yarns sock has been reincarnated. Its original 64 stitches have been bumped up to 84 to accomodate my ridiculously tiny gauge. And I'm Jaywalking. Again. With rather more success than in prior attempts.

This might be the holy grail of sock patterns. Easy enough to knit on the train, but with enough variety to keep me interested. And I'm working very hard on embracing the randomness. I remind myself that these socks will truly be a one-of-a-kind item. And the colors really are fabulous. The colorway is called daffodil, and the name is spot-on. And color in nature is chaotic, but still beautiful, right? It's completely ok not to have tidy stripes.

And if I repeat that to myself enough times, I'm sure I'll finally believe it.

On the non-sock front, there are finished objects in the house:


The hat is made from Sheep Shop yarn, inspired by the hats in Last Minute Knitted Gifts. I'm not sure I love the garter brim, but I do love the yarn itself.

The wristwarmers are from the same book, and took most of a skein of spendy Noro Cash Iroha that I purchased in a moment of weakness. Fall weather seems to have arrived, so they had their debut this week. I don't really see the point of gloves that don't keep your fingers warm, but they do look damn fine poking out of a corduroy jacket. Damn fine.

That Noro is really gorgeous yarn - soft and warm, with a slight sheen from the silk. I've been eying the Hourglass Sweater in LMKG too, and this is the yarn the pattern calls for. But by my calculation, it would cost $156 to buy enough to make the sweater in my size.

I'm trying something new and strange called "saving money", so that's exactly $156 more than I'm allowed to spend on yarn this month. Sigh.

October 29, 2006

With a yee and a haw

I present the finished Socktoberfest socks.

Sock 1 started September 14, finished October 14.
Sock 2 started October 18, finished October 28.


Next time I think I'll try contrasting colors for the cuff, heel and toe. I could probably get a few more inches of leg, as I've still got plenty of yarn left over. If I used contrasting colors, I might even be able to get something close to a knee-high. Though I'm not sure I've got the fortitude for that much plain knitting.

I'm also still working out the proper stitch count for my skinny legs and big feet. 76 stitches came out too big at the ankle, even with 8 stitches decreased. And then 68 stitches came out too narrow at the arch. They fit, but it's a strain in some spots.


But none of that really matters when you've got girly striped socks and shiny red shoes like these.



October 28, 2006

A preview


All done but for weaving in ends and blocking.

Better pictures tomorrow.

October 27, 2006

With apologies for all that bloviating...

I give you a little eye candy.

My first pair of socks, while they were still socks-in-progress...


The late and lamented Sunshine Yarns sock...


The sock did get to visit some of the special yarn in the stash before its untimely demise. Kind of a Make A Wish Foundation thing for doomed socks...


And the first of the damn Socktoberfest socks, while still in-progress...


Not new work, unfortunately. But I feel bad about the recent lack of yarn porn on this blog.

Just remember, if you touch your stash too much, you might go blind.



My library school class visited the Perkins School for the Blind Tuesday night to learn about accessible information technologies for blind patrons.

Things started on an entertaining note. When we first walked in a little blind girl walked up to one of my classmates, introduced herself, then poked my classmate in the belly and asked “Are you having a baby?”

My classmate just kind of choked and giggled. I, on the other hand, am paranoid and always prepared for just that situation, having stored up a number of harsh retorts just in case someone asks me if I’m pregnant (I’m not). But on second thought it probably would have been mean to use them on a nine-year-old blind kid.

In the less amusing but quite fascinating portion of the visit, we learned a number of interesting things: Particularly startling was that the unemployment rate among the blind is close to 70%. And a very large portion of the vision-impaired population isn’t born blind but becomes blind due to age-related conditions. This presents additional challenges in terms of information access because these older people are much less likely to learn Braille or to be comfortable with sophisticated technology such as JAWS (software that reads the contents of your computer screen aloud) or MP3 players for talking books.

On a more personal level, this was the first time I’d ever really been around blind people. The first goofy thing I realized is how much of audience participation is non-verbal. I usually show I’m paying attention by smiling and nodding. That didn’t work with this group – affirmative sounds were necessary. Similarly, asking a question necessitated saying “Do you mind if I ask a question” vs. raising a hand. And really, imagine trying to have a conversation with someone and never, ever being able to see their body language. All the little cues you take for granted are totally missing.

The other thing I thought was how the hell do blind people go grocery shopping? How do they tell what’s in a can or a box of cereal? I assume many of them have a sighted helper of some kind, but with unemployment rates of upwards of 70%, I can’t imagine that most blind people are able to pay for personal assistance of that kind?

It’s really amazing to think about the challenges inherent in doing even the simplest things: using money, for example. Or picking out clothes to wear. Or weighing yourself or microwaving something. There is adaptive technology such as talking scales and microwaves that help with a lot of this, but it tends to be hugely expensive, not to mention clunky.

If I learn nothing else from this class, I have an ever-growing respect for the challenges disabled people face and an awareness of how important it is to try to ease some of those challenges whenever possible.


As if to reinforce my (none-too-deep) insights into the world of blindness, next came the lameness. Within two minutes of walking into my apartment post-field trip, I coughed. Not a big cough or anything, just a cough. And my entire lower back felt like it exploded. The nice doctors tell me the pain and the inability to walk any faster than a slow hobble are temporary. They’ve even given me pills that should help alleviate the immediate symptoms. Side note: muscle relaxers are amazingly strong stuff. I get happy and loopy for about ten minutes then fall immediately to sleep, during which I don’t move at all but do manage to snore heavily (or so I’m told).

In the meantime, I’m supposed to “go about my daily life.” This is great advice as long as your “daily life” doesn’t include putting on your own socks, picking up anything below waist level, jaywalking, commuting on a crowded train, carrying a heavy laptop bag or knitting. Or staying awake through an entire evening TV show for that matter.

My fantasies of getting a lot of knitting done while bedridden have been dashed, in large part due to not being bedridden and not being able to sit comfortably for any length of time. Part of me actually thinks this is somehow the second sock’s fault – like it’s conspiring not to be finished in time for Socktoberfest.

Then I have to remind myself that it’s an inanimate object and, as much as it may seem to have free will and a cruel sense of humor, it is in fact just a half-finished sock.

And while I do realize that my current infirmity is in no way comparable to a life-long disability, it certainly has been humbling. Even this temporary problem has given me an all-new respect for the challenge of navigating in the world with a disability.

First of all, people stare at you. Gaggles of fifteen-year-old girls may go so far as to laugh and point. Should that happen and you are a librarian-in-training, you will use all your self-control not to yell at them because you realize they’re fifteen and absolutely do not care what you think.

Second, things move really, really quickly: cars whiz through crosswalks and the doors and turnstiles on the T move too fast and revolving doors whack you in the butt and the elevator makes angry noises because the doors have been standing open for too long. I have all new sympathy for how long it takes frail, elderly people to get places. I will do my level best not to find them infuriating from now on.

Third, it’s incredibly frustrating to suddenly face a drastic reduction in your abilities. I’m not typically a weepy type, but I’ve come to tears a good half-dozen times in the past few days out of sheer frustration and fury at not being able to accomplish basic things on my own. I can’t imagine the patience and strength of will it takes to acclimate to a permanent disability.

So I’m trying to view this as a learning experience. And not in a macho “that which does not kill me makes me stronger” kind of way.

If nothing else, I hope this newfound (and rather alien) sensitivity to the needs and difficulties of others stays with me after I’ve recovered. I hope I remember to be grateful for a basically functioning body that allows me to easily accomplish simple things. I hope it motivates me to start doing yoga again. I hope I remember how incredibly nice my friends and coworkers have been in helping me over the past few days. And I hope I can figure out an appropriate way to thank the boyfriend for all his heroic fetching and carrying and bringing of food.

I hope, I hope, I hope.

October 22, 2006

Walking the walk

I know I can talk the talk. But there's been a whole lot of talking on this blog recently and not a whole lot of knitting. Today, I finally, finally got some knitting done.

There were a lot of other things I should have done today. I should have worked. I should have done a bunch of reading for school. I should have been doing laundry. But none of those things would have been as much fun as this was. This being one fingerless glove from Last-Minute Knitted Gifts.


The coolest part is that it's basically all 2x2 ribbing. There's some wackiness involved in making the thumb hole, but mostly you just scootch the ribbing repeat over by one every four rows. And it makes little spirals! Brilliant!

And, here's the most amazing part: I didn't hate knitting the 2x2 ribbing.

In fact, it was pure glee from start to finish. I actually can't wait to get started on the second one!

In opposition to Goldilocks

Warning: long post that makes almost no mention of knitting.

There’s an article in today’s Times describing Starbucks’ continuing expansion into cultural tastemaking. According to the article, Starbucks is using its trusted brand to introduce its many customers to non-coffee products such as CDs, books and movies. The movie Akeelah and the Bee, Mitch Albom’s new book, and Starbucks-produced jazz compilation CDs were just a few of the examples cited. The reasoning for many customers seems to be “I like the coffee, so I’ll probably like this too.”

Like everything else about Starbucks, all of these items are carefully calibrated to appeal to a particular sensibility, what the article describes as the “Starbucks Aesthetic.” These products are “Inspirational but not hokey, familiar but not ubiquitous…” and “provide an education without being preachy.” They’re “not racy or dark” but they are “thought-provoking.”

Starbucks customers are like a cultural Goldilocks, searching for something not too transgressive, nor to mainstream, but something that's juuuust right.

The Times even described one customer that was grateful for Starbucks’ help in editing down his cultural choices (!) because, as he said, “some people of caring hearts and minds have looked at this and felt it was worthwhile and beneficial and would create a good vibe in the world.” Leaving aside the fact that “caring hearts and minds” and “multi-billion dollar corporation” are phrases that almost never occur to me simultaneously, my immediate reaction was intense irritation, out of all proportion to the actual content of the article. I underlined and made marginal notes. I ranted over breakfast.

I thought about it first in the context of libraries, wondering if it would be possible for libraries to brand themselves as, if not cultural tastemakers, at least as trusted guides in a similar way. I know, I know - library users do have the same respect for librarians as Starbucks customers have for Starbucks. But Starbucks gets a gigantic two page story in the Sunday Times. Public libraries, not so much.

Obviously, the library needs to appeal to a broader constituency than Starbucks’ core customer, described in the article as early 40’s, well-educated and with an average income of $90,000 a year. But it seems to me that if a coffee shop chain can become a trusted source for advice on movies, music and reading material, a library - staffed by people with a masters’ degree in helping people find relevant, interesting information - should be able to do the same.

The other (non-library) issue here is that feeling smug about buying just the right middlebrow compilation CD reeks of NPR-listening, overpriced coffee-drinking, ineffectual liberalism. The kind of liberalism that shops at Trader Joe’s and drinks Fair-Trade coffee but votes for a Republican governor because, while they do support adequate social services in theory, they really do feel they’re paying too much in taxes.

And why does that piss me off so much? Because I am an NPR-listening, Starbucks-drinking middle class elitist liberal in many ways (though I’ve never voted for a Republican governor and would be fine with paying more in taxes). I do however feel like I’m making the world a better place by going to independent bookstores, by buying organic cereal, or by eating free-range eggs. I prefer local heirloom tomatoes, artfully distressed furniture, and interesting shoes.

I may shop at the Gap and Anthropologie and Ann Taylor, but I think logos and corporate emblems are vulgar. I don’t have a car, and I take public transportation to and from work every day. But I’m endlessly grateful that the boyfriend has a car and I don’t really need to take the T anywhere that might be really inconvenient.

Plus, I knit. I buy yarn that’s handspun and dyed by a Peruvian women’s cooperative. Aren’t I virtuous?

David Brooks neatly skewered this worldview in his book Bobos in Paradise. Although sorely lacking in sociological depth and rigor, Bobos was an uncomfortable, and often hilarious, critique of precisely my lifestyle (or at least my potential lifestyle, in a rather higher tax bracket). Now I don’t particularly like or respect David Brooks, but his belabored central point, that there’s some hypocrisy in this behavior, did hit home.

I do firmly believe that local, organic food is better for consumers and the environment than the food produced and shipped across the world by agribusiness conglomerates. I believe local businesses give more back to the community than chain stores. I believe there is a real danger in the homogenization of taste and the loss of local variety and the ever-increasing commodification of American life. And I do believe making something unique and beautiful with your hands is better than buying a mass-produced item in a store.

The problem, of course, is that my small lifestyle changes are ultimately completely insignificant. Occasionally eating hormone-free beef is not fixing anything. And I sometimes think that making those kinds of small changes satisfies people’s do-gooder urges enough that they don’t need to work for substantive change.

If there’s a vague feeling that all is not right with the world, rather than researching an issue, writing letters, attending demonstrations, lobbying politicians, or doing anything else that requires real effort, I just boycott Wal-Mart. And I feel like a good person, a virtuous, socially conscious person because of it. The world may be full of problems, but I am living righteously in my small way.

The other problem with making these decisions is that they are ultimately circumscribed by the same consumerist worldview I object to in the first place. It’s consumption-as-resistance instead of actual resistance. Not only is it remarkably expensive to live this way, it’s also very, very comfortable.

Thus the ridiculously strong irritation with Starbucks and their safe-yet-moderately interesting cultural products. Because I feel like just their kind of Goldilocks. And "just right" isn't at all the same thing as "righteous."

October 21, 2006


Still working on the second sock. I haven't been posting progress pictures because progress is slow and if you've seen the first sock the second sock is kind of boring.

Unless you're me and you're knitting the second sock from a second skein and it turns out COMPLETELY DIFFERENT THAN THE FIRST SOCK.


Risa asked earlier what yarn I was using (go ahead and click, you should congratulate her on the cutie socktoberfest sock anyway- I'll wait). I'm using the ever-popular Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock, in Girly Stripe, which I've mostly been enjoying.

Until now. The two skeins are absolutely, positively from the same dye lot. But the color runs are a bit longer in the second skein and the purple is much darker, making the second sock look less stripey and more splotchy.

Does this always happen with Lorna's? Or did I get lucky? More experienced knitters, please advise.

In the meantime, I'm working very hard to consider this mismatched sock thing charming.

I'm just struggling with the part where I bought self-striping yarn specifically to avoid splotchy socks. But I know pretending to love the second sock isn't working very well.

How do I know?

Because I'm committing yarn adultery...


And I didn't just lust in my heart. I poked and fondled my stash. I browsed patterns. I flirted with fingerless gloves. And I wound up yarn for two different projects. I'm so ashamed.

October 18, 2006


I’ve been thinking about the homeless guy I saw earlier this week, the one with the HELP ME GET DRUNK sign. The librarian-in-training class I’m taking this semester is on Literacy and Services to Underserved Populations. So I should be growing more sensitive to literacy issues, right?

I already know that a staggering percentage of impoverished and incarcerated populations have very low or practically non-existent literacy skills. I imagine the same is true of homeless populations. So I started thinking What if that homeless guy couldn’t read?

What if he asked someone else to write that sign for him? What if he thought it said ‘Homeless and sober – please help’ or ‘Will work for food’? What if it’s the homeless equivalent of a ‘Kick Me’ sign joke?

There he was with a homeless guy ‘Kick Me’ sign and I’m making fun of him. I’m a jerk.

Besides affording an opportunity for me to feel insensitive, my literacy class yielded not one but two fiber arts-related run-ins last night. I went on a field trip to visit a library-based literacy class last night for a group project and it turns out one of the women in my group is a crocheter (seriously, I’m finding crochet peeps everywhere - it makes me wonder if they know something I don't). She spotted the sock-in-progress* poking out of my bag and we ended up talking needlesports for most of a lengthy T and bus ride home.

Another knitter was sitting in front of us (the 66 bus was crawling with yarny types last night), furiously working 2x2 ribbing on teeny double-points for the entire ride, so as I was getting off I asked “Sock or sleeve?” She said “Sleeve.” I said “Cool.” We shared a silent look of perfect understanding, and then I stepped off the bus.

I like to think the whole exchange had a pleasingly terse, masculine, almost Hemingway-esque vibe to it, if you can picture Hemingway with less repressed homoerotic tension and more knitting.

* “Progress” in this case being a generous term for the first inch of Socktoberfest sock # 2’s ribbing. Further progress stalled until tomorrow at the earliest due to having left said Socktoberfest sock at work. I was hoping Sock 2 would be less disaster-prone than sock 1, but thus far? Not so much.

October 16, 2006

On being "open"

I’m not what you would describe as an “open” person or a person who “shares feelings” well. Mostly I replace “feelings” with a combination of wine, self-mockery, and ironic finger-quotes. (Never doubt the power of ironic finger-quotes to trivialize emotional discourse. I’m making them right now, just without my fingers).

In a clear violation of the ironic finger-quoter social contract, I’ve recently been encouraged by a wide variety of people to be less “closed off” and more “emotionally available.” Judgmental people.

So trying to share my thoughts and feelings is a new thing, and frankly I'm really bad at it. I think I need signposts, or maybe flashcards, or some other very clear set of rules that will tell me what is good sharing (I’m worried about my presentation tomorrow?) vs. bad sharing (Every single time you open your mouth I just want you to SHUT IT?).

For example, I sat through an entire hour-long meeting this morning with my zipper undone. You’d think any one of my four female coworkers in the conference room could have, I don’t know, subtly motioned to me that my underpants were showing, but no. I discovered this on my own after the meeting ended.

Showing your underpants at a meeting clearly falls into the “bad sharing” category. This is the level of obviousness I understand.

Then this afternoon I saw a homeless guy sitting on the sidewalk near my office building holding a neatly hand-lettered cardboard sign that said HELP ME GET DRUNK. If I hadn’t been walking with my boss, I totally would have given him a dollar.

Probably more than a dollar, because that’s the kind of openness I can get behind.

October 14, 2006

11475 stitches later

I have a completed sock.

Sock Part 1

Only 11475 more stitches to go before I have a pair.

October 13, 2006

Knitting smut

Awesome Meredith has a special talent, besides helping me acquire yarn. She also finds kitsch-tastic pattern books everywhere - in thrift shops, at yard sales, I swear sometimes the more aggressive 70's patterns just heave themselves at her bodily as she's passing innocently by.

Her latest find was the 1969 "Gypsy Vest Book" which, as you might guess, had vests, vests and more vests. One vest was very, very special...


I really intended to come up with something witty to say about it, but the knitting porn pretty much speaks for itself.

Plus, I caught the last 20 minutes of Stitchy McYarnpants at Porter Square Books tonight. And I am humbled.

October 12, 2006

Too sick to knit

I had all these fantasies about being sick - I would lounge on my couch, knitting furiously while periodically dabbing daintily at my ever-so-slightly damp nose. Instead, I spent a lot of time knocked out on cold medicine, just "having a quick lie down" that would turn into three hour stretches of complete unconsciousness.

Needless to say, very little knitting has been done. I've also completely lost my sense of taste, so whatever I eat tastes like unflavored oatmeal. This makes food texture very important, because I really, really hate oatmeal. Baked ziti? Not good. Salad greens? Better. I might as well eat healthy if I can't taste anything, no?

I also think I might have spotted subway knitter in the wild yesterday. If not, I should apologize to the stranger I looked at so oddly for such a long time at Government Center yesterday evening.

Finally, I met a very nice crocheter on the train today, who asked after my sock. We talked yarn stores and preferred fibers. I also clued her in to the joy that is Windsor Button. I feel like my work is done for the day.

Alas, it's really only just starting...

October 9, 2006

I am not alone

This blog thing is the best. Not only do I spend way less time boring my non-knitting friends with knitting blather ('cause I can bore the entire internet, see), but there's all kinds of validation to be found.

Take Teep for example. Pattern-averse, half-assed swatcher, not the world's fastest knitter, and funny as hell: "I'm not using a pattern except as something I can hold my knitting up in front of and say things like, "La La La, I can't *hear* you!". Awesome.

In my own knitting news, I was couch-ridden with a wicked chest cold today (hear that, boyfriend? And yes, I Blame You). Minimal sock knitting was accomplished in between the horking phlegm and the chills and the sweating.

More importantly, I picked up an exciting new knitting skill. Well mostly a frogging skill, which given how much time I spend frogging things is probably more important than new knitting skills. I used to just pulled out the needles, rip back the stitches to where I made the mistake and then spend ages picking up each stitch individually. This was infuriating.

Turns out you can pick up the stitches before the mistake, then pull out the needles, rip out the work to where you've picked up the stitches and not spend hours fiddling with stupid, splitty yarn.

I ripped out the whole heel flap and puckered gusset and spent less than two minutes getting the stitches back on the needles.

It's like magic. If magic were self-evident, logical and clearly illustrated with helpful pictures in an introductory knitting book.

October 8, 2006

Dispatches from the very good goat department

Our trip to the Topsfield Fair began inauspiciously, with bad traffic at the Topsfield exit.

The traffic jam did give us an opportunity to sing along loudly, and embarrassingly, to my friend’s newly purchased Simon & Garfunkel Live in NY CD. There’s a wonderful moment in the middle of the show where Simon (or Garfunkel?) commends the civic-mindedness of “the guys selling loose joints” because they planned to donate half their proceeds to the city. Drug dealers these days have no sense of social responsibility.

In any case, after an hour of excruciating inching, we were informed that the fair parking lots were full and we would have to catch the shuttle from the satellite parking lot. I managed not to ask the nice policeman why the hell no one thought to tell people that before they spent an hour sitting unnecessarily in traffic. Ergh. Things didn’t improve much once we hit the satellite parking lot.


If I ever wondered how much I love fried foods and rubber frog-catapulting games, the answer is “an extremely unhealthy amount" because a full hour later, we were squeezed onto a school bus and dropped at the fairgrounds. And then things improved immeasurably. There were lights...


And rides...


And snacks...


There was a Latino dude playing the traditional Peruvian folk tune “(I Can’t Help) Falling in Love with You” on the pan pipes.

And, of course, there was this sign...


And this...


There were chicks hatching, which was really very cool until I noticed two of the chicks were having a rough time. One just lay there with a leg awkwardly twisted up and over its chest, racked by really painful-looking seizures. Another misshapen runty one kept trying, and failing, to stand. A little kid asked his distressed-looking mother if the runty chick was “going to make it” and in a stricken voice she told him “I don’t think so.”

It’s so wonderful when children can be exposed to the miracle of life – and the inevitability of suffering and death - at such a very young age.

I also saw real live sheep for the first time since I started knitting. Sheep are soooo much more exciting when you’re a knitter. They’re yarn, with legs.


I even managed to accomplish some hat knitting…


Many thanks to my fabulous friend Megan for driving and being such excellent (and patient) company.