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.