Monday, July 30, 2007
Here's my focus for the next hour, after lunch: knitting a swatch of lace out of Elsebeth Lavold Silky Wool in a shade of green that I could never wear, but is very fun to work with. Here's one possible focus for you, for a few minutes: pictures of the swatch, the yarn, and what I've been resisting but finally gave in to: Hand Maiden silk-wool yarn for a shawl for me.
Sunday, July 29, 2007
Last week I learned that Russia is right next to Alaska. This amuses most people I've admitted this to. But how was I to know? On the map, they're usually on opposite sides, and I have a brain that does not peer around corners. Remember, I have to turn the map so that the car is pointing in the same direction as the road I am following, and I was stumped by geometry.
Friday, July 27, 2007
And the AC guy who came out to fix the broken thermostat when the humidity was over 85% and the locksmith who came to repair the broken lock? Mapquest. Say it with me, Maaaapquest. It's the new, easy way to get directions, and it works.
Really, I didn't say most of this out loud. Just the Maaapquest comment when the AC guy called again for directions.
- Local Compassion
- Community Compassion
- HOW We Help
- HOW Can I Help
- Helping Hands
- Community Concern
- Every Day Compassion
- Compassion Scarves
I'm going for something that speaks to focusing the effort to help within our area, that it's an act of compassion, that it's an every day possibility. Please say yay or nay as I toss ideas out.
Thursday, July 26, 2007
Here are the specs:
Pattern: Ruffle Scarf #050
Designer: Mac & Me
Yarn: Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran, color 300609
Amount used: 3 skeins at 9o m per skein = 270 meters
Source: Knitche, Downers Grove, IL
Needles: size 7 bamboo circular, 24"; size 5 Addi Turbo circular, 16"
Variations: cast on 40 stitches instead of 50, inccreased needle sizes from pattern, which called for sport weight alpaca
Gauge used: 18 st to 4" in lace section, 14 st to 4" in rib section, relaxed
Size of finished scarf: 4 1/2 by 39"
Knitting Time but Who's Competing?: 8-10 hours over the course of a week
If I Had It To Do Over Again: I'd work on a bigger needle so that the scarf is looser and has a better drape. And a longer length. This one is a bit on the short side, unless you're happy to just loop it once or criss cross it over the chest. Also, I'd make the ruffles longer, so that there is a better balance between scarf and edging. Otherwise, very pleasant to work on: enough stimulation for the mind while leaving sufficient brain cells available to chat or watch a movie or ponder whatever is on your mind.
Great news from the Pittsburgh knitters: 4 scarves turned in already.
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
I would have knit more today than the beginning of the swatch of Double Rose Leaf (check out the wedding stole here from this pattern) and Tracery patterns from Barbara Walker, volume 2, if I hadn't:
- read Harry Potter while I ate breakfast
- wrote up the August schedule for work
- listened to the sound of heavy machinery at work down the block as I was writing the schedule at the dining room table
- noticed that the chandelier flickered off and then on again after an especially loud barrage from the heavy machinery down the block
- finished writing the schedule early enough so that I could type it up, then do some yoga, and maybe some knitting
- turned the computer on. turned it on again. turned the monitor on and off. turned the monitor on and off again. telephoned the Source of All Knowledge, who walked me through various options to try to turn the computer on. still no computer. My idea of unplugging all the plugs and replugging them in was nixed.
- turned the laptop on. waited many minutes which I will never get back again for the thing to boot up, go to email, and recover my schedule template. in between, tried to log on to blogspot to post on my blog.
- decided to knit a bit while waiting for all the little green lines in the rectangle to reach the Full mark, so that I could post.
- many minutes later, still only at the one-third mark. perhaps not the day to wrestle with technology?
- turned the laptop off, headed to the living room to knit and watch The View. Never the deepest of experiences, but now like watching a train wreck that you can't turn away from. Did I mention that the television, which is older even than the dog and my original cats, who lived a very long time, is dying? First PBS, now ABC and the WB are viewable only by turning the VCR on and watching through that. Oh, and the toaster oven? No oven. Just toaster.
- allowed myself to knit until 11 am or so, then ate a fantastic sandwich of roasted eggplant and fresh spinach on good crusty bread with lots of air holes, dressed for work, and headed out early to type the schedule up there.
- suffice it to say that things continued in the same vein for the rest of the day. I finally put the whole thing aside to finish tonight, when I came home from work. Pulled up the email from work with the attachment of the schedule. Typed in, with much revising, the whole 4 weeks of August. Saved many many times.
- Tried to email the attachment back to work for final revisions. Discovered that clicking on the save icon in an email is an evil trick designed to dupe those who really, really want to be done with the whole schedule torture.
- Used my new favorite appliance - my printer/fax/scanner to scan the schedule in. Then rescanned it when it went AWOL. Emailed it to work and my husband's email, as a test.
- Still no sign of it in his email.
- Got out the new bottle of Glenfarclas' 10 Year Old single malt whiskey. It came in a girlie tin with a painting of thistles and the slogan A Force of Nature on the front. No matter. I deserve it, as do you for sticking with this post so long.
- Oh, and the computer? My husband fixed it this evening by unplugging and replugging all the plugs.
Monday, July 23, 2007
Sunday, July 22, 2007
- sitting on the beach, doing nothing but reading, staring at the water, swimming, and staring at the ocean again.
- spending lots of unplanned time, in which we managed to find wonderful food and lots of interesting things to do on the spur of the moment
- mojitos, especially after you smush the mint leaves against the side of the glass so that you can taste the cold rum, the tonic, and the cool spiciness of mint all at the same time
- the discovery of sushi that I love: slices of abalone, octopus,and something else that I can't recall, and Japanese pickled vegetables, and a very cold Sapporo beer in South Beach, which had far fewer Beautiful People and many more ordinary mall-type shops that I'd been expecting (and I think that we walked by Versace's house)
- the happy insanity and huge crowd of people at the Barnes and Noble in Coral Gables, Florida, all waiting for 12:01 a.m. and their own copy of the seventh and final Harry Potter
- deciding at 3:15 on Friday afternoon to drive to Ft. Lauderdale for a 4:40 p.m. show of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix on the giant Imax screen at the Museum of Science and Discovery - with 3D glasses for the beginning and end - and arriving at the museum not only in time, but to the minute, after navigating our way from Key Biscayne to Ft. Lauderdale through Miami Friday night rush hour traffic
- the unplanned rhythm, the quietness, the sense of being at home in a wonderful, quaint little motel that I found in a Lonely Planets tour book. On first sight, not so reassuring: I drove into the parking lot and my first sight was a horde of iguanas and lizards and Komodo dragons sunning themselves. A bit freaky, especially if you're not accustomed to lizards. But the place was perfect. Most of the other guests were from Latin America, so there was lots of speaking of Spanish and a feeling of being someplace special, and when more Americans arrived on Saturday, I realized that yes, we are a very loud and potentially irritating culture.
- spending time with my younger daughter, who came down to join me on Thursday afternoon. I have amazing, interesting, strong daughters, and I'm pretty lucky that they actually seem to like spending time with me and their dad from time to time.
- reading the very end of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I'm not actually done with the book, so don't leave any comments that give away the ending, please. It's just that I could not bear the manifold emotions at play: excitement about having the book in my hand, anticipation of what would happen, sadness that this is the last book in the series, more sadness that with each page turned there was one less page left to read, worry about the fates of the characters, hope that Luna Lovegood will appear, speculation that my theory about a pivotal scene in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, in which Luna tells Harry that things that are lost have a way of returning, may mean that Sirius and Dumbledore and everyone lost will come back somehow - well, you can see how I was having trouble concentrating. So I looked at the last few pages, just scanning for names and conditions, and that took at least one element off the table. I'm glad that I did, too.
- finishing Scarf Number Two in the Knitting for Compassion project. I'll post a picture tomorrow. Right now, I'm going to sit and read, and listen to the sound of my pond. Not the ocean, but back in Illinois.
Sunday, July 15, 2007
But what knitting project to take along for a week split into a professional meeting and then laying on the beach, reading the new Harry Potter? (My husband just came into the room to tell me that Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix took in $77 million its first weekend. He hopes that the young actors get a cut.)
Just worked out promising-looking lace pattern for a scarf or shawl, based on the Double Rose and Tracery patterns in Barbara Walker's second volume of knitting patterns. Haven't swatched it yet, but sketching it out on graph paper looks good. A fairly regular movement to the pattern, some nice purl sections to give me a rest on the wrong-side rows. And with this effort at designing, my first feeling that I've found a lace design that has the symmetry and the simplicity that I've been looking for. Really, the credit goes to Walker; I'm just borrowing her work to serve as the basis for mine. I'm in good company here, though. Some of my favorite lace
designers use Walker's books as jumping-off points for many of their designs.
However, I know that I can't knit lace sitting in the airport or talking to colleagues who are on the same flight. And I don't have enough of any one yarn to make a decent-sized scarf.
Option #2 is an easy ribbed scarf with a lacey ruffle on either end. I'll be able to concentrate on this, regardless of crying babies, airport announcements, thousands of women all ostensibly traveling to the same conference as me and all wearing almost the same outfit. But the yarn situation is an obstacle here, also. I have plenty of Cascade 220, which is great for felting but not the soft yarn I'd prefer for a scarf. Three skeins of Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran: soft, but the color is a deep pumpkin orange and I'm having a hard time imagining myself working through three balls of this color. Euroflax? Two hanks, but I've never worked with it, and now is probably not the best time to experiment.
Enough with the fussing. I call it packing anxiety, and it's really about my anticipation of going somewhere new, sharing a room, finding decent and adequate vegetarian food, and avoiding hypothermia during the day-long, indoor meetings. I'll surprise you with my decision when I post again. It may be tomorrow, or it may be later in the week.
In the meantime, tomatoes are ripening, corn is perfect for grilling, and I'm going to the beach!
Saturday, July 14, 2007
My own yoga practice at 6 am. Taught at 8 am. One of my largest classes ever. The door to the studio squeaks as it opens, and each time that I thought that we were settled in and ready to go, squeeeeak, swoosh, quiet thud as door closes, and another student wanders in. Go figure: there is no pattern to how my classes stack up. When I think that I'll have no one, I get a crowd. And when I anticipate a group and plan ahead, nada. It's just the universe smacking me upside the head once more.
After teaching, home to change clothes and apply make-up. Then, to work. Insanity, crowds, hardly a moment to take a breath or talk to my assistant before I head out for a week of conference then beach + the new Harry Potter + a visit from my younger daughter + hopefully nothing, once the conference is over, but sitting in a chair, listening to the ocean, and reading.
Here's some knitting from yesterday. I'm inventing the felted scarf as I go along, modifying Leigh Radford's pattern to fit the Lamb's Pride yarn on hand and my need for a bit more stimulation than constant stockinette stitch. The scarf starts out with a section using about half the skein of English rose, then half of what is about a half skein of pink. The center section is garter stitch and will go on until I use the skein of lavender up. Next time, I'll do a few rows of garter stitch, then a small stockinette section, then a long section of garter as the transition from stockinette to garter.
No knitting done tonight. My arms are too tired from putting clothes away, and by the time that we ate dinner, it was after 8 p.m. We watched a DVD and ate home-made pizza and watermelon and salad. Then I baked a cookie sheet of chocolate chip cookies because I deserve a Treat. And then I made the mistake of looking at the amazing yarn and knitting going on over here. How does a person create such beautiful stuff in such a short amount of time? And will I ever indulge myself in some Sundara Yarn?
This should probably be a no-whine as well as a no-pun zone. Because here's what I'm playing with:
A swatch of Bell Lace from Barbara Walker's Second Treasury of Knitting Patterns. Cascade 220 on a number 8 needle, just to see the design. I'm contemplating designing a lace shawl based on this pattern as the outer edge, with Spider Stitch as the main body of the wrap. Far down the road, and definitely not knitting for a very tired person. Twenty-eight rows in each repeat, with varying numbers of stitches from row to row, and patterning on both right-side and wrong-side rows. In other words, no relaxing purling back across the shawl as relief from all the counting going on during right-side rows.
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
Not the actual interaction with the fabric, which is the kind of knitting that you see everywhere, every day. It's the process of making it. Knit a row, purl a row. Over and over and over, until it seems that you will never get back the hours that you gave to making a piece of knitting that a machine could whip out in no time flat.
I'll admit it: I'm a product knitter. Well, I'm a product-everything. For me, the process is generally just the vehicle to get me to the end result. I'm not proud of this. Philosophically, I'm in favor of process: being mindful of what you are doing, enjoying the activity for its own good instead of getting through the work to get to the reward. But the mind has its own devices, and somewhere along the way, I was shaped into a product person.
Stockinette is not about product. It's the same actions, repeated innumerable times, in the same way. And the result is a homogenous piece of knitting, smooth on one side, bumpy on the other. No surprises. No change in result, no change in manner of making it.
I've introduced some color changes into the Shibori scarf to give my mind something to hold on to: a finish line, a slight change in stitches. In between each color change: a row of garter stitch. And a way to give my impatient nature an artificial way station. Now I can say to myself, only two more inches of pink, and then I get to switch to purple.
The promise of this scarf lies in the future, when I can see the effects of felting with surface detail. In the meantime, it's draining every last vestige of knitting desire out of me.
Monday, July 09, 2007
But I digress. Chanting, that's the topic. See how easily the mind wanders? Notice how much of that wandering, that vrtti, or mind activity - what my teacher calls monkey mind, as the thoughts jump around like a monkey in a tree - is about the past and the stuff that was negative but oh so formative?
Chanting helps the mind to focus. To sustain that focus over a period of time. In the second sutra of Book I of Patanjali's Yoga Sutra-s, Patanjali writes: Yoga cittavrittinirodaha. Yoga is the process of focusing on something and maintaining that focus. As a result, tada drastuh svarupe itaratram.The self, or essence or soul or awareness, is firmly established in its own form. Finding a focus, whether it's chanting or knitting or cooking or reading, helps to smooth out the waves in our ever-active minds. In class, I often compare yoga and meditation to taking a broom and sweeping the dust out of our minds. The dust will come back; it's not a permanent condition of cleanliness, or concentration. More like a brief flash, a mometary lull between the waves coming in and the waves going out.
Hmm. Chanting. Isn't that what I was talking about? See how this works. Focus. Wander. Focus. Wander. Chanting. I promise, For at least a paragraph. I've been studying with my mentor in California. We do a weekly phone call, in which we chant for about 20 minutes, then she talks about the sutras and their meanings while I attempt to capture everything that she is telling me in my notebook. Then I practice chanting as I drive back and forth to work, using a wonderful 4-Cd set/tutorial from Sonia Nelson of the Vedic Chant Center. I review the sutras that I know, then try to garble a few new ones out on my own, until I have a chance to study them with my mentor. And the last few weeks, I've been meeting with my teacher here to chant. We sit, we chant, we talk about the meanings, and we gab. Last week she told me that I remind her of her grandmother, who would chant the Sabbath prayers every Friday night, and who loved and understood her like no one else in her family. I felt very honored.
Chanting. Okay. I can do this. The great thing about chanting is that you realize that you do have a beautiful voice. That sound is healing, reflective, fun. That it's very cool to know some Sanskrit, because it's a good party trick and a treat when you start to recognize words that you understand. That the en-yay that you learned in Spanish comes in very handy in trying to pronounce Sanskrit. And that Patanjali was very very smart. Anything that you might want to know about the mind or psychology or health or balance? It's all here. Way before Freud and Jung and Western medicine.
And that it's a relief occasionally to stick with one thought. It's like swimming underwater. Quiet. No distractions. Clear. Smooth against the skin. Until you surface for air, and then it all goes up for grabs again.
Sunday, July 08, 2007
Here's the level of detail and beauty that Leigh Radford applies to her designs. The pattern is on heavy white bond paper, with the edge sewn instead of stapled.
The quote on the front of the pattern: "an essential aspect of creativity is not being afraid to fail - dr. edwin land."
Friday, July 06, 2007
To join, just send me an email at email@example.com and I'll send you an invitation. If you are a novice to blogging, tell me that as well and I'll give you a quick lesson. Think about it this way: if you can email, you can blog: same idea, slightly different process.
Once I have a post up, I'll give you the address of the blog, which will be called Knitting for Compassion.
Thursday, July 05, 2007
First, the Orange Bliss Scarf. Designed by Alison Hansel, author of Charmed Knits: Projects for Fans of Harry Potter. Simple knit two, purl two, ribbed pattern. Chunky yarn. Big needles. All that you have to know is how to cast on, knit, purl, and cast off. I'll try to get in touch with Alison to formally ask permission, but with the big release of the last Harry Potter book (how will I manage to get a copy while I'm in Florida, no known bookstore anywhere close to my hotel?), I'm hoping that she's busily knitting all manner of Weasley sweaters and Hogwarts scarves for the event.
Second, the Beginner's Garter Stitch Scarf. Designed by Sarah White. Chunky or super chunky yarn. Big needles. All that you have to know is how to cast on, make a knit stitch, and cast off.
Or, remember Rule Number One of Knitting: find a good yarn shop, pick out some fabulous yarn, and ask for help.
I'll try to work the patterns up myself this week and report back.
Oh, and questions about yarn? I'd think soft, easy to care for, and the rest is up to you. As I love to say to my staff, I trust you.
She, that is, the Chicago-area knitter, belongs to a knitting group and teaches at a summer knitting camp for senior citizens and junior high students. She's passing the information about HOW and our Knitting for Compassion project along, and they may send along a few scarves for the cause.
And Susan Pierce Lawrence, designer of my first road-tested scarf, is going to her stash of novelty yarns to do a scarf or two.
With luck and some time, more patterns to link to by Monday. Now, to bed.
Last night, I started road-testing a ribbed scarf while waiting for the fireworks to start. This is the most demanding knitting that I can do while having a conversation. Those knitters who can read and knit at the same time? The ones who make lace shawls while reading? Crazy. Not me. I make mistakes in a stockinette project if someone asks me a question.
Part of the problem, also, is that being someone who loves good tools, I'm having trouble applying myself to using a yarn that I don't love. This is Caron Simply Soft Quick, a super-bulky weight in a 100% acrylic. Machine-washable and tumble dry. Price somewhere around $2.99 a skein, which is 3 oz. and 50 yards of yarn.
My current goal is to investigate some affordable, doable ways to make scarves for Knitting for Compassion. First, let me clarify that I'm a firm believer in supporting your local yarn shop and all of its wonderful vendors. But for those who want to join in the project, but have more significant demands on their pocketbooks, I wanted to be able to offer some $5 or $10 scarves. So I'm trying to apply myself to working with the acrylics and cottons from a big-box craft store, and my mind keeps resisting.
Wednesday, July 04, 2007
Patterns. Photos of scarves made from listed patterns. More pictures, of scarves created by friends and co-workers and strangers. (Yesterday I received a card from a person in the Chicago area, whose daughter in another city (my hometown) received an email about the project and sent it to her mother here. Crazy and inspiring.)
Also, events. Please please support my LYS, the Knitche, and come out to knit with us on the evenings of Thursday, September 13th and Thursday, October 11th. I'm no knitting diva or even minor celeb, but it's a wonderful community of knitters and crocheters and dyers and creative people who are smart and interesting and welcoming, and everyone is included in the fun. If you are shy (as many of us are, and that's okay), you can come and find a quiet corner from which to observe, and that's very important, too.
Other matters for the sidebar: more information on Housing Opportunities for Women. (In one of those nice examples of unknown connections, it turns out that a very good friend of mine, who was a knitter way before me and is a friend that I've known since grad school, lives north of the city, belongs to a church that assists HOW.) Perhaps a Flickr account if I really push myself to take on my fear of the technology beast. Perhaps an original design just for the project?
And as Susan Pierce Lawrence aptly puts it on her website, "Please Play Nice" with the patterns. They are for personal use only; copies are to be restricted to one's own use; and no sale of patterns or scarves created from the patterns is permitted. Unauthorized reproduction of content or pictures is not permitted. Please go to Susan's homepage of her blog, I'm Knitting as Fast as I Can, to read more on how to play nice. The editors of Knitty also sum up the ethics and regulations of pattern use in an FAQ page in the online magazine.
Sunday, July 01, 2007
Pattern #1 in what will be a selection of some very easy-to-knit and some just-so-slightly more challenging patterns that you might want to use when you make your Knitting for Compassion scarf. Designed by Susan Pierce Lawrence of I'm Knitting as Fast as I Can, who kindly agreed to allow me to post a link to the pattern and to talk it up as a designated pattern for scarves knit for Housing Opportunities for Women.
Pattern: Branching Out
Designer: Susan Pierce Lawrence
Yarn: Patons SWS, 2 skeins @ 110 yds per skein, or 220 yds total
Needles: size 10.5 bamboo circular
Size after blocking: 6" by 70"
Easy to knit. All that you need to know is how to knit and purl and do a yarn over (which is just a wrap of the yarn around the needle so that you make a hole in the fabric on purpose). There are three other stitches in the pattern, but those are all variations of knit stitches. So if you can knit and purl, you can make this. I promise.
What you see is about four hours of knitting, and I'm a slow knitter. Someone faster than me or with better concentration could likely finish the scarf in three hours or so, plus blocking. Don't worry. I'll be showing you how to block lace. It's easy. Remember: our goal is to do something good for someone else, in a reasonable amount of time and with a reasonable amount of effort. I wouldn't send you down a scary path of really tough knitting without a fair warning. This is a beautiful pattern, fast to knit, and with a rewarding result.
You know, in Hollywood every star has a good side and a bad side, from which side you are never to film or photograph. Not so Branching Out. Every picture a winner.
Next up, a super-easy garter stitch scarf. And posting of links to the patterns in the sidebar. And maybe a button for you to copy and post on your blog. It all depends on the weather on the Fourth of July. Cause if it stays this way - sunny, no humidity, gorgeous - I'll be sitting in the backyard enjoying the atmosphere.