Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Packing Light

Off to Tennessee tomorrow for the fourth section of my training in yoga therapy. Above, my version of packing light. Really, I'm better at this than I was a few years ago. Somehow, it soothes me to just keep piling whatever I think that I might want to take on top of the suitcase, then allow time and space for a natural winnowing process. Deadline is tonight before I go to bed to make final decisions and close the suitcase up. (My husband just asked, "are you all packed?")

Below, the heart-rending decisions of what books and knitting to take. I'll have a medium-length flight with plenty 'o time in the airport going and then waiting on the other end for the shuttle to the retreat center. But once I get there, not much time at all for anything but the easiest knitting and maybe a mystery to read before bed.

The yarn is for a hat for my older daughter. This time, I'm going with washable wool. But perhaps she inherited her ability to felt. Before, here. After, below:
Unfortunately, the picture lacks scale, so it's difficult to tell that the sweater now is literally about ten inches long and has sleeves that only a Barbie doll's arms would fit through. I was doing some post-knitting sizing down of the sweater and threw it in the machine on hot water to felt. When I felted my Malabrigo mittens, it took at least five cycles to bring them down to size. This time, I let the sweater agitate for about one and a half cycles, which was one and a quarter cycles too long. Perhaps I'll get creative when I get home and figure out a way to open up the sleeves, knit in a placket, and make this into a bolero. Or, my older daughter, let's take all those felted hats and this sweater and make them into potholders?

So, happy beginning of October. Not sure if I'll be able to post while away, so see you in a few weeks.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Not So Baby Cable Rib Socks

A good, solid, reassuring sock in an easy-to-work pattern.

Pattern: Baby Cable Rib Socks (modified pattern: make cable every seventh row)
Designer: Charlene Schurch
Source: Sensational Knitted Socks

Yarn: Cascade 220 Superwash, color 862 (about 1 1/2 skeins or 400 yards)

Needles: size 2 40" KnitPicks circular with nickel-plated tips

Gauge: 7 stitches to the inch

Modifications to original pattern: lengthened knit sections between cable stitch to create a huskier fabric; worked Joan's Favorite Toe to create a rounded rather than pointy toeI knit a longer leg than on the previous socks made for my husband. These are nine inches from cuff to heel, which seemed huge to me, but he (who likes ragg hiking socks and SmartWool and the REI version of Smartwool) says that they're just right. This is a machine-washable wool without nylon content. However, all of the ribbing and cabling create a spongy, resilient feel to the fabric and I think that they'll hold up just fine.

And with focus, these go fast. On Sunday, I sat still and knitted for 45 minutes, then knit in the car on the way to see Caroline, or Change, and had most of the foot completed. Amazing what you can accomplish when you focus. . .even with my mind telling me, over and over, that there were a million other things to do, and me replying "nope. gotta sit still and finish the sock so that I can have the needles back for another project."

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

I Wish Your Wish

This afternoon, my mother took me to the Carnegie Museum of Art to see the Carnegie International 2008. This is a show that rivals the best and biggest art exhibits in New York and Europe, and it's right here in little old Pittsburgh, my hometown.

My favorite piece is this one, called I Wish Your Wish by Rivane Neuenschwander. It's sited on a large wall near the entryway to the museum, where three massive hallways lined in grey granite meet. From afar, it looks like an Agam, or an out sized, colorful wall painting. When you get closer, you see that it is made of hundreds of narrow ribbons threaded into circular holes in the wall. Each ribbon has a saying printed on it in English or Spanish or French, and perhaps some other languages that I did not notice. I WISH THAT I LIVED AT THE BEACH. I WISH THAT MY CHILDREN WILL HAVE A LIFE FREE FROM PAIN. I WISH THAT I DIE IN MY SLEEP.

And the curator singled me out to demonstrate how the piece works. You choose a ribbon, wrap it, and then it is tied three times (that's an important part of the ritual, she said - remember this for later) around your wrist, with a wish made with each knot. You wear the ribbon until it falls off, and when it disintegrates, your wishes come true. My ribbon, which she selected, says I WISH I MAKE LIFE PROUD OF MY ACHIEVEMENTS. (I did remove it to read it, but I didn't make wishes the first time, so I'm calling this a fair and clear do-over.)

The link above doesn't convey how tactile and colorful and interactive the piece is. It was hard to move people away from the wall: they gathered in front of it, wanting to read each ribbon, wanting to select the wish that was the one for them. I loved that an older man on our tour allowed me to help tie his ribbon around his wrist, and that he told me that his wife thought it was a gruesome choice. His ribbon said I WISH TO DIE AN EASY DEATH. I admired his selection and mentioned that I wished for the same thing, and that my husband and I were just talking about this the other day after attending a memorial service for a relative, who left behind a wife who is also very ill. Now, this man's wrists were larger than mine and the ribbon was not going to wrap around, so I told him that, for men, the ribbon only goes around once and then you tie the three knots on the same side of the wrist. I tied the ribbon on and walked away, and I heard the man telling his buddy: "Now for men, you just wrap it around once and then tie it." Instant ritual and connection with others.

One other element that I loved about this piece: on a table nearby, scraps of paper and the little wooden pencils from the miniature golf course. (I mention this in part because I love miniature things, and I love those proud little nubs of pencils.) For each ribbon/wish that you take away, you are to write a new wish and leave it in the empty hole. It's like sending a message in a bottle across time and space. The artist uses the left-behind wishes to create new ribbons, and the cycle continues.

My second favorite piece was Cavemanman by Thomas Hirschhorn. Be sure to click through the images to get a sense of the labyrinthine quality, of its homeliness - both in the sense of feeling very cozy and in the mundane materials - over 3500 rolls of packing tape were used to make it, the guard told us, and it requires upkeep of retaping continually - and the idea of this construction of cardboard and tape and political tracts and video screens showing images from the painted walls of the Caves of Lascaux as the home of our future. Each time you go around a corner, you find a new room, with new images, or pages of philosophy taped to the walls like images, or bookshelves filled with lots of incendiary books. My favorite pun in the piece is that the books are the fuses for the very hokey looking, tinfoil and red tape dynamite stuck to the entry of each room. Yes, books and thoughts are dynamite.

I also liked the Just a Bit More by Ranjani Shettar. An ethereal piece with so much attention to detail. The string is dyed with tea. The small spheres in the piece are each hand formed from wax. And the piece is hung in waves that seem like airy screens in some places, in others bowing out or making a sharp angle like a sail on a boat. The theme of the International, called Life on Mars, is the ephemeral aspect of life, and this piece showed the extreme beauty of an insubstantial, crafted object.

The show is here through mid-January. You should come visit. Pittsburgh is a lovely town with good ethnic food, good music, and good architecture. And good knitting, too, for you knitter-lurkers.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Hemlock Ring Blanket

Pattern: Hemlock Ring Blanket (this version of the pattern, revised by the Rainey Sisters from Jared Flood's design, has stitch counts and good, clear directions); original design at Brooklyntweed
Yarn: Cascade Ecological Wool, color 8049/lot 9490, 1 1/2 skeins (478 yds. per skein; I used about 750 yards)
Source: Knitche, Downers Grove, IL
Needles: size 10 1/2 double points for center, size 9 16" and 24" circulars, size 10.5 40" circular
Gauge in stockinette with size 9 circular after blocking: approx. 12-14 stitches and about 25-28 rows to 4 inches (measured in center leaf portion, which may skew measurement as area is circular and stitches tilt somewhat)
Size after blocking: 46 inches in diameter

This is a wonderful fall or winter project. It's cozy, warm, reassuring: just what we need in the midst of all this upheaval of pre-election hubbub, the stock market insanity (who but high-level economists can comprehend the strange workings of the American economic system? did you know that a stockbroker can sell stock that he does not yet own - so-called shadow selling?), the weather. And once you are past the center detail, you have the rhythm of one row of yarnovers against stockinette, then four rows of plain stockinette. Round and round, until you run out of yarn or tire of the process.

This is not a project to knit in public if you are looking to either impress others or attract them to the craft of knitting. Before blocking, it looks like a big lump of yarn. Many people asked me if it was a hat, and my yoga teacher, feeling humorous, suggested that it was a pair of Iyengar yoga shorts (a strange fashion of a shortish short with baggy short legs closed by elastic). But, of course, as it is lace, after blocking, it is simply gorgeous. There are many beautiful portraits of this blanket, starting with those of the designer at Brooklyntweed.
Below, a detail of the Feather and Fan circumference.And the edging.

I highly recommend the crocheted edging over the knitted directions. It goes a million times faster and makes a very nice frame for this chunky, textured blanket.

Next time: I will use the same size needles for the center and Feather and Fan sections. Still so much to learn about knitting! Because I switched from 10.5 needles to start the round center, then to size 9 needles, then back to size 10.5, the middle of the blanket is, well, poufy.It was fine when it was wet, blocking, stretched to the nth degree, and pinned flat. Once it dried, the center, which is a larger gauge than the leaf detail surrounding it, puffed up. I was wondering why I couldn't achieve a good shot of the blanket laid out flat. Today, I realized that it must be the difference in gauge.

Also, next time, I'll noodle along until I've used up the entire two skeins of yarn. Again, photography deceived me into imagining the final result being big enough to cover an adult, lying on the couch, reading a book. My completed blanket is more of a large lap blanket. And this will also prevent the lolly gagging of that end of the skein in my stash. I'm too lazy to figure out how much yarn, exactly, I used, so I now have the weight of an unknown amount of yarn adding to the basket of leftovers. Closure is important, particularly in knitting, where you can live with the fantasy that you have some control over the end result.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Not So Baby Cable

A more masculine rendition of the Baby Cable Rib sock from Sensational Knitted Socks. I'm working six rounds of K2P2; then, on the seventh round, I knit 2 stitches together, then insert the needle (I'm using a size 2 KnitPicks 40" circular, but I knit loosely) between the two knit stitches and knit the second stitch again. Eh voila: a pseudo cable without having to remove the stitches from the needle.
The yarn is Cascade 220 Superwash. The color that I'm using is 862, but the skein is a year old; the closest current color looks like 912. I'm appreciating the quiet, warm color. It's like a soothing bath, or a cup of cocoa. Reassuring, calm, nurturing.

My plan for the sock was to not count rows and to cable whenever I felt like it. Somehow, I ended up counting anyway and trying to have the cables match. Habits are hard to break. New habits are even more difficult to implement.

But, "If nothing can ever change, nothing can get any better! If you don't create new ways to solve old problems, you'll always be stuck with the old problems." This is Maggie Righetti talking about creativity and innovation in Sweater Design in Plain English, but she could be talking about the way we might go about tackling any problem.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Vasana at the Dentist

Vasana are deep impressions left by previous experience. They are more fundamental than samskara, which I usually describe as the habits and patterns that we unconsciously follow in our actions.

Samskara is seeing the days getting shorter and feeling that it's time to go back to school. Or feeling irritated when someone steps in front of you after you've been waiting a long time in the line for the checkout at the grocery store. Or believing that you always know the answer or, alternatively, that maybe you never know the answer. Doesn't matter what the question is: you respond like Pavlov's dog. Same stimulus, same reflex.

Vasana, in contrast, reach further down into the overlapping parts of our selves (body, mind, breath, personality, and emotions - what are called the panca mayas, or five layers. Think spiderweb, as in you touch one part, and the entire thing vibrates. Similarly, yoga contends that by affecting one of the layers - such as the breath - we begin to affect all other layers. But I digress.) I often describe vasana as emotional scar tissue - things happen to us, they leave a mark, and when we re-experience the event that caused the damage, we feel the same feelings again, even if there is no chance of the past recurring.

The reason that I bring this up: today I went to the dentist. I'm not usually a person nervous about the dentist. But as I bolted down lunch and then killed some time doing the least calming thing that a knitter can do, which is to troll Ravelry looking for patterns and then drilling down to people's finished objects and then drilling down to problems/errata/mine fields that might be waiting out there in Pattern Land, I realized that I was not looking forward to the visit. I left the house just late enough to get me to the appointment five minutes late, which is a pattern of mine and one that I need to break. Perhaps somewhere in the reptilian part of my brain, I was thinking "Rudeness. Lateness. They'll just tell me to go back home!"

I noticed, as I waited for the elevator, that there is an office called Absolutely Gentle Dentistry (it may have been Absolute) on the same floor as my dentist's very large practice. Why has he never sent me there? I speculate that Absolutely Gentle Dentistry is like the 13th floor in a kids' book that I love but can't recall the title of (not The Pink Motel, which I adore, but that vintage): it does not show up on the elevator pad and only some people can get there.

Unfortunately, I was not dispatched back home due to tardiness. They took me back to the office, had me lay down in the chair, and left me to look at an irritating picture of very yellow tulips against a very blue sky. This is Illinois, office decorator person, not Holland, and if you looked out the window to the left of this graphic, there was a typical grey Chicago sky full of billowy clouds blocking the sun until next June.

I will spare my 14 or 15 readers the rest of my Eeyore-response to the visit, except to note that I felt a whole lot better once I told the assistant that I was nervous. And as I talked with her, I realized that the reason that I was nervous was not about today. It was about being in the same office, in the same chair, practically, where I was told last year that I had to have another surgery. And that one surgery led to another. Suddenly, I was thrown back to that year, when I seemed to alternate between periods of healthiness capped by strange reasons that called for dramatic hospital visits.

Once I found a reason for the stomach being in knots, I felt much better. See, the vasana don't go away. The goal, instead, is to be more aware when they do crop up and then to be able to process the influence without excessive agitation. Yoga doesn't get rid of the difficult stuff; it just looks to add on skills that help you navigate the choppy waters with a bit more confidence and less swamping of the boat. I told my dentist, who had arrived by now and asked if he was the reason that I was nervous, that it was fine and had naught to do with his care, and that I was now going to turn the sound up on my Ipod (the soundtrack of Dreamgirls for some reason seemed to help) and pretend that I wasn't there. He was fine with that.

But don't try to explain vasana to your dentist when the left half of your face, tongue, and lips are numbed with novacaine. Trying to say "vasana" - pronounced vaaah- sa - nah - during modern oral surgery is an art waiting to be developed.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Down the Rabbit Hole

Never start playing with the template of your blog when you have many, many things on your to-do list.
Also, do not delete the old template. Also, do not delete any emails or documents.
Also, do not write a post on the laptop which necessitates going to the desktop computer to upload a picture.

There will be regret.

On the plus side, yesterday my husband found the reading glasses that I'd lost over six months ago. They were in the garden, by the tiny pond, under some greenery. They are now soaking in the bathroom sink and will need to go to Lenscrafters for a retread so that the earpieces come somewhere close to the sides of my head.
Incredible. The last time that I lost them, I discovered them some weeks later on the top of the bookshelf in the dining room. I never put my glasses there.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Labor Day

KnitPicks Essential Tweed in a color called Lumberjack. I'm working it doubled on a size 2 KnitPicks circular needle, going for the feel of a hiking sock. The pattern is Whitby from Nancy Bush's book, Knitting on the Road.

Below, the same sock shot in Vivid Color. I just discovered that my inexpensive Nikon Coolpix L3 has many options that I've not explored. Below, the same sock in Vivid Color: The blob. AKA the Hemlock Ring Blanket. Please to observe stitch markers separating pattern repeats as well as the use of lifelines. (If you're not a knitter, but you are lurking anyhow, lifelines are a thread run through all the stitches of, usually, a lace piece, so that when you need to rip back to correct an error, you can pick the stitches up from the line instead of picking each apart and hoping that you haven't lost one. Kind of a clothes line for the stitches.)
I learned the hard way that blithely hoping that the spare stitches that appear at the end of the circular row, or the ones that are missing when they should be there, will not heal themselves, no matter how many times that I reached the end of the row and did a decrease or an increase.

I also learned that a gazillion people can post this project in Ravelry, and no one mentions that the original pattern, from the Brooklyn Tweed blog, has been updated and improved on the Rainey Sisters' blog. The PDF version from the sisters includes stitch counts, which allows you to check for errors after every increase row in the Feather and Fan section. A lifesaver. Thank you.

And I love this yarn: Cascade Ecological Wool. It has a faint sheepy fragrance to it, knits up beautifully on a size 9 or 10 needle, and is very affordable. You probably know this: but almost 500 yards for $15.75 at my LYS. That's 3.51 cents per yard. I could see this yarn knit up as a great sweater for a guy, something comfy and warm and sufficiently manly. And some test pictures for my yoga brochure. A tall stack of my favorite yoga books.
A page from my Sutra book, with notes. One of my favorite sutras: abhyasavairagyabhyam tannirodah. Practice, then let go of what the outcome will be. The result is that the mind will become less agitated, some clarity will result.
And honest physical labor. I painted the front steps. Still need to paint the risers, but today was coat #2 on the steps and porch. Another test picture for the brochure: I'm looking for an image of the sun shining onto a surface.