Thursday, May 29, 2008

FO and FO?

I finished something in the last few days, finally. It wasn't knitting, but I've been working at it for about least a month. Maybe longer - I wasn't keeping track.


I bought this copy at a second-hand book sale a few years ago. It's an edition from the 40s with a nifty map comparing Napoleon's invasion of Russia to Hitler's invasion. I guess there was something on everyone's mind in the 40s. Understandably.


This seems to be on everyone's list of "Books I should read but will never get around to." Really, when I picked it up at the sale on a whim I didn't have a strong conviction I'd ever read it either. But then, why read it "eventually" when I could read it now? Or something. If only I was that motivated about some other things in my life. Right.

But it's not so scary: it's almost entirely comprehensible, unlike much of the reading I did this year. (Okay, I'll stop bitching about 4th year. Maybe.) As my boyfriend says, it's like Jane Austen but with battles. I'm not sure the comparison is perfect, but it's certainly apt in some respects. In any case, despite it's potentially intimidating length I liked it a lot. It's a very satisfying book, and now I know what the fuss is all about. I read Anna Karenina a few years ago, but I think I enjoyed War and Peace more.

OH AND. A knitting FO, too!

Excuse the horrible backlighting and the awkward position. Here are Alison's Ankle Socks. I've mused about the shortrow heel difficulty before. They do look pretty rough, but not bad for my second pair of socks ever. If I make them again I'll add more rows of stockinette between the ribbing and the heel; I used 6, but I suspect they will slip down in my shoes. I have more than half a skein of this yarn left, which is unexpected. I constantly misjudge these things - I figured I wouldn't have enough for a regular length pair of socks, but now I have enough left to add some fun stripes to something some day. Hmmm perhaps I'll learn jogless stripes one of these days.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

back to old bad habits

I'm feeling the need to blog about nothing in particular since I'm once again writing essays. My summer course has vaguely kicked off and I hand in my first weekly paper tonight. "Evening" is such a non-specific deadline; I told myself it'd be done by 5, but perhaps I'll move that to 6. Ehhh. I find the material very interesting and it's totally different from all the stuff I spent this year doing that I hated, so yay! Somehow I feel like I want another few weeks off before school again. Alas.

The way I write essays or anything with a deadline is constant. I mean, I write and write until I have to hand it in or go to bed; usually the latter. Maybe it's good to constantly revise and redo, but sometimes I'm frustrated that nothing really ever gets finished. I mean, I finish it because I have to hand it in, but there's no definitive point when I know it is finished before then. Ah well.

I finished little pink sock #1, and it fits okay. Chugging away on the next one - will post pictures when they are both done.

Saturday, May 24, 2008



The crabapple trees have mostly lost their flowers and no longer look like this. It's a cliche, (isn't everything I do a cliche?), but I like to walk under them in their low branches and be surrounded by tree.

In less than a month I'll be going back to England for a visit, and I've all but abandoned any hope I had of getting a job before then. I'll start another massive and concentrated job search when I return, or something. I've been so excited about this trip ever since I booked my plane tickets, but now that it is close I've felt a strange mixture of relief and anxiety. Relief because a month is significantly less than 6 months, which is how long I will have been away from a significant fellow, almost to the day. Anxiety because of the time I've wasted between then and now moping over being so far away. I have this thing about counting down to an event: it makes me feel like the time before the event is useless and worth wasting, when I know it would be better used in activities other than counting down. I'd like to be able to accept the time and not agonize over it. I want to use it wisely because I know I won't get it back. Counting down seems like a way of counting down to my own death, and that sort of thing freaks me out.

Anyway. The point is, I feel I could have done more other than stress out these last 6 months. To be fair, I churned out an impressive bulk of final year essays and other tree-destroying work, and I did the most ambitious knitting I've ever engaged in - my first sweater, first socks, first cables, first stranded colourwork, some ill-received but nonetheless awesome monster-shaped furry slippers... So yay for me and my personal accomplishments, I guess. Plus, moping aside, I managed to hold up my end of a long distance relationship over a separation of 6 months- which wasn't really that hard most of the time and could have been much worse. While these haven't been the most fun 6 months of my life, maybe I should be satisfied.

That was a lot angstier than I had intended in this post-livejournal age. Oh well, whatever.

Friday, May 23, 2008

socks and sundry

I finished the back piece of the vest the other day, but I'm finding it dull, so I'm taking a break - famous last words. I've started some quick socks, and when they are finished I'll continue working on the vest.

These are Alison's Ankle Socks, in the leftover light pink from my endpaper mitts. It's hard to tell from the pictures, but I'm about halfway done the first sock. They are a little shorter on the ankle than I intended, and I think my feet are slightly too wide for the gauge, but they'll do.

little pink sock

I'm a novice sock knitter; this is my second pair of socks ever, and first with a short row heel/toe. Perhaps I can be forgiven for totally fudging the heel - the first time I knit it I attempted to use wrap and turn since that's the way I (sort of) know how to do short rows. The pattern is written with another method that confused me so I tried to ignore it, but that was a bad idea. When I finished, it looked a lot more like a toe than a heel and I panicked. I ended up ripping it out and starting over. That was probably needless, but as I say I was ignorant of short row heels before this experience. Upon reading to the end of the pattern, I realized that the toe is made in exactly the same way as the heel. So the fact that the heel looked like a toe? Shouldn't have been an issue. Right, oh well. Thwarted again!

little pink heel

It still looks like a toe when folded like this, but as seen in the first photo it's totally a heel. A little rough, but I'll work on my technique for the second sock.

In less fun news, there was a bombing in Exeter. While it sounds like a mostly botched affair, and only the bomber was injured, it's a bit scary. Watching cell phone camera footage of people milling about on High Street after the explosion is unsettling. Exeter seems like a very unlikely place for terrorism, I must say. The university has a reputable centre for Arab and Islamic Studies; I took a module there last year. I'm sure the intellectuals can handle it, but I hope there's no bigotry and backlash. I'm going back there in June to visit the boy and I'm so so so excited that bombs won't dampen my enthusiasm. So there.

Monday, May 19, 2008


Ravelry's queue feature has been both useful and obstructive in my mental knitting life. I have to stop myself from putting everything I sort of like in my queue, because I know I don't intend to make most of it. The top of my queue has things I definitely want to make, but the trouble lies in my desire to make useful things. My mental knitting life needs a different sort of organization, so I'm going to use this space to make a different kind of queue based on the kind of item I need/want.

Things I need/want to make for myself in the next 6 months:
1. A summer cardigan: Lucky clover lace wrap; Ysolda's forthcoming cloud cardigan thing;
2. A shrug: Bellflower; Shimmer; Drop-stitch shrug
3. A fall/winter cardigan: Basic Black; Brennan cardigan; Sesame;
4. Socks: Hedera; Alison's ankle socks;
5. A real scarf for me: Henry; Tiger Eye lace; Ropes and Ladders

I have lots of options. Realistically, I'll do socks first, since I have yarn for them. I'm probably going to end up making a shrug instead of a summer cardigan this year, since it will be quicker and probably cheaper... I need something for summer arm-coverage since I burn so easily. And a scarf is just necessary. Would you believe I haven't knit a scarf for several years, and so I still use my three-year experimental seat-of-the-pants roll-y stockinette striped scarf from a few years back? Indeed. It's warm, but I think I need an update that shows off my somewhat improved knitting skills. Snrk.

The year of accessories is upon us?

Monday, May 12, 2008

I like flowers, yay - gratuitous photos

The backyard is carpeted in violets and dandelions at the moment, and the forget-me-nots are starting to emerge in the front. The tulips are on the wane, but I had forgotten how many different kinds we have. When I was a kid we had tiny red ones and tiny yellow/white ones, and those are the ones I always remember, but the others always surprise me.

On the crafty front, I'm slogging away at the vest - it's going more quickly than I had expected for smallish gauge stockinette stitch. I'd been embroidering some jeans, since I am always more attracted to that in the warm weather, but my embroidery hoop broke, plus my octopus looks more like cookie monster. (as in, blue and hairy with yellow eyes.) Oops. I'll remedy that eventually.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

100 things about me

1. I hate the smell of vinegar. It makes me gag and choke, usually over-dramatically.
2. I wish I could sew all my own clothing, but whenever I try I end up having to do everything twice.
3. I have knit far more disasters than successes.
4. My first real FO was a pair of felted mittens in Lopi yarn that took me three years to knit because I forgot about them for long periods of time.
5. I try to be a monogamous knitter.
6. I love garlic.
7. I can’t stand tomatoes or anything made with tomatoes. Tomato sauce is one of my least favourite smells.
8. I have a sensitive sense of smell. My dad used to joke that I was a supertaster as well, but I don’t think I technically am, given that I enjoy most of the things that supertasters are apparently less likely to: spinach, coffee, olives, grapefruit juice, soy, etc.
9. I don’t really like cheese, but I’ve become more open to it in my old age.
10. I let my G1 license expire, and I’m not planning on getting a driving license in the near future.
11. I want to live somewhere I can walk to everywhere I need to go.
12. I obsessively modify recipes.
13. I’m awkward.
14. My favourite dessert is plain yogourt with fresh peaches.
15. In my third year of university I studied abroad in England.
16. I play the saxophone, but I haven’t seriously since 1st year university.
17. I have dual citizenship: Canadian / American.
18. I have run out of shelf space for my books and they have begun to occupy my floor.
19. My pretentiously conceived dream home is filled with plants, books, and art.
20. I am obsessed with the idea of living sustainably, but I haven’t figured out a way to do that yet.
21. When I was in England, I was mistaken for Irish on two separate occasions, once by an Irishman. This continues to puzzle me.
22. I wish I was good at languages, but on the other hand I’m shy and anti-social enough that I would never use them.
23. I’m a Latin nerd.
24. I spent hours in the Paris catacombs trying to figure out Latin inscriptions among the bones.
25. When I visited Prague, I spent a whole day in two Kafka museums, although I had not read any of his work at that point.
26. I have had a journal on and off since I was 7. My first journal had a plastic cover with balloons on it.
27. I am afraid of forgetting things. This fuels my obsessive journal writing.
28. I went to band camp for several years in high school and constantly had to deal with people quoting a crappy teen comedy.
29. I tend to remain ignorant about the gadgetry associated with my interests and hobbies.
30. I’m generally okay with being mediocre.
31. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy changed my life and remains a significant influence on me even ten years after I read it.
32. My relationship with my brother is almost entirely based on inside jokes from weird radio comedy.
33. Octopi fascinate me.
34. On my 19th birthday my friends forced me to sign up for facebook against my will.
35. I left livejournal for political reasons.
36. People often make puns with my last name.
37. I rarely buy souvenirs other than postcards when I travel.
38. I am in love with the idea of sweater vests.
39. Someday I expect to own a tweed jacket with leather patches.
40. I don’t understand a word of Heidegger.
41. My extended family on my father’s side all live within a 5-block radius of my immediate family. We were there first.
42. I was born in Germany. No, I do not have German citizenship, nor do I speak German, although I wish I could.
43. I love Minoan art motifs.
44. My experience as high school yearbook editor taught me a lot, but it also turned me off management forever.
45. I get really excited about seeing things that I learned about in textbooks in person.
46. My style of traveling is to wander aimlessly and stumble upon interesting things. This is not foolproof.
47. I have traveled in Canada, U.S.A, Costa Rica, China, England, Scotland, Ireland, France, Germany, and the Czech Republic, with brief but significant stops in Belgium and Wales.
48. I have a knack for liking clothing in styles entirely unsuited to my body type.
49. But I actually like my body type, most of the time.
50. I have blue eyes, brown hair, and freckles.
51. I am growing my hair until I can’t stand it anymore.
52. One of the reasons I am growing my hair is to avoid making a decision about how to have it cut.
53. I’m chronically indecisive.
54. When I was a baby, my parents and I vacationed in Portugal, and Chernobyl blew up while we were there. My parents have a photo in which can be seen a newspaper with a headline describing the nuclear disaster.
55. I am afraid of the telephone.
56. I read Doorways in the Sand by Roger Zelazny about once a year.
57. I would like to visit New Zealand.
58. I am unable to specialize, and I fear this makes me master of none.
59. I feel guilty if I don’t pay attention to world events for any length of time.
60. I don’t believe in free will.
61. I made earrings long before I got my ears pierced.
62. I like winter.
63. Skating is my favourite athletic activity, and the only one I’m any good at.
64. Though, hiking is also up there.
65.I love cliffs and oceans.
66. People tend to forget who I am, so I have a habit of reminding them even when I don’t need to.
67. I realize that compiling this list is an exercise in ego, but then, so is having a blog. So I’ll keep going.
68. My main vice is chocolate covered almonds.
69. Despite what they may tell you, I’m not a Communist. Really.
70. I do not want to contribute to the clutter of the universe, but I love making things that tend to contribute to this clutter.
71. For the above reason I have developed a pathological obsession with practicality in my handmade items. This only works in theory.
72. I love fruit. Apples are my favourite fall fruit, peaches are my favourite in summer, and grapefruits in winter.
73. I am afraid of showing anyone my work before knowing I’m absolutely perfect at it; of course, I never feel I’ve completely mastered anything, so I rarely put my work out in public.
74. Yet, I don’t consider myself a perfectionist. When I make things for myself I fudge them all the way along.
75. If I lived in ancient Rome (and was a free-born male), I would probably have been an Epicurean.
76. Green and purple is my favourite colour combination.
77. I often make sarcastic remarks at the television in a loud and belligerent voice.
78. Sleeping on clean sheets is one of my simple pleasures.
79. Diamonds are overrated.
80. I’m still not sure what I want to be when I grow up, if I grow up.
81. Objects silhouetted against the sky please my aesthetic sense.
82. I love words like sesquipedalian. And just words in general.
83. I do not want to have pets, ever. Other than maybe fish.
84. I could easily become pescatarian, except that the fishing industry is the one I object to most of food industries, so any ethical decisions attempted in the process would be undermined.
85. I quit eating beef for a year while I was in England, but I swear it was not from fear of mad cow disease.
86. I don’t eat pork. This has nothing to do with the fact that half my family is Jewish.
87. Fashion fascinates and repels me.
88. I’m not ambitious. This does not make me a slacker, though.
89. I love old books in all their yellowing, dusty, cracked glory.
90. I seem to like a lot of music by men with low, gravely, often tuneless voices (e.g. Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen, Louis Armstrong).
91. I once saw Sonny Rollins in concert, and it remains tied for the best show of my life.
92. The other best show was The Decemberists in Glasgow in 2007.
93. Making hand-bound blank books fills me with satisfaction.
94. I have been known to sunburn even in the spring when it is overcast.
95. I only tan after I burn, but even my tan looks a lot like most other people’s pasty winter skin.
96. Greek mythology was my first academic passion, from grade 6 onward.
97. Most of my favourite books are dystopian fiction.
98. One of the few stuffed animals I still have is a giant plaid moose.
99. My favourite flowers are violets and forget-me-nots.
100. I have a bad sense of direction. Sometimes I pretend I don’t know where something is so that I don’t have to try to explain it and inevitably make someone else get lost.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Knit scavenging

Okay, so false alarm about the alpaca blend basement yarn. I kept knitting, and it no longer bothers me, so I'm going to stick with this Gilmore vest.


I am slowing making my way... I haven't knit anything flat in a long time.

Note the mismatched needles:

These needles were scavenged from second hand stores over the years, or dumped, partnerless, in my basement by a relative. Or something. In any case, they are the same size, so they work fine. They amuse me.

Mismatchedness, scavenging, reusing... I think these are features of my crafting style, if I have such a thing. I like working with found objects: I pick broken jewelry up off the ground with every intention to make something new out of it (I will someday, I swear). I use found basement needles and found basement yarn. Part of my love-hate relationship with the clutter of handicraft seems to mellow with found crafts, since at least I can use something that someone else might have thrown away. I'm not sure if it gets me anywhere; maybe the effect is purely psychological.

Monday, May 05, 2008


Knitting with the alpaca-blend basement yarn did not bother me when I was doing a gauge swatch this week. It didn't bother me when I was swatching back in October... but suddenly it makes my hands all tingly and itchy. I'm not impressed. I doubt that I'm allergic to alpaca, since I have items of clothing that contain alpaca that have never bothered me, so this is extremely puzzling. Perhaps it is time to start some socks instead.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

basement yarn

I barely have a stash, and for now I'd like to keep it that way. I'm a student living with my parents probably moving away to an exotic foreign land for grad school in the next few years (or so I keep telling myself), and I don't want to drag a large stash with me; nor do I want to leave it behind. I'm trying to buy with specific projects in mind, and I'm trying to avoid yarn sales. Sigh. My stash at the moment has remnants and leftovers, and several skeins of ancient fingering-weight wool from Switzerland that will probably become socks, (not superwash, so very impractical but oh well) or maybe a beret.

My basement has a sizeable stash, however. It is comprised of yarn that my mom has collected over the years, as well as donations from grandparents who no longer want to knit. Lots of weird yarn, and mostly anonymous yarn - it's great fun searching through it. I've always liked household archaeology. Some of it dates back to my infancy, when my parents lived in Germany. Like the eight balls of anonymous charcoal 50% alpaca, 30% new wool, 20% polyacryl marked at 5 Deutsche Marks per ball. It's so fuzzy.

I found this yarn basement stash-diving last summer and originally intended it for my first sweater, but it was the wrong weight (DKish) and I didn't think I'd have enough. But given my obsession with sweatervests, I was bound to come to this conclusion eventually. Summer isn't exactly the best time for making a sweater vest, I guess, but maybe it will encourage me to get out there and find a job in an air-conditioned office. Maybe. I'm sure I'll have too much yarn for this vest, but I'm still not convinced there's enough here for the kind of sweater I'd want to make. My leftovers will go back into the basement yarn abyss to await discovery by hapless explorers in years to come. No big deal.

I think I'll add a touch of waist shaping, if I can figure out how to do that without too much trouble. I have been looking at the Stitch and Bitch Nation sweater customization suggestions and thinking it would really be useful to have some basic mental math skills again. I'll work on it. I'm not sure if such a deep v neck is a good idea either, but I guess I'll find out.