Archive for the ‘knitting’ Category

a word about march…before april is over

April 15, 2008

While I’m disappointed with myself for not writing during March, I’m letting myself off the hook because March was decidedly less than inspiring.  I overheard a young woman bemoaning the month as a whole, stating that “March tried to be too much like February, so I ignored it.”

(Meanwhile, it’s supposed to freeze here in Cincinnati tonight, so April’s not blazing any paths to originality, either.)

However, several events are bringing much joy in April.  A short list below, complete with photos:

This jade plant dropped the leaf to the left a year or so ago.  I noticed after a few days that the leaf had sprouted the tiniest root from its base so I shoved it in the soil and ignored it.  Now there’s a little plant growing from the leaf.  Yea!!

smallest jade

In other plant related news, my christmas cactus bloomed a second time in March.  The plant thought it was still winter, too.  It was gorgeous!

I’m working on a new shawl:

another shawl

I finished my hourglass sweater:

better color

However, I HATE the neck.  It’s way, way too big.  Rip it, rip it out.

(The Swingin’ Neckbreakers‘ cover of “Rip it Rip it Up” always runs through my head when I have to rip.)

The spate of news stories on the push-up as a benchmark of overall health freaked me out.  I’ve been doing push-ups almost daily in an effort to repress my first attempt, which put me at “poor.”  Not even “fair,” mind you.  “Poor.”  Ouch.

Since then, I’ve been a push-up machine.  I wish I could say I was above jokes about going to the “gun show”…

And finally, because it’s been such a long time between drafting and posting, here’s another photo of my jade. Another little shoot!

bonus bud

And that’s all I got.



analog weekend

February 19, 2008

I didn’t set out to avoid everything digital this past weekend, but avoid it I did. No phone calls, no email, barely any web surfing—I checked the weather a few times, and clicked through the Times, but otherwise not much in the way of computer interaction.  And though we did watch a couple episodes of The Wire (Season Four), those hours were the only two we spent watching the tube between Friday night and Monday night. Instead, we spent our weekend unpacking (we’re finally out of boxes!!), walking (we walked to Oakley Square one day, up to Hyde Park Square the next), visiting the museum (exhibition of quilts at the Cincinnati Art Museum), reading (I began and finished a novel on Sunday in two two-hour sittings) and eating.

Also, I did a good bit of knitting, and my sweater is almost finished:

hourglass v.2

The best part, honestly, was the reading, even though I did not enjoy the book (Atonement).  I had not immersed myself in a book for a long, long time—I almost forgot how it felt to churn through a novel.  Anyway, I know it’s probably next to impossible, but I’d like to try to have at least two “analog” weekends per month going forward.  My soul felt rested, if that makes any sense.  Truth be told, it was exactly what I needed, even though I’m not sure I would have been able to identify those needs on Friday before I tuned out.

Today, I’ve been thinking not so much about how great my weekend was (though it truly was a spectacular weekend for me) but rather how I managed to get to a point in my life where not working, not checking emails, not dealing with the phone, not reading online became the exception not the rule…

quick and dirty

February 6, 2008

Okay, maybe not so dirty, but this post will be brief and spartan.  I really, really want to dedicate some time to a few of these items, but they’ll have to wait for now.  Until then, here’s a list of topics for future posts:

•  We’ve moved.  I know, I know, who moves at the start of a semester?  No one in their right mind.  We took up the idea to move on January 11 (the date of my last post), chose a new place on the 14th, and moved the 28th of the same month.  In that time, we packed up our stuff, painted five of eight rooms in our new place (one a two-tone job) and moved.  The unpacking?  A work in progress.  Every new box is like Christmas.  Most commonly uttered sentence:  “Oh that’s where ____ ended up.  Funny.”

•  Second semester is underway.  I actually have a draft of a post entitled “they’re just not that into me…or the class.”  It promises to be a long semester in that regard.  The real question is:  do I care?  The answer:  I’m not sure.

•  Campus visits.  Oy.

•  New apartment, new area of town.  We’re basically in the East Egg portion of East Egg.  Too many runners, too many Audis, too many Starbucks-toting, Uggs-wearing citizens.  We got a deal on our apartment.  No, it’s not in Oxford.  Why do you ask?

•  Knitting?  What’s knitting?  My fingers itch at the memory of holding needles.  Phantom limb for the wool and needle set?  I have about half of one sleeve left to go before I attach the sleeves and begin the yoke:

hourglass with sleeve start

Check back with me in April, when cashmere will most certainly be the least appropriate fiber for the rainy, sticky, pre-Spring evenings.

 •  And finally, Opening Day can’t come soon enough.

the one good thing

November 14, 2007

about the nights when russell works really late?

I can have asparagus and red wine for dinner, and nothing else, and no one complains.

In other news, I am not that girl.

new mitts

(By the way, I’m not proud of this photo. In fact, I’m perfectly ashamed. But I’ve been too busy to write anything but dissertation and job materials, so taking a real picture is out of the question. Not so anal after all?)

a day of reckoning

April 14, 2007

A week or so ago, a student asked me why I never wear anything I’ve knit. I didn’t hesitate when I told her that the onslaught of babies has prevented me from being able to finish anything for myself. What I failed to mention is the fact that, for the time being, my knitting for babies is all done.

yep. more babies

The truth? Well, that’s a bit harder to explain.

It’s like this: I have been busy writing, teaching, reading, knitting stuff for others, but I’ve also been maybe a bit distracted by the sheer number of projects I have going on at once. Said another way, I have too many projects on needles and I tend to work on all of them a little at a time and I continue finding new projects to start and I have this thing where I get sad when something is over and I’m a process knitter and…

So the truth looks a little more like this:
sweater for me

or this:
one shawl

or this:
just yarn

or even this:
a ball i can't let go
And, sadly, there’s more where that came from.

So, there it is. The real reason I’m not wearing anything I knit.


January 7, 2007

My friend Shannon gave me Debbie Stoller’s Stitch and Bitch 2007 desk calendar.

Reasons for its exceptionality as a gift, Exhibit A:

The page for Saturday, Jan. 6 and Sunday, Jan. 7 reads:

“Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work”–Aristotle.

I’m treating the connections between knitting, writing, and rhetoric (three of my favorite things) as a good omen for this year. And the idea that I might take pleasure in all the work I’m doing seems especially important as I move forward into the later chapters of my dissertation (and, sigh, the deep revisions that will inevitably follow).

14,000 stitches of love and hope*

November 8, 2006

A certain amount of acceptance comes with knitting a gift for a baby or a child. After all, babies and children grow, often very quickly, and soon enough the gift doesn’t fit anymore. And for the knitter, that can make the whole enterprise feel a little futile…a little empty, I guess. Couple that with the nagging suspicion that the child’s parents (usually non-knitters) might not fully appreciate the cost, time, and effort that goes into the gift, or, worse, that the parents might not even dress the child in said gift at all, and it’s a wonder any knitter would set herself or himself up for such heartbreak.

But in my experience, another feeling supersedes these others and makes it not only possible but in fact downright pleasurable to knit for a child. As I sit here typing, I’m struggling to find the right sentiment to describe it—a mix of love and hope and possibility, I suppose.

Some of the women in my knitting group work on what they call “prayer shawls.” Apparently they work the shawl in a three-part knit stitch that somehow evokes the trinity. I’m not exactly sure how the stitch works, but I do know that as they knit, they pray for the recipients.

I’m not the most religious person on the planet, so when it comes to prayer, I often find myself sending good vibes or “wishing” a person well—hoping for peace and happiness rather than asking a God to bring it.

Last weekend, I attended my niece’s christening as her godmother. I wanted to do something special for her, so I decided to knit her a cute little sweater (the Child’s Placket Neck Pullover from Last Minute Knitted Gifts.) As I was knitting, I found myself thinking about my niece—envisioning her as a baby, a toddler, a child, and a young girl. I imagined her wearing the sweater while playing outside, running (in that funny way that toddlers do) after her dog, making messes for her parents to clean up, going to pre-school, etc., etc. I imagined her laughing and smiling, reading with her parents, learning about the world around her, growing up. And soon enough, the sweater was done.

Here are two pictures of the sweater. As you can see, it’s not quite finished. I have to stitch up the seams under the arms:

(almost) finished object

This close-up shows the placket. I still need to block the sweater and sew on the buttons:

close up of neck placket

As goofy as it sounds, I suppose what I was doing could be considered praying. As I was knitting I was meditating, hopefully, purposefully, on my niece and her childhood, creating positive experiences for her in my mind, wishing her happy and healthy. At one point, I realized that I didn’t care at all how long it took me to finish the sweater, or how I’d feel if her parents didn’t use it, I only wanted to express my love and hope for her.

I’m not sure this post accurately conveys the warm feeling that I felt, or how good it felt to feel it. I guess I’m not a person who feels at peace very often—I tend to be more cynical, more apt to focus on the worth of a particular task or outcome rather than the inherent pleasure of performing the task itself. This experience was different and I’m glad.

*The stitch tally is obviously an approximation, but I think it’s pretty close…

baby hat sweatshop

September 11, 2006

The announcements began trickling in back in November and December, I’d say, when the holidays brought families and friends together. At first the numbers were moderate: my sister-in-law, two friends from school, my best friend Kate. But then came the deluge, and when it was over thirteen of my friends were going to give birth by mid-September.

Without sounding cheap, I hope, I must say that I freaked out at first at the potential cost. Depending on the parents-to-be, the registries can be prohibitively expensive. The diaper champs, the Baby Bjorns (if you don’t know what that is yet, don’t panic–a pregnant friend will surely fill you in at some point), the myriad bedding and clothing options…for this graduate student, it all seemed like an exercise in savings depletion. The first shower I went to set me back $55.00. At that rate I was looking at $600.00 plus bucks for the entire summer, and I knew I’d spend more that that on my particularly close friends. Couple that with the fact that I don’t get paid during the summer and you can perhaps understand my anxiety.

I certainly don’t mean to sound dour about my situation. I mean, I was ecstatic that so many women I care about were having babies. But that celebration was always tinged with, “How will I pay for it?” And that’s no way to usher in the joyous occasion of new life.

So, I purchased about ten skeins of Artful Yarns “Candy” and went to town. It’s been a baby hat summer. I began with some so-so needles and finally made the investment in some Addi-turbos. (For all you non-knitters out there, the “turbo” is for real–they’re super slick and fast!)

Here’s the first hat I made:
first baby hat

Pretty cute. And relatively simple. A hat plus a book for baby made a fun, affordable (for me) gift. And for a while I was a machine, cranking out a hat per shower in no time at all. But then I started to expand my repetoire. I wanted to make a couple of my friends a sweater to go with the hat. I began with the same “Candy” yarn for two, and those sweaters turned out really well. I mean, they weren’t perfect, but that’s what “homemade” means, right? The Candy yarn has a little elastic in it, so it’s very forgiving.

Then I asked a friend to give me some suggestions for a color and she chose solid blue. Well, there’s no solid blue “Candy,” so I went to regular cotton. So much harder. But here’s the result:
sweater and hat

Check the buttons:
close-up of buttons

When my friend Kate gave birth on Sept. 5, she was the last of the thirteen. I thought my stint as mad-baby-hat-knitter was over. I ordered myself some Cash Iroha to make the Hourglass Sweater from Last Minute Knitted Gifts and dreamed of finishing one of my shawls.

On Saturday, I received an invitation to another baby shower. So, back to the sweatshop I go…
can't get a break

knitted, felted laptop bag

June 5, 2006

I might as well title this post “Thankfully, off needles” because I didn’t really enjoy my last project at all. Ordinarily I love knitting, but this laptop bag about ruined me.

I got the idea for this bag because two friends of mine are using the Interweave Knits pattern. I didn’t want to shell out for the pattern (sorry, Interweave) so I searched online for other knitter’s ideas. I found this entry in a blog and I used her specs to create my bag.

Her bag was 25″ by 22″ when folded, and after felting it turned out to be 17″ by 13.5″, a loss of about 8″ during felting. I measured my laptop (a 14″ by 10.5″ by 1.5″ Dell) and decided I would want a post-felting size of 17″ by 11.5″ to ensure enough room for the thickness and for some handles. That meant that I would need to have a 25″ by 19.5″, and because I wanted to make my stripes go up and down rather than across, the pre-folded, pre-felted piece would have to be 50″ by 19.5″. That, my friends, is a lot of knit, knit, knit; purl, purl, purl.

You bet your sweet ass I knit a swatch first. I always knit a swatch. Anyone who doesn’t is a fool.

So here’s a picture of the finished piece pinned to my rug:
pinned down

When I tell you that this thing took forever, I mean it. I had to take breaks to knit a couple of baby hats and to begin a sweater while I worked on this thing. It was mind-numbingly boring. I’m sorry, but it was.

But, this afternoon, all the work suddenly became “worth it” when I felted the bag. It took me two cycles to get it to the right size (I thought it might take three!) And here is a picture of the bag next to my laptop. I stuffed it with newspaper to shape it for the laptop. Now I just have to wait until it dries…

I eat too much; I drink too much; I want too much, too much

May 2, 2006

To suggest that we Americans live in a “consumer society” that overspends, overeats, overworks and overpollutes is to flog a truth so obvious it feels clichéd. You can’t skim a newspaper, open a web browser, or click on your television without hearing about the perils of our over-consumption. Our children will never know what a glacier is, and even if we don’t manage to destroy our earth, we’ll never take the time to see any of it. Besides, our kids will be too busy playing video games and eating Cheetos, which is fine with us—we need the newest blah, blah, blah and we’ll be at the mall with our credit cards in hand.

Put together, those clichés seem ridiculous, but we’ve all hear one iteration or another of such dire predictions. So why don’t we care?

When I got my first job out of grad school, I moved into a two-story apartment near downtown Columbus. At that point I had been a student so long that my possessions were very few. Sure, I had a futon, a rickety old papasan chair, and about a million well-worn books, but that was about it. Couple my new huge apartment with my new huge (compared to a TA stipend) salary and you get a vendor’s dream. I spent hours shopping and spending. Gone were the days of slipcovers—I bought a sofa. Gone were the days of ramen noodle dinners and grilled cheese eaten out of the same pan I’d used to make them—I hit Williams Sonoma for all my kitchen equipment and started splurging on goat cheese and kalamata olives. Gone were the nights of quiet reading with a glass of wine—I went to movies, saw bands perform, and sipped $10 cocktails. And, of course, I simply had to have all new clothes for work. Right? Yes, of course. Easton was my Mecca; I went there once a week, minimum.

One day I went to a natural foods store in Columbus for some fresh shitake mushrooms (for a fancy recipe, no doubt) and I saw this flyer: a quick guide to living a more simple life. The third suggestion hit me like a ton of bricks: Don’t use shopping as entertainment. Ouch.

A few weeks ago, I did go shopping with my mom. After performing a seasonal “purge” of my closet (giving to Goodwill everything I haven’t worn in two years), my wardrobe was in desperate need of some basics. So, I spent a fair amount of money on some new duds—money, I might point out, that I had saved up over the winter for this purpose. After the spree, I felt sick about how much I had purchased (even though, in truth, I needed the stuff). I felt wrong for buying so much and expressed concern that maybe I didn’t need some of it. I said as much later in a conversation with a woman of my acquaintance. She replied, “Oh, I love shopping. I love buying stuff. It makes me happy. It relieves stress for me. And if it feels good, then you should just go ahead and do it without guilt.”

You know when you have a difference of opinion that is so wide there is simply no way to bridge it with a response? Yeah, me too.

After my encounter with “the flyer” (which, by the way, lives on my fridge as a daily reminder), I took steps to change my lifestyle. I moved to a smaller, cheaper apartment; I quit buying shit just because I could afford it; I put myself on a “book-buying freeze,” denying myself any more books until I had read the ones I owned; I instituted the aforementioned seasonal closet purge; I stopped going out and started reading more; I pretty much quit shopping altogether; I started going to museums instead of movies. I’m still working on saying “no” to stressful commitments, but at least I’m trying.

However, even now when I consider how much of my time I spend engaged in consumption of one form or another, I feel a little sick. As a graduate student/teaching assistant, the vast majority of my job-related tasks demand that I consume something: student papers, e-mails from committees I’m on, class lectures, texts I read for teaching, texts I read for my dissertation, texts I read to “stay current,” e-mails from my students, journal articles, guest lectures by scholars in my field. On the way to and from school, I listen to NPR—I consume my news that way—or I listen to one of six CDs that I have in my car stereo at any one time, CDs which, of course, I buy. I eat (occasionally more than I should). I drink (also occasionally more than I should). I read books for pleasure. I watch Grey’s Anatomy and 24 on a weekly basis. I subscribe to Netflix.

It makes me feel full. I hate feeling full.

I sometimes envy my brother. He’s in construction. He goes out every day and builds houses. He uses his hands and PRODUCES something at work every day. He’s always hungry.

I want to read this book on consumerism. But then again, do I? I can’t imagine it will ease my mind.

For the past year or so, I’ve been on a knitting tear. Last spring I enrolled in a community knitting class through the University of Cincinnati’s Communiversity. Since then I’ve had at least one project on needles at any given time, often more. Right now I have two shawls, two bags, one scarf, one baby hat, one baby sweater, and one knit hat on needles (mind you, few of these items are for me; most notably not for me? the baby stuff.). I get itchy fingers sometimes just thinking about starting a new project.

Knitting has become increasingly popular in the past decade. Some say the trend is celebrity-driven; others believe knitting is part of a larger move toward crafting of all kinds (scrapbooking, sewing, quilting); still others point to the savvy marketing of yarn companies, who have increased production of fun, fast-knitting “novelty yarns” that bring instant satisfaction. I have my own beliefs.

Last February, I hosted a “Stitch and Bitch” (some knitting, some wine, some snacks, and lots of talking) at my apartment. We maybe did more drinking and talking than knitting, but it was still a sight to see—young women, knitting needles or crochet hooks in hand, participating in an activity we had been (as products of a feminist era) encouraged to shun as “matronly” and “old-fashioned.” As I looked around the room, I wondered how many of us were, for the first time that day, or even that week, making something, CREATING something, rather than simply consuming. We could have been at a bar or a restaurant, we could have been watching a movie, we could have been reading, or listening to music, or eating. But we weren’t. We were knitting.

I’m not saying that knitting is the panacea for all our consumption woes. Obviously, others would argue that we have a lot more to do. But for me, knitting eases stress, it stimulates my brain (patterns are like puzzles—there’s actually a lot of logic and theory involved in knitting), it forces me to sit still and focus on one thing (at least for a while), and, most importantly, it allows me to create something with my hands, to produce something meaningful and beautiful, and to share it with my friends and family.