Wednesday, October 26, 2011

And another thing! (What I learned at VKL, part 2)

My latest object of lust: Carbon-fiber Blackthorn DPNs in an embossed leather carrying case.

My second workshop at Vogue Knitting Live was "Finishing Tips and Tricks" with Cirilia Rose. In many ways, it echoed the encouraging and positive tone of Janel Laidman's "Creating Your Own Stitch Patterns" session, and amplified the message that I think was my major takeaway from the entire weekend:

You don't have to do it "the right way," as long as the way you do it works.

One of Janel's tips was to have what she called an "ugly swatch" to work out new ideas with. If you need extra stitches, cast 'em on; if you need fewer for the pattern repeat you're toying with, cast 'em off--don't waste time casting on and working a bunch of set-up rows, just keep on knitting! Revolutionary, revelatory...and totally obvious once someone points it out to you.

Likewise, Cirilia shared some of her own secrets, preferred approaches, and insider knowledge from her time on the Berroco Design team. I mean, she worked with frickin' Norah Gaughan! That's probably like having a master class every day at work. Seaming, weaving in ends, and joining new yarn (especially using methods that reduce the number of ends you have to weave in) were the big subjects, but we also talked about closures and edgings--you know, the little things that can make or break a finished garment. The best thing I learned? Cirilia loves buttons, and she told us she often doesn't make a decision on closures until a garment is finished--which means no knitted-in buttonholes! Instead, she uses snaps and puts the buttons on as decorative, not functional, features. That makes sense in so many ways. It's way easier to reinforce a big ornamental button on a sweater coat, for example, if it doesn't have to actually BUTTON anything; not only that, but you're not forced to make your sweater close with just the number of buttons you actually have. That's a major consideration for those of us who have weird quantities of antique buttons from lord-knows-where, and no way to get extras. Another idea from VKL that was revolutionary, revelatory...and totally obvious once you think about it.

Cirilia's was probably my favorite workshop of the weekend, since it was the one where I had the most fun and felt the most at ease. Even though I'm pretty extroverted, I'm still subject to occasional and surprising bouts of extreme self-consciousness. I usually have a cocktail or two, if that's socially acceptable and even remotely appropriate in the setting, and just fake it til I make it, but whoof! That social anxiety does a number on me when it does hit. It's another good reason to take some knitting with me wherever I go--I've always got something I could be doing if I don't feel up to talking to people.

Luckily, the opening night reception and marketplace preview did have cocktails. (Actually, they had all the champagne you could drink, alongside an actual buffet of candy and chocolates, and dozens of vendors selling yarn and knitting accessories of every imaginable kind.) After a glass or two, I felt loose enough to start chatting up the folks in the Blackthorn Needles booth--their carbon-fiber DPNs use stealth-jet technology to create a VERY nice knitting experience. I now lust for one of their custom sets--see image above, which doesn't really do them justice. I was also in the mood for love, so I took home practically the first handbag I set eyes on, a Betty Knitting Tote from Atenti designs in what I am told is a one-of-a-kind fabric and color combination. But she looks a little something like this:

Ain't she sweet? Mine is done in a tomato-red velveteen wallpaper pattern with a taupe ground and lining--a bit like the orange one in back. But nicer, of course.

That was pretty sneaky, VKL--get a bunch of knitters drunk and hopped up on sugar, and then put purses and yarn in front of us. We didn't stand a chance! I am proud to say, however, that I stayed strong and did NOT buy any yarn. One day at a time.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Want to see something pretty?

Good news for you Cecily fans out there: The jacket has landed. Cecily is now officially a twinset! Check this beauty out...

Photo (c) 2011 by the lovely and talented Meg Rice.
Click on the image for super-duper detail...or here for more modeled shots.
The long-delayed and hotly-anticipated (by me, at least) Cecily jacket was definitely worth the wait. It's an awfully sweet knit, if I do say so myself. It's got a sort of kimono vibe going on, which I'm into these days. The motif is called Lotus Lace (thanks yet again, Barbara Walker Treasury!) and the inset of it at the high waist has an obi-like effect that's awfully flattering on any figure, not to mention really comfy to wear. Fans of Amy Herzog's Fit to Flatter series--and I know you're out there, because I just learned how to read my blog stats, and a LOT of you are coming here from her site, so thanks, Amy!--will know that this design will work especially well with top-heavy proportions. It's got a long vertical line from neck to waist, simple shoulders, and a draped lower half that balances wide shoulders with lace edging. Sleeve length is, of course, adjustable to your preference: Work the lace trim just an inch or so after picking up the sleeve stitches for a cap sleeve that broadens the shoulders visually, or work them down to bracelet length if you want more coverage for cool autumn evenings.

Sadly, I've just found out that the sample colorway, Pearlescent, is back-ordered until the end of the year, but don't let that discourage you. There's a kit-builder feature on the Knit Picks site you can use to select similar colorways from their other sock yarns--just drag and drop!--or a different colorway of the Stroll Tonal yarn I used. Cecily will also work beautifully in whatever solid or semi-solid sock yarn you've been stashing away in sweater quantities. (Don't lie, I know you do this. Oh, no, wait, that's ME...) Make yourself something pretty, already!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Things I Learned at VKL: Part 1

So, I said in an earlier post that Vogue Knitting Live was well worth the time and money for me; I also said that the staggering amount of stuff I learned there would be continuing to soak in for several weeks. As always (just ask my husband, ha ha) I was correct about this! I'm a huge believer in the idea that the more you give the world, the more you get back, so I'm going to share the wealth over the next few posts. No trade secrets, mind you--that wouldn't be fair--and some of it I couldn't tell you, you'd have to experience it for yourself. Just ask Nicky Epstein, the next time you see her, what they do for fun in the little desert town where she grew up...she is a 24-karat laugh riot, that one. Trust me, though, when I say that ANY of these instructors are well worth taking a workshop with. Whatever I say here is seriously just the tip of the iceberg!

My first class was "Creating Your Own Stitch Patterns" with the gentle and lovely Janel Laidman. Maybe it's because she's a font of quiet inspiration and understated genius, or maybe because all of us showed up at 8:00 am on Friday totally pumped for VKL, but you could really hear the gears turning as we all started paging through her stacks of stitch dictionaries and scribbling on our graph paper. I had signed up based on the class description, not even realizing that Laidman was the designer of the Rivendell sock, a pattern that I already had in my Ravelry library--a lot of her work has that graceful Art Nouveau sensibility that I really like. Rivendell was one of those patterns I bought more to learn from than actually knit; it's that pretty.

This class was really a subtle one. I wish I could describe it effectively, but it's hard to convey what we covered and how it helped. The general effect, for me, was like when someone comes into a room where you've been reading and turns on the light, or changes some little setting on your monitor so the text is suddenly bigger and clearer. Just a steady accumulation of little "aha!" revelations, plus some friendly encouragement, and some time spent focusing on how stitch patterns are constructed, and a bunch of really instructive swatches. Doesn't sound like much, I know, but the cumulative effect was quite something. I left the room determined to buy a copy of the Japanese stitch dictionary I was working from, as well as some highlighter tape. The highlighter tape alone has been a revelation, in fact--I'm working a stranded-colorwork pillow cover from a big ol' chart right now, and the little "taste" of tape that Janel handed out to everyone in class went right onto that. Now I can't believe I ever thought of attempting to work from a chart of any size without this stuff. It's amazing! So simple, so straightforward, and so helpful.

I brought some inspirational materials with me to the class--just a couple of scraps of things I've been holding onto, thinking they'd be nice to translate into knitting--and I expect I'll be continuing to play with those until I figure out what they want to be. The best part of the class, I think, was just hearing from someone who does this all the time the steps she follows when she's working up something new, and seeing how well they work. Thanks, Janel, for an inspiring and useful VKL session!

Monday, September 26, 2011 was your weekend?

On Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights, here's what I did: I staggered into my house, dumped all the stuff I was carrying on the floor, pulled off my shoes, and collapsed. First on the couch, then into a hot bath (which got stone-cold by the time I mustered the energy to climb out of it), then into bed. I never, ever sleep on my stomach, but still found myself lying with my face plunged between the pillow piles on Saturday night, thinking "Oh, this feels unusually niiiiiizzzzzzzzzzzzz...."

What wrecked me? Vogue Knitting Live. Between the pre-party at Unwind, which I attended with a new-knitter friend who then came over for (YUM!) chicken and dumplings, and the three looooonnng days of lectures, demos, classes, steel-willed resistance of the opportunity to purchase even yet still more yarn (I limited myself to some decadent silk ribbons and a handbag), and inter-knitter mingling that followed at VKL, I'm absolutely bushed. I also think I'll be digesting all the lessons, discoveries, and facts from this for several weeks to come. Here are some of my initial thoughts on the event, though:

1) I should not have to work this hard to sign up for something I'm paying this much to attend. The worst, and yet most fixable, problem was the online interface for class selection and signup--Vogue Knitting, I love you, I really do, but speaking as an information scientist, your usability could use some serious evaluation. No calendar view for classes and workshops, so you could actually SEE what's happening in which time slot and avoid conflicts when selecting things? The "schedule" printed on the back of my conference badge doesn't list events in day/time order? The conference-at-a-glance listing in the program booklet is organized by instructor...and they're alphabetical by first name, even though the badge "schedule" lists them as first initial, last name?? Whoever is doing this stuff for you is really bad at it, and it's probably costing you a lot of money in the form of failed registrations from frustrated, not-so-Web-savvy knitters. Please, please address these issues! We will all be grateful.

2) One jerk per thousand knitters...that's not half bad. Lots of folks were, shall we say, taken aback by the discovery that the parking garage at the Century Plaza Hyatt was unable to process credit card payments for most of the weekend. Yes, that was a bummer--but really, nothing to pitch a fit over. The fact that I only saw one person the whole time being kind of nasty about any of the difficulties we all coped with (never-ending lines at Starbucks, not enough staff in the bar and restaurant to manage the lunch rush, especially on the weekend, confusing signage and late-arriving speakers and really mediocre banquet food at the Gala Dinner) just goes to show you how great knitters in general are. I'm proud to be one of ya. Not only that, but the big stars of the knitting world that I met there (Nicky Epstein, Cookie A, Cirilia Rose, Amy Singer, Kristy Porter, and many more) were even nicer than the average knitter...not to mention funny, whip-smart, and generous with their time and considerable knowledge.

3) Thinking about knitting, talking about knitting, and actually knitting all day is frickin' intense. We all say we'd love to spend all of our days knitting, but now I'm not so sure. This program was eye-opening in so many ways, especially for me as a fledgling designer--I have a much better sense now of what this would be like as a full-time job, for one thing. As I was heading home after my last workshop (a really fun session on menswear design with Josh Bennett, aka boymeetspurl, who is a terrific teacher and made  us all feel like we were design geniuses), I realized why my chaotic state of mind felt so familiar. It was just like when I first went back to grad school for my PhD: I went in thinking I was really something special, with my awesome test scores and my generous fellowship funding, but then I got hit with this tidal wave of expert knowledge and high expectations and I just did NOT feel READY for it. It was really destabilizing for a few months there...but then the next time I gave a preservation workshop, I realized that what I'd learned in those few months had been a huge advance, and that I really did know my stuff even before that. The next time I teach a class or do a knitting demo myself, I bet I'll have that same feeling again, too...

VKL was absolutely worth the time and money and mind-bending effort for me, in short. I'm tired but happy. Pictures of all my fun acquisitions from the event to follow!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

My startitis is flaring up.

The seasons must be changing--I can barely sit still, and I've got hourly urges to start on something entirely NEW and FUN and QUICK TO KNIT (and for that last one, read "Ha! Fat chance!"). I don't have startitis on a regular basis, but when it does hit, it wallops. There'll be a work in progress on every horizontal surface in the house, and our dinner will be served later and later every night, because I'm too busy casting on or ripping back to put the potatoes in the oven.

In one way, having multiple projects in the works is a good thing. I have loads of yarn in my stash. The only way I'm going to get through this stuff is if I actually make a thousand different things with it. I'm also fairly organized about the business; for instance, I keep decent notes about needle size and gauge and where a given project is generally headed, so if I put something down I have a way of re-orienting when I pick it back up.

There are only so many needles in my collection, though, and right now my circulars case looks like the Popular Fiction New Hardcovers shelf at the public library on Memorial Day weekend. All the good stuff is checked out, man! I swear by interchangeable tips (with all the lace and cable knitting I do, I LOVE my pointy pointy Knit Picks Harmony Wood Options*) but don't want to get in the habit of having piles of projects with capped cables lying around, so I only have two pairs each of my favorite sizes of needle tips. (OK, I might have three pairs of US #4s. And I'm not counting the fixed circulars. Also, all my spare cables and caps may possibly be attached to WIPs. But whatever.)

Last night I had another frenzy of sketching and scribbling before I went to bed, in the little "Daydreams and Nightmares" notebook my friend Katie gave me for Xmas last year. (Thanks, Katie!) I don't think you can get the notebooks anymore, but check out the hot Weimar-era fashions these ladies on the cover of the exhibition catalog are wearing...there's yet another potential new project in there somewhere, don't you think?

I daydream about these Weimar-era outfits, I tell you what!
This really can't go on, though. Vogue Knitting Live is coming up at the end of the week, and I'm counting on being able to work on a few things while I listen to brilliant folks like Nicky Epstein and Cirilia Rose drop science on needlework (Cirilia made a really nice comment on a project of mine on Ravelry loooooong ago, and I have had a pathetically intense knitter-girl-crush on her ever since, which I hope I will not get tipsy enough to confess to her during the gala dinner. Because I requested to sit at her table for the gala dinner. Is that stalkerish? It seems a little stalkerish of me. Geez, I hope she's not reading this...). At some point the startitis has GOT to turn into a fever of finishing, because my holiday knitting should probably get underway, um, well, last week...?

*Full disclosure: I'm not endorsing a product I got for free--these needles are my personal favorites. Although I do sell patterns through Knit Picks, and sometimes receive yarn support from them for new designs, I want to be clear that I buy ALL my own needles and knitting tools. Especially when there's a sale on.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Bearing with the Dog Days

The Book of Common Prayer puts the end of the Dog Days of summer anywhere from August 17 to September 5, and most other calendrical references have them running from sometime in early-to-mid July to August-ish, so strictly speaking, the Dog Days are already behind us. But if you're using the phrase loosely, to mean "it's extra-hot out and I don't seem able to make myself finish anything I start," well, we're still in the thick of THOSE. I'm grateful to be avoiding the Texas heat, to be sure, but the San Fernando Valley heat is giving it a run for its money this year. We've been having triple-digit temperatures, under clear blue skies with those huge cottony towers of cloud that never settle down where we are here between the mountain ridges. Summer's making its last gasp now, and the silvery light of LA is wearing down to brass a little bit more each day. There's not lots to report on the new-projects-and-patterns front, I'm afraid; my nose is to the grindstone, but you won't be seeing the results of all that work for a while yet. Think of me as still being on summer vacation for now, if you will.

The Peabey the Polar Bear pattern, however, is up and ready for download in my Ravelry Shop or on Knit Picks (where you can order the yarn at the same time--one skein of their sport-weight organic cotton is enough to make two cute little bears!), if you want to get started on your holiday knitting. Who isn't dreaming about white Xmases at a time like this? And who wouldn't want a fuzzy wee polar bear peeping out of their stocking, or prowling around the menorah? Peabey's also a great baby gift for any new Virgos you may know--it's soft and doesn't have any small parts to choke on. Yay for no choking hazards!

Just FYI, 50% of the proceeds from individual Peabey pattern sales will be donated to Polar Bears International and the International Association for Bear if you really hate polar bears, and supporting bear research and conservation, I guess you shouldn't buy a copy. Maybe you're more of a dog person?

 P.S. Check out the poll I just added at the top of the page...let me know what you'd like to see from me next!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Going with the flow

Living in a new neighborhood--and having only one car--means finding new pretty-much-everything. A lot of our favorite shops and service providers from before our Texas detour are still in business (like our beloved dentist and our butcher and the Russian tailor who altered a vintage tuxedo so perfectly it looks like it was custom-made for my husband, not some Norwegian guy in Seattle in 1959), but the day-to-day stuff? We need to find new places to get all that.  New grocery store, new dry cleaner, new bike repair shop, new vet where we can get flea medicine and our strangely-hard-to-procure cat food* and for me, a new yoga studio and LYS.

Having found those last two already, I've discerned a distinct uptick in my productivity.

Working corner

I got my office mostly set up, at last, and can now sit and knit and work on the computer in there--you know, have an actual WORK day when I'm at home. And out of nowhere (or "now here," perhaps? That feeling of finally being settled?), I had the wherewithal to churn out a new project that I've been kicking around in my head for ages. Freed by daily yoga classes, and fueled with that messload of found angora from down the street, a little stuffed polar bear materialized over the course of a single morning. I sketched out the basic concept many months ago, but thought it was going to stay on the back burner for a lot longer than this! I do, after all, have a ton of work I'm supposed to be doing. Finalizing several other knitting projects I embarked on earlier this year are actually not even the first on that list. So why start a new one?

Well, the new yoga studio plays a part in that, too, I think. In trying to get the most out of the summer unlimited plan I signed up for (kind of forgetting that I would be out of town for over half of July, with two conferences and my grandparents' 75th wedding anniversary to attend), and trying out all the teachers to find my new favorite one, I've been practicing nearly every day. And gee, wow, surprise surprise: I actually FEEL better physically, find it easier to focus, and tackle projects big and small with much greater ease when I'm doing that. I'm also much more receptive to the idea that some days you can do a thing--stand on one foot with your arms in the air, do a backbend without clonking yourself on the head--and some days you can't, and you just do what you can on any given day.

It's a lesson I keep on learning and re-learning in yoga, as well as in my research and writing and knitting: Go with the flow. Hit a wall? Go around it. If there's a finish line way ahead of you, chances are you can run downhill to it tomorrow, instead of struggling uphill today. (And if you must struggle uphill, better to do it in short bursts than Sisyphian marathons, where you end up with the perception that all attempts at the thing are doomed to be unproductive.) Sometimes you just need to do what's coming EASILY. Look how cute it can be when you do!

Cotton and angora versions

And what could be a better reminder to go with the floe (tee-hee) than a polar bear? Pattern coming soon; check here or on my Ravelry page for updates on that...

*I do not know why it has to take three phone calls, a faxed authorization from our former vet, and a 15-minute drive to buy a bag of melonfarming kibble, but it does. There must be something really good in this cat food. Maybe I should try smoking it. We live in California, I bet smoking cat food is legal here...

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Three bags full

Found angora - colors

The "got done" list has had some pretty major things on it this month. Foremost among them: "Moved from Texas back to southern California." For the most part, that's a hallelujah-level accomplishment, but I do miss my Austin knitters terribly. Every day, in fact. Even more than my colleagues at school, and  collectively and in their way, at least as much as my husband, my knitters have been my steady source of moral support and entertainment and friendship and inspiration for the last five years. I'm rather lost without them right now...I know that'll get better with time as I establish some new routines and networks here, but in the meantime Saturday mornings will find me feeling wistful and bereft.

Despite that, I know I'm in the right place, because I received an unmistakeable sign shortly after we arrived at our new home. I essayed a casual stroll to the end of the street one late afternoon with an eye to cadging some of the bountiful crop of apricots on a neighbor's tree, which didn't pan out, sadly; I'll have to steal my fruit from someone else if I'm going to learn to make jam this summer. Three doors down from us, though, I found some curbside treasure. Three big green tin buckets overflowing with plastic bags of vintage angora and camel-blend yarn--can you believe it? There was a For Sale sign out front, and a pile of other tempting things like tacky old paintings in cheap frames, so I strongly suspect this was someone's attic stash, untouched for decades. It's all DK weight and in immaculate condition--the bags are rather dusty but the yarn inside is perfect and it's evident this wasn't a smoking household. I dashed home for some grocery bags and nabbed the lot.

The labels are intriguing, too--does anyone out there know anything about a Brix-Schulenberg yarn mill in North Hollywood, circa sometime long ago? Google's been no help, and LA phone and business directories from the late 1930s don't have any businesses by that name. I may go downtown and check the microfiched directories from later decades at the LAPL when I have a free afternoon. This yarn seems like it must have a backstory, doesn't it? It certainly has a cute angora bunny on the label, and it's just as soft as can be...and I have maybe three sweaters' worth of the stuff now. So much for my pre-move de-stashing efforts!

Tag on found angora

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

My Got Done List

I don't have To Do lists anymore. They're too stressful: there's always more stuff To Do. Even if you run around all day To Do-ing, more To Dos inevitably get added to the list, and then you still have a To Do list, and you fall into bed feeling like you didn't Do anything, even though all you did was To Do all day. Sucky! So a while back I decided to flip the script, or suborn the paradigm, or turn my frown upside down, or whatever you want to call it, and now what I have instead is a Got Done list. It's ever so much better.

Just compare. Here's my To Do list, which is pretty much unchanged since September of 2009:

--Write and defend dissertation proposal
--Research and write dissertation
--Figure out how I'm going to make a living as an academic/archivist
--Tidy up around the house
--Clean out litter box

And here's what's on my Got Done list, JUST KNITTING-WISE, for the last six weeks or so:

--Socks for Andy U. to welcome him to the Center for Home Movies board of directors--check!

(I have noticed that it adds to the sense of accomplishment if I put "check!" after every item on my Got Done list. This, however, is optional, if you're of a more Calvinist bent and feel that a good thing done well is reward in itself, and saying "check!" is needlessly jaunty.)

--Hat for Skip E., ditto--check!
--Hat for Darren M., to say thanks for returning my lost sketchbook...
Koolhaas for Darren M.--check!
--Design, knit, finish, and block new sweater design for the Hill Country Weavers/Madeline Tosh design collection--check!
--Help out with photo shoot for HCW/MT project--double check!
--Write up pattern for HCW/MT project and send to tech editor--check!
--Finish knitting sample of jacket that coordinates with the Cecily camisole, block, and attach buttons--SUPER CHECK on that, because finishing projects promptly after principal knitting is complete was also a New Year's Resolution-type deal for me...
--Write up pattern for Cecily jacket and send to tech editor (pics and pattern coming soon!)--check
--Start on second Madeline Tosh project...--checkity check-check check!

And that doesn't even include some of the more typical To Do list stuff that I also actually Got Done, like figuring out how to cancel our gym membership and submitting some conference proposals and conducting field work for my dissertation and making travel plans for my very-busy-July (during which I have promised myself that I will Get Done some knitting for ME! Me me me me!) and trying out some bran muffin recipes and finding a graduation gift for my husband and--oh yeah--eating sleeping and bathing more or less regularly. Yay, Got Done list.

Now I'm going to publish this post (Oooh--check!) and then go work on that last Got Done item for a few more satisfying garter-stitchy minutes. And then I'll roll over and go to sleep, feeling pretty good about the Got Done list, and putting the To Do list out of my mind entirely.

P.S. I also cleaned out the litter box SEVERAL TIMES during the last six weeks. You're welcome, cats.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

On your marks, get set, SLOW!

I was recently in New Orleans for a conference, where I won a race by coming in dead last. It was a slow bicycle race, where the object is to take the greatest possible amount of time to get to the finish line without falling over or touching the ground. After many years of intensifying focus and improving balance through the practice of yoga, it would appear I am now a NATURAL GENIUS at slow bike racing. What a splendid moment that was, when I crept wobblingly, and well behind the competition, across that chalk mark on the pavement! And what a splendid metaphor for everything that's been going on in my life lately. Almost everything I've lost in the past few weeks has turned out to be a win, one way or another. And it's definitely involved some very slow progress toward goals that were pretty humble, but still counted as triumphs.

The most significant loss was of my little green sketchbook, which I take with me everywhere and fill with notes and drawings and incomprehensible-to-everyone-but-me scribblings on various knitting projects in progress. (I posted a scan of one sketch here a few months ago.) One minute I was knitting and taking notes while I waited on the Aviation Blvd. Metro platform in Los Angeles, then the train came and I was seated on it with my suitcase and my knitting and my handbag...but no sketchbook. I looked around under the seats and asked if anyone had seen it, but it seems all anyone saw that day was more of my badonkadonk than they were expecting to while I crawled around looking for my little book. Poof, it was gone. With all my meticulous stitch counts for the project I was right in the middle of inventing, and everything. Such a bummer. I called the Metro Lost & Found number and discovered I'd need to wait at least three days before coming in person to their office to inquire about any lost item.

A week later, when I was back in town, I took the airport shuttle back to the station where I'd lost it (and risked a hefty fine by going back up to the platform without a valid ticket) to see if by any chance it had fallen between the train and the platform, and was still down there on the tracks. I was seriously willing to climb on down to get it if it was there, too. Although I'd bought a new notebook the day after I lost it, the green one had over a year's worth of ideas and notes in it, and I'd had time to realize how much I wanted it back. Enough to jump in front of a speeding train! (Well, almost. There's a schedule for the inbound trains, so I'd know if I had time to get back up or not, and anyway, I figured I'd at least try to find a Metro employee and ask for help first. A fine I could probably talk my way out of, but getting arrested is another matter.) No such luck. The next day, I checked at the Lost & Found office; no luck there, either, but the woman I spoke to was extremely nice and put my name and number on a list of people who'd lost stuff, just in case it did get turned in later. Meanwhile, I tried to forget about it.

Here's where the loss turns into a win, though: Out of the blue, about a week after this (and almost three weeks after I'd lost it), Jared Flood emails me and tells me someone got in touch with him via Facebook to report a lost notebook. Jared's name was the only one in it--on the page where I was laying out my idea for the Hill Country Weavers SHELTER pattern collection--and obviously, he's easy to Google, so the person who found the notebook got in touch with him. Jared figured out, based on the description of the page with his name on it, that the design was probably mine, and put me in touch with the finder. (Jared also noted that the person had said "that the book was full of good but time-intensive ideas, which I had a good laugh about. He's clearly not a knitter.") I emailed the dude, whose name is Darren, and he got in touch pretty quickly and sent my notebook back to me, politely demurring at the suggestion of any kind of reward, even though he just moved to Oregon and I'm sure he could use stuff in his new place. He's gonna get a hand-knit Koolhaas whether he likes it or not--HA! Take that, super-nice-guy Darren!

All of which is to say that a loss isn't always permanent; nor is it always a bad thing. A slow bike race, furthermore, is a much-needed reminder of how HARD it is to slow down--to NOT go barreling toward a goal that, most of the time, is as evanescent as a chalk line on the pavement. You're probably just as likely to crash a bike going fast as going slow (well, I am, anyway), and it sure hurts less if you're going slow. As for "good but time-intensive ideas" I ever have any other kind?? Isn't knitting just the hugest, best, most time-intensive idea ever--a slow string race, if you will? And if knitting isn't the most time-intensive idea ever, then getting a PhD surely must be. So I'm win/losing every which way here.

Samuel Beckett wrote: "Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better." In that spirit, I have now written my email address and phone number and "reward for safe return!" in the front of all of my sketchbooks, so I can fail better the next time I lose one. (Or win. Or whatever.)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Winter flowers, cash and showers!

Wowsers. Remember that scholarship I received last year from the good folks at Jimmy Beans Wool? Well, it's that time of year again, and for this round of scholarships, they've recruited a bunch of incredible sponsors, and boosted the award amount to a whopping $3,000 in tuition money for knitters and crocheters with college bills to pay. I was thrilled to be awarded $800 last year, so I can only imagine how great it would be to get three G's. Three cheers for Jimmy Beans! Please encourage any crafty college kids you know to apply; full details are here. It's such an easy form to fill out, and such a great program. The scholarship information page also has downloadable fliers for posting at your school or LYS. If you're not in school yourself, help spread the word--you could put some very deserving student on the road to a huge windfall!

Thundercloud cowl

Speaking of windfalls and weather, we've either been having a sneak preview of spring, or else we're taking a pass on the rest of winter here in Austin. We had a teensy bit of the snow and cold temps you may have heard about on the news--including one inch of snowfall over a Thursday night when I was out of town, which was all melted away by the time I got home Friday afternoon. It did get chilly enough for a few days to shut down the schools, which everyone called a snow day (even though it was more like a sleet day, or a "dagnabit it's colder than I'm used to" day). Since then, though, it's pretty much been sunny, muggy, and pushing 80 every day. Punxatawney Phil must be down here on vacation or something. Go home, groundhog, and let us have our six more weeks, please! It'll be a hundred here soon enough, and I miss the snows and cold rains of my Seattle childhood, I really do.

I've been making my own wishful winter weather on my needles, though: everything I've made lately either looks like winter skies (I'm off the orange and back on the gray now) or works for winter wear. I worked up a pullover version of my new Hill Country pattern in some Manos del Uruguay Silk Blend in a lovely variegated range of mother-of-pearl tints, which turned out terrific. I also got to experiment with a brand-new yarn from Knit Picks, Aloft, which I turned into a downy-soft cowl in a lace pattern that looks like thunderclouds massing on the horizon.

Thundercloud cowl

Clusters of tiny blue beads and a fringe of the same complete the cloudy-with-a-chance of rain theme. Complete details and pattern link are on my Ravelry page, here, and you can download the PDF directly by clicking on the link at left--just $1.99 gets you charted and written instructions (knitters, you have been heard! I do try to provide written instructions for charts whenever possible in my patterns) for this little lovely. Imagine, a cozy little thundercloud you can put over your head any time you want! Now, if only I could figure out how to knit myself a snowdrift before summer comes...

Tuesday, January 4, 2011


Republican coin, c.225-212; (Kunsthistorisches Museum, Wien)

The ancient Roman god Janus is closely associated with doorways, beginnings, and transitions. His two faces--one looking back to the past, one toward the future--are also a potent symbol for archives and archivists, who collect and care for the records of the past to serve as a continuing resource for the future. For a knitter, the sense of Janus could be embodied in a cake of yarn, with its two ends, or even a single stitch, which is at once both knit and purl, its two faces opposed and integrated. Of course, the month of January is named for Janus: the old year closes here just as the new year opens.

Looking back on 2010, I see some things that definitely color my view forward into 2011--in generally positive ways. For one thing, there's my FO tally (with links to Rav project or pattern pages, where applicable):

2 Dewey baby pullovers
1 Elsie baby cardigan with beaded yoke (which one of the cats threw up on...sigh)
1 Beverly cardigan for Abbe
3 Larkin baby blankets
1 Otto bear (for little Henry Marcel)
1 Chiana sweater
2 Constance cardigans (adult of which I haven't even taken pictures of)
1 Constance baby cardigan
2 tall Billington bags
3 small Billington bags
1 Herringbone vest for Steven (which I started in 2009 and set aside until finishign it in March, 2010, so I'm counting it as a 2010 FO, dang it!)
1 Althea cardigan
1 Althea skirt (which I just realized is not listed in my Ravelry store...fixing that now!)
2 Hill Country dresses
3 Cecily camisoles
1 Cecily jacket

...And I think that's about it. It's interesting to see how many false starts I had among my new projects for 2010: Dewey, Elsie, Chiana, Constance, and the men's vest pattern are all lingering in the prototype phases, really, and not truly finished designs yet. They all still need a certain something. But Billington, Larkin, Hill Country, and the Cecily camisole are all things I'm quite proud of.

The pledge I made to contribute $1 from the sale of each Billington bag pattern to the Center for Home Movies yielded great results--over $300!--and is a big step toward the goal for the CHM year-end fundraiser. (We can always use a little bit more, though--even $5 or $10 makes a big difference to a small organization like this one, so feel free to click that link and pitch in to CHM or another charity of your choice through the Network for Good!) I'm already thinking about what my next pledge project might be--I found this experience really gratifying, and think many of the people who purchased the pattern liked that they got to help a good cause at the same time.

The Cecily jacket will probably be the next pattern release I do, and the first pattern I release in 2011. I'm very pleased with that one, and just need to write up and size the pattern. (Um, and get it test-knitted, tech-edited, photographed, laid out, and...whew. I'm tired already.) The lightweight camisole-and-jacket twinset will make for nice springtime knitting and wearing. And of course I have new projects cooking all the time, especially when life is going well and I have time to sort of soften my focus and let the new ideas drift in...

Last but definitely not least, I want to announce the winner of my very first blog giveaway! It's CelticCastOn, who shared a great story about the dollhouse her dad made, which kinda sorta ruined the Santa myth for her but is now a treasured heirloom toy to be passed on to her little daughter. Kelly's a great knitter and will no doubt make something amazing with whatever she gets from HCW with that gift certificate. (Be sure to post a link to that here when it's done, Kelly!) Everyone's comments on that post were terrific; I can't tell you how much I enjoyed reading about the smells, recipes, handmade and homemade treasures all of you remember from years past. (Also? The cat getting stuck in the Christmas tree and the mom who set her hair on fire with sparklers. Love it!!) Thanks to all of you for making my first blog giveaway so much fun for ME--I've never gotten so many comments on a post and love how connected it made me feel to those who are reading. Expect the giveaways to continue in 2011!