Mellow Yellow

Recently I welcomed home a dozen or so knitting projects that had taken kind of an extended vacation at a friend’s house. You know that feeling you get when you pick up a half-read book and must scan through it to see what you’ve read, to guess how far you got before the bookmark fell out? Try looking at something you started making, and realizing that not only do you not know when you started it, but also have no idea what it was going to be, where the pattern is, or what convinced you to venture down this path in the first place.

Some projects, of course, I recognized right away. I didn’t even have to open my Apple-store string pack to know that there was a Season 18 Doctor Who scarf in progress inside, on now-out-of-production Lion Brand Chenille Thick & Quick of Purple, Wine, and Terracotta. (I’m still looking for three more skeins of Terracotta or I can’t ever finish this scarf. Does anyone have some?)

Other projects never got past their yarn (and sometimes pattern) being stuffed into a project bag. Those got quickly sorted out and the yarn returned to stash.

A few projects, barely started, had lost their fire. I gave each one a moment of silence, pulled out and stored their needles, then frogged the project (pulled out all the stitches and rewound the yarn ball) and returned its components to stash.

Most of the projects that were well underway seemed to be worth finishing at some point, so they went back into a mesh pop-up laundry basket I had purchased specifically for WIP (work-in-progress) storage. Yes, TARDIS cowl-redesigned-into-lace-scarf, I will finish you someday.

But Brandy, between chuckles at me, was knitting on something and I wanted to knit something too. None of my current projects seemed to fit the bill — Drunken Octopus Sweater and Cozy Slippers were both at the seaming stage and I wanted to knit and talk, not seam new things in poor light in the evening. So I looked over my prodigal projects and found Citron.

A little slice o' lemon.

A little slice o’ lemon.

Citron is a semicircular shawl pattern that came out in the winter of 2009. It’s a distinctive pattern and actually quite simple to make, but it is done with laceweight yarn. Working on it is pretty much like knitting with slightly thick sewing thread. And there are hundreds of stitches on your needle, so you need a long circular needle, preferably with very pointy metal tips so you don’t split your yarn. I have bought some quantities of laceweight over the years, but Citron is the only project I’ve ever used any with.

But first, what row was I on when I stopped?

Check your pattern notes.

The pattern isn’t in the project bag.

Well… check your pattern binders, the shawl volume.

The pattern isn’t in there.

Well… check your Ravelry library.

I got out a laptop and checked. Well, it’s technically in my Ravelry library, but since it’s a pattern from an online source, it’s not a separate PDF.

Well… check the knitting pattern folder on your laptop.

Lots of shawl patterns there, but not Citron.

Well… print it out again from the Knitty site.

I tried, but the laptop was so old and slow it never managed to load Knitty.

Fine then, use the big computer and print it out from that one.

So I did. Now I had the pattern in hand (and soon in a sheet protector). From my Ravelry project file I saw that I’d made it to (or through) Row Six of Section Three. (“You kept notes?” said Brandy. “Good girl!”)

And as quick as that, I was back knitting on a five-year-old pattern that my notes said I hadn’t touched since the fall of 2011. I’m now at the end of Section Three. There are two more sections knit in the same way, then a ruffled edging that is not really my thing but is most definitely the pattern’s thing, and I shall knit it as specified. The joke is that I’m halfway done now, and if you measure by project segments (done with three, three more to go) you could come to that conclusion. But since the middle of each section adds 23 more stitches (twice), the row I’m on has me at 177 stitches and increasing to 348, and the ruffled edging produces 540 stitches that I then must knit in stockinette for 11 more rows before binding off… there’s a lot of knitting left and I’m nowhere near halfway done in terms of time or stitches.

But I’m knitting on it again and I shall finish it. If I didn’t think so, I wouldn’t have bought fresh Peace Fleece yarn for a project to knit during the Winter Olympics at Sochi.

What will it be? Not socks.

What will it be? Not socks.

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If I Could Turn Back Time

This week I got all the way to this

20140118_112500

and turned it into this.

20140118_112645

When I took it off the needles I was also taking a load off my shoulders. The knitting was putting me to sleep. The thought of continuing on for two whole skeins to make yet another wool blend scarf nobody had asked for was just oppressive. I found out what the mystery pattern looked like, and that’s all I wanted to know anyway. I slid the project off the needle, pulled it all out, and wound it back over the skein and put the yarn back in the stash. It will be something else someday. I don’t know what; I don’t know when. Right now that’s none of my concern.

Doing something you’re good at and enjoy shouldn’t feel like you’ve been sentenced to the salt mines. If it’s boring you or annoying you, you can undo it and do something else. The yarn doesn’t really care. It probably wanted to be something else anyway. Knitting is one of those amazing activities that allows you to do a tiny thing over and over and over and end up with something tangible to show for it at the end (unlike, say, trying to clean a house that is full of children). It also lets you go back in time a bit to fix your mistakes (which would be handy with parenting a house full of children). And sometimes, moving your marker all the way back to GO and forfeiting your $200 is exactly what you need to do.

What I’m knitting this week:

This week I picked up a couple of projects that I set down some time ago. The first project was a pair of slippers everyone thought I was knitting so quickly. Well, I was… until I stopped. Funny how that works. I wasn’t quite sure how to do the next step in the pattern, so I put it all away for a while. Then my feet got ice cold and I thought, “How hard would that next step be to learn anyway?” Turns out it wasn’t hard at all. I now have one slipper done except for two seams and some weaving-in, and I’m nearly halfway done with the second slipper. That was Monday morning.

Top: woolen canoe. Bottom: Almost a slipper.

Top: Woolen canoe.
Bottom: Almost a slipper.

On Tuesday night I went to my knitting group and resumed work on the Drunken Octopus Sweater. I got the stitches all picked up for the ribbed collar band, and right now I’m knitting away on that section. When it’s done there is a bunch of seaming to do, and then it will look like a proper sweater while I pick up and knit the bottom edge and add ribbing to it. And add the button bands. And add buttons. It will be so satisfying to get this done, particularly because my office is cold in the morning. (But my house is cold at night. Do I really have to knit another one?)

Of course, pride goeth immediately before rows one has to rip back. I was so thrilled to be working on the sweater again that after a mere glance at the pattern, I was cranking out the two inches of collar I thought I needed. But after a while I started thinking, Shouldn’t there be a purl row for turning this collar? It’s going to be awfully bulky. When I had knitted for two inches I finally read the pattern. Knit for ONE inch, purl one row, switch to smaller needles, knit for one more inch. Ouch. Well, there was no way around that one, so I sat and un-knitted each stitch of 1×1 ribbing for six rows of 71 stitches each before being able to move forward properly. Yeahhhhh, that wasn’t much fun. Next time, I’ll read the pattern, or at least try to look at it for more than a microsecond.

Almost collared.

Almost collared.

I have knitted sweaters before, three of them. Two were so simple that you shouldn’t really think of them as sweaters, but as “children’s tops made with yarn.” The third sweater was Tyrone. If you’ve been reading this blog so long that you remember Tyrone, you understand why I don’t have anything else to say about it. (If you’ve only joined us recently, Dear Reader, search the blog for “Tyrone.” And be kind.) This project feels like a real sweater, and it’s a sweater for me. And it’s supposed to be a certain size. I don’t make many of those kinds of projects. Scarves, blankets, and hats are pretty forgiving, and you can almost always find someone with feet that fit the socks you just finished. This is an Intentional, Sized Thing. We’ll see how all that works out.

Published in: on January 23, 2014 at 9:01 am  Comments (4)  

Don’t Stop Me Now

To clarify, this week’s post title is quite different from the phrase “nothing can stop me now,” which is engraved in my family’s history as the ill-fated phrase my brother has triumphantly exclaimed immediately before numerous and painful occasions. Some of these occasions are accompanied by gruesome photographic documentation. Be glad I do not possess copies of such documentation; they are not to be viewed by the faint of heart. Suffice it to say that I will never utter the phrase “nothing can stop me now” for the rest of my life. It sorely tempts fate, which, frankly, doesn’t need much tempting in the first place.

This week I was able to indulge in some hours of intense activity as well as some moments of introspection. The activity consisted of a cross-country ski session that, while quite fun (I’d do it again! I swear!), pushed the edges of my personal envelope with regards to pain; it was icier and “slopier” than I’d expected, and although I hiked the trail and carried my skis for most of the trail, I did take some rather spectacular spills, one of which my ski-partner may have managed to catch on video.

Let me know if you’ve already seen this on YouTube. Specifically, from 0:14 to 0:17. This documents Crash #2 of 5. Or of perhaps 6. I started to lose count after a while.

Happily, especially because I do *not* at the present moment actually have any health insurance, discretion became the better part of sanity by the end of the trip, and I retreated from the ski trails before any body parts broke, dislocated, disintegrated, or exploded. Many of them were bruised, but I cannot give an accurate accounting of how many, because I am daily discovering new bruises in some unlikely places. After Crash Five (or Six) I cut my ski-partner loose to do something besides wait at the bottom of the slope to see how long it would take me to get up, and speculate as to whether or not I’d be able to retrieve my hat, cell phone, or skis without his assistance. I suppose he went skiing for a while or something.

After several ice pack sessions (okay, bag-of-frozen-peas sessions) on my sore right shoulder, I had time to speculate on the size of my personal envelope.

Don't spend it all in one place, folks.

Don’t spend it all in one place, folks.

My friend’s personal envelope? Well, considering he already has a pilot’s license, skydives, rides a unicycle, and is learning to juggle, I assume it’s considerably larger than mine.

largest envelope

This might have room for enough postage to mail someone to the Moon.

The neat thing (well, one of the neat things) about hanging out with someone like this is that their idea of reasonable activity is so far above “sitting on the couch watching videos” that almost anything you do helps to expand your own horizons and challenge you beyond what you thought you were capable of. For example, on Saturday morning I often felt I was not capable of standing up again. But I did stand up again, over and over. I’m stubborn as hell a persistent soul, and I wasn’t going to fail to live up to whatever I thought the expectations were. And even though I felt on Sunday morning as if I’d been a rock in a tumbler, I still had a great time on Saturday.

Resting up gave me a chance to think about all the things I don’t usually do, and all the things I’ve wanted to do but haven’t pushed myself to accomplish over the years.

What, really, is stopping me besides myself?

WaitingForTheLight

I used to set ten-year goals and for them, create a five-year sub-plan and a list of reasonable one-year tasks. Heck, I used to have goals rather than random resolutions — though I don’t mean to denigrate the effort I put into the random resolutions. Some of them might not have been quite so random. But at some point (perhaps when I was at home with four kids ages seven and under?) having any kind of long-term goal was ludicrous. Day-to-day survival was a much more reasonable achievement. Keep everyone alive for now, and we’ll deal with the big picture later. Capisce?

But now we’ve all survived that period of intense-personal-care parenting. The “kids” range from almost 15 to almost 8. They’re able to go along with most of the things I’d like to do (even if they’re not yet willing), and even help with the planning, preparation, and performance of said “thing.” (Not so much on the putting-away afterwards, but we can work on that.)

Now, I can get back to my thing, which has always been writing.

What I’m knitting this week:

I finished the first and second “Don’t Shoot” cowls — one was done in time for last weekend’s road trip to Ice-Land, and the second one was finished two days later. Moving on!

Don't Shoot! number 2.

Don’t Shoot! number 2.

This week I’m knitting a meme — more accurately, the knitting instructions I read in a meme that’s been making the rounds on Facebook.

It's not rocket science, people... it's more like fiber-based topology.

It’s not rocket science, people… it’s more like fiber-based topology.

Here is what I have so far. Actually, that’s not true. I have several more inches of this by now. It’s just that it’s such a simple pattern that it puts me to sleep when I knit it, and if I use up all the yarn I have allotted for it, I’ll probably be sleeping for the next twenty years, which is not how I wanted to spend the next twenty years.

Got coma?

Got coma?

Part of me is screaming inside: All right, now you know what it looks like! Rip it out and knit something more interesting! That part of my brain is doing battle with the part that controls the hands to calmly turn the work around, pick up the free needle once again, and think: Well, it’s not as if it’s hard… and people need scarves….

Published in: on January 16, 2014 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Week Thirty-Nine: It was the middle one

I found my Doctor!

Marvel Premiere #57, December 1980

Marvel Premiere #57, December 1980

While writing last week’s post and looking for images with which to illustrate it, I came across a set of comic books for sale on eBay. I set up a brand new eBay account (knowing full well that this will create the entrance to a very dangerous rabbit hole, so you don’t have to remind me) and put in a bid. These were the comic books that introduced Americans to The Doctor.

The comic books arrived today, and after the kids were asleep I read through the first one. Nope… nothing familiar.

Marvel Premiere #58, February 1981

Marvel Premiere #58, February 1981

But the second one…. I skimmed it, and flashed on the transformation of the villain Magog from human to demon form. Yes. I remember this. There was also a mini-adventure featuring K-9, and I chuckled as I read through it, knowing this was something I had read before. This was it. THIS WAS IT.

Marvel Premiere #60, June 1981

Marvel Premiere #60, June 1981

Third one? Nope. Never read it before. And interestingly enough, way in the back is an article about the various actors who’ve played the Doctor. It also introduces 29-year-old Peter Davison, best known then as Tristan on the BBC adaptation of James Herriot’s “All Creatures Great and Small,” as the brand-new Fifth Doctor-to-be. This long article was printed in blurred 3-point type, so I’m sure I wouldn’t have read it back then, even if I had had this comic book. But I wonder how reading it might have changed my view of the Doctor; I had watched Davison in that show! There I was, on the cusp of a new Doctor, and he’s one for whom I have yet to watch a single episode. For the want of a comic book….

Oh, and for anyone wondering why the third cover looks so different… the artist of the first two covers found himself in a time crunch when the third issue was at deadline, and the publisher had to call on the artist who regularly drew covers for one of their other titles, “Conan the Barbarian.” But he got the scarf colors right, so I can’t complain.

Knitwise…. do you really want to know?

In my local knitting group, two of us are doing a knitalong of a cardigan that went from Cute Little Project to Annoying Slogalong on the second day. If you knit, take a minute to digest this…. 207 stitches on the needles, worked in stockinette for 7 inches before you do anything else. Yep, 7,452 stitches of stockinette, just in that section. That’s not sleep-inducing at all. I have tried knitting this section by myself in a completely silent room, but I do find I make more progress if I knit on it with other people around to talk with and listen to. By “more progress” I mean “can knit about five rows before my brain starts to melt and I forget, mid-row, how to purl.” But it won’t knit itself… it won’t knit itself… it won’t knit itself…. When I finish it (and I will), it will be the first sweater I have ever made for myself.

The sweater-to-be.

The sweater-to-be.

For the Sheep and Wool Challenge, I have started a project but am temporarily stalled at Row 4. It’s a tricky pattern that needs to be worked in good light, with the benefit of a clear head. For the past week I have not been able to meet those conditions simultaneously. But I am working on it.

Published in: on September 26, 2013 at 9:00 am  Comments (1)  

Week Thirty-Eight: How I Met the Doctor

Recently, Facebook was trying to enhance the quality of its content by finding out every movie, TV show, and book I have enjoyed over the past <<cough cough>> years of my life. The exercise in cyber-feedback progressed from ‘mildly invasive’ to ‘there IS such a thing as a stupid question’ when I came across this screen (click on the image to make it come up, bigger, on its own page):

SeenThis

Have I watched this? Have I WATCHED this? Seriously, how does Mark Zuckerberg not personally know whether or not I have watched this?

I can tell you exactly when and why I started watched New Who. My ex husband said, “Oh look, they’re starting up ‘Doctor Who’ again. Didn’t you used to watch that? Christopher Eccleston is going to be playing The Doctor. You know, the guy who was in ‘Shallow Grave’ with Ewan McGregor.” We watched the series reboot on BBC America and LOVED Eccleston’s Doctor. His leftover rage, his manic energy… perfect! Then, at the end of the season, he regenerated into David Tennant. I was so upset I stopped watching for a year. (If you know me through Ravelry, you’ll know I eventually got over this.)

These days I’m not only all caught up, but I’m re-watching all of New Who with my teenage son. We are almost done with Tennant’s first season (yes, I will have a carton of tissues ready for “Doomsday”) but will swing right into Martha’s year and beyond.

What I can’t tell you is how I met the Doctor in the first place. Ironically, that meeting has been lost to time.

I do know that I’d met him — Tom Baker’s Doctor, the only one most Americans knew back then — by the fall of 1985 when I went off to college. My winter coat was a long black wool coat which I usually wore unbuttoned, accompanied by some sort of ridiculously long scarf. (No, I didn’t have a hat.) And with me I took my beloved 1940s Underwood manual typewriter AND an electronic Smith-Corona typewriter that I probably received after my high school graduation. It was a grey slab of a thing, all angles and no warmth. (I have no idea where it is now, or what might have happened to it over the years. It probably ran away from home after I got my first Macintosh in 1988.)

I named it K9.

How did I know?

Editing with K9 in 1987.

Editing with K9 in 1987.

I did have a little black and white television in my bedroom. There must have been an awesome sale at Sun TV, because all my friends had identical black and white TVs that year. I was allowed to watch it as long as my grades didn’t suffer. (ha!) I watched “Cosmos” on it, and British shows aired by PBS. I remember watching someone’s performance of “The Importance of Being Ernest.” I remember watching “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.” But I don’t remember seeing The Doctor there, and they probably would have shown Doctor Who on midnight Saturday night anyway. I never stayed up that late (I think I watched a grand total of TWO episodes of “Saturday Night Live” during my high school years, and making it to the ball-drop in Times Square on New Year’s Eve was a big deal).

I suspect that I met the Doctor via…comic books. I personally remember buying only copies of Daredevil, the Amazing Spider-Man, and Peter Parker the Spectacular Spider-Man (otherwise known as PPTSS). But my BROTHER, now there’s a guy who knew how to accumulate comic books, and I read everything he had as soon as he was done with it. I suspect that somehow, somewhere, the Doctor and K9 snuck into the house in comic book form amidst copies of The Unknown Soldier, Marvel What-If, Sgt. Rock, The X-Men, G.I. Combat (“featuring The Haunted Tank!”), and Warlord.

Ah, Warlord. An Air Force pilot loses his way near the North Pole and flies to not Russia but the primitive inner-Earth land of Skartaris.... ahem.

Ah, Warlord. An Air Force pilot loses his way near the North Pole and flies to not Russia but the primitive inner-Earth land of Skartaris…. ahem.

But, I was talking about the Doctor. Somehow I found him, and somehow I just thought he was cool. And many many years later, when I was learning how to knit, the first item I made was a ridiculously long scarf that I called my “fake Doctor Who scarf.” I didn’t look to see if there was a specific scarf to copy, certain colors, or any type of pattern at all. To me it was Plato’s scarf. I knew it had to be very long, and have lots of colors and fringe, and that was all. Ta-daah!

Not the Doctor's.

Not the Doctor’s.

(Later, of course, I found out there was a pattern. There were very specific colors, and stitch counts, and row counts. So far I’ve made four and have a fifth one on the needles.)

That's better.

That’s better.

Judging from the comic books my eyes devoured, I liked adventure, history, and good winning over evil. The big coat, the crazy scarf, and the tin dog just made it even more fun.

Week Thirty: Slogalong

I’m still cranking away on the mystery giftknit project, which I’m starting to believe is really a black hole for yarn. Projects made with bulky yarn and big needles are supposed to go quickly… aren’t they? This one is sucking up time and yarn as if it doesn’t care what combination of dye lots it’s made from. It it’s not careful, it is going to have STRIPES.

This image was swiped from the Yarn Harlot's blog from a post made in June 2005. I hope Stephanie doesn't mind.

This image was swiped from the Yarn Harlot’s blog from a post made in June 2005. I hope Stephanie doesn’t mind.

I have done lots of knitting projects that turned into slogs. There’s the KAL — the knitalong — and then there’s the slogalong, a group event hosted for people to support each other as they struggle to finish Those Projects Which Do Not Want To Be Completed. They may come about over such decisions as choosing to knit a lace bedspread, or to make one dishcloth a day over the course of the year. Whatever circumstances fostered the poor judgment that brought you to this state, at some point you just have to get your needles out and finish the cussed things. (Or rip them out completely and just make something else. But with this much time already invested, do you really want to rip it all out? I didn’t think so. You’re not a quitter. You can do this. You can DO this!)

(Ahem.)

I’ve knitted, um, more than one Doctor Who scarf. I’ve knitted more than one blanket. And I have made some scarves that look simple on the outside, but actually took years to finish because of how long I had to set them aside between steps. Sometimes the pattern directions are misleading (I’m looking at YOU, “198 Yards of Heaven”). Sometimes the stitches are complicated, and require your full attention at a time when you can’t give anything your full attention. Sometimes you just don’t have good mojo, or flow, or karmic balance. Sometimes Mercury is in retrograde and gets blamed for everything. And sometimes all you can do is slip the darned thing off the needles and calmly say, “I guess the yarn didn’t want to be a sweater.” (Knitters really say these things. Back me up, O People of the Yarn.)

Scroll slowly for maximum effect. It’s 13 feet long.

Projects that aren’t inherently monumental can turn into slogs because you’re bored or something’s terribly, terribly wrong and you just haven’t seen it yet. If you’re bored, you might think, “Gee, I’ll just set this aside for a minute and work on something quick and easy to get back into the right frame of mind.” Sixteen more enjoyable projects later, whether you finished them or not, you still have to go back to that original project and decide what you’re going to do about it. They don’t knit themselves. You have to make a decision and take responsibility for it (and that’s probably what we’re trying to avoid).

On the other hand, if it’s taking forever and you’re not bored, something might indeed be terribly, terribly wrong. Find a trusted friend, get out the measuring tape, and uncork the wine. There might be tears tonight, and the sooner you cry them and start over, the better. A cardigan with two left sides really won’t block out. I’m sorry. So very, very sorry.

I will knit on, hoping this mystery project never feels like a slog to me. It’s being made for the best of reasons and with all good intentions. Every stitch is filled with love. All 600,000 of them.

There’s still time to cast your vote as to how you feel I should celebrate/commemorate my 400th blog post. Just go to last week’s post and click on something in the poll. If you have detailed suggestions as to what you think I should do (AHEM! You know what I meant. Keep it CLEAN, people) then feel free to leave a comment. Or tell me how you’ve celebrated a milestone of your own.

Published in: on July 25, 2013 at 10:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Week Eighteen: Testing, Testing

This week was the third exam for my calculus class (I started sitting in on this section just after everyone else had taken their second exam). Lately I’ve discovered that although I’m learning the new concepts, my foundations are still shaky — particularly when I’m dealing with trigonometry. My professor has realized this, and graciously extended the time she’ll allow me to make up last semester’s Incomplete. I’ve proposed to her that that I do acres of homework to catch up to where I should be, and finish when I can. It’s work I need to do for this kind of math-work to become second nature, so I’m fine with that. I just have to take little breaks when I realize I’m wasting good time after bad. So yesterday, while everyone else was taking an exam for which I was woefully under-prepared, I was holed up in my “office” working on concepts about two chapters previous. But it’s starting to click. Mostly.

Paige’s problems ARE the material I’m covering in class!

The school year is also, of course, coming to a close for the kidlets. My daughter informed me recently that there were only 20-something days of school left, and that she knew this because “the fifth graders are keeping a countdown.” Personally, I’m not so sure it isn’t the teachers who are counting down the days. Both my parents are retired public school teachers, so I know they’re capable of it. Hey kids! Don’t forget you’re signed up for Session 1 of summer school!

Other “doings” include knitting. I went nearly a week without knitting a stitch, and I just felt so frustrated that there seemed to be no time right now for something that relaxes me so much. Over the weekend I holed up in my library-bedroom and knit furiously on a baby blanket for someone who refers to herself as “the nice lady from the library.” And she is! She has three young boys and doesn’t know if this baby is a boy or a girl, but either way, this child deserves something new. I know from experience that boys don’t really “hand down” things of much value, unless you like your jeans with holes already in the knees. And then, one day, I looked at the blanket with honest eyes, and realized that the edge intended to be the short one was about four feet wide. Ten more pounds of yarn, and this would be an awesome blanket for me. So I (brace yourselves) slipped it off the needles, pulled out every stitch, wound up all the yarn, and started again the next day.

big blanket

On Monday night I reached a milestone in my double-top-secret ginormous long-term project. It took me a couple of hours, but I laid out all the sections of it on the floor, and switched parts around to match dye lots in certain places. I figured out how to seam it all up, then carefully packed up each section so that I would be able to start assembling it, column by column.

No, not THOSE kinds of columns.

My other knitting has been touch and go. I’m designing a scarf that is a giftknit for a friend, but I’m kind of stalled on it right now. And a “brainless” knit I was working on, then set down, proved to need extra brain power to sort out when I had the time to pick it up again. It’s been a week since I got input from a professional designer, and I just haven’t picked up the needles on this one. The baby blanket and the ginormous project really must get done sooner, as they both have organic deadlines.

I’m reading… I’m thinking about my life… I’m exercising… I’m taking care of errands that have waited for months… I’m cooking… I’m straightening up the house… I’m writing… I’m playing outside with the kids… I’m busy.

It’s nice.

SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT

Registration is now open for the 6th annual Unwind social event, held in conjunction with the Wisconsin Sheep and Wool Festival in Jefferson, Wisconsin!

How do I sign up, you ask?

Well, just click the small image below, and it should open, full size, in a new window. Then just right-click (Mac users, control-click) the image below and you can download and print a PDF of this year’s registration form. Ta daah! Oh, and you can make plenty of copies for your friends — one person per form, please.

This year we will be selling T-shirts with a new design. They are $12 each, available in sizes S through XXL, and must be ordered when you register.

Details will be posted on Ravelry on my profile page, and in the WI Sheep and Wool group page.

Any questions? Ask them on Ravelry, so we can all share the answers.

Hope to see you there!

UNWIND 1

Week Sixteen: Decisions and Revisions

The calculus train is barrelling along past Reimann Sum station now, and I’m staying in my seat and taking all the notes I can. I’m keeping up with my homework on antiderivatives, summation notation, indefinite integrals, and definite integrals. There will be an exam in two weeks covering this material, and I’m not scared of it. The biggest problems this week have been (a) slipping on the frosty ramp outside the house and bruising my hip, shoulder, hand, and ego; (b) getting almost to school and realizing I was driving the car that didn’t have the commuter window-sticker; and (c) getting so wrapped up in my homework that I lost track of time and was a minute or two late to class. They didn’t all happen on the same day (but two of them did).

The smaller the interval you measure, the closer you get to an accurate estimate of the area under the curve.

Of course, I know me by now, and when things are going well I tend to extrapolate the success to the nth degree. If I solve one computer hardware issue I think I should work as a Genius at the Apple Store. If I write a haiku I wonder how I’ll ever have time to finish my epic metered saga. One good pot of soup, and I’m thinking up graphic treatments for a cookbook series. If I think of an improved mousetrap design, I fret over my inability to purchase enough warehouse space to store all the inventory. That sort of thing. It’s more amusing now that I can catch myself in the act of making ridiculous or disproportionate future plans, and ground myself gently back in reality.

horsebeforecart1

Thoughts like these have started me wondering about my academic future. Enough people have asked me if I were going back to school this fall that I started wondering, too. I went from “no” to “probably not” to “maybe” to “I think I’ll change my major to Pure Mathematics and get a full time job too and edit at night and invent cold fusion” in the space of an afternoon. Well, except for the cold fusion. I’m sure someone else has that all worked out by now.

I caught the thought, then I held it and took a more critical look at it. The physics professors seem distressed at the thought of my being a math major. What are you going to do with a math degree? Well, the same thing I was going to do with a physics degree at age forty-coughcoughcough — learn everything I can about what I’m interested in, while I still can. I’m interested in education but not in teaching, but who knows? With four technically oriented kids, being able to teach math might come in extremely handy. I’m interested in the history of math, the history of science, and the history of language. I don’t have five lifetimes in which to read everything, so I need to choose my reading matter carefully. For that, a structured course seems like a good idea. What’s it all good for? Well, it’s going to help me become more like me. That should be the purpose of education — to help you develop your strengths and shore up your weaknesses. It’s your choice as to whether you apply that towards finding a job or not. Personally, I think that this experience and education will eventually land me in a place where I’m making a living, but I just can’t see all the details from here. Not yet.

The math-and-numbers side of me is now being balanced by my words-and-letters side. I’m not just playing Words With Friends and Scramble any more; I’ve gotten a client who would like me to edit his book manuscript and help him get published. While I’m waiting for him to sign and return his contract, I’ll go ahead and hard-copy edit his first two chapters and keep track of my time so I can figure out my rates for future jobs. I’m also editing a friend’s dissertation for chapter-by-chapter publication in an academic journal. I’m reading fiction and nonfiction. I’m writing every day and blogging every week. And I’m still playing Words With Friends and Scramble. Finding point-scoring combinations among the letter tiles isn’t interfering with my “mathing” any more, so I’m just trying to stay balanced.

Then there’s knitting, that combination of wool, coding, artistic expression, and applied topology. I’m doing finishing (weaving in loose ends) on a huge project, turning a heel on a sock, designing a mathematically and artistically geeky scarf, and knitting a lace-edged narrow shawl that’s a therapeutic exercise.  My friend Bonnie has taught me how to do a Long-Tail cast-on — in fact, this patient woman has taught it to me twice so far — so I have a new tool in that particular toolbox.

As usual, all I need is time. T.S. Eliot assures me that won’t be an issue:

Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.
— “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”

Week Seven: Renewal

After much agonizing, I have decided to renew a library book which I detest. Two weeks ago, there I was at the library, minding my own business, having dropped by to pick up a series of graphic novel-style mathematics books for my 6-year-old son. On my way to check out the books, I happened to notice a new arrival — a book on Euclid and his amazing book, Elements. I thought it would make a good introduction to book and author before I sat down and tackled Elements for myself.

Wrong, wrong, couldn’t have been more wrong. I started hating this book on Page Three.

Don’t even point.

Wait — now that I look back at it, I realize that I started hating this book waaaaaay before Page Three. Because I hate that the quote from Blaise Pascal that appears before the preface is in untranslated French.

I also hate the preface, which gave me my first sense of the author’s writing style.

It got worse from there.

I soon decided that the only proper course of action for me was to write a scathing review of this book so that I could warn off any of its potential readers. Time is precious these days. If I could establish that this book is a waste of both time and space, we could all move happily on to the next item in the queue. However, I didn’t think it would be fair to be nasty about a freshly published book that I didn’t actually finish reading. (Think back to high school. Can you imagine your Literature teacher’s reaction if you had attempted to turn in a book report on a novel you didn’t finish?) So, I struggled forward, trying to keep my temper. It wasn’t my book, so I couldn’t throw it with great force. I did toss it aside often, though. Then I would think, “It’s not that long. I can really get through this” and pick it up again. Then I would yell “I HATE THIS BOOK!” and put it down again. So my progress in the reading of it was not that swift or consistent over the last two weeks.

Yesterday I got an e-mail from the library… the book is due this Friday. I had 48 hours left to read the book, and 96 hours’ worth of more pleasant and useful things to do within that 48 hours.

So I’m going to try to renew it tomorrow. Between chapters, or segments, or paragraphs perhaps, I shall be sharpening my pen and charging up my electrons. I have two more weeks…. unless someone else, perhaps the author’s mother, is on a waiting list for it.

Slop season. Not spring.

Slop season. Not spring.

One might also look out one’s window here in Wisconsin and imagine that spring is coming and this is a time of renewal. Think again, bucko, it’s only mid-February. Just because you can see patches of grass amongst the snow, slush, and mud doesn’t mean the crocuses are coming any time soon, nor should they dare. And you should probably stay inside yourself if you know what’s good for you. Flu, whooping cough, and black ice are laying for you.

So. Until Spring is really here and there are better things to read that don’t have such a tight deadline and bizarre moral imperative, there is knitting to do. The dropped-stitch lace scarf is complete and has been entered on the Finished Projects page. I have cast on for a Wingspan scarf/shawl and gotten a couple of sections done. It has kind of an unusual construction, but the knitting itself is quite easy. So far, there are three of us in my local knitting group who are making them.

Wingspan in progress

(I don’t know why I can’t get the photo to show up. Sorry, just click the link.)

During the past week I have also gotten my oldest child signed up for his freshman year of high school. He is almost 14. He is almost as tall as I am (he checks this every morning). However, he is nowhere close to understanding just how ambitious his desired schedule actually is: Honors English, Eastern Cultures, Science 9, Geometry, P.E., German 1, and Intro to Engineering. I can’t wait until we get started on this in the fall and pour hormones into the mixture, add heat, and see what happens! He is a bright boy — he will just have to work harder at this than he realizes.

And now, a special announcement:

UNWIND 2013

I’m happy to announce that we are in the planning stages for the 6th “Unwind” social event, to be held Saturday, September 7, in conjunction with the Wisconsin Sheep and Wool Festival in Jefferson, Wisconsin.

This event is NOT an official Sheep & Wool event, nor is it an official Ravelry event. It is a private party that you are invited to! The price of admission (which is cheaper, the earlier you register) covers dinner, a goody bag, a chance at a door prize, and the chance to hang out with some seriously fun knitters, crocheters, spinners, and others! And yes, you can and totally should bring your needles, hooks, wheel, spindle, and what-have-you. All the cool people are doing it.

On your registration form you can also choose to purchase a T-shirt. When you arrive at the Festival on Friday or Saturday and check in at our table in the main building, which should be just in front of the fence around the Silent Auction items, you will pick up your goody bag and T-shirt.

We have a cap of 150 attendees, so if you want to come, please sign up early. We can take walk-ins at check-in time at the Festival grounds, but NOT at the event itself.

Updates, discussions, and Q&A should take place in the Wisconsin Sheep and Wool Festival group on Ravelry.

If you would like to help sponsor the event or donate a door prize, please email me or PM me on Ravelry.

I hope to see you there — I’ll be the one wearing the Doctor Who Scarf!

Published in: on February 14, 2013 at 4:19 pm  Comments (1)  

Week Six: Degrees of separation

I’m enjoying a more contemplative day today as the snow gently falls on the pines and the pastures. Having ignored the urgings of the weather service to heed instructions for French Toast Alert Level Orange, I’ve done my driving for the day without adding to my stores of milk, bread, or eggs. Quiet music plays from the TV’s music channel. Knitting is being accomplished; reading, contemplated.

Not taken from my house, but it might as well be.

As I was driving back from “town” this morning I was thinking about how people keep saying that the internet has allowed people to opt out of personal interactions, that we are not learning how to effectively interact with people face to face. I wonder about that. If you know me, you probably know I spend a lot of time on Facebook. I check in several times a day, sometimes for hours at a time. I post, comment, share, like, friend, and play a popular game using letter tiles.

Through Facebook I have been able to connect with interesting people, stay in touch with relatives, and reconnect with more distant souls. My Facebook friends range from my first friend (born two days before me to the family two houses down the street) to people on the other side of the planet, sometimes cyberfriends of cyberfriends. I can peek over the shoulders of my twin third-cousins as they work their way through medical school. I can look at the first photos of the first grandchild born to someone in my high school graduating class. I can witness the silly exchanges between two best friends, or between partners. I can see a list of the songs my sister-in-law is listening to on Internet radio, and with a click of the mouse I can hear them, too. These are the kinds of events I wouldn’t ordinarily witness. They are a view into ordinary life that a class reunion, a family reunion, or even a phone call or a letter doesn’t have a way to truly include.

Through Facebook I’ve been allowed to participate in more joy, anxiety, humor, pain, happiness, and sorrow than I thought my heart would have room for. Babies are born and celebrated, and babies die and are grieved. Kids say the darnedest things. Students study, party, win, lose, and goof around. Pets get sick. Friends make plans, issue invitations, meet up, and share the photos afterwards. Grandparents fall down. People have surgery. Prayers, positive thoughts, and (((hugs))) fly back and forth like electromagnetic waves. Funny jokes and silly pictures are circulated. People are poked. A classmate waits in vigil for her comatose sister to open her eyes and rejoin the world, and her classmates wait invisibly with her.

This is more connection, not less. These are the kinds of shared events that used to only happen within a family. Because of Facebook, our families have grown if we have allowed them to. And not only have I discovered things about my friends and my family — I’ve discovered more about myself. I could compare my accomplishments with those of others and be depressed, yes; I can also encounter unsolicited viewpoints that make me stop, think, reconsider, reaffirm, adapt, change, and grow.

I’m not indulging in these musings just to distract you from the paucity of my knitterly and academic accomplishments in the last week. While the variable weather and the resultant slick (and sometimes invisible) roadways have kept me from getting to campus to work on my math, I am 29 rows (1,218 stitches) away from finishing the dropped-stitch scarf. I have a shawl project all set to go that a real-life, in-person kind of friend is making at the same time. I’ve also initiated a Valentine’s Day cyberspace knit-along event involving a whole batch of friends I’ve never met in person. And I’m making bits of progress on my longer-term knitting projects as well.

This was not a stated goal, but I’ve gotten all caught up with both “Downton Abbey” and “Castle,” and I’m starting on “Top Chef.” Ten more episodes to go on that one. If I have a marathon I might be able to finish in time for the live finale, but I’m not sure. I also have a stack of interesting books I’m trying to make time for. I miss reading.