Friday, April 28, 2006

Knitting as a subculture

So on Wednesday night, we had an out-of-town visitor at our SnB. Her name is Carrie, and she's writing a book on knitting as a subculture, for a series her publisher is doing on different American subcultures. It really got us talking about how there's a language that non-knitters really wouldn't understand. Like if I said, "So the other day, I was KIPing, and the pattern said to do a yo followed by a k2tog. It's just not working, so if I don't frog it, I'm just going to end up with another UFO," you'd know exactly what I meant. A muggle? Not so much. Since Carrie's a knitter too, we didn't feel too much like we were being looked at as weird mutants under scientific observation. Instead, we talked to her so much I think she started to feel overwhelmed. But she was a good sport about it:

Jessica, Carrie, and Joanne

Meanwhile, I got tips from Joanne on sponsoring green card applications through marriage, and managed to finish the heel gussets on my Jaywalker:

Please excuse the flash, but it was the only way to get anything near accurate color.

As for the rest of my knitting projects, well, let's just say that a quick organization of the closet has revealed that they are all languishing, neglected thanks to my infatuation with Jaywalker (partly due to the fact that it's a very portable project). Let's review. First, there are the Samus sleeves, which should have been finished, blocked, and sewn onto the rest of the sweater ages ago, considering this was my Knitting Olympics project:

Color is actually much greener than this (see what I mean about the
flash?). And the two sleeves at once idea to avoid second-sleeve-itis?
Achieved the opposite of the desired effect.

Then we have the Merino Lace Shawl, which I forced myself to start before attempting Hanging Vines, so that I could get some "practice" with simple knitted lace. This, however, seems to be a little too simple to hold my interest very well. I'm sure it will look better once it's blocked:

Color is much more blue-grey than this.

And remember the famous Merino Lace Cardigan? The one that took me forever to do the shoulder increases? The one that's miles and miles of stockinette? Yeah, I couldn't even bring myself to photograph it. Let's just say it still looks a hell of a lot like it did in this post. Don't look at the date on that.

On top of all that guilt, I now find myself faced with two more frivolous distractions urgent projects: A baby hat for Cari's soon-to-be-born Thumper, and a top-down (pattern TBD) sweater from Blue Sky Alpaca "orgasmic" cotton. I have Lauren to thank for that last one. Too bad I'm neither as tiny nor as fast a knitter as she is. But what I really want to do is magically finish all my current projects (to heck with process for now--sorry, Margene) so that I can start Hanging Vines (which, incidentally, Margene inspired me to knit). Every time I look at the yarn for it, which I bought from Judy, I want to cry. It is so soft and beautiful. But it must wait at least until the needles are freed up. Which means I'd better get knitting on all these other things.

However, that's unlikely to happen today, unless my vacuum decides not to be a wimp like it was two weeks ago. I have to clean house and do a bunch of errands because tonight my best friend* from high school and her husband are coming for the weekend. Any ideas on how I can convince her that learning to knit will help her stress levels?

*That link tells you nothing about her personality, but at least you can see a picture of her. Though, really, even the picture is a bit odd. Anyway, she's awesome!

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Heel pooling

I've gotten in quite a bit of good knitting time this week, especially on Wednesday when I hung out with Lauren, Joanne and Lauren's friend Stephanie (formerly of everyone's favorite yarn company) for an "unemployment pizza dinner" at a famous local pizza joint*. So between that and SnB, I'm nearly done with the heel flap on my first Jaywalker, and it looks like this:

The classic sl1, k1, repeat to end/sl1, p to end heel flap.

I don't mind the pooling too much, since it has happened on every single heel flap I've ever knit with variegated yarn. And this yarn is so soft (no nylon content at all) that I guess it's best to have a thicker fabric at the heel. However, I can't help but feel that on Jaywalker in particular, the pooling takes away a bit from the zigzag effect. I'm not going to rip back now, but I'd love to hear if anyone has suggestions for a good basic short row heel I can try on the next pair. Ideas?

*For New Haven pizza afficionados, I should note that we all agreed that we prefer various other places over Pepe's for pizza flavor and topping options. However, Pepe's does win on friendliness. If you have no idea why this deserves a footnote, you're obviously not from New Haven, and you should read up on The Great Debate.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

"The Case of the Disappearing Blogger" or, What the *heck* has this woman been up to for the past several weeks???

Well, for starters, I was cleaning the guest room. That might not sound like much, but it actually took the better part of three days, and involved so much vacuuming that the poor thing kept overheating and shutting itself down. It also involved buying better yarn storage:

Sorted by weight (Lopi on the bottom)

Then my parents came for a visit, which involved a lot of good eating. I also helped my mom start her first sock. OK, actually it was really just moral support. She is the one who taught me everything I know about knitting, after all. Isn't it a beauty so far, though?

Lorna's Laces on US #1's

Not to be outdone, and to do my part for someone's Spring KAL (even though I seem to be the only one doing it), I started my own Jaywalkers:

Artyarns Ultramerino on US #1's

After my folks left, I did a little of this and a little of that, topping off the week with some more yummy food and a day in NYC. After brunch with some dear friends, Taz and I got some exercise wandering around Central Park, finally ending up here to cool off with the penguins. I like the backdrop in this pic:

In front of the sea lion exhibit

The next day we also biked to the bookstore and made a valiant effort at planning ahead, despite the fact that we don't know where we'll be living two months from now, thus making most planning somewhat futile at this point. Still, getting these made us feel a little more in control:

Selected from among a dizzying plethora of
books on the subject

Oh yeah. And speaking of all that, on Friday the 7th, while my folks were visiting, we thought it might be a good idea to get me some health insurance (ah, the joys of unemployment!) and start making some progress with Taz's green card application. So we swung by City Hall and made it legal:

Please note that Taz is wearing the "boyfriend sweater"
I knit him! (I cast on for it just two months after we started
dating, and it was the first sweater I ever knit). His wearing
it shows two things: (1) It seems I have successfully broken
the curse" (knock on wood) and (2) Taz is the sweetest,
most amazing man alive.

I admit it, even though it was a very simple affair, and it was "only" the legal part, I cried while saying "I will." Sigh... I am so happy.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Happy Retirement, Jane!!!

Yesterday was my mother's last day at work, and the night before I attended a retirement party for her. Today, I know she can't wait to get started on all the fun and exciting activities she has planned, now that she doesn't have to get up and go to the office everyday. Having lived survived several mergers over the course of her career in human resources, upon retirement she had 35 1/2 years of service with a company that is officially only 11 years old. Even though I never went with her on any of those "take your daughter to work" days, her career has had a profound effect on me and who I've become. This quick little story might give you some idea:

One day when I was about 4 or maybe 5, my mother came into my room and found me playing with my dollhouse. She sat down next to me and started asking me about different things in the house, and what the people were doing. I showed her how the girl and boy dolls were playing together, and I think the father doll was in the kitchen. The mother doll was about to go out of the house, but she had something rather like a domino stuck to her hand. When my mom asked me what that was, I replied "Oh, that's her briefcase. She's going to work now."

Thanks to my mother (and my father, and their mutual support of one another's dreams), it simply never occurred to me that anyone's mother might not work outside of the home. Later, when we moved to Syracuse, I had friends with stay-at-home moms. One of them ran a daycare in her home, and in retrospect I'd venture to say that she worked at least as many hours as my mom (who typically worked 10-plus hour days). I came to understand that all moms work hard, no matter where they spend their days. But because my mom had a career in industry, and my dad was the one at home (at least until he finished grad school), I never had the chance to get stuck in the traditional mindset that mothers should not have their own outside careers.

I'm not going to lie and say it was a breeze for her. She faced many challenges (especially considering the corporate culture of the late 70s and early 80s) in balancing work, marriage, motherhood and personal time. I remember that the summer after my first year of college, she and I went on a mother-daughter canoe trip in the Adirondacks for a long weekend. By then I was as strong a paddler and as good a camper as her, and the route we picked wasn't too challenging, so we had plenty of time to relax and enjoy each other's company. One evening we were sitting by the campfire and started reminiscing about my early camping trips. Mom likes to say that my first camping trip was actually in utero, since she was 5 months pregnant with me when she went on her first trip. Then we started talking about those very early years in general, and my mom began to cry. She told me how guilty she still felt for not having been around as much as she felt she should when my brother and I were little, and she asked me to forgive her. All I could say was, "Mom, there's nothing to forgive. If it weren't for the choices you made, you wouldn't have been the example you are to me, and I wouldn't be who I am today."

I think reflecting back on my mother's career is particularly apt at this time in my life. Even though I'll be 30 this year, I'm really just starting out on my own career path, I'll be getting married soon, and hope to have kids one day. It seems like everywhere I turn there is pessimism about the plausibility of balancing work, marriage, and motherhood, never mind personal development. But whenever I start to worry about it, I just take a deep breath and think of my mom, and my faith in myself returns. I know I can do it--she proved to me that it's possible.

Lots of women friends my age have started noticing--often with a certain level of concern--that they are turning into their mothers. All I have to say to that is, I should be so lucky.

Congratulations, Mom!