Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Perchance to dream.

Now, I'm not usually a stress-case. I'm pretty laid back, even-keeled, I breathe in and out. Those of you non-knitters who read this blog because you know me and love me anyway, wouldn't you agree?

When I am stressed, I usually feel it in my shoulders and neck, to the point where friends who give in to my repeated appeals for a shoulder rub always say, you're so tight!

Point being, I internalize things. I don't have an ulcer yet, but I have been having some weird dreams.

The other night, I dreamed that my computer was falling apart. The screen was unhinging from my laptop, and the casing was falling off. This one was pretty easy to figure out; thanks to a certain someone, and we're not naming names, who suggested that maybe my computer was getting old and likely to break down and ruin my academic career. (OK, he didn't go as far as to talk about the ruin of my career, but isn't that the next step?)

That same night, I also dreamed that I prepared for teaching class, prepared hard, and when I got there, some person who was team teaching was having the students play musical chairs. So we spent the class playing games. Although it may sound like a fun dream, it really was pretty anxious. Hmmm...maybe I'm worried about being too dry and boring in my class?

But here's the coup de grace. Today, after I taught class (which went well), I came home and took a little nap. I dreamed that I was knitting my Phyllo Yoke Pullover, but realized that I had already knit the piece I was working on.

OK, stress dreams about knitting? Hello!!! Knitting is supposed to relieve stress, not cause it! The funny thing about this dream is that I have been working almost exclusively on the back of the pullover, and it's nothing but stockinette. So you can imagine, right, the consternation it would cause if you realized you knitted 16" of stockinette for nothing?

Anyway, blogging's been scarce of late because there hasn't been anything but stockinette to show. Here's the back piece of the pullover, in the Calmer that I scored on Ebay. I'd started this project back in the fall and abandoned it, overwhelmed by the sheer stockinette-yness of it all, but it's become the perfect mindless project that I need right now. The knitting poses here with the tote bag I got at the Jeff Tweedy show last week here in Austin. Look at it twice. Isn't it cool?

B. and I had a great time. The first time I saw Wilco at the Vic in Chicago a couple of years ago, I honestly felt that it was the best show I'd ever been to. Tweedy has a completely engaging way with the audience, which really makes the show a blast. He's also got one of the purest, most wistful voices I can think of. I'm not really a music person, so go here if you want a more nuanced review of the night.

I wish I could say the knitting and work nightmares will be over, but school's going to be somewhat demanding in the next few weeks. I'm editing a student journal, I'll be going to a conference in Albuquerque in mid-February, and I've scheduled my prospectus exam for the week after. If I make it out alive, it'll be a miracle.

Wish me luck!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

A Gift.

Not from me. From designer Celeste Culpepper.

Anyone who wants to knit her Sweet Mary Jane Cardigan pattern, formerly sold through Knitpicks, can call them and get Celeste's email address. And she will send it to you as a PDF, for free.

UPDATE: Celeste has given permission to email her directly. You can write her at ccbc at netidea dot com.

Her one request? Well, in her own words:

If the knitter would like to send a donation to Yarn Harlot's Knitters without Borders, that would be sweet.

Incredible. Celeste, you are the sweet one.

I should say here, too, that the cardigan was named for the designer's mother. The catalogue copy accompanying the pattern said:

In 1984, my mother died of breast cancer. That was two decades ago. The fact that mothers, sisters and daughters are still dying of breast cancer saddens us all. The journey into the hospital system with all of the anxieties, stress and isolation is one filled with grief and hope. I have designed this bed jacket as a tribute to my mother Mary Jane, and to all who are having to make this journey.

Thanks to Sara for also investigating this issue with Knitpicks and commenting here about it. Sara, send me your email address or something! I don't know if it's a Blogger bug, but I have no return address information for you.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Can't we all just get along?

I don't know if y'all have kept up with the Grey's Anatomy fiasco involving Isaiah Washington, but I just pulled this item off the Perez Hilton web site. (If you haven't heard about the situation, Perez's got plenty to say about it, just keep scrolling through his posts.) John Mayer weighs in with an interesting proposal for the show's writers on his blog.

P.S. John Mayer's adorable *and* smart and funny? Adding him to my blogroll!!

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Thawing out.

Austin's back open for business! I went into school today, taught my first class (in which we did mostly intros and I tried to be the scary teacher by snarling out my attendance policy), had lunch, had a meeting, went to a job talk, and declined an invitation to dinner with friends so that I could come home, collapse on the futon and knit.

I know what you're thinking...wuss! But after spending not one but two "snow" days at home, all that activity left me exhausted. By the way, don't let the news reports from Austin fool you, people, if you live in other parts of the country; you would have thought that the apocalypse had come in the form of ice and freezing rain by the way the local weatherpeople trumped up the winter storm warnings.

Terrified to go out lest I end up like Jack Nicholson at the end of The Shining, I finally ventured outside and discovered that it really wasn't that bad. A friend and I agreed that the weatherpeople whip up fear and anxiety to keep us in thrall to the weather report (normally 4 minutes long, yesterday the lead story and every other story except for sports), and boost their ratings.

Well, what can I say? It worked. And who I am to complain about extra crafting time? You would think that I whipped out a pile of FOs like Meg did. Honestly, I have just one sock to show:
It's the Gentleman's Plain Winter Sock, from Knitting Vintage Socks. And as long as I'm coming clean about it, I finished it tonight (in my defense, to get a fitting on the recipient's foot before I knit the toe). Hey, Ashley, recognize the yarn? I won the Lanett Superwash skeins in Ashley's Predict the First Day of Snow contest, um, in 2005. Yes, I am a bit behind on my sock knitting.

I am most excited, however, about my latest repurposing project: my laptop case! Yay! Check it out:
Remember this sweater from my Salvation Army story? It's an Old Navy pullover that someone felted, so the fabric was nice and thick. I've been wanting a laptop sleeve that I can slip into a backpack or a tote, and almost bought a Tumi one at the outlets for $30. Good price for Tumi, but I already had this idea percolating and decided to give it a shot.

I cut off the sleeves and the turtleneck collar, making sure that I had two pieces of fabric as big as I could get them. Whee! What a liberating feeling, to cut into a knitted sweater with no guilt.

I had planned for a much more complicated pouch, but discovered that simplicity was ultimately better. For example, I was going to line it, but realized that it wasn't really necessary, and I liked the reverse stockinette to show on the inside. I was going to machine stitch it, but the fabric was so thick that it wouldn't fit underneath my presser foot, so I picked up my yarn needle. I was going to make a zippered case, but then found that I liked the ribbing at the bottom of the sweater and thought it would make a nice flap. I thought I might add some velcro to keep it closed, but since the flap is long enough, it stays closed.

To stitch the whole thing together, I decided to use the gold Cascade 220 (from the Harry Potter Scarf), referenced my trusty Stitch and Bitch book, and picked a sturdy backstitch to sew the body together.
I measured and trimmed as I went, and didn't leave much of a seam allowance to avoid bulk. I decided to blanket stitch the edges to stabilize them, and initally wasn't sure if I liked the look or if it looked too homey. Ultimately, the look grew on me, so I decided to finish off the flap edges this way too.

I kept screwing this part up! My fingers insisted on inserting the needle from back to front, and then I couldn't figure out why it didn't look like the picture in Stitch and Bitch. It took me a good ten minutes and a visit to the Internets (where the picture looked exactly the same as the book) for it to sink in that the needle gets inserted from front to back. Durr. (Meaning, also, that my picture is wrong.) When I got the hang of it, though, it was fun.

So now I have a nice, snug sweater for my laptop. And it's way cozier than the black nylon Tumi.

Meanwhile, if knits could talk:

Hey! I'm Sweet Mary Jane! I thought you wanted to knit me so bad! What happened? Nobody puts Baby in a corner! Nobody!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007


Austin is currently shut down, for all intents and purposes. First day of class at the University of Texas? Forget it. Here is the situation:

This was taken right outside my apartment door, when I looked out the window and realized that it was SNOWING!!! Little piddly flakes that you can't even see in the picture, but snow nonetheless. See the little accumulation on the roof of the house next door? See the anemic little icicles? It's a bona fide arctic blast!

Kidding aside, however, if a city does not know how to cope with winter weather conditions, then it does get dangerous. People drive like damned fools, and already this morning there was a fatal car wreck on I35 near Buda.

Today was supposed to be my first day of teaching Mexican American literature. Too bad! Even though I've got piles of stuff to do, I'm taking the day off. Screw it. I'm going to knit until my shoulder cramps up and drink lots of tea.

And see if I can't be the boss of my knitting--the Sweet Mary Jane cardigan, despite its simple lace pattern, is not turning out to be so sweet. I was using jump rings for stitch markers, but the laceweight yarn kept slipping through the openings, thereby throwing off the pattern repeat.

Yesterday I dashed outside, ahead of the storm, for an emergency stitch marker run to Hobby Lobby. (I wasn't the only one! There were other people there, stocking up on their crafts in anticipation of the winter storm!) Hopefully the regular stitch markers will help, but when you've got 214 stitches on your needles, even a simple lace pattern can turn out to be the plaything of the Devil.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Jack's back.

Season 6 of 24 starts tonight, and the New York Times says it's possibly the best season yet. I am GIDDY with anticipation. Kiefer Sutherland may be a sobriety-challenged Christmas-tree-smashing fool, but my heart belongs to Jack!

Friday, January 12, 2007

Windy City blues.

Apparently I was a little obssessed with blue yarn while I was in Chicago.

I managed to visit two yarn stores; this despite having no wheels and taking all manner of buses and trains to get to where I needed to go. I forget how enormous the city is until I realize that it takes me about an hour and a half to get from my parents' house on the South Side to my friend Marie's house on the Northwest side, one bus and two trains later.

But one of the yarn stores I found was Loopy Yarns...where else but in the South Loop! I stumbled across them on the Internets somewhere, and I wish I could remember where because I told the very nice woman working there that maybe I'd seen them on a blog and she was thrilled to hear it! She excitedly told me that they were hearing rumors that they're one friendliest yarn stores. Well, if you're going to have a rumor circulating about you, it may as well be something like that!

It's a great store, and they were friendly in just the right way, asking if I needed help but not in an aggressive or snobby way. They had a great clearance section, but I gravitated to their wide selection of sock yarn, since I'd read on their website that they'd just gotten in new Fleece Artist yarns. I also found Brown Sheep sock yarn, which I didn't know existed, but I ended up falling in love with this gorgeous Fleece Artist colorway, which is on the right:
It's called Aegean, and the picture doesn't do justice to it--the blues are just so deep and vivid. The skein on the left is a half skein left of Malabrigo that I bought at the Knitche in Downers Grove. My Austin LYS doesn't carry Malabrigo, but I've read so many raves about it on the blogs that I had to bring some home to see what all the fuss is about. As it turned out, a friend was having a birthday in early January, so I reached into my mini-stash and made a simple roll brim hat with the Malabrigo:

Ohhhhh. Yeah, baby. Now I know what all the fuss is about. It's like someone drafted a cloud and spun it into the softest yarn imaginable. And I still have half a skein left! The Knitche was a cute store, with lots of fancy yarn, and you could get a cappucino there, too! In theory, a good idea, but if your staff is busy serving up coffee and trying to help people with their yarn at the same time, it can get a little crazy. I was about to give up and put the Malabrigo back, but the lady in front of me kindly let me purchase my yarn ahead of her, as it seemed she was looking for a million different single skeins, maybe to make a funky afghan.
I got some lovely craft-related Christmas presents, too.

The bag is from my beloved friend Jennifer, who went to a craft fair and found this gorgeous bag at a booth where the vendor had just put the finishing touches on it. It'll make a perfect knitting bag...heck, it'll be perfect for any occasion. And this book! Sew What! Skirts is from my brilliant and beautiful sister-in-law, who lurks here and occasionally comments, and apparently knows me better than I thought. I had just been looking at this book at Borders and putting it on my must-have list the next time I got a coupon in my email. It essentially empowers you to draft your own patterns and it includes instructions on many different variations. It's perfect for the odd length or two of fabric you fell in love with at the store and which is now sitting in your stash, waiting to see the light of day.

Finally, my holidays were wrapped up with some fun news from my sister: apparently, a dress I knitted for my niece THREE years ago finally fits her! Even better, she's wearing it of her own volition. My sister explained to her that Tia Cookie handmade that dress for her. My niece shook her head. Nuh uh. She didn't make it with her hands, she made it with needles!

Hee hee. From the mouths of babes.
P.S. I found that Bloglines had dropped a number of my feeds recently, and Karen also noticed that I fell off her blogroll! So check your feeds to make sure you're not missing any of your favorite reads.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Salvation's in the bag.

Every few months, I get the urge to look for a couch. I've had my futon ever since I started graduate school, which is too long ago for me to want to remember, for various reasons. I check out Craigslist, get overwhelmed, decide my futon is good enough for now, and forget about it.

Today the itch struck me again, so I popped into the Salvation Army, where they usually have a sizeable assortment of 70s and 80s style furniture (I actually found my comfy little side chair there). I tried out a few couches, but unfortunately enough, the one that was most comfortable and had springs that didn't sink down to the floor was the most ugly couch. Hands down. It looked like it came out of Gramma's attic--pine green velvet and scuffed around the arms.

I considered it for a brief second, trying to decide if I could pull off a shabby chic look, or if it would just be sadly shabby. I shelved the idea and started to look around the rest of the store.

I have an idea for making a laptop case, and thought that a felted sweater or a wool coat could offer up enough material for it. As I looked around, the Mexican woman working in the back, putting out merchandise, kept yelling to the cashier to bring her things, orale, and calling him "calavera." I turned and saw a tall, thin man with a closely shaved head running back to her, and nodded. The name certainly seemed apt.

Finally, I found an Old Navy sweater in a size L that someone had shrunk down to probably an XS. Sad for the owner, but it yielded a nice thick fabric. I picked it up and headed to the register.

Close up, I could see even better why the woman was teasing the cashier. Sunken eyes and pale skin. Calavera rang up the sweater, and commented that it would be too warm to wear it, soon. I shrugged and told him I was going to cut it up anyway. Try and make a purse out of it.

He looked at me and said, You're very attractive. Surprised, I smiled brightly, as though he were praising my penmanship or how well I tied my shoes. Thank you! Wait a minute, he said, turning to reach into the display case behind him. He brought out a leather purse, that at first glance looked like one of those Mexican bags that tourists used to bring back.

Do you like it? I looked at it uncertainly, not knowing what to say. I'll sell it to you for a dollar. Um, I said, digging in my wallet....I just gave you all my cash. Forget it, he said. I'll buy it for you. No, no, I insisted, looking for quarters. No, really. Take it. He turned away abruptly and I grabbed the plastic bag and scurried out of the store.

Once I was safely away, in the Target parking lot, I opened the bag and examined it. It looks like it might have been handmade, and the name Juanita I. Oliver is written in ink on the flap. There is no lining, and the strap is well-worn.

I'm not quite sure what I'm going to do with it. It's neat, but it kinda freaks me out.