Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Spicy Tee Progress

I must heretofore make a commitment to myself to only knit sweaters of worsted weight or lighter. Bulky is not becoming, no matter how nice it looks in the picture. There are professionals paid to make those sweaters look flattering, plus the models are skinnier, taller, and more long-waisted than I am.

Also, short-sleeved sweaters? Not so practical. Clearly, I am far too susceptible to lovely knitting photography that makes every garment look appealing and practical.

That being said, I think this is coming out pretty well. It was touch and go for a while as I wasn't sure whether it was coming out the right size, or if the fabric was too drapy, so I was debating ripping it out and reknitting on smaller needles. I put it aside for a while to distance myself (hence the lack of progress) and in the end I decided to just keep going. We'll see how it turns out. It should be finished soon!

Friday, October 26, 2007


I feel like I'm cheating a little in showing these off now, because I made them a year or so ago, but I just got around to taking pictures. They are a little baggy in places and I don't like how the ends of the fingers roll, but they do keep my hands warm and still allow me to type. I also really like the stitch pattern around the cuff. The Knucks pattern can be found here.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Still Reading

Since A Thousand Splendid Suns I haven't posted any book reviews as I've realized that I don't like writing them. I have still been reading though, so here's a rundown on those books:

The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule
Very excellent true crime book about Ted Bundy. What makes this book unique is that the author was a friend of Bundy's, but when she signed the contract to write a book about the murders he was not yet a suspect. Contains insight and perspective missing from most crime stories.

Drunk, Divorced and Covered in Cat Hair by Laurie Perry
From the author of the Crazy Aunt Purl blog, the hilarious story about a woman pulling herself together after her husband leaves her. I know it doesn't sound funny, but trust me, you will totally want to invite her to a girls' night out after reading this book.

Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn
An epistolary novel about the fictional island home of the man who coined the phrase "The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog." When letters from the phrase start falling from the island's memorial statue, authorities forbid islanders to use those letters. An underground movement is born to try and stop the madness before everyone is unable to communicate. A quick, fun read.

Every Visible Thing by Lisa Carey
A family fails to deal with the aftermath of their oldest son's disappearance, and the younger brother and sister are left to cope on their own. Engaging story - I didn't want to put it down.

Veil of Roses by Laura Fitzgerald
Fluffy, chick lit type book about a woman from Iran on a 3-month visa in the US who needs to find a husband so she can stay. Writing left a little to be desired, but was still enjoyable and fun.

Slam by Nick Hornby
A 15-year-old boy seems to have everything going for him, until he gets into a bit of a pickle and the future no longer looks quite so rosy. It took me a couple of chapters to get into the story, but then I enjoyed it quite a bit.

Friday, October 19, 2007


Do you know that if you unearth all your yarn from the bags, baskets, and shoe boxes in which you have been storing it and then organize it and move it to a new spot, it's like having a whole supply of new yarn? I swear, I'm not making this up.

A very helpful person with whom I live jolted me from my yarn storage indecision by bringing home and installing two side-by-side sweater shelf hanger thingies, and then forcing me to put all my yarn on them immediately, even though it was 9:30 at night and I had just gotten home from work and was tired and cranky. But look- it's lovely and organized and fits behind a door!

There's a lot of guilt associated with one's stash, judging from yarn-related conversations in the world of knitters. Is my stash too big? Do I need to improve my stash management, or buy something in which to contain my stash? Oh, don't tell my husband/sister/boss/cat that I just bought more yarn! The "flash your stash" pics that people feel compelled to post (such as the one above) only add to the anxiety, as it inevitably results in comparisons, like so many teenage boys in a locker room. So-and-so has a bigger stash than mine, and her stash has gotten a lot bigger recently, does my stash look huge in this photo? and so on.

A while back, A Mingled Yarn published a post called "On Stash"
in which she listed some very helpful rules for keeping stash under control.

- Size restriction based on size of stash container. I can only now implement this, due the previously unorganized and uncontained nature of my yarn stash.

- Regularly prune stash. I have been heavily pruning (which in librarianship we call "weeding" - what is it with the gardening metaphors?) by giving away yarns that I have come to accept will remain unused as long as I own them. The drawback to this is that trading is a two-way street, but I am deliberately trading my yarns for more useful yarns or for knitting books.

- No unassigned yarns. My most important goal is to only own yarns which are meant for a particular project as I have always found having a stash stressful. When I have unused yarn sitting around I feel pressure to find a use for it, and one thing I have learned as a knitter is that I'm compelled to knit based on a pattern not on yarn. If I'm just trying to use up yarn, I most likely won't find a good pattern for it. I need to first figure out what I really want to make and THEN buy the yarn.

But what to do with leftovers from projects? I now have several partial balls of Reynolds Smile from my top-down raglan which I have no idea what to do with. And the Dr. Who Scarf resulted in many many balls of Nature Spun Sport sitting and waiting to be made into...what? An accompanying Dr. Who style hat? Dr. Who socks? There are entire books published containing patterns that use less than a ball of yarn, but most of those patterns don't appeal to me. Yet I can't just throw it in the trash. What do you all do with your odd amounts of leftover yarn? This mystery is the final barrier in my problem of stash control and I am determined to solve it!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Going nowhere fast

I forgot how long it takes to knit a scarf.

I don't even need a scarf. I just wanted to use this yarn, and found a pattern in Scarf Style that looked appropriate. Plus I've owned this copy of Scarf Style for at least two two years and have never made anything from it, so it seemed like kismet.

Of course my primary reason for starting this project is to avoid another project which is not going so well. My Spicy Fitted V-neck Tee is just sitting in my knitting basket refusing to knit itself. I need to make a decision about it, because I think it's coming out too big and I think the yarn is a little too drapy. My gauge is closest on the size 11 needles I've been using, but I'm thinking I should have gone with the 10.5. Like with so many things in my life I'm completely indecisive, so there it lies in its stagnant unfinished state.

There may be a new knitting group starting up at Bloc 11 in Union Square (being organized on Ravelry, how exciting!) which would be the perfect setting to work on my mind-numbingly boring scarf. I just need to find something more challenging to work on at home.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Thoughts on a recent AL post

The Annoyed Librarian has written another thought-provoking post. In a way, I take offense at the notion that librarians can demand higher pay, because in public libraries that doesn't seem possible. The city and the union decide on a pay scale and there is no salary negotiation. Someone else will take the job if the pay isn't enough for me. Of course, this is exactly the problem - the fact that *someone* will take the job, so there is no need to raise the pay. But the fact of the matter is that you can't always choose to go work at the higher paying libraries because job openings are so rare and field is so competitive. If you want to work in a public library, you don't have a hell of a lot of choice.

But AL is right - working in public library is a choice in itself. I could very well take my skills and go work for a company that will pay me more for those skills. I choose not to, at least not right now, because of various factors too numerous and boring to list here.

As for librarianship being a "calling," I'm not sure what that even means. I've always thought a calling is something spiritual and since I am about as spiritual as a baked potato, I'm probably not the best person to address this topic. But I think it implies that you have no choice, that it is your destiny, and it's a mystery to me why that means that you can't be paid fairly.

In my case it's definitely not a calling, it's an interest. I have a lot of interests, and maybe someday I'll get a job doing something else I am interested in such as petting cats or eating cheese. I have great skills in those areas, so I'm sure to command a large salary.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

FO: Baudelaire Socks

I don't know why I didn't start knitting socks sooner. Wool is perfect for my perpetually cold feet, and these are far more comfortable than any other socks I own (except possibly my Jaywalkers).

Here's a shot of the lace pattern on the top of the foot.

And one more look, just because.

This yarn is really fantastic. I have a hard time finding sock yarn that I like, probably because I usually shop at Windsor Button and, much as I love that store, they don't have a great selection of sock yarn. In particular, I have a hard time finding appealing solid colors, which really are the best for intricate lace or cable patterns. Last winter I stopped by A Good Yarn in Brookline and found this yarn - beautiful, solid colors in a skein with more than enough yardage for two socks (very important!) I was so excited, I bought two skeins. The other one is a lovely, deep brown and I'm still looking for the perfect pattern for it.

Pattern: Baudelaire from Knitty, designed by Cookie A.
Yarn: ZwergerGarn Opal
Needles: Addi Turbos, size 2

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Memoirs I didn't hate: a booklist

It's a short list.

I don't like memoirs, not because of what they are by definition, but what they have become now that every person who can type has found it necessary to churn out a book of self-absorbed navel-gazing. Even more, I hate the fact that the American public eats them up like so many reality tv shows.

Writers of memoirs fall into two main camps: those who have a story to tell, but lack the writing skill to tell it, and those who are good writers but whose lives aren't interesting enough to merit books about them. On occasion however, I have read a memoir that surprises me by being what a memoir should be: interesting and well-written. Here are those few.

She's Not There by Jennifer Finney Boylan. Jim Boylan was a professor at my alma mater, Colby College, and several years ago became a woman. This book was enjoyable as well as educational.*

Gone Boy by Gregory Gibson. After his son is killed by a student gunman at Simon's Rock College, Gibson begins a search for answers to how it could have happened. Amazingly, he manages to rise above his grief and rage to conduct an informative investigation of the circumstances surrounding the event and the shooter's life.

Jesus Land by Julia Scheeres. In the 80s, Julia and her adopted brother David are teenagers in rural Indiana. Because David is black, their racist community makes them both outcasts. Oh, but it can get worse: unwilling to deal with the two kids and their adolescent troubles, their parents ship them off to a Christian boot camp in the Dominican Republic.

Lucky by Alice Sebold. The Lovely Bones did nothing for me, as I couldn't buy the spiritual aspects, but Sebold's memoir was good. As a college freshman she was raped, and then told by police that she was lucky compared to the young woman who was murdered in the same spot previously. A well-written account of her attack and its aftermath.

*Boylan has another memoir coming out, about growing up in a haunted house and a haunted body. So not only was he born into a body of the wrong gender, but it was haunted as well? I wish I could say that I'm looking forward to this book, but the very thought of it makes me cringe. If only I could recapture some of my 14-year-old excitement about the supernatural...

Sunday, October 7, 2007

FO: Short-Sleeved Cardigan with Ribbing


The back looks quite nice though.

I had a hard time choosing buttons, but in the end I think I did good!

The pattern is from Fitted Knits by Stefanie Japel. It's the first item I've made from the book (though I'm working on another). I'll wear it, but I'm not completely happy with it. It's got weird bagginess under the arms which I think is a design flaw since I've heard that so many other people have had that problem as well. Also, using a smaller needle size for the ribbing only causes one to have to block super aggressively so the ribbing will fit around your waist and arms. (Though knitting this on size 10.5 needles means that I had to go down an extra half size. In retrospect I should have gone down a half size less than required, but how was I to know that then?) I also had to aggressively block the button band as I suck at picking up stitches evenly. I don't like how unstructured the button band looks, but to be fair the picture in the book looks the same way. I love the yarn, though - it is Cascade 128 Tweed in the most lovely shade of green with flecks of red, blue, and yellow.

Another thing which made this project frustrating is that there are a number of errors in this pattern which are not in the errata. For example, the horizontal ribbing on the front is written such that you end up making the ribs on the inside rather than the outside and it's difficult to know this before doing it, as the instructions are written in a confusing way. Also, the math on the sleeve decreases make no sense as written, so I just winged it.

I don't feel too bad about the project though, as it did come out well enough to wear and was very quick to make. I think it was a total of 3 weeks, not including the re-blocking and hunt for buttons, and I was also working on a sock at the same time. Not so bad!

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Banned Blah Blah Week Blah

I am happy to say that my library is not celebrating Banned Books Week (or BBW as the ALA likes to call it). This is probably because most of my co-workers are so professionally out of the loop and uninvolved that they don't even know about it, but in my little fantasy world it's because they, too, feel only apathy and a bit of irritation at this time every year. I have to agree with the Annoyed Librarian - I see that these so-called banned books are widely available in libraries and bookstores and I just can't bring myself to care much.

Banned Books Week is, of course, a misnomer. None of these books are banned, they are just challenged by parents who don't want their children reading about gay penguins or dog scrotums. We all know that there are scary fundamentalist Christians and their ilk everywhere, just looking for things that upset their delicate moral sensabilities that they can complain about. Why do we need a special week to draw attention to them?

The ALA says that they will continue to use the word "banned" because "A successful challenge would result in materials being banned or restricted." But these are all local actions, and in reality a successful challenge would result in one book being removed from one library in, perhaps, a small town in Alabama. I can't accept that this really constitutes banning. After all, everyone in that town in Alabama can still go out to their nearest bookstore and buy a copy. And if enough people care, they can probably petition the library to return the book to the shelf.

In a way, it's more about taxpayers trying to shape their library's collection, which brings me to a point I mentioned in a previous post: most censorship is done by librarians during the collection development process. Librarians will fight to the death to make sure that Harry Potter stays on the shelves once it's there, but my library just came perilously close to not purchasing a copy of If I Did It because one person does all of our adult collection development and that one person happens to find the book offensive. But you don't see stories about that on the news, do you? If librarians are going to talk about banned books, I think we need to examine what we ourselves are doing that may constitute censorship because ultimately we are the ones who have the most control over library collections.

The ALA says that Banned Books Week "celebrates the freedom to choose or the freedom to express one’s opinion even if that opinion might be considered unorthodox or unpopular and stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of those unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints to all who wish to read them." Well then, let those parents express their opinions on the inappropriateness of the Gossip Girls series because we know that nothing will come of their complaints anyhow. If it is intellectual freedom and access to information that we are so concerned about, perhaps we should turn our attention away from these small isolated incidents and spend a week promoting more timely and relevant issues such as library funding and net neutrality.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

A Thousand Splendid Suns

Khaled Hosseini's second novel did not disappoint me, despite the unfavorable comparisons with the Kite Runner. It is the story of two women who both end up, through very unfortunate circumstances, married to the same man. He is not a nice man. It was exhausting just reading about the women's lives and their losses and what they endured just to survive. Without giving away the ending, I'll just say that it is worth it to see the book through to it's conclusion.

I frequently had to remind myself that though it is fiction, the conditions are real and they are recent. Reading about this sort of oppression makes me feel grateful that I have such control over my life. I can work, and can pursue whatever career I want, can go where I want to go, and can marry (or in my case, live in delicious sin with) whomever I choose (even more so, since I live in Massachusetts). I'm not going to get all patriotic because I'm sure I'd be just as happy in, say, England or the Netherlands, but I feel lucky that I wasn't born in the Middle East.

Things are looking up for women in that part of the world though. Just a couple of days ago I learned that Afghan women are shedding their burqas for Kabul's version of America's Next Top Model. Progress at last!

Monday, October 1, 2007

Began the Spicy Fitted V-Neck Tee

I love this turquoise yarn, but am not so crazy about all the errors in this pattern. Luckily, it's easy enough for me (yes, even me!) to figure out. I've decided not to include the eyelet pattern on the back. You can see what it would look like here - I actually really like her finished version, but for mine I'd like a little less of the eyelets. I'm including the back shaping, but otherwise it will just look plain.

I've gotten a bit beyond where I was in the pic above, and because I was knitting while watching several episodes of The Simpsons, I managed to make a pretty egregious error in the front eyelet pattern. Also, I tried it on recently and it's not quite as fitted as I thought it would be. Both of these factors are causing me to reconsider needle size. I'm using 11, but may frog and re-knit using 10.5. The fabric is pretty loose and drapey and I think I could go down a needle size and still fit into the top. I have to be careful though, as this yarn is way more acrylic than wool, so blocking won't help if it does come out too tight.

You know, knitting is far more complicated than I ever thought it was. I'm glad I didn't know this before, or I probably wouldn't have ever learned!