Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Gusset, a love story

My favorite part of knitting socks is creating the gusset, that little triangular space that connects the leg and foot near your ankle.

In traditional cuff-down socks, once the leg is complete half the stitches are set aside while knitting back and forth to create a heel flap, and decreases are then used to form the heel shape. To create the gusset, stitches are picked up along the edge of the heel flap, perpendicular to the leg.

They look so neat and orderly!

This is done on the other side as well, until it is all connected in a tube shape again, but now the tube is turned in a new direction to create the foot.

Seeing the little rows marching on away from the heel is so satisfying! This new larger tube is now decreased through the ankle area until it is the right size for the foot, and those decreases create the lovely triangular final gusset shape.

So neat, so perfect, and so little left before my sock is complete!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

January: Time

Because I'm an over-achiever, I read not just one, but TWO books for the January Book-A-Month Challenge. Here are my thoughts on both of them.

Time Capsule: Short Stories About Teenagers Throughout the Twentieth Century edited by Donald R. Gallo

Each story in this young adult book represents one decade of the last century. Most of the stories were mediocre and oddly reminiscent of a middle-school English textbook. Some of them just didn't ring true to me and I don't know why. Maybe because those authors were writing about decades before they were born. Nevertheless, I found two of the stories to be outstanding.

"We Loved Lucy" by Trudy Krisher (1950-1959)
Nancy is caught up in the confusion of the Cold War and her father's obsession with building a bomb shelter. She escapes the doom-and-gloom of her household to watch "I Love Lucy" at her friend Brenda's house, where she is allowed to experience humor and laughter and just be a kid. Keeping her family a secret from Brenda is a challenge, and Nancy's struggles and conflicting loyalties feel realistic as a teenager's experience in any decade.

Second place goes to "Fourth and Too Long" by Chris Crutcher (1960-1969)
It is no surprise that Crutcher can capture what it is like to be a teenager. The main character in his story must decide between cutting his long hair and losing his place on the football team. What his coach doesn't understand is that his hair has nothing to do with rebellion and everything to do with hiding a disfigurement and finally fitting in with everyone else

The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

In which a man is plagued by traveling through time against his will. His wife meets him for the first time when she is 6 years old, but he doesn't meet her until she is 20. I was confused by page 8. This should not come as a surprise given that I didn't even understood Back to the Future, and only tenuously grasped the episode of the Simpsons in which Homer time travels and keeps changing the future (you know, the one where it rains doughnuts).

However, I'm very grateful to the author for a couple of things. First, the premise that you cannot change what happens. There are no alternate universes here; you can visit the past, but you can't change it. Second, she makes it clear who is narrating by starting each section with "Henry:" or "Clare:" As someone who is frequently confused by shifting perspectives, I thank you so much, Audrey Niffenegger. There is nothing worse than suddenly realizing the narrator speaking isn't who you thought it was.

Despite the time travel, this is first and foremost a love story between two compelling characters. I just wanted to wrap myself in this book, it was so beautiful and sad.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Retro Rib Socks: a preview

Just a little peek at my socks-in-progress. I actually finished the first one and have started the second. I can't wait for them to be finished. It's cold outside!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Weeding print reference

Although I am reference librarian, our reference collection is a mystery to me. It's true. I hardly ever actually look at those books, some dusty, some shiny, most probably unopened for years. We've just begun a project to weed the print reference collection and have also been talking a bit about the role of print reference now that so much information is available online.

Our reference collection is far, far larger than it should be. I really think it should be about half its current size. Patrons want books they can take out of the library, so for the most part the only people who would use these books are staff. But even for us, it's terribly difficult to find needed information in this collection. Doing a complicated catalog search to figure out which book to look in is time-consuming; we should be able to just walk to the shelf of the needed subject area and eyeball to find what we need, but with 6 aisles, it is far too large for this. And given the amount of use, the space being taken up is completely unjustified.

But size isn't the only problem - you can walk to any shelf and find a number of useless, out-of-date, and obscure books. I can't imagine what reference question would necessitate using the 1989 publication "The Encyclopedia of Monsters" or a computer buying guide published in 2001. Or the cartoonish "Like a Fish Needs a Bicycle," a book of feminist quotes with no index or apparent structure to it's organization, rendering it useless as anything other than a coffee table book. A Who's Who of Nobel Prize Winners that only goes up to 1990 may be of some limited usefulness, but I still say it has no place in a reference collection, which should only contain the most up to date, complete, accurate information available in print. Some would argue that having something on the shelf - even if out of date - is better than nothing, but I disagree. If it's not going to be used, it is only clutter and prevents us from easily finding the things that are useful.

Even more horrifying than the fact that we still have some of these items, is that many other libraries in our system also have them. I recently took a field trip with a co-worker to a neighboring town's library to see what their Reference collection looks like. Disappointingly, it was as large and dust-filled as ours. I felt a little better about the size of our collection, but felt like I had less ammunition to advocate for downsizing it. Why are libraries retaining this stuff for so long? Every time I start to withdraw an item and see that it's also held by 12 other libraries in our network, I second guess myself. But I forge on, knowing that I'd never direct a patron to that book, a good indication that it shouldn't be there.

So, what is the value of print reference, now that the internet provides up-to-date information literally at our fingertips? I dare say that most ready reference questions can be answered more efficiently and accurately online than through print resources. Only a small collection of print is needed to complement our online sources. So there. Weed away!

Monday, January 14, 2008

Hey hey we're the monkeys!

Why yes, actually, I do realize that I'm a lame-o dork. But look at how fantastic my new Monkey socks are!

Aren't they so...stripey? Honestly, I had no idea it was a striping yarn until I was totally done. But then again, I've never been accused of being particularly observant. I have to admit, though, that I find it very strange that many sock yarns do not state on the label whether they are striping or just variegated. There is no way of knowing until you knit with it.

These are made of Tofutsies yarn, my new favorite sock yarn. I may have mentioned previously that it is machine washable and dryable which I think are very important qualities to have in a sock.

I never understood those crazy people who wasted all their knitting time on socks. Now I seem to have become one of them. It is extremely satisfying to knit something and have it fit excellently when you are done, which is SO much more likely with a pair of socks than a sweater.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

BAM Challenge

Have you seen the Book A Month Challenge? Each month there is a theme, with the idea that you pick a book on that theme, read it, and post a review on your blog. Included with the announced theme is a list of books on the topic, though you are free to choose your own.

I waited until January's theme was posted before deciding to take part because I had no idea how specific it would be. I didn't want to sign up if the themes were along the lines of "military training in 18th century France" or "the relationship between mental illness and artistic ability," but apparently it is much more open to interpretation.

The theme for January is time. I actually have two books on my To Read list that stand out as being appropriate: one is The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, and the other is Time Capsule: Short Stories about Teenagers Throughout the Twentieth Century. I've started reading the second title already, as it was available in the library, but if I finish early I may also pick up the Niffenegger book. It has been on my list for far too long already. You can look forward to a review on one or both of these books later this month.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Hopelessness, doom, despair

I'm so sorry to have to show you this, but I seem to have created a Sweater of Misfortune.

I didn't swatch for gauge because it was given over a portion of the rib/lace pattern, and it would have to have been rather large. Instead I decided to just knit a couple of inches, hold it up to myself, and guess if it would fit. This worked well enough, but it was coming out rather fitted - which I like - and this means that there would be horizontal stretching. Horizontal stretching means vertical shrinking, so when all was said and done I ended up running out of pattern a little too early and decided to just have extra ribbing at the top. I wish I could find a good non-Ravelry link to what this sweater should look like, but for those who are Ravelry members, looky here.

For those of you who can't access the link , suffice it to say that it looks much better than my sorry excuse for a sweater. Had I swatched, perhaps I would have gone with needles a size larger and would not be in this mess. Why did I think that 8 inches of ribbing at the top would look perfectly fine? Probably because all the chocolate I have been eating has affected my brain in ways I didn't think possible.

There are a number of directions I could go at this point:
a) finish and hope it looks better when done
b) spend hours ripping back and adding extra pattern repeats until it comes out looking correct
c) stuff it in a closet and never speak of it again

Though I am leaning towards c, that would be a cop-out and a waste of perfectly good, albeit cheap acrylic, yarn. So I think I will attempt option b and hopefully end up with a sweater I would be willing to wear in front of someone other than my cat. The winter is looking bleak indeed.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Baby Cable Rib Socks

I finished these a while back, but they were a gift so I couldn't post a picture until now. Sorry it's not an action shot, but I wasn't sure the recipient would appreciate me wearing them before giving them to her.

The pattern is from Sensational Knitted Socks by Charlene Schurch, which is quite a fantastic sock book. The patterns include instructions for many different sizes, and the book is divided into sections based on the number of stitches in each pattern repeat. For example, the Baby Cable Rib are in the 4-stitch repeat section, along with several other patterns. So you choose the chapter, and follow the pattern, inserting the stitch pattern of your choice. You can potentially make many many pairs of socks from this book of varying construction (cuff-down or toe-up) and level of difficulty.

I used Tofutsies yarn which, if you're not familiar, is made from a blend of wool, cotton, soy, and chitin (which comes from crab and shrimp shells). It's practically a meal. The yarn is a little splitty to work with, but I like it quite a bit anyhow (and got more for Christmas, yay!) The color, which you can't really tell from the picture is a heathered combination of white and pink (or is it lavender?)

They are quite lovely, if I do say so myself, and I'd recommend both the book and the yarn.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

A year of reading: my 2007 booklist

Who says people don't read anymore?

1. The Polysyllabic Spree by Nick Hornby
2. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See
3. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
4. Come To Me by Amy Bloom
5. The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood
6. The Guy Not Taken by Jennifer Weiner
7. The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell
8. The Basic Eight by Daniel Handler
9. A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby
10. The Carpet Makers by Andreas Eschbach
11. The Ha-Ha by Dave King
12. The Double Bind by Chris Bohjalian
13. Sunshine by Robin McKinley
14. The Young Investor by Katherine R. Bateman
15. Knitting Under the Influence by Claire LeZebnik
16. We Were the Mulvaneys by Joyce Carol Oates
17. How To Be Good by Nick Hornby
18. Firmin: Adventures of a Metropolitan Lowlife by Sam Savage
19. Jesus Land: a memoir by Julia Scheeres
20. Housekeeping vs. the Dirt by Nick Hornby
21. Kiffe Kiffe Tomorrow by Faiza Guene
22. Confessions of a Tax Collector by Richard Yancey
23. A Breath of Fresh Air by Amulya Malladi
24. The Road by Cormac McCarthy
25. Embroideries by Marjane Satrapi
26. American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang
27. This Cold Heaven: Seven Seasons in Greenland by Gretel Ehrlich
28. Instances of the Number 3 by Salley Vickers
29. The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
30. What the Dead Know by Laura Lippman
31. A Dangerous Mourning by Anne Perry (audio)
32. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
33. The Best American Non-Required Reading 2002
34. Idyll Banter by Chris Bohjalian
35. The Giant's House by Elizabeth McCracken
36. Creating the Customer-Driven Library by Jeannette A. Woodward
37. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
38. Knitting Rules by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee
39. Do One Thing Different by Bill O'Hanlon
40. Arctic Lace by Donna Druchunas
41. Needled to Death by Maggie Sefton
42. Nice Girls Do by Sarah Duncan
43. Before You Know Kindness by Chris Bohjalian (audio)
44. Mouse Guard Fall 1152 by David Peterson
45. Finn Family Moomintroll by Tove Jansson
46. Ada Blackjack: A True Story of Survival in the Arctic by Jennifer Niven
47. A Secret History by Donna Tartt
48. Election by Tom Perrotta
49. Vanilla Bright Like Eminem by Michel Faber
50. The Other Side of You by Salley Vickers
51. On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan
52. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khalid Hosseini
53. The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule
54. Drunk, Divorced and Covered in Cat Hair by Laurie Perry
55. Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn
56. Every Visible Thing by Lisa Carey
57. Veil of Roses by Laura Fitzgerald
58. Slam by Nick Hornby
59. Technology for the Rest Of Us by Nancy Courtney
60. Rethinking Information Work by G. Kim Dority
61. Moominvalley In November by Tove Jansson
62. The Abstinence Teacher by Tom Perrotta
63. Black Swan Green by David Mitchell
64. Moominland Midwinter by Tove Jansson
65. The Art of Indexing by Larry Bonura
66. Truth and Beauty by Ann Patchett
67. Cell by Stephen King
68. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
69. Defend and Betray by Anne Perry (audio)
70. Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer
71. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick
72. The 158-pound Marriage by John Irving
73. The Tenderness of Wolves by Stef Penney

This would explain why I never seem to get anything done.