Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Forethought Heel

I have come to the heel in my first Chevron Sock, and was surprised (because I had not read the whole pattern ahead of time) to find in the instructions something called the Forethought Heel. Disappointed not to be knitting a heel-flap and gusset, I had to remind myself that I have been itching to try all these different heel types I keep hearing about (Eye of Partridge sounds particularly enticing!) and forged onward.

My first surprise was learning what an Afterthought Heel is. I don't know what I thought it was, but apparently you knit the sock as a tube and then - the horror! - CUT the yarn and add a heel. What silliness! I don't know about you, but I do not spend time making all those little stitches only to cut them and rip them out. I like to plan ahead and just make the heel when I get to the part where the heel will go. The Forethought Heel is apparently Charlene Schurch's way of getting a heel that ends up looking the same without the equivalent level of pain.

To make a Forethought Heel, you set aside your instep stitches as normal and then cast on the same number provisional stitches, which you join with the remaining heel stitches. Then you knit in the round, decreasing every other row. Or, if you're like me, you decrease in every row until you are almost done, realize your mistake, then rip it out and begin again.

Here is an out-of-focus shot of what it looks like near the end.

The yellow stitch markers are on the unused instep stitches and the curling part above that is my provisional cast-on (together they will be joined to continue along the foot towards the toe). The narrow part at the top is the heel, just a few rows from being finished.

Once you have decreased sufficiently, you graft the last stitches together using kitchener stitch, as you would for a toe. This would be a deal-breaker for many people but I am pro-kitchener stitch as it has magical properties which create an invisible seam when you are done.

Now, all of this is done with yarn pulled from the opposite end of the skein as you were using previously. You are supposed to pick the part that matches the point of stripiness where you left off before beginning the heel. I still don't exactly understand this, but it is supposed to create a bulls-eye sort of pattern on the heel.

Not exactly, but it's still a nice enough heel. I don't know if it's nice enough to justify how annoying and time-consuming it was to make though. I will only know once the socks are finished and on my feet.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

NELA Conference

I've just returned from the NELA (New England Library Association) Conference in Manchester, NH. This was my first conference in a few years and I'm so glad I went! I did things the right way this time; first by splitting a room with two other librarians which equals cheapness, and also by not even trying to pretend I was going to attend sessions relevant to my job or that would help me in my career.

Perhaps it seems like that defeats the purpose of attending a conference, but it doesn't. The fact is that I work in reference, which is boring, and conference programs relating to reference are boring. Also, it's stuff that I could learn elsewhere. So I just passed by all those workshops on genealogy research and government documents and attended the sessions that looked interesting to me.

Here are the highlights:
- Storytelling workshop with Motoko and Eshu. I could have listened to them tell stories for hours!
- Dinner banquet with speaker Simon Winchester. He is a fantastic author and interesting speaker.
- "The Internet is Not Flat" with Ethan Zuckerman of Global Voices. He is everything I could want in a presenter - dynamic speaker, multimedia presentation, interesting topic, and plenty of humor
- The Life and Times of Beatrix Potter. Why aren't there more sessions about authors? She had a fascinating life and wrote some of the best-loved books of all time!
- Hot Teen Titles: Sexuality and Teen Fiction. Librarians generally aren't great speakers, but Amy Pattee is funny and animated and did a great job!
- Drop-in Demo: Games and Gaming. I learned how to play Guitar Hero. I have no illusions that this will help me in my job, but it was fun! Apparently, I rock.
- Several of us had dinner with children's author Jarrett Krosoczka who is super nice and totally rocks his argyle sweaters. He has a graphic novel coming out soon, which I am rather excited about.

It was an exhausting three days, but I learned a lot and got to hang out with many fun and interesting librarians. I need to do this on a regular basis to remind myself why I got into this profession!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

New project!

I didn't waste any time after finishing St. Enda before casting on for a sweater for me, me, me!

This is the Cozy V-Neck Sweater with Deep Ribbing from Fitted Knits by Stefanie Japel. It will be my third project from that book. I'm using the recommended Cascade Pastaza, which I love. I used it for a hat once (also in black) and it is softer than I remembered.

Despite my past lessons regarding the importance of gauge swatches, I cut a few corners in my typical, impatient way.

I started a gauge swatch on the recommended size 9 needles, then realized the sweater would be knit in the round and ripped it out. Then I thought a bit about how it is simply impossible to get an accurate in-the-round gauge swatch, and that the sweater has parts that are knit flat, and started a gauge swatch again. I washed and blocked the swatch. It seemed a bit tight, so I made another swatch with size 10 needles, washed it, and pinned it down next to the not-yet-dry previous swatch. It still looked a bit tight. So I began yet another swatch, this time on size 10.5 needles, got halfway through it and said "fuck this," ripped it out and started knitting the sweater on the 10.5. I think it will be perfect.

I've come to the boring part, which is several inches of stockinette. But hey, I started this sweater just days ago and already have those cute shoulders and v neck. This will be so much quicker than that last sweater that I can hardly stand the excitement!

Monday, October 13, 2008

St. Enda Sweater

I can't believe I made this.

Pattern source: Aran Knitting by Alice Starmore
Yarn: Jamieson's Shetland Heather
Started April 9, finished October 11

Other posts related to this project, in reverse chronological order:
End of September Status Update
For those about to block, we salute you
St. Enda back completed!
Summer knitting goals
Sweater front is done!
Progress, I has it
Aran sweater progress
The proper way to begin a project

Thursday, October 9, 2008

October: Haunting

I haven't been in the mood for horror, so for this month's BAM Challenge I opted for a book that is haunting in other ways.

Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried is a collection of stories about his experiences in the Vietnam War. Part fact, part fiction, they are woven together in such a way that it feels more like a novel than a short story collection. It doesn't matter what is true and what isn't; the important part of this book is the general feeling of that time and place, and the author does a fantastic job of conveying that. The characters, and the author, are haunted by their experiences, and you will be too.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Malabrigo Hat

Lovely, lovely hat. Soft, warm, yummy! Sadly not for me, but I hear my sister is enjoying it.

I used the Top-Down Hat pattern from The Knitting Man(ual), which so far has been worth the price of the book as I have made three hats from it. The yarn is Malabrigo Merino Worsted, and the colorway is such a beautiful blend of greens and blues and reminds me of the ocean. I want an entire blanket knit of this yarn, but I am not wealthy - or patient - enough for that.

There is actually a decent amount of yarn leftover so I want to do something with it. I don't know if there's enough for another hat, but I may try for it.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Last Night at the Lobster: a review

What a great little book! I was just introduced to Stewart O'Nan recently with The Good Wife, and now he's two for two. Last Night at the Lobster takes place at a Red Lobster restaurant in Connecticut, on the last day that they are open before being shut down permanently. Because of the imminent closing, many staff don't bother to show up, and to top it off there's a snowstorm. But the manager, Manny, persists in keeping the restaurant open, determined to make the most of his last day.

The simplicity of this novel appealed to me, as did Manny's sense of responsibility and attention to detail. I loved the descriptions of all the little tasks he performed around the restaurant, from clearing snow from the walkway to clearing tables for the waitresses and appeasing customers. His work ethic is far beyond that of many people I've known and worked with, and was really admirable.

The flip side was the disorganization of his personal life, which he mused over throughout the novel. His girlfriend Deena was pregnant, but he still longed to be back with Jacquie, a Red Lobster waitress. But that was not to be, and his dissatisfaction with Deena did nothing to help him move past it. One gets the sense that conscientiousness he displays on the job is compensation for the lack of direction and responsibility in his personal life.

At 146 pages, the pay off of this novel far exceeds the time investment. If you haven't read anything by Stewart O'Nan, this is a great place to start.