Monday, August 31, 2009

Troublesome Collar

My Lucy In the Sky cardigan is SO close to completion, but I've run into some confusion near the end.

I worked the raglan and neckline decreases as indicated until there were 9 stitches left before the first marker. There were a total of 4 markers. The next part of the pattern reads: "Discontinue raglan decreases at first and last marker, and work neck decreases ONLY four times or until raglan is the appropriate length." This would just not compute. Work neck decreases only? That would mean I should also discontinue decreases at the 2nd and 3rd markers. Perhaps it means neck decreases should be worked four times ONLY, but then why say "or until raglan is the appropriate length"? I checked Ravelry and Craftster and I googled and in the end I stopped all raglan decreases, but only knit a few more rows anyhow, so I don't think it make much difference. (As it turns out, the intention is to continue neckline decreases and continue decreases on 2nd and 3rd marker, which makes sense. I'm still not sure what the "ONLY" is for.)

Then I got to the collar. There is a seed stitch border along the button bands, which extends up around the neckline. As I'm knitting, this means that the first and last 6 stitches on the needles are the seed stitch. The instructions say to knit the first 6 stitches (seed stitch) and put them on a stitch holder, bind off stitches all across, and then place the last 6 stitches (seed stitch) on a holder. Ok, got it. Then you are supposed to rejoin yarn to one of those sections (the right, but I'm never sure which right is intended) and then continue the seed stitch band, to be attached to the bound-off neckline later. Instead, when I got to the end of the row rather than putting those stitches on a holder, I started knitting the neckband from there. I don't know why I was supposed to put them on a holder and then just rejoin yarn, but perhaps it will become obvious in some way, like I will suddenly have an extra sleeve or something...

Now I am here:

I am instructed to sew the band to the back neck "using slipstitch" and then graft the live stitches to the one on the stitch holder. None of my knitting books provide instructions for seaming in slipstitch. A Google search revealed this, but that doesn't seem right since it results in a bulky seam. I also couldn't find instructions for grafting seed stitch. So I posted a query on Ravelry for help. I really thought the instructions should have been more clear on these matters. But to her credit the designer responded to my query within two hours, which is pretty awesome because I am nothing if not impatient.

She says that when she attached the neckband she used "more of a flat sewing stitch where you go into the neckband and then the edge of the sweater, keeping both flat and edge-to-edge." That sounds kind of like whip stitch to me, so that is probably what I'll use. As for the grafting, she grafted in the normal way and then duplicate stitched the appropriate purl bumps on. Clever.

I really hope I finish this sweater sometime today. It is so close I can almost taste it!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Slew of reviews

Best Friends Forever by Jennifer Weiner
This review is long overdue, as I read and enjoyed this book a while ago now. It’s really a wonderful story of a friendship I can’t say much that isn’t in all the rave reviews out there, but if you haven’t heard the funny story about Weiner’s potty-mouth on her book tour, here is an article about that. I attended her reading at the Framingham Barnes & Noble of the “sternly-worded email” and I’m pretty sure it had to originate with the lady in the orange sweater who repeatedly reminded us of the rules for the book reading and signing and who can’t possibly be a Jennifer Weiner fan. Despite the fact that I don’t usually buy books (and an unemployed) I bought a copy to be signed and told her she could swear in my inscription. She didn’t, but punctuated it with a verbal “Enjoy, bitch!” which is good enough for me. As you may suspect from her writing, Jennifer Weiner is hilarious – if you ever have a chance to attend one of her readings, be sure to do so!

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Katniss lived in a future US where each of the 12 isolated districts must give up one boy and one girl every year to the Capitol to take part in a televised fight-to-the-death event known as the Hunger Games. As someone who intensely dislikes reality tv, I appreciate this dystopian view in which it is taken to a bloody extreme and used to keep the population complacent. I don’t want to give anything away – you should read it for yourself – but will just say that I haven’t been this sucked into a book for a while. A great story well told. (The second book in this trilogy is out this fall!)

House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubus III
This has been on my list for a while and now that I’ve finally gotten around to reading it, I’ve found that 100 pages in it’s time to give up. The basic premise is that Kathy has just been evicted from the house she inherited, which Behrani then bought at auction and has moved in with his family unaware of the legal battle that is now brewing. Behrani is a familiar, and sympathetic, character; an immigrant who has been forced to take the kind of jobs he never would have had to resort to in his native country, purchasing the house represents a long-awaited step towards the American dream. But I quickly grew tired of Kathy’s story and, honestly, wouldn’t care if she ended up living in her car for the rest of her pathetic life. Had she actually opened her mail and taken a little bit of responsibility, her eviction wouldn’t have been a surprise, nor would it necessarily have happened at all. But she just lets everything in her life happen to her, her actions too little too late. I couldn’t get much of a handle on her character or why she was this way, and her budding relationship with the policeman who helped evict her was painful to read about. Perhaps if I read to the end of the book I would understand the critical acclaim and rave reviews, but frankly I have more interesting things on hold at the library.

Friday, August 21, 2009

One sock, one mitt

I have accomplished remarkably little knitting during my unemployment for reasons which completely escape me. This week I put my nose to the proverbial grindstone and finished some things.

First, the Wanida sock which I started waaay back in early June. Shameful!

The flash really washes out the color. It's actually a rather vibrant purple.

Next is the first of my Endpaper Mitts.

I have to say that I'm not especially excited about starting the second portion of either of these projects, but especially the Endpaper Mitts. I will do it because I like completion, but I'm not super happy with this project. The pattern includes 3 different sizes, but they are completely based on needle size, which of course means a change in gauge. I originally started this on a smaller size needle and it was too small - it is still a little tight, but much better. The problem is that now that I'm knitting at a looser gauge, the colorwork isn't as crisp and clear as it was. From a distance it looks good, but up close it looks sloppy. I'm hoping that blocking will improve it.

I've also been working on the second sleeve of my Lucy In the Sky Cardigan, and I'm happy to say that I am most of the way through it. I believe I have something like 26 rows left. I'm especially excited about this project, because there is nothing like the satisfaction of seeing a beautiful sweater really come together!

Monday, August 17, 2009

A Cause for Great Excitement!

A sleeve has been completed and joined to the body. Behold!

I realize it doesn't look like much right now, all squished up and misshapen like a fourth-grader's art project. I've only made a couple of sweaters with this sort of bottom-up yoked construction, and each time I have a moment upon joining the sleeves where I become convinced that I've made a horrible mistake and the sleeves will be jutting out from somewhere along the bottom part of my ribcage. But it is not so. It is simply an awkward stage, much like adolescence, in which everything is just a bit twisted and out of proportion and you must just endure it until it is outgrown. As I progress up the yoke, it will all come together neatly, and the result will be a lovely sweater with sleeves where my arms are and a hole where my head is. Magic!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Library Leadership

I had the good fortune of attending Library Leadership Massachusetts in July at Wheaton College. The four-day institute was sponsored by the MBLC and the MA Regional Library Systems, and led by Becky Schreiber and John Shannon of Schreiber Shannon Associates.

In addition to meeting some truly inspiring librarians and making great new contacts, the content of the program provided a whole lot to think about. There is way too much for one blog post, but I thought I’d just note a few of my “aha!” moments.

The microdot of control. This concept was in the book Leadership Simple by Steve and Jill Morris, which I read before attending, and then also discussed in one of our sessions. The graphic representation of this idea is a tiny little dot representing the little bit of the world we that we can each control. Outside of that is a larger circle, that which we can influence. Beyond this circle is a whole lot that we can’t control at all whatsoever. I'm sure this is a no-brainer to others, but really put things in perspective for me.

Jump right in.
One mentor said that men will reach for high-level positions without worrying about whether or not they already know how to do the job, while women think we need to learn how to do a job before applying for it. I don’t know if the gender-based generalization is accurate, but this is completely true for me. I have changed the focus of my job search based on this. No, I don’t know exactly how to do these jobs, but the only way I will learn is to try, right? That probably seems obvious to a lot of people, but it wasn’t obvious to me.

Library culture can learn from corporate culture. There are certain things about library culture that have bothered me for a long time, but that I wasn’t able to articulate. One mentor spoke about her experiences working in a corporation, and how she struggles in a public library setting because the culture is so different. At a company decisions are made because they are the right decision for the company, because it will bring them closer to their goals. In a library, all too often decisions are made based on personalities and feelings, and don’t make organizational sense. And for similar reasons, work expectations are often low. She pointed out that work is supposed to be WORK. Yes, absolutely! This really hit the nail on the head.

It’s ok to like change. I’ve always felt a little guilty because I love change. Even bad change is energizing in a way because it spurs me to action. Most people apparently hate change, and I have always wondered why I feel so differently. One day at the Institute we compared Enneagram results and broke into groups based on personality types. I found myself in a room full of lots of people who felt the same way I do about change – I am not alone! I felt so validated! (We were 7’s, in case you are wondering.)

Accept feedback without defending yourself. I am terrible at receiving critical feedback, and once something negative is said, I spend the rest of the time formulating my response rather than listening and thinking about what the person is saying. During one session of the Institute, we had to receive feedback and could not respond. It was extremely frustrating, but incredibly helpful. I really want to remember this.

There is so much more I could say about this experience, and I may revisit some of the topics, but for now I just have a quick piece of advice: make the time to attend one of these Institutes. If you are in Massachusetts, NELLS is next year and the same Institute I attended is happening again in 2011. Other states have similar programs as well. Do it for yourself or for your career or for your library, but by all means do it!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Needle Roll

This is the gift for Annmarie that I alluded to recently, but had somehow managed to not photograph before giving it to her. I ordered the fabric from Hancock's of Paducah and used the pattern from the first Stitch n' Bitch book. It's a pretty simple set of instructions, but the one difficult part is cutting the fabric squarely. Luckily, it doesn't matter a whole lot with this project, and it can be easily fudged and not noticed. After all, how can you take your eyes away from those adorable birds to check the straightness of the edges? I am actually a little jealous, as this is way cuter than the fabric I used for my own needle roll a few years ago.

Thanks Annmarie for taking photos!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Endpaper Mitts Preview

This is a preview because that is my practice mitt - it's essentially my gauge swatch and also fair isle practice. The only fair isle I've ever done is my Fairly Easy Fair Isle from Stitch n' Bitch. It was pre-blog, but if you're on Ravelry you can see it here. There wasn't a lot of fair isle on it, and it didn't come out especially well. It was my first time, and I think the fact that it was bulky yarn was also a factor.

But the mitt looked pretty great, didn't it? I was starting to feel pretty comfortable with the colorwork and it looked nice and crisp and clear. But it was too small, and the cast-on edge was definitely too tight. Per the instructions, I cast on with a size 0 needle and used that for the ribbing before switching to a size 2. This pattern gives you a choice of 3 different sizes, but just uses gauge to vary the size of the mitt. I needed to move up to a size 3 needle, but I didn't have a circular in that size, so I used DPNs instead.

Not a great idea, apparently. Look at how muddled the pattern looks. If I look at it closely, it's obvious that the stitches aren't uniform at all and they look like they are all being pulled in different directions. Which makes sense, as knitting with these stupid things is one big miserable tug of war. Plus I can't hold my hands the regular way because the porcupine-like mess of needles dictates where I can put my hands. And I had to keep ripping back because I was watching a movie and not paying attention to what I was doing.

So today, I sucked it up and bought myself a set of Addi Turbos in size 3. I can't believe I've spent the better part of two days on this project and haven't actually started it for real yet. Good thing I don't have a job - this could have taken weeks!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Ten Cents a Dance : A Review

1941 Chicago is the backdrop for this fantastic teen novel. Ruby Jacinski works her fingers to the bone stuffing hogs feet into jars in a factory until she meets Paulie, who tells her about an opportunity as a taxi dancer. Trading in her brine-soaked rags for glamorous gowns, she’s soon out all night dancing with men for money. Her mother would not approve, so Ruby says she’s working as a telephone operator at night, and in the afternoons claims to be going to the movies with a friend when in fact she’s spending the time with Paulie in the back seat of his lime green convertible. She knows her double life can’t go on forever, but she loves finally having good food on the table and coal to heat their apartment, not to mention the nice clothes and nights out at after-hours jazz clubs.

I’d never heard of taxi dancing before, nor had I ever read a book with this setting. That alone was enough to make it compelling, but Ruby was such an understandable and likeable character that I felt very invested in her story. I wanted the best for her, but worried about her decisions. She grew a lot during the course of the novel and I was really happy about how things went for her, or rather, how she made things go for herself. She was an independent young woman who didn’t depend on others to take care of her, and who learned from her mistakes and made the best of what she had.

The icing on the cake was the awesome use of period slang which I enjoyed throughout the book. Christine Fletcher did a thorough job of bringing this time period to life and making it real to the modern day reader. Definitely pick up a copy of this book if you haven't read it yet.