Spin me right round

I got the yen to spin this fall, and acquired a spinning wheel, three drop spindles, eight pounds of fiber, and hand cards since then. Nobody warned me that it was all downhill once I figured out how to draft. Well, they might have, but I didn’t believe it. There’s such a big learning curve with spinning, and for the first month at least, when I was producing this wretched spirally mess of overdraft and underspin, or underdraft and overspin, I couldn’t believe that I’d gotten so far into a new hobby as to get a spinning wheel without being sure I’d ever be any good at it.


To be honest, I haven’t fallen in love with it the way one does. I like it, and I like looking at other people’s handspun in the Rav threads, and I like seeing videos about it, but I’m doing it more because I need it than because I love it. Love might be overrated when it comes to hobbying. Sometimes it’s about what you need. I don’t know why I need this, but I’ve decided it’s better to need this than to need hard drugs or alcohol, so wool and wheels it is.

I had to wait for a spinning class to go at the LYS, but eventually it did, and we spun Corriedale/Romney cross in the grease, from the instructor’s own sheep. I also learned new appreciation for the joy of using one’s own wheel instead of the class wheels. I’d been spinning for almost three months when I took the class, but the student wheels made me feel about as graceful as the rank beginners. We each got a half pound of the fiber to take home, so now when I feel like it, I spend some evenings carding up rolags and then spinning them onto that bobbin.


I don’t know where this is headed, but I’m definitely glad to be at the point where it’s relaxing to do, and not stressful because I’m bad at it.

It’s been March since September

I was reading back and seeing that a year ago, I was writing that March just kills me dead. By that metric, though, it’s been March for the last eight months. My husband and I worked on getting him recuperated from his broken leg through the end of September, by which time school had started for me and for my older son, and then the holidays, and then the dark, wretched, long winter, and now…the sun is out and I begin to feel like I can breathe again, if only a little. This is, of course, when the school year starts to drag, especially on warm Friday afternoons. I wonder if the students would believe me if I told them I don’t really want to be there either, on a day like this, when I have a perfectly good porch waiting for me at home, and a sweater nearly finished.

Detail of Keynote

Much has happened on the crafting front. I finished the commission I’d just taken when I last posted, and it turned out rather well after all the fuss and bother of having to re-start the thing and then frog most of that. That’s the thing about Knit, Swirl! It’s not hard to do; for a knitter with any skill, it’s easy. But certain things about it must go right, and if they don’t, it’s all down the drain. I’d wanted one of these for myself, and I’ll probably still make it…in a few years.

Detail of yoke on Mork

Aside from that, I knitted a Mork for myself this winter, and am nearly done with a Keynote out of some City Tweed I held in stash for several years. I also made Julia Lucas’s Knotty Gloves for my mother for Christmas, and two Declan hats for my cousin’s boys. My mother-in-law was asking me why I didn’t knit any for my own boys. The knitter’s kids go bareheaded, evidently. Anyhow, they’ll still have heads next winter, and perhaps I can take EZ’s good advice and make winter accessories in the spring and summer so they’ll be ready when the weather gets cold. I can’t wait to log more time on my porch chair as it warms up. I’ve missed being outdoors.

Next time: spinning!

I’ve got some stuff that would tranquilize an active volcano.

I’ve been watching Star Trek TOS this summer. Gold, I tell you. Pure gold.

My awesome cousin Sarah finally got her blog up and running, so go check it out for New England comfort food and whatever else she’s cooking up: The Answer is Garlic. That meat pie recipe is the one our mothers got from their mother, who probably got it from her mother. I have wanted some ever since Sarah posted it, and this is just not the right season for it, so that tells you how good it is. Maybe I’ll make it as a treat for my husband when he gets home.

Oh, my poor husband. He went away to visit his aunt and uncle in Wisconsin and got a broken leg for his troubles. The universe has not been kind to him these past couple of years.

That alone can’t account for my silence. I had a surgery early in June and was off for a week recuperating from that. Otherwise, I’ve just been doing what I do: bringing the boys to their activities, taking care of the house, working on plans and new texts for teaching in the fall, and knitting. Sarah’s Flaming June is coming along nicely and should be done by the end of the month. I took a commission for a Going Green for another friend, and I said I’d start that in August. And my aunt, Sarah’s mother, also wants a Flaming June, so I’ll get that going ASAP also. Do I still need sweaters for myself? YesIdo–but for once, I have a very good reason to wait. I had a breast reduction (yaaaaaayyy! Many years I waited for that) and want the swelling to be fully settled before I make new sweaters for myself. The obvious advantage is that my back and neck feel much better; the one only knitters could appreciate is that now it will be much easier to knit for myself, since I’m much more proportional and won’t need to do a full bust adjustment as much anymore. The bad news is that now my Gwen has gone from too big to much too big, so I have to decide what to do about her. It might be beyond taking in. With my current measurements, I estimate I’ll have to make a size 8″ smaller than the one I finished. …Yes. Oh, well, I never liked how that zipper came out. And the new one will take less yarn, so I might get a second sweater out of what I have left.

Books! CraftLit just ran chapters 5 and 6 of The Age of Innocence, and it’s gone from interesting to amazing in one fell swoop. This is the first part of the book where the full intricacy of Wharton’s writing is evident, and Newland Archer’s musings about the status of women are a comprehensive refutation of the old ways and a reasoned argument for feminism in one. It’s just brilliant; has to be read to be believed. I am finding this book to be reminiscent of Austen as something of a comedy of manners, but unlike Austen, Wharton was writing about a time about 50 years in the past (1920 writing about 1870s New York). As a result, Austen assumed her audience was familiar with her references and their implications, but Wharton is explicating this time in history for both insider and outsider readers. And what she’s describing is both ridiculous and deadly serious, a dichotomy she manages exceptionally well. I look forward to the chapters every week, and I’ve been reading them on Kindle also, just to be sure everything is sinking in. Really great book; highly recommended.

Where were we?

I’m sitting at home on a gorgeous morning–such a treat after the rain and wind and snow! of the past week–and wondering where the last couple of months have gone. When you teach college, April to mid-May is always a blur of trying to engage students who have already checked out for the summer, grading, and (if you have children of your own) grappling with your own family’s winding-up of the year. My sister’s wedding added the wrinkle of several events running up to it, so I traveled to New Hampshire for the past three weekends with varying numbers of accompanying children and/or spouses. The wedding was lovely, and I am thrilled for my sister, but very pleased to be home.

The shawl turned out just right, and a good thing, too. They had planned an outdoor wedding, but the weather did not cooperate at all. Not only did it rain violently, but it was cold, and very definitely snowing when my family left. New England spring is a harsh mistress! It wasn’t the first time I’d seen cold and snow on Memorial Day, but I can’t imagine one where we all would have wanted it less.


She said it was light and warm, and that was just what I wanted for her. Laceweight is almost magical that way. You work it and think it can’t possibly be really warm, but put it on and it’s exactly the right thing.

My grandmother marveled at it and insists she can’t possibly have taught me to do that. But she did. She will soon be 92, and this weekend, she presented me with another sweater that will fit one of my boys. I hope I’m still knitting in fifty years. It’s been keeping me as sane as I get.

I’m still reading Miss Silver; I have one more after this one. The Alington Inheritance is a great volume in the series. For a change, the mystery is not who did the crime; it’s how he is caught. I’m going to miss these people and places. Perhaps I’ll read the books again; I don’t know. I do that. But I also have a shelf full of other things I’ve been meaning to get to. Craftlit is just winding up Jane Eyre, which I caught just at the climactic moment, inasmuch as St. John ever has them. The next book will be The Age of Innocence, which I have somehow never read, but I want to. I’ve been curious about Edith Wharton since learning of her connection with Ogden Codman Jr., the oldest son of the house where I interpret. That will take the podcast into November. It’s funny about graduate study in English. Once you get past the surveys and begin to specialize, whole groups of novels fall off the radar, and if you haven’t read Wharton and don’t have reason to, you don’t get around to it until you want to, if you ever do. I think this is going to be interesting. Or boring, in which case I will quit it. But I’ve liked what I’ve heard from CraftLit so far.

Looks like it’s going to be a great day! I’m going to try to get outside and enjoy this quiet time while the kids are at school. My younger son is only at the playschool two days a week now, but this feels like a glimpse of the shadowy future when I am forced into semi-retirement because my littles aren’t so little anymore. It’s flat heresy in this era of supermommying, but I’m looking forward to that.

This is a good day.

March just kills me dead. Every March, I dread it beginning and try to lie low and wait for it to be over. It is not a good season in New England. Shoosh, you cheerful people. It just isn’t. It’s not spring, it snowed almost 48″ in my relatively southerly portion of the region, and even if it doesn’t snow, it’s this monochrome beaver gray mess (much of which is snow). Everything has about the same color value. I get outside and want to turn around and go back in for a nap.

But today! Today is the kind of day that makes me forget March. It is warm and sunny, and the birds are out playing. Also the fighter planes, because I live near a military base and for some reason, in April, they frequently fly at very low altitudes over our neighborhood and scare the cat.

And my Gwen is done:

Never again with the sweater zipper. Never. I don’t care if buttons are stodgy and zippers are sporty. I spent the whole day on that zipper yesterday and it’s still not exactly right, but I lack the wherewithal to fix it. I wore it today, warm weather be damned, and I left it partially open because the top fronts don’t meet quite. It’s a quarter inch, but I keep seeing it and being annoyed. I think that if I had it to do over, I’d have made it a size smaller. Still, it’s super-comfortable and warm, and will be terrific next fall, when the chill really sets in. Since I work in the mornings, I’m always going to work cold and coming home too warm. It was great to leave my coat home.

Next on the menu is a wedding shawl for my baby sister, Denise of Nerdiseonbooks, who is getting married over Memorial Day weekend. I have some nice CashSilk Lace for her:
I’m also still working on my Hue Shift for a baby gift. The baby will almost certainly be there before the blankie, but what can you do. It’s a relief to just knit square after square for a change, though. It makes me feel rested.

Something awesome just for today: the Oatmeal did a strip on the mantis shrimp, based on the segment from the Radiolab Color podcast from last spring. He exhorts his readers to listen to Radiolab, and so do I. Plus, bonus, Neil deGrasse Tyson had an interview with Anthony Bourdain on the most recent episode of StarTalk Radio, and how this lengthy discussion of food is related to the cosmos, I couldn’t say, but it was very fun. Ditto the recent interview with Nick Offerman on The Nerdist podcast, which if listened to correctly will either take your existing Ron Swanson fantasies up to eleven, or give you several new ones.

(I will now valiantly attempt not to be distracted from Special Event Knitting to cast on an Iced for myself. Starting…now. Oh, wait, I have yarn for that in my stash. It would be so nice for work next winter. Damn. Starting…now!)

Those monogamy advocates have a point.

It’s been a month since I worked on my Gwendolyn, and I finally finished the two things that distracted me from it: the second pair of Phalangees, and a Knotty But Nice hat for my husband. The hat was not imperative, but I was getting paranoid about the two skeins of wool I’d set out to knit it with. They kept disappearing, and I saw moths in my kitchen (which are probably wheat moths, not wool moths, but who likes moths?), and finally I couldn’t stand it anymore and cast on. That took a week, and here we are. 

So I pulled out the pieces for Gwendolyn and tried to figure out where I’d left off. The row I’d written down seemed wrong, and while I counted 2.5 repeats of the large cable, my marked row was for the 4th repeat and not the 3rd. And then I saw it. Cable crossed the wrong way at the end of the second repeat, about ten rows back.

Now, it’s here that I can see it both ways. The startup time to go back to a project I left off a month ago is longer than if I’d just left it last night, and clearly I was not paying attention when I made my final project notes, since I referred to a row combination that didn’t exist. But I wonder how much further I would have gone on before I saw that mis-crossed cable. Or the fact that I’d mis-crossed every cable that came after it because I’d crossed them based on the ones below instead of reading the pattern, as I am wont to do when I’m deep in a project. You can bet I’d be ripping back a lot more than ten rows.

(Sidebar: the Yarn Harlot knitted this same sweater in something like a week three weeks, even so. That just makes me want to sob hysterically. But at least I haven’t burned mine. Yet.)

So, monogamy: has advantages and disadvantages. As I get older, I find it easier to stay on task and finish a whole thing before going on to the next thing. But I’m clearly not fully evolved on this. That’s okay. There’s time for that. I’m willing to be a little distractible still.

I’m not too worried about not finishing this before the weather turns. The way things have been going, I might still need it by Mother’s Day. We had a snow over the weekend and will be getting more tomorrow. Then rain, because if it’s not a mess, it’s not a New England winter.

All fall down!

I was going to post earlier as I have been doing, during the perhaps two hours a week when I usually answer to no one, but I was called home for a sick kid and had to defer. When I came home, I found two sick kids, with different kinds of sick, but neither sick enough to actually have the starch taken out of them. That makes a busy and noisy afternoon. My boys are 4 years apart and the small one is just becoming old enough for them to quarrel. It’s the worst. I don’t know why I didn’t think of it when we decided we wanted another kid. There were four in my family. One must develop some kind of brain damage in adulthood that leads to thinking, “My kids will be nothing like we were when we were kids!”


Nothing especially interesting this week. I’m halfway through the second Phalangees mitt, so I’ll be glad to get those off to my friend Kim in the coming week. Went up a needle size on these, so they’re more stretchy. I tend to underestimate how tightly I knit, especially with something like mosaic colorwork.

After this, I’m going to get back to my Gwendolyn and my Hue Shift afghan until my sister decides what kind of shawl she’d like for her wedding. I have some gorgeous Sweet Georgia CashSilk Lace for that. I’m so thrilled for my sister, and happy to be able to contribute to her wedding clothes. She’s making her dress, and since it’s outdoors in spring in New Hampshire, she was concerned that the weather might turn on her. Always wise, especially since the site is on a hill.


Alana Dakos announced on her podcast this month that Botanical Knits will be released soon, and I’m really looking forward to it. I loved her leafy designs in Coastal Knits, and the photography is just amazing for all of her projects. I ought to be able to set myself up with at least a sweater and a pair of socks from that collection, but it’s really the kind of thing where you want to make it all and only time constraints lead to picking and choosing.

This time of year always feels like the dead zone between all the big releases of the fall and Christmas season, and the sparser offerings for spring and summer. But it’s when I have the most time to knit, so I end up tapping my foot for the new Knitty and the new Twist, and all the rest. It’s too bad Stitches West is out of my reach right now. This would be a better time of year for me to go to a show. Stitches East always falls just when my teaching semester is at its most hectic. Perhaps next year.

I catch myself thinking I ought to learn to spin, even though I have no room for a wheel or the inevitable additional stash that comes with another skill. Last year at NH Sheep & Wool, I saw someone plying and explained to my older boy what she was doing and why, and she asked me if I spun. When I said no, she asked why. I don’t have a reason why. I don’t because I don’t. But it’s lurking there, waiting for me to have the time and/or the inclination.


Back to Miss Silver. Wentworth’s characters are so finely drawn, it’s a pleasure to get to know them. I wouldn’t say she entirely succeeds in avoiding type, but she discourages the reader from making obvious conclusions most of the time. People are also believably discomfited in the presence of criminal enterprise, which is one factor missing from more recent mysteries I’ve read.

After this, I need to re-read Robert B. Parker’s The Judas Goat so I can teach it in expository writing, but that will be fun. I always enjoy the early books in the Spenser series. At that point, he clearly had the pleasure of learning and revealing more about the characters he was creating. Plus, it has Hawk. He makes literally anything better.

Wait five minutes.

This is why I don’t have a hat when it gets really, really cold. In a few days, it’s over and I’m on to other things, and no longer freezing my ears off when I have to be outside. The fact that it’ll probably get that cold again at least once more before the end of winter never really occurs to me.


I was out on Friday with my husband and the toddler, and before we reached our destination, the toddler fell asleep. So husband went in to his appointment, and I sat in the car with the sleeping toddler, and for a change, I had my knitting with me. I hadn’t been bringing it because I would drag it along and then not have time to work on it, and if I’m not going to use it, I don’t want to carry it. I’m already trying to keep track of the toddler’s things. If I lose my knitting, it’s bad; if I lose the blankie or the Talking Percy, there’s going to be a scene.

(If you don’t know what a Talking Percy is, I’m envious.)

As it happened, I got far enough with another pair of Phalangees mitts that it seems do-able to just keep going and finish them. I promised them to a friend for her mother:

The second time around, these are really quick and easy. The pattern has an intrinsic rhythm: groups of 5 stitches shifted this way and that to make the design. The thumb increases are regular, every x many rows. I barely needed the pattern for this one, and I’ll need it even less for the second one. I can’t believe I thought these might be too difficult for me to make. If you’re on the fence, jump. People think you’re some kind of wizard, unless they’re knitters, and then they know the secret.

That’s my beloved JennieGee project bag, btw. Most of the time, I get more questions about that than I do about my knitting.


Three minutes left! And sadly, I barely have doings enough to fill them. I’m on the last Maggie Sefton book, mercifully. Other reviewers are complaining that the books are repetitive. Are they ever. I don’t know why I felt like I had to see them through, but I think I’m done now. I’m still watching The Office, after all, and that stopped being funny years ago. I started with the knitting mysteries as an effort to force myself to branch out. Otherwise, I’d hang around watching and reading only stuff I already know is good. But I think after this, I’m going to read Pyne’s book about Voyager, even though it’s a paper book and I’ll have to prop it to read while I knit. I can be reasonably confident that won’t make me feel like my brain is melting and running out of my ears. Perhaps if I get through the sweater and the afghan, I can knit Celestarium with a relatively clear conscience, while I read about space. Meta!

I’m going to try to get out of the house by myself next weekend. Fiber Loft is having a Super Bowl sale and while I don’t need any yarn, I do need a change of scenery.

If lightning moved very slowly…

Yes, it’s been a long time. Things around here have been backing up on me in a way that, had I advance information, I would not have said were possible. I can’t believe it’s been ten months since my husband’s stroke, nearly a year of radical change for all of us, and such a long time just focused on Surviving This and Getting Us Over This. The worst thing about it is no longer having any preconceived notions about what “over this” will look like. I don’t know. It could be years until I know. That’s a little crushing to the spirit. One mourns not only present, but possibility.

That said, I was so glad to see the Mason Dixon Knitters blogging more this year, and it seems to be because they introduced the 10-minute “lightning round” where as the name implies, they work on a post for 10-15 minutes (it seems to vary) and throw the thing on the blog. That seems like a good idea to me. The perfect is the enemy of the done, yes? So here goes:


I’ve had two projects since Christmas: the Gwendolyn sweater in green heather Valley Yarns Northampton, and the Hue Shift afghan in Rainbow from Knit Picks. The sweater has the back finished and the right front half finished–I was going to knit both fronts at once, but I was afraid that when it came time to do the shaping, I would blow a fuse trying to keep up with both, so I’m going one-at-a-time. I may do the sleeves at once, though, because they don’t have mirrored shaping. It’s been so cold that I put aside the afghan, which is about 13% finished, since it’s for a baby who won’t be here until spring. I want to be able to wear this sweater before then. It’s pleasantly warm to have on my lap, at least.

I really love to do cables. No strong feelings about colorwork, though I do enjoy when it comes out, but cables are like magic to me. When we were small, my mother made countless pairs of cabled mittens–really simple, single cable up the back of the hand in this oatmealish tweedy acrylic that is what color the 80’s would be if not for neon–and I was just fascinated by the cable stitch. It was the first “hard” thing I taught myself to knit. I think somewhere I still have these dreadful bulky acrylic mittens in double moss background with a braided cable on the backs of the hands. I didn’t know from gauge, so these things are stiff enough to stand up by themselves. I also have a green Lopi cabled sweater that I knitted 15 years ago from a Reynolds pattern that is heavy enough to wear to the Arctic, and itchy, too. But we lived in Syracuse then, and it got a lot of use.

Whatever my feelings about acrylic in general, I’m getting along all right with the afghan in Brava:

I started with the pink/red/purple corner.

It’s soft enough and the colors are nice and it’s squooshy as far as a sport-weight can be. I find it splitty, though. It’s unwinding as I knit with it and trying to wander off. The effect is great, though, and I was considering doing a second one for us in superwash wool. I like the colors. I am not usually a rainbow person. The dark green of the sweater is really my thing. My stash is full of blues and greens and purples. But this winter, I needed to see some really serious color. I snapped up the kit when it came out in the fall, and saved it for after Christmas just to have the delight of casting on something new when I knew I’d need it.

Things I’m Liking Lately:
I’ve been reading, but not especially enjoying, the Maggie Sefton knitting mysteries. I don’t like the heroine, the plots are simplistic, the characters are two-dimensional, there’s no sex, and they’re all over much too quickly. I am, however, enjoying writing scathing reviews of them on Goodreads, and also offering alternative readings and cheeky plot suggestions. Lately, I’ll take my fun where I can get it.

Still reading Miss Silver. I think I have eight or so to go. They remain delightful, with the exception of the occasional clunker. I don’t even care that there’s no sex, and that, clearly, is how it’s done.

I have also been shopping for a new dishwasher, finally, since ours has been on the bier for 16 months and a major component in my damaged psyche is facing a family’s worth of dishes every day. Only the prospect of serving them Top Ramen three meals a day until Valentine’s Day is preventing me from running right out and getting one now, but my spring contract begins paying in a few weeks and then we will have the rest of the money we need.

I believe I have become truly old. Dishwasher! Dishwasher! Dishwasher!

I feel like I should complain about the cold, but I’m okay with it. Spring is one step closer to summer. For now, I’ll take being cozy with knitting and books and new Antiques Roadshow. I also recorded The Following; perhaps I’ll get to that this week. No Downton spoilers! I still haven’t seen season 2. I could theoretically watch it in bits and pieces in the evening, but I saw the first one when everyone else was away and I got to immerse myself in it for a weekend, and I want to do that again. Finding someone to take the husband and kids away has been problematic, though. Isn’t it always?

The empress has no sweaters…still.

It turned really cold last week and I was scrambling to find a warm but thin sweater to wear teaching. Nothing! I don’t see how this is possible, but I own a Tardis of a cedar chest and everything in it was wrong for this or that reason. Too heavy. Not wool. Moth-eaten (I evidently had an infestation a few years back and didn’t know it, and every now and then, I find the unhappy evidence of it). Too big. Too small. Not dressy enough. I’ve been saying for a year that I’m going to knit myself some perfect sweaters so that this won’t happen to me on chilly Tuesday and Thursday mornings, and so far, no. So I took down a sweater’s worth of wool from the attic and despite myriad other commitments, I swear to you now that I am going to cast on for one today. I also ordered yarn while WEBS was donating a percentage to Hurricane Sandy. I have a lot of yarn, but not a lot of sweater quantities. That must change if I am to make sweaters.

Aside from the early snow, the weather’s improved, and I’ve been trying to clear things out of my WIP pile for the end of the year. I’m not knitting too many Christmas gifts this season, citing personal crisis. Husband wants a sweater from Knits Men Want, but I told him it wouldn’t be ready for Christmas and wouldn’t he rather wait until we can go to Harrisville or Vermont and get him the Shetland he wants for it. He would. I may make him a hat, since he’s started wearing his hair cropped close and has been complaining of cold when it isn’t really that cold outside. The baby will get his blanket, and the six-year-old hasn’t asked for anything, but outgrew the wool socks I made him last year, so perhaps that. The women of my clan will get to choose from some FOs from last year.

I thought about doing NaBloPoMo. Then I forgot about it for a week, and now it seems pointless. That’s the way things have been lately. I hear the growing chorus of “You need to slow down!” Nobody has a lot of solid ideas on how to do that, though.