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.

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.

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.

I still live!

I’m teaching more than usual this fall, and the workload snowed me under. Fork on another crisis or two and the aftermath of the last one, and I collapse into bed every night and limp to the finish every week. This is a temporary situation, I know, but I do long for a time in my life when temporary situations last a few hours or a week at most, rather than for months and possibly years. Viewed that way, this whole life is a temporary situation, and I am not yet at an age where I can think to myself, boy, it’ll sure be a relief when this is over.

I’ve been knitting. I’m 3/4 of the way through a pair of Phalangees in the green-and-gray colorway, which are coming out nicely even if I’m having trouble keeping my gauge loose enough. I’m also 3/4 done with the Hudson’s Bay blanket and aiming to put that one under the tree for the baby’s Christmas. Though I know he’ll never know the difference, it still helps me to be motivated by the deadline. I spent a lot of hours knitting that blanket while my husband was in the hospital last spring, and it’s something I feel like will be an important part of my younger son’s history. It’s occurred to me more than once that he won’t ever remember what his dad was like before the stroke. To him, there is only After. I hope he isn’t affected by such an unsettled year as we’ve had. It’s been tough on the kids, to be sure. We work hard to make everything steady and routine and unworrisome, but they know. They see. It can’t not be scary. I’d have been scared when I was their age. My older son worries, I know, but it never comes out as worry. It comes out as severe irritation that owing to Hurricane Sandy, trick-or-treating will be this Saturday instead of tonight.

I’m not feeling the Halloween this year. I usually like it better, but between the storm and unscheduled hospital time, I’ve got enough real fear happening that I don’t need to make any up. But I don’t think I’m going to have any trouble with Thankful Month. Or Tongue Awareness Month, depending on whether you observe (though it’s almost impossible not to…now).

Labors of love

I have everything done on the Rav Games mitts except the thumbs and finish work, but when I sat down to work on them last night, the wool was sticking to my sticky, sweaty fingers and I decided to browse online for new work clothes instead. Every few years, my boredom with my work clothes reaches its zenith and I think back on how frumpy I looked last year and how this year I’d like to look …not… like that, and I embark on a desperate, often fruitless search for clothes that will make that happen. This year has the added fun of a tiny, tiny budget, mostly made up of long-held Christmas money and aluminum can refunds and whatever they’re paying for plasma, plus whatever I think I could possibly knit out of my stash in the next month or so.

If I recall, I spent a lot of Augusts this way in high school, too. On one occasion, a truly unfortunate outfit was the result. It’s best not to be too specific, but I went to high school when Debbie Gibson was popular, if that paints an appropriately horrifying picture for you.

I’ve been holding on to my Caeles yarn for a few months, and since there are no sleeves, perhaps I could maybe do that. I also finally got around to winding another ball of natural Cascade 220 for my baby’s long-neglected Hudsons Bay blanket, because in weather like this, exactly what you want is to have a worsted wool blanket on your lap, yes/yes?

Other doings around here have been unexciting. Summer is winding down. I’m still volunteering at the historical society, but have managed to score a sitting-down job while other people are moving our archives to the new building. I’m hoping to get a look at our textile collections soon. There were several yarn companies in town once. My older boy has been going to municipal day camp for five weeks, and that ends tomorrow. Last night was the show: 101 Dalmatians. I bet you can guess what role he played. It felt like such a quintessentially parental moment that I spent most of it grinning like a fool and taking pictures. He goes back to school in three weeks, and we’re going to try to squeeze in some beach time before then. The baby turns 2 on Sept. 7, so we’ll have a cake on Labor Day weekend for him. I fail at birthdays, for the most part, but at least he’s too young to notice. I wonder if he’d like a nice woolen blanket…