Still Here!

Leave a comment
Etc. / Knitting

Wow…what an extended unintentional break from this site. It’s been a busy fall/early winter and I am just starting to catch my breath.

What is the quick and dirty version of what has happened since this summer? I had a lot of fun participating in Squam in the City, I started a new position as an archivist, I got sick and stayed sick for nearly a month, probably because I can’t ever just let myself rest at the start when I should, and I have been entertaining some thoughts about returning to school again. There is some sample knitting mixed in there, and more recently some secret Christmas gift knitting, and a little (thought not as much as I’d like) reading for fun. Maybe I’ll stick to the simplest little update and mention that I cut all of my hair off and have since been knitting many hats to keep my cold head a little warmer as winter sets in.

1 2

The hat shown above is Skiff by Jared Flood, and it might be my current favorite hat pattern around. Such a quick and versatile knit. My version is in Cascade Alpaca Lana D’Oro, in the Olive Oil colorway. Now that I don’t have a few pounds of hair to accommodate, I could have probably gone down to a size 7 needle instead of the recommended 8, but I am really happy with this unmodified version. I may knit another after the holidays to compare. I’ve been enjoying the instant gratification of hat knitting lately, and it is a nice way to experiment with colors I might not use for a larger garment.

These last few weeks of 2014 will continue to be busy ones, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel now, and I’m looking forward to a January of chipping away at some much-anticipated selfish knits, making a dent in my to-read list, and drinking lots of coffee in bed with my little cat friend.

I hope you are all wrapping up your year without too much holiday chaos, and are looking forward to similarly pleasant winter months!

A Little Knitting

comments 2
Knitting

I have been keeping pretty busy wrapping up work, taking on freelance projects, and searching for my next permanent position, on top of going home to visit friends and family in Pennsylvania. There is always knitting, but sometimes it is slower going. I am also fighting the urge to cast on new projects when I have pieces in progress that I do desperately want to wear this fall and winter.

I did finally block my Hela lopapeysa, which I decided in the end not to steek (for now). Though I may knit something similar and snip it into a cardigan.

hela

And though I have not blocked or added buttons to my Larch cardigan, I am happy to have finally finished knitting it – this was my oldest WIP, stretching back to 2010. I think this started as a stockinette grad school lecture project. I’m not sure why I set it down after I finished the body. But I am very glad to have picked it up four years later. Also thanking my lucky stars it still fits. I’m ready for cooler weather so I can wear this every day.

larch

While staying at my mom’s house, I came across these oversized knitting needles, which I believe once belonged to my great-grandma, the only other knitter in my family. While I tend to enjoy life below worsted-weight, I have been really admiring chunky giant-gauge blankets, rugs, etc. lately. I also like a knitting needle that (as friends were quick to point out) you can kill a vampire with.

wool slayer

Maybe I’ll dive in headfirst and rewatch Buffy while I knit up something really fat with these this winter.

With any luck, I’ll be reporting back soon with job news and a few more finished objects.

In Progress

comments 6
Etc. / Knitting

Now, I’m a tarot novice, but even I was able to grasp from this reading that big changes are coming. A very apt reading, as a few days later I put in my notice at my job. I’ll work through the end of July and then – something. In the meantime I’ll be wrapping up my current professional projects, and doing a little metadata moonlighting for a previous employer in the evenings while I plot out my next steps. I know, I know – in this economy, perhaps it is not wise to leave a position before securing another. But I also believe that sometimes it is hard to accommodate something new before you have made some room in your life for it. In the meantime, fortunately, I have a few irons in the fire, and know that I will sort out the bigger things. It’s hard to make a change, but also sometimes necessary. I believe in the bold move.

In the meantime, I am spending as much time outside as possible, running and biking, but also getting to spend the occasional day hiking (this view is from a recent trip to the White Mountains). Finding a little time for reading, and in particular trying to find a little more time for knitting. More specifically, trying to find time for this pile of partially-finished sweaters:

Oddly enough, these are all Amy Christoffers designs. From left to right we have the body of the Stonecutters Cardigan in Classic Elite Portland Tweed (regrettably discontinued), the body of the Larch Cardigan (started yearsssss ago) in Dale of Norway Tiur (also discontinued – I bought this beautiful yarn for 50 cents a skein in Warren, RI years ago during their summer sale), and finally the sleeves of Breckon in Brooklyn Tweed Loft. I am a little embarrassed at this WIP stash. But I guess the nice thing is that, with relatively little work still to do, come fall I am really going to have an on-point sweater game. Maybe it’s also worth sharing that on Friday the 13th, as I was heading into work, the strap on one of my Dansko mary janes broke, but thanks to the fact that I keep an in-progress vanilla sock in my bag at all times, I was able to tie the strap back to the hole where the grommet had broken – much better than spending a day hobbling around in broken shoes. Sometimes it really pays to be a knitter. (Most times, actually.)

Squam News!

comment 1
Etc.

I have been absent here and I can only say it’s because I have been BUSY. Things are heavily in flux around here, and I am thinking through some big life decisions. Not nearly as much time for reading and knitting as I would like, but with any luck that will change soon.

Fortunately, there is one piece of news I can share right now, and that is that I’ll be leading Keys to the Kingdom, a historical walking tour during Squam in the City in September.

Watch this video to enjoy some serious Providence eye candy, check out the full schedule of workshops, and then sign up for what I know is going to be a really incredible week.

I am so looking forward to meeting the other teachers, meeting the workshop participants, and sharing some of what I love about Providence’s architecture and history. I’ll share some sneak peak photos of some of the tour highlights soon.

I’ve been an admirer of the Squam retreats for a while now, and I am just really honored to be a part of the program. I’m counting down the days!

 

Why Running?

comments 5
Etc.

I usually run alone, but fairly recently I went running with a coworker and friend, and he invited a running friend of his along as well. Somewhere around mile five or six, she asked me, “So why running, for you?” That’s a hard question to answer, for me, and I have been thinking about it since then.

I’ve been running off and on for about twelve years; this is the first time in about six that I’ve pushed through my three-month/three-mile threshold. For the past year I’ve been running increasingly long distances, trying to get out and run at least three times a week, with varying levels and styles of cross training. I don’t drive, so I do all of my daily commuting/traveling by bike, and I plan to get back to longer rides now that the weather is turning. I do yoga and lift weights when I can muster up the energy, and try to stretch a lot every day, even if I’m not doing any other exercise.

The internet would have us believe that running is like this:

run   6e448570f2b7736e92bf16b1999ccb15

Would that every day was gray and misty and there were never any other humans around and I actually invested in stylish running outfits. If running was like this, no one would ever ask why you do it; everyone would just want to do it.

More accurate portraits of my current running life would include me shuffling in circles around the city of Providence trying to rack up a few more miles; me pouring Listerine over my broken toe so the nail doesn’t become fungal as it grows back in; me blowing my nose into my shirt because my allergies are terrible and I can barely breathe; me averting my eyes and turning the volume on my phone up so I can block out creepy dudes as much as possible while running in the city; new leg muscles rendering most of my pants too tight- do I need to buy new pants now, on top of everything else? It doesn’t sound so good. So there is still that question, why do it?

I guess in spite of all of the above, this is how I relax. It feels good to be outside and moving, and to be in a kind of imagined isolation. I feel like my brain works better when I’m covering some physical ground. And because most of my day is spent at a desk, I feel especially grateful for the literal change of pace.

 

Let’s be fair. There is a running advertisement that speaks to the very core of me. Running is a time out, where none of these things can catch me:

7ff4b2b8add153d810ab3a3f435d8f10

Put simply, maybe there is a reason it is called running away from your problems. A special bonus is that when you’re done running, all problems are put back in perspective.

This past Sunday, I ran my first half marathon. I say first because, although six months ago I registered for the event unsure that I would actually push through the mileage and feel ready to run 13.1 miles, but now, instead of feeling like I’ve reached a goal, I feel like I’m just getting started. I feel lucky that I’m able to do this because I can’t imagine being able to lose myself this way in anything else, and it feels good to see how far I’ve come in just the last six months; I can’t wait to see where I am in another six. It’s different, but I feel somewhat about running the way I feel about knitting. They share a meditative quality, and the potential for constantly overcoming new, small obstacles. In both cases, I feel like I’ve reached a point where these are things that I crave as a part of my day, and know to factor into my daily routine. It feels good.

ETA: This post popped up in my feed via Fit and Feminist (highly recommended). It’s always worth reiterating that thinness is one of running’s top PR problems. As alluded to above (re: my pants), running hasn’t made me thinner, and it hasn’t given me fitspo muscle definition. But has it helped me conquer body issues by reminding me what my body is capable of doing? Yup. And that is certainly another thing that makes me glad to be a runner.

My Ears are Burning

comments 2
Etc.

Thanks, Jennifer, for including me in this project! It’s fun to work from a prompt, and to think about things in a different way than I normally do. Written a bit on the fly, as everything seems to be these days.

What is your dream project? The one thing that you want to complete no matter how long it takes?

Dream project! I don’t know if there’s just one. I’d love a closet full of fair isle sweaters and a Beekeeper’s Quilt on my bed.

wollmeise

With whom would you want to collaborate on any sort of project?

I honestly love working collaboratively. Outside of knitting, reading, and running, I think most of my life (especially my professional life) is about working with others. And even my independent activities have at least a social element. I can’t think of just one person I’d want to work on a project with, because I think the answer is everyone I know.

What’s the reason for your blog name? Why did you begin blogging?

“Figs and Things” is one of the names of a magazine in this Kate Beaton comic: sweater issue

A friend once sent it to me, joking that this was a panel about my then-boyfriend’s life with me. Dating is not a thing I’m currently interested in, but I like to imagine that any/all boys in the world perceive me this way. “Blase Sweater Issue” might be my other favorite detail from this strip.

Why did I begin blogging? I don’t always know. I’ve probably been writing about crafts online, in various blog incarnations, for about 8 years. Periodically, I’d feel self-indulgent or self-conscious about putting things out in a public forum and delete the blog, only to start a new one a few months later. I think what keeps me around are the other people who are doing this too. Knitting can be very solitary if you want it to be, but it can also be wonderfully social. I think a solid majority of my friendships have begun because of a common interest in knitting or textiles in general.

What meal can you make with no recipe, hands tied behind your back, one eye open (you get the idea)?

I mentioned in my last post that I’m not much for cooking. That said, I can make many varieties of fancy grilled cheese, and inappropriately extravagant banana splits.

What world city do you feel is your true home?

My family lives in Meadville, PA, north of Pittsburgh. To me those two cities always feel the most like home. I’ve lived in Providence for six years now and I really like it, but when I think of home, I always think of western Pennsylvania.

pennsylvania

Describe a time when blogging/crafting helped you through a stressful time in your life.

I feel kind of like it always does. Granted, when I’m really stressed or going through a hard time, it’s difficult for me to sit still, so I tend to go running more during those times. But once I go for my run and have exhausted enough energy to sit down for a while, there is nothing better than playing with yarn. I like heavy cables, textures, or colorwork when I’m stressed.

Name something that you wish you could do or something that doesn’t come easy, and admire others for being able to do so?

This could easily become an endless list, but I suppose off the top of my head, I wish I was better at spinning yarn and sewing. There was a time years ago when knitting would have been on this list, so I know that becoming good at something just takes time and practice, but I don’t know if there will ever be enough hours in the day to become skilled at all the things that interest me. I’ve also recently been giving an electric knitting machine, and hope to become even remotely skilled at using it. But it’s a very different kind of beast.

What are you reading right now?

I’ve just wrapped up a few books, and am trying to decide what I feel like reading now. One of the books I just finished was David Sedaris’ When You are Engulfed in Flames, which was, like all of his collections, equal parts funny and touching.

What movie’s lines can you recite by heart?

Wayne’s World, Troop Beverly Hills & Pee Wee’s Big Adventure. I’d add television to this because my real media obsession is Golden Girls, and I think I can actually quote every episode of the complete series. Test me on it sometime.

If your life were a movie/album, what would it be named?

I joke about this a lot. A few favorites: “Party Hardly” and “Life in the Cats Lane.” People who hate puns don’t tend to love spending too much time with me.

At what point in your life were you the most impressed with yourself & your creativity?

Is it really arrogant if I say that I’m frequently kind of impressed with myself? I don’t mean it that way. What I mean is that I’m constantly attempting to do new things that I don’t know how to do yet, and feeling really good when I manage to grasp new concepts. I just started knitting my first Lopapeysa, and this will also be the first time I cut a steek into a sweater. I am actually so nervous about it that it makes my heart kind of race. It’s something I’ve wanted to attempt for years, but the idea of cutting into my knitting is (understandably) stressful. So I can preemptively say that if I cut the steek successfully, that is when I’ll be feeling most impressed with myself.

March Survival Guide

comment 1
Etc.

I don’t like March.

I know, April is the cruelest month, etc., but March has never really done me any favors either. Here, briefly, are the things I have found to be wildly comforting this winter, and which I will continue to indulge myself in through March:

1. Sleeping in cashmere. I don’t know why I didn’t think of this earlier in life. It sounds kind of like a Diana Vreeland “Why don’t you…” but seriously: why don’t you sleep in a cashmere cardigan? It’s warm and cozy and it makes my cat want to spoon with me under the covers like a little human.

2. Speaking of Diana Vreeland, watch The Eye Has to Travel. It’s on Netflix, and it’s amazing and made me feel excited about being human during a time of year when I rarely feel even lukewarm about being a human. I mean just look at this woman hanging out in her living room:

Diana_Vreeland_2382887b

3. Get a new coffee mug. This is a modest indulgence but it makes a big difference. My favorite pink coffee mug went MIA recently, and I’ve been thinking about treating myself to something new. I’m currently coveting this one, but I can’t justify paying overseas shipping on a mug. But I don’t doubt that something more local will catch my eye in no time.  (Related: drink lots of coffee. That helps everything.)

4. Knit something colorful. A weird one coming from me, but hey. After months of winter landscape, it doesn’t hurt to acknowledge the existence of colors.

13106845445_4c7070a2d0_c

5. Shamrock Shake. Look, I’m a simple woman. McDonald’s is bad, but Shamrock Shakes are so good. Just have like one. Before they’re gone. Drink it in a car in the parking lot and feel good/bad about it the rest of the night.

Little Wave & Sandness

comments 11
Knitting

Two Gudrun Johnston patterns to share – I guess it’s safe to say I’m a fan.

1

First up: I was so excited to share my version of the  Little Wave cardigan that I went right ahead and took some poorly lit nighttime photos of it after work last week, because daylight is somewhat scarce lately. I’ve been watching a lot of Dawson’s Creek while working on some sample knitting lately, so this is really in the spirit of “I don’t wanna wait,” etc., etc., etc. I love this sweater!

2

Any time a new Wool People collection comes out, I fall all over myself deciding what to knit next. This time around I knew in an instant that it was Little Wave. I went ahead and knit it big and roomy (about 4-5 inches of positive ease). There are so many perfect details in this pattern – pockets, saddle shoulders, garter stitch faux elbow patches, to name just my very favorites.

3

I could see knitting this again in a smaller size, for a more structured-looking garment, but I’m really pleased with the slouchy fit this time around. Seeing the project gallery on Ravelry,  I also have to say I love how the stitch pattern looks in lighter neutrals, so there is very likely another Little Wave in my future. Good thing I loved the process of knitting this!

2

I’d stashed a sweater’s worth of Berroco Remix (the color is Bittersweet) probably close to a year ago; I think it might have been on sale at Webs? Looking at the fiber profile of this yarn, it doesn’t seem like my usual fare. It’s mostly nylon and cotton, with some acrylic, silk, and linen in the mix. But this is absolutely one of my favorite sweater yarns. The fibers are 100% recycled, and maybe that is what makes them so fluffy and soft. This is also a machine washable yarn, though I’ve never tested that myself. I actually like the process of hand washing my knits.

1

I knit the Sandness shawl as a gift for a friend who has been stressed out applying for grad school, and who loves bright, warm colors, which of course, I rarely wear myself. Deep, deep in my stash I had some Brown Sheep Nature Spun fingering weight wool (the color is Sunburst Gold). Though I had one skein less than I thought I had, so this shawl has some sizing idiosyncrasies.  I knit the center triangle for the larger shawl size, but having only two skeins of yarn instead of three, had to knit one less repeat of the edging than I’d intended. As a result, the wingspan of the finished shawl is a bit more narrow than indicated in the pattern.

2

That said, I still think this is lovely, and my friend was very excited when she received it. This was a pleasure to knit – I love the construction method of creating yarn-overs at the beginning of each row, which creates visual loops at the end that can be easily picked up for adding edging. It’s a construction technique I’ll certainly use for future improvised shawls – I can see it being especially useful in square shawls that require picking up hundreds of stitches. (Real talk: I hate picking up stitches, so simply slipping a needle through a nice neat yarn-over hole is just about the best trick since the contiguous sleeve method.)

Again, this is something I can see knitting again. I love traditional Shetland shawls, and I would love a version for myself that includes the full edging. And I do have three or four (confirmed) skeins of the same yarn in a dark burgundy, a color I do actually wear. Maybe it’s meant for this. We will see. I love the lofty gauge of this wool on size 6 needles.

I think recently knitting things nearly perfectly has been a major theme. I just wrapped up and sent off the sample work I was doing, and am looking forward to knitting something a few things for myself that have been really tempting me lately. With a little patience and a little more daylight, maybe I will feel a little less like I’m phoning it in on the documentation front.

Til then.

Stasis

Leave a comment
Knitting

Finally got around to taking a few photos of my Stasis pullover, which I think I finished back in November.

1

This has become the equivalent of a pullover sweatshirt in my wardrobe. I generally prefer wearing skirts instead of pants, but when I do wear pants, this is the sweater I reach for every time.

2

The Brooklyn Tweed Loft yarn is smooshy and warm but lightweight, and has worn in exceptionally well. This sweater has been bundled over shirts and under coats, and has been excessively cuddled by my cat (as some of these photos will suggest) and has been up to these challenges at every turn.

3

Leila Raabe designed a perfect relaxed pullover here, using a really beautifully simple colorwork motif that works so well with this woolen spun yarn. I just can’t say enough good things about it.

4

I, uncharacteristically, didn’t make any modifications to the pattern. Initially I thought I’d make it a little bit more fitted, but I love how slouchy and cozy this is. I’m really glad I didn’t take it in at all.

(This last photo is more a photo of Felane than of the sweater. I can’t help it, the girl just always looks so good.)

Me Doing Whatever I Want, All the Time

comments 2
Knitting / Reading

socks

Starting the new year in a quiet way. The weather has been cold even for New England, and I’ve been spending as much time as possible indoors knitting and reading. Above, my first pair of socks in far too long. Glad to have brought back the tradition of knitting myself a pair of new year socks. I love that even though it’s been years, and I thought I couldn’t remember my basic sock recipe, my hands went into autopilot and these plain vanilla socks (in a self-striping Regia yarn) practically fell right out of them. Perhaps this is the beginning of another sock streak.

It may or may not be worth noting that when knitting simple socks for myself, I like 60 stitches on size 1 needles, starting with a ribbed cuff, working down the leg to a slipped stitch heel flap, gusset, and kitchener stitch toe. Though when yarn quantity is a concern, I like a toe-up sock with accent toe and heel colors. For what it’s worth.

The-End-1

So far this year I’ve read one book that made me cry (Anders Nilsen’s The End, from which the panel above was taken) and have been leisurely reading through one book that makes me blush (D.H. Lawrence’s The Rainbow).

As much as I normally love winter, I won’t complain when this cold snap ends. When the weather keeps me from wanting to make a trip to the library, you know it’s finally just a little too cold.