My Ears are Burning

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.

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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.

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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.

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March Survival Guide

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:

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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.

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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

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

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

The Very End of 2013

A few photos from my trip to Sitka, Alaska, where I spent the last days of 2013 with my little brother. I haven’t uploaded photos from my real camera, but I suppose these phone photos give enough of an idea of how misty and gray and beautiful it is there.

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Having only a few hours of twilight-y light each day meant a few hours of hiking or exploring the island, and many more hours of relaxing with my brother in the evenings, making dinners, drinking coffee, and watching movies and knitting. Dark mornings meant reading in bed for a few hours until it got light enough outside that I felt like I should venture out. I can’t remember the last time I actually did only leisure activities for more than a day, much less five or six in a row. And now I am so excited to throw myself back into normal life. Right now that looks like reading, knitting, half marathon training, catching up with friends, and some new work challenges. I’ve got my new 2014 planner (the same moleskine one I’ve used every year since I can remember, because I am a creature of habit to an unhealthy extent, but with a red cover this year, because I am acting like a person who embraces change). Let’s see how it goes!

(I should also add that I have one final book recommendation from 2013: Howard Norman’s I Hate to Leave This Beautiful PlaceThe last book I read before the end of the year, and one I’ll undoubtedly pick up again. I am often disappointed by memoirs, but this is a true exception.)

2013 in Review

A bit premature in my review, but there is a good reason for that. In a few days I am leaving to spend the holiday and remainder of the year with my brother in Sitka, Alaska, where I plan on doing next to nothing.

That’s already a lie – I’ll do some reading and a tiny bit of knitting, I’m sure, hopefully some cooking and baking, and a lot of basking in gorgeous scenery. I look forward to some days of self-indulgence. One of my (many) bad habits is that I like to take on more than I realistically believe that I can handle, then force myself to see all commitments through at the cost of sleep or a regular social life. I don’t plan on changing that in the new year, though. If anything, I’m just going to work on harnessing that inclination for over-extending myself in order to eventually become some kind of superhuman. But a girl must rest sometimes.

This year was hard on me, mentally and physically. It took a few cracked ribs, a split chin, a possibly-sprained wrist, and a lost thumbnail for me to realize that this was (literaly) a year about toughening up and gaining thicker skin. Once I gave into it, things felt a little bit easier. Having dinner with a dear friend in Pittsburgh over Thanksgiving, I realized that I feel better than I did when we had dinner together a year before. I hope all of my friends can say the same.

My favorite thing that I knit this year? Probably my Stasis pullover, though I’ve yet to take a decent photo of it. I’m also getting a shocking amount of wear out of my Bridgewater shawl, though it is quite a departure from my usual color palette.

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Favorite things I read this year? Alice Munro’s Dear Life, Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle (a reread from years ago, I can’t recommend it enough), and A Thousand Mornings by Mary Oliver. A special mention goes to Cheryl Strayed’s Wild, which I read during a time when the emotional resonance was practically deafening, and which I found immensely comforting and helpful. (Surely I’m forgetting something, but you can’t go wrong with these.)

I was really lucky to travel as much as I did this year. In my day-to-day life as  professional tourist, I got to explore Rhode Island on a deeper level than I had in any of the prior years I spent living here. I appreciate it much more than I did before, even going so far as to finally admit that I actually live here, and am not just passing through. My rip to Block Island was a definite highlight. But I also got to spend time at home in western Pennsylvania, with friends at the Jersey shore, and with one of my nearest and dearest in Los Angeles. I didn’t make it back to Salzburg, but a friend and former coworker there did make it here to visit me. I’ve always wanted to spend time in Alaska, and now I’m going to end the year there. Lucky doesn’t even begin to cover it.

My 2013 imperative was “rest less.” I started the year with a pun tattoo to seal the deal:

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It served me well enough. Perhaps I’ll stick with it in 2014. (Maybe I could take it to a bit less of an extreme.) As usual, I have no real resolutions. Just more of the same, but bigger and better. I recently bought a friend a strange energy drink at Ocean State Job Lot, and in tiny, tiny text on the can it said, “Because I have been given much, I too must give.” That, with a solid dose of taurine, could really be the secret to everything, couldn’t it?

Then again, perhaps I’m just tired.

See you next year.

Nola’s Slipper Pattern

Somehow winter is here, and I find myself without slippers. (I think I may have left my slippers at my old place when I moved, so this is not a permanent problem.) But it seemed like a good excuse to whip up some house socks, something I’ve meant to do for a long time anyway.

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Nola’s slipper pattern couldn’t be any faster or easier. Knit on size 9 needles with worsted weight yarn held double (or a really bulky yarn if you prefer), and constructed in one piece with only one seam to graft, these really are a perfect quick fix for cold feet. I used Patons Classic Wool, and I’m debating letting them felt a bit in the wash. My painted wooden floors, while aesthetically pleasing, are more or less a cat hair magnet, no matter how often I sweep. So washing these babies will be required, and I’d just as soon throw them in the machine. We’ll see how that goes.

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Something about the look of these reminds me of the 1970s style of my great-grandma Bea’s knitting. In a really sweet way. Maybe it’s the color of the yarn, or the chunky simplicity of the construction, or the garter stitch foot. I can’t exactly put a finger on it, but these do make me feel weirdly nostalgic. In any case, I look forward to a winter of breaking these pups in.

Cruising

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Work and work-related activities are consuming my days lately. My favorite month is almost over. How have I spent it? The above Instagram roundup gives some indication. I am nearly done knitting a wonderful, woolly, selfish sweater, but my gauge has been a little weird these past months (by weird I suppose I mean a bit looser), and I ran out of yarn mere rows before finishing. It’s waiting sadly in a corner until the mailman brings those last few yards. I think it will be worth the wait.

Do the photos require explanation? Maybe. Very briefly, left to right, top to bottom:

1. New York. 2. My life as a human chair. 3. I gave an awkward speech at a dinner, rewarded myself with my beverage of choice, the manhattan. 4. My work took me to a room called the Biblearium. It’s what you’d expect. 5. That thumbnail I smashed back in August? I finally lost that. 6. Seasonal mail from a friend. 7. An eerie orbed moment, supervising a wedding at my workplace, making sure no one touched anything historic. 8. In my work, I also often encounter incredible dolls. 9. History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme. Apt.

More on the horizon, but perhaps most importantly, sleep, and dreaming of wool.

The Days Change at Night

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Because the majority of my recent knitting has been work- or gift-related, and has therefore been secret and unshareable (not a word), here are some photos from my recent escape to LA. As a girl who grew up in the Pacific northwest, then kind of the midwest, and now lives in New England, I was visually overstimulated the entire weekend. I knew LA was outside my usual aesthetic experience, but I didn’t realize exactly how far out. That’s not to say I didn’t like it.

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Why was I there? I was a human birthday present for my friend Jess, from her boyfriend, who I had never met before. If you’ve never been a human birthday present before, I recommend it; it’s a really nice feeling. And it makes you want to buy people lots of food. Go with that instinct.

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Besides food, the best things about visiting a new city are drinking all of the coffee and peeping in all of the local bookstores and libraries. Right? LA seems to favor juice over coffee (I get it, but also I don’t get it) ((maybe I just had funny luck walking into random places – I didn’t do any coffee research)). But the bookstores were amazing. I happened upon the 826LA Time Travel Mart, Stories (books and coffee in one – always ideal), Secret Headquarters, Skylight Books,  and pictured below, the Last Bookstore, which was sensory overload in the best way.

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I  didn’t look at yarn at all; having just cast on a sweater for myself in Loft, I’m feeling sufficiently spoiled in that area. But I did take in as much typical LA scenery as possible, and, as I often do on the west coast, I made a pigeon friend.

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la9Am I happy to be back in Providence, knitting in bed with my cat and listening to audiobooks? You bet I am, tootsies. I appreciate it a little bit more remembering that I have good friends in good cities and air mattresses and couches to sleep on whenever I can get away. (And coming soon: my own couch for the purpose of returning the favor as often as possible.)

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