Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Picking up and packing up

Somebody hold a parade. I figured out how to pick up a dropped stitch.

My secret pal sent me The Knitting Answer Book, and it has already proven its worth. I don't know that the illustration is better than anything else I've seen, but the description is clear and specific. I had a light bulb moment and was able to fix the mistake without much fuss.

OK, so picking up dropped stitches is a basic skill I should have learned before now. The only way I've been able to delay it this long is to frog back to the errors--not the most efficient method--or not make mistakes in the first place. Trust me, it can be exhausting trying to be perfect all the time.

I have over a hundred stitches on the circs and have finished the first skein of yarn. (I don't think there's enough left for another row.) Assuming I can keep my eyes open, I'll join skeins and knit while watching tonight's American Idol.

I've found that I get sleepier while working on this baby blanket. Maybe it's the number of stitches, or maybe everything is finally catching up to me. The always brutal winter quarter is nearly over at the college where I work. My co-workers and I are aggravated over some critical things about our future being out of our control. I'm still stressed over the situation where I live. Plus, it really hit me that I'm running out of time to get packed up and line up a new place. All that uncertainty is heavy right now.

Having already worked the equivalent of three days this week, I took the afternoon off and tried to make a dent in cleaning my apartment and packing stuff. I've been too tired, busy, or unmotivated to do it on the weekends. I get plenty of fretting about it done then, though. I thought that slogging through it during the middle of the work day might make it feel less like free time lost.

I have two bedrooms, one of which became the place where I shift the piles if I need to clean up in a hurry. I set a goal of finishing that room today. The goal was unrealistic and unrealized. That said, I filled up a large trashcan, overflowed a recycling bin, and stuffed a trash bag with clothes to donate to Goodwill.

You could call this the initial culling. Since I'm one of those pitiable people known as pack rats, I had a lot of useless stuff to sift through. Anybody need an Entertainment Weekly from the last seven years or so? I probably have it. I'm determined to break myself of this habit--being a pack rat, not Entertainment Weekly--and am on the proper course. I've tossed plenty of Sports Illustrated issues in the recycling bin. It's surprising what desperation and the knowledge that I won't have the same amount of storage at a new place can do for determining what needs to be kept.

How serious am I about reducing clutter? I took eight movies on VHS, a stack of CDs, and a couple TV Guide items to Half Price Books to sell them. I have the movies on DVD, so there was no need to hang onto them. Frankly, I was hoping they'd just take the CDs off my hands. They were unwanted discs that came in lots I bought on eBay years ago. (I wanted one or two of the CDs but got ten for a low, low price.) There is no secondary market for these albums from artists I've never heard of.

I was offered $8 for everything. It seemed kind of low, but then again, what resale value do movies on tape have these days? Not much, I'm guessing. They were probably taking the CDs as a courtesy. If they go straight to the dumpster, at least I didn't have to be the one to deliver them there.

After today's cleaning, I'm feeling like maybe I don't have as big of a task in front of me as I think. I'm probably wrong, but this is the kind of self-deception I need. I'm going to plan to take a least one of the days this weekend to do as much as I can. Hopefully I'll feel like I'm better prepared to move. Then I can contact my landlord on Monday and see if we can work something out about me breaking the lease without any penalties. I would be leaving only a month or two before it runs out, so I'm counting on my unblemished rental history and the problems with the riffraff living here to persuade him to give me a break. We shall see.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Gains and non-losses

Knitting resources keep coming in. You might recall that the first friend with whom I shared my knitting secret told me that he learned to knit in his Hong Kong elementary school. I made him a striped scarf (FO #11). In thanks he sent me two knitting DVDs.

The Art of Knitting and Knit Fashions in Motion arrived in yesterday's mail. I haven't had time to look at them, but they look to be good additions to my knitting reference materials. The Art of Knitting will probably be more useful since I don't know that I'll be rushing to make the items highlighted on the back cover of Knit Fashions in Motion. (I can't see myself using purses, shrugs, cuffs & collars, and shoulder warmers.) It's the thought that counts, though.

I had a small scare today when I lost track of my second ribbed hat. The TV station had to cover the state of the community address. I went to council chambers to make sure that everything with the teleprompter was in place and walked home for a break.

Since I've made these toques I've worn one almost every time I've gone outside. I'm losing my hair earlier than I ought to. (Unfortunately that's the genetic card I've been dealt, or I should have listened as a child when I was told to remove my baseball hat at the dinner table.) I've noticed the big difference it makes to have my head covered. Apparently I didn't pull on the hat for this short walk because when I headed back to city hall, I couldn't find my grey hat.

I wouldn't want to lose anything I've made, but considering the challenges I faced in knitting this hat, I really didn't want to lose this one. I knew it could only be in one of two places, neither of which would be high traffic areas, but I experienced a little wave of panic that my hat was gone for good. I returned to the city building, and sure enough, there it was on a chair behind the computer I'd been setting up. I must have put my coat over it and forgotten to pick it up.

OK, so that's not the world's most exciting story, but it has a happy ending.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Secret pals unmasked

My participation in Favorite Color Swap 2 comes to a conclusion with the arrival of the second package from my secret pal, who I now know is this person. Four skeins of Peruvian Highland Wool came in the mail last week, and today brought a ballband washcloth and The Knitting Answer Book by Margaret Radcliffe. The book is particularly well chosen as I certainly have no shortage of questions. I'm sure it'll be put to good use. I imagine I was a challenge for my secret pal, so I appreciate the thought she put into what to get me.

Also, I can now end the charade of an anonymous e-mail address with the recipient of my package. I'm glad to know that I didn't make an enormous gaffe with what I picked. In fact, it sounds as though the yarn store employee would have been directing me to the wrong color with her interpretation of raspberry pink.

As you can see, I also put a custom mix CD in the package I sent. Although I had less information to go on, I was more assured in the musical selections than the yarn colors. (At one time my ambition was to be a radio program director.) I had designed a cover insert for the CD, but my printer isn't cooperating. I haven't diagnosed the problem, so I had to go with a handwritten tracklist. It occurs to me that I told her I would attach a tracklist with the source albums, but I sent that e-mail without it. So, to get liner note info to her and fill up some blog space, here's what on the CD picked to fit her adult alternative tastes:
1. Badly Drawn Boy "Once Around the Block", The Hour of Bewilderbeast
2. U2 "Always", 7
3. The Cardigans "Good Morning Joan", Super Extra Gravity
4. Fountains of Wayne "I Know You Well", Out-of-State Plates
5. Belle & Sebastian "Le Pastie De La Bourgeoisie", 3.. 6.. 9 Seconds of Light
6. Neko Case "Hold On, Hold On", Fox Confessor Brings the Flood
7. Ryan Adams "Firecracker", Gold
8. The Jayhawks "Bad Time", Tomorrow the Green Grass
9. Beulah "Silver Lining", The Coast is Never Clear
10. Jens Lekman "You are the Light (By Which I Travel Through This and That)", When I Said I Wanted To Be Your Dog
11. Beth Orton "Anywhere", Daybreaker
12. Sufjan Stevens "For the Widows in Paradise, For the Fatherless in Ypsilanti", Greetings from Michigan
13. The Decemberists "The Crane Wife 3", The Crane Wife
14. Matthew Sweet "Come to Love", 100% Fun
15. Sloan "Rest of My Life", Action Pact
16. The Pipettes "Tell Me What You Want", We Are The Pipettes
17. Wilco "Kamera", Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
18. Kathleen Edwards "Summerlong", Back to Me
19. Josh Rouse "Directions", Home
20. Joe Henry "Stop", Scar
21. Aimee Mann "Nightmare Girl", Humpty Dumpty
22. Sam Phillips "How to Dream", Fan Dance
23. Kelly Willis "Reason to Believe", Easy
There's nothing to report on the knitting front. The late afternoon and evening were spent at the Academy Awards party. It was a swell time for us local critics to be catty about red carpet fashion choices, to outguess one another regarding the winners, to groan and cheer those taking home statuettes, and, of course, to eat, drink, and be merry. I'm seriously tired from all the fun and the late night, but it was worth today's lethargy.

The telecast got pretty tedious toward the end, but if there's any gripe I have, it's with the announcer's remark after The Departed was named Best Picture. It's Scorsese's first film with a plot? Kind of a rude bit of editorializing, wasn't it?

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Busy Sunday

Jennifer was kind enough to send me a photo of her wearing the scarf I made for her. She's also blogged about it here. The scarf even got a photo of its own at a car show, so check it out.

I don't know why I feel like I get more done when I'm busiest, but that's how this day has been. I could see a real problem heading my way if I didn't work like mad today, so I ditched church (for shame, I know) and wrote two reviews while doing my laundry. Now if I could just finish one more review... That'll have to be a late night deal.

You see, the Academy Awards ceremony is tonight. I'm not going to Tinseltown but somewhere better: our local film critics group's party. I'm making a cherry pie--about ten minutes left for it in the oven--and pulling together a couple things at the last minute. Oscar pool ballots have been copied, and the gift bag prizes for the winner have been bought.

Kristin took care of most of the gift bag. She got some fun items that tie in well with the nominated films. I still need to get out to buy a box of cranberry muffin mix to include in it. (It's an inside joke among the critics. The top dog always has a cranberry muffin saved for him at one of our screening venues.) I'm really looking forward to the big affair. After all, film critics can be fun too. It's not all sitting around in tweed jackets discussing mise en scene.

Following up on comments from last night' post, yes, I'm making the baby blanket with Lion Homespun yarn. The area that looks like a hole looks fine on the other side, so perhaps it was a bigger loop in the working yarn than those around it. I hope that's all it is.

I'll attribute my knitting speed to knitting a lot rather than knitting faster. I knitted throughout last night's televised hockey game and then during Saturday Night Live. (That show seems to have revived itself some, although it never hurts to have Rainn Wilson around. And how great was The Arcade Fire?) I'm up to 84 stitches, so I'm two-thirds of the way through the increases.

Enjoy the Oscars tonight. There's probably not anything else on TV anyway.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Baby blanket progress

I'm still plugging away at the baby blanket. When I began I thought it would take no time to knit, but it's become apparent that this is a project I can't crank out overnight.

I'm having trouble getting into a rhythm with this, whether it's from having to stop to push the stitches up on the left needle or the cable getting in my way. I have to be careful to remember to do the yarn over and not to knit every stitch. I might have done that in an early row, but there's no looking back now.

I worked on it while watching tonight's Blue Jackets game on TV--they won!--and estimated how much longer it will take me to finish. I'm guessing I have a week's worth of knitting left, especially since Sunday is going to require me to get a good bit of writing done so I can go to an Academy Awards party with that monkey off my back.

Of course, there's no rush since the baby for whom it's being knitted isn't due until June. The question is whether I hold onto it until closer to the birth or give it to the expectant parents once I'm done. I've found that I'm really impatient about keeping FOs until the appropriate time to give them. When I'm finished, I want to get them to the recipient immediately. You can imagine why the prospect of knitting Christmas gifts during the summer freaks me out. You mean you have to squirrel them away for months?!

The parents have no idea I'm making this blanket, but I'm inclined to give it to them when it's done. I still have plans for a baby sweater, so they can get that closer to the happy arrival.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Where It's At

I have approximately fifty stitches on the circular needles for the baby blanket I'm knitting flat. I'm not too concerned with keeping an exact count until I get closer to 126 and need to begin decreasing.

I'm having an easier time using the circs than I did when I started. The cable still has a twist in it, but it's milder than what I was dealing with in the beginning. The stitch after the yarn over can be tight, but overall the stitches are sliding better on the needles. The process is still a little awkward, but what should I expect? I haven't knitted on the circs that much.

I may have goofed several rows back, although I can't say for certain. It's foolish of me to hypothesize about what I might have done, but my best guess is that I slipped a stitch. There's a hole, kind of, so I'm not sure if it's an error or not. (And no, it's not one of the holes that's part of the pattern.) I don't have it in me to go back to the potential mistake, so it'll just have to stay if it is a flaw. If the baby makes a sarcastic comment about it, well, everyone will be astonished that it's talking, let alone capable of dispensing cutting remarks.

I've been inseparable from my second toque, but as much as I like it, I need to do some minor repair work on it. Namely, the tail is wagging out the back of it. I'll sew it back into the wrong side, although I don't have much to work with. So there's a skill I don't have licked. The hat isn't as tight as it was when I first pulled it on, but if I've had it on for any length of time the ribs are imprinted on my forehead.

As the weather warms a little here--basically it's like we're not at the polar cap--it gets me to wondering what one knits in the spring and summer. I suppose it's always good to be looking forward and making gifts for Christmas and the cold season, but what do you do when it's time for scarves and hats to be put away?

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Mail call!

Ribbed scarf

Yarn: Dark Horse Yarns-Fantasy (50% nylon, 50% acrylic; worsted weight double wrapped)
Colors: 6 and 7 (shades of purple)
Needles: US 10s
Stitches: 24

Today was all about the mail. I sent my secret pal's package on its way, had yarn from my secret pal waiting at my front door, and had Jennifer receive the package with the scarf I knitted her. And some people think the postal service doesn't have anything to do now that everyone sends e-mails instead of letters.

Jennifer left the color up to me, but I had some help since she named her favorite colors in the answers to a meme on her blog. I used Dark Horse Yarns-Fantasy for my dad's scarf (FO #3) and Kristin's scarf. I love the feel of it and thought the shades of purple were perfect. I wasn't sure how the shades would combine, but they make a nice, subtle variation in the scarf. You probably can't tell from the photograph. Jennifer is going to take some pictures too, so perhaps it'll show up better in hers.

Having used this yarn before, I thought a skein of each color would be plenty. It turned out to be enough, but it took every inch to get the length I wanted. As with Donna's scarf, the end where I bound off is bell-shaped. Ladies, this is not a stylistic choice, but you're welcome to believe it is if you like it. I thought I'd been binding off too tightly before. Am I still doing that, or am I binding off too loosely? By design Jennifer's ribbed scarf is wider than Donna's. Ideally I'd like for them to be somewhere in between.

My thanks to my secret pal for the four skeins of Peruvian Highland Wool from Apparently there's another package still to come, so my pal remains secret. I would post a picture of the yarn, but the light in my apartment at night is terrible at letting me capture accurate colors. I think I'll wait until I've received whatever she sends next and show off the pictures then.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

On creative pursuits and audiences

Donna blogged about a student writer who has never shown her work to anyone and ended the post with some questions about the nature of writing. Since I do my fair share of writing and feel like I have something to offer on the topic, I'd like to dive into it today. Knitting will tie into it eventually, so don't think I'm veering too far off course.

What is writing for, and what role does the audience play? Coming from a mass communication background, these seem like simple questions. You write to deliver a message to others. The purpose may be to inform, entertain, or enlighten, but in the end, it's done with the intent of conveying something to someone. The message may or may not be tailored to the consumers, but the idea is that it will be consumed.

In fact, the end goal of any creative pursuit is to present it to an audience. Filmmakers don't finish movies so they can sit unwatched on shelves. Knitters don't make scarves to be stuffed in the backs of closets. The shelf and the closet might be where the creations reside, but they weren't made with the original intent of keeping them hidden. There's intrinsic satisfaction in making something--the pleasure of creating for the sake of it and enjoying the sense of accomplishment--but the work takes on greater meaning when let loose from the creator's grip. A film can take on plenty of meanings that the makers never intended. A scarf becomes more than just an item to keep a neck warm. Why then would a writer compose something and not let it see the light of day?

The obvious answer is that personal or private writing may be done to provide relief to the author. The person keeping a diary or journal--or a blog in this day and age--may put down their joys, fears, and aggravations with no design on anyone else ever seeing it. In this example, writing performs a valuable service for the writer and is not predicated on being available to an audience. There's nothing wrong with that.

Going back, though, the basis of most writing and creating is to have others consume it. This leads to the next question. How does the writer deal with being vulnerable to readers? The writer has to determine acceptable limits. Donna's student might do well to show her writing to trusted friends or teachers, people who can be honest but won't be bluntly dismissive. Once she's comfortable with that, the next step would be to show it to strangers or friends who might be more critical. Perhaps going the anonymous route might soften the blows.

Enough with the generalities, though. It's time for me to talk about my experiences. I did a lot of radio in college and have been on television for several years. I never went into it wanting to be a star, which is what seems to be the driving factor in many students I encounter. Language intrigues me, and I felt like I had something to say. I didn't know who would want to listen, but for me it was about expressing myself and reaching those who might appreciate my words.

That sounds all well and good, but it can be terrifying to put yourself out there like that. Metaphorically, I've fallen flat on my face on the air plenty of times. I've said stupid things and tripped over my tongue on more occasions that I can count. At no fault of my own I've been made to look foolish on television because the show's student crew is learning how to do everything as we go along. So there's some pride-swallowing that has to take place if you want others to evaluate or appreciate your work.

I will acknowledge that I can be very thinskinned, which may be why I'm often my worst critic. It's a deflecting technique. I've done work on TV and online that I know isn't my best and may barely be adequate, but you have to accept that you can't be perfect all the time. (Yeah, I don't always heed that advice.)

Although the paths are varied, almost everyone seeks interaction, the human connection that confirms we are worthy of the love and attention of others. Getting this demands being vulnerable. Hopefully the risk is rewarded.

I started this blog as a release valve of sorts. When I first learned to knit I didn't tell anyone. (Come to think of it, I'm still selective who I tell, and I'm even more judicious in giving out the blog's address.) I was so excited about what I was learning that I had to tell someone, even if it meant writing pseudo-anonymously for an unknown audience.

What I write here has limited appeal and lacks the rigor of "important" writing, but on a personal level it's some of the most valuable writing I've ever done. I couldn't say the same thing without my lovely readers. If I'd scratched down the last few months worth of entries in a private blog or journal, I never would have found this virtual knitting group, something that Jenn says she found here in her comment to this post.

I'm regularly surprised that anyone wants to read what I write here and amazed and honored by comments claiming my enthusiasm is inspirational. I couldn't and didn't anticipate that. Entering the knitting world was a risk, at least in my mind. Documenting my observations, successes, and failures may have been a bigger one. Who cares what I have to say? Except for any non-knitters who might be reading, I'd venture a guess that everyone else reading knows more about knitting than I do. Yet the risk has been paid back many times over with encouragement and friendship.

My advice to Donna's student: please show your writing. I can't promise it will be easy. Hearing criticisms of something in which you've invested a lot of time and energy never is. Maybe the readers won't understand it or like it, but if you pick the right people, they can help you improve. Their reactions may surprise you too. Writers can be the worst judges of their own work, so you will benefit from allowing some fresh eyes take a look at it. Chances are that the positives will outweigh the negatives when opening yourself up this way.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Toque 2


Yarn: Lion Brand Wool-Ease (80% acrylic, 20% wool; worsted weight)
Color: Oxford grey
Needles: US 6s
Stitches: 90

It is immensely satisfying to have this troublesome project turn out so well.

Last night I vowed to finish this ribbed hat, but after drawing up the stitches I called it an evening. Why? I was paralyzed with the fear of ruining my hard work with the seam. I thought I knew what I was doing, but as I looked online, in a Stitch 'n Bitch book loaned from the library, and on a CD-ROM, I became more confused.

I'd been under the impression that I wanted to seam on the wrong side, yet every source was telling me to seam on the right side. Mattress stitch instructions were geared toward stockinette stitch. That doesn't apply to me, I thought. My project has ribs. (I've since had this explained.) Everything was geared toward seaming from the bottom up, but I believed I should seam from the top down. I didn't know what to do. By my 1 a.m. wisdom the best choice was to stop and not do anything dumb.

I woke up anxious to seam the hat. I was proud of my knitting and wanted to wear it, but I was still unsure of the best plan of attack. When in doubt, I ask Kristin. It was good to read in her e-mail that she hadn't found seaming instructions to be helpful. On the other hand, taking a trial and error approach wasn't the most comforting idea. She had some advice, and then it was up to me to see what I could do during lunch.

I pinned the sides together. It didn't hold but served its purpose long enough. I seamed from the top down and tried to follow the mattress stitch instructions as closely as possible. It looked like it was coming together the way it should, so I kept at it. I was very cautious and deliberate as I pulled the yarn through two bars on the right side and then the left.

When I got to the bottom I examined the seam on what I thought was the wrong side and was pleased.

I turned the hat inside out and realized that the numerous instructions were correct: seam the right side. Fortunately, I don't think it makes any difference for this project. (The right side is shown on the left; the wrong side is pictured on the right.)

I used the seaming technique to weave in the ends and didn't see them on the new right side. I cut the yarn and let out a relieved sigh. I tried on the hat and found it to be a little tight, but I'm pretty sure it should stretch like my first toque did. Otherwise it'll just be a snugger fit.

Can I tell you that this FO makes me ecstatic? I have a placid demeanor most of the time, but I was ready to jump for joy at the finished result. This was a hard-earned success and an important project for learning. I discovered how to frog judiciously. I figured out the proper way to seam with the mattress stitch. I have a better grasp of right side/wrong side, although future projects will determine if it's sunk in.

The learning continues. Now it's time to return to the circs...

Monday, February 19, 2007

In stitches

Looks like I'll be burning the midnight oil tonight. I'm determined to finish my second ribbed hat this evening. I suspect that may mean staying up until 2 a.m. Who needs sleep, right?

I got a late start on it tonight, although if I had more backbone, I might have worked on it in my office while waiting to tape the show delayed from last week's snow days. Late this afternoon the place was a dead zone and an icebox. (There's a vent in my office that blows cold air nonstop.) It's probably best, though, that my knitting remains secret from co-workers and students. I'd never hear the end of the jokes.

I lost an inch and a half from frogging. That doesn't sound like much, so let me put it in numbers that will let you understand why I was ready to turn into a quivering heap on the floor. There are ninety stitches per row. Eight rows equal an inch, so I ripped out twelve rows, plus two that I knitted and frogged again because of the dropped stitches. That comes to a grand total of 1260 frogged stitches. Granted, that's better than restarting from scratch but still...

I'm shaping the top, so I'm in the home stretch now. Knitting and purling two together is difficult, but it's been a little easier than the first time I made this toque. Since Donna got such terrific results with her first knitted hat, I checked with her about a couple things that didn't work for me. I know that I need to do the mattress stitch to seam the hat. My mistake is that when I hear "sewing", I think of something that you take through one side and bring back through. No wonder my seam was so hideous. The same goes for weaving in ends. I've been doing that all wrong, no thanks to help site instructions that tell you to sew in the tails but don't get more specific.

She also helped clear up this right side/wrong side business. You know those slippers I made? I turned them inside out tonight, and they look a lot better. Yep, I've been wearing them with the wrong side facing. Before I was afraid that turning them inside out would cause them to come apart. The first one I made has a hole in the toes and a tail that won't stay hidden. I guess that gives me an excuse to make more, doesn't it?

Thanks for the tips on the circs. I'll be working in earnest on the baby blanket once I get this hat finished. We'll see how it goes with them. February is the shortest month, but I think I'm going to have more FOs these 28 days than I did in January's 31. Go figure.

Sunday, February 18, 2007


In observation of this, my 100th Knitting Confidential post, I thought it would be a good time to take stock.

I've been knitting for four months and knitblogging for almost the same amount of time. In both cases I didn't realize what I was getting myself into. Both activities have led to subtle but significant shifts in my daily life.

The biggest change is that I'm happier and more relaxed. Not all the time, of course, but in general. Yesterday brought the end of regular season basketball at the college. I'd been keeping stats for the men's and women's home games since 1995--usually a commitment of two nights a week from December through February--but decided not to do it this year, in part because I felt I would rather be home knitting. Standing beside the court last night it hit me that I hadn't missed those games. I hadn't even checked the scores the night of or morning after the teams played. It's not as though I stopped caring how they did, but being away from the games showed me that they weren't as important to me as I would have thought.

What did I do with that extra time? I've been able to go to Wednesday evening screenings. That may sound like replacing work with work--it is, in a way--but it's given me time for some socializing and saved time catching up on those films during weekends. I've followed the Blue Jackets, something that's been fun to do even if they've had a disappointing season. I've liked learning about hockey and enjoying the luxury of having a pro sports franchise nearby. And obviously I've knitted.

Knitting has proven inspirational, something manifested with my regular writing here. Not everything I write is of interest, I'm sure, but I hope it's worth your time during most visits. If you keep coming back, I assume it is. Aside from any therapeutic value of banging out words about whatever is rattling around my head, it's made me a more productive writer. It's not a coincidence that my film blog's output has increased since I started knitting and writing about it.

Knitting is responsible for me pulling the plug on playing fantasy baseball this year. (It's official. I declined the invitation this week.) I've played for years. The league I've been in is a full-time commitment if you want to have a prayer at winning. I've been competitive because I've invested a colossal amount of time in it. You know what? It isn't worth it, and I'm not just talking about the money I've usually come just short of winning. I don't know how many hours I spent last spring and summer sitting in front of the computer to see which players were starting and how they were doing via up-to-the-minute tracking. My time and energy can be better spent making something and learning new skills rather than searching for the Los Angeles Dodgers' potential new closer to fill a hole on my team or comparing OPS numbers of career .240 batters.

Recent days have seen me set some personal knitting milestones. I repaired the mistakes I made in Jennifer's scarf. I frogged a few rows back to the error and was able to reinsert the needle. For most of you that's not a big deal, but I've had plenty of issues fixing these problems. I finished her scarf today and am pleased to report that there is no evidence of those dropped stitches. (Sorry, no pictures yet. Even she doesn't know what color it is.)

Today I also confronted the mess I'd been avoiding since Wednesday. I bought a pair of US 4s to slip into the stitches, hoping that the smaller gauge would make it easier to get them on the needle. More importantly, I finally understood how to frog and put the stitches on the needle. I've been ripping out a whole row and then trying to slide the needle through everything. In this case, that meant 90 stitches in k2p2. It's no wonder I was failing every time.

I saw how the stitches were connected, so I placed the needle in the old stitch, frogged it, and moved to the next one. I transferred the stitches to a US 6, the size I'm knitting the hat with, and transferred to the other US 6 to get everything facing the right direction.

I knitted a row and thought everything was peachy. I knitted the next row and saw a hole and came up two stitches short. What...the...?!?! Time to put it aside again.

In its place I tried something new to me: circular needles. I'm making this baby blanket in a yellow dubbed "sunshine state". I put the circs in some warm water to remove the excessive coiling. It didn't go away entirely, but I hoped it would work itself out. Yes, I'm a fool.

I also had to learn how to do yarn over. It's not complicated, but I hadn't done it before. I began knitting flat on the circs and struggled immediately. The stitches were tightly wound around the needles, and that infernal cable kept getting in my way. Every picture I've seen of circular needles has them making a nice half circle from needle tip to needle tip. Mine curve.

I shouldn't have a loop parallel to my needles when I'm using circs, right? Having to stop to push down every couple stitches is already an inconvenience. Avoiding getting tangled with that coil is testing my patience.

What you see in the photo is my second attempt. I frogged what looked like a mistake in one of the first rows. With the needles bare, I decided to give them a soak to straighten out the cable. No luck. I started again and knitted what's in the picture. As I understand it, one of the benefits of circs is that they take the weight off your wrists. So far it's been harder on mine than straights.

I returned to the ribbed hat and made one more attempt to salvage it. I could now see that I missed two stitches when I reinserted the needle. I was extremely careful in frogging and reinserting, yet I got the job done faster than I did the first time. I knitted two rows and felt pretty good about what I had done.

The punchline is that knitted at least one of those rows, if not both, with one US 6 and one US 4. You're crazy if you think I'm going to undo those rows. For now the plan is to keep going. It isn't going to make that much of a difference, is it? The last thing I want to do is frog it again.

I've come a long way since I started, and I have a lot to learn. Thanks for stopping by to read and comment during these first hundred posts. There are sure to be plenty more crazy adventures and stupid mistakes to come.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Color swap shopping

Light snow fell again this morning and afternoon, but I braved the streets to do my shopping for the favorite color swap. Luckily there wasn't any ice on my car. I've tried to buy a new ice scraper but can't find one. A gas station manager told me they'd get July. It's the same problem shopping for warmer clothing. Retailers consider thermal underwear out of season now, but I can buy all the shorts I want.

The weather wasn't creating dangerous conditions, but you'd never know it by the way people were driving. Today's precipitation is no different from rain, yet you'd think we're in the midst of a record blizzard. I'm all for being careful behind the wheel, but the overly cautious drivers here are actually making things worse by poking along.

I didn't want to get my secret pal the same old stuff she could get at JoAnn's or Hobby Lobby, so I went to a local yarn shop to make my purchases. I also figured I'd have better luck finding her favorite colors, which are more specific than I would have liked. Way back when I grumbled about one of my brothers not being descriptive enough in naming a favorite color. In this case I'm searching for colors that are described with too precisely.

Raspberry pink is one of her colors. I roamed the store with it and the two other colors in mind. There's a lot of room for interpretation in her colors, so I compared several yarns that approximated what I perceived them to be. Labels were no help since most listed numbers for the colors. After settling on two yarns, I asked a clerk for a second opinion. She got the store's resident color person.

She didn't think one of my picks matched the requested color. This color expert found two examples that she thought were closer to it. One was too scratchy, in my opinion, so I went with the other after failing to find anything similar in the store. I asked for confirmation on my raspberry pink pick. Again, she disagreed. She showed me something that I would describe as brick red. That seemed completely wrong to me, so I stuck to my guns despite the clerk describing my choice as hot pink. Hardly. Wikipedia's pink entry wouldn't have been much help in my shopping, but it would have supported my assertion in this matter.

These ladies didn't understand what the favorite color swap was all about. What is the yarn for? What do I get, and what will I do with it? I don't know the person I'm sending to or who's sending to me? What is this "internet" I speak of? (OK, I made up the last one. They didn't ask that.)

I found the third color and felt satisfied, if not 100% certain, with my selections. Two of the yarns have good yardage, so they should be useful. I'm afraid that the other one doesn't have as much, but $20 only goes so far. I'd post a picture or name the other colors except for the off chance that my pal drops in here and has the surprise ruined.

Even if I had to rack my brain trying to nail these colors, it's been an enjoyable experience so far. I'd like to include a couple other things--a mix CD, a coffee cup cozy, and some chocolate--before shipping the package. I've read my pal's blogs and exchanged a few e-mails with her, so I think I have a good enough sense of what she'll like.

Hopefully my secret pal can say the same despite my answers.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Circular thinking

For starters, items in need of clarification brought to my attention...

Yesterday when I wrote "I guess that beats being turned into a sad bastard in someone's creative writing assignment," I was referring to how my coffee shop observer saw me, not how I view myself (at least not most of the time). She didn't use those exact words, but I was definitely being written as a pathetic character. I was also making a a context-free reference to "sad bastard music", which is how Jack Black's High Fidelity character described Belle & Sebastian's "Seymour Stein" playing in the record store. I like to drop allusions like that in my writing from time to time. Anybody besides (presumably) Noel and Donna pick up on the title of yesterday's post? (The kicker is I've never heard that album.)

As for my second ribbed hat, the problem was having an extra stitch in the middle of a row. I found out that knitting two together in the middle of a pattern leads to more serious problems instead of fixing it. I've not done anything with the hat since. This weekend I'll take a final stab at saving it rather than rip it all out. There's something that would make me sad.

I'm still going forward with my plans to move. The delay is finding the time to get my apartment packed so that I can then approach my landlord about the possibility of breaking the lease. I've identified two places where I'd like to live. Hopefully one will have an opening when I'm ready. And yes, my neighbors are dreadful. It's bad when you can't feel comfortable at home. I appreciate the sympathy.

All right, does that clear up everything?

I've been feeling the itch to knit something with circular needles for the first time. I popped in the Knitting Made Easy CD-ROM and thought I understood what I needed to do. Kristin's Jazzy Coffee Cup Cozy seemed to be an appropriate first project for knitting in the round. After casting on the stitches, I was confused. What do I do next? How am I supposed to get all of these stitches around this long cable? And how do I keep the cable from curling up a couple times?

I knitted a row but didn't do it properly. I reexamined the instructions for knitting on circular needles. Before I cast on again I tried to stretch out the curves in the cable. I hadn't eliminated the loops, but I thought I might be able to get something done with them. I cast on again. I remained confused, not to mention aggravated with the cable still curling up. I put my right foot in the middle of the cable--I also tried my knee--in an attempt to get the semblance of a gentle half loop from needle tip to needle tip. That wasn't working.

It also dawned on me that the cable was much too long. Time to check with Kristin. Turns out the cozy has to be knitted with two pairs of circular needles, something which she thought was too advanced for me at this time. Agreed. She also told me that running warm water over the cable can soften it up for shaping it into something usable. I have a lot to learn.

Kristin suggested a baby blanket for my first experience with circs. She sent me the pattern link and answered my other questions, so hopefully I'm all set if I want to begin it this weekend. Whether I do or not, I have plenty to keep me busy. I'd like to finish Jennifer's scarf and, if I can save it, my second ribbed hat.

Tomorrow brings the last basketball game of the season for work, meaning weekends should open up for apartment packing and more knitting. Sounds like a good thing to me.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Dig me out

For the price of a turned ankle and a broken ice scraper, I was able to get around town yesterday. I still insist that we didn't get that much snow. The freezing rain and sleet that followed it were the problems.

My biggest obstacle was getting my car out of its parking space. My neighbors have become more brazen in ignoring my right to a parking spot at the building, so I've been leaving my car in the municipal lot a short walk away. I thought this might work to my benefit with the bad weather. My street wouldn't be cleared, and if my neighbors can't be bothered to carry their trash twenty feet to the curb, they surely won't shovel our parking area.

Unfortuantely, whoever cleared the parking lot was good enough to pile a bunch of snow up to the bumper of my car. To top that, while I was cleaning my car a city official told me not to park it there that night because they were going to be clearing the lot. So if I can't park it at home or on the street, what options do I have?

After plenty of window scraping, a workout that resulted in the scraper snapping, I floored the gas in an attempt to get over the snow hump behind my car. I made slow, incremental progress, but it wasn't until some people came along to give me a push that I made it out.

Miraculously, I arrived at the screening of a local Bollywood screenwriter's film in time. Since schools and some businesses were closed, traffic was light. The major roadways were as clear as could be, so it was smooth sailing to downtown Columbus. After the movie I made the short drive to the arena to get a ticket for the hockey game.

Cheap seat in hand, I got something to eat and dropped into the coffee shop next to the arena for some pre-game knitting. The seats in this Starbucks were practically on top of one another, but I found one with a little room to maneuver. I felt more on display here than I have at other places, and before long it was pretty apparent that a deaf couple was staring at me while I knitted. I guess that beats being turned into a sad bastard in someone's creative writing assignment.

Upon reaching my seat in the arena I started knitting again. Space is at a premium, so I knew my time would be limited to however long the seats next to me remained unoccupied. It turned out not to matter. I couldn't find an effective way of holding onto my knitting and pulling yarn from two skeins, so after completing a row I packed it up again.

The game was sort of dull, a matter not helped by the sparse, listless crowd. (The cold and feared driving conditions were probably more responsible for the downturn in attendance than Valentine's Day.) Everybody spread out in my section, so I had plenty of room to knit. I was feeling sluggish and content to watch whatever was in front of me.

My instinct regarding the goings-on at home last night were confirmed when I heard someone tear out of the apartment beside me and stand nattering in the stairwell that she could feel the cold from there. Brilliant observation. Oh yeah, she was high as a kite.

Thanks for the suggestions on how I might save myself from frogging the entire hat. I'll have to buy some smaller needles for the salvage job. It was so disspiriting to have that happen that I've avoided it since leaving it in shambles. The scarf was rescued, though.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Valentine's Day massacre

First of all, happy Valentine's Day.

I'm nursing a broken heart over the frogged mess you see above. Work closed early yesterday due to the snow and ice and remained closed today. I've been using this extra time to knit another ribbed hat, mostly because I can't do much else while cooped up in my apartment. A day off for my student neighbors has meant lots of swearing and stomping accompanying the playing of a video game in the apartment below me and lots of smoking of something rank in the one beside me. So concentration isn't easy to come by.

I had about six inches finished when I noticed that I had an extra stitch. I thought that knitting two together would solve the problem easier than undoing countless stitches.


After a few rows I could see that the ribs were shifting. This was not good. The only thing to do was use caution in removing all the stitches from the needle and ripping out back to the trouble spot. I don't really have to tell you that it's been one failure after another, do I?

I've attempted putting some stitches back on the needle, but I have no idea if they're facing the right direction or if I have all of them. I'm deeply worried that there's no other choice but to frog it all. We're talking hours of work down the drain, and it makes me want to curl up and go back to bed. I'd been hoping to get the hat finished today. As it stands, I may have nothing done by the end of the day.

Plus, Jennifer's scarf with the two dropped stitches has been sitting there awaiting my attention. Since it only has 24 stitches, I thought I might as well see if I could fix it. Honestly, I expected I was going to rip it all out too.

I tried picking up the stitches, but that was a futile effort. It didn't look right at all. Off came the stitches, and the frogging began. I worked back to a good stopping point and tried a last ditch effort to save this project. I grabbed a US 7 and slid the stitches one at a time onto it and then transferred them to the 10s. It looked like it worked. I knitted a few rows, and yes, I believe I fixed it. I would have rather salvaged my work on the hat, which amounts to a lot more lost time, but at least one project survived.

This photo of campus yesterday morning should give you an idea of what it looks like here. I don't think we got that much snow, but the sleet and ice last night worsened the conditions. Assuming it's not too bad, I'm going to escape my apartment to see a screening of a Bollywood film written by a professor where I work. Then I'm going to pop over to the waiting line for the Blue Jackets cheap seats. I have a feeling it's going to be loud and rambunctious around home today, so I might as well be in a place where I don't mind the noise.

Again, have a great Valentine's Day.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

To Arkansas, With Love

Ribbed scarf

Yarn: Knit Picks Panache (40% baby alpaca, 20% cashmere, 20% silk, 20% extrafine merino; bulky)
Color: Dusk
Needles: US 10s
Stitches: 24

My southbound package arrived in Arkansas yesterday, so now I can show you the last two scarves I knitted. Out of everything I've made, the ribbed scarf for Donna has to be one of my favorites. Disregarding some early misfires and excessive froggings, my first time ribbing turned out pretty well. And the yarn is heavenly. I picked it for the color, yet the wonderful softness is what makes it a great choice.

Donna also sent me this stylish, color coordinated photo taken in her office today. I couldn't be more pleased with the thanks she and Noel have expressed.

Yarn: Knit Picks Andean Silk (55% superfine alpaca, 23% silk, 22% merino wool; worsted weight double wrapped)
Color: Lettuce
Needles: US 11s
Stitches: 14

The scarf I made for Donna's husband Noel is the same as FO #13, with the obvious exception of the color. A piece of advice: you're going to want to wrap this around your neck twice once it stretches. That's been part of my ongoing education. Things in garter stitch stretch. Imagine that.

When I told Donna about this blog, I had no expectations that it would lead her to take up knitting too. Now she's whipping through projects in no time. (She just finished a felted scarf for her daughter.) And she taught herself. I'm very impressed.

More than that, I'm touched that what I've written inspired her. (Her friend Jenn made a similar comment to a recent post, kind words for which I am very grateful.) The inspiration I've felt--in my writing and my day-to-day life--has been the most exciting and unexpected aspect of learning to knit. That others get something from my excitement makes my heart feel like it will burst.

I respect and admire Donna, and I feel lucky to have been able to get to know her better in recent months. (Let's not forget Noel, who is a great guy and excellent writer in his own right.) It's been a real joy. The scarves are my way of expressing thanks for the friendship. May they keep you warm.

Monday, February 12, 2007

The calm before the storm

Currently there's no need to batten down the hatches for the winter storm that TV news is anticipating like some white plague from above. If the local weather forecasters' bluster is to be believed, I'll need to tunnel out of my apartment tomorrow. OK, so I'm exaggerating for effect, but I think the reporting of Tuesday's expected storm is out of control. There were crawls warning of it during last night's prime time programming. At 12:57 this afternoon one of the students at work wondered aloud if classes would be held tomorrow. Keep in mind that nothing has fallen yet, and I'm writing this eight and half hours later.

For no particular reason other than I haven't done it in forever, I made some chocolate chip cookies this evening. And that's all I have to say about that.

The scarves for Donna and Noel arrived in Arkansas today, so I should have pictures to share soon. Donna said she was going to wear hers during class tonight. What a wonderful compliment. Reading that made my day.

Of course, she must have good taste if she's showing that most excellent Wong Kar-wai film 2046, his follow-up to the swoon-worthy In the Mood for Love, in class. They're gorgeous heartaches of films, although those unschooled in Hong Kong mood pieces might not be so smitten.

There's been no knitting today. I'm still shying away from trying to fix Jennifer's scarf, and I haven't sorted out what I'm going to do next. I am far behind on my TV watching. (Yeah, I know that sounds absurd.) I have a few shows on the DVR that are fine for knitting--in other words, I don't have to look up that much to follow the action--so I think I might start another hat while tearing through some of those.

If you're my Favorite Color Swap 2 secret pal, hopefully you've made some sense of my answers. Having never done one of these before, I'm not sure what I should expect or how I should help you. Pity the poor soul who got me as her secret pal. I had to look up one of her colors to know what it was. Knitting has been an education in fabrics and colors, that's for sure.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

All-Time Favorite Slippers

All-Time Favorite Slippers

Yarn: Lion Brand Wool-Ease (80% acrylic, 20% wool; worsted weight double wrapped)
Color: Grey Heather
Needles: US 10s
Stitches: 28

If you haven't read yesterday's entry, I suggest reading it before taking a look at this post. It's an amusing story, so it's worth your while.

Apparently it doesn't take very long to knit a pair of slippers. I finished knitting the second slipper last night but waited until after church this morning to do any finishing. Best to be awake for such critical work.

The seaming went fine. I did a slightly better job on the one I made yesterday, which is worn on my right foot in these photos.

That said, the woven-in end for the top seam on that first slipper likes to make itself visible.

I have to wear socks to keep them on my feet. Otherwise the heel falls off. They're quite comfortable and warm, and I expect to get a lot of use out of them. I'm used to purchasing yarn for scarves, so I bought way more than I needed. I could probably make six more, but rather than add the two extra skeins to my stash, I'm leaning toward returning it.

The slipper pattern comes from Simple Knits for Sophisticated Living: Quick-Knit Projects from Beautiful, Chunky Yarns by Barbara Albright. Thanks to Kristin for suggesting this project. I may have to make these as gifts.

I didn't dare attempt to fix the dropped stitches in Jennifer's scarf. I admit that I'm afraid to mess with it out of expectations that I'll create a raft of other problems. I'm not superstitious, but considering the number of mishaps that have occurred on Sundays, maybe it's wise to leave it alone until tomorrow.

Just like that I'm out of projects. Well, there is that big non-knitting project that I really want to complete and really don't want to start: cleaning and packing my apartment in anticipation of moving. I haven't had any time to make headway until this weekend. Can't say I got a lot done, but I accomplished something before sitting down to watch the Blue Jackets game.

I didn't intend to knit during it, but they went down a couple goals early. It didn't look to be a good afternoon for the boys in blue, so I started something I wanted to make to include with the package I sent to Arkansas. Now that I have ribbing down, it was time for my third crack at the coffee cup cozy.

Kristin's Jazzy Coffee Cup Cozy

Yarn: Bernat Satin (100% acrylic; worsted weight)
Color: Admiral
Needles: US 7s
Stitches: 50

I started and finished this handy little item during the game. For the sake of comparison, examine my first attempt and second attempt. My next time knitting this may have to be on circular needles.

When getting yarn for the slippers I picked up some more for another ribbed hat. Now that my seaming isn't as atrocious, I'd like to see what I can do. There was also a pattern for mittens in the binder Kristin gave me. Am I feeling up to that challenge? A baby blanket might be good. Of course, I have all this yarn for dishcloths just waiting to be used. Here's one area where having too many choices is a nice problem to have.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

A slippery slope

Last weekend I made something warm for my head, so this weekend I'm making something warm for my feet: slippers. I was excited to attempt to knit something new. The pattern looked straightforward. It also appeared to be a relatively fast knit, even when keeping in mind that I have to make two of the objects.

I made excellent progress after an early evening nap last night. (I was wiped out after this week. I can't believe how fast it went.) I knitted some more this morning and then decided it was time for my first KIP in a week. I ventured to the Starbucks where I had knitted the last two times, but it was jammed. I decided against settling in at this location, primarily because seats were few and far between. I wanted a comfortable chair and a little room to spread out. I wasn't going to get it there.

Never fear. Starbucks are every couple feet, so I went to another nearby for my afternoon knitting. I had my pick of the place since no other customers were there when I arrived. I took my spot in a plush chair, set my messenger bag on the floor and my coffee and pattern binder on the little table, and went to work on the slipper. I only had a few rows to knit to finish my first slipper, so just like that one was done and in need of seaming.

Since sewing the hat's seam didn't go so well, I chose against seaming the slipper at the coffee shop. I wanted to watch the instructions on the Knitting Made Easy CD-ROM Kristin gave me and see if I could do better. Rather than start the next slipper, I turned to Jennifer's ribbed scarf.

During this time a young lady sat in the chair directly across from me. In my other public knitting experiences people have selected seats not as close, so this was a bit surprising. It was the best remaining chair, so it made sense why she'd take it. She removed her boots and curled up in the chair as she typed on her laptop.

I knitted the scarf for a long time, stopping occasionally to drink my chai tea latte and rub the drowsiness from my eyes. I had probably been there for an hour and a half when trouble befell my knitting. The right needle got snagged in my sweater's sleeve. While I shook it out, two stitches were dropped. This problem has been the kiss of death for me. I will not frog what I've done to correct this mistake, or at least I won't do it intentionally. (There's too much already knitted to rip it all out. Plus, I need to learn how to make this repair.) I knew the scarf was finished for the time being, so I put it away.

I wasn't ready to go, so I cast on the stitches for the next slipper. While I was doing this, the young woman got up to go to the bathroom and set her laptop on the small table between us. The screen was facing me, and yes, I looked at what she was writing.

There was no mistaking that it was about me. I didn't read it word for word, partially because it was just far enough that I had to strain to read it since I wasn't leaning forward and partially because I didn't want to be caught in the act. She had described my messenger bag, the binder I had sitting out, the slipper I was knitting when she first sat down, and my sigh when I obviously made a mistake on the scarf. She must know a little about knitting because I saw the word "purl", and she had observed that the flat, folded object was intended to be a slipper.

It certainly didn't seem like an accident that the laptop had been positioned in a way that allowed me to read what she had written. Before you start thinking this is some cute flirtation and that knitting brought love to the secret knitter (in time for Valentine's Day, no less), let me point out that I'm guessing she is seventeen years old. I can be bad at estimating ages, but I'd bet she is in high school, maybe a first or second year of college. I'm extremely flattered if I was supposed to be impressed or take that as a cue, but last I checked, life is not a Winger song. And if you must know, yes, she was attractive.

While I didn't read every word in the few paragraphs on her computer screen, I got the gist of it. Best I can tell, she was building a story around what I was doing. Her assumption was that the slippers were going to be a Valentine's Day gift. I saw the words "mangled slippers", but I'm not sure if that was in reference to what she thought of my knitting or if that's what I was replacing by making these. Let's hope it was the latter.

She came back to her seat and didn't say anything. Neither did I. Maybe this was a missed opportunity, but it's much more likely that I saved myself from providing a doozy of an ending to a high school creative writing assignment or blog post. That she got a call from her mother asking where she was lends further support to my assumption about her age.

At home I watched several sections of the knitting CD-ROM and looked at online instructions regarding seams. I learned that I have not been weaving in the ends properly. That doesn't surprise me. Ascertaining the best way to sew the seams was less enlightening. None of the tips appeared to address my situation. I tried my best and took my time. You know what? I think it turned out pretty well.

I'm not sure if it fits properly. Per the instructions I sewed the seam to the halfway point of the slipper length, but it seems like too much of my foot is exposed. The heel feels like it is going to slip off. That said, I'm happy with the job I did. One more to go.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Favorite Color Swap 2 answers

Good luck to my swap partner figuring out what to get. As I filled this out, I realized I'm no help at all.

1. What are your top three favorite colors?

Green, red, and blue. And no, I didn't pick them because they're the three colors in component video.

2. What crafts do you really enjoy?


3. What products do you really covet?

A high-definition television, but don't worry, I'm not expecting that. (I would be freaked out if one did arrive, so you're off the hook.) I'm still relatively new to all this, so I'm not sure how to answer. My readers are concerned that my stash is not large enough, so yarn is always good.

4. What other activities do you enjoy besides your favorite crafty things?

Going to the movies, listening to music, reading, playing and watching sports, and writing.

5. Is there anything you collect?

Nothing comes to mind. I have a lot of CDs and DVDs, but I don't know that they satisfy the question's intent.

6. What is your zodiac sign and/or Chinese zodiac symbol?

Virgo and (I had to look this up) Ox.

7.What are your favorite…


Can't say I've thought much about this. Vanilla, sandalwood, and lavender. There are some answers.

…types of music and/or bands?

And here I could go on at length. I'm partial to what at one point was called modern rock/alternative rock, terms which are mostly useless these days. I also like and Britpop (think along the lines of Blur, Oasis, and the like, not all those prefab groups). Naming artists/bands is probably easier.

The Beatles, Belle & Sebastian, Neko Case, Johnny Cash, Fountains of Wayne, Guided by Voices, Radiohead, R.E.M., The Rolling Stones, Sufjan Stevens, U2, The Who, Wilco, and Kelly Willis to name a few.


I like "the classics", so Jane Austen, John Steinbeck, and Ernest Hemingway would be on that list. Of contemporary authors, Douglas Coupland, Nick Hornby, Jhumpa Lahiri, Michael Chabon, and Dave Eggers immediately spring to mind.


I don't know. I like dogs. I don't have one, though.

…places to shop?

Again, I'm no help. Target and Best Buy are where I go most often other than the grocery store. (Sorry independent record store owners. Your prices are often too high, as are your self-important attitudes.)


Easy. Fall.

…yarn/fabric/paper/other craft supplies?

Again, i don't think I've been doing this long enough to give a proper answer. I have liked the feel of Dark Horse Yarns, and Knit Picks has treated me well so far.

…candies or goodies?

Chocolate's good. I've probably eaten dark chocolate more than milk in recent months, but I won't turn down either.

8. Do you have any wish lists?

My Wish List

9. Are you allergic to anything?

Nothing that should matter for this. Please don't send a box full of pollen, though.

10. Do you have any pets? What are they?

I don't have any pets.

11. Please include anything else you would like your secret pal to know about you- anything that would be helpful in finding you little gifts that you will really enjoy.

I work in television and am a film critic. No, you've probably never heard of me.

Feel free to ask any questions. I'll even throw that open to the rest of you. Sorry to be so difficult.

Thursday, February 08, 2007


I put the finishing touches on Donna's scarf last night, and then I put some more finishing touches on. I had some struggles adding the fringe, but I had it where I was happy enough. And then I got the scissors.

For Kristin's scarf and the first striped scarf (FO #11), my method for cutting the fringe to a common length was to pull all of the yarn together and make one big cut. That worked fine in those instances but not this time. Some was trimmed exceptionally short. I tried to even them up again, which only made matters worse. I probably used half of a ball cutting the yarn for the fringe, so I didn't have much spare yarn left. I had enough to replace the shortest pieces, gave it all another clip, and grimaced at the result.

It ruins what is otherwise a beautiful scarf that is wonderful to the touch. I told Donna that I'll include the label with the dye lot number if she has her heart set on a fringe. So the fringe is being removed tonight before it and its companion are placed in a box and sent south.

I was almost talked into posting photos now, but I've reverted to my original stance and will wait until Donna and Noel receive them. The only pictures I've taken have the fringe, and I'm not publishing those. The lighting in my apartment is atrocious, especially at night, so there's no use taking any now. With any luck and typical postal service performance, I should be able to show you on Monday.

Donna, don't laugh if the package has insurance on it. There were fears that the striped scarf I sent to Seattle was lost in the mail. To my relief it surfaced a day later.

Speaking of unwarranted scares... Today I picked up my reserved copy of Stitch 'n Bitch Nation at the library. Amusing anecdote #1 (but not scary): I was driving the station's van, which is adorned with far too many logos, when I reached the pick-up window. I gave the clerk my card. When he returned with the book he started asking me about the TV station and mentioned that he saw a movie review show on there a lot. I said, "Yeah, that guy's a real jerk" and laughed. I just assumed he recognized me--it happens regularly--but since I was wearing my hat, it occurred to me after the fact that perhaps he didn't. You can't put a price on being your own unwitting smear machine.

Amusing anecdote #2 (the unwarranted scary one): I was flipping through the book and stopped in the section that shows how to cast on, knit, purl, and the like. Since I knew how to do that stuff, I was curious if the written instructions would make more sense to me than before. I was reading the directions for the knit stitch and froze. It said to wrap the yarn counterclockwise.

Hold on a second. I don't wrap counterclockwise, do I? I envisioned what I do. Oh. No. Have I been knitting backwards all this time?

Slightly panicked, I asked Kristin for confirmation that I wasn't wrapping incorrectly. After tonight's screening of The Astronaut Farmer she showed me that I had nothing to fear. I've been doing it properly. I still don't quite see it, but I trust her. How in the world does anyone learn to knit from books? This is further evidence that print instructions are hopelessly confusing, at least to me.

You'll be glad to know that the toque and I have bonded in spite of its character-building seam scar. I've worn it every day to fight off this week's brutal cold, and I've even kept it on some at home. I was outside briefly without it on and soon found out how warm it has kept me. Thus this saga reaches its happy ending.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007


I received my secret pal's information for Favorite Color Swap 2 today. Since this is supposed to be secret until my person receives her package, I signed up for yet another e-mail address. All of my addresses have enough identifying information that they wouldn't exactly make me secret. I'm looking forward to this experience, but the last thing I needed was to keep track of another e-mail account. That baby's going dark once I can reveal myself to my secret pal.

I also need to fill out the swap questionnaire. I may post my answers here since it seems like a lot of work, and I feel like my brain is turning to mush. Might as well get a blog post out of it too.

Scatterbrained is a good word for today and yesterday. On Tuesday I nearly had a heart attack when I opened my wallet and noted the absence of my debit card. That morning I had withdrawn cash from the ATM. I remembered telling myself to make sure I retrieved my card before driving away. You may recall that I left it behind for the bank machine to munch less than a month ago. I was certain I hadn't done it again, but it wasn't in my wallet or my coat or pants pockets.

As luck would have it, I hadn't lost it again. I had set it on the car's passenger seat and knocked it underneath when taking some things out. Disaster averted.

I've been working a lot these past couple weeks, so I took off a couple hours early this afternoon to get my laundry done. Today I accomplished a first: I washed and dried my wallet in my pants. That's right, I literally laundered money. *rim shot* As far as I know, nothing was ruined, so there's a minor victory.

I was knitting in front of the computer while my wallet was in the spin cycle and wasn't paying close enough attention to what I was doing. I've started another ribbed scarf. (This one is for Jennifer, a loyal reader from the beginning and someone who doesn't knit enough for herself.) Earlier in the row I purled three consecutive stitches, so I began to work back to the spot in need of a fix. With the above tales of distraction, can you guess what's coming? Yep, I ended up dropping a stitch en route to the repair.

Rather than frog it all, I thought I'd see if I could rip out a couple rows and reinsert the needle. What did I have to lose? I thought my attempt was successful until I realized I missed two stitches. I went back and picked them up. That said, I've decided to start over again. It's not that much, and I wasn't happy with the tightness of some stitches.

I hear your calls for photos of Donna's scarf. I still need to weave in the ends and add the fringe, but I'm going to do that once I'm done with this entry. Since Donna has granted permission, I'll take some pictures in the morning and get one posted on Thursday. Perhaps I should still keep the scarf for her husband unseen on this site until it completes its trip through the postal system?

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Cold logic

The temperature here has approached zero degrees and -20 wind chill, or so I've heard. I've been bundled up enough that the cold hasn't seemed too bad, and I've had the good sense to stay indoors. Snow began falling this afternoon and continues at this late hour. (I took the photograph on campus shortly before 5:00 p.m.) While most of the snowfall hasn't been wet or heavy, it still made for plenty of traffic nightmares.

I decided that I ought to leave early to allow for the inevitable delays in getting to the night's screening of Norbit. Kristin was thinking along the same line--that is, if she wasn't thinking that it would be best not to go--so I offered to drive to her home and save us both the trouble of driving to the theater. What would ordinarily take fifteen to twenty minutes at an off peak time and maybe a 30-minute drive during the evening rush hour became a 50-minute trip. It took me a half hour to get from my apartment to the outerbelt, something that takes five minutes in the middle of the day.

Wiser people might have looked at the situation and determined that it would be foolish to go to the screening. After all, we're talking about Norbit. Keep in mind, though, that we pulled a one-two evening screening punch of Gridiron Gang and Crank on the day I had a root canal retreated and a day or two before she and her husband were leaving for Malaysia. She probably had packing to do, and I had a recurring headache that the painkillers weren't handling as well as I would have liked. Never let it be said that critics don't suffer for their work sometimes.

If I may speak for my fellow critics, we were approaching the film with dread regardless of how treacherous the roads might be. I didn't think the roads were bad; there were just too many cars on them. There was a greater chance of witnessing a bigger wreck by seeing Norbit than navigating the roadways.

Kristin graciously offered to drive, which was probably a good idea since her vehicle is better suited to the wintry conditions than my car. The drive was slow but steady, and we arrived with plenty of time to spare. Unfortunately, our prize was seeing Norbit, a comedy so bad that we might have wished we had slid off the road and into a ditch en route to the screening. If this doesn't kill cinema, nothing will. So the trip was totally worth the risk.

I know that I've couched my opinion in strong terms, so please don't be offended if you are interested in seeing it or see it and like it. I've observed that some people take negative reviews as personal attacks on audience members who like what the critic hated. As far as I'm concerned, everyone's entitled to their own tastes. Most assuredly, Norbit does not satisfy mine. I hope I don't see a worse film this year. I realize, though, that the film works perfectly well for others, such as a good portion of the people who were in tonight's audience.

The drive back was a little hairier, usually because of drivers going excessively slow and disrupting the methodical flow of traffic. One can be too careful. It took about forty minutes to get back to Kristin's and another thirty minutes for me to get home. The roads weren't pristine, but I've driven in much worse. Sure, it might have been smarter to sit out that night's screening, but I got a blog entry out of it and a jump on writing my blistering pan of the Eddie Murphy film.

In knitting news, I am done knitting Donna's scarf. All I need to do is weave in the ends and add a fringe. Hopefully she'll have it by the weekend.

As for the hat's unsightly seam, I'm coping with it. Thanks for the suggestions as to how I can make less of a mess next time, and thanks for your kind words about the hat. I never get tired of that. :)