Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Why You May Want to Move to Tucson

My facebook and twitter status last night was:
Jennie is sunburnt. In December. From writing and drinking chai. Really? A-yup. Really.
That it's beautiful enough here to sit outside is a blessing, though remind me how much I enjoyed this when I have skin cancer in ten years.

If anyone can recommend a good, light daily moisturizer with sunblock.... :) And a way to remember to use it.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Holidays

I'll be candid - I'm sort of a grinch. Actually, that's an exaggeration, but I'm just not that big on the holidays. My husband and I don't really like spending time with my in-laws. I'm a vegetarian, so I don't eat a lot of our families' traditional foods. I don't even really like getting gifts, especially since most of what I get in recent years is stuff someone thinks I might like and actually don't. On a rational level, I know it's the thought that counts, but that doesn't make me appreciate the 36" dancing Jazz Santa or the solar-powered address light (when we lived in an apartment even) any more.

I also still resent how parts of our family fought over how much time we spent with who, etc. when we first married. What little is left that I like - good carols, baking - my husband is either sick of or shouldn't have. (Extra 50 lbs anyone?) So, despite how much I'd like to get excited tonight, I still feel like: holidays = hassle.

That said, I'm hoping all of you are having a great night - especially those with kids. And I'm hoping that maybe, just maybe, this year will be different.
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Weekend Wonder #19 - WIP Slinky Gray Sweater

Hello again! This Weekend Wonder is a sweater that's been on-again-off-again in my life and is now in its third iteration. Originally, I bought the yarn - a soy blend - on clearance to use to make the Five O'Clock Tank from Crochet Me. Alas, I have neither the right hooks nor the patience for that particular pattern right now, and after my problems with the Strapless Corset from Sensual Crochet (three completed tops, three of which didn't fit) I decided to free form the tops with stitches I knew I could do with my current hooks.

After I started it, though, I lost interest, but an idea for a different type of sleeveless sweater, a drapy thing, kept dancing through my brain, so I began this:

Okay, I know it doesn't look like much yet, but it's only the neckline and a few inches of the front and back! It's getting there. The idea is a balletneck yoke in half-double crochet with the body made of alternating double crochets and double crochet clusters. It's more complex than that - the front involves a mitering effect - but it's also free form, meaning I'm still making it up as I go, trying it on every couple rows and doing a two-steps-forward-one-step-back dance of experimentation. But I'm enjoying it, and it's making a fun fabric, I've got to say.

If it turns out really well, I'll have an excuse to go buy more similar yarn - I'm enjoying the feel of it! - and I'll write out and test a pattern, but that's still a long way off.

Before I go, one more little present. My favorite distraction, chomping away on his Kong. This is Luke. Luke, Blog. Blog, Luke.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

D-O-N-E and WIP

Well, I'm writing this post in advance, but by the time you read it, I will be done with my first semester of my MFA. I imagine that it'll feel both like a big load off my mind and also a bit daunting. I have a lot I want to get done over break - a new writing project to start, books to read, family to see - but it'll still be nice to have a change of pace. And school doesn't resume until the week of January 12th(!). Still, that won't be enough time to read the 25+ books I just added to my goodreads wishlist. Yikes!

The WIP I want to share today is my circle rug, which is currently about 20% done (as of Saturday). The great thing about a project like this is you can take it anywhere - you just need a skein, a pair of crochet hooks, and a pair of scissors (unless you're better than me and can tear yarn). I'm making it out of a softer thinner yarn than called for, so I modified the circle pattern (added a repeat I think) and changed hook sizes. My goal is to finish this and make it a holiday present to myself and my roommate. It's going to be our bathroom rug.

Next time - the sweater!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Weekend Wonder #18 - WIPs

This Weekend Wonder is that I have, yes, actually been crafting. I've got a potluck to get ready for and a couple days of work on a take home exam ahead, but I wanted to take a quick break to share some of my current projects, even though these are all just WIP photos - progress, but not pretty.

First up, today, are two smaller projects I've been working on at bed time and will, with any luck, wrap up this week. One is a small bag based on the Tube Bag pattern from Uncommon Crochet, a book I really like and am going to take the time to finish reading, cover-to-cover, this holiday break, because it is that kind of book. Neat patterns, yes, very(!), but it also deserves attention to the design principles and ideas the author is putting forward.

Any blog followers may recognize this yarn as the lovely stuff I used to make the Boy Chicago Scarf earlier this year. I had a smaller-than-my-fist amount left over when I finished, so I decided to use it for this little experiment. As much as I love the stitch definition, I am planning to felt it and then play with strap or flap design from there.

The second is an even simpler project - a too-be-felted rectangle that will become a hook book, a la Lion Brand Yarn's pattern. I took a photo, but to be honest it didn't really say much. Look at me - I'm a variegated rectangle! I'll take a better shot before felting and share it with the FO.

Next update, my WIP Circle Rug, which you can see a preview of in the corner of a photo above, and after that, my sweater prototype.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

So - very - close - to - done

I'm almost done with the semester and very, very excited. It's hard to believe I'm a quarter of the way done with my MFA already. I'm afraid crochet has been backburnered (Linguist? Is that a word?) in favor of papers and such, but I've brought some with me today and will be enjoying our wintery day by sitting outside and crocheting either circles for the rug or the top I'm doing freeform. I just finished my papers for my last class with two hours to spare and can't start on the last task of the year - a take home exam - until tonight. Sigh of lovely, lovely relief.

Last Friday I had a reading, did I mention that? I may post the piece here, but I may wait until I have a chance to workshop it. We'll see. In the meantime, hope all is going well for all of you...

Monday, December 1, 2008

The end of NaNovember and a return to our irregularly scheduled programming

Hello again! I apologize for the continuted radio silence in late November. For a little while there, I was behind on NaNoWriMo, and playing mad catch up, but then I just got caught up in the story. I ended up hitting something like 59K (for those who don't know, the challenge is to write 50K in a month), and I have three scenes remaining until the end. I'll admit I broke one of the primary NaNo rules this year. The idea is to start something from scratch, but I was already 53K into a novel, so I started from sort-of-scratch at the start of the second half. If you count the 1500 words I added to the first half during the course of the month, I'm over 114,000 words and expect I'll break 120,000.

Unfortunately, I've got papers and end of the year school work to knock out, as well as an essay to polish before my reading (eep!) this Friday. My goal will be to finish and give one good revision to the book before my husband arrives for the holidays. He's driving(!) from Buffalo here to Tucson, so his exact arrival isn't firm and won't be until he's on the road really.

In the meantime, I'll be continuing to work on (and trying to post about):
  • The Circle Bathroom Rug (Book: Crochet Me)
  • A felted hookbook (based on the Lion Brand Yarn website free pattern)
  • A felted bag (based on the Uncommon Crochet book's tube bag foundation)
  • Coasters I'm making... which will be for sale on Etsy, hopefully along with other items (more info soon I hope)
  • and a top I'm designing.
If the last one works out, I plan to put the pattern up for sale on Etsy as well. My goal in the next few weeks is to strike a good balance between schoolwork and crochet, as well as celebrating my big 3-0 later this week.

Wish me luck!

Monday, November 24, 2008

I'm still here!

I've been caught up in NaNoWriMo goodness lately, as well as schoolwork, but I am still here.
I've been crocheting on four different projects in my bus/waiting/down-time so there will be something new to report soon, with pictures, but in the meantime, I'm caught up on Nano and about to break the 40K word mark! W00t!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Weekend Wonder #17 - Preview

These little lovelies and some of their cousins will be on sale here in the coming weeks, along with other surprises! More pictures of Blueberries and Cream (above) and Bumble Bee (below) available from my Flickr page.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Best Laid Plans

Hello, all.
Today is Monday, November tenth, and in less than 36 hours I will be happily visiting Mr. Man in New York. Woot!
Well, now that we got that out of the way...
I will not be blogging while I'm in Buffalo, but I will be crocheting and writing (NaNoWriMo time again!). I've scheduled a special short Weekend Wonder to give you a preview of some things percolating in my mind and growing from my crochet hook of late.
Hope all is well, and to any Marines reading this - Happy Brithday!
Remember to thank a vet tomorrow!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Weekend Wonder #16 - Let's Call it a Poncho

Blog Readers, let me introduce you to this week's FO and Weekend Wonder - the Desert Poncho [Ravelry] from Kim Werker's "It's a Shawl and a Poncho" pattern in Teach Yourself to Crochet Visually. First of all, let me say this is a lovely and easy pattern I picked for what could have been the wrong two reasons. (1) Because I was frustrated that the yarn wasn't working for the Strapless Corset pattern (I shall not belabor or link to why, but you can search the blog if you want to), and therefore I was desperate for something simple that would use about the same amount of cotton yarn, and (2) because the girl in the picture looks good wearing it, I mean damn good, never mind that she's a gorgeous busty thing and I'm... not. Fortunately, I think it worked out well in spite of my poor reasoning*.

There are more pictures on Flickr (some of the same on Ravelry), including WIP shots and stitch details.

One detail of note: I think that there’s an error in the pattern or the book’s description of the stitch. If you look closely at the pictures in the book, I think 2 dc should be 3 dc. I did it with 2 even though it didn’t look right; I was 75% done by the time I really looked closely at said picture. It still drapes well and I would have run out of yarn if I’d done it with 3 dc, I'm not complaining, but if I were to make another one... Take that for what it’s worth.

I used almost the full six skeins (Bernat's Organic Cotton), alternating four rows of the main color (Hemp) with two of the variegated (Oasis). The leftover yarn I used to lace the shoulder (lace, like you lace a shoe), which you can see in the details on my Flickr stream. I'm wearing it tonight to go to a reading, so if it wears badly, I'll post that right away.

* I say poor reasoning because (1) I normally advocate for thinking things through, especially when desperate(!), and (2) because choosing to do a pattern based on how good it looks with someone else's body type is normally a surefire recipe for disaster.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Weekend Wonder #15 - Even-more-petite Petite Bijoux Bag

You may remember that a while back I made a petite "Petite Bijoux Bag" (from Sensual Crochet) with the last of the mossy green Bernat bamboo blend yarn left over after my semi-successful moebius shrug. Well, I had an even smaller amount of the colorways of the same yarn that I used for the Girl Chicago scarf: Linen and (light blue?).

Meanwhile, the Petite Petite has been serving as an apple cozy - though it's a little taller than necessary for that purpose. It's perfectly cushy for it though! Well, my housemate saw its cushy greenness hanging in the kitchen and gushed about how soft the material was. So, while she was away this last weekend, I made her a bag of her own.

There are two more pictures on Flickr; they better show the stitch definition and colorwork.

I followed the pattern from memory, roughly gauging how much yarn I had left as I went. When I went about as far up as I thought I could go with the white, I switched to the blue (which was a ball smaller in diameter than a silver dollar) for the double crochet row and the tie - which became two ties because I had enough yarn. I then went around once doing a slip stitch in blue just for contrast (and to use the last of it).

I had to modify the last round - the ripple - because I didn't have enough yarn for the stitch called for (and wasn't ripping back!). But I think it turned out great. You can see above that it's a little smaller than my best-yard-sale-find mug (50 cents!). It just fits a medium organic Gala apple, and she loves it. (An easy gift - this took less than two hours.)

Friday, October 31, 2008

Why this isn't a cooking blog

I've always liked the PieKnits blog because Jennifer occasionally intersperses yummy-sounding recipes with hunger-inducing pictures. That's not me though. I like to cook in the sense that I enjoy making a meal for myself, but not the whole following (or modifying) a recipe shtick.

No fancy Halloween treats here. I bought that lovely pre-made cookie dough - the break (apart) and bake kind - in chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin to make for a potluck. Despite the fact that the cookies are identical little cubes of dough with identical instructions, the O.R. (on the right in the picture) turned out radically different than the C.C.

But my housemate "loves burnt cookies" and gobbled them right up!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Retro Femme in better light

Hello again. I'm afraid this is just a quick note to let you know that there are improved pictures up on Flickr of my FO - the Retro Femme top from Sensual Crochet.

For instance:

I also wanted to narrow down what I said last time about how I wouldn't add the extra rows to the top. My reason is that the stitch used on the upper portion really opens up when you block/wear it. Obviously where you want more or less fabric is going to depend on your body, but for me, more on the lower portion - the shells - would have been better than on the top.

That said, the more I wore it that night and when I took these shots, the more I like it, and the compliments have all been flattering. Now if the temps would fall out of the 90s here, I could wear it!

If you poke around Flickr, you'll also get a little preview of some other things I've been working on, including WIP shots of the shawl/poncho. I may very well run out of yarn before it gets long enough to circle my wide shoulders, so it may end up being a "variation" on the pattern. :) We'll have to see! It's gotten too big to bring in my bag with my books most class days, so today I'm carrying yarn for coasters - great bus stop projects.

Have a good week!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Weekend Wonder #14 - Retro Femme

The Retro Femme top? What's that you say? I thought it was in the "maybe frog" pile and now it's an FO and Weekend Wonder?

Indeed my friends, it's true. The Retro Femme top from Sensual Crochet was on my frownie list because it turned out snugger than I expected once I closed the front (is worked top-down), but I decided to let it sit and see if it fit better if I lost some weight by the end of the year. We recently had a cold snap here in Tucson and I had my husband send me some winter clothes, including this WIP. I tried it on again - being ten pounds lighter than I was when I finished in May/June-ish. Lo and behold, it fits much better. It's still more snug than intended, but I decided to cut the yarn, weave in the ends, and wear it anyway.

First, the pics! (There are stitch detail and rear shots on Flickr.)

Lesson #1 - Swatch all stitches and/or try on more often. I wasn't aware that this was too snug until I reached the bottom because I didn't try it on again after doing the empire waist. I could have backed up a couple rows and added a few stitches to a top round if I'd realized sooner.
Lesson #2 - If you're doing this pattern and you are a tall woman like me and you're concerned about the uppermost section being too short, don't be. If you're bustier than me, maybe it'll be a problem, but I added two rows to the top and wish I hadn't. It would look more balanced - more like the book's pretty pictures! :) - if I hadn't.

This is done with Bernat's alpaca blend, which I enjoyed working. I wore it dancing - just like you see here - last week and it was really well received.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

If you win the lottery, sponsor an MFA student!

Sorry for the recent radio silence. It's been a busy-busy week for me. My workshop class had an extra meeting this week to make up for a previously canceled class, so I had double reading. I also had an essay due - one I really struggled with. This is the first day I've just been able to relax.

Add to all that a couple major financial snafus and you have my current state of mind. I knew - certainly - that going back to grad school would not be cheap, especially since we are operating two separate households. But when we made this decision in the spring, we expected the house to sell within six months. We didn't expect the collapse of the market, etc. It's been more than six months and we haven't even had someone come look in almost three months, despite dropping the price. Setting aside all of the other lovely costs of living, my husband and I are paying about $4000 a month for housing, which, as you can imagine, causes savings and loan moneys to evaporate. My mother said something encouraging to me, which is that things will hopefully turn around after the election, so we're thinking we'll give it another month and then drop the house price again.

So, what time I might spend composing blog posts, even just mentally, has been diverted to drafting essays and query letters to agents, editors, publishers - anyone who pays for words. I'm sending out two commercial pieces as well as a contest entry and half a dozen query letters about my novel in the next couple days. Think positive thoughts.

I'm crafting in the spare moments as I wait for the bus or for class to start. I'm about 65-70% done with the shawl, and I hope to finish it up in time to wear it to a friend's gig Sunday night. I just recently finished (for reals) the Retro Femme - post scheduled for Saturday! - and I'll try to take better pictures of the Retro Femme and the shawl when it's done. And then, I'll be picking up the Inspired-by-the-Five-O'clock-Tank-Dress-Tank again! I'm also hoping to get the supplies I need next week to crochet a bathroom rug for our house. It's getting to be that time of year.

Happy Crafting!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


Warning: Not at all a craft related post!

Yesterday was a cold day here in Tucson - meaning it was 43 when I woke up yesterday. Add to that the fact that my roommate and I hadn't turned the heater on, I had no blanket on my bed, and our hot water heater appears to have died, I was stiff and grumpy all day. I also have only two long sleeve shirts here, and both are lightweight, which wasn't enough for walking the dog in 40-degree weather.

Fortunately, my housemate is kind and took me on an eleventh hour trip to Target where I acquired a new blanket, shown here in cell-phone pictures because I was in a hurry to share. (Morning light above, artificial light below.) It's funny what buying something like this can do to change your mood and your space.

I've been enjoying having my own room in a way. More than nine years of marriage have meant nine years with no space of my own. Plus, despite what he says about it being cute, I know Mr. Man never would have chosen this blanket!

Unfortunately? Still no hot water. Think encouraging thoughts for our landlord.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Weekend Wonder #13 - Bag in My Bag

Bag in My Bag
Originally uploaded by notensionknits
After 5 p.m. on a Friday is the weekend, right?

I made this little bag because I just switched to a different school bag. It's larger than the one I was using before, which had become a must, but it doesn't have as many pockets. So, I used the last of this neat Landscape yarn to make a little bag for my emergency supplies, i.e. Tylenol, Tums, Aleve, a couple band-aids, a granola bar, eye drops, and a travel-sized deodorant! It fits in my bag neatly though I didn't have enough yarn to make the flap or tie as long as I would have liked.

The basic construction comes from the Tube Bag design in Uncommon Crochet. I love that book and recommend it highly. The "paper bag" style bottom is much neater than just crocheting a rectangle base. The stitch is linked doubles in the round - I used linked because I didn't want to have to felt it but I did want a tight fabric.

More pictures on Flickr.

And please, post comments or send emails about my blood donation question a couple posts ago! I'm curious still about why people do or don't donate.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Weekend Wonder #12 - Number Nine Beanie

Number Nine Beanie
Originally uploaded by notensionknits
My most recent FO and a Weekend Wonder to boot!

I started with the instructions for the beanie in Teach Yourself Crochet and the blue yarn left over from my Swedish flag. I love this color - and it's a soft acrylic wool blend.

I say "started with" because the FO is substantially varied from that pattern - basically everything except the top (which is just a disc) is different. I worked the crown differently and worked the sides in pike stitch (ESC, ch - subsequent rows' ESC go in the ch space). I think it turned out really well - there's a picture of me wearing it on Flickr - but it won't be cold enough here to need it until... January maybe?

Let me know if you might like a pattern for this. It's been a while since I wrote one and this was an easy cap - a good beginner project, too. I'm going to tweak the next one I make a bit to tuck in the brim for snugness...

Oh, I almost forgot! It's named for the busline I crocheted it on! I'm the girl crocheting on the #9 in Tucson - currently on a shawl I'll hopefully share soon.

Next time? An FO called "Bag in my bag" :)

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Why do (or don't) you give blood?

Hello again all.

First, I'd just like to say I'm sorry for the paucity of craft related updates. I do have a couple things to show, but I keep forgetting to download the pictures from my camera in time to catch the bus. I've also got a WIP that is being frogged for the third time so I'm a little grumpy about that. :) It's the strapless top from Sensual Crochet. Let me say that I love the pattern - it's easy and fun and pretty - but it is never going to be flattering on me! I've done the bodice three times, once straight from the pattern and twice with modifications, and it's just not me. I'd encourage anyone out there to try it as a fairly simple "first crochet top", especially with the instructions for spaghetti straps, but I'm re-purposing the yarn to make the odd-V poncho from Teach Yourself Crochet. ;)

On to the real topic of today's post. On Monday I donated blood, and they asked me a question* that I'd never been asked before. During the record/paperwork portion of the process, the nurse came right out and asked me, hands poised over the keyboard to type,
"Why are you giving blood today?"

It seemed like a really strange question to me. If you ran a charity, would you just come right out and ask, check in hand, "and why are you giving to charity today?" If the question had been differently phrased, maybe "Was there a reason for your blood donation that you'd like us to know about?", it might not have confused me so much. But "why are you doing this?", like it was the kind of thing that needed a reason, befuddled me.

So, I started informally polling my friends, two who were equally baffled but can't donate because of the travel restrictions and one who is deathly afraid of needles. I've got a really good reason to donate, but I'll explain more about that next time. I was hoping you all might tell me, why do you donate, or if you don't, why not? Shoot me an email or just comment below!

* There was actually another new question on the private part of the Q&A: "Have you been in juvenile detention, lockdown, jail, or prison for more than 72 hours?" That was the only question I hesitated on not because I've been in any of those places but because my brain immediately asked back, "why on earth do you need to know that?"

Friday, September 26, 2008

Where did that week go?

Well, hello again! I didn't realize more than a week had gone by since my last post. I'm afraid I won't have any weekend wonders for you any time soon. It's just a busy time of the semester for me. I am getting crafting in - a new beanie (FO), and two tops finally back in progress now that I have all my materials again. I'll try to take some pictures this weekend and get them back to you, but I've got three short papers, a take home exam, and a set of revisions due early next week, so it may be longer than I'd like.
If you live in Tucson, I'm the crocheting girl on the number 9 bus. :)
Hope all is well for you!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Air Guitar

My husband always picks on me when I play air guitar. My form is off, he says, so badly that I look like I’m playing the air mandolin. A song by The Who or anything with decent rhythm guitar or back beat can’t come on the radio without my hands dropping compulsively into strumming the air strings. And I can’t strum without him giggling, snorting behind his hands.

I get the compulsion itself from my father. I’ve realized at the age of twenty-nine that I drum my fingers on the steering wheel just as he did, and it makes me feel closer to him when I catch myself at it, since he’s been gone more than six years now. This is a contrast to the first time I saw my mother’s hands when looking at my own. Something about the way I pulled a credit card from my wallet and passed it with a flick of my wrist to the cashier (before the days of “just swipe it through there, sweetie”) was undeniably an inheritance from my mom, and it startled me badly, aging me instantly and making me wonder what other habits I’d adopted from them.

Today, however, I wonder if I didn’t get my air guitar technique from my fellow U of Arizona students in my time as an undergrad here, or perhaps even from something in the water in Tucson. It may become an epidemic in the iPod era. My evidence?

1. Between classes, I was walking behind a young man who I thought, at first, had a twitch or a disease. His left hand was held in a light fist at his hip, his fingers pressing alternately into his palm. Then his path turned and I could see his right hand, strumming away at his other hip where his iPod hung in a holster from his pocket. Ah, a bass player, I realized, watching his rhythm, though it would be physically impossible to hold any guitar the way his hands were held.

2. In the computer lab this morning was an older man, staring intently at the screen, typing intently at the keyboard in bursts, and intently strumming the air in front of his bellybutton between thoughts in time to the music that kept him bouncing in his seat for almost an hour.

3. I crossed paths with a young man today who was undeniably scratching an air record floating in front of him. I can’t say he did it unabashedly, but he did it again after we made eye contact, one, then two scritcha-scritchas and his hand went into his pocket.

So, it’s not just me, honey, if that makes it any better.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Los Angeles, Part Three, Conclusion

Los Angeles, Part Three, The Conclusion

Three days later, midmorning, my mom and I pull away, running a little behind schedule, headed out for the second part of our journey. I’m frustrated by this point, of course, wishing for more time with my husband, impatient with my mother, as I always get after a couple of days.

Somewhere in Pennsylvania or perhaps Ohio, we come around a gentle curve in the divided highway to be greeted by flares, cones, and “Accident Ahead” signs. I slow, wondering aloud what kind of accident warrants this high level of warning. My first thought – train wreck – I dismiss instantly as terribly unlikely. There aren’t many cars on the road, but we all slow and bottleneck in the next quarter-mile, coming upon the accident at fifteen or twenty miles an hour.

On the right, a twenty- or thirty-foot length of guardrail is missing, the empty space and churned up dirt bracketed by metal so twisted my mother points mutely. Immediately after is a tow truck with the cab of a semi truck on its flat bed, except the cab is on its side and the axles are gone, simply stripped away, the bottom of the cab exposed and looking strangely scraped clean. The container is next, blocking the entire right lane and angled such that I wonder if there was another vehicle – perhaps what made the hole in the rail? – that the truck hit head on. The container, too, is on its side, its front axles broken and the tires mangled.

My mom counts the emergency vehicles aloud and wonders at the height of the drop off while I turn my head to the left.

Did he spin? I wonder. He might have jack-knifed.

And then I see them. My breath catches in my throat. Just off the left shoulder, where the cops are carefully directing my lane of traffic, are two furrows in the grass. The car ahead of me drives toward black-as-night tire tracks perpendicular to our flow and I follow them with my eyes into those troughs, which arch out into the swale, across it, briefly disappearing as little more than flattened streaks of grass, reappearing on the far side, seventy or eighty feet away as trenches in the mud at a forty-five degree angle to the oncoming traffic. On that side, I think I can see more rubber on the road.

“Look, Mom. Just look,” I interrupt.

We drive for a minute or two in silence, and I imagine my mom is thinking similar thoughts to my own – I hope no one was hurt, but how could such a thing happen without injury? Or worse. – but what I say aloud is, “If we’d left on time, we might have been caught in that.”

The next day we drive as far as Texas, and sometime midafternoon we see another accident. I’m driving again, and on the far side of the wide grassy median there are two semis, both on their sides. The broken-neck look of the first makes it obvious it jack-knifed, but its angle on the road is what makes me curious.

“Do you think he spun?” I ask. “Or came over from this side?”

Mom has no answer to that. “Look at the blue one’s grill. It hit head on, whatever happened.”

A sick feeling fills the back of my throat. I’m wondering about these drivers, giving voice to my concern, but I’m also thinking, “Third time’s a charm,” and wondering if we’ll be part of the next one.


For the first time all trip, I fall asleep for about thirty miles as we’re leaving New Mexico. This is remarkable because I’m notorious for falling asleep when I’m a passenger in the car. When my folks would drive down to get me in college – a ninety-mile trip home – I would be out before we hit the cit limits. I rarely get sleepy driving, but put me in the passenger seat, and I’ll start yawning. (Back seat? I’m out.)

Mom pulls over at the first rest stop in Arizona, the welcome center, to ask what path I want to take to Mesa. I vote for cutting through Winslow and take over the driving again. As we’re pulling out, my mom says casually, “Oh, you missed another semi-truck accident. Wasn’t too bad though.”

I was so relieved to find out we weren’t involved, I don’t remember anything she said about it.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Los Angeles, Part Two

Los Angeles, Part Two

The embodiment of biker culture is striding toward us across the parking lot, only fifteen feet away now, with an eager smile on his face. We barely say yes before he launches into the task, giving tips, asking about what’s wrong with the battery, insisting it’s the battery, not the alternator, clipping cables and wiping things, and so forth.

I look him over as he works. Forty-ish, unshaved but not quite bearded, freckled and sun-soaked skin, bandana, denim vest with a logo nearly the size of his broad back celebrating his membership of a Christian biker group (Riding for Jesus, or something to that effect), ragged tee shirt, worn, worn jeans and genuine biker boots that look like they’ve kissed asphalt a time or three. Everything about him is used. Grizzly. But not dirty, really. I love it.

I wonder aloud how I should go about replacing the battery if it’s not going to hold a charge, musing about where the next big city will be on our path.

He turns to me and asks which way we’re headed. For the first time I make full eye contact with this Good Samaritan and the sight takes my breath. His irises are like green ice – sharp, jagged crystals of color, and an intensity of intelligence and kindness that strikes me briefly dumb. I’m not sure what I say, but it must be something semi-coherent and accurate, because my mother doesn’t interrupt to correct me. He nods wisely, and I’m staring at his eyes, unable to look away, even after he does.

“Then what I would suggest is staying on this road,” he gestures, “and heading about twelve miles down.” He gives us directions to two auto parts stores, one of which he recommends more highly, where they will replace the battery for us. In the middle of his directions, which I’m concentrating on remembering, easing over my shock now, he makes eye contact with my mom. I see his smile, and I see her expression, eyes briefly startled, blinking, blinking, not breaking eye contact.

Soon enough the car is running, though without enough energy to run the air conditioner. I have to turn off all other electrical systems to roll up the windows. I remember thanking him two or three times, and we’re on the road again.

The kids at the auto parts store are heavily pierced, and girls outnumber guys two-to-one, which briefly surprises me since we’re in the rural Carolinas. But they handle the battery replacement smoothly, even trying to help me reset my radio, which no longer functions without a dealer code because the battery ran too low.

Many hours later, we’ve stopped for food just outside Pennsylvania, somewhere around two a.m. and maybe three or four hours from Buffalo. At this point, we’ve put air in the tire three more times, and I’m praying (metaphorically) it will last just a few hundred more miles. We’re talking about the car troubles and expressing thanks that it wasn’t worse – despite the lost time – when my mom mentions again how fortunate it was the group of young men happened to be outside the hotel.

“Angels were watching over us,” she says idly. “If you hadn’t forgotten the pillow and the car had died somewhere else, like a rest stop, we might not have gotten help so easily.”

I have to admit that she’s right about that, though internally I’m not thinking the young men were particularly angelic. Yet the second she said the word, the first thing I thought of was the biker’s eyes. Knowing the answer, I ask if she noticed.

She nods, and I suspect we’re wearing identical expressions of stupefaction as we try to describe – to each other – how intense they were, how compelling.

“Did you notice he just sort of, disappeared?” I ask. “I turned to make sure you knew which way we were going, then turned back to thank him one more time and wish him a good weekend—”

She’s nodding and nodding. “And he was gone. I noticed it, too. He was there over your shoulder, and then he wasn’t anywhere.”

“The parking lot wasn’t that full either. And I didn’t see any bikes…” I’m realizing this as I say it, becoming more unsettled by the second, but in a strangely serene way. Bothered by the strangeness yet unable to be truly concerned about it despite myself.

Our food arrives and we dig in. Stomachs beginning to be sated, we start talking again, and my mom turns the conversation back to the biker, glad he came along, but remarking on the oddness of his disappearance.

“You know, that happened to me again tonight.”

I wrinkle my nose. “Meaning?”

“When we stopped so you could air the tire, but we didn’t need gas yet? A guy came up to the truck and got my attention through the passenger window. He was a Black man, very dark, but he was wearing a white shirt, and white pants, too, I think, maybe painter’s pants. He asked me for a light, but it was like he was really going to ask if I needed help, someone to help me drive, until he saw the boxes in the passenger seat and changed his mind.”

I’m surprised at this. “I didn’t see anybody.”

She shrugs again. “He was there at the window, and I passed him a lighter out the window and he asked if I was alone. I pointed to you and explained. When he looked at you, I walked around the front of the cab to smoke with him, but he was gone.”

I tilt my head as I swallow my coffee. “There wasn’t anywhere to go,” I remember. Where we had stopped was a gas station with the air pump and vacuum more than seventy-five feet from the station, at the base of an undeveloped slope on the edge of the property.

“I know,” she admits. “I thought you’d think I was crazy if I asked if you saw him.”


I tell my husband all this as we fall asleep in bed the next night, and he expresses aloud his gratitude that we seemed to have someone watching over us, whoever it was. I fall asleep wishing I could paint or draw, because I can’t get those green eyes out of my head – so pale – and I normally can’t picture faces, even my family’s with much accuracy.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Los Angeles, Part One

Pronounce that title as if you speak Spanish for me. Go ahead, say it out loud. The G is like an H – a throaty sound. Out loud, I dare you.

For those of you who actually said it aloud, good for you. More so if you’re in a place of work. For those of you who said it aloud in a computer lab, ssshh.

My mother believes in angels. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that; I just wanted to get it out there.

Specifically, she believes she has parking angels, giving her an uncanny ability to find a good space. I inherited my father’s gene for parking far from an entrance because I like to walk, so I’ve never really needed parking angels. Less so now that I have no car, but I digress.

Recently, I drove from Charleston, South Carolina to Buffalo, New York in a car with five cats and a dog while my mother drove our moving truck. If I ever needed proof she loves me, I don’t any more. Once we got to Buffalo, where we left my car (ours – mine and my husband’s) and moved my things to a more comfortable but more expensive SUV for the longer leg of the trip – Buffalo to Tucson, Arizona. All in all, we did somewhere around fifty hours of driving in about five days, plus rest stops, food, and fuel ups.

When we set out, our first stop was the gas station to top off my tank and put air in my rear left tire, which had grown squishy in the month since my husband had left the country. The car had a complete tune up, including new front brakes, around the time he left, a month before this road trip, so I wasn’t at all concerned about car trouble. Mom and I made it to our hotel for the night, still in South Carolina because of our ridiculously late start, which I don’t have time to explain here, and I don’t want to anyway because it makes me look bad.

We woke early, went through the madness of orchestrating the cats back into carriers and getting everyone in the car. We drove to a nearby gas station, to top off, yes, but mainly to put air in the tire, which was already low again – eight hours later. We realized at the pump that I’d left my good pillow in the hotel room, so I drove back, the car being more maneuverable that the truck, with the plan that I would come back to her and we’d get on the highway together. I parked by the hotel office in the shade, for the sake of the animals, ran inside, explained myself, and ran to the room – door opened by housekeeping but not yet cleaned – and grabbed my pillow.

Relieved, I hopped back into the car and started the engine. Or tried to. Lights flashed, something clicked, and generally, nothing that was supposed to happen happened. After offering up a number of positive and (or) pleading thoughts to the universe, I tried a couple more times, and then called my mom who drove to meet me. I unloaded the cats and dog – because of the heat – while she asked for advice inside. The hotel staff’s only suggestion? Flag down a cab. One of the local companies does jumps for a small fee. Let me just say this wouldn’t likely have worked, given our location.

When she came outside, I noticed a group of young men hovering nearby, military haircuts like beacons.

“Ask them, would you,” I gesture and beseech my mom, loaded down myself with carriers, “if they’ve got jumper cables?”

Turns out these young men are all Army, stationed nearby, on their way somewhere, waiting for their sergeant, and one was a mechanic before he joined up. Two others obviously wish they were, so they launch themselves into my car while another calls the sergeant, who is on his way and, yes, has jumper cables with him.

I notice with a smile that they all have fresh matching tattoos of their unit number gracing their bodies in different places, an upper arm here, a shaved calf there, so I ask them about their service. I’m the wife of an enlisted man – I know how to play this. They appreciate the requests and my admiration. I mention, offhand, that my husband served for nearly nine years. They smile – kindred! – and ask which branch of the armed forces he was in.

“Marine Corps,” I say.

The two nearest me actually bow their heads briefly, as if recognizing a tribal elder in disguise, and one says, without hesitation,

“God bless him.”

This is the first information they pass on to their sergeant when he arrives ten minutes later. “Battery’s dead. Her husband was a Marine.” He jumps it, we let it run, and he advises me to drive for a while before I turn it off.

I nod. “I’ve got a full tank and over two hundred and forty miles to go before we change highways, so that shouldn’t be a problem.” I thank them as they begin loading their van, and by the time Mom and I load up the animals, they are gone.

One hundred and sixty five miles later, we stop for lunch. Surely nearly three hours has been long enough to charge the battery if that was the only problem, but I roll the windows down a little before cutting the engine, just in case, because I have to leave the animals here while we grab food. I turn of the engine, hop out, and try to lock the doors with the key tag. No dice. There’s no charge on the battery at all – even this small task is impossible.

We eat quickly, my mom going immediately to the truck stop shop to buy jumper cables while I go to the car to prep for the jump, though neither of us have done this in ages, if ever. My mother says something about the good fortune of “those military boys” being around this morning when a voice calls over my shoulder.

“You ladies need a hand?”

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Weekend Wonder #11 - Traveling Crochet

These are the completed flags I am contributing to the Peace Project by Sheena Pennell. If you've never heard of it, I suggest you check it out. For those not familiar, these are the flags of Sweden and Norway.

Sweden, above, was the simpler construction. I did the whole thing in hdc stitches, dropping the yellow yarn to hang behind and carefully carrying the blue across. This was easy - so much easier than I expected that I finished it in the first half of the second (and longest) leg of my flight. I hadn't packed anything else in my carry-on but my journal, so needless to say I got a lot of writing done. Those of you who craft while traveling may be thinking, did you sneak scissors on board? How? Nope, I just left excess yarn and trimmed it away when I wove the ends in. A little wasteful, but not too bad.

Norway, below, was the more difficult. I divided the white yarn and used two skeins of the red, though that proved to be far more than I needed. I worked on this while Mr. Man drove on our recent Labor Day trip and on the flight back, weaving the ends in after I returned. Fortunately, he liked the way it looked so much he "commissioned" an iPod case with this design. (His family is Scandinavian.)

Next time, if I do one of these flags this big or bigger, I'll do it with granny squares or a similar technique in order to make it reversible. Would make a fun afghan project, IMO, and easy to do using the grid in Photoshop of similar software.

Both were done in Encore acrylic/wool blend except for the yellow, which is a Lion Brand wool.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

No More Travelling ... Please

I'd like to say I'm glad to be back after recovering from my hectic trip, but I'm not really recovered. For those new to the story, my husband and I just moved from Charleston, SC to Buffalo, NY and Tucson, AZ respectively. There were some things we needed to do in Charleston that unfortunately included needing to drive a carload of stuff from Charleston to NY, so that's how we spend Labor Day weekend. I flew to NY Wednesday, we drove down Thursday, did what we needed to do Friday, and drove back Saturday.

You'd think this meant that I got to spend quality time with my husband on Sunday, but instead we just slept. We were exhausted. He made me breakfast in bed (BONUS POINTS), then we went back to sleep. We got up, ate a late lunch/early dinner, and packed up a big suitcase of my stuff to take back to Tucson. The only fun thing we did was go see Hellboy 2 at a second-run theater. And that was cool, don't get me wrong, but since I'd already seen it, that alone was not worth the travel.

Fortunately, both the flying and driving were uneventful. I came back Monday, had one class Tuesday to prepare for and go to, and I spent yesterday napping and recovering. I'm physically almost all better, but I'm still tired and having that lovely slope of grad school work rising in front of me is not helping. I'm also trying to live without the expense of Internet at home and it's a bummer for getting work done. My profs don't seem to understand I'd like to be able to download the reading for next week's class now.

Please. So I don't have to walk back into campus again tomorrow in the hope that it's there.


Anyway, my goal for the weekend is to go check out the nearest bookstores and coffee shops for free wifi. And homework. And writing. Which is good (not sarcastically good, just good).

On the crafting front, I'm drafting the flag post next! I'm likely making myself a beanie because my current WIPs are all packed in NY (or maybe en route if my husband remembered to ship them today...). I promise also that the tale of our guardian angels is coming soon!

Monday, August 25, 2008

The Second Act ... or Is It?

Hello from Tucson! I'm settled in and starting classes today. This is the first chance I've had to get to a campus computer lab, and in less than 48 hours I'll be headed back to the East Coast to take care of some unexpected housekeeping in Charleston. As one of my favorite bloggers, Cass says, le sigh.
In the meantime, I'll be composing blog posts from the road so that I can update you on (a) the road trip (here's a teaser, guardian angels abandoned semi-truck drivers to protect me) and (b) these kindergarten-like first days of classes (yikes!). I'll also be composing a post with pictures of my completed flags for Norway and Sweden.
Today's philosophical lesson? Karma is not as simple as you think. It is not just give and receive. It also includes this complexity: if you ask your husband to tune up the car and he doesn't do it until 20 hours before he leaves the country so that you end up having to take it back in and get brake work done, do not resent him. Put it in a bubble and blow it away. If you get grumpy, karma will make you drive fourteen hours with a bad tire so that you have to put air in it five times en route as well as other engine trouble, none of which could have been prevented by said tune up anyway.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008


Hello all. I'm afraid this is going to be my last post for a couple of weeks - and it doesn't even have any crafty goodness in it. My mother arrives in town tomorrow to help me drive to Buffalo over the next three days, then I'll be - as my friends here keep saying - in the Buff for three days before driving from NY to AZ. I'm hoping to be back in AZ by the week of the 18th but I won't have any internet for the immediate future. Classes start a week later, so I should at least have access to campus internet by the end of the month. I'll still have email and will be able to read your comments - thanks for the kind words lately.

We do - 99% - have places to live. One landlord (Buffalo) decided they'd like a credit check at the last minute but I don't think they'll find any problems there. The other is supposed to get us word today but we're first in line. At least if something falls through in the Tucson scenario if I get desperate I can stay with my mom a little while and drive down to search in person.

And so today is going to be my last full day of packing. Tomorrow will be packing and cleaning the kitchen/bath, and then the next day - goodbye Charleston! I won't be able to craft much in the next week either because I'll be driving, but at least we'll only have one vehicle Buffalo-to-Tucson, so I can work on the five o'clock tank or one of my three half finished mitts while my mom drives!

Hopefully I'll be able to get back to you all with good tidings by the month's end!

Happy Crafting - Jennie

Thursday, July 31, 2008

A Tender Happy Place

Everyone, hold your breath. (Figuratively, though if you want to do it literally, that's up to you. I'm kind of long winded.)

First, assuming that my future roommate's lease application passes muster, I will actually have a place to live in Tucson.

Second, assuming nothing goes wrong with the place I'm trying to rent for Mr. Man in Buffalo, he'll also have a place to live in a little over a week when he comes home from Turkey. We haven't done any application or paperwork with them yet, but so far things look good. (I'm hesitant, of course, because five places have gotten closer to the deal being done than this and fallen through.)

Third, I'm going to make truck arrangements tomorrow, so even that's not secure yet. (I've been waiting in case things went wrong, but at this point I've got to make them or I won't have them in time.)

I say this is a tender place to be in because it feels a bit like climbing a house of cards. Last night, my mother suggested that maybe it would be best to ship my stuff instead of driving it. That may have been secret code for, do I really have to come help you drive your menagerie to New York? I offered her an out and she didn't take it though, so keep your fingers crossed on that front as well. Even if she bailed, it would just set me back two days and the price of a plane ticket while I wait for my husband to fly down here and drive the truck.

I keep talking myself in circles. Instead, it's time to go meet my packing quota for the day! Maybe then I can make time for a little crochet. I have another mitt half done.

Is anyone else doing the 198 Countries Peace Project? I've got Norway and Sweden. I may have to put the mitts aside and use those as my brainless projects for a while. At least the flags are simple, though not the same shade of blue!

Norway on the left, Sweden on the right.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Belated Wonder

Hi again. Sorry that this weekend was an off weekend. I helped some friends move away, then spent Saturday getting ready for an unexpected house showing. When I finally was ready yesterday afternoon to do the prep work for the blog, my camera batteries were all dead.

A night in the charger later, I can finally show you my new toy.

One of the friends who moved to Chicago is a professional photographer, and this was an extra tripod he had that he was going to toss. It's too lightweight for his professional rigs, but it's perfect for me, so he let me have it! Go free stuff! (I should add, we have a history of trading with these folks. Five pairs of shoes and god knows what else before now.)

Obviously it's not at its full height here. It's probably less than five feet tall even when fully extended, but it's still about two feet taller than my old tripod. I'm really excited.

On other fronts, the latest apartment for Mr. Man has fallen through, again! But this time, the owner is a real estate agent who is going to look around a bit for us, so maybe he'll find something. My own search seems to be going much better. I've found a good house and a fun-sounding roommate and assuming all the lease application stuff goes through, I've got a place just over one-and-a-half miles from campus and - wait for it - even closer to the knit shop. I'm jazzed, but I'm starting to worry something will go wrong with this one, too.

Rather than spending the day finishing the second mitt - about one third done - I'm going to be spending it walking in to get the faxed application and running other errands.

Keep you fingers crossed for me (or something similar, if you're busy crafting). :)

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Semi-FOs and Semi-Frogged Projects

Time for crafty goodness. Of late I've been working on one of the mitt designs I've mentioned before. I've also been spending a LOT of time looking for housing since so far everything I've lined up or thought I lined up had fallen through, so I haven't been crafting as much as I'd like to. But, I did make the time to frog the two balls worth of yarn you see about - these are the size of large oranges, so this was no small effort when done by hand. I've still got 2-3 mystery panels of the cream, which is an acrylic yarn and about two-thirds of the shrug in gray left to frog. I can only do it when I don't need my hands, and since I've been TV free for 15 days, most entertainment I have involves holding a book or using a keyboard. :)

Here - above and below - you can see what I think is the neat thing about this design. On one side - the reverse of the hand - you can see the spiral technique, and on the other, you can't. No awkward joins, like in the round can sometimes have, and the use of gradual increases and then decreases in stitch height really make the spiral pop.

My main complaint is that the thumb hole looks ungainly. It's finickiness on my part. As you can see, I haven't bound off yet, so my plan is to half-double crochet around the thumb hole once or twice to provide more protection for the pad of my thumb. The need for these mitts - oh mother of invention - comes from the fact that my wrist that is more prone to inflammation sits right on top of my hot laptop battery when I work, so I need some padding between hand and computer. My knitted mitts are great when it's not 80-plus degrees out, so these are meant to be lighter and trimmer.

Think happy thoughts for me as I try to find housing and make the mate to this lonely mitt. Another design involving mesh is on the way!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Weekend Wonder #10 Fieldwork

Hello again. I wanted to do something a little different for this Weekend Wonder. I've mentioned a number of times in the last few months that I was spending the day outside doing fieldwork. Well, as a preservationist, I'm a theory and policy specialist. Knowing that, you might wonder what my fieldwork is.

Once upon a time it was outreach and legal consulting, but I've been involving myself in interpretation more and more over the last few years - the process and theory of how we convey history or heritage to the public. A project that evolved out of that - I'll spare you the long details - is the work I've been doing this year with the help of a great photographer, my research assistant. Our focus is on how the use of repeat photography can be a tool for interpreting urban change.

First, we spent weeks in various archives trying to find the best photographs - those that were old enough to be interesting, best situated to be retaken, and most likely to either show interesting change or an interesting lack of change. An example is this photograph taken early in the twentieth century from a major park in Charleston, Marion Square.

From left to right you can see a hotel, the statue of John C. Calhoun, row houses, especially an elaborate house that is taller with the Classical cupola of the orphanage behind it, and one of the tall steeple churches Charleston is known for.

Second, after we picked out these pictures, we went out and tried to rephotograph them as accurately as possible using transparent overlays and all kinds of little tricks. About one in three was unrepeatable. For example, there are a couple beautiful panoramic shots of this square that were taken from a distance. Where those photographers stood is now inside a building. Fortunately, this one was one we could retake, but not one of our most accurate. Here's the new shot:

You might not notice if I didn't point it out, but the statue and hotel, now substantially blocked by trees, aren't in the exact same vertical alignment. We could figure out fairly precisely where the photographer stood, but the park has been relandscaped many times. All you would see if we took that shot would be trees. Our solution was to move about fifteen feet closer. It captures the significant and less obvious changes. All of the houses are gone, as is the orphanage. They've been replaced by that parking garage and college buildings respectively. The church still stands, but its polychromatic stucco has been replaced with a single darker color. In combination with the white trim, it really changed the look of the steeple.

We have over twenty pairs like this, as well as a handful of shots that we retook much more casually because the change and demolition was so complete, there's nothing left to line up on. Some of the shots are wonderful, but some are slightly off because of a difference in camera equipment or because of new construction that prevented us from retaking from the exact right location. Now that our camera work is done, it's my turn to take over as the writer.

And that's my Weekend Wonder! On that note, I'll be back soon with another post about the new computer mitt I just crocheted after I take some pictures. Have a good week!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Productivity? Really?

Today is the most productive day I've had in a week if you don't count writing. Part of me doesn't count writing. I enjoy it so much that if I spend fourteen hours on it in a day, I feel like I'm getting away with something. It's only after four days of that pace that I start to (a) feel the brain fatigue and (b) remember I should clean the house.
I got up at a good time, did what will hopefully be the last of the fieldwork I have to do for the collection of essays I'm working on. Then I cleaned the house for a couple hours. Because hunger's creeping in, I've decided to take a lunch break, update my blog, check facebook, finish my loan paperwork (yay for gradschool!) and then decide where to go from there.
One thing I'm thinking about doing is frogging a couple pieces that have been in my frog pile for a while. I've got two panels on something that may have been supposed to be a sweater when I first started learning to knit. I could probably make it, but it would be way too heavy for Tucson, so I think I'll frog and use the yarn for experimenting instead. The other big item is the shrug that didn't work as planned. I've been thinking about crocheting one from that yarn or, in the alternative, using it to make mitts I can sell. Hmmm. Thinking...
I would like to add one more thing, which is a discovery I've made. It is possible, at least for me, to lose stuff in a mainly empty house. A student gave me a lovely going-away present of a book wrapped in a reproduction of a map of Venice. (When I teach historic preservation, I spend a couple days talking about Venice.) For weeks I kept that paper on top of my crates of books so I could frame it to protect it while I move. Now that I've unearthed the frame, I can't find the map anywhere. Hrm.
Hope all is well with you!
PS I'm also still not even beginning to catch up on other people's blogs. That's my goal for tomorrow. I plan to post here again Thursday - let's see if I can do it!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Weekend Wonder #9 & FO: Chicago Scarves

These two scarves were made as wedding gifts, oh, so long ago. (Early May.)
This white and blue is the Girl Chicago, a.k.a. the gift for the bride. It matches a hat I gave her as a bridal shower gift.

I knitted it on the yellow straight KK loom out of Bernat Bamboo in Linen and Ocean. Really soft, very cuddly result, though there are always things I'd do differently. The striping pattern was random at first (though I always did the same thing in one color then the other to use equal amounts of the two yarns), but I eventually found a nice pattern of paired stripes best seen in the top picture that I would use exclusively if I did this again. I say "if" because I'm not really sure I liked bi-color knitting enough to do it again. I just felt like it was tedious, and I wanted to enjoy it more. The finishing touch - for strength, to hide the doubled slip stitches, and for balance - was a row of half double crochets down each side.

Also, you might notice these pictures are darker than the previous ones. I took these in slanting late-afternoon sun rather than nearly noon like the earlier WIP pics.

This second scarf in rust and blue is the Guy Chicago for the groom.

I used linked triple crochet for this scarf, which is what gives it the wavy look. I also inserted a row of linked doubles periodically (approximately every seventh row, but sometimes every fifth, sixth, or eighth, if it looked better) to help the colors snake back and forth. Can you see the chevron pattern that developed? It isn't predictable or overly regular, and that was my goal. (Though, to be honest, I'm not sure I could have made it more regular and gotten it done on time.) :)

You also might be able to tell that there were two skeins of yarn with slightly different coloring. I should have alternated when I found a knot, but I didn't think of it until after the fact. The yarns didn't look that different. That said, I think it still turned out really well and would definitely do it again. I've been thinking about making up a pattern for it, but I may make another one first. It's really simple, but not if you don't know linked stitches. I'd like to see how it looks in a heather or multi-colored yarn. Maybe I'll make my husband one to practice.

In this last shot, you can see the color differences between the first and second skein a little bit more clearly. The top layer has darker, more varied blues, where the bottom has paler blues and shows more variation in the rust/brown color.

Questions? Please ask!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Catching Up

Hello again!
Before I begin, I want to say I do have an FO post planned for the Chicago Scarves, but I wanted to start with a "catching up" post first. I can't believe I only posted once in all of June. I just found this in a draft post I started the first week of June:
As you can tell, I'm feeling a little swamped right now. What we in my house refer to as feeling "Yaaaaaaaaaaa." We've put offers on houses only to be repeatedly beaten to the punch or turned down because our offer has to be contingent on selling our current house first, so we are still looking for a place to live and hoping we'll be able to move there this month. I've got longer to find an apartment in Tucson, but finding a house in Buffalo is more urgent. In the meantime, we're packing and cleaning and trying to sell our house and having a yard sale and I'm still doing some things for work (research related). Add to that some writing I've been really grooving with lately, and I haven't crocheted or knitted since right before the wedding. After pushing out the scarves, I stopped on the retro top when I realized I'd never get it done in time for the wedding. Now that it's breaching 90 here and I have a wicked sunburn from a day of stupidity+field work, I may not resume it for a while.
I had blocked half of that out in self-defense. Rereading it was a trip. We finally had an offer accepted on a house just a day or two later, but it just fell through yesterday, so we're back to the drawing board. No nibbles on our own house, and no place to live in either Buffalo or Tucson. And I need a place no later than one month from tomorrow. Yikes.

We packed up all of "our" stuff - my husband's stuff and mine/ours that was going to Buffalo with him - and put it in a POD. Now it's in a storage facility somewhere and I'm camping out in my own house for a month. Why? Because Mr. Man had to go to Turkey* for a month, and I didn't want to keep paying for a street permit to keep the POD. (We had it delivered when our offer was accepted, and at $10 per day, it was adding up.)

So, I've spent a couple days running moving-related errands and catching up on sleep lost in the 72 hours before Mr. Man and the POD both left. I haven't been knitting or crocheting much. I did finish the Retro femme top before Packing Mania began, but I need to frog and redo the bottom half for fit purposes. Sad, but true. I've started the Five O'Clock Tank from Crochet Me but I'm just an inch in and realizing I'll need to start over. I'd like to get back into it, and I'm thinking about checking out some audio books from the library if I can find my library card... Hmmm. I don't have anything but my craft supplies, laptop, mattress, clothes, and 13 crates of books. Add to that almost a month to find places to live, and to pack up my own stuff (not much really) and my office (urg, nightmare).

I've been spending most of my time on a writing project I mentioned before that is flowing really well. I've decided to run with it for a day or two and then get back on the moving, pack, cleaning, house-selling bandwagon.

Glad to be back!

* He's fine in Turkey. got there within hours of the embassy incident but emailed to say he wasn't affected. His luggage was MIA though. :(

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

I miss you!

Oh, blog reading friends. How I miss thee.
I would so much rather be telling you about the scarves I finished - post is half drafted, pictures are still in the camera - or the completed by ill fitting Retro Femme top, or even the swatching I just snuck in clandestinely... but alas. Instead I am packing and freaking out about not having a place to live and various other things.
However, I've decided to make updating my blog one of my rewards, so hopefully you'll be hearing from me 2-3 times in the next couple of weeks. In July, I'll either be settling into a new place or homeless, so you'll either hear from me more, or, well, not. But, in the interim, tonight's reward for packing is a hair dyeing party, so I best go earn my reward!
Hope all is well!

Friday, May 23, 2008

AWOL and Back Again

Well, hello!

Sorry for my disappearance. As you may know, I was working desperately when last I posted to finish two gift scarves and a ton of other things before graduation and two friends' wedding. Well, graduation ended up being much more time consuming than expected, I had some things come up at work at the last minute, and then my husband and I took a no-laptop house-shopping trip to Buffalo this last week. I'm only now getting home and settled, just in time to put our house on the market and struggle semi-valiantly to get it presentable.

I do have some photos of the finished scarves to share, probably by tomorrow night. Things are still a little crazy, though I suppose any house sale and move is like that. I'll try to post more now that we're back in town and keep you up to date, but sadly, Weekend Wonders are on a hiatus until further notice

Quick crafting update: I'm about 55-60% done with the Retro Femme top and planning to finish that before I start anything else. I have a couple design ideas to play with and Jocelyn's not-yet-identified item to make once the house is done. (For those of you new to the blog, Jocelyn won a recent "contest" I had for the best husband-inspiring techniques for getting my husband to do chores. She suggested, among other things, letting the ants build up to get him to do dishes, which was one of my particular issues. Strangely, the ants didn't quite work. They helped, but it was the discovery that a roach has actually been living in our rarely-used dishwasher that seems to have been the key to getting Mr. Man going on the dishes. Having graduation behind us has gotten him more inspired (though not exactly thirlled) about other chores, too.

Now all we have to do is pack, clean, and sell! No big deal, right?

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Short and Sweet

I'm afraid I don't have much time to type today, as I'm due to go see IRON MAN in a few minutes. (That's the official household spelling.) But I wanted to thank Jocelyn for her comment on my sort-of-contest and to say.
  1. There are ants in the dishes. I'm giving it a couple more days. After all, the man graduates from college officially the day after tomorrow. And ant smooshing makes me feel better.
  2. We discussed adopting older kids to solve this problem - premade chore-doers - but then I remembered (a) we can't afford it, (b) we're not really mature enough for that, and (c) we're both going back to grad school this year. If this idea works though, I'll owe Jocelyn something handmade again in 10 years.
  3. Therapy may also be a viable solution, but see 2(a) and 2(c) above.*
*Can you tell I was a lawyer?

If you still have suggestions, comment away! I do have to say, that I'd rather have quiet lurkers (or no readers, but I'm trying to pretend that's not it) than some of Laurie Perry's crazy fans. (See her May 6, 2008 entry. Dude!)

Have a good rest of the week, and maybe I'll be able to shoot some FOs or WIPs this Saturday.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Weekend Wonder #8

Hello! Weekend Wonder #8 has NOTHING to do with crafts, but I'll include a crafty preamble.

Sadly, I did not finish the scarf on time. I realized yesterday morning that it was not gong to happen, and had a flash of insight I wish I'd had days before. I intended the scarf to be part of a hat and scarf set and wasn't planning to finish the scarf - originally - until I did the hat first, to make sure the yarn would stretch. Well, the scarf is turning out lopsided - I'll explain that in next week's Weekend Wonder - and will require crochet trim. Suddenly I realized I could make the dang hat and give her the scarf when I finish Guy-Chicago's scarf, too! So that's what I did. Made a scarf [edit] hat, graded like a superfast grading demon, forgot to take a picture of it(!), went to a mature-themed bridal shower, where the hat was a hit all around despite not being mature-themed, and came home very late.

I now have too much to do to do anything but whip this out and get back to work... So, this is my weekend wonder to you - a Challenge. This is especially for you married or committed folk out there. My husband is a wonderful man who will NOT do certain chores lately. First commenter to give me a successful idea - other than mature-themed bribery ;) - for getting him to do chores promptly will win a hat, scarf, eye-mask or mitts handmade by me - your choice of project and yarn colors. Before you say, "No problem!", I have a few pieces of key information.
  1. I've tried asking, begging, bribing with money, and guilting. No dice. You're welcome to suggest variations - please do! - but I thought you should be warned.
  2. The man is, as I type, taking a clean bedsheet (the orphan from a ruined set) and wrapping it around three loads of clean, dry laundry, so that when we go to bed tonight, he'll be able to move it off the bed without having to fold it. Yes, he washed it, he just won't FOLD it.
  3. He also won't do the dishes (we have a dishwasher), but he did take out the trash.
That is your challenge.

P.S. Jen @ PieKnits is having a contest for some beautiful yarn and mystery goodies. Check it out! She does lovely stuff.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Think Sober Thoughts

Hola. I just came from celebrating the end of my husband's semester - and college career! - with margaritas. He took his last final today; he has nothing left to do!

Must be nice.

Sneer. Smile.

I'm a real lightweight when it comes to drinking, so two margaritas - two mason-jar-sized margaritas - was more than I should have had and reasonably expected to go back to grading any time soon. Now, I'm Ravelry-ing (raveling? Jocelyn?) and sobering up.

Speaking of Jocelyn, she had a great post about gratitude today - and for the record, I thought it was great before the margaritas and before I got em-dash crazy, so there. I've been thinking about similar issues as I get ready to take my leave of absence and launch into a new degree program. I'd like to write nice cards, or at the very least nice emails, to thank my colleagues and tell them where I'm headed, but I'm finding it hard. I haven't been worrying about it much, telling myself grading is more pressing - and it is - but it's still something I'm thinking of a couple times a day.

Most of the nicest things people have done for me while I was here were nothing as above-and-beyond as Jocelyn's friend, but the very act of being good colleagues takes on a new meaning when one of you leaves. It's like saying, "You were great, but not great enough." And while I'm technically only leaving for 1-2 years, I think it's unlikely I'll be coming back, and I want to be as honest and grateful in my parting as possible.

Can't make them all scarves though. Hmmm. Best I wait until I'm sober for that one, too, I guess.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Pre-Bed Post, in which I make dumb jokes

My husband - Mr. Man - is studying for his statistics final. I'm his human calculator, so our evening conversation has mainly consisted of long periods of keyboard and calculator typing punctuated occasionally by him asking something like, "12 times 52 is...?" The following exchange just occurred as the blog was loading:
Man: 12 times 12 is 144, right?
Me: Ew, that's groooossssss.

**Pause while I giggle some more.**

Today has, again, mainly consisted of grading. I made some significant progress on the scarf during breaks, but I also had to nap when my brain inexplicably shut down midday. I spent my last break looking at a group I recently joined on Ravelry - Natural Dyeing - and I now have a major jones to crochet. There's something about the rhythm of it that's calling me lately, and the moderately complex colorwork knitting isn't doing it for me (though it needs to be done).

I should be off to bed since I'm actually leaving the house tomorrow morning. Happy May Day and Happy Friday!

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Dumb People Harsh my Vibe

Hello again. Today has been (and will continue to be for a little while longer) a long day of grading. I've been checking blogs and knitting the scarf as a reward every two papers, but the going has been tough.

The worst break I took all day was to visit the Craig's List help forums to try to piece together a problem we've been having. I think, but can't say for sure, that people selling the same thing (graduation tickets*) are flagging our post as scalping. But when I explained on the help forum that it wasn't scalping if the tickets didn't have a face value and there was no college policy against selling them, they made their attacks personal. There are eight new posts just today for tickets for sale, hence why I suspect it's our competition that's flagging them more than anyone else. I know flamers are just... well, mean-spirited people, but I still take it far too personally. And being at all emotional screws up my grading mindset.

And I started the day in such an optimistic mood, too.

So, I'm going to try to get 2-4 more done tonight and then head to bed. I'm hoping the assignment I've scheduled myself to grade on Friday will allow for more knitting. (Because I do paperless grading, I listen to the computer read papers out loud once, then grade them carefully while making comments. It helps me avoid making comments out of place or too harshly if I read through once first, and knitting keeps me from hitting pause to type something like, "WHAT?" in the comment field. The assignments I'm grading now are projects, not papers, and don't work so well that way.) If I can knit even a little bit more on Friday, I might actually be able to finish this scarf on time...

Anyway, sorry for the work babble. Back to it!

* Just in case anyone was confused, these aren't my tickets as faculty (no such thing). They are my husband's tickets as a graduating senior who doesn't want to walk at commencement. It's his show, so I left the choice to him. We'll be going to the receptions though. :) Free food and congratulations are the best part.

Plug and Post

Check out this Contest by Cass. If you've got a joke, a funny story, advice for an about-to-be-seventeen-year-old, a recommended knit project, and/or a recommended yarn (especially vegan), then it could win you goodies!

I'm afraid I don't have much to post about personally. I've just grading, knitting when I can on the Girl-Chicago scarf, because it needs to be done by Saturday(!), and grading some more.

I didn't already make a big post about it, I don't think, but if anyone has any neighborhood, rental or other housing recommendations for either Buffalo, NY or Tucson, AZ, I'm all ears. When I'm not doing something I should be, I'm surfing craigslist. :)

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Weekend Wonder #7

Hello! Welcome to Weekend Wonder No. 7 - an example of colorwork on the loom - part 1.

As any regular readers know, I've been working on two scarves for two friends - a couple - moving to Chicago from here in balmy Charleston. What you see above is the Girl-Chicago scarf in progress. (There's nothing necessarily girly about the pattern, but the yarn and colors make it more feminine. I'm thinking I may make a version in Vikings, Twins, or SUNY Buffalo colors for my husband - but that's a long way off). The recipient isn't a terribly girly-girl, and I wanted something easy to knit but complex enough to be worth making a pattern. I'd been considering designing a plaid for a while, and this slick, bulky yarn doesn't lend itself to a very wide panel, so the above design was invented.

I started by casting on first the white and then the blue - separately - using a crochet chain. I made a chain the length of the number of pegs (16) times two (32) minus one (31). I then slipped the first chain over the first peg, skipped a chain, slipped the next one over the next peg, on down the line. If the last peg is tricky for you, or your chain keeps coming unraveled, then just chain extra, and when you get to the last peg, put your finger or hook in the chain that will be going on that last peg, unravel back to that point, then place the loop on the peg such that the yarn is wrapping around it clockwise. (This assumes you cast on right-to-left like me and that you slip the last peg every time, also like me. As long as the yarn comes around the back of the last peg and crosses to the front of the next peg, you're fine.) The effect, as you can see, is a two-layer look. I really like it, but it will require casting off each color separately if you want your two ends to match. I'll have to save that for next week!

The slip stitches on the ends are both colors held together. I carry both colors across the row simultaneously; the key to getting the varied stripes is twisting the strands between every stitch. What you can see in this picture on the left is that I have knit a blue stitch (on the peg with the green marker) and then a white stitch to its right. I will then cross the blue over the white. If the next stitch was to be blue, that's all I would do - cross blue over white, and knit blue. But because the next stitch will be white (two white stripes in a row) I cross the blue over white, then white over blue as well. Making this twist prevents the loop that would be formed by the blue running along the back without the white to hold it in. This would be fine on a hat or other garment if it didn't go more than three stitches, but I twist in the blue here for two reasons. One, it makes the other side of the scarf more consistent (see below). Two, it creates a dotted stripe of one color (here blue) peeking through the other (here white).

(Needle knitters, please ignore this part.) The scarf is done in garter stitch - all knit left to right, all purl right to left. On the purl pass, I twist the yarns in the opposite direction - right over left - to avoid twisting the skeins up and because it's easier for me.

So, how does the reverse look? Like static, actually, with stripes of solid color. I could have avoided the latter by keeping the alternate color running along with the main color, but I wanted to vary the texture of the scarf. Those solid rows are not knit with both colors. The plaid itself if indiscernible from the reverse, which was my intent. To me, it looks a bit like a blizzard of color - we used to call TV static snow for a reason after all. And that's Chicago.

The other scarf, just to give you a little preview, is done in linked treble crochet and looks like this:

I'll talk more about the rest of both scarves in future posts. In the meantime, enjoy the rest of the weekend!