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!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Tucson or Bust!

And the decision has been made. This fall Mr. Man will begin the anthropology PhD program at SUNY Buffalo, and I will begin the MFA creative writing at the University of Arizona. To celebrate, Mr. Man bought me a necklace to replace a chain I recently broke for one of my favorite pendants - a little viking ship with an amber sail. It was really sweet of him to think of it, especially all on his own.

Not many days off for me in the near future. We need to get on the apartment hunt big time (if you know of pet friendly rentals in either city, comment or email or Ravelry message JennieMac PLEASE) as well as paying bills, doing laundry, srategizing packing for a move, studying/prepping and grading finals... all that good stuff. But, I will also be getting some good work on the Guy-Chicago scarf done, because I've finally found a stitch I like. And I have to get the Girl-Chicago done by next Saturday, so I'll be working on that as well.

I get a little time to myself tomorrow when Mr. Man goes in for a final, so I hope to work on the next Weekend Wonder then.

Oh, P.S. I've got a fresh haircut and other girly salon stuff. Life is looking up. ;)

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Le Tired

Crash. Pretty soon, I'm going to crash.

Yesterday was the last day of classes, so much joy would have been had, except I had a chunk of grading I sworn I would get done. So I taught and prepped and graded from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. with two meal breaks. Afterward, we went to an end of the semester party and I stupidly stayed out until after 2. The drinks and the dancing were much needed, but especially after spending today in the field, I am le tired, not to mention achy and sore.

Internet at home is down, so I'm limited in my blogging ability. With any luck, it will fix itself or the serviceman coming tomorrow will come early. If he doesn't, I'll have to cancel my much needed hair cut appointment and will be very depressed.

I am dying for some me-time that - hopefully tonight or tomorrow.

The only news on the crafting front is that I am still frustrated with a scarf that is not turning out as wanted. I've got a couple things I can work on that are going better, and that's my plan for the next few days. Right now, I'm going to pack up and work on the strapless top until Mr. Man is ready to walk home.

Sorry for both the radio silence and the bleh post - I blame the latter on my caffeine wearing off!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Weekend Whatever

Hello all! As I sat here grading - and I'm not as done as I'd like to be by a mile! - I realized I never made up my mind about the Weekend Wonder issue! Well, the clock made up my mind for me. I'm not going to be able to think of something creative in the next hour and a half while I'm grading, so I declare this the first weekend off. I'll probably take every seventh weekend off, though I do have to admit that I've been trying to think of something good to do for post #50, which is coming up soon.
Back to work - have a good week!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

The Price of Admission

Both crafting and not crafting blogging today, folks! Step right up! Two for the price of one!

So, which shall I start with? I think the crafting.

My first admission is that I'm suffering from some serious project polygamy. (Is that polyandry or polygyny, do you think?) I'm currently working on the strapless and retro femme tops from Sensual Crochet, one man's scarf design that I just CANNOT get going, and a woman's knit scarf design which I think is working (take number three is at 45 rows and looks good I think). In my head, I'm also working on three mitten designs in crochet, two of which I've charted (two variations that I'm going to call Scandinavian Sock Monkey Mittens - you'll see why eventually). :) I've also got an eye mask I just remembered that is only waiting to be bound off and seamed; I have no idea why I haven't just done it already.

That man's scarf - specifically a man's scarf because it's intended as a gift for a Guy Friend, as is the woman's scarf meant for a Girl Friend - is really being a pain these last couple weeks. It's yarn I bought two weeks ago; I love working with it, but I'm having a hell of a time designing something I like. The knitted designs I tried were all too open in gauge, and there's no way to get around that except to double the yarn or buy a fine gauge loom, which I'm not willing to do.

I really think Guy Friend will like the colors better than Girl Friend, so I'm sticking with it. I decided to make it in Tunisian crochet, but I know if I just do it in simple stitch it'll curl. Right now, I've been doing six row sections of different stitch patterns (combinations of tss, tks, tps, and staggered tss, as well as what I think might be Tunisian double crochet, but I'm not certain). I'm trying to find one or more I like enough to do the whole scarf out of it, but I'm nearing 30 rows with nothing I love in sight. I'm thinking I'll try a couple rows of seed stitch or a checkerboard pattern. I think one of those will be the winner, but we'll have to see.

The bottom line of all that is the second admission, which is that I have no idea what tomorrow's Weekend Wonder will be. :) I was thinking I might skip it to give myself one weekend off from it every six WWs, but I haven't decided.

I'm also thinking about a bigger admission that I began making public in the last few days, which is the big Opportunity I mentioned a couple posts back. As anyone who has read this blog for a while knows, I'm a college professor getting ready to take a leave of absence because I'm experiencing some serious burn out and career doubt. Part of the reason I became a professor was that I wanted to write, enjoyed teaching, and knew that if I succeeded at it, academia would be a much more secure position than professional writing or a lot of other career options. (Ah, tenure. Here and here, too.) Another part of the reason I became a professor is that I have a very strong tendency to do things because I should. Because I should. Not really for any other reason, just general societal, cultural, sometimes familial, and sometimes personal expectations and shoulds.

There are a lot of things I really enjoy about teaching, but also many things I don't. I won't detail either here because, well, this should be at least a somewhat fun blog, not a diatribe or homily. What I would really like to do is some of the parts of my job, like the writing and the teaching, but perhaps without the service obligations, or perhaps without the heavy course load of my small school, or perhaps at a more interdisciplinary institution, since that's the nature of my work, or perhaps just less.

What I've been planning to do on my leave is focus on my writing and possibly take some graduate classes and begin working toward a PhD.* I say possibly because I wanted Mr. Man to choose the PhD program that was best for him** and then work around that, in no small part because I was being VERY wishy washy during application season. One thing I did last fall was submit applications to MFA programs in writing at the schools where Mr. Man was applying. My first choice in terms of program quality was the University of Arizona, which was Mr. Man's fourth choice out of four.

Surprisingly to both of us (low self esteem much?), not only was he accepted to his two top choices, as you know, but recently I was accepted to Arizona. So, now our tough choice is whether or not to live apart for the two years I'd be in the program. Today, I'm leaning toward it, but yesterday I wasn't. And that was the big admission I made public this week. Many of my colleagues thought I was applying to PhD programs, but to be honest, the only reason I was thinking PhD was so I'd be more competitive in academia. If I'm not going to stay in academia, I don't need to invest the time or energy in a PhD. That said, enrolling in an MFA writing program could be great for my writing, but it would be a really big step away from my current position.

Craft, think, and breathe. Repeat.

Time to go wake my husband from his nap. We're headed out for a busy night - first an a cappella concert, then an awards ceremony for one of his majors, then a gallery opening/art extravaganza/thing for a friend. Should be fun. Should be dinner in there somewhere.

I'll be back tomorrow!

* I have two terminal graduate degrees but no PhD.
** He chose Buffalo! Anyone from Buffalo?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

More Optimistic Less Decisive

Hello again! Thanks for your nice comments and emails. Mr. Man and I have been thinking about Everything in our free moments, which have sadly been few and far between. He is actually supposed to tell his grad schools where he is planning to attend... well, yesterday, but he's not decided yet, which is rough for him. I'm certainly not decided either, but he's got a stack of schoolwork to distract him and I've got a stack of grading to distract me, so we're plodding along.

My stack is (figuratively) a little shorter though. I say figuratively, given that my classes are paperless, so there is no stack, per se. I've got some final thesis revisions I'm going to start after this, but every item I finish is something off the list. The thesis I'm reading right now is about a local neighborhood everyone thinks of as traditionally African-American that actually has a long history of being racially diverse. It made me think of one of my favorite songs:
Talk to the old black men who will make the observation
that we're still grouped into the haves and have-nots.
Yeah, it's been a long time since integration
but it seems some folks here they forgot.
(Jennifer Nettles Band, Round and Round)
(Nettles is always good, and Sugarland is great, but some of us miss JNB.)

I'm going to take a page from Jocelyn, the Knitting Linguist's book, and crochet a couple rows for every chapter, or something like that. I think I'll work on the Retro Femme top since it's now less portable than the Strapless Corset, which is frogged-and-born-anew and in an easy repetition stage, where as the Retro Femme top currently requires scissors. :)

Monday, April 14, 2008

Frogging and Breathing

Despite my best efforts, I'm doing more frogging lately than crafting, and the combination of (a) one too many dadgummit moments*, (b) my typical end of the semester stress, and (c) pending life decisions for myself and my husband has been a little too much lately. I spent the weekend thinking about these Big Decisions and feeling far too spaced out from my migraine to do anything more complex than laundry. Even that was a stretch.

*The dadgummit moments: At first, it was just the scarf I was working on, though I'll admit to liking my new ideas for it more anyway. The dadgummit moment that really got me was realizing - about 20 rows in - that the strapless top from Sensual Crochet was going to be too big. It's strange, too, because I gauge swatched just fine. It means starting over, though to be honest, I made a couple little glitches I should have ripped back to fix early on, but I didn't because I wasn't sure how. Now I know, so perhaps things will work out for the best in that arena, too.

Hmm, have I struck an optimistic vein? Perhaps, but let's not get carried away.

On the end of the year stress, it's nothing out of the ordinary - i.e. just grading - and a little guilt that in having taken on too much this last year, I didn't really give my best to a couple students. Then again, that constant I-could-do-more feeling is probably why I have migraines, and is definitely why I'm taking a leave of absence. And the students themselves deny my own statements of inadequacy. Sometimes its good to listen to them, too.

As for the Big Decisions, all I can really say here is that I've been offered an opportunity I didn't expect to be offered. An Opportunity, really. It's all good until you hit the part where my husband and I may be living apart for the next two years if we both want to take advantage of the Opportunities in front of us. We've done it before - I do not miss thee, former military life - but we're not exactly ecstatic about doing it again. And we'll probably come out the far side in debt this time since grad school doesn't offer separation pay.

I guess the only thing to do is knit and think and knit.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Weekend Wonder #6

Hello! Here's Weekend Wonder #6!

This WW is a piece in freeform crochet that I made a couple weeks ago for my husband. He admired my bath mitt, but he wanted something easier to get on and off. I bought some cotton in colors he liked, and this was experiment #1. I call it the Bear Claw.

The construction was simple if you know how to crochet in the round already. (Better tutorials are available at NexStitch or in Kim Werker and Cecily Keim's Teach Yourself Visually Crochet.) I chained 2 and single crocheted 6 into the first chain to form the innermost round. From there, I followed a basic crochet-in-the-round increase pattern in half double crochet: 2 in each stitch for one round, then alternating 1 hdc and 2 hdc in each stitch for one round, then adding one additional hdc between the increases for each round for a total of 6 rounds. I would have stopped one or two rounds sooner for my own, much narrower hands, but he asked for the extra width.

I then chained 8 and skipped 3 between single crochets around the outer edge to make the loops. (I actually didn't use standard sc. I did an sc decrease (sc2tog) so that the pull of the loops would be spread over two stitches.) I had to redo this at least once because the loops weren't big enough for his fingers, so you definitely want your recipient or a similar hand around to test the fit on. The thumb loop was larger; I think 12 chains skipping 6 stitches, but I'm guesstimating that from memory. Then, last but not least, I chained across the circle from the base of the thumb loop almost straight across the wrist to make the strap. I attached that with an sc and a couple slip stitches for good measure, then reversed and put a single crochet in each stitch all along the back of the loops for reinforcement.

Apologies if any of those directions are vague, but I didn't take any notes. I'm describing what I did from memory and from the pictures, because Husband found it so useful that he took it out of town with him for grad school visit #2 this weekend.

I would say this took no more than 40g from a 100g skein of Lily Sugar'n'Cream cotton - I think the colorway is called Denim. I really like making little projects like this for two reasons. One, because it is easy to grab a bit of cotton (or any yarn, really) and a hook to throw into my purse at the beginning of the week. No pattern to worry about, no need for anything but my handy slip-n-snip scissors. Two, because you learn all kinds of things, whether you realize it or not, about what you can do with a hook and yarn when you imagine something and try to manifest it one stitch at a time. I'll admit that they don't always work out as planned - I still have a few dozen yards of the cotton I used for my scrubbing fingertips that I can't seem to make into anything else - but sometimes you end up with something really handy or really cute, or both!

My husband loves that his bear claw is reversible (shown here) and easy-on-easy-off, unlike my mitt, and he's asked for a second one for the other hand. I'll take better notes as I make this second one and see if it's worth making a free pattern.

Happy crafting!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Taking the rest of the day off

Hello all.

I had the best intentions about writing an entirely craft related post last night but yesterday did not go as planned. I was supposed to spend most of the day in the field working on my research and then take my husband to the airport, return to the office for a little work, go to an evening event, and come home to blog. What really happened is that I came home from the field early with a migraine, slept until it was time to go to the airport, went back in for a little work and the evening event, went minimal-grocery shopping (you know what I mean - what's the least I can buy and still eat until (in this case) Sunday) before going home. I was barely able to feed my cats before collapsing into bed. Even then, I couldn't shake the headache and woke up a couple times between nine and midnight. Then my husband called at 2 a.m. - the second leg of his flight was canceled, leaving him stranded in Chicago until 3 today, which would have negated the whole point of the "campus visit" to Madison. He managed to switch his rental car to Chicago and drove the last leg instead.

Fortunately, my TA was teaching this morning anyway, so my drugged state is our little secret. I'm headed off to a faculty meeting where I'll probably use up the last of my coherence before heading home early. With any luck, I'll feel better this afternoon, but I'm not planning on anything more complicated than laying and reading. Not even, sadly, crocheting or knitting, though I may have enough in me to do some frogging I need to do.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

This Just In.

In a shocking turn of events, we actually finished everything on our agenda for the senate meeting tonight!. Actually, that's not wholly true. Two committees offered to share their year-end reports via the senate website instead of the meeting, and the senate voted to extend debate past our normal two-hour cut-off so that we wouldn't have to reconvene later.

Either way! What matters is the doneness of my senate obligation for the year!

I also got some really great news that I can't blog about yet, which has made me realize how true it is that blogging really serves an important role in my life. The Knitting Linguist explains it much more eloquently than I can right now. I remember getting the same feeling with journaling as a kid, but I didn't expect to become "that blogger". My husband - whose nickname is still under discussion - wants to get me this shirt.

And here's a little preview of the WIPs that I'll blog about later this week, as promised. The crochet is the Sage Corset top from Sensual Crochet. It's actually about 6 rows taller already thanks to tonight's meeting. The knit is to be frogged - I'm still going to knit a scarf out of it, but the cast on and stitch were too girly for the scarf's intended owner.

Weird Questions and Observations

Q: Can something turn out to be anticlimactic if you know it might be anticlimactic and are therefore steeling yourself for that likelihood?

Context: Tonight should - "should" - be our last faculty senate meeting, but I have little doubt the long agenda will ooze over into our just-in-case day, the last Tuesday of the semester, two weeks from today.

Thought: Why have three people expressed sympathy for me today because I went to the dentist? Am I the only one who enjoys good dental hygiene?

Q: Is it strange that I am somehow proud that my husband - the man with the beard - has been repeatedly mistaken for a man who got on the local news running across the finish line at the Cooper River Bridge Run because they both have giant beards? (Giant.) (Really.) Who am I? (Yes, when they post pictures I'll share.)

P.S. Maybe that should be his knitblog acronym: MHWTB, a.k.a. My Husband with the Beard. Sort of implies I have another husband without a beard though... Can't just call him The Beard. :)

Oh look. Senate time. Yay.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

FO: Petite Petite Bijoux Bag

Lovin' Sensual Crochet by Amy Swenson. I know I've already mentioned that, but I'm gonna say it again and again, so be forewarned. :)

The pattern I modified here is the last one in the book, the Petite Bijoux Bag, which, as you probably guessed, I made smaller. I worked on this in faculty senate one night because it was portable, and I think I got halfway up the sides in less than two hours. (We adjourned early that night.) I was looking for a way to use up the last of my Bernat Bamboo, as you might remember from the One-Hour Eye Mask post, and this was perfect.

It'll hold my digital camera plus credit cards and ID, keys, and the like. It's only about 5-6" in diameter instead of the 8" (I think?) of the pattern.

The picture's a little gray because of the weather we've been having, but you can see two more pictures on Flickr, where you can also see the wrap (blog, Flickr) that matches it.

Last but not least, I'm working on updating my tags and sidebar... Or I would if I weren't going to sleep. :)

Weekend Wonder #5

Wow! This is my fifth Weekend Wonder! I was starting to think I wasn't going to make it tonight, as if Ravelry, Blogger, and Wordpress were all against me, but it's finally all come together.

This fifth WW is my first knit pattern. I wanted that milestone to go to something more... exciting, like the shrug (that didn't work) but I remembered this simple little number and decided to share it instead. I made these fingerless glove (or mitts, or whatever you want to call them) to have something warm and cushy to wear while typing. I've been working off and on on version 2.0 for the summer (i.e. not warm, but still cushy) and I'll let you know if they ever work out. In the meantime, these maintain their trusty position at my computer desk because my office is frigid any time the building's air conditioner is on. I bet some of you know that feeling.

The pattern is available here and on Ravelry as a PDF. If you would be interested in test knitting a needle knit version, I would be thrilled to send you the draft. I don't needle knit, but I would like my patterns to be ... cross platform whenever possible. Just comment, email, or Ravelry-message me (JennieMac).

P.S. I promise my next post will be about some of my recent FOs.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Survival of the ... Mmmm, Margaritas.

Last night I took my four graduate students, who all successfully defended their theses this week, out for Mexican food and margaritas. This is one advantage of grad students over undergrads - drinking age. Anyway, we had a lot of fun and celebrated their accomplishments for a little bit before they headed out to celebrate with their families and I went to a play - Dog Sees God - with my adorable husband. The play was directed by a friend of his and done very well, so it was a fun night.

The only thing that would have made the evening better would have been not having to stay up til 2 with computer issues with my grading. My husband was up packing for his trip to visit the first of the two grad programs he was accepted to.

So today I've been preparing for the rest of the week's defenses, tomorrow's classes and the early night I hope to give myself after I drop him off at the airport.

Knitting and crochet has been slow this week. I began a different crochet project as I want to think and read a little more about the Retro Femme Empire Top Thing. It's a strapless top from Sensual Crochet (of course) by Amy Swenson. I got five rows done in the faculty senate meeting Tuesday (the penultimate one with any luck!) but I've only done one row since then.

I'd like to start something new on knit but just don't feel like I have time. You know it's bad when you just don't even want to think about what you could cast on for. Hopefully a quiet weekend of aloneness will cure my blues. I'm thinking about following Kelly Petkun's example and listening to an audiobook while cleaning this weekend. I normally listen to knit and crochet podcasts while I craft if I'm home alone, but I'd like to get some housework done, too. Plus, I just recently bought Audacity of Hope. :)

I've got the Weekend Wonder planned though, and it's knit(!), so at least that's something!