23 February 2006

I'm going to Graceland...

Oh, it's early. But Oh, I'm off to Memphis today. There are no words for the excitement that bubbles deep down inside me. My best friend from grad school is doing her fieldwork in Memphis (where she grew up) and I'm off to spend a few days living her field experience (she spent almost two weeks with me here, helping me move back in November). I can't wait to get there... I've never been to Memphis. I've never seen the Mississippi. I've never had to type Mississippi so many times before getting it right. I'm goint to see the Stax Museum. I'm going to a juke joint (and NOT one on Beale Street, either). I'm gonna gaze into the wonder that is the Mississippi river from not only Tennessee, but from Arkansas too! And, most importantly, I'm going to see the King. That's right. I'm going to Graceland (are you all singing now?)

I'm really, really excited about Graceland. My friend Molly, who I don't think even knows about this blog (note to self...) was/is obsessed with Elvis. All through highschool, I teased her about it, because I (idiot that I was) thought I hated Elvis. Oh, I was wrong. As I've gotten older, I've found respect for Elvis on a number of different fronts. But more and more, this respect has turned into an actual enjoyment. And as a friend more obsessed with Elvis than anyone I can imagine pointed out to me while watching a video of an Elvis vegas show from the early 70's -- Elvis really loves what he is doing. It's easy to lose track of the fact that, at the time, Elvis didn't know he was being kitschy. He was just being genuine. And you have to respect a man for being genuine. Especially that genuine. [I feel the need to throw in here that in an interview I conducted yesterday I was told that "Elvis was the worst thing to ever happen to Old Time music." I love this quote... It's true, though. The advent of Rock n' Roll really hurt the classic country music industry. In the words of Melvin Goins, Elvis "shore did take a lot of beans n' taters off'n our plates." -- Bobby, that was for you].

There's no denying Elvis was a pretty amazing musician, as well.

Outside of the excitement of going to Graceland (I just can't say that enough), my trip to Memphis will also herald my first trip to a LYS of any kind in a very long time. I have a strict yarn diet. But I am allowed to buy a skein or two of something pretty, just for the joy of shopping the way I used to -- touching everything until I find something so beautiful, a color so perfect, a texture so amazing, that I have to have it.

So, moral of the story: give me about fifteen more cups of coffee, a lot of NPR talk radio, a few good books on tape, and Memphis -- HERE I COME!!

21 February 2006


Finishing, finishing, finishing...

Pattern: Elfine Socks
Yarn: Knitpicks Sock Garden in "Zinnia"
Needles: ? metal 40" circulars, US 2
Started: 24 January 2006
Finished: 18 February 2006

Notes: Not much to say... I am completely sold on the benefits of knitting two socks at once... I also really like knitting toe- up. I'm still not sure about the garter stitch at the top. You can see in the pictures that it's a little baggy. And I think melanie has skinnier legs than me. I also kinda wish I'd done one or two more lace repeats. I like long socks. But... It's too late now, I decided, and I'm mailing them off today.

Pattern: Handwarmers from Last Minute Knitted Gifts
Yarn: Knitpicks Andean Treasure in "Lagoon" (left over from Christmas presents)
Needles: Clover bamboo dpns, US 5
Started: 20 February 2006
Finished: 20 February 2006
Notes: They weren't kidding when they said this was a 2-4 hour project. I started this while watching Law and Order last night and finished in bed listening to the radio. Two and a half hours, tops. I've made a lot of wrist/hand warmers in my day. These are a gift for my friend Julie, and I love them. The stitch pattern is terrific -- enough streatch to comfortably get them over the hand, but finally NOT something that is ribbed. They also used exactly as much of this alpaca as I had left-over from 'hobo gloves' that I made my friend Amy for Christmas. So they were a total freebie-fun project.

20 February 2006

lolita sweater

my friend (amazing as he is) managed to find a picture of the scene in which lolita is wearing this sweater. It's kinda hard to tell, but you get the basic idea (sort of)...

It's still not easy to tell how it's really constructed. I've been playing the scene over and over in slow-mo to see if I can figure it out. I have ideas... I might do a sketch and then post that.

This is fun.

Square Dancin' the night away

The square dance was fun -- not the wild dancing extravaganza I had planned, but fun nonetheless. This square dance was a benefit for the Pick and Bow program at Appalshop, an afterschool traditional music program for kids. So there were A LOT of kids there. The calling was less dance and more dance-related games for kids, but I played along a bit and when I got tired, I did a little clogging on the sidelines. I also sat in with the band and worked a little on my old time banjo skills.... still a long way to come, but progress is being made.

The best part of the night, far and away, was the cake auction. It got a little rowdy, with cross-bidding and out-bidding, re-bidding and joint-bidding. I never got it together to make my own cake (too many last minute details to whip something up, and I am morally opposed to cake-mix baking). But, as displayed in the last post, I did bid on and win the pie baked by my friend Julie. It went for a pretty penny, but let me tell you -- that baby was worth every single cent. It was a fudge pecan pie -- really, it was fudge poured into a pie crust and topped with fresh strawberries. I'm embarassed to admit how much of that I've eaten on my own. It is sin in a metal pie dish. I've made her promise to give me the recipe, and if she doesn't mind, I'll post it here. Because really, there is nothing better than knitting while juggling a plate of really good pie, a cup of coffee, and a good movie.

[Oh, and by the way, I hung the crepe paper streamers in that photo -- pardon me for being irrationally proud about that. The room was octagonal, and the streamers looked awesome. I felt like I was on prom committee or something -- it was very 80's movie]

I think the highlight of my friday, though, was my pre-dance trip to the grocery store. I accompanied my friend Suzanne on a party-favor expedition, which turned into a photo expedition extraordinaire. For example, this:

Ugli fruit. I was tempted to buy one -- I wonder if it tastes ugly? Is it a citrus fruit? Is it related to mangos? I can't tell... but I want one. I really want one.

Also pretty amazing:

In case you can't read it, let me give you a close up of that:

This sign was posted next to this:

Cake mix. Apparently, in case of natural/national disaster, FEMA suggests we all stock up on cake mix. Hmmm... I'll spare you all my thoughts on FEMA before I saw this little sign, and, given my aforementioned stance on cake mix, I'll leave to your imagination my feelings now.

No good pictures yet of the elfines. I was out most of today and missed good natural light. I've got second thoughts about the garter stitch 'ribbing' around the top. I think that after wear, it will stretch out and not hug the leg. Has anyone else experienced this? I feel like it's too late to fix, and maybe I should just let it be, but... I put so much work into these, I hate for them to be anything other than (close to) perfect.

After finishing the elfines, I immediately cast on for a pair of jaywalkers for myself (at last!) in the Socks That Rock color "Fire On the Mountain." I was nervous, because I know that Courtney experienced pooling with her STR jaywalkers, but these are perfect. Little bands of color, you never get the same color-stripe combo twice. I love it. Pictures to come...

P.S. I forgot to mention -- I was watching the Kubrik "Lolita" last night, and toward the end of the movie, when Humpert and Lolita are in the car being followed and they have a blow-out, Lolita is wearing the most spectacular hooded cardigan sweater. You can only really see it from the armpits up, but its got wide chunky rib cuffs, a hood that has a squared shape, a neat button band with no ribbing, and big buttons that button all the way up part of the hood. It's awesome and inspired me to start considering my first large garment of my own construction. Does anyone have any tips? I'm not sure where to begin -- I think I understand the shaping of the hood, but not how to connect it to the body. It had shoulder seams, but was seamless between the body and the hood. I'm looking for a picture which I will post as soon as I find it. In the meantime, any advice on designing?

18 February 2006


Much to report on, but in the meantime, look what I finished while snowed up at home:

This picture is hopelessly dark, but I just couldn't wait until tomorrow. More pictures (and info) to come tomorrow, as well as more info on the Valentines Square Dance and the (absolutely amazing) pie that I bid on and won. Just for teasers...

The pie in it's packaging.

The pie after breakfast this morning (I forgot to take a picture before I ate a piece... doesn't it look great with my counter top?)

16 February 2006

tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow...

i have, inside me somewhere, a long and sensitive post about why i started knitting. it's important to me to write this, because i don't talk about it much, and the act of knitting is something that carries great meaning and connection. but... now is not that time. i've not been knitting in the last two days... just a row here or there on a sleeve or the elfines. i could have finished them days ago if i put my mind to it. but my mind is elsewhere. when i get my focus back (today? this weekend? as soon as this craziness settles...), i'll finally post about things that matter, things beyond "see how pretty this thing is that i made" (not that there is anything wrong with that... it's just that sometime i think i need to stick some substance in here).

in the meantime, i'm starting to wish i had actually joined the olympics. i thought that my travels and work would prevent me from actually participating, but i think i probably could finish the hourglass sweater in that time frame. i do get a great deal of pleasure out of reading about everyone else's progress... sometimes, it just makes me so happy to know that so many people out there are accomplished knitters. it's a beautiful way of passing on an important tradition... it gives me hope that other kinds of traditions (particularly music -- a type of tradition that i spend a lot of time thinking about) that seem all too quickly to be considered 'obsolete' will have the strength to persevere. For example, despite the fact that we don't need to handknit socks or sweaters anymore -- we can always buy them machine-made -- so many people are still making them. it's beautiful. when i think about music - how much of it is mass-produced, mass-marketed, commercialized -- it makes me fear for the future of local, live music-making. as venues get larger and larger, and individuals get more and more distanced from the personal creation of music, what will happen to things like, say, old time music for square dances? but, as with knitting, there are some things that continue, despite logic or technology.

on that topic, friday i'm going to a valentine's day square dance in kentucky. i'm more excited about this than you can imagine. 1) i LOVE to square dance. it's one of most enjoyable things, especially if your partner knows what he's doing. the men down here can really LEAD, so i can just relax and get swung around. i love it. 2) i managed to make it through middle and high school without ever having a date to a dance. this is something that pained me at the time and that i find endlessly funny now (i try and keep this perspective on things that seem painful to me now... "in ten years, i'll find this funny, in ten years, i'll find this funny...") i'm excited about the valentine's day square dance because i have a date. with a boy. we're just friends, but -- he asked me to go to the dance with him, and by being part of a couple, we save $2 on our entrance fee, so i feel like that counts as a date. the curse is broken! 3) part of this valentine's day dance is a cake auction. the women make cakes (i'm not sure if it is really as gendered as all that, but some traditions hold) and put them in decorated boxes. the men bid on the boxes. after a man 'wins' a cake, he and the woman who made it eat the cake together, and then have a square dance together. it's such an incredibly old fashioned and kinda romanitc gesture... straight out of little house on the prarie, really. i love it. i'm definitely decorating a cake box for this dance... just to see what happens!

13 February 2006


i had so much to say today, but waited until it is so late i'm falling asleep over my keyboard. no photos to speak of today, but tons of progress. while watching supersize me (i may never eat food again -- any kind of food!) and running back and forth from couch to window to oogle the beautiful snow-globey wonder that is mountain snow, i managed to finish the body of my hourglass (to the arm pits) and up to the first sleeve decrease. i made 1/3 of a kitty pi for phoebe, who is not only sick with a cold, but also scheduled for a you-know-what on tuesday (I swear it was not a malicious act on my part to get both of my kitties fixed on valentines day. it was just the only day the vet could make an appointment!). I thought a kitty pi might make her feel better... a cozy place to sleep (and an alternative to my lap). I'm also almost almost almost done with the elfines. two, maybe three more lace repeats and then - finito! I'm hoping to finish tomorrow... but maybe that is too ambitious.

to hold myself to writing about something more serious than the bragging about what i have finished, i've been thinking a lot lately (and inspired by the posts of others) about why I knit. I will write more tomorrow, but i was wondering what brought other people to the craft?

11 February 2006

It's been a while... But I didn't want to post with out significant progress, so I worked hard and made some significant progress (it didn't help that I couldn't find the battery charger for my camera).

I finally made it, with some difficulty and ripping out, up and over the heel of the elfines, and I say "hang what I said last week! I love magic loop, toe up, two socks at once!" I love doing heels where I don't have to pick up stitches. It seems to go so much quicker (never mind the huge hole you can see in the middle of my heel... I didn't pull the yarn tight enough. But after ripping out and starting the heel over twice, I didn't have the heart to do it again. I'll fix it during finishing). I really love these socks... they are so comfortable and look so beautiful on the foot (even with my sock-dented left leg there... also from a pair of handknit socks... why, you might wonder, is one leg sock-dented and the other not? because i have taken to wearing only one sock, so that I can try these on every row or two to see how good they look... it's so satisfying!).

My hourglass is knitting right along as well. I'm just past the second increase and plugging away. This yarn is such a dream, I can knit without looking at all. Which means I can watch good movies and interesting TV and not worry about missing what's on the screen. It seems silly to put up progress shots of the body of a sweater -- it's just a tube. But...

Like much of the east coast, the forecast this weekend called for snow, and lots of it. Normally, by February, I'm ready for winter to quit. I get depressed by the continuous cold, the darkness, the inability to spend extended periods of time outdoors (I grew up in virginia, so winter sports are kind of foreign to me)... But this winter was the winter of no-snow. I left Philly before the snow hit, and by some strange arrangement of mountains and pressure systems, we get very, very little snow here in my region of Appalachia. It hasn't really felt winter-ish all winter. The tiny snow we got last weekend is the first snow I've seen on the ground all winter, and that snow barely lasted through sunrise. But today -- today I woke up to an actual snowfall, and one that was still in progress. We're reported to get anywhere from six to twelve inches (which means, probably, that we'll get five). I've not been so excited about snow since I was in middle school and snow meant the possibility of school cancellation. I went out and took pictures this morning, shoveled my stairs (fell flat on my tush in the process), and prepared to get snowed in. I've got water, homemade chicken soup, a stack of good movies, and three knitting projects to finish. Bring it on!

07 February 2006

a day of progress

The best place to take pictures chez jennie is on one of my two porches. The weathered wood backdrop really offsets the colors of the knit and it's really the only place I get good light. So today, I bundled up against the wind and cold and dragged my knitting onto the porch to examine my progress in the light of day. here is what I found:

My elfines... slow going. I have mixed feelings about magic loop and knitting two socks at once. I'm very much a dpn kind of girl -- I use them whenever possible. I feel like they help me plug along. That said, I also definitely suffer a little from the second-sock-itis. So it's nice to know that I'm done with both socks, up to a certain point. But it is also much slower going to knit two at once, particularly using magic loop when you're used to dpns, and I think I'm having some stamina issues. Anyway, I'm following Lisa's lead and shooting for one lace repeat a day. I need to get these babies finished. They're so pretty, really, which should be enough to get me through.

But, to keep myself feeling productive (and to get me closer to my desired goal of knitting myself a pair of socks out of my new Socks that Rock yarn) I cast on for Sara's jaywalkers. Now these I'm really excited about. First of all, after knitting on the elfines (and, probably, because these will be jaywalkers #3), these seem to knit up so quickly. Also, I'm very, very pleased with the colors. Sara loves purple, and at first, I was a little disappointed in how much yellow there was (on the other side of the sock, there is a much larger pool of yellow). But today, in the light of nature, I realized that these are perfect. Since my sophmore year of college, when Sara dressed in a batman costume for holloween, all of my friends have referred to her as Batman. Now, this is not a joking, use it every once and a while kind of nickname. It has replaced her name. I call her house and ask for "batman." We refer to her car as the "batmobile" (and her mom as the "batmom"). These socks are the PERFECT batman socks -- they've got the purple that sara loves, and the black and yellow of batman. i'm very excited. Had I really thought things through (and not been so in love with jaywalkers around christmas) I would have knit her real batman socks. But for someone who is only a few months away from being a lawyer, maybe subtle batman socks are better...

And lastly, my most exciting project, the much loved Andean Silk hourglass sweater. I love it. There are not enough words. It's taking huge amounts of restraint to not hop on the website and buy enough Andean Silk (in a color that will actually look goodon me) to make myself one... I meant this to be my unofficial Olympics project, but I got too excited and cast on early. I knew I couldn't join the olympics anyway... I have too much work to do and too many jams and concerts to go to in the next two weeks to dedicate myself to a challenge of a project. My challenge is to finish the hourglass and the elfines (and, in a perfect universe, the bat socks too) by the end of February. Then I'm allowed a big-commitment project for myself (I haven't decided yet what this will be, but I'm pretty sure it's gonna be a cardigan. I love cardigans!) Any suggestions?


i'm in love... with Knitpicks Andean Silk, that is. I got the yarn for melissa's hourglass sweater in the mail today. I'll admit - at first, I was really disappointed. The yarn on the skein had the stickiness of acrylic and I wanted to cry. But when I knit up my gauge swatch, the yarn transformed before my eyes (or fingers). It is so smooth and soft. It's got terrific drape. I can't wait! I would be more worried about keeping the sweater for myself, except that the color I chose will look terrible on me and terrific on Melissa (its a deep, bright blue -- "pool"). I made no progress on socks tonight and worked only on the hourglass and now I'm up to the second decrease. I'll post progress pictures tomorrow. It's too dark to do it now (not to mention too late!)

Oh, and Theresa, to answer your question -- I used about five and a half skeins of the Andean Treasure alpaca for my "arms" (you can probably do it in five... I had some problems and wasted a little yarn during the ribbing fiasco).

06 February 2006


I shall not leave these prisoning hills
Though they topple their barren heads to level earth
And the forests slide uprooted out of the sky.
Though the waters of Troublesome, of Trace Fork,
Of Sand Like rise in a single body to green the valleys,
To drown lush pennyroyal, to unravel rail fences;
Though the sun-ball breaks the ridges into dusk
And burns its strength into the blistered rock
I cannot leave. I cannot go away.

Being of these hills, being one with the fox
Stealing into the shadows, one with the new-born foal,
The lumbering ox drawing green beech logs to mill,
One with the destined feet of man climbing and descending,
And one with death rising to bloom again, I cannot go.
Being of these hills I cannot pass beyond.

- James Still, The Wolfpen Poems

05 February 2006

kentucky... (and finished arms)

I spent this weekend just over the mountain in Kentucky with some friends. What a good time... I live in a rural area, but I spent most of this weekend at my friend's cabin. To get to this cabin, you need to drive up a dirt road, ford a stream, and deal with some serious hills. That's real country... and it was exactly what I needed. I listened to and sang a lot of good music, ate smores fresh off a bonfire, drank some whiskey and even more coffee, learned new flatfooting steps, and, most importantly, spent a lot of time thinking about my dissertation. I feel rededicated to work and ready to throw myself into this research. This was exactly what I needed!

Oh, and did I mention that I finished my shrug? I decided to rip out the ribbing I did before and try again, this time picking up even more stitches. Sure enough, it did the trick. I actually think the ribbing is a little loose now, but it's something that could easily be remedied with a little elastic thread around the edge. But all in all, I love it. (excuse the uncreative and somewhat blurry pictures... i wanted to take them outside because it FINALLY snowed here today and it was so beautiful up on the mountain (not that you can see it in these pictures...)

Pattern: "Arms," of my own concoction...
Yarn: Knitpicks Andean Treasure 100% baby alpaca in "Embers"
Needles: Takumi Clover dpns US 4; Skacel 24" Bamboo Circulars US 4
Started: 15 January 2006
Finished: 4 Feburary 2006

Notes: Let me begin by saying that I never used to like shrugs. I made fun of them. I laughed and said "what's the point of just having arms with no body? what good does it do?" Then, a few weeks before I left Philly, my roomate made a shrug. I tried it on. I liked it. I started thinking "my, jennie, this might be nice to have on those in-between days, when it's not too cold, but not too warm either..." Eventually, my curiousity got the better of me, I had this lovely alpaca that I had bought to make my mom a shawl (it was too itchy for her) and while watching the Golden Globes, "Arms" was born. I call my shrug "Arms" because of the six million times I had this conversation in the three weeks I was knitting:

[Person]: Hi Jennie. What are you making?
[Jennie]: A Shrug.
[Person]: A what?
[Jennie]: It's... Arms. I'm making arms.
[Person]: Oh! Cool.

Overall, like I said, I'm really pleased with my arms. I like the cable running up the back of the sleeves, but I wish that I had split the cable and had it run on both the top and bottom when the shrug crosses the back before coming back together on the opposite arm. I think it would be more organic that way. But... I'm not about to reknit it. I'm a little tired of knitting in a circle (this does not bode well for the hourglass sweater to come). This got more than a little tedious in the middle. Maybe next time I make a sock-distraction project it shouldn't be round...

And, on the sock note, I arrived back in Virginia and was greeted by these:

Hurrah for Socks that Rock! The colors are (on the left) 'Fire on the Mountain' and (on the right) 'Marbles'. It is taking all my self control not to start knitting with them tonight! Instead, I cast on for Sara's purple jaywalkers and did a few rows on the Elfine socks. Slow and steady wins the race...

p.s. thanks for the feedback on the holes in spitey's sweater. When i send it back to him, I think I'll include a sweater bag for it, since the sweater is particularly important to him. I don't know why I didn't think it was moths... the holes seemed strange to me. But then, it is such a thick-knit sweater, that might explain why it looked different.

p.p.s. Anna pointed out that my site wasn't letting non-blogger folks comment. stupid. i changed that. so comment away, good or bad :)

02 February 2006

almost finished

So I finished my shrug - almost. I picked up stitches along the edges, knit a few inches of rib, and decided to try it on before tying it up. And, sure enough, despite researching elastic bind-offs, it was too tight to put on (I practically dislocated my shoulder!). So, I ripped it down and tried temporarily just running waste yarn through the loops, to see if it was a bind off problem or a ribbing problem. It's a ribbing problem. Even with the loops having free streatch, it is still too tight. It could work, but it bothers me. And I don't want to make things that are flawed anymore. So now I don't know what to do...

I could a) leave the edges without the ribbing. But they curl and I'm not sure if blocking will stop that; b) rip the whole edge out, try and pick up more stitches so that it has more room to grow; or c)... I don't know what "c" is... Any ideas?

01 February 2006


I wrote a long post earlier but then had problems loading photos so I never posted it. Now, several hours later, I don't want to post it because I'm feeling blah and that post is so chipper... I don't know what my problem is. It's probably due to the fact that I'm just now, at 5:15, having my first cup of coffee. I was up past three last night working on the amorphous, wine-colored blob that is my shrug. Just now started picking up the stitches for the ribbing around the body. I'm worried I'm going to run out of yarn. Running out of yarn when you live three hours from a LYS (and the yarn you're using is knitpicks) sucks. Really. But the shrug itself makes me happy. I need to block it, I think, to deal with some curling issues, but really I'm hoping that the ribbing takes care of that. No pictures yet, mostly because I can't figure out how to get a good picture of me wearing it...

What else? I did a genius repair job on a sweater belonging to my now-ex-boyfriend (to be known as Spitey from here on out - and no, that doesn't really have anything to do with spite. it's a long running nickname, from before my time). Spitey got this sweater when he lived in Colorado, and it's a beautiful English wool sweater that seems, for no apparent reason, to be disintegrating. There aren't any snares or catches, he hasn't ripped it on anything. It's just falling apart.
So I did the best I could to reinforce the area around the holes, pull the stitches together, and keep them from unravelling. I think I did a pretty decent job. You can't see the hole from right side unless you know it's there. I fixed a big hole in the front before I moved to Virginia in November. When I was back in Philly over the holidays, Spitey pointed out the new holes. I didn't have time to fix them while I was there, so I took it home with me. I wish I knew why this was happening. Any ideas?

Coffee is kicking in. I need to gear up to go jam. I'm not looking forward to it -- I sliced my left hand index finger open two nights ago while slicing bread (what I deserve for being so excited about toast with honey and peanut butter that I wasn't looking at where I was slicing). The left hand index finger is integral to banjo playing. I tried to play this afternoon and wasn't too successfull. The guys at the jam always give me a lot of grief when I don't play. I just can't deal with that today. sigh...

Sorry so much whining. I won't post again until I'm in a better mood :)