31 October 2006

Exercise(s) in Frustration

I came so close to having two FOs in one day. And then, disaster struck. I knew it was coming, I was just in denial. I watched that skein of yarn get smaller and smaller, and the voice in the back of my head said "There isn't enough. You're going to run out." And yet, I ignored it. I kept knitting. And now, two rows from finishing -- two measly rows (one cable and one bind off, that's it!) -- and I am essentially out of yarn.

(And yes, that is a glass of whiskey next to my knitting. You'll understand why by the end of this post).

There is nothing to salvage -- no ends to use from the first glove (they seem to have disappeared, though I have cut off tails from every other project I have ever undertaken in a jar on my desk). Now what? Do I wait and order another skein from Knit picks? Do I bind off (shudder) in another color? These aren't for me. They're a commission from a friend. They need to look good. My knitting "reputation" (such as it is) is on the line. I'm frustrated.

Add that to the fact that I was knitting these as a break from the frustration of grant applications. I'm down to the wire getting these completed before I hop on down to Hawaii (let's not even talk about the fact that I haven't written my conference paper yet). I used to think that word limitations were frustratingly nitpicky (when I first wrote that, I typed "knitpicky"). My new nemesis? Character limitations. As in, describe your dissertation in 800 characters (including spaces). Do you have any idea how little space that is? To give you an idea, here is my 800 character summary:

This dissertation focuses on the relationship between music and place in the Central Appalachian coalfields. I explore ways in which the contemporary performance of bluegrass and old-time music is tied to social and cultural politics (stereotype, tourism, coal mining, and protest) and ways in which the construction of place (through migration, personal narrative, history, and tradition) shapes musical performance. Unlike historical studies of Appalachian music, this dissertation studies the impact of social, political, and environmental challenges on musical performance. I consider the range of meanings attached to this music, examining the tension between the musical and the political, the dimensions of revivalism and activism, and the connection between place, music, and power.

That's not a lot of space to describe what I suspect is going to be a close-to-300-page dissertation. Sheesh. It's driven me so batty that when I first started typing this post, I was editing for characters (do I really need two spaces at the beginning of that sentence? If I reword that, I can cut a few characters... Are commas really necessary there).


Things that are not frustrating? The joys of knitting with Malabrigo. Oh heaven, it's like knitting with clouds.

This was the beginning of a sleeve, used (Elizabeth Zimmerman style, since we're all crazy about Zimmerman) as a way to check gauge. I was gonna knit myself a hourglass, but now I'm not sure. This will get ripped out while I enjoy just thinking... toying... scheming for post-christmas personal knits.

And thank you all for your kind words about the Huron Mountain Socks. I'm pretty pleased, all in all. High maintenance socks that were totally worth it.

Back to counting characters... Happy Halloween to everyone!

Happy Halloween!

It is a glorious morning. A glorious morning to top a stack of glorious days. The sun is so bright, crisp and clean in the morning post-daylight savings... It almost makes up for the fact that it's dark as pitch at 6:30 p.m. This morning it's warm. It's so warm I could take my FO pictures outside without a coat at 8:00 a.m.

Pattern: Huron Mountain Socks, from Nancy Bush's Knitting on the Road
Yarn: Knit picks Gloss, in "Cocoa" (2 skeins) and "Woodland Sage" (1 skein)
Needles: inox dpns, US size 1.5 (not quite a 2, not quite a 1)
Begun: Oh, I don't remember... 22 August?
Finished: 30 October 2006

Modifications and Thoughts: Well, the only modification I made was to add the two color stripe to the bottom. This turned out to be the biggest pain, because I had to carry the "sage" behind the brown across the top three out of every four rows. But I love the way it looks:

Total payoff. And they are so comfortable. And so warm. I highly recommend "gloss." It's a dream to work with, especially for colorwork (it's very forgiving post-blocking). I'm a little apprehensive about how it's going to wear -- I'm worried about pilling. But in the meantime, they make an attractive (if a little ... bright?) pair of warm winter socks.

26 October 2006

Home in the Hills

Dickenson County

This is the view as you come over Dante Mountain*, the mountain the separates Russell from Dickenson Counties. I drive over this mountain pretty often and every time I remark to myself, "God, that's beautiful! One of these days, I'm gonna stop and take a picture." But I never do. Today, as I drove over, the view was magnificent (those mountains in the distance form the Pine Mountain range, which marks the border between Virginia and Kentucky and initiates the Cumberland Plateau) and the light was perfect. And this time, I did stop. Of course, I had to drive half way down the mountain to find a good place to turn around and, as is the way with these things here, in the minutes it took me to turn around and come back up, the light was gone. I took the picture anyway. It just feels like home.

This is the home I came from. I love how, no matter where you take the picture, all photos of "The Lawn" at UVa look like college brochure photos. I took this from the steps of Cabel Hall, the music building, looking up toward the rotunda. I love the Lawn in the fall... all of those trees turn bright yellow. It reminds me of my best friend from high school, but happy memories.

Knitting has been accomplished. One down, one to go. These are a modified "Fetching," altered to accomodate music-making (the thumb really gets in the way) and will be gifted to a friend (who I think I'm going to see this weekend, thus the rush).

I'm almost done with Huron #2 and, you can see in the background there, I'm making my way down the ankle of Conwy #2. TCB.**

* For all y'all yankees, that's pronounced "D-ain't." There's the saying, "If you say 'Dahn-tay' then you ain't from Dante!"

** For all of you not well versed in Elvis-lore, that means "Taking Care of Business." Oh yeah. TCB.

24 October 2006

Desperately Seeking a Cardigan

Still in Charlottesville... I can't resist the call of the coffee shop. It's so much nicer than working in my home-office (as nice as my home office is). And at home, no one wakes me up in the morning the way my dad wakes me up at home -- "Jennie! The coffee's ready!". Sigh. I need to get an automated coffee maker. Because I can't stay at home forever.

Yesterday, I went browsing at my LYS. It's hard to browse yarn. I walked slowly through the whole store, touching everything, comparing colors, thinking. But I left my wallet at home (probably a good thing?) and so I didn't buy anything. But I got ideas... Ideas like: the Katia Mississippi 3 cotton/wool yarn is awesome. And comes in the best baby colors ever (things like green, and deep burnt orange, and things other than pastel pink and blue)... I wonder if it would make good socks?; or, Baby Cashmerino is soooo much more decadent than I remember it being...; or, Claudia's Handpainted yarn is so squishy, but do I really need more sock yarn; or, Cascade 220 feels really soft and comes in the most beautiful shade of heathered red.

Most importantly, however, I realized that I need to knit something other than socks and mittens -- something that doesn't come in pairs and that covers a part of my body other than the extremities. In short, I want to knit a sweater -- a cardigan, to be specific. I have knit sweaters before, but never anything in pieces. I crave a pretty cardigan, something young and flirty, a little vintage looking, with shape, pretty buttons, and cables. I want cables. And a shawl collar (I love shawl collars). So I'm asking for pattern suggestions. I've been trying to scan the blogosphere for ideas, but haven't found anything. Anyone seen anything out there that is pretty and a 'must knit'?

I hear rumors that it snowed in Kentucky last night, but here in Charlottesville it's just cold, cold cold. I'm rushing to finish the Huron socks... I wore the finished one around the house while I knit the second last night. It's surprisingly warm.

22 October 2006

Stepping back from the ledge

It's been a while. A week ago, I left the mountains to go to my parents house for what was supposed to be a short trip to use the library. The short trip has been extended to a trip of indefinite length because I forgot how useful it is to have a library in the same place you are when you're writing a chapter. I've been going a little crazy -- I leave for Philadelphia (where I will go before I leave for Hawaii) in two and a half weeks. Between now and then I have to write my paper for the Hawaii conference AND I have grant applications due right before I get on the plane, one of which requires part of a finished chapter. I was not ready to write a chapter quite so soon and this has caused several anxiety-induced panic attacks in the last few days because now I'm getting down to the wire. While I generally work well under pressure, and while I have no doubt that somehow I will get all the work done, I think I don't need to explain how un-fun all this has been.

Anway... all that is to explain why I haven't written, although I have been knitting. Stress knitting is an amazing thing. Last night, I hit the breaking point with my draft. Everything I wrote seemed like utter crap, even the stuff I thought was good two days ago. I couldn't figure out how to make my point, and the whole thing seemed like chaos. I called my friend Jennifer, freaked out a little, e-mailed her the draft, and then decided that what I needed was a break. So turned off the computer screen, poured myself a glass of wine, and watched "A Few Good Men" on Bravo while knitting a sock. Nothing like knitting in a circle to calm the wild beast of my mind. By the time Jennifer called me back with comments on my draft (surprise, surprise -- it was no where near as bad as I thought it was), I was relaxed and ready to work again.

I've done no yarn shopping here in Charlottesville, but I have acquired a lot of new yarn. I went through some old trunks with my mom, looking for a good dress to wear to the Masquerade Ball at the Appalshop next weekend. What I found instead was my mom's old yarn stash. Some of the yarn was acrylic, which we're gifting away (I'm a yarn snob... no 100% acrylic yarn for me!), but some of it was some really nice wool, and some of it might make some warm socks this winter. I know that I have spoken about the skill of my grandmother's knitting, but I didn't know until this week how gifted my mom was as a knitter. She doesn't knit anymore, but there were pieces of sweaters and half finished projects in the trunk that were beautiful. I've inherited them all (some without patterns!) and intend to finish them (have you seen my list of WIPs? At this rate, I'll finish them when I'm sixty!). I'll try and post pictures later today.

And hopefully, I'll have several FOs to show you by the time I get back to the mountains. Fingers crossed that I make no more mistakes on the Swallowtail! In the meantime, I leave you with a picture of the fingerless gloves that Jennifer made one evening last week (she's writing her dissertation, too. Can you tell? We both take pictures of our knitting with our computers). I keep telling her she needs to get her own blog, but she resists. I think these are awesome. I'll get some info from her on yarn/needles/etc.

15 October 2006


Dear Coffee,

I don't know what to do. I know you're no good for me. My friends keep telling me you're bad for me, that I can do better. Somedays, you're there for me. You're perfect -- not bitter, but warm and energizing. But you're inconsistent and don't always treat me right. Too much of you and you make me jittery and my stomach hurts. When I go without you, I feel depressed and don't want to get out of bed. I know the obsession is unhealthy. I know that tea treats me the way I deserve to be treated -- gentle, soothing, concerned for my needs.** But I just can't kick you, Coffee. You're like a habit to me. This last week without you has been hell. Please take me back. I can't live without you.


** For those of you equally addicted to Grey's Anatomy -- I know, I know, I follow trends. I had to buy the season pass from iTunes just so I could stay in the loop -- does this make tea my Finn and coffee my McDreamy? If so, that would explain why I still looooove McDreamy (Sorry Theresa. I know you and the Anatomy Lab girls love Finn and hate McDreamy, but Finn was a total fop. Then again, I've never really liked nice guys all that much. That might explain why I'm single...).

14 October 2006

Stupid, stupid...

There are a few arenas in which, as a knitter, I am stubborn and persist in willfully ignorant idiocy. For example, I never swatch. Ever. It was only after a million pairs of socks that were slightly too big or slightly too small that I started measuring my gauge before I'd turned the heel and realized they didn't fit. Today's idiocy? My refusal to use (or even really learn what it is) a lifeline while knitting lace. I understand, from other people's intelligence, that a lifeline saves your ass when you make a mistake knitting a garment that includes a million holes, such as, for example, the Swallowtail shawl. Maybe if I had sucked it up and learned, I wouldn't be in the predicament I'm in now, which is noticing three rows too late that the nubs are off on the left side of my shawl. Now how do I fix this? Can I tink back without making a bigger mess of it? Can I emotionally handle having to redo all those nubs? Can I flub it? It seems like it might be flubbable. What do you think?

the way things should look:

the mistaken nub (click on the picture for comments):

Edited to say that blogging has it's rewards -- I posted those pictures, then looked at them for a minute, looked back at my shawl, and realized I had made the mistake in the row I was knitting, NOT three rows back. So there... do you think I'm using a lifeline now? Ha! That would be smart!

But, I'll leave you with something sweet:

Nothing tastes better than local honey.

13 October 2006


When I woke up this morning, I felt snuffly and achey and knew that I needed tea. In order to make tea, I had to go out to the car to get the gallons of water I was too lazy to bring in yesterday. I stepped onto the porch and was greeted with frost -- our first this year.

Everything was so beautiful and sparkly... As soon as the sun hit it, though, it was gone.

Looks like the sickness did a little "fake-out." I felt good yesterday, but it's back with a vengance today. I've been through three pots of tea already. But finally --finally -- I got some writing done on my dissertation that I think I might keep. Fingers crossed that this is a sign of things to come -- I want to have a draft of this "mini-chapter" by Friday.

I got some knitting done in between writing stretches. I'm up the wrist and into the oak leaf pattern on mitten #2, made it to the first decrease on the second Conwy sock, and did my first round of "nubs" (a.k.a. p5tog) on the Swallowtail shawl. Hmmm. Let's just say that addi naturas do not make for good 'nub making' needles. I used the size 0 dpn from the socks to pull that purl stitch through. Tedious, but worth it in the end. I love the little pearl of yarn it creates.

12 October 2006


One lonely sock

One lonely squirrel mitten (my first, by the way)

One more repeat of the budding lace chart before the blue blob gets to try K5tog

One attempt at a knit scarf (my first. I've never been a big fan of knitted scarves. I dislike that they aren't reversible -- even the beautiful patterns. I prefer woven ones, but I fell so in love with the sand stitch from my wrist rest that I had to try it)

One very cold hand from

One very stupid photographer who decided to take photos outside in the cold while sick and who got sick while attending

the last one of the Fiddler's Conventions of the year, where she

won (close enough) another second place ribbon (and $50 this time!)

The Morehead Convention was so much fun. Beautiful fall weather, a full moon, pickin' around camp fires, moonshine, dancing, good eats and, of course, a perfect opportunity to wear my old lady night gown in public (you can't tell, but I'm also wearing hand knit socks... the canal du midi socks came in very handy this last weekend).

Woo hoo!

Hopefully soon I'll have two of something!

06 October 2006

Socktoberfest Questionnaire

Better late than never, I joined Socktoberfest today. How could I not? I love knitting socks. I have considered recently just not worrying about knitting anything but socks (have you noticed that my output of late consists of many small things, made in twos?). I haven't knit a sweater in ages and ages...

When did you first start making socks? Did you teach yourself or were you taught by a friend or relative? or in a class?

My first pair of socks were this lovely green pair, which I made in December of 2004. I bought the yarn at Rosie's because I was in love with the color (I love green... unfortunately, I can't wear it anywhere near my face -- it makes me look sick. So my feet seemed like a good place to put it). I pulled a pattern off the internet (I was new to internet knitting... I have no idea where I got it) and ploughed away all on my own. I was pretty new to dpns too, so it's amazing I managed it at all. I had to do the first heel flap twice because I didn't understand the instructions for turning the heel. I also remember the revelatory moment when I realized what it meant to "pick up" stitches. When I finished these, I was so proud. I remember looking at them and saying, over and over, "I made these. I made them. Socks. I made socks." I still get a twinge of that wonder every time I finish a pair.

What was your first pair? How have they "held up" over time?
These green ones were my first pair, and they have held up badly! Check out those toes! I also wore them to death, crammed into my boots and such. That probably didn't help. Ditto that the yarn was not made for socks (although for the life of me, I can't remember what it is!)

What would you have done differently?
Well, for starters, I would have checked gauge (does this sound familiar? I still don't check gauge with my socks!). But I don't think I understood gauge all that well at the time. They are too big. I wear them all the time anyway. I also probably would have taken the time to weave the ends in. Maybe.

What yarns have you particularly enjoyed?
I love Lorna's Laces. I love the way it knits up. I also like STR, although I've had serious piling problems with it (anyone else had this problem?). I haven't tried a whole lot outside of these two, other than Knit Picks, but I'm starting to branch out. Nature's Palette sock yarn was a delight to knit with... so squishy.

Do you crochet your socks? or knit them on DPNs, 2 circulars, or using the Magic Loop method?
Crocheted socks? (can you write "crocheted?) I prefer DPNs. I keep trying Magic Loop, because it seems like a good idea, but then I do it and remember that I hate it. Oh well. I really just love using dpns and use them whenever possible. When I relearned how to knit, I started using dpns right away and have never really taken to using circulars for small knitting.

Which kind of heel do you prefer? (flap? or short-row?)
I've only ever made two short-row heels, and it was awkward both times. I want to get the hang of it, but when it comes down to it, I prefer the heel flap. I like the way it looks too.

How many pairs have you made?

Let's see... 7 pairs for me(one of which I can't wear!), 2 pairs for my mom, 3 pairs for friends... so 12 in total. I still have four OTN (at least one of which is a gift).

What made me happiest today? I'm heading out to the last fiddler's convention of the weekend today and Julie and I have been calling to coordinate the packing. This morning, she called me to ask if I had any size 6 straight needles she could borrow. I almost cried. I spend a lot of time with Julie and the whole time I've known her, she's never knit a stitch. The idea that we could knit while hanging out is almost too much! I know this is dorky...but it makes me happy.

Speaking of dorky, one more anecdote and then I leave you. Last weekend, I went with Julie to Morehead Kentucky for a square dance (she was calling). While there, I was talking to a girl named Sarah, who I have just recently met. I think she knew that I was a knitter, but when she saw me working on my Road to Oslo socks (I knit in public all the time), she pulled out a sock she was working on (her first) and asked me if I could help her fix a mistake she had made. I took a look at the socks and realized there was no fixing the boo-boo. I also realized I recognized the sock she was making.

Jennie: "Hey, did this sock pattern come from a book?"
Sarah: "Yes, it's --"
Jennie: "Is it the Gentleman's Fancy Sock from Nancy Bush's Knitting Vintage Socks?" (keep in mind that I don't even own this book)

Silence. Both Julie and Sarah look at me like I'm crazy.

Sarah: "Um. Yes."


Jennie: "Was that too dorky for you guys?"
Julie: "Just a little bit."

Then we all laughed. So... yeah. Big sock dork.

P.S. I just spell checked this and found that "knitters" is not in the blogger spell check. grrr....

05 October 2006

Flatfooting (knitting to come)

Once upon a time, Laura asked if I could post some flatfooting footage up here, so y'all would know what I was talking about with these competitions, etc. I have no footage from competitions this summer, but I did have my friend Mindy video a performance I was in at the Clear Creek Festival in Berea, KY this summer. My friend Julie and I have a flatfooting duo we call the Linefork Girls. We teach flatfooting and clogging workshops, do demonstrations, give lectures, etc. We are also part of a group we call Hell or Highwater, which is the ensemble that performed in this video. It's not the greatest performance -- we all mess up a few times, and my friend Carla couldn't find her shoes... but you get the idea. If you're not interested in my non-knitting life -- I apologize. I've been knitting, but haven't been posting much about it recently. I'm hoping for an FO soon, though so...

(p.s. I'm the one in the red skirt and pink top. I love that red skirt... it's from Anthropologie, a few seasons ago -- a birthday gift from my mom).

03 October 2006

Who'll Rock the Cradle?*

Apparently, Hank will rock himself. He's taken to curling up in the afternoon in my rocking chair in the backroom (it gets a lot of sun in the afternoon). Unfortunately, that's also my favorite place to curl up in the afternoon too! Sweet kitty.

Question: When making dishcloths, can one use any kind of cotton? Just curious...

*The title references one of my favorite "old time" songs -- Red Rocking Chair:

Who'll rock the cradle?
Who'll rock the cradle and who'll sing the song?
Who'll rock the cradle when you're gone?
Who'll rock that cradle when you're gone?
I'll rock the cradle.
I'll rock the cradle and I'll sing the song.
I'll rock that cradle when you're gone.
I'll rock that cradle when you're gone.

02 October 2006

Molasses = Autumn

I have no knitting to show today. This doesn't mean I haven't been knitting -- I did almost a whole pattern repeat on the New England Socks and have done several rows on the Swallow Tail shawl, but neither make for very exciting posting or picture showing. I did, however, go to a Molasses-making down in North Carolina yesterday, and took some fancy photos I thought I'd share.

Molasses, for those of you who don't know, comes from cane,

which is crushed through rollers in a crusher,

and emptied into barrels.

When the barrels are full, gravity carries the juice through a hose from the crushing area (uphill) down to a large boiler (the size of a bathtub),

which is set up over a fire, where it boils for hours until it turns thick and brown.

During the boil, the chlorophil rises to the top and needs to be skimmed off, so people take turns constantly skimming the green sludge off the top of the boiling cane juice.

While it boils, everyone took turns working, chatting, whittling paddles (to use to scrape the molasses out of the bottom of the boiler at the end -- good eats!), and playing music.

I love how much music is a part of daily life here. It's not about performance as much as it is about community, time with friends and neighbors, and work. We all waited, skimmed, crushed more cane, ate lunch (soup beans and cornbread - yum!), skimmed, waited some more. When it was ready, the men lifted the huge boiler (it's the size of a bathtub) off the fire and onto sawhorses,

where it was scooped through a cheesecloth bag (to filter out an impurities) and into a bucket with a spigot, which filled the jars.

It's a pretty amazing process and I was really excited to be a part of it. In the end, I got myself a big jar of molasses for baking and eating over biscuits this winter. (If, for some crazy reason, these photos aren't enough, there are more posted on flickr).

My non-knitting work is coming slowly. I think there is nothing more frustrating and depressing than beginning to write a dissertation. I'm so excited about my material, but completely overwhelmed by even approaching writing it down. Where do I start? I don't know enough! How will I do this? I want to quit. Etc. etc. There are good days, when it is so exhilirating and there are bad days where I spend the whole day starting at the screen and have nothing to show for it. Today was a bad day. I have yet to produce my one-daily-page-(crap-or-not) goal that I've set for myself. Which would make this, I guess, procrastination.

That said, I think I'm going to follow Theresa's example of posting every other day. That way, I don't go weeks without posting, but I won't always have these monster posts. Manageable for all of us.