Thursday, February 24, 2011

Temperance's Karma

I present to you the completed NOLA Temperance socks:

I have just the sense of humor to be amused by knitting a pattern named Temperance in a yarn I bought in a city not known for said trait.

I talk a lot of talk about karma and Buddha and reincarnation and so forth, but these socks have really made me wonder if karma is transferred to things.  Most of my brain says that the whole idea that my possessions could be influenced by my personality is hooey.

A tiny part of my brain, however, says this:
  • The experience of purchasing this yarn was unpleasant.
  • When I tried to knit a pattern purchased specifically for this yarn, it didn't work.
  • After ripping that out and trying a different pattern, it was too big.
After ripping out and trying the pattern again on smaller needles, it worked.  BUT....
  • I found that I knit half a repeat too much on the second sock and had to rip out again.
  • When I finished the sock at lunch and went to triumphantly place them on my feet, I found a dropped stitch.  The only real option was to try to pick it up as best I could and sew it down with a scrap of yarn, which I did.  The only other time I've lost a stitch and not seen it until the project was complete was with one of my very first washcloths. I remember my stitch count being off during the toe decreases of this sock, and because I explained it away using logic that I now know is false since finding said dropped stitch, I am in a state of fear that there is a second stitch dropped somewhere.  
  • As I walked back to my office in my newly-completed socks, my left shoe started squeaking.
I gave these a nice long soak in lovely wool wash and gently blocked them using my very nicest sock blockers.  Maybe I'll find a way out of this yet...

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Warm Hats Not Hot Heads

Knitters are bound together by the fact that we like to make things with yarn, but we run the spectrum in terms of race, religion, sexual preference, socioeconomic status, and political leanings.

Recently though, a couple knitters were troubled by the lack of civility many politicians have shown.  It doesn't matter if you lean left or right; we (hopefully) all want our elected leaders to act like adults.

To that end, they began the Warm Hats Not Hot Heads campaign in which they encouraged knitters to adopt a congressperson and knit a hat in his/her honor.  You can either mail the hat directly to the representative, or you can mail a photo letting him/her know that this handmade hat has been donated in his/her honor.

photo courtesy of Rep. Carson's website

Sign me up.

I used Google Images to try to get a feel for my representative's style and found that his style seems to be Black Business Suit.  So I pulled out some black wool and made him a cabled hat.  I made it extra long because he's a big guy with a bald head, and he needs his ears covered.

I have no idea whether Andre Carson will wear this hat or not, but even if he doesn't, I hope it serves as a reminder that he has constituents who care enough about the work he does to take a few days and knit him something warm.

Friday, February 18, 2011

I'm Bad At Some Stuff

Last week, I read a blog post by Tiffany Ard, the genius behind Nerdy Baby, which really isn't just for babies.  I dig all her stuff and personally believe her ABC poster (scroll down to the bottom of that page) should hang in every home next to that fabulous Chicago Public Library poster by John Rieben that I've never been able to find in print form.  

[Image from here.]

Anyhoo, in the post she was talking about things she does badly.  She says,

Confronting failures and trying to be less bad at the seventeen things I’m bad at, which doesn’t sound like a lot but they’re pretty general things. It’s not like “bad at making pesto” and “bad at letting fingernails dry without smudging them” — no, those would be very nicely specific shortcomings which could be overlooked because wow, less than 20? Pretty great. But mine are more like “bad at anticipating things that take place at the same time every day” or “bad at having the patience to do things right the first time.”  quote nicked from here

The idea has stuck with me.  I've been taught on the therapist's couch that I should always engage in positive self-talk.  I've done it so long it's become second nature.  To have someone say they are bad at things feels unenlightened... and really good, like admitting I like alcohol only when it tastes like dessert, which I do.

It feels good to say that I'm bad at things without qualifiers.  I know the qualifiers.  I know I'm a lovely person.  I know that my effort counts even if the outcome isn't always ideal.  I know there are lots of things I do well.

But there are things I'm bad at.
  • I'm bad at enjoying the moment.  I love to read, but don't read a ton because I have a very hard time am bad at reading a little, stopping to live my life, reading a bit more, etc.  Once I begin, I inhale books like--well, never mind.  I behave the same way around knitting.  Projects are seen as projects, things to be completed.  I am bad at enjoying the process of doing things I love, like reading and knitting.  That makes me enjoy them less.
  • I am bad at directions.  I can read a map well, but I am bad at knowing how to get places without a map.  If the road curves, I become confused and can no longer tell in which direction I am headed.    
  • To make matters worse, I am also bad at paying attention to where I'm going.  I still don't know the location of things on 86th Street--is the doctor's office east or west of Harcourt Road?  Is the health food store in the strip mall with the big grocery or with the party supply store...or are they all in the same strip mall?  I am not sure I could get to Andrew's Grandpa's house even though Andrew and I have been together for nearly 15 years and we've been there tons of times.  
  • I am bad at letting things go.  I get mad defensively even though I usually don't show it.  I may know in the rational part of my head that there is no reason to be upset by someone's behavior, but I am.  Every time.
  • I am bad at respecting the opinions of people on issues when they differ from my own: gay rights, separation of church and state, immigration, religion, the supremacy of baseball as a professional sport, etc.  I may have named my blog "peaceable liberal," but a more honest moniker is "liberal who thinks you're wrong but is too conflict-adverse to tell you so."
  • I am bad at socializing in large groups of people without feeling that my soul is being sucked out.  I actually am pretty bad at socializing with small groups of people without experiencing the same drain.  
I'm not sure I need to change all of these.  There's only so much I can do about my lack of spatial awareness and my introversion.  I can work to be more aware, certainly, and that may be enough to become less bad at some things.  I can also be happy that the things I'm bad at, while important, aren't life-shattering.  I'm not bad at remembering to feed our pets or tell Andrew I love him or turning off the gas or brushing my teeth.

Who knew being honest about what I'm bad at would feel like positive self-talk?  What are you bad at?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Mixed Bag of Greens, Part Deux

Yesterday Kyle and I went to a knife skills class.  It was held at the same place where I took the vegetarian cooking class last year and was led by the same instructor.  The veg. class was a mixed experience.  This class was much better.

There was a lot more instruction in this class, and I really liked that.  The instructor would show us how he wanted us to cut two or three types of produce, then we would go to our stations and do it, then the instructor would show us more, etc.  He floated around to each station to help us.  We cut onions, leeks, garlic (my hands still smell), basil, parsley, oranges, turnips, and carrots.  I feel like I know the proper way to hold a knife now, and I understand why I could never chop fresh basil.  Turns out that trying to do what the guy on TV does isn't a foolproof plan.

The instructor took the produce we cut and made us dinner with it.  We had salad with fancy carrots and orange slices, tomato-basil soup, and turnip and onion gratin.  It was really good and I enjoyed it, although the instructor used a lot more butter and cream than I would use at home.

At the beginning of the class, the instructor asked if anyone was a vegetarian.  I raised my hand, and he said, "Tonight is for you!"  I was relieved we wouldn't be cutting up meat.  I'd already decided that I would just abstain from that part of the class, but it was nice to not have to do so.
Image nicked from here.  You should click that link.  I'll wait.

Then, after we'd had our salad and soup and were eating the turnip dish, I heard the chef explaining to the other table how he had made the soup.  "Then I used three parts chicken stock to one part cream to one part milk."

I believe the words I uttered then were, "Are you #$*)@ing me?"  I don't think I said it loudly enough for anyone but Kyle to hear, thankfully.  I then contemplated whether to say anything to the chef.  I didn't, deciding it would just make him feel badly with no benefits.  There was nothing to be done about it now.  We had already finished the soup.  I'm still contemplating whether I should e-mail the company to share my experience and ask them to be a little more aware in the future.

The kick is twofold:

1.  I would have checked with the chef concerning the ingredients if he had not made a point of noting I was a vegetarian at the beginning of the class.

2.  I really, really don't want to ingest meat.  It makes me sad that I have chicken stock in my body.  I silently apologized to the chicken, but I'm guessing that's little consolation for her.

Sigh.  Nothing's perfect, and I will try to focus on the things I learned instead of the one flaw of the evening.

Maybe my experience can be a cautionary tale for someone who reads this.  People have all sorts of ideas about food that you may find weird and meaningless.  Being hospitable means that you pay attention anyway.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Checking In: Six Weeks

This is a check-in for New Year's Resolutions, but first things first.
If you were wondering how the knitting was going after my last post, I give you this:

One sock is finished and I'm nearly to the heel of the second.  I'm enjoying the pattern (Temperance).  The pattern shows up better in Temperance than the first pattern I tried, but it's still not great simply because there's a lot of color going on in this yarn.  I think this will work, but I think I'll probably reknit this pattern in something more monochromatic at some point.

On to Resolutions:
I'm still riding the Resolution Train.  I recently read that it takes 91 days to make a new habit, something that startled me because I always thought it was 14 or 21.  I'm keeping that in mind as I try to keep up my resolutions.

1.  Music:  I have a bunch of CDs that I carry in the car.  I am mildly successful listening to them.  I'm still working on this.  I have been startled to find that a CD that I thought I hadn't listened to much was very familiar to me.  It's not that I never listened to it; it's that I didn't like it when I did.

2.  Exercise:  Paying myself to exercise is working!  One week I only managed three workouts, but that was because I had a horrible headache on that Saturday.  I decided that if I worked out five times the following week, I could count it.  I did, and I did.  I've been walking on the treadmill while watching DVDs, and I've been enjoying not hating it.  The time is soon coming when I will accept that I have to ramp up the intensity of the workout, but right now I'm thrilled that I'm doing something that doesn't involve the couch and my ass.  My weight, however, has not moved.  I am disappointed by this and trying not to think too much about it.  The blame may lie with chocolate.  And pancakes.  And cheese.  Actually, there's really quite a lot of blame to go around.

3.  Yarn:  I have to admit a couple things.  My birthday is in January and I received yarn and a knitting store gift certificate as gifts, so I certainly haven't felt deprived in any way.  I also just placed a significant order for yarn, but all of it is being used for gifts.  I think this is okay, but I do need to keep thinking about what I can knit that will use up stash yarn.  The editor of The Knitter, a UK knitting magazine, has set a goal to only knit from her stash in 2011.  The thought makes me a little queasy, and I don't even consider myself an impulsive yarn-purchaser.  I'm trying to tell myself that if I work at using stash yarn now, I won't ever get to the point where I feel I have to limit myself for a year.  This may be a lie, but I've found that lying to myself is rarely as harmful as people make it out to be.

Feel free to utilize this when raising your children.

4.  Upholster:  The chairs are back, but there's a problem with one of them.  After playing phone tag, we've scheduled for someone to look at it on Wednesday.  I'm confident it will get fixed and we will live happily ever after with these chairs.

Posting these check-ins, while almost definitely boring to you, is really helpful to me.  This space is one part diary and one part public reckoning.  Even though I know very few people are reading, the fact that someone on the Internets might be reading makes me want to work hard to succeed so I can report success rather than failure.  Who knew the Internet could be a bodhisattva?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Karma of Yarn

You remember that funny thing I said last post?  When I said I'd never knit socks that don't fit?

Well, even though I carefully stuck in a footnote saying I actually HAVE knit socks that don't fit, Fate didn't read that far.

Today at lunch, I ripped out my progress on the newest attempt at using the NOLA yarn.*  I'd been trotting along on the new pattern last night, and it seemed like it was a little big.  This morning I compared it to another knitted sock...

...and it was a bit big.

I thought about switching needles and carrying on, but the trick about socks is that you have to knit TWO OF THEM and I didn't want to mess with making the same mistake on the second sock so they'd match.

All of this has me thinking about when I bought the souvenir yarn last year.

I went to two different yarn shops in New Orleans, and one was lovely.  I made these socks out of the yarn I bought there.

I love the socks.  I love the yarn.  I love the pattern.  I loved the shop from which the yarn came.


I want to reiterate that Shop A was lovely.  Shop A is pictured above.  Shop B was a different story.

When I went to the second shop and bought the Schaefer yarn, the woman at the shop was not pleasant.  She was, in fact, unpleasant.  She was condescending and rude to the woman ahead of me in line, and then she actually admonished me with the "you're being naughty" finger gesture** when I didn't answer a question to her liking.  The question, might I add, was in reference to whether I preferred Technique A or Technique B when I knit socks.  Apparently Technique A was not the response she wanted.

Lady, it's knitting.  Don't tell me that I do knitting wrong because you do it differently.  We both have a nice time and end up with handmade socks.  There is no wrong in this scenario.

So, anyway, I hadn't bothered to write any of this down because I wanted to forget the unpleasant encounter at Shop #2.

But now, with the trouble this yarn is giving me....  I wonder if perhaps it has some bad karma stored up from being in that shop for so long.  I figure knitting with it shows it that it is loved, but perhaps it needed the reassurance of my love that only being willing to rip out twice and start a third time would provide.

So, yarn?  Love you.  Stop jerking me around.

*It's not those colors, but it's that yarn.  My colorway is purple, green, yellow, etc.  Think Mardi Gras in yarn form.  No, that's not right.  Mardi Gras in yarn form has beads and perhaps feathers.  Never mind.

**Not the flipping off gesture, the one where you slide one index finger down the other repeatedly in an admonishing manner.  There should really be a word for that.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Mama Said There'd Be Days Like This

I pretty much finished the sweater

assuming that by "finished" you understand that I mean there are no buttons and it will fit perfectly once I grow wings.  The arms are gigantic.  Huge.  Could easily disguise a superhero's flying appendages.  I know of no rational reason for this to happen.  Mom says something can be done with a sewing machine and scissors.  I vacillate between despair and indifference.  Indifference hurts less.

So I started socks.  I know how to make socks.  I have never once made socks that didn't fit.*

I bought Souvenir Yarn in colors that make me think of Mardi Gras while on our trip last year.  My friend bought me a pattern named French Quarter for my birthday, so I was all set for happy New Orleans socks.

The internal dialogue over the next two or three days went something like this:

Bloody hell, I've never used needles this small.  I knit socks all the time and have never used needles this small.

Huh.  This yarn is pretty splitty.  I didn't expect that. 

I can't seem to do this left-cross-beginning-with-a-purl thingie without losing stitches and cursing.  That's peculiar.  I'm sure it will get better once I do the cross another thousand or so times.

Hmmm, this yarn is really variegated.  I'm not sure it's showing the pattern well.

I'm being ridiculous.  New Orleans yarn in Mardi Gras colors knit in the French Quarter pattern!  It's a trifecta of perfections!

....I really can't see this pattern.  This is a lot of work to not see the pattern well.

I hate knitting.  I'm going to take up some other hobby, like maybe drinking.  I've never been drunk.  Perhaps I would like it.  The people on telly seem to.

Twenty seconds later, I was on Ravelry looking through thirty-two pages of projects made with this yarn.

I then ripped out the sock, wrote "kahlua" on the grocery list, and started another pattern.

*That's sort of a lie since I routinely make knee highs that don't stay up.  I choose to ignore this.  See "despair" and "indifference" above. 

Oh, and there was that Christmas stocking I tried to knit for Andrew that ended up over two feet tall due to a lack of understanding of gauge.  But really, it's pretty good as a wall hanging around the holidays. 

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Ice, Ice Baby

Our version of the storm was ice.