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Lo scialle della dissolvenza è finito! 11

Okay, so sadly I don’t speak Italian. I just thought the post about my finished Find Your Fade shawl called for something special. Because it is! I LOVED knitting this pattern.

On one hand, so many people have said so many things about this design that I feel like all I can add to the chorus is yes, yes, yes!!

On the other hand, I want to say that this shawl saw me through a long summer of travel back and forth to Texas; of shock and sadness over the loss of a dear friend; of worry after my precious 86-year-old father had a TIA, found out that his carotid artery was almost completely blocked, and then had to undergo major surgery (he’s doing great now, thank goodness); of work stress and life stress and more trying details than I can list.

Through it all, I just kept knitting.

 

 

Choosing the colors, watching each one fade in and out, seeing the character of the shawl change with each new section, working the pattern that took just enough concentration to keep things interesting . . . all of this picked me up, over and over and over again.

And now, I get to wear this beast in all its hugeness!

I’m so convinced that it is one of the best knits ever that I bought the yarn for another one, this time in the original colors. I actually purchased most of these skeins some months ago but had to find three stand-in colors for the ones that were no longer available. Then, to my great delight, Hedgehog Fibres rereleased the three original colors I didn’t have. Joy!

As my BFFF Cari would say, I can neither confirm nor deny that I bought a second full set of these colors in Skinny Singles.

Unraveled Wednesday: Knit this Sweater, Read this Book 8

Woohoo for the Tecumseh sweater!! I’m knitting mine with DWJ. Check out Yards of Happiness for details and pics of Dana’s amazing progress, and join Dana’s Ravelry group for lots of great Tecumseh chat.

I’m knitting with Baa Ram Ewe Dovestone DK. It’s the first time I’ve knit with this yarn, and I’m definitely a fan. I also absolutely love this sweater pattern!

And happily, it’s Unraveled Wednesday! I’ve been meaning to post about Educated by Tara Westover for ages. I give it my unqualified recommendation. It would be a phenomenal story even if the writing were ordinary, but the writing is masterful. I haven’t been so moved by a book in a very long time.

Other books I’ve read recently are The Girl with Seven Names by Hyeonseo Lee and On the Move: A Life by Oliver Sacks. I enjoyed both of these immensely.

It’s already late, and 5:30 comes early, so I’m going to keep things short and sweet tonight. I hope you are well my knitting (and book loving!) friends. I’ll be back with more details on Tecumseh soon.

Be sure to stop by As Kat Knits and see what others are reading and knitting today!

Unraveled Wednesday: Summer Reads and the End of the Fade 13

School here starts on Monday, and this week is full of orientation week events. It already feels like things are in full swing, so before I get totally swept up in the current of a new academic year, I want to tell you about a few things I’ve read since my last Unraveled Wednesday post.

The biggie is Les Miserables.* This book is huge in every way. I almost feel like if I keep reading it I’ll eventually find all the answers to everything. The “digressions” are insane–we’re talking thirty, forty, fifty pages. But just about the time I’d start to feel frustrated with the side path Hugo was taking, I’d realize that he was heading toward the absolute heart of everything. He talks about the “spectacle of the human soul,” the “infinity that each man carries within him,” and he digs into the details. The way Hugo manages to put so much of life that seemed beyond language into words is staggering. I can’t begin to describe here the experience of reading this book, and I won’t go on about it. For the record, though, it will be alive in me forever, and I plan to read it again, and again, and probably again after that.

The other notable book I read was Joseph Cambell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces. This is one of those books that it seems like everyone has read bits of but that not that many people have actually taken the time to read cover to cover. Having read it cover to cover, I can see why. In a lot of it, Campell’s focus is on giving examples to flesh out his idea of what he calls the Monomyth. In many cases he doesn’t explain the logic by which he chooses which myths to include in his analysis, and it almost feels like he’s picking the things that work to support his idea and ignoring the things that don’t. That said, there are parts of the book that are downright, bedrock, life-changing interesting! I’ll just give you one example.

The first chapter includes a fascinating account of how psychoanalysis now does what myth and ritual did for people of the past. Campbell points to Freud’s conception of the Oedipus complex as the main cause of our “adult failure to behave like rational beings,” and he says:

The unconscious sends all sorts of vapors, odd beings, terrors, and deluding images up into the mind–whether in dream, broad daylight, or insanity; for the human kingdom, beneath the floor of the comparatively neat little dwelling that we call our consciousness, goes down into unsuspected Aladdin’s caves. There not only jewels but also dangerous jinn abide: the inconvenient or resisted psychological powers that we have not thought or dared to integrate into our lives. . . . They are dangerous because they threaten the fabric of the security into which we have built ourselves and our family. But they are fiendishly fascinating too, for they carry the keys that open the whole realm of the desired and feared adventure of the discovery of the self.

Riveting stuff!

Finally, I wanted to mention Charles Frazier’s Varina about the life Varina Davis, wife of confederate president Jefferson Davis. I didn’t like this book well as Cold Mountain, but I’m glad I read it. It was not what I expected, and I learned some things I didn’t know.

Now, on to KNITTING!!

I have just added the last color to my Find Your Fade shawl.

My plan is to join Dana over at Yards of Happiness for her Tecumseh knit along. That starts after Labor Day, so I’m setting September 2nd as my Fade deadline. Normally, that would not seem at all difficult, but with the craziness of school’s starting I’m not so sure. Wish me luck! I cannot WAIT to wear this beast!

Be sure to head over to As Kat Knits to see what others are reading and knitting this week!

 

*Julie Rose’s translation is incredible. Unless you’re reading this in French, I can’t imagine a better way to go.

Caffeinated 12

Remember six months ago when I finished the Caffeinated shawl? No? Well, I’m not surprised. I didn’t say much about it and didn’t even get around to photographing it until today. Blame it on this crazy year.

Despite the delay, I am stoked about this shawl. The minute the pattern came out I knew I had to knit it. I love the graphic elements and the combination of double knitting and brioche.

The pattern isn’t the easiest to follow, but once you figure out what’s going on in each section and get into a groove, it’s a lot of fun to see the different kinds of stitches build on each other. Besides the double knitting and the regular two-color brioche, the designer has included a big section of alternating brioche stripes. You can see it in between the caffeine and dopamine molecules above. For this part, you work one whole row (right and wrong side) with one color and then switch to the other color. I really like the effect.

An added plus is that I think this shawl is going to be exceptionally easy to wear. I wondered about this for a couple of reasons. For one thing, it seemed like the double layer of fabric might affect the drape and make the shawl feel bulky and unmanageable. Add to this the fact that the FO isn’t particularly big so you don’t have long ends to wrap and tie to get the adjustment just right, and I had the tiniest suspicion that this might be something I enjoyed looking at more than actually using.

I’m so happy to be wrong! The asymmetrical crescent shape hugs my shoulders beautifully.

I threw this on with no mirror and didn’t adjust it once before Paul took these pictures about halfway through our day. It stayed put with one little flip of the ends.

In other news, this has been quite a summer. The minute school was out, we left for Texas to spend some time with my mom. While we were on the way down, we learned that a dear friend had suffered a massive heart attack on vacation and passed away. I still can’t believe it.

After we got back to Tennessee, I dove into teaching at an intensive summer institute, and the day before that was set to wrap up, my sweet Daddy had a stroke. Thank heavens, he’s doing better than ever now, but there was a week or two when things were pretty scary.

We got to enjoy a wonderful visit from close friends we don’t see nearly enough of. There was even knitting!

 

And then the week before last, we got the sad news that my cousin Mark had passed away. He had been fighting Multiple Systems Atrophy for years, so it wasn’t unexpected, but that didn’t make it any less sad.

Daddy and I drove to Memphis for the funeral, and I took this picture during one of the in-between times. Daddy napping, me knitting . . .

So life is life. As always, I am beyond grateful for the comfort and peace that knitting offers and for the wonderful community of knitters I’m so lucky to be part of. Thank you for reading, my friends. Though I have been behind with commenting, I have been keeping up with everyone’s posts. They have been rain in the desert. Thank you!

Mary Lou’s Wheel 18


My friend Mary Lou died.

I would like to write about her here, about what a good friend she was, about all the things she taught me, about what a generous, beautiful, life affirming energy she was in the world . . . I’ve tried to write about those things, but so far, I haven’t been able to do it.

For now, let me just say that I miss her very much.

In looking for some way to adjust to life without Mary Lou, it occurred to me to ask her husband, Tom, about her spinning wheel. I can see her sitting at it, spinning and laughing and listening, barefoot, happy, at ease as only she could be with the wheel and the world. Seriously, she was so good at living.

Tom was kind enough to let me bring Mary Lou’s wheel home with me.

It’s here with me now, and it does help.

I am spinning on it for this year’s Tour de Fleece which started yesterday. My plan is to spin this glorious BFL top that for some reason makes me think of Mary Lou.

I want to use the 2-ply yarn to knit a pair of socks. I think she would like that.

She was extraordinary. I am so thankful that our lives intersected for awhile.

 

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Unraveled Wednesday Update 4

Summer teaching is in full swing, so progress on both the knitting and reading fronts has been slow. My Fade is coming along, though, and what a fun knit! The pattern is easy, but you’ve always got the next color shift to anticipate, so it doesn’t get boring. I’m just about halfway through.

As for reading, I am inching toward the end of Les Misérables but will save talking about that for another post. Two books that I finished before summer school started but didn’t manage to tell you about are The Little Stranger, by Sarah Waters, and Celine, by Peter Heller.

Peter Heller’s The Painter is one of my all-time favorite novels, so I read anything he writes. Celine is entertaining, but it’s no The Painter. I liked the characters and found the story compelling, but it was like watching an episode of Law and Order and trying to compare it to The Godfather. The two books are worlds apart. I’m glad I read Celine, but it’s not going to hang around in my brain.


As for The Little Stranger, I loved the “The House of Usher” vibe, and the story held my attention all the way through, but the ending . . . meh. I don’t want to give anything away, so I won’t go into detail. I’ll just say that with a stronger finish it could have been exceptional. As with Celine, I’m not sorry I read it, but I was hoping for more.

That’s it for me today. I’m off to grade papers. Check out Unraveled Wednesday over at As Kat Knits to see what other people are knitting and reading this week. Be well, my friends.

WWKIP Day for the Win! 17

I had the huge pleasure of celebrating World Wide Knit in Public Day yesterday with my BFFF, Cari. If you’re new to the blog and don’t know Cari, I write about her all the time. I wrote more than usual here and here. She’s amazing.

Believe it or not, we met in person for the very first time on WWKIP Day 2013, by accident! We’d gotten to know each other a little through Cari’s blog and through conversations on Ravelry when I lived in Chicago, but we’d never actually met in the flesh.

Paul and I had just moved to Tennessee and were having lunch out, and this person walked up to our table, looked me dead in the eye, and said, “You’re knitting. You must be Melinda.” Instant friendship. Paul even snapped a picture! I was working on my Glacier Sweep shawl.

After that crazy chance encounter, Cari and I have made a point of being together on (or near) every WWKIP Day since. I can’t begin to say how much happiness this brings me.

It’s hard to imagine WWKIP Day before Cari, but I was looking back at some old pics and remembered that there was at least one fun one in Chicago.

In 2012 I was in a Ravelry group that had a WWKIP Day scavenger hunt. The idea was to take a picture of your WIP in all sorts of crazy situations. You got points for each picture, and the person with the most points won. Here are a few mine.

My sock with the daily paper (1 point):

The sock held by a child under 9 (1 point). These guys are practically grown up now!

The sock in front of The Art Institute, an internationally recognized landmark (5 points):

The sock held by a non-knitter (1 point) with a sign in more than 2 languages – English, Korean, and French  (1 point):

The sock at a height of at least 50 feet (3 points). Paul was an exceptionally good sport during all of this.

The sock with a family of non-knitters who didn’t speak my language (3 points) and who volunteered their son to hold the sock. We’re also standing in front of The Bean, another internationally recognized landmark (5 points). Plus, that’s a hand knit hat I’m wearing. I can’t remember how many points the hat was, but it should have been a lot. It was 98 degrees that day!

The sock under running water (5 points):


And finally, the sock held by someone in uniform (3 points):

The best part about doing this was meeting so many nice people. I was amazed by how willing everyone was to participate and by all the great conversations the picture taking spurred about knitting and all kinds of other things.

I didn’t win the competition that year, but that turned out to be completely beside the point. By the time I finished taking the pictures, I’d already won the day.

Here’s hoping that you are enjoying knitting in public somewhere fun this weekend! Be well, my friends. And knit on!!

 

In the good things department . . . 22

Hello, my friends. I’m just popping in to share a quick update on my Find Your Fade shawl. It’s coming along!

 

We went down to the creek near our house today for a little summertime R and R. We took Django and did a bit of hiking and splashing around in the water, and I even managed to spend a few minutes knitting in the sun while we dried out.



I hope you are safe and well and happy and finding lots of time to knit now that the days are warmer and longer and a little bit more relaxed.

Bird by Bird 18

A week or so ago, on a day that wasn’t going so well, I posed a question to the members of a small knitting forum I’m part of. I asked people to share an experience in which knitting had helped them through a difficult time.

There were a number of responses. Some were instructive. Some were moving. All were warm and encouraging and helpful. One in particular suggested knitting a bird. My knitting friend said,

. . . one thing that helps when I feel stressed is to knit something really quick and easy, which I can complete in one go. I especially like Bluebird of Happiness. There’s a sense of achievement from just being able to complete something, especially if you can’t solve or fix or control everything else that’s going on around you.

I have to admit that I wasn’t feeling all that hopeful. But trusting that another knitter wouldn’t steer me wrong, I thought, “what the heck; I’ll knit a bird.”

 

Wow!

I cannot explain it, but knitting this little bird (and the several that followed) changed my outlook. The thinking about it, the picking out the yarn, the getting involved in the pattern . . . watching the little body start to take shape . . . The whole endeavor was monumentally soul soothing.

 


Before the bird, I was feeling depleted and pretty down. But then I knit the bird. And I felt a little better.

 

And you know what’s funny? One bird led to another in the most beautiful way.

And then this morning, as I was snapping some photos of my little birds of happiness, I glanced over at the pile of books near my desk, and my eyes came to rest on Annie Lamott’s incredible Bird by Bird.

 

Do you know this book? Its subtitle is Some Instructions on Writing and Life, and boy is it ever! I recommend it to everyone, even to those who have no interest in writing. Because of the life part. It’s fine advice.

Here’s where the title comes from:

Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write, which was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, “Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.”

Sometimes when I’m feeling like I have to do everything, fix everything, understand everything . . . I become untethered and lose touch with what knitting is always trying to teach me–the only way forward is one stitch at a time, or as Lamott says, bird by bird.

Unraveled Wednesday’s Knitting and Reading 16

Hello, Friends! I’m still here. Still knitting, reading, teaching, doing each next thing. As usual on Wednesdays, I’m rushing to get everything ready for my marathon teaching day on Thursday, but I did want to pop in for Unraveled Wednesday.

The log cabin squares continue to be every bit as wonderful to knit now that I’m on square seventeen as they were on square one. I’ve started thinking of them as my portable happy place. I might have to knit them forever.

On the reading front, I picked up Exit West by Mohsin Hamid and Don’t Let Go by Harlan Coban at the airport. Exit West has a fascinating set up and some crazy good writing. It is unusual in that there is a significant piece of fantasy—doors opening to other places on the planet—that guides everything in the plot, but this is the only fantasy element in the story. I like my fiction set firmly in the real world, so it was interesting to notice how this single fantastic element affected my level of interest in the book. The story takes a hard look at communities and borders and things like what it means to be a native and a migrant. It was good enough that I’d definitely read something else by Hamid.

Don’t Let Go is the first of Harlan Coban’s books I’ve read. I regularly see his name listed alongside other writers whose books I enjoy, but for some reason it took needing a book to read in the airport and running across this one to make me actually start something by him. Don’t Let Go was good! It wasn’t life changing by any means, but it was a well-plotted, fast-paced, entertaining read.

The other book on my mind these days is Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan Ilyich.* Holy moly. I’m teaching it to twenty-year-olds who are pretty sure they’ve seen it all, and even they are blown away. Apparently, after reading it near the end of his life, Maupassant said: “I realize that everything I have done now was to no purpose, and that my ten volumes are worthless.” I totally get it.

Check out what everyone else is knitting and reading on this Unraveled Wednesday over at As Kat Knits!

 

 

*The Peter Carson translation is my favorite.