Posts for : August 2015

Hoping The Third Time Is The Charm 2

So I’m knitting the sleeve on Calligraphy for the third time. The first time I realized my in-the-round sleeve gauge was much tighter than my back-and-forth body gauge. It took me about two inches of knitting to figure that out. If you’re thinking I must not have been paying much attention, you’re right. I was distracted by a very weird movie—Queen of Earth. I read a review that said it was scary, and there was nothing else on, so I figured what the heck . . . let’s see what it’s all about. It wasn’t scary. Weird, but definitely not scary.

Rasta gave up on the movie before the dialogue even started, so he was out cold by the time I needed sweater advice.

Rasta

I ripped back and fixed the gauge issue and then set off on sleeve number one again. This time, I got about halfway down the length of it and realized it was going to be way too big around. It starts out with 70 stitches which, once I stopped and thought about it, seemed like an awful lot. I checked a few similar patterns, and indeed, it was more than is typical in the ones I’ve knit that fit me well. Here’s the weird thing, though. Other people’s finished sweater pics for Calligraphy don’t show a particularly baggy sleeve.

So it’s not the pattern because others aren’t having an issue. But it’s also not just me because sweaters I’ve knit with a similar construction that use a similar yarn have started with far fewer stitches at the top of the sleeve. What am I missing? For the time being, I’ve given up on trying to figure it out. I ripped back again and this time started the decreases sooner and am doing them every other row. This seems to be working out much better.

Sleeve 3

Paul took this picture during our travels today. The sweater is turning out pretty slouchy overall, but I think it will be okay for wearing over other things this winter. 

Look at this sweetie. Isn’t she pretty?

Kitty

We seem to be running into kitties everywhere. This little girl was actually in the Dog Boutique we browsed through while waiting for a friend to meet us for lunch. She seemed completely content to sit on top of this dog stroller and get pets from the shoppers. She was super friendly and purred and purred while we were petting her. 

Hope you had a nice weekend! Happy knitting!

 

Texture 2

Paris Review Tweet

In the last two minutes while I should have been working but instead have been looking at Twitter, I’ve learned:

What I actually want to be doing right now is knitting Calligraphy. I should finish up the body today and be on to the sleeves by tomorrow. I snuck in an hour or so of porch knitting earlier, and it was wonderful.

Porch Knitting 2

This is Rasta attempting to delay the inevitable when it became clear I had to get back to work.

Porch Knitting 1

I’m starting to think about the next project, and I’m pretty sure it will involve another sweater. I’ve been wanting to knit gramps practically forever. It offers the benefit of lots of mindless stockinette, and since I’ll be traveling to visit family in a couple of weeks, there would be advantages to having something I could work on easily while chatting and running around. I’ve also got a number of Thea Coleman’s gorgeous cardis on my to-knit list. One of those would be fun. Hmmm . . .

Of course, there’s always the option of casting on for two projects.

I found this single fall leaf in the yard yesterday evening. I wonder if it was a sign that it’s okay to go ahead and knit all the sweaters.

Fall Leaf

@KnitPotion 0

A while back (10 years ago?) a friend of a friend who knows people who know things predicted that Twitter would end up bigger than all the other social media platforms put together. It sounded like crazy talk at the time. And, no, it hasn’t happened yet, but WHOA! Twitter is insane! 

I set up an account along with everyone else back around the time I was having that conversation with my friend, but that was kind of the end of it. I never really got into Twitter. Earlier this year, I went so far as to set up @KnitPotion with the thought of giving Twitter a fresh go, but it took me until this weekend to have my mind officially blown. Seriously, whoaaaa . . . Let’s talk about the parallel universe where all the cool people have been hanging out.

I’ll spare you the details of my conversion, but I do want to mention that on the very weekend I discovered the awesomeness of Twitter, I also discovered that I could read and knit at the same time. Life will never be the same.

Knit and read

This Morning 2

Thankfully, the gray yarn I found strung across my office floor this morning turned out not to be attached to the Calligraphy cardigan. I actually haven’t been able to figure out where it came from.

Not Calligraphy

When I asked Augie what he knew about the situation, he got a crazy look in his eye and screamed “Winter is coming!” at the top of his kitty lungs . . . 

GOT Augie

and then refused to engage in any further discussion of the incident.

Augie Snow

I resorted to figs (part of the errand day bounty), tea, and Calligraphy on the porch.

Porch Calligraphy

Winter is coming. I’m going to need a sweater.

Mirror Calligraphy

Errand Day 2

Today was errand day, so we got to see our friend Miss Kitty at the Feed Store.

Shop Kitty 3

She was must have been feeling especially social because she actually left her comfy box on the shelf long enough to get some pets and help us do our shopping.

Shop Kitty 1

We had lunch at the usual spot, and it was a beautiful day, so we sat outside and ate while I knitted on Calligraphy.

Lunch Calligraphy

Last night, we cooked dinner for my dad, and Calligraphy kept me entertained while I waited for the bread to finish baking.

Dinner Calligraphy

These beauties are from the garden. I planted them among the tomatoes this year to help deter bugs, and it seems to have worked!

Marigolds

Thanks for stopping by. Happy knitting!

Calligraphy 4

Calligraphy 1I have high hopes for the Calligraphy Cardigan. I’ve been searching for a go-to cardigan pattern, something that’s straightforward to knit, that meets my requirements for a cozy, button-up sweater, and that adapts well to fit different sizes of knitted-gift recipients. So far, Calligraphy is looking good. The yarn I’m using is Peace Fleece DK in Fathers Gray, and as usual with Peace Fleece, it’s very nice to handle and to knit with. I’m hoping to finish the raglan increases this evening.

The big, floppy collar is one of my favorite things about Calligraphy.

Calligraphy 2

And as promised, here are a couple of shots of CeCe. It grew when I blocked it. A LOT. It could be a dress. It would be hard to overstate my ambivalence about the finished sweater. The Madelinetosh Pashmina is luscious, but I’m just not that happy with the sweater.

CeCe Back

The lace pattern itself was fun to knit and not at all difficult to memorize, but some aspects of the sweater’s construction were unfamiliar. This was the first time I’d done lace shaping where I had to figure out the details of the increases and decreases myself. This article from Vogue Knitting (Part 2 in particular) and the discussion of shaping in Stitch ‘n Bitch Superstar Knitting (starting on p. 71) helped a lot. I’m psyched to have gotten  some experience with this technique.

What I’m not so psyched about is the neckband. The pattern has you knit the neckband separately and then attach it. Not only did attaching it turn out to be pretty fiddly, but I never was able to make the transition from the knitted-on section to the sewn-on section look as seamless as I would have liked. It’s kind of hard to tell in this picture, so you’ll have to take my word for it.

I didn’t situate the button very well either as you can see. I think I’d just lost my enthusiasm for the project by the time I got to that point.

CeCe Front

The last thing I’ll say about CeCe is that it’s designed to sit quite far out on the shoulders. I should have realized this before I started and either planned to make adjustments or chosen another pattern because in practice this isn’t an easy style for me to wear.

“dirty little secrets about writing” 2

Knit Potion the blog is about knitting. However, given that knitting leads to thinking and thinking to knitting, it seems fair to feature the occasional eureka moment related more to thinking than knitting. Or something. Please imagine a graceful transition to the following . . . or take this opportunity to move on, but be sure to come back tomorrow for pictures of CeCe and the Calligraphy cardigan.

As you probably know by now, I’m obsessed with the way the brain works. A big realization for me as I approach the half century mark has been that the conscious mind is not infallible and that it can’t be one’s sole resource for navigating life. Saying it like this, it sounds absurd. Would someone really believe that? I’m here to tell you, someone really would.

Let’s have an example. Experience has shown me that practicing yoga helps me live a happy life. For as long as I’ve been doing yoga, though, I’ve had to fight the tendency to prioritize other things. When the time comes to stop working, grab my mat, and head out the door, I often think, “at this moment it’s more important that I make progress on this work thing than that I take an hour and a half to go bend and stretch.” For a long time, when I made the mental checklist, the work thing or some other thing often won out over yoga. But here’s the kicker. What slowly began to sink in was that yoga helps me in ways I don’t understand. There are benefits in the yoga column of that checklist that I can’t name or even access intellectually. I now do yoga because I know from experience that it’s important, not because I fully understand why.

Learning to spin showed me again that in some cases you have to quit thinking and start doing to get where you want to go, that reason alone might not be up to every task. I had to hit the pause button on my conscious mind and let my hands and body and my broader awareness figure things out. This realization didn’t come easily. I fought it for at least a year before Abby Franquemont’s exhortation that “the stuff you need to learn now about spinning isn’t in your brain, but in your hands” convinced me to quit trying to think my way into being a good spinner and start spinning my way into better spinning.

All of this has been gradually dawning on me, and the more I learn about the way the brain works, the more it all makes sense. We discount the overwhelming proportion of brain activity that occurs beyond consciousness at our peril. Books like Gonzales’s Surviving Survival and Richtel’s A Deadly Wandering shine a light on the dangers of assuming everything is within our conscious control.

Richtel talks about the radar operators in World War II whose job was to watch the radar screen for blips. Sometimes they made mistakes. Richtel says, “If you misread the radar screen, got distracted, fell asleep, well, people died. Villages burned. Without being too hyperbolic: Battles were won and lost, and wars, too.” These were highly intelligent, seriously motivated people, but time and again they failed to see what was right in front of their eyes. How was this happening? As Richtel goes on to explain, “They were running up against the limits of their own brains.”

And Gonzales’s shark attack survivor—she remained unable to function as long as she tried to reason her way beyond her “irrational” fears. These fears weren’t coming from her conscious mind, so the conscious mind was powerless to address them. If she had continued to assume that her ability to react, to focus, to understand was boundless and that she just wasn’t trying hard enough, she’d have been dooming herself to a lifetime of misery she had no way to combat. To move forward she had to recognize that the conscious brain is just the tip of the iceberg where human experience is concerned.

Here’s another great big honking implication of acknowledging that there are limits to our conscious understanding. It frees us from holding ourselves and other people accountable for everything. If I believe my husband has complete control over his attention and that his conscious mind is infinitely capable, then when he forgets to put the cutting board away and clean up the crumbs after he makes a sandwich, I have to think that he just isn’t trying hard enough to remember; or when we’re talking and he insists on what I think is a skewed approach to things, I have to assume he’s just being willfully contentious. I start to become annoyed because I think he’s choosing to be argumentative or disregard something important to me. In some cases, he might be, who knows—but in many many cases, brain science is teaching us it’s more likely that he isn’t. His conscious mind, like mine, simply works imperfectly. Being able to let my sweet husband off the hook, to imagine that perhaps he didn’t intentionally set out to frustrate me, is huge. This awareness lets me be kinder and more accepting of my family and my friends and of the guy who cut me off in traffic . . . And even of myself. Realizing that I can’t always know everything perfectly and fully and that sometimes it takes time, sleep, new info or perspective or a good meal or some knitting for my brain and body to make sense of something. . . . well, that helps me live more successfully and certainly more happily.

So . . . the occasion for my aha moment this this time around was an article I came across on writing, “How Writing Leads to Thinking,” by the historian Lynn Hunt. Hunt’s interest is in how relying on the conscious mind to map everything out ahead of time can actually prevent you from writing rather than help you to do it. If we assume our ability to think our way through things is absolute and we wait for this thinking through to be complete before we begin to write, we’re stuck. Whether we’re blogging, writing an email, or preparing a report for work, waiting until we’ve formulated everything we want to say before we start is deadly.

Hunt says of herself that “writing is not the transcription of thoughts already consciously present in my mind. Writing is a magical and mysterious process that makes it possible to think differently.” She elaborates on this idea:

. . . the process of writing itself leads to previously unthought thoughts. Or to be more precise, writing crystallizes previously half-formulated or unformulated thoughts, gives them form, and extends chains of thoughts in new directions. Neuroscience has shown that 95 percent of brain activity is unconscious. My guess about what happens is that by physically writing . . . you set a process literally into motion, a kind of shifting series of triangulations between fingers, blank pages or screens, letters and words, eyes, synapses or other “neural instantiations,” not to mention guts and bladders. By writing, in other words, you are literally firing up your brain and therefore stirring up your conscious thoughts and something new emerges. You are not, or at least not always, transcribing something already present in your conscious thoughts.

Again, we’re talking about the limits of the conscious brain. It’s not a matter of thinking and then writing down what you’ve thought. Thinking doesn’t lead to writing. Writing leads to writing.

Hunt describes what she calls one of the “dirtiest of the dirty little secrets about writing” when she explains how trying to think through everything before you begin leads to perpetual delay:

Everything about history and life itself is potentially infinite (except one’s life span, unfortunately). There is always another document that could have been consulted, just as there is always another fact about a friend or partner that if you knew would make you understand her or him better. But life is short and if you want to write more than a dissertation or one book or two books and so on, you have to limit yourself to what can be done in a certain time frame. You cannot accumulate pages if you constantly second guess yourself. You have to second guess yourself just enough to make constant revision productive and not debilitating. You have to believe that clarity is going to come, not all at once, and certainly not before you write, but eventually, if you work at it hard enough, it will come. Thought does emerge from writing. Something ineffable happens when you write down a thought. You think something you did not know you could or would think and it leads you to another thought almost unbidden.

That right there is truth. If I’d realized it when I was not writing my dissertation, it might have helped. For better or worse, the conscious mind is not infinitely able. If it’s important to do a thing, start doing it. Now. Clarity will come, eventually.

Realizing this freaks me out a little. You mean I can’t figure out all the things right this minute?! You mean just jump in and start writing without knowing what I want to say?! You mean go to yoga even though I don’t understand exactly why it does me so much good? knit even though I don’t know why it’s so sustaining? Why, yes. That’s what I mean.

. . . days that are the good flesh continuing 0

I’ve just finished up my grading for the summer term, and one student who struggled but worked extremely hard finished strong. It’s such a great feeling to see effort pay off. Her final paper was exceptional, one of the best in the class. I’m super proud of her.

Aaaaand, I finished CeCe. I’ll post more thoughts on it once I have a chance to block it and take a few pics. For now, it’s on to the Calligraphy cardigan!

In the in-between I’ve been knitting knitting knitting on the current pair of stripey socks, even while I’m driving. Only at the stop lights, of course.

Stop Light

Yesterday, I took the day off to be with some very dear friends. They’ve rented a cabin on top of Roan Mountain for the weekend, and I went up and spent the day visiting, spinning on the porch, eating amazing wood fired pizza, and checking out the scenery.

Roan Mountain 1

These pictures are from the top of Roan Mountain. It’s one of the highest peaks in this area, and there is nothing but gorgeousness everywhere you look.

Roan Mountain 2

Roan Mountain 3

The title of this post is from the poem “Meditation At Lagunitas” by Robert Hass: “There are moments when the body is as numinous / as words, days that are the good flesh continuing.”

In The News 3

So I’m tempted to wait to publish this post until I have knitting pics to share. CeCe is sooooo close. Like it’s possible I might even finish it today and get to start Calligraphy close. But there’s a lot on the schedule for this afternoon, and I know how I am, so I’m going to go with what I’ve got.

Interesting Knitting News

Did you see the story about the 71-year-old Pittsburgh woman who was shot in the knee while knitting yesterday? The headlines all included the knitting: 71-Year-Old North Side Woman Shot In Leg While KnittingKnitting woman shotWoman, 71, shot in the leg while sitting at home knitting after bullet came through her window from across the street.

I wonder why the knitting figures so prominently. Why not “Pittsburgh Woman Shot” or just “Woman Shot”? It’s not like the knitting is an element of the crime as it was with that other Pittsburgh woman who was stabbed with a knitting needle or the story where the son killed his mother by stabbing her with a knitting needle, or even the one where the bus video shows a student being attacked while the monitor knits.

Are the writers of yesterday’s story trying to emphasize the contrast between the violence of a bullet coming through the window and the calm domesticity they think the knitting suggests? Is it that the shooting isn’t interesting enough on its own? Is it that knitters have come to represent such a significant element in society that adding this detail guarantees hoards of additional readers? If that’s the case, you’d think they’d have let us know whether or not the woman was allowed to take her knitting with her in the ambulance.

I do love it when knitting shows up in unexpected places. A couple of weeks ago, this video was in the news. It’s footage of Icelandic knitting enthusiast Kristin Gudbjartsdottir who took her knitting paragliding.

And if you’re into knitting-themed music, Paste magazine found a whole list of songs where knitting figures prominently. Even if you don’t end up liking the songs, going to the article at least gives you another look at that awesome picture of Sufjian Stevens knitting that’s been all over the internet. Yes, he’s been knitting since kindergarten. Yes, he knits on tour. Yes, these are totally awesome things to know.

Okay, I’ll post the picture. Please don’t report me.

 

Sufjian Stevens knitting

 

And finally in my news round up, there is this:

 

 

I read about it in the Huffington Post, and I find it both amazing and slightly embarrassing at the same time. The knitting is crazy good. You could stop on any frame and spend many minutes absorbing the perfection of every detail—from people and buildings to insect wings and cat poop. It’s all there. And it’s all knitted! The story is about the “Nudinits,” though, and the naughty puns are off the charts. Like, if my mom read this blog I wouldn’t even post about this. Like, I might be blushing as I type. But the knitting!!! You should probably take a look.

Monday 4

This might be the lamest blog post ever. But here goes.

Sock knitting on the porch:

Sock 1

Sock knitting while hanging out with my dad while P mows his lawn:

Sock 3

This wooden lawn chair is older than I am.

Sock 2

CeCe is getting there.

CeCe

Tonight, we had Chocolate Infinity Pie for dessert. Here’s a secret. It’s made with tofu. I got the recipe from my friend D, but I think she got it here. It was VERY good.

Chocolate infinity

That’s what I have for now. Keep on keeping on everyone. Happy knitting!