Posts by melinda

Posts by melinda

Ohhhh, the weather outside . . . 16

Is glorious!!!

I think I’m going to make it. Only sixty-two bajillion papers left to grade, and my first semester back in the classroom will be in the books. My last class was Thursday, and I have to tell you–my subconscious must have taken that as license to KNIT!!! I’ve been shamelessly ignoring my responsibilities and knitting away on all sorts of odds and ends all weekend.

The picture above is the tiny front of a cardigan for a new bundle of preciousness I’ll get to see for the first time over the holidays. The cute is killing me. Pictures soon.

There’s also my Inlet cardigan. Little problem with that one. I finally finished up all the pieces, gave it a good soak, and set to work pinning it out on my blocking board.

 While I was futzing around trying to get the fronts to line up, I realized that something wasn’t right.

Ugh. At some point during the craziness of the semester, I must have gone to finish up that front left side and temporarily lost my mind. Why in the world did I decrease at the top on the armhole side?? I’m trying to focus on the fact that this is knit bottom up, so fixing it shouldn’t take long. Still . . .

The other thing that’s been on my mind is the Fringe and Friends New-Year Knitalong. It’s a Logalong! I’ve wanted to try log cabin-ing forever, and I absolutely love a good knit along. I’m pretty sure I’m going to be on board for this.

Karen Templer recommended Ann Shayne and Kay Gardiner’s Log Cabin Field Guide as a good starting point. It explains the basics of how the log cabin construction works and gives you a few variations to try. I enjoyed knitting this little dish cloth for practice.

Kay Gardiner is hosting a discussion board where all sorts of fun ideas are floating around. Plus, Karen Templer has been regularly featuring ideas for log cabin projects on the Fringe Association blog. It’s the images at the top of this post that have really captured my imagination. I’m thinking of doing a throw like this in a log cabin version with some combination of speckledy yarns. Maybe. There are so many delicious possibilities. Anyone else thinking of joining in?

That pile of papers isn’t going to grade itself, so I should get going. I’ll just close with a few pictures of the amazing weather we’ve been having. On Thursday Paul and I took Django for a walk, and the world looked like this.

By yesterday, we had this!

I love, love, love the first snow of the year, and this one has been spectacular.

Here’s hoping the weather is nice where you are and, most importantly, that there is lots of knitting in the forecast! Be well, my friends.

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Hitchhiker: A Love Story 16

 

Oh, Hitchhiker! How do I love thee? I can’t begin to count the ways.

The Hitchhiker shawlette has got to be one of the most wearable handknits ever. I know because I made one several years ago that I wore and wore and wore until I gave it to my mother, who has worn and worn and worn it! It’s the most wrap-able, tie-able, drape-able piece of knitted fabric you could ever hope to have. And the Malabrigo “Archangel” absolutely soothes my soul. I love it.

This particular Hitchhiker will always remind me of this crazy first semester back in the classroom after so many years. Each row represents a moment of calm–before bed, between classes, during the frenzied lesson preparation that has been the constant theme of the last few months. It saw me through a bout of doctor’s visits. It helped me find calm as I anxiously awaited a friend’s visit and sustained me when I was sad after she’d gone. How on earth does knitting do it? All of this?

If anyone knows of another scarf or shawlette pattern that compares to the Hitchhiker in terms of its perfect suitability to every occasion, please let me know. I need it.

Last weekend was SAFF, the Southeastern Animal Fiber Fair, in Asheville. It’s a huge good time. Fabulous vendors, animals, knitters, weavers, fiber people of every sort are there. Last year, I had to miss it, so this year, despite the crazy busyness, I was determined to go. Plus, I got to meet an online fiber friend (and her dog!) in person, which was a delight, and grab some actual face time with a few of the nearby fiber friends I’ve seen precious little of over the last couple of months.

And of course I bought some yarn. I’ve been dying to jump on the “fade” bandwagon but wasn’t up for the epic bigness of the Find Your Fade shawl at the moment. Happily, my BFFF Cari alerted me to the Free Your Fade a few days before SAFF! So that’s what I had in mind when I went yarn shopping.

What do you think? It’s Dragonfly Fibers DK weight Traveller. The squish is real.

I also picked up some buttons. Love buttons. Cardigans are in my future.

Tomorrow, it’s back to class, but I’ll be sporting my trusty Hitchhiker. Happiness.

My apologies for the disjointedness of this post. My brain is in a million places. I’m off to read some of the sure-to-be-wonderful blog posts I’m behind on before I turn in for the night. I hope you are well, my friends. Take care, and knit on.

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Knitting Abides 18

Know what this is?

It’s a sweater I knit in high school! That’s quite awhile ago, folks. And I wore it to class last week!

This was the second sweater I ever knit. I still remember the feel of the needles in my hands and the wonder of seeing the tips moving in and out of the yarn, the fabric building up behind them. I’m not sure whether or not you can tell from this picture, but the yarn is a tweedy wool, with little flecks of random color that pop up here and there. It was deeply satisfying to handle and to work with.

It was summertime, and back then, there was no internet. To be around other knitters, my mom and I went to a knitting group once a week. There were a couple of very accomplished knitters who taught me each new thing as the need arose. I think even then I knew that I was learning something that would sustain me.

My mom was working on a baby blanket for my niece who was due in the fall. That niece just had her own first baby last week. Sweater and blanket–both back in action. What could be nicer?

Maybe it was getting reacquainted with my high school sweater after all of these years. Maybe it’s the cool weather we’ve been having, the changing leaves and other signs of fall. I’m not quite sure, but when I saw @punkmik’s fabulous Caradon Hill Jumper on Instagram, I knew I needed to knit it.

 

I’ve been wanting to knit a cabled sweater like this for years, but a combination of not finding exactly the right pattern and being hesitant to start what seemed like such a challenging knit kept it in the “someday” column of my to-do list. So . . . the other day when I was deep in the middle of seventy-two piles of papers, with my dear Hitchhiker waiting patiently for the odd moment when I couldn’t take the not knitting any longer and had stop the madness by working a few rows, it struck me that it would be a great time to go to the Blacker Yarns website and order fifteen skeins of Shetland DK in Mid Grey so I could cast on for my own Caradon Hill Jumper.

Yes. I did that.

 

Fall Break 21

Today is day one of my two-day fall break. Despite the mountain of papers waiting to be graded, I was determined to get some knitting in. Not the knit a few rows before bed kind of knitting but some actual soul soothing knitting.

As an extra treat for myself, I thought I’d spend the time not just knitting but finishing. I’ve had my Looped Loop sitting in a basket waiting to be bound off for at least six months. Binding off required Reverse Kitchener Stitch, though, and there just hasn’t been space in my brain for that.

The cool weather we’re having this week seemed like a great reason to take the leap. I must say I was also hoping to have a wonderful story of Reverse Kitchener glory to report.

Oops.

Here is a shot of the kitchenered ends. They’re right in the middle there, a tiny bit to the left of the middle vertical chair rail.

From this distance it looks okay, but honestly, I’m disappointed. I was hoping the join would be truly seamless, and it isn’t. The knit and purl columns don’t line up exactly. Plus, the seam area has virtually no give. Reverse Kitchener is now on my list of things to master, and I’m planning to try Tricksy Knitter’s method next. I’ll report back. If anyone has suggestions, please let me know.

Augie did a close inspection and decided he wasn’t thrilled with the results either.

Despite the Kitchener issues, having a cozy new cowl to wear when I go back to school on Wednesday makes me happy. And the yarn is divine. It’s Dream in Color Smooshy with Cashmere in Rasberry Blaze. Absolute heaven.

The fall weather has also ignited the need to bake. Yesterday’s goodness was Smitten Kitchen’s Jacked Up Banana Bread. It’s the best banana bread evahhhh. We had it for dinner, breakfast, and lunch.

Things continue to be hectic, but I am mostly keeping up with everyone’s posts. I’m sadly behind with commenting but am loving reading about what everyone is up to.

Until next time, be well, my friends. And knit on!

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The Knit Together Project: Ode to the Hemlocks 20

Things have been so busy that there’s probably been less knitting in my life over the last month than at any other time in my adult life. The irony of this isn’t lost on me. This blog is called Knit Potion for a reason. I truly believe you could substitute knitting for meditation in the old Zen proverb that advises, “You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day — unless you’re too busy. Then you should sit for an hour.”

Alas, I know it, but I haven’t managed to do it. I knit, but instead of finishing projects, I finish rows. The simple Hitchhiker I started weeks ago is still on my needles. My argyle pillow is still an idea. My Inlet cardigan, sans sleeves.

Enter Shirley Yeung, the incomparable maker, thinker, and writer behind Handmade Habit. In an absolutely enchanting blog post, Shirley talked about the Knit Together Project and shared the story behind her own beautiful blanket square. She also encouraged others to participate.

The requirements are that the 8”x8” square be knit from fiber that has special significance for you and then mailed to the project’s mastermind, Melissa of Knitting the Stash. Melissa will be seaming the squares together into a blanket that will eventually go to one of the people who’ve contributed a square.

On some level I must have known that participating in a project like this would be just the dose of knit potion I needed. It made me start thinking about the extra special yarns in my stash, and that got me thinking about all of the incredible fiber friends I’ve made since we moved to Tennessee four years ago. Among these is our dear friend Marcia Kummerle. I’ve written about Marcia many times, including here and here. She’s also known as Good Fibrations.

Besides being one of the nicest people I know, Marcia is an inspired dyer with a direct link to the color gods (check out the red yarn at the bottom of this post). Last year, she created two new colorways, “Deep Forest” and “Ode to the Hemlocks.” The story behind them struck a deep personal chord, and I’d like to briefly tell you why as a way of telling you about my blanket square.

The eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) grows everywhere in the Smoky Mountains. We live on close to 35 acres of forest, and they are thick on our property. These trees can grow to be over 150 feet high and nearly 6 feet around. Some of the ones in our area are over 500 years old. Many species of birds nest in their branches. Flying squirrels live in and feed around them. And they help keep the forest floor and mountain streams cool. The day we moved into our house, I hugged one. I didn’t know what it was then, but it called to me, and I loved it.

I’ve since learned that this amazing tree is in trouble. It’s being attacked by a non-native insect called the hemlock woolly adelgid. An article on the Scientific American blog, “Hemlock Extinction Looms Over the Tennessee Forests,” offers a succinct account of the situation. The New Yorker’s “A Death in the Forest” takes a more in-depth look at things. It’s not good.

So Marcia’s yarn . . . A year-and-a-half ago or so, Marcia visited a favorite hiking spot for the first time in many years. She couldn’t get over the sense that something was strikingly different. It took her awhile, but by the end of the hike, she had come to realize that what was different was the light. There was too much of it. The hemlocks that had earlier blanketed the forest floor in cool deep greens were gone, and the new forest appeared as shades of brown. The character of the visible forest had entirely changed. It was in response to this experience that Marcia created the colorway “Deep Forest,” a memory of the forest that was, and “Ode to the Hemlocks,” an acknowledgement of the forest that is increasingly becoming the norm in this area.

Because this yarn comes from Marcia’s goats . . .

Because Marcia created the colorways as a testament to the shocking change that is taking place in our forest, literally outside my door . . .

Because I believe that somehow noticing and telling and creating in response to this event means something . . .

I decided to knit my blanket square in Marcia’s yarn. Viewed head-on the square is stripes of then and now.

Viewed from another perspective, the deep green of the hemlock forest remains intact.

I’d originally planned to have the green show up as a tree shape, but in the end it seemed more fitting to knit a circle. My thought was that though we might not see it now and we might not know the exact shape it will take, nature will find a way back to wholeness. So far at least, it always has.

Thank you so much, Melissa, for thinking of this project and shepherding it along. And thank you, Shirley, for brining it to my attention and encouraging me to participate. Here’s to knitters. And to the hemlocks.

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Check out woollythoughts.com for lots of great info on illusion knitting! My circle is a modification of one of their simplest patterns. Many of the others are stunning in their complexity.SaveSave

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Under a Purple Sun 16

I’ve never said much about my work life here on the blog, probably because while I felt well-suited to my job, it wasn’t something I cared to think about when I didn’t have to. My intention, many years ago, was to become an academic. I got an MA in English literature and began work on a PhD, and I loved it. I loved the learning and teaching and writing. I loved the mix of people. I was grateful every single day for the opportunity to be part of a community that encouraged me to use my brain in vigorous ways. I can remember walking to class marveling at how I’d gotten so lucky.

But that crazy life. . . While I was working on my dissertation, the world as I knew it changed, and it became clear that the future wasn’t gong to unfold as neatly as I’d imagined. When the dust of the unforeseen finally settled, I went to work in the publishing industry, and that’s where I’ve been for the last 18 years. Until now.

Starting on Monday I am going back to teaching English full time.

I am thrilled.

It’s not just that I’m happy to get back to teaching. I am. But I am also looking forward to walking into the classroom and meeting students as I am now. The first time around, I had rigid ideas about where I should teach and whom I should teach, and also about whose opinions about my teaching and writing and research mattered. The years have given me a broader view. I can see now that all of that certainty got in the way.

My fifty-one-year-old self has found the freedom to not know, to celebrate the gray areas, to search without having a death grip on the outcome. I can now say “both/and” where in the past I’d have felt compelled to choose “either/or.” My hope is that this will make me a better teacher.

For nearly two decades, I tried to do a good job at my work because I believe that’s what a person should do. Come Monday, I will have the honor of trying to do a good job because it just might change someone’s life if I can. I know it’s going to change mine.

Thank you, blog friends, for listening and for being part of my world for the last four years. Knitting goes on. Thank goodness. However, it will probably look a lot more like this in the days to come.

*The title of this post comes from Langhorne Slim & The Law’s “Changes.”

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More Rain Outside 15

So I’ve said this before, but The Rain Outside shawl has to be one of the most satisfying patterns I’ve ever knit. The long sections of garter stitch are perfect for finding that zoned out knitting groove, that “haven of refuge and sanity,” that knitting provides, and the lace short row panels act like little landmarks that keep things interesting and let you measure your progress.*

Plus, this time I was knitting with Hedgehog Fibres yarn, and the colors reach right down into my soul. “Poison” and “Ruin.” Lordy.

And look at the wrap and the drape. Every way I fling this shawl around myself it stays put. Some of the commenters on Ravelry mention that they don’t like the drawn-in top edge, but I think that’s one of the things that makes it so wearable. It gives it just enough structure to help it hold on around your neck and shoulders.

I’m not planning to knit a third The Rain Outside right away, but I’ve got it in my mental inventory now, and some day, it will be just the thing.

I’m thinking my next shawl might have to be a Find Your Fade. By the time I get around to it, I’ll be the last person on the planet to knit one, but oh well . . . It’s not a race, right? I still haven’t knit a pair of Hermione’s Everyday socks, and that hasn’t killed me. Yet!

On an entirely different note, I’m thinking about a redesign for the blog. What do you think? Do you like it when a blog you’ve gotten used to changes its look, or do you prefer for things to stay like they are? I’d be interested in feedback if you have it.

 

*This wonderful description of knitting is from Susan Gordon Lydon’s Knitting Heaven and Earth: “When I am knitting, I can withstand boredom, inactivity, even conversations that would normally make me squirm with restlessness. It is as though I have a little portable world of my own wherever I go, a haven of refuge and sanity.”

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Django 10

One of the only circumstances under which I can imagine posting here without a single fiber-related photo is the one in which I currently find myself, that of having a new puppy in the house! Blog friends, meet Django. He came home with us on Tuesday, his seven-week birthday.

Lola instantly adopted him as her own and began telling him how things are.

Frankie, on the other hand, isn’t impressed.

I’m not sure whether or not I’ve ever mentioned it here, but my husband spent many years working with police and military dogs and still does some training in those areas. At nearly thirteen and fourteen, our two Belgian Malinois dogs, who’ve been his sidekicks since they were puppies, are getting up in years and prefer lounging to running around training all day. The plan is for Django to gradually become the new working dog in the house. He’ll learn all sorts of advanced obedience, tracking, and protection work, and he’ll be Paul’s companion when he does training with other dogs and their people. Primarily, though, he’ll be our sweet, silly lover boy.

We’ve been absolutely absorbed with him since he arrived. Hence, no pictures of the newly finished The Rain Outside shawl. I’m making slow progress on my Hitchhiker, though, so I’ll try to at least have a few pics of that to share with you soon.

Be well, my friends. And happy knitting!

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There and Back Again 8

I’ve been spending a lot of time in Texas with my mom lately. It’s not easy to get there from where we live. Bad weather doesn’t help. On the most recent trip, there were several hours of this:

A couple of hours of this:

About half a day of this:

One very late and frustrating night of this:

Before a new day finally allowed us to make our way around the storm:

And arrive in Texas with the next set of thunderclouds on our heels:

While I was there, I knit and spun amid lots of busyness and running around. I pulled out my spindle at one particularly crazy moment in the car, and lo and behold, not thirty seconds later, we pulled up to the mailbox, and there was a package waiting for ME!

My friend Cari knew I’d need a touchstone. She’s the best.

I’m back in Tennessee now, finally binding off my second The Rain Outside shawl.

Lola is expressing solidarity by snuggling in the edge part.

Hoping to be back with something new on the needles soon! Take care, my friends.

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Spinnin’ wheel got to go ’round 7

The Tour de Fleece is underway! So far, I’ve been spinning about three hours a day. I think the time for this must be coming from a parallel universe because the rest of life has been busier than ever.

It’s been so crazy that my BFFF and I had to stage a clandestine getaway so we could actually speak face-to-face for a few hours. This was one variation on my attempt to pack for said spinning/catching up/commiserating.

Two knitting projects–my Hitchhiker and the second The Rain Outside. Three different choices of fiber. Spare bobbins. Bobbin winder. Lazy kate. Chocolate. Walnuts. Chips. Wine. In the end I left the bobbin winder at home and brought more chocolate.

It was divine.

We even managed to take a belated World Wide Knit In Public Day picture.

In addition to having our WIPs with us, we both happened to be wearing handknits as well. I LOVE that.

Since the Tour started, my knitting has mostly been on hold except for car rides and other times when it’s been inconvenient to spin. I’m finding that I tend to either knit or spin and not go back and forth between the two. Does anyone else do that?

Frankie is fascinated by the spinning. He doesn’t try to grab the fiber or stick his paw in the wheel like Augie occasionally does. He just wants to be involved. Sometimes, he’ll actually reach his paw out and rest it on the fiber in my lap. Other times, he’ll crawl up under my arm and literally be right in the middle of the spinning.

It’s hard work being the spinning assistant, though, so he spends the rest of the day resting up.

I’ve got more travel coming up, so I’ll be staying connected through Instagram for the next week or so. If you’re on Instagram and I’m not following you, be sure to let me know so I can.

Happy July, my friends!

I’ll leave you with this gem.

 

 

_____________

P.S. This is Cari’s packing photo for our getaway. Hahaha!


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