Blue Marigold

So, here it is, the Blue Marigold Vest in all its glory.

And my sad attempts at photography (Every photo I took made me look five thousand pounds. I need to keep a photographer on standby when I get close to finishing a project).

This was an awesome pattern. I was intruged by it when I was looking for something to knit with approximately 500 yards of Sublime Cashmere Merino Silk DK (Oh yeah. Think about that. You imagining the softness? Yeah, it's better than that). It was $6 dollars, which I was almost hesitant to pay because it is not a Ravelry download, meaning if I lost it I would have to purchase it again rather than just going to my handy Ravelry library and printing it again (no bias here). I actually did have trouble with the website when I bought it, my download link didn't work, but I emailed about it and the designer got back to me right away with an attached copy of the pattern so that I could cast on right away. Which I so totally did.

What do I love about this pattern? My, my, so much to say. It is extremely well written. She has it organized into sections, like an outline, which makes it much easier to keep track of where you are. Also, there is an explanation of how to add waist shaping in the stockinette in the round section if you wish. I have never done waist shaping before, but decided to give it a try and love the result.

Also, the entire reason I bought this pattern is because she has three different ways to do the edging on the armholes. Even though I opted not to have the ruffles seen in the pattern photos I still got these really sweet capsleeve style shoulders thanks to the way the top-down construction works (won't go into detail because you should just buy it and make it for yourself). The construction of the "V" part of the vest is also very cute and very logical when you go back to do the edging. Its feminine details like these that make me love a well thought-out pattern. I did go back and seam the edging to the body of the vest, but that is because I'm bad at picking up stitches. Because she gives you a lot of leeway to size the vest to fit your body type (which I love) she does not have a specific number of stitches to be picked up, so I made a nice mess of it.

The yarn was also a lot of fun to work with. I'm really glad I have another colorway to knit up (I'm thinking Alana Dakos' Spring Garden Tee). The only problem I have is that after I joined it in the round my tension changed and I could not get it to be as tight as I wanted. I think this is because I had to go up to size 6s to get gauge. If I did it again I might have gone down a needle size and knit the next size up. Maybe.

I was actually really disappointed when I put on the vest after I finished because it looked handmade (you know, like those Christmas ornaments you secretly wish your mom would throw away already?). But then I blocked it. I'm once again a believer in blocking. The silk content of the yarn gave the vest this nice draping and the shaping tightened up just a touch. I love it. And it's so soft I'm still wearing it.

Mr. Irish Bear is proud of his work.


Knitting Therapy

Sunday was probably one of the hardest days ever for me. Everyone is ok, but there was a small crisis that I will not go into detail about, and through it all I just kept knitting (well I also baked, but we don't want to talk about my love of piling cans of vegetables, beans, and various broth into the crock pot and hoping it comes out tasting yummy).

I knit and I knit and I knit . . .

And I finished the Blue Marigold Vest. Now, I knit almost all of the stockinette portion while doing the thousands of pages of reading I've been doing (grad school might do wonders for my sweater knitting if I stay this addicted to stockinette while reading), but the edging took a lot of work. Having something in my hands, something to work with and concentrate on that didn't require as much thinking as anything school related, was the best thing for me. I know, I'm not doing it justice, and I'm being super vague, but I feel the need to once again acknowledge the therapeutic powers of knitting.

Better pictures and explanation of the fun knitting tomorrow. Right now I have more reading and a gauge swatch to attend to.


Front Porch Knitting

I've been doing a lot of this lately:

The roommate bought some porch chairs while I was in DC, so my new routine in the evenings is to come outside to read. Because I'll I do is read I've been making steady progress on the stockinette portion of the Blue Marigold Vest while enjoying the view (the nicer portion of the view, minus the dumpsters).

It's still deadly hot here on the coast, but in the late evening it is absolutely gorgeous.


Inching Away

Because I'm taking my comp exam this semester in addition to classes, I'm doing a lot more reading than knitting for the foreseeable future. Fortunately, Mr. Irish Bear has taken to stockinette like a pro.

He likes it so much that he is already scoping out our next project while I read books likeRethinking the Holocaust and Labour in Power (sounds fun, no?).


Some Progress

I joined the Ms. Marigold vest in the round last night. I wanted to try it on to be sure that 11.5 inches is a deep enough V for my size, but I think I'm going to have to trust the pattern on this one. While the vest is knit top-down, I have yet to figure out how to try on a top that is knit in the round without having it fall off the needles.

But while I may not be able to, Mr. Irish Bear agreed to model for me in exchange for knitting lessons.

We've decided that this blue totally suits him.


A Condolence Letter

Dear Pluto,

According to various internet sources, I have heard that today is the four year anniversary of your sad demotion from planet to, well, I don't know what to. Hopefully the term is something nicer than "space junk." I'm sorry I have not paid much attention to you lately. I started college, you went into sad planetary obscurity, and I guess I could have made an effort, but it was easier to grow apart than to face up to the fact that you had been forced to change.

We had some great times. From Magic School Bus to science class. And even though I picked Venus for my sixth grade science project, you understood. Though we didn't get a chance to hang out when I went to high school because I had other, more pressing state required courses to take, you were still always there, a comforting ninth planet.

Well, I need to go now. Hope you are well, hanging out behind Neptune. Tell the big guy I said hi, ok?


-- Faith


Monday Hair? Not All Bad

Nothing perks me up on a Monday than compliments. It's how I get over my weekend exhaustion (let's face it, for some reason we're all plagued by sudden Monday morning drowsiness, even if, like me, you don't sleep more than an hour or so past your weekday schedule). So Monday mornings I often dig around for an outfit that makes me feel confident so that my brain can focus on all the school craziness that often causes serious wardrobe complications (when you wear the same giant sweater and jeans to the library three days in a row you know you need a break). Case in point, today I'm wearing a bright floral sleeveless top and my favorite jeans.

But I didn't start this just to talk about what I'm wearing today. Lately it seems every outfit I used to wear with regularity to school has looked different. Not because I've seriously gotten into shape (ha!) or spilled something on them (though that happens), but because everyone is taking note of the drastic haircut I got over the summer. I haven't blogged it before, but I think that anything that I enjoy enough to dance around in my bathroom with my straightener lip-synching to Scott Pilgrim soundtrack (more on that later) deserves some notice.

When I was in highschool my hair looked like this:

Super curly, super thick, and all the way to my waist. For some reason I really liked it this long (I shudder now at how hard that was to take care of) and did not get it cut for the majority of my college years.

Then in the fall of 2008 I decided to do some serious work as a birthday present to myself and got it cut to my shoulders.

Even that looks long to me now, which is really weird when just a few months ago that was the shortest I'd had my hair since middle school.

Last semester I got fed up with it. I decided to finish changing my look (started wearing glasses the summer before, which was pretty drastic). When I visited my family in May I went to see the woman who cuts my mom's hair and told her I wanted really short. Then I got in the chair, squeezed my sister's hand for luck, and closed my eyes.

I call this my Molly Ringwald hair.

I was pretty happy with the result. It was amazing how light I felt. And hilarious that people had difficulty recognizing me. But during the summer it grew out quite a bit and was very difficult to style while I was at Pitt. So what did I do when I came back? Got it cut even shorter.

Now it is at the perfect length. It goes well with all of my hats. And despite the fact that it absolutely must be straightened every day (because it is still super thick and curly), it is a lot of fun to style. It sounds really silly to say, but I think that my hair is finally reflective of the crazy person that I am. I often say that I suffer from too much personality, and now I look it.


Yarn Temptress

It's not often that I get to fall under the spell of yarn it its actual physical presence. Usually it seduces me from afar, across the internet, wearing me down until I finally invite it over and then wait nervously to see if it will truly be as its photo and profile promised.

But this time the little balls of temptation found me in person


This is my new love. Sublime cashmerino DK. I actually fell so hard that not only did I buy this little collection of blue, but I invited its friends of the green persuasion to come back with us to my place. And lest you think that I was taking advantage of this poor yarn, let me reassure you that I was on a mission of mercy, rescuing this and a few other yarns from a going out of business sale at an LYS. It practically leaped into my $30 bag, bringing along as much angora and Alpaca Sox as would fit.

But as it was the blue that made the first move, it got first dibs on a pattern. I've already cast on the Ms. Marigold vest and let me tell you, as far as yarns go, this cashmere does not disappoint.

Sorry for the dark picture quality. The little temptress wouldn't let me off my bed to go photograph until well near midnight last night.


A Few Thoughts

1. Yesterday was the first day of classes, as is today (because on the semester system you alternate MWF classes with TTh. I shouldn't have to explain this, but not everyone is on this system). They are seriously two of my favorite days of the school year. Why? Not because you can't really do any work yet. Not because I love writing due dates in my calendar (which I totally do). This week gives us something that the second semester can't. First day of college freshmen. You know the type. Wide-eyed, scared to death, still too timid to try to knock me off the sidewalk with a skateboard. It's hilarious to watch.

2. Our dog died Monday night. She was very very old and sick. Evidentially my dad and brother got her out from under the deck and put her in the garage to try to help her out, but she still didn't want to eat or drink anything. My sister told me when they found her all the other animals were with her (we have a lot of pets. It's just the way things have always been at my house).

3. I'm taking Jewish Humor as one of my two seminars this semester. It has nothing to do with my thesis, and it is awesome.

4. I confirmed a third member of my thesis committee, which means I can now get the paperwork started. This led to me jumping around in the hallway, much to the amusement of our secretary.

5. Alana of Never Not Knitting has released a new pattern called the Shawl Collared Cowl. As with all of her patterns it immediately went into the queue and wish list, but then last night I bought yarn that I plan to use for it. I can't help myself. I'm so desperate for autumn. It's like my brain thinks that if it lines up enough cool weather projects the world will get with the program and cool off.

6. I'm trying to run but it's too hot at 6:30 in the morning and then I can't breath and then it's just bad and stuff. Maybe I'll try running at night.

7. I took the stitches out of my leg last night (I had an encounter with my kitchen wall the day before I went to DC. Two words: puncture wound). It felt really weird.

8. I'm starting a new knitted garment, but more on that later.


Warning: Flagrant Photography Ahead

So you'd like to hear about our DC trip? Well, forewarning, this is going to be a lot of pictures.

While we were in DC we didn't actually stay in DC. Our stated purpose (at least mine) was to go research at the National Archives / Archives II (not the one Nicholas Cage broke into) which is located in College Park, Maryland. You know what else is in College Park, Maryland?

A little place known as the University of Maryland

It was a really cool campus. I went running one night from the hotel and ended up going farther than I intended because I enjoyed where I was so much.

And here we are at the archives. The third member of our merry band of researchers, Erica, is serving as photographer.

This is seriously the coolest place I have ever worked (not that I've worked many places, but seriously). Once you get past security (which is intense) you get to go into this huge room with all these desks and a huge wall that is covered in windows. There was a storm one day and it was quite the view. Plus, you know, all of the documents I got to play with (I mean look at).

I also spent many hours here.

Yeah, that's right, the Library of Congress. And if the Archives is the coolest place I've worked, the European Reading Room in the main building of the LoC is definitely the prettiest. It's also a very welcoming environment, but much smaller and intimate because everything is centered around one area of study. And a lot of the titles in all of the finding aids aren't even in English, which is just so cool.

This is the tunnel from the Madison building to the Jefferson building. We're like rats in a maze.

And of course we couldn't be in DC without taking a running tour of the Smithsonian(s). Someday I'm going to write a walking tour of where all the best bathrooms are.

Erica, our token public historian, in front of the original Smithsonian building.

Yes, you're seeing that right. It's a Monet in the bottom of the Museum of Art. Some day I want to go back and see if they'll allow me to sneak my knitting in so I can sit and knit among really pretty paintings and sculpture.

My homage to Julie and Julia, which is one of the few sappy movies I actually like. Blame Meryl Streep, that woman is a genius.

And lastly, photographed for my mom, Bryan Boitano's skates from the 1988 olympics. At this angle you can't see the flags on the outside of the boot, but it's still really cool.


The Story of the Fairytale Princess Shawl

This is a story of success. It's a story of frustration and near-failure, of improvisation, and of conquering the odds. It is also a cautionary tale of why you never commit to knitting something to wear anywhere, to anything, until after it is already finished.

You all know my boyfriend Chris. He's made an appearance in this blog on several occasions, usually as the cause of some misguided hatred for gloves. Well, this weekend his friend Matt got married to a lovely girl named Justine. Matt and Chris were roommates when Chris and I started dating in college. Not long after Chris and I started dating, Matt had an encounter with Justine and they became the obnoxiously cute couple of the apartment. So when Chris told me that Matt and Justine were getting married and that he was in the wedding, I knew I needed to find something new and different to wear (mostly because I've never had a real date to a wedding before. Though going with my mom and trying not to make jokes about flowers or color schemes is always fun -- not that we've mocked any flowers or colors in any of the many weddings we have attended together. Those have all been quite beautiful and all tears have been of joy, not laughter or suffocation).

Fast-forward to summer. I'm in Pittsburgh, trying hard to be grateful for the experience I'm gaining and the potential benefits for my character, blah blah blah. My mom sends me a package, because that's just the kind of nice person that she is. Inside, along with some other very nice gifts, is the latest issue of Vogue Knitting (Early Fall 2010). As I flip through I'm struck, as always, by how odd the pieces are. Then I go back through and fall in love with about 70 percent (as it turns out, though they are not as practical, I seem to actually read and make items from Vogue as opposed to the more wearable Interweave). I blame the late hour, the insane heat, and the need to have something to knit while marathoning Doctor Who for my decision to knit the lace stole (#24) by Erica Schlueter. It's a beautiful piece, don't get me wrong, but it's gigantic and billed as "very easy" (which in Vogue is sometimes questionable, but not in this case).

So I immediately cast it on. Giving only passing thought to the fact that my yarn is verigated rather than the single color in the pattern (which, now that I think about it, is purple, and totally the reason I was drawn to that page). Also, my laceweight yarn (Knit Picks Shimmer Hand Dyed) is not alpaca as the pattern calls. But who cares? I was knitting, and that's all that mattered.

A few weeks later, I was still knitting away. See, this pattern has a 5 row repeat that gets repeated . . . wait for it . . . 100 times. Yeah, you read that right. But I was working away, knitting along, thinking about wearing it as a nice light scarf come fall and still wondering what I was going to wear to the wedding. Only then I made a mistake. I took it to knitting at Knit One one night and when asked about it, said I was making it to wear to a wedding in August. Yes, I know. Big mistake. Suddenly the clock was ticking and I was doomed.

So I knit it. I knit it all the time. And nothing seemed to change. It grew, but it never seemed to have more rows (or at least not enough for the amount of time I spent on it). I knit it all the way home from Pittsburgh to North Carolina, to the point that my hands hurt. I knit it every day I was at home. I knit it at Panther practice. Finally, I knit it on the way to Washington DC a mere five days before the wedding. By the time we got to the hotel I was feeling a little frantic. The next day I determined to finish the repeat I was currently working on and then bind off. So I made it 78 rows, then did one repeat of the edging chart, instead of two.

And then I hit another snag. The bind off calls for another, larger-size needle. Oops! I only had the needles I was making the shawl with, not any extras. So, a few minutes later, scrambling around the hotel room looking for something, anything, to bind off the shawl, I mean I was desperate, I found a mechanical pencil. Yes, I bound off a lace shawl with a large mechanical pencil. It was a little nervwracking because I didn't want to break the yarn.

(Yes, that is Dead Like Me in the background. Thank you Netflix)

But now I'm glad I didn't go past 78 repeats, because when I tried to block the shawl it was almost longer than the bed. And the colors actually look quite nice. They remind me of the scene at the very end of Sleeping Beauty when she and the prince are dancing and she's wearing this gorgeous dress and in the corner, the good fairies keep changing the color from blue to pink and back again.

(photo courtesy of the best man's wife, the ever lovely Sophia)

I wore it to the wedding yesterday, and I'm quite happy with the look. My dress was free, the shoes were old, and the hat, which everyone seemed to love, was on sale at Belk and the perfect shade of blue. It was a lovely wedding and I had a great time with Chris' friends. The guys didn't trip, faint, or yawn, and did us proud by looking great in their tuxes while the happy couple was radiant at center stage.


The Traveling Taryn Shawl

My friend Taryn just recently had a birthday. Over the summer I made a shawl for her, which wasn't a birthday present, but the birthday reminded me that I had not blogged the finished item. You get it, right?

Yeah, ok, anyway...

Recently (well, as recently as April and May), I have been working on getting Taryn into knitting. One of the last times I saw her we watched Glee and I taught her the knit stitch. She left that night with a nice garter stitch strip, an old ball of yarn, and some straight needles, and I don't think she's picked them up since. One thing I will say in defence of this is that Taryn is left handed. I don't know left handed knitting, so I had to teach her right handed. And not just right handed, but my own right handed warped version of continental. But she picked it up pretty fast.

(Coincidentally, Taryn is probably the third friend I've wanted to teach to knit only to discover that they are blessed enough to see the end of the paper while they are writing -- you right handers out there know what I'm talking about. I'm beginning to think that I need to teach myself left handed knitting.)

In any case, right before she moved, Taryn asked that I knit a shawl for her. She was particularly taken with the Traveling Woman Shawl. She even bought her own yarn for the project, which is like just giving me yarn because I had been wanting a good reason to re-knit the traveling woman now that I've learned more about lace knitting. The yarn she picked out was Knit Picks Palette in a gorgeous shade of green that is flecked through with purples and other shades. It took a ball and a half to knit two repeats of chart one (knit mostly in the car on the way to Ohio and then Pittsburgh) and one repeat of chart two. It went pretty slowly at the end, but that was a lot of stitches on my needle. I know, not as many as "real" lace shawls, but more than enough for me. I varied the needles up again as well from my original Angela Shawl, learning from the tightness of the bind off last time. The body is knit in size five and it is bound off using Jenny's surprisingly stretchy bindoff on size eights.

When I blocked it, the points came out beautifully. It does have this little wing action going, but I like to think of that as a nice, squooshy yarn hug. Plus it gives an appropriate amount of gothic flare to the piece.

When the Traveling Taryn Shawl finally reached its destination it had been in six states, waiting to meet its new owner.

I think that's the best anything I've ever made has ever looked.


The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

I'm sorry, dear blog readers, for my neglect these past weeks. Actually, it hasn't been that long, really. I've been busy. I promise, you have not been a summer fling. I'm actually finishing up a week long research trip to the national archives. Pretty cool, huh? But . . . among the many things I forgot to bring is my converter card for my phone. Because yes, my phone takes better pictures than my digital camera, so you won't get any pictures until I get home.

While I was home (for like 3 minutes), my family and I did a lot of running around. One of the great standing traditions of August is a trip to Spartanburg South Carolina for the Carolina Panthers' training camp at Wofford College.

My mom and I have been going forever. My summers for almost as long as I remember have been marked by these practices and the trips they entail. The first one we went to John Kasey picked up my little sister and let me mom take pictures of her on the field. A few years later I stood next to Todd Saurbraun (pre-steroid bust) in the cafeteria. Then Muhsin Muhammed came whipping around the corner in the parking lot in his tiny sports care, almost to be squished by my Mom's minivan. We're pretty sure the next year he got a hummer because he developed a fear of soccer moms. Then there's the year I finished the last few pages of Anna Karenina, the year we were interviewed for the radio, the year they played on the soccer field and everyone was cheering and all excited.

These practices mean a lot to me. Training camp keeps getting shorter and every year it's a question of what day, who's available, and will we even recognize any of the players. It used to be a small event. Kind of like a mini-localized fanatical community. Now it's gone corporate, with special brochures this year and Monday night post-practice movies. But it's still our guys. Still our training camp. Still the 90% guarantee that I will go home during the first few days of August.

And yes, I did clip my knitting bag to my jeans and knit away while wishing Matt Moore would come to my side of the fence. He's a beautiful, beautiful man.


Pittsburgh Wrap-Up

Excuse me. *cough* We have a special announcement to make . . .

I did it! I successfully completed the 8 week program and am now spending a few day at home with my family before I go back to school.

This was honestly one of the hardest things that I've ever done. I am not a language scholar by any means, it has always been something that I have struggled with (despite the fact that Russian is my third foreign language). And two semesters worth of information in two months was more than I thought I could handle. In many ways it was, but thanks to the patience of my professors and a lot of hard work I managed to pass.

Let me pause for a moment to explain something here. I am a very good student. I'm not bragging. Just simply stating a fact. I've often said that I was not blessed with the natural intelligence in the family, but I have always known how to work hard. This has made me at times a pretty boring person, but has stood me in good stead as I make my way through school. I really don't know how to be anything other than a student. So when I started school in Pittsburgh and started failing after the second week I didn't know what to do. And honestly, try as hard as I might, I didn't get much better. It sent me into a major tailspin. Here I was spending the last of my savings on a crazy course that I wasn't going to succeed in.

However, now that it is over and I'm not always looking over my shoulder expecting to get yelled at for speaking in English, I think I can say that it was a very valuable experience. I really did have a lot of fun when there was no panicky grade knowledge, and I learned a ton (for example, I'm wicked fast with my Russian-English dictionary). As my dad reminded me, I wasn't going there for a grade, or even to learn how to say "I like cake" (мне нравится торт), but to give myself a bit of an edge when it comes to doing research in my chosen field. I have very strong opinions on the necessity of language to understand cultures, and so it is very important to me that I be able to research Soviet youth in their primary language. While I still can't do this, my summer in Pitt has helped me advance towards this goal, however small the steps may have been. I now know that I truly love the Russian language, and hope to keep studying, if for no other sake than my own (I just wish I had a Tardis to make this acquisition a little easier).

It was a hard summer for a lot of other, non-academic reasons too. But the roommates were not as bad as last summer's and I think an invasion of giant slugs (They were all over Oakland. It made the paper) in a second floor apartment still doesn't beat last year's flood. And I made some great yarnie friends who were actually sad that I had to leave. Summers are traditionally a time in which I work myself sick and have my perspective grounded by experiencing how inadequate I can be. But overall, it was an awesome summer. Just better in retrospect than execution.

And I absolutely love Pittsburgh.