31 October 2006


Krista was entirely right about handspun. I get it now. It's dangerously fun to knit with.

Hubbster said this sock feels like "cream" on his foot. Given the extreme affection he feels for anything made out of cream, this is strong praise indeed. I used plain (commercial-spun) brown alpaca for the bottoms so I could make the handpun stretch to two full-size socks, and also because I couldn't stand the idea of that handsun touching the floor. The alpaca matches astonishingly well, and is easily replaced (I have loads more leftovers from that particular sweater). I also like the idea that the part of the sock that's on the floor has the excessive warmth of alpaca, while the rest is the more reasonable wool. The gorgeous way the handspun shifts from more brown here to more white there was really fun to watch as I knitted it up, and the texture is delicious.

The second one is just waiting for a finished sole.

Meanwhile, it occured to me that the burgundy handspun from Krista would be perfect for my first foray into the Red Scarf Project. I really like the idea behind this charity, and it's one of the ones where I really do see how my knitting something can help as much as cash or some other more practical or direct effort. And I LOVE that the student who receives this scarf will be getting not only my handknitting, but it will be knitted from yarn spun by Krista, and a wheel given to her by someone else still. I'll definitely attach a little card to the scarf explaining its generation.

Here's the start of it. To make it long enough and to ensure that it wouldn't be ruined if accidentally thrown into a washing machine, I added a second ball of Katia "bufalo" yarn, which is a machine-washable nylon ribbon yarn that has the texture of suede. The colors are a wonderful match and the play of textures has me fascinated enough to even be enjoying the garter stitch! I'm going to knit this piece until it's square, then turn it, log-cabin style, to knit from one side for most of the length of the scarf, then turn again at the end to make another square attached at the same 90 degree angle on the other end of the scarf. I got that idea from another scarf shown on the Red Scarf Project blog, though I'm doing mine slightly differently.

My plan is to make this, and hopefully more red scarves, my subway-knitting project from now until January, when it's time to send off the scarves. I have temporarily stopped reading on the subway because I don't dare get into a good book (will make working on diss very hard) and can't concentrate on work-related books. So it'll be great to have a constant, on-going, easy travel project.

Those of you who looked closely at the above picture will have noted a small tragedy I suffered lately. One of my favorite plastic straight needles broke. I loved using these purple needles with red tops for warshcloth knitting (it really made that PnC sing!), so I'm very sad now. :-( Although it's just as well to switch to circs for all future subway scarf knitting, since the cramping I incurred as a result of crushing my elbows to my side to keep the straight needles from hitting people was more than a little annoying. The tip that snapped off the needle rolled away to the far end of the car and is thus lost forever. *sniffle*.

In other news, I finished the second slipper for my MIL (I consider them finished even though they're not felted, because I'm going to felt them there, in Georgia, over xmas). There's no pic because it looks just like the first one (which is a good thing of course). Will start the pair for my FIL soon. Will not be tempted away by handspun. Will wait to be tempted away by handspun until the second pair of slippers is done, at least. Thank goodness both in-laws have relatively small feet. Anyway - the patterns. Most of you are familiar with the felted clogs(scroll down) by Bev Galeskas, available in a one-off pattern from Fiber Trends. The slippers I'm making for the in-laws are also by Bev Galeskas and are basically put together on the same principles as the clogs, but are shaped slightly differently. The patterns are in her book; I'm making the ballet slippers for my MIL, and the moccasins for my FIL. I'd made ballet slippers before for my grandma (but forgot to photograph them, along with the first pair of clogs I made), and they came out great. I haven't tried the moccasin-style slippers yet, but the look seemed just right for my FIL (that picture I linked to above makes them look rather awful, but I couldn't find a better picture, much less one from the actual book, where they look very pretty indeed). Also, since I plan to make still more clogs one of these days for myself and Hubbster, I just had to do something a little different with these. I use Paton's Classic Wool, as I've been doing for almost all my felting, because it's easy for me to get and I'm now very familiar with how it felts. I'm going to make mine and Hubbster's clogs out of wacky-striped leftovers, because I have TONS leftover. The yarn requirements for the Galeskas patterns are very generously calculated in my experience. Which is also a very good thing - I covet leftovers.

Actually, is it just me who feels this way about yarn leftovers? I wonder. Somehow, a whole package of yarn that's enough for a project can inspire some mixed feelings in me. Sure, I'm totally excited about the project(s) I might make out of it, and it's beautiful, and I love having enough. But, I also feel a wee bit guilty about each set of yarn that's enough for a whole project, but which is just sitting there instead of becoming a project. It seems to be calling to me, and more than a little disappointed in me for neglecting it. Leftovers, on the other hand, are what they are. They're content. Just as beautiful as the yarn was in a whole bag, the lone ball or ball and a half sits quietly, without expectations, taking up little space. Yet...its potential is infinite. Where a bag of yarn can really only become a sweater, and where two hanks of 190-yd sock yarn must be made into socks, not defiled by sneaking parts out of it for other purposes, a stray partial ball of sweater or sock yarn can become a part of any kind of knitted object whatsoever. The tiniest bits of yarn can be stranded or plied together, tied into a magic-ball, or possibly needle-felted. Made into pom-poms. Trim. Random bands of color on otherwise dull garments. I feel completely free to turn leftovers into anything I want, no matter how frivolous, silly, or unlikely to turn out well. There are no potential bad consequences, because this yarn was waste to begin with. It's like making something out of nothing.

Not that I actually do much of this. Most of my leftovers are still sitting in the closet, or, in the case of the really small leftovers, in my cool big triangle-shaped clear glass jar. Somehow, it makes me feel secure and warm and happy, knowing they're there, waiting to be turned into...anything.

Back to regularly scheduled programming for the day: work. Work, work, work. Yes, siree.

28 October 2006

Joy in a Box: Yarn Porn

People, you’re not going to believe how good today is.

No, it’s not that I had a minor breakthrough with my chapter last night, although I did.

It’s not that after the breakthrough, I finally started the slippers for the in-laws’ xmas presents and finished the first one before going to bed.

It’s not that Hubbster bought the most yummy raspberry chai tea that we’ve been enjoying all day today.

It’s not that my advisor emailed me about that screwed-up funding situation that I mentioned before, to say that they’ve found a solution (not an ideal one, but at least we’ll be able to make the rent this spring).

It’s certainly not the weather:


The thing that’s way better than you can possibly believe is what the mailman brought to my door today:

Krista from Pigeon Roof Knits sent me handspun, as a random act of kindness. Krista tells me that she got her spinning wheel this way, and so she’s passing on the love by sending me some of her gorgeous handspun. I was excited beyond words when she offered this, but seeing what actually came in the box left me literally stuttering and more than a little shaky from the sheer, amazing joy of it. I'm sure you guys can understand.

Naturally, since it’s raining like the dickens out there I can’t get good pictures. The colors actually came out a little better in the picture above, taken with a flash, than the macro ones below, which I manipulated to make as close as possible to the real thing. The real colors are actually somewhere in between.

This one is all lovely natural earthtones, which Hubbster has claimed as his own. Socks, I think?

This incredible piece of woolen lusciousness is calling my name. Nay, it is crooning to be made into delectable sockie-wockies for my very own self. Maybe this yarn will be the inspiration required to make me finally try socks with a cable or lace pattern? Any suggestions? On the other hand, Aline (new knitter from across the hall) says it’s way too beautiful to put on one’s feet. Perhaps a lacy scarf/stole??

Given the nature of this gift, I want to make the other three yarns into gifts for other people. This one is mohair-bamboo, and the picture doesn’t remotely capture its breathtaking color and shine. I think it would be lovely for Fair Isle trim on a hat or in a sweater, with something very plain for the background, to show off the color and texture?

I really like the idea of putting these two together, or maybe the teal with the luscious purple-mauve-lavender-rose-etc one above? The burgundy one is really a rich burgundy, not at all captured in the photo. The teal and tan is more accurate, although the tan is really more brownish than it looks here. Ideas?

Krista, you made my day, you rock my world, you will bring me untold hours of continued joy as I knit with all these lovely yarns -

26 October 2006


Another smorgasbord of random bits today.
(if I number them, it makes it seem organized rather than rambling, right?)

1. It's been a long time since I posted a progress shot of the Fair Isle:

Note how I used foreshortening to make it look like much more progress than it actually is. The good news is, I absolutely can't tell where I switched to the slightly smaller needles.

2. Aija changed my life yesterday. I saw her post on weaving in ends as you go, and to my surprise found that it was a technique I hadn't seen before. Her pictures and explanations were so gloriously clear that I felt like I got the concept just from reading it. Later on, in the evening, I tried it out on the Fair Isle. And even though I was complicating things somewhat by trying it with more than one color in the same row and knitting Continental-style (Aija's demo in English-style), it was actually totally easy. I just held the end being woven in between my left thumb and ring finger, while arranging the left-hand working yarn as usual over and around the other three fingers of my left hand. My right hand was busy enough knitting the other color English-style, which is still new to me. I wove the end in behind whichever color I was knitting for every other stitch anyway. Worked fine! It's totally invisible from the right side, and totally unobstrusive from the wrong side, too!!

I had already been spit-felting the ends whenever possible, since as you can see this sweater has a LOT of color-changes. But every time you go from a two-color row to one of the bands of plain one-color knitting in a different color, I spit-felted one of the old colors to the new one, and let the other drop. Then I started a new, second color when the time came. Of course, I realized once I started focusing on the whole concept of ends last night that I could just as well spit-felt the "second old color" to the "second new color" and let it carry past those two tiny rows of plain stockinette in another color, and I wouldn't have any ends to weave in at all. But now that I've figured out the Aija method, it's too much fun not to do it! Chalk it up to good practice...I get sick of spit-felting anyway. (Has anyone else noticed that spit and wool don't smell very good mixed together? I find spit works much better for this purpose than water or soapy water, but the smell.)

3. Yesterday, Specs commented (and apparently blogless Hyunjee seconded):

I know *exactly* what you mean about the guilt. I think grad students always feel guilty about something. We're not reading enough, sleeping too much, not spending time with friends/significant others, not putting enough time into lesson plans, not speaking enough in class, etc.

One of the reasons I like knitting is because it gives me something to show for my "free time." Sure, I could have spent those thirty minutes scribbling notes for teaching tomorrow, but hey! I've got this neat short row heel to show for those 30 minutes instead!

Everyone needs a hobby to take them out of their job (or in our case, the entire rest of our lives), and I'm glad that mine is one that also makes beautiful things for people I love.

That really says it all. In three, neat lines. Why did it take me pages and pages to not quite say that?? Story of my life...

4. Cookie said: "If I tried to write as much as you, it wouldn't make any sense whatsoever and would change topic every 2-3 sentences. " Wait, that is how I write...oh. You know, I think my blog reads rather better than my current chapter draft. Frightening, isn't it? (PS: the way to get around this is to number each topic. Then it looks like you planned it that way. The problem is that my constantly changing topics have a tendency to get hopelessly entangled with one another...)

5. Bad news about Riga balzam. After all that talk, I completely caved in and went slightly out of my way today to stop by this wonderful little wine store with a terrific selection of imports (on W. 181st just before the corner of Cabrini, for those in the neighborhood). I had found Riga balzam there once before when I was desperate enough to buy it at $25 for the large bottle (listen, you can get it for a lot less in Ivanovo, okay). I couldn't find it on the shelf in its usual place today, but they're remodeling, so I asked the manager. Turns out they can't get it any more. A French company bought out Riga balzam and a really good Armenian cognac I also like, and they're not putting it back on the market until they've aged their entire stock 4-5 more years. This means, of course, that it will likely taste even better when it does come back...and cost several times as much, too. However, for those of you who live in or near cities with Russian or other Eastern European neighborhoods, I would think you'd still be able to find other kinds of balzam and, for that matter, Georgian and Armenian cognacs (which are often very good). Ask the oldest man who works in the store which one to buy. It's always the oldest man who knows best. Rule of thumb in a Russian store: if you want honest advice on what to buy, never ask anyone under 30, and be careful with any women under 65. And don't believe anyone who tells you something is "fresh today." If it doesn't look really fresh, it ain't. Anyway.

6. No, graduate school has not driven me into alcoholism. Yet.

7. Everybody go look at Hege's gorgeous Norwegian sweater in its natural habitat of fall foliage. Yum.

8. Okay, the cashmere/silk lace scarf could also look really, really good if I had made it really long (and narrower). That's okay - I like my cravat, too. But now I also need a long, thin one...>:->

25 October 2006

Juggling Skeins

(Yak/Merino scarf from ages ago, finally modeled now that the weather is cooperating. Nice match with the coat, yes?)

[NB: There is much text and little knitting in the rest of this post. Feel free to skim or skip]

Hyunjee commented on yesterday's post:

OK, I'm coming out of lurkdom to ask how on earth you balance dissertation writing with knitting, blogging, being married, having friends, teaching, etc etc. I've read your very thoughtful pieces on the Mason-Dixon craze and on price fixing in the yarn industry, and now you are writing Blogger tutorials... and you have chapter % bars in your sidebar!? That move?! Maybe you should write a long post telling us underachieving diss writers how to keep all these balls up in the air, because it's pretty damn impressive. OK, back to writing... :)

(And Carrie seconded the query.)

My first reaction was laugh hysterically because I really do spend every waking second and most sleeping ones in a state of total panic about how many important things I'm not doing at any given moment (even when I'm working, I'm thinking about all the diss-related tasks I haven't done yet).

So what the @$^%$^@ am I doing wasting any time on a blog at all?? I have asked myself this question. And I have, indeed, been asked by others. My answer is that it's either this, or go completely raving mad. I'm only one untwisted strand of cobweb-weight yarn from madness as it is. After trying to find something to keep me sane for a long time, this blog is really doing it better than anything else. Just knitting alone didn't entirely cut it - dissertation-writing is so anti-social already, and my knitting was pretty anti-social, too, and I just needed to force myself into some human interaction.

What about my ("real"-life) friends, you ask?

I'm actually terrified to even tell some of my friends that I have this blog, because I'm scared they'll hate me for doing this instead of calling or visiting them. Not that I don't ever call my friends anymore, but I am WAY behind on all the things I want to be doing both to be a good friend and to enjoy being with my friends for my own sake.

But here's the thing. I've already got all kinds of guilt and self-pity and guilt and more guilt associated with my friends right now, so I'm mostly doing what little I can manage and hoping life will improve in this respect once this !#$%!#$% graduate program is over. And hoping they'll let me make it up to them. Hand-knit socks for EVERYBODY!!!!

The beauty about this blog, by contrast to the real-life friend situation, is that I have these lovely online friends (this means you) - almost none of whom I've even met, but people who read my blog, and/or whose blogs I read - who are there when I need them (via Bloglines =] ), but who won't kill me or even be particularly hurt if I just disappear without a word sometimes (not permanently). This is about the only kind of friendship I can handle right now.

Of course, I'd love nothing more than to talk for hours and hours with all my friends on a regular basis like I used to, but these days the very thought of calling up a friend or going out for coffee actually gives me stress headaches. I know that once I get somewhere so good, I won't be able to stop myself from having lovely long chats and...before I know it, whole days pass and no work gets done and I'm back to questioning why on earth I'm bothering with this dissertation.

Don't get me wrong, I still see my friends, and luckily they're very patient, understanding, and many of them are also in very similar stages with their own study and work, but at the moment that whole area of my life feels partly stressful, and often all-or-nothing. The blog is the opposite - I really have no expectations or consequences attached to it, but there's also lots of fun, and laughter, and shared interests and human interaction with really great people whom I respect and admire.

As for Hubbster...I'm very lucky there. He's also a grad student in the same field, so even though he's also stressed-out and swamped in work, we're physically in the same space almost all the time, we understand perfectly what the other is doing, why it's stressful, but also why it's still important and worth doing, and we can often make things easier on the other person. I am a few years ahead in the same program, so I've already taken the courses, the exams, and done the teaching that he's doing now (and yes, I give him my notes!). And he's a native speaker of Russian...([whisper:] I'm so lucky here I hate to admit it in case other dissertators want to kill me)...so I have NO translation issues. I do most of the busy work of it myself, but when I'm stumped, I don't have to waste hours with my pile of 17 Russian dictionaries (I really do own 17, I counted) - I just ask Hubbster. And he can do Russian-language online searches in the blink of an eye, while I spend 15 minutes hunting for the !%$%@#$ soft sign on the cyrillic keyboard...Since he even works in the same field, I can take an article or book that would, in the old days, have sucked up several long, painful hours of my time before I determined that it didn't even have what I was looking for (partly because most Russian academics are not nearly as orderly or predictable in argument structure...when they have an argument...as Western-trained historians) - now I can just hand it to Hubbster and say, "what do you think?" He'll happily skim the whole thing in 10 minutes (it's probably on his orals list anyway), tell me the one tidbit that's interesting, and tell me the rest is Marxist-Leninist babble that can safely be ignored. Talk about 'squeee....'!

I'm also lucky with Hubbster in the sense that when he needs attention, instead of sulking and feel ill-used (as I would do), he...sings. Makes funny noises of all kinds. Dances across the living room. And, if really necessary (like, when I'm listening to Cast-On while immersed in a bit of tricky shaping) - he'll actually come right up to me and jump up and down (or start loudly admiring the knitting in ways that hilariously make no sense). Unlike my sulking routine, his methods are so adorable that I inevitably end up giving him exactly the positive attention he craves without even having to think about it or try. He's a winner.

Beyond that...well, you should meet me, and see the way I talk. 90 mph. Although I can be very quiet and shy with people I don't know or when otherwise out of my element, most people who happen to come across me mid-stream with no previous warning just sort of stare and blink. I type and write the same way. So...even though I'm insanely slow about research, poorly organized, and DESPISE reading anything that I "have" to read and will go to insane, irrational measures to read something frivilously unrelated instead....I still usually manage to make up the lost time by typing, writing, and revising at warp speed (this is of course all predicated on the fact that I really do think about the subject of my writing while knitting, while staring into space, and while sleeping - often waking up with a revelation of some kind...there's no way this would be effective if I really blocked out work when I'm not obviously working).

I do have to revise everything I write for the diss a minimum of 20 times (no exaggeration for once) before it's even presentable, because of the typos, the un-thought-out bloopers, the deeply (nested (sentence (structure))) (for which I'm famous in certain circles), but I actually really like this process, so once I get that far I don't procrastinate much at all and if no one stopped me would often work round the clock . During the period leading up to that, though, I must have breaks where I think about something totally different or I just can't take the agony. So, lately, the blog serves really well for that. I'm on the computer anyway, so I just pop over and read my bloglines, or write a post, and usually by the time I've done that I've restored my mood and energy a bit, and I'm feeling guilty enough to go work again.

How would my friends feel if I called them in the middle of the day with no warning, asked them to be funny for 10 minutes, then hung up on them when I felt ready to work again???

Though it's REALLY bad when something I read on someone's blog is so exciting that I run over to my knitting book shelf and/or stash and start playing. It doesn't happen often, and I try to clamp down on the impulse, because it can be disastrous.

Hubbster would point out that when he's seized by one of these needing-a-break spells, he usually does something like the dishes, or making dinner, or sweeping the floor. To which I retort: who's keeping this family in hand-knitted socks, again? Okay, that's not entirely fair and I DO do my share of housework, but I tend to save it up until it's overwhelming, then do it all at once. Hubbster, too, is not blameless - he sneaks peaks at tank modeling sites while he's "working" - I've seen him!

Anyway, as you may have noticed, I type up my posts really fast and they are, therefore, often full of typos and spelling errors (not to mention rambling in nature...I try to put in lots of photos to distract you from the ramblingness). They don't often have many of those other pesky common writing mistakes, but that's from years of grading student papers - the usual kinds of mistakes leap out at me like giant, screaming, neon hammers that hit me on the head and make me feel all prissy and school-marmish.

Often, when I hit a brick wall in writing the diss (note the violent imagery that keeps popping up when writing or the diss is mentioned?), a little aimless blathering about knitting can be just the ticket to get the fingers moving again over the ol' keyboard (hmm, warm, wooly imagery...pictures of alpacas with big, brown eyes...yarn porn...just the words are soothing, aren't they?)

Of course, if I were teaching right now this blog wouldn't be here.

Last year, when I was teaching, I only vaguely knew there was such a thing as a knitting blog universe, and was reading only the Harlot (whose career I've been following since the old days of the e-mail KnitList, before she started blogging). I wasn't even knitting very much, and certainly not anything remotely complicated. Teaching has a tendency to take over my life and leave no energy left for anything else. In my experience, it's much easier (than writing and research) to know what you have to do, and there's just no way to procrastinate however much you might want to, but doing all of it takes everything you've got. I only barely got started on the writing in that whole last school year, whereas I think I can finish the diss completely in this school year, because I'm not teaching. Writing alone is exhausting creatively and intellectually, but it feels more to me like trying to force lots of abundant energies - including good stuff but also the adrenaline produced by stress, for example - into channels that will be productive, rather than letting them take over and result in spontaneous combustion. Sometimes this requires running some of the energy into alternative streams, just to keep it from exploding.

Also, the reason I came up with a way to avoid Blogger as much as possible (see post below) is that when I first started this blog and went through trying to upload images directly a few times, I had a moment when I thought, "either there's a better way to do this, or this blog dies tomorrow." So I thought of a better way, and now that technical side of blogging doesn't really take up any time, either. I have organized bookmarks for all the image hosting and counter sites, and my passwords are remembered by the computer...it's so easy these days to coordinate this stuff. Why can't my diss be this well-organized??

(Note to Carrie: it's usually much better in the evening than the middle of the day. Maybe that's why you've had better luck? The image uploader is much slower than any I've ever seen anywhere else [even years ago], and it often breaks down altogether around midday / early afternoon. And the connection to Blogger required to post or access files is often very flighty around the same time. I have a high-speed cable connection that never shows any trouble with any other sites at this same time. One would also hope that BloggerBeta is better. Spider says she doesn't have much trouble in uploading small images, anyway.)

As for the moving progress bars...well, you may have noticed that knitting bars move much faster than the diss bar?? I knit a little bit almost every night before bed, for sanity purposes, and I also knit whenever I'm on the phone, waiting for the computer to do something, traveling, walking, or talking to people. That's not really very much of my day (except for the part about waiting for the computer to do something), but it adds up. And, about once a week or so - more often when deadlines are far away, not at all once they start looming - I can put on some podcasts and a movie or some Sopranos, and just knit, knit, knit most of a day away. Sizzle got finished so fast because of a once-a-year, paid-for-by-parents weekend holiday that included long hours in the car and on the train, and a following weekend when I was sick and couldn't really sit in front of the computer. Now that my current chapter is revving up again, knitting progress has slowed back down to a dull buzz in the background, and my posts - you may have noticed - are both less frequent, and less interesting.

It also makes all the difference in the world to New Yorkers like ourselves not to go out. We pretty much stopped doing that because (a) we're on a very tight budget this year (b) we're on a tight time budget too, and we're homebodies who can only really relax at home by ourselves, so time "out" is tiring too, though in a different way, and (c) we're sick of being fleeced - movies and restaurants in New York have gotten to cost so many times more than their actual value that we just gave up. Not worth it. We'd love it if we could afford Carnegie Hall and Barge Music more often (read: at all, since Hubbster is no longer a lawyer), and there are certainly a few restaurants that I consider "worth it" (Caffe Dante, anyone?), but most of the places one tries out with friends or on special occasions turn out to be...if not disappointing, then certainly not worth a week's income.

Also, I love writing, and I love analyzing things. Mason-Dixon, the yarn market...19th-century Russian cultural history...whatever. It's just the way I think. I think this way about EVERYTHING. It just spills out of me wherever I go and whatever I do, so those long analytical-type posts really took nothing out of me. I can do that in MUCH less time than it takes me to, say, look up fussy details about a pattern, its designer and yarn and needles and explain clearly whatever weird half-assed modifications I made...that's why you hardly ever see that stuff on my blog. :-) And yes, speaking on behalf of the people who know me well...it's kind of freaky. You can't ask me about the simplest thing without getting a three-part argument with citations (ask my parents). Luckily, most of my friends are also academics, or at least academically-minded, and respond in kind.

I seem to be posting a lot about HTML, but only because no one else seems to be posting much in a quick-n-dirty way for bloggers who don't want to deal with technical crap, so it feels like a useful thing to do. I am new to blogging and have limited tolerance for technical crap myself, so I understand, but on the other hand, I have a very soft spot for HTML. I learned it back in the day when it was ten times simpler, and also when there was no such thing as software that did it all for you. We're talking circa 1994. Two of my best friends and I, in college, started a "'net'zine" (we coined the word independently at exactly the same time that a million other people coined the same term). Bits and pieces of it are actually still online,* though the images that once made it great are all in deep storage (can't be bothered to find, sort, and upload them). It was fun to do, got up to a whopping 1,000 or more subscribers, and succeeded admirably at fulfulling our goal of being "the dumb thing we did in college." When I first saw the first issue of knitty.com, way back when, it reminded me enormously of the tone and style of our old 'zine, except that knitty...actually had content. Huh. I knew we had forgotten something. Anyway. The one thing I can say for it now is that we spotted Bust and how cool it is way early (scroll down to the section labeled "Testimonial Diner," if you are so inclined), and I'm still a little nostalgic about those days sometimes. Hence the HTML-related posts.

You see how I can just ramble on, and on, and on? Effortless, I tell you.

But my life is actually completely crazy, and I'm a mess of psychosomatic illnesses because of the stress involved in the whole dissertation thing and my generally bad coping skills. It's only Hubbster, my closest friends, and knitting/blogging that get me through the day.

Most of all, I really miss fresh air and real, slow-cooked meals (you see why I'm so addicted to The Purloined Letter??). These days, we mostly eat out-of-the-freezer stuff from Trader Joe's, or anything likewise quick that isn't full of chemicals (note that we do not own a microwave), and we tend to eat it in front of the computer, or a book, or a draft print-out....

Er, anyway. There I went again. Thanks, Hyunjee, and Carrie, for coming out of lurk mode!

Note to all lurkers: remember to say hi once in a while! I like lurking, too, but I like comments even more!! Ura! Ura! Ura for comments!!


Nishanna, whom I met at the Harlot talk in Brooklyn, has issued a really interesting challenge to the knit-blogger community. I think it relates closely to an idea in the Harlot's latest post. I consider this post my response. The rest of you - go at it. I can't wait to read what you think.

Random picture (POSTED DIRECTLY FROM FLICKR!!! Thanks, guys!!!! [but why do they make it so labyrinthine?? PhotoBucket is so much better about that...]):

* Note that following this link, and the one on the sidebar to my Cast-On essay, will together give you my full name(s). Not that I mean to hide it or any other identifying factoids from any of you, but I'd really prefer for my full, google-able name in all its parts not to be associated with this blog, because when I'm on the job market, I'll get googled by hiring committees who probably aren't as informed as you all are about the therapeutic qualities of knitting, and will just conclude that I'm not "driven" enough to be hired. So please pretend you don't know my whole name or institutional affiliation. This gives the whole blog thing a fun cloak-n-dagger feel, doesn't it?

24 October 2006

FO, and Some Stress Relief

Stylish, yes? It's not blocked yet, because as usual I'm too impatient to get the pictures taken. I know it's short, but I like it that way. The cashmere & silk content of the yarn made me think it was perfect for a cravat/ascot-type scarf. With all those lacy holes, it wouldn't be warm enough and might, I think, look kind of odd as a tradional-length scarf, because it's obviously not for winter wear. I think it's perfect for the kind of weather we have right now, which makes it exactly the kind of scarf I most needed - enough to keep the wind off your throat and fill in the cracks in spring/fall jackets, but not enough to make you sweaty on the subway platform.


I notice that Blogger's frequent refusal to upload images and its occasional refusal to do anything at all is driving lots of people nutso. I used to be one of these people, but then I came up with a solution that makes much life much, much easier. Here's what I do:

1. I compose my posts in another program, and only copy and paste them into the blogger post window at the last possible second, to preview and publish, zap. I use a database program (Filemaker) because I happen to have it and use it all the time for my dissertation, so it's easy. But you could also use a word processor. I like my database, though, because I end up with a nice, easily browsable record of all my posts (though without the images) that's much easier to scan through than the archives of my blog.

2. I copied the code blogger uses for displaying images and for inserting links into the post text, and I keep them available in my database file (you could also put them in a word processing file and either save it as a template, or just always open that same file, but "save as" something different after you've added your original text for a particular post). This way I don't have to wait for blogger's image uploader thingy to provide that code (since the code is very simple and the same every time, and Blogger refuses to offer it half the time...)

3. I store all my images on PhotoBucket.com, and link to them from Blogger, rather than storing the images directly in blogger. PhotoBucket's uploader is much easier and more reliable than Blogger, and all I have to do on Blogger is paste the URL from PhotoBucket into the code I already have ready and waiting for me (see #2).

4. I can take as much time as I like to compose the post - or stop in the middle - without ever even opening Blogger. I log in to Blogger only to paste in and send off the post. 30 seconds, max. That means Blogger is usually working reliably for the length of time I need it. Not always, of course, but usually. :-)

Ah, life is so much better now.

So, here's the code I use - the stuff in square brackets is what needs to be replaced each time. Don't leave the square brackets in, but DO leave in all other brackets and punctuation.

To link to another web page:

<a href="[URL, or address, of the web page]">[Name of page that
will appear on screen]</a>

To place an image on the page at the right size for Blogger, with a link to another page (a bigger version of the image, for example). Note: this code contains the maximum image size for MY template (320 pixels) and the alignment and border settings that I chose (centered, no border). If you want something different, just go to one of the old posts where you did it the blogger way, and look at it in the "Edit HTML" tab. You should see similar-looking code for the images. Copy that instead of mine:

<a href="[URL of the web page the image should link to (can be same as image URL)]"><img style="DISPLAY: block; MARGIN: 0px auto 10px; WIDTH: 320px; CURSOR: hand; TEXT-ALIGN: center" alt="[you can put text in here that will show up if/when the image is unavailable or someone is browsing on a slow connection and has chosen not to see images. Or leave it blank.]" src="[URL of the image]" border="0" /></a>

To make text bold, but <b> before the text in question, and </b> after it.

For italics, make it <i> and </i>

For strikethrough, make it <del> and </del>

To center one line of text, put <center> at the beginning and </center> at the end.

To set one paragraph off as a quote (I think it pushes the left margin in and puts it in italics), put <blockquote> at the beginning, and </blockquote> at the end.

I think that's as much HTML as I've ever used in a blog post. If you want more, go to W3Schools.


But I have a question, involving Flickr. I like Flickr a lot, and it has lots of really cool features. But call me a total fool - I can't for the life of me find the URL for the picture itself (not the Flickr page that displays some version of the photo on its own site). I know many of you post your Flickr pictures to your blog - where is the URL??? Please help. Flickr has a much easier means of uploading, although it does involve downloading some software. I think I'd still use both Flickr and PhotoBucket, as a means of organizing different photos for different purposes, but it'd be nice to know how to post the Flickr images directly (btw, I know you can select a photo on Flickr and choose "blog it" but I hate that, as it takes all your control away and seems to allow only one pic per post in any case).


Spider, et al.: balzam is really good in tea, too! Yowza!

Beth: I know, I know. I'm getting to it NOW, I swear, since the scarf is done. The good news is that I don't have to ship it - we're going to see the in-laws for xmas. So, yes, I'm probably even going to wait to felt them until we get there. Officially, this is so they'll get a better fit. Really, it's because I hate felting in commercial machines. But I still need to start knitting asap.

Miscellaneous note: in burbling to Hubbster about all the lovely Rhinebeck posts out there and how sad I am that I missed it, I inadvertantly referred to the event as "Yarnbeck" several times without noticing what I was saying.

I'm going to go sing Laura's song some more now.

22 October 2006

Total Absence of Rhinebeck

So what have I been doing with my Rhinebeck-less weekend?

Yes, I've actually been working. Sad, I know. But it really did have to happen. For weeks, I've been back in the laborious early stages of a new chapter, going back through my sources for the bazillionth time [procrastinating], sorting [procrastinating], organizing [procrastinating], translating [procrastinating], panicking [procrastinating], being inspired [procrastinating], panicking again...[etc]. That part has finally been getting under control and now it's time to write, write, write 'til my head falls off. Or maybe that's just what it feels like. In any case, I hate all of this part...until I get to the point where most of the substance is on paper, and I get to revise. I love revising. I could do it all day long, day after day, and still think it's fun. Actually, that's just what I do. But it takes so long to get to that point, and the getting there is SO painful...sigh.

Anyway. So I've done a few rows on the sleeve of the Fair Isle late in the evenings, in an attempt to stop my brain from buzzing before bed, but it's not enough progress to bother posting about. But I've also started a little something new, to have something more portable to work on when on the train, or waiting for things to save or download, or when wandering across the hall to my friend's apartment to bitch about how the chapter isn't progressing.

This new, portable project should - I know - be the slippers I'm making for the in-laws for xmas.

But it isn't.

I'll get to the slippers any day now, I swear. I'm going to use Bev Galeskas patterns, but not the clogs again - I've done too many clogs. One pair of moccains, one of ballet slippers. I have the yarn, I have their shoe sizes. I have converted their shoe sizes from Russian to American. Any day now.

In the meantime, I'm using the Karabella "Breeze" that Cookie sent me to make a lacy scarf. I'm using the "little leaf" pattern I found free online, and it's going swimmingly (except for having to tink back a couple of rows two times, because I was talking and screwed up).

Here's a pretty picture:

And here's another, which shows the pattern better:

Yesterday, while across the hall bitching with my friend Aline about my non-progress issues, I also helped her get started on her own little leaf scarf, made from KnitPicks' Alpaca Cloud. She's doing it on big needles for this yarn, so it should actually look very different from mine. This is a major step for blog-less Aline, who has so far been exploring variations on the ribbed scarf. Any day now, she's going to tackle a sweater (right, Aline?).

On a completely different topic, Spider asked what Riga balzam tastes like. The short answer is that it's very strong alcohol with a lot of herbs added, usually the kinds that are used for mulling, and often many others, too. There are actually lots of different balzams, all of which I love, but I mentioned the Riga variety specifically because it's well-known and even available in the sort of American liquor store where they have a good selection of imports. It's of the same family as the fairly famous Hungarian Unicum -- which was supposedly invented for Emperor Franz Josef and cured his cold or something -- except that Unicum pretty much tastes like NyQuil. Not that that's a bad thing, but I like the various forms of balzam that I've found from the Baltic states and Russia much better. I had one that's made only on the shores of Lake Baikal, which was indescribably good. I had another, very unusual one, made in a small Russian town very near where I did my dissertation research (Shuiiskii balzam, for the connoisseurs among you). This one is vodka-based, with lots of berries added as well as herbs. It's very thick, like a syrup, and needs to be cut with soda or water (or, of course, more vodka). Most balzams, however, are more like a cognac, but with herbs, which usually include cinnamon, cardomom, cloves, ginger, often eucalyptus (a key ingredient), and many others. If you ever get a chance to try one, jump at it, but be careful, as it's very strong stuff. You either have it in a shot glass (but sip it slowly rather than throwing it back, because it's all about the flavor), or cut it with soda (Russians would of course scoff at this, but not many people care to drink like a Russian, and I definitely do not recommend drinking like a Russian and knitting simultaneously (if you're not sure on this point, ask Cookie).

Riga balzam, by the way, is named after the city of Riga, where I assume it's made. It's also sometimes called Rizhskii balzam, if you're buying it, say, in a Russian store in Brighton Beach (or your city's equivalent Russian neighborhood). I don't know what it is in Latvian.

It's also been in the news alongside hand-knitted mittens. Don't even get me started on the subject of the expansion of NATO, though.

And yes, I'm waxing all poetic about it because we've long since finished off the small amount of balzam we were able to bring home from our last trip to Russia.

Okay, everybody....I'm ready and waiting to hear all about Rhinebeck!!! I want details!!!!

18 October 2006

Everybody's Doing It

48 Things You Could Care Less About


2. WERE YOU NAMED AFTER ANYONE? Mostly, my grandma, who’s Mary Catherine. I’m Katherine Mary. The ‘K’ was added because my parents liked “Kate” better than “Cathy.” My mom likes to say, though, that I was named after three strong women – my grandma, Katharine Hepburn, and Catherine the Great. She just thought it was a good name for a powerful woman – attractive, but not belittling.

3. WHEN DID YOU LAST CRY? A few days ago. It was a really embarrassing situation. I’ll just say, I’m very clumsy. I fear the floor might be stained. I’ve been overwrought lately. Like everything else, it’s all because of the dissertation.

4. DO YOU LIKE YOUR HANDWRITING? Not at all. It was never very good, but since for years I have usually only written in Russian (cyrillic) by hand and typed in English, when I do try to write something by hand in English, the results are…curious, and unreadable. This is part of why I always have trouble deciphering any knitting notes I make.

5. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE LUNCHMEAT? I really don’t like lunchmeat at all, but if forced to choose, I go for smoked ham. I do love ham & cheese on a croissant, heated up ever so slightly. I got addicted to those (“horn”) in the cafeteria of my Norwegian high school.

6. IF YOU WERE ANOTHER PERSON WOULD YOU BE FRIENDS WITH YOU? Of course! Though I would undoubtedly drive myself crazy.

7. DO YOU HAVE A JOURNAL? This blog is by far as close as I’ve ever come to successfully keeping a journal.

8. DO YOU STILL HAVE YOUR TONSILS? I think so. I guess I’d remember if I lost them, wouldn’t I?

9. WOULD YOU BUNGEE JUMP? God, no. It creeps me out just hearing the suggestion.

10. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE CEREAL? I like weird, organic grains. Flax seed and amaranth are my favorites.

11. DO YOU UNTIE YOUR SHOES WHEN YOU TAKE THEM OFF? When they’re tennis shoes or hiking boots, yeah. I usually curse when I do it, too.

12. DO YOU THINK YOU ARE STRONG? Strong-willed: too much so. Emotionally strong: definitely, though also excessively emotional, if that makes any sense. Physically: no way. I have a pretty good kick, but I wouldn’t last long in any fight.

13. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE ICE CREAM FLAVOR? Mint choc. chip. But I wouldn’t turn down any kind of ice cream except coffee flavors.

14. SHOE SIZE? 10.

15. RED OR PINK? Red. Duh.

16. WHAT IS THE LEAST FAVORITE THING ABOUT YOURSELF? Laziness. Procrastination. Irrational fear of phones.

17. WHO DO YOU MISS THE MOST? My niece and nephew.

18. DO YOU WANT EVERYONE TO SEND THIS BACK TO YOU? Do I want every one to fill it out? Heck, yeah.

19. WHAT COLOR PANTS, SHIRT AND SHOES ARE YOU WEARING? Erm…not only am I wearing pajamas, but they’re the same pajamas I was wearing yesterday, when taking pictures of my newly finished Sizzle. I’m not still wearing Sizzle anymore though. Switched back to the pajama top. And I’m wearing my third pair of EZ moccasin socks, even though I STILL haven’t woven in the ends. I put them on as soon as I finished the bind off, and they haven’t come off since except for sleeping and showering. This is what happens when you work at home.

20. LAST THING YOU ATE? Apple-cinnamon-raisin toast from Trader Joe’s. Yum.

21. WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO RIGHT NOW? The beep-beep of a truck backing up, a loud motor idling (separate vehicle), the ticking of the cuckoo clock, cars passing, an airplane flying overhead. I kid you not. All that in the time it took me to type one sentence.




brains, grammar.

26. DO YOU LIKE THE PERSON you stole THIS from? Cara from January One – of course!

27. FAVORITE DRINK? hot chocolate. rooibos tea. Riga balzam.

28. FAVORITE SPORT? knitting.

29. EYE COLOR? brown.

30. HAT SIZE? I think it’s 22 inches around. Or is that Hubbster?

31. DO YOU WEAR CONTACTS? Tried them once when I was sixteen, and it drove me out of my mind. Never again. I’m very over-sensitive about anything getting near my eyes. It’s just as well – I have thin skin under my eyes that makes them look baggy. Glasses cover this up.

32. FAVORITE FOOD? (Real, whole-grain, dense) bread, with fresh fruit & veggies a close second.

33. SCARY MOVIES OR HAPPY ENDINGS? Happy endings, unless they’re forced. A good plot has to be skillfully wound up. No scary ones, though – my nightmares are enough for me.

35. SUMMER OR WINTER? Fall and spring.

36. HUGS OR KISSES? Both from Hubbster or my parents, hugs only from friends / people I really like, and none of the above from people I don’t know. I was raised Dutch/WASPy, and we just don’t get into touching much.

37. FAVORITE DESSERT? Ooooh, how to choose? Anything involving chocolate, or ice cream, or apples.



40. WHAT BOOKS ARE YOU READING? Since I’ve been writing the diss, I’ve either been reading source material for it, or casually re-reading old escapist favorites in whatever free time remains. I don’t have the energy or concentration right now for anything else.

41. WHAT'S ON YOUR MOUSE PAD? It’s this cool thing I got as a freebie when I was temping. It has a clear plastic cover that’s attached only on one side, so you can slip whatever picture or paper you want inside. I put in a picture of the house once owned by the people I’m writing the diss about, and a photocopy of their family coat of arms.

42. WHAT DID YOU WATCH LAST NIGHT ON TV? Don’t have TV. But we’ve got our Sopranos DVDs on pretty much constant rotation.

43. FAVORITE SOUNDS? Hubbster’s singing, and other inane unconscious noises. Water – waves lapping. Gentle rain when I’m inside and warm. Music.

44. ROLLING STONE OR BEATLES? Beatles, hands down. Because they have a better sense of humor.

45. THE FURTHEST YOU'VE BEEN FROM HOME? The village of Dorozhaevo, in Russia.

46. WHAT'S YOUR SPECIAL TALENT? Analyzing historical texts in writing. An odd little talent it is, but there you go. I can also make my knee-caps do crazy things, but that’s more of a party trick.

47. WHERE WERE YOU BORN? Holland Community Hospital, in Holland, MI.

48. WHO SENT THIS TO YOU? I stole it from Cara.

Random but seasonal picture, also snapped in New Hampshire, on some random back road we got lost on:

(Click on the image to prove to yourself that those really are pumpkins.)

17 October 2006

FO: Sizzle

It's official! I'm done sizzlin'! Either that, or Sizzle is done.

I think I'm going to start trying to be all organized about this FO business, even though I'm never using yarns anybody's ever heard of:

Pattern: Sizzle by Wendy Bernard
Yarn: "Magic" microfiber (fiber content unspecified), made in Germany, bought in Russia, DK weight
Gauge: 6 sts and 8 rows per inch on US#4 needles
Because I switched to a DK yarn, I knit size 'L' in order to achieve measurements close to the specified 'M'. Then I adjusted the number of incr/decr and rows to make the waist a little smaller and correct for the change in row gauge: I decreased every 5th row, nine times total, and then increased every 5th row 8 times total.
Also, I stupidly picked up too few stitches around the collar. I had slipped the first stitch of each row, then picked up one stitch in each "V" on the edge, which is the same as one stitch per two rows going in the other direction. As Wendy points out in the pattern, it really works better to have about 2 stitches for every three rows. I only realized this as I was binding off, and I really didn't want to have to rip it out. Really. So I finished binding off and tried it on...and ended up sewing the two ends of the neck trim together (at the center of the V) instead of letting them cutely overlap as they do in Wendy's version. I would prefer to have done it right, but what I've got also looks really nice and has the enormous advantage of being done, so there it is. My knitting and the bind off were loose enough to make up for any pulling, and it lies nice and flat and not forced-looking.

(the apparent unevenness in the width of the trim in this picture is because of the odd angle - oops)

I'm really happy with the results, although it could actually have been a little more close-fitting at the waist and hips. However, if I hadn't read the posts on the Sexy Knitters Club KAL and on Laura's blog (is it me, or do I link to Laura in almost every post? Hi Laura!) -- if, in short, I had followed my usual instincts and habits, it would have ended up huge, and abandoned. I just hope it doesn't grow after it's washed, because of course I didn't swatch, so I couldn't wash my swatch. So, in case you were wondering, I didn't block it, and don't plan to until it needs washing anyway, and then I'm going to be very careful.

About seed stitch: I've always pretty much avoided it. I don't know why exactly. I didn't used to like the look of garter, then EZ changed my mind on that. I really like the look of 1x1 rib except that, as you now know, I can't do that properly. Somehow, I never choose seed stitch when looking for a border. It was prescribed in the pattern here, so I did it, and I really like how it looks. Except for one thing. I picked up and knit a plain row around the collar and armholes, then switched to seed stitch on the next row. I don't altogether care for this transition. It's messier than picking up a plain knit row then switching to either a ribbing or garter. What do you all think about picking up in knit, then a row of purl, then seed stitch? Would that be better? Has anyone tried it?

Overall, though, I'm very pleased with how all the shaping and picking up of stitches looks. I've had so much trouble (and outright failures) with these problem areas whenever I knit with anything cottony (that isn't fuzzy enough to fill in minor inconsistencies), that this pattern felt like a bit of a test. And I think I passed!

(Click for slighly bigger version)

I have lots of yarn leftover. Nearly enough for another Sizzle. What should I do with it?

(This picture is actually the best one yet for conveying the true color, at least on my monitor. Why is a complete mystery, since this was shot in far from ideal circumstances.)

PS: Yes, those are my pajama bottoms I'm modeling along with Sizzle. Cute, aren't they?

16 October 2006

Still Sizzlin’

I know, I disappeared again. I’ve been trying to get work done, and I also haven’t been feeling well. Ever since I got food poisoning in Rostov-the-Great, Russia, a year and a half ago, I’ve had repeated bouts of illness that may or may not be related to the original incident. I know – eww. Here’s hoping I’ll feel better tomorrow.

So – I don’t even remember all of what I meant to post here, but didn’t, in the last few days. I’ll do my best:

1. I already posted, immediately below this post, instructions on how to change the header image.

2. About a knitting Wiki: I think Eve makes a very good point, that contributing to a Wiki (at least right now) requires a bit of time and effort that most knitters would rather put into their socks-in-progress. On the other hand, as Utilly pointed out, the knitting tab in the current Wikipedia is already in use, and is part of an organization that’s already trying to make contribution easier. Yvonne’s two stumbling blocks (see her comment and the others to my post for the details) are very pertinent also: who pays for the space and who’s going to do the steady, on-going work. Because, of course, one way to get around the problem Eve points to is if knitters were able to simply email a contribution to someone on a “Wikipedian committee,” who would then enter it in the system in the proper way. But that’s labor-intensive. I have no idea what the right answers are to all these questions – I just stole the idea from Brenda Dayne! And I’m not even sure it’s the Wiki format she has in mind (she didn’t yet specify). I’m waiting with baited breath for her new series, in which she has pledged to explore all these issues and more. I do think, though, that one way or another some kind of online compendium (or at least a centralized means of sorting and organizing info) is pretty much inevitable, and I’m looking forward both to contributing to it in some way and to using it! I think Cast-On is a great forum to discuss the various problems and implications, and I hope you’ll all join me in listening!

3. Sizzle is progressing, partly because I’ve been too ill to do much else this weekend.

I apologize for yet another bad picture. Lighting conditions not good. What you see there is the completed back piece, with the partially complete front lying on top of it. I’ve got 30 rows left to do on the shoulders of the front piece, then a little sewing up, a little picking up, a few rows around the collar and the armholes, and I’m done!

Just when I really started making progress on Sizzle, the temperature dropped, we pulled out the rugs (as you can see in the photo), and I started fantasizing again about the Fair Isle cardigan. I really want to get back to it now – because I’m dying to wear it! They still haven’t turned on the heat (though there have been some hopeful-sounding clanging noises), but even after it’s on this apartment doesn’t ever get too warm for a cardigan until spring comes anew. Must finish Sizzle first, though, or I’m in danger of falling back into UFO land!

I still haven’t solved the needle problems for the FI cardigan sleeves, but I think I’ll just go ahead and finish them on the magic loop that’s slightly (0.25 mm) smaller than the needle I used for the body.

Now I need to catch up on everybody else’s blogs….

How to Put a Background Image in Your Blog Header

Laura gave me this info. I’m just passing it on.

Like before, this information is only relevant to Blogger, as far as I know.

What you need to do is edit the CSS code in the template file for your blog. If you haven’t already tried this, just login to Blogger, select your blog, and click on the “Template” tab. It will show you a window full of code. The first section of the code, the part that shows a bunch of mumbo-jumbo on lines starting with “.” or in {funky curly parens}, is called the CSS, or style-sheet code. It tells web browsers how to set the colors, layout, images, fonts, etc, and is uniform for your whole blog. After that section, the rest of the template consists of HTML code <the stuff in arrow brackets>. This supplies all the content for your pages – what links are in the sidebar, the code that puts what you enter into the blogger edit-post window into the right place on your blog page, etc. Both the CSS and HTML sections of your template code are divided into sections for header, profile, sidebar, posts, and any other divisions you may have in your blog layout. Most of the code actually resembles English, once you get over the shock of the funky punctuation. But to get definitions for all codes or any other reference info relating to web pages, I highly recommend this really cool site I found recently: W3Schools.

Okay. Laura and I are both using the Blogger “Minima White” template. This template creates a box at the top of the blog that you can fill, if you choose, with your own image. I imagine the “Minima Black” is the same, and it’s possible that other templates also have space for images. What follows is how to do it with “Minima White.”

If “Minima White” is not already your template, first copy and save whatever code you may have added to your old template (sidebar links, images, etc) to some other location – a word processing file is a good place. Then, change your template to Minima White. This will erase whatever additions you had made to your old template, but does not change anything about the posts or comments you already have.

Now, paste the sidebar links or images back into this new template. Take a look at it, and check that it’s working.

Now look closely at the CSS code at the top of the text for your new template. Scroll down just a little bit until you see this:

/* Header

In the very first set of text below the word “Header,” you want to insert a line of code directing the browser to your image (you should already have created an image and put it online somewhere, for instance on Photobucket.com). On a line (or two) of its own, in between the line that begins “border:” and the two curly parens that come on the next line, insert the following text:

background-image: url(http://www.photobucket.com/albums/aastrikke/Whatever.jpg)

But of course you should replace the URL with the correct one for your photo.

Whenever you want to change the photo, just replace this URL with a different one (and don’t forget to save and republish the template text afterwards).

You can put any size image in there, and take your pot luck as to how it will be stretched or cut off to fit. Or, you can make the image the right size, which we’ve figured out through trial and error is about 700 pixels in width by 130 pixels in height.

If you want to change the colors in your template (for the header text, or for title, or links, etc), you have to find the relevant line in the CSS code. Then, simply change the 3-digit code for the color. You can get the color codes by looking them up on W3Schools, or just googling “CSS color codes.” Most HTML/CSS color codes are usually listed in a 6-digit form. For some reason I can’t fathom, the first three digits only work for blogger. Note that “vlink” means “visited link,” “alink” or “link:hover” means an active link, which is one that has a mouse “hovering” over it, and just plain “link,” is, of course,
a link.

Someone else asked me how I was able to link to a separate text file of my own. The trick there is simply to have access to some space on a server somewhere. I have a certain amount of space for free on my university server. You might, too – if you don’t know, ask the IT people at your school. If not, there are probably free online services that offer space for any kind of files (not just images, like PhotoBucket or Flickr), I just don’t know what they are. Google for it, and I bet you’ll find some. It might be important to know the term “FTP,” or “File Transfer Protocol.” That’s what you need to transfer files from your computer’s harddrive to the internet. Most image hosting sites offer software of their own that does this very easily, and I assume other kinds of hosting sites would too. If you have university space, they’ll have FTP software to offer also. Once a file is online, you link to it just as you would to any other address on the internet.

Please post corrections and additions to the comments!

EDITED TO ADD: please remember - if you want to insert an image from a site like PhotoBucket into either HTML or CSS code, you need to copy the URL, NOT the "HTML code"!!! Because you already have the code!! You only want the ADDRESS of the image, and that's what "URL" means.

11 October 2006

Prize Arrived!

There was an extremely exciting surprise for me in the mail yesterday.....

My prize from Cookie's contest!! Excuse the less than ideal photos - no sun today. The yarn is gorgeous, and wow, this issue of VK has some awesome stuff in it - especially the article by Meg (always the standout in VK) and her pattern for the shaped arch stockings - now I know what all the fuss is about. Definitely on my to-do list! There's a couple of sweaters in there that I like, too, which almost never happens with VK.

But get this - Cookie added an extra! A ball of Karabella "Breeze," a cashmere/silk blend (the one on top in the picture above). Yum, yum, yum, YUM. It's telling me it wants to be a light, lacy scarf. One that will look really fabulous with red or black, one or the other of which is the color of every coat I own. And this way I can knit along with my newbie knitting friend Aline, who is about to embark on her first lace scarf, after considerable practice with rib patterns (don't worry - she's also finally moving away from scarves altogether, soon, into a felted jacket!)

Thank you Cookie!!!! This is amazing!!!!!

10 October 2006

Bending the Rules So Hard They Make a Snapping Noise

I'm ba-aack. Hello! New Hampshire was gorgeous and we had lots of fun even though there were no sheep to be found.

There are a couple of things to respond to from earlier - the Wiki debate, putting your own header into the template - that I promise to get to in the next few days, but first:

I broke my own rule. I broke every rule. I left all my WIPs behind and started a totally new project in New Hampshire, and it's...another sweater for moi. I just completely caved, and I have no excuse, except that I've been envying Laura's SKB for too long, and this deep red microfiber was burning a hole in my closet, dying to be used. I thought about starting the SKB, but it's a bigger project, would distract me longer from the others, plus the yarn I have for it is pink and the whole point is to use the deep red. Also, my numbers just wouldn't work out for SKB in the microfiber I want to use for it. So, in frustration, I tried a couple of swatches and some number-crunching for Sizzle in the deep red yarn, just before leaving for the weekend. To my surprise, I got the numbers to work out just beautifully by knitting the instructions for the large size at 6 sts/in, with a few other small modifications to yield (hopefully) a medium that's a little smaller at the waist than the one called for in the pattern, but otherwise the same. This should be a snug, perfect fit. Even though there was very little knitting time over the weekend (we were busy hiking, and I was afraid of the yarn catching on stray branches!), I'm now just finishing the decreases for the armholes on the back.

Here's the whole back, even though the color is totally off:

(click to make it slightly bigger)

Here's a closeup, with the color still totally off, but in a different way:

And here's another shot, with the color much closer to right (after some manipulation), but still not quite capturing its richness, depth, and shine:

The yarn is 100% microfiber, made in Germany, called "Magic." There's no info on the label about what kind of microfiber it is. I bought it in Russia at an embarrassingly low price.

Deep red is the color for the season, people - can you blame me for temporarily abandoning everything else to play with this color for while?

And, just for fun:

More soon, though there's some catching up to do in every aspect of my life, so it may not be immediately. And of course I need to catch up on my blog reading, too - you guys have been prolific while I've been gone!

04 October 2006

Place Meme

I made this one up, partly inspired by Brenda Dayne's recent Cast-On series on "A Sense of Place." Pass it on!

Place Meme

All the Places I've Lived Before:

Holland, Michigan
Hamar, Norway
St. Petersburg
New York
Ivanovo, Russia

[Note: these are all really cold places. This was not done by choice. But at least I've always had a lot of use for wool sweaters]

All the Places I'd Like to Live (all practical constraints being ignored):

South of France
New Zealand
New England

Nice Places to Visit, But I Wouldn't Want to Live There:

Eastern Europe (not for longer than a few years at a time in any one place, anyway)
Hot climates (my ideal would be four full, roughly equal seasons)

My Next Vacation Will Be To:

New Hampshire

My Best Fantasy Vacation Is In:

Meg Swanson's Knitting Camp in Wisconsin
Sicily - beaches, scenery, history, food
Knitting and architecture tour of the Baltic capitals
Hiking tour of British Isles
Knitting tour of Iceland
Barbados - you need to have one tropical fantasy

The Strangest Place I've Ever Been:

The bus station in Rostov-the-Great (central Russia), after our last bus left, and after the food poisoning had kicked in. I guess it wasn't so much strange (I've spent a lot of time in Russia), as especially awful.

The Strangest Place I'd Ever Like to Be:

I'm going to translate this as "most remote place" or "strange to me" and say the steppes of Central Asia

A Place I've Been Wondering About:

The Middle East. For obvious reasons. Though I'm also really fascinated by the history, art and culture of the region and very much hope that it will be possible in my lifetime to visit a prosperous, peaceful Middle East as a carefree tourist.

A Place I'd Like to Avoid:

Most of the red states. For now, anyway.

I'm off to NH and I can't wait!

Grumperina's Meme

Grumperina made this one up.

10 knitterly things you (maybe) didn't know about me

1. I rest the outer edges of my hands on the needles while I knit, so that they almost always end up putting excessive wear on the joins. The joins of my needles are all bent, and many have been ruined. Instead of learning to hold the needles differently, I'm constantly looking for longer needle tips on circs. I can't knit at all with the kind of short circs they make for sleeves that have very short tips - there's nowhere to rest my hand, and they cramp up.

2. But I hate straights (holding up the weight of all that knitting, always losing one, their habit of sticking out at your sides and getting in the way).

3. That trick of running your circ cords under hot water to straighten them out has NEVER worked for me. I've tried hot tap water, I've tried boiling water, I've tried soaking them and pulling on them. I believe it's all a lie. Must Get KnitPicks Circs Soon - clearly!

4. When I've been knitting a lot and then suddenly go for several hours without being able to knit, my fingers twitch involuntarily.

5. I dream about knitting, and yarn. Frequently.

6. My one-by-one ribbing always looks like crap. I've tried Combined Knitting and various other tricks, and while they have improved the look of my 2x2 rib and reverse stockinette, the 1x1 rib is still crapola. The only solution is lots of wear, washing, and blocking.

7. I want to be able to spin really really bad. I bought a learn-to-spin kit and I read my idol Priscilla Gibson-Roberts' spindling book cover to cover. I spent a few evenings trying, and following the instructions. I know everybody's first efforts at spinning look like crap, but I got the same feeling I get when I try crochet - which I've done a number of times over the years - it's just awkward for me. Of all the many crafts I've tried, I can do most of them in a respectable way that could clearly get better if I had more patience. And I took to knitting like a duck to water from moment one. But crochet and, it seems, spindling feels like an alien act to my fingers. They just can't get the hang of it, any more than they ever got the hang of two-handed piano playing (though I can type like a fiend - it's doing a different thing with each hand that really throws me for a loop. So to speak.) I really really hope it's all in my imagination and it won't be true, and I promise I'll try again when some time has passed and my courage has built up again. But I'm also thinking that, someday, I'm just going to have to make Hubbster learn to spin. It may be the only way to keep me supplied in handspun.

8. I don't like the look of entrelac or domino knitting, and probably won't ever try it. It's just not my style, though I like the look on other people who carry it off well, and can see that the process might be fun (except for weaving in ends). I generally don't like heavily geometric patterns. I like basic geometric shapes at least as compared to fussy, bows-and-sequins-and-puffy-parts designs, but not multiple geometric shapes put together, if you know what I mean. I like classical, old-fashioned, or vintage shapes, designs, patterns. As long as we don't get too Victorian, that is. I'd dress like Eunny in a second if I could only knit that well and that fast (but with more reds, of course). And if I could get away with dressing like a character from a Jane Austen novel, I'd be in seventh heaven.

9. I've never managed to eliminate the laddering effect when knitting with DPNs, and I've tried all the recommended tricks. What works for me is knitting on a magic loop or two circs with needles that have a thinner cord than the needle width. I pull the yarn tight at the changeover, around the cord on the previous stitch instead of the needle, and that seems to compensate perfectly for the looseness that creeps in at the change. It shouldn't work, but it does.

10. I've spent a whole lifetime so far hating orange. And Brown. And above all, orange and brown together. My husband….loves orange. The only other "colors" he acknowledges are neutrals. Dark blue and burgundy are okay, but he really prefers earth tones. Or, in my vocabulary, he prefers anything that looks like poop or barf. Okay, the only shade of orange he actually likes is what he calls "monk orange," and I admit that I'm learning to like it quite a bit. I live in an apartment containing two orange wool rugs and an orange leather chair (dating from the days when Hubbster was still an employed lawyer, of course). I'm even plotting a sweater that copies the motif of one of the orange rugs -- really. But the rest bores me to tears. Yet…I find myself frequently knitting in all of these "colors." The things a girl will do for love!

Life Meme

I've seen quite a few of these.

Life's to do list - Completed items are in bold

[My addition: – I put almost/sorta completed items in italics. Caveats added.]

01. Bought everyone in the bar a drink – I don’t think I could ever be drunk enough to overcome my essential cheapness
02. Swam with wild dolphins – I’d love to. I think.
03. Climbed a mountain – hiked, really
04. Taken a Ferrari for a test drive – blah. Couldn’t care less about cars. I’d love to take one of those super-fast trains, though.
05. Been inside the Great Pyramid – maybe someday.
06. Held a tarantula – NEVER.
07. Taken a candlelit bath with someone – how about a hot tub, sans candles?
08. Said 'I love you' and meant it - every day since about my third date with my husband.
09. Hugged a tree
10. Bungee jumped – no, but I repelled down a repelling tower, which I was forced to do in sixth grade camp and hated every second of.
11. Visited Paris – but all I got was a stupid bus tour and a trip to Euro-Disney, of all places for an American in Paris to go. Long story.
12. Watched a lightning storm at sea - er, from the beach, and only on Lake Michigan. But it’s a really big lake.
13. Stayed up all night long and saw the sun rise – God, more times than I can count, in college, and a few times since…
14. Seen the Northern Lights – while on a sleigh ride, no less, in Norway, with hot chocolate afterwards. And wearing a wooly sweater, naturally.
15. Gone to a huge sports game – many, many times, but never once I passed the age of consent. Wait, does it count as "huge" if it's just the White Sox? (before they finally got to the Series, that is...long before.)
16. Walked the stairs to the top of the leaning Tower of Pisa – no, but I’ve been to the top of the Sears Tower, John Hancock, Empire State, and that thingy in Seattle
17. Grown and eaten your own vegetables – I wish.
18. Touched an iceberg – does a glacier count?
19. Slept under the stars – Also slept under rain clouds, and got rained on.
20. Changed a baby's diaper – I have a lot of cousins.
21. Taken a trip in a hot air balloon
22. Watched a meteor shower
23. Gotten drunk on champagne – have you ever had Crimean champagne?
24. Given more than you can afford to charity
25. Looked up at the night sky through a telescope
26. Had an uncontrollable giggling fit at the worst possible moment
27. Had a food fight - and they say my college isn't a party school.
28. Bet on a winning horse
29. Asked out a stranger
30. Had a snowball fight
31. Screamed as loudly as you possibly can
32. Held a lamb
33. Seen an eclipse – while an acquaintance jumped up on a table and shouted bible verses, no less.
34. Ridden a roller coaster – the best is the kind where the track is over your head, but also below you until you get to the top of the first hill, when that one suddenly disappears. Oh yeah.
35. Hit a home run – I think I’m pretty good for having once or twice made contact between bat and ball
36. Danced like a fool and not cared who was looking – but, naturally, I was very drunk at the time
37. Adopted an accent for an entire day – I attempt to adopt an accent whenever I speak Russian, which has been for months at a time. I’m not sure I’ve ever fully succeeded with the Russian accent, but as long as I don’t sound remotely American, I’m happy.
38. Actually felt happy about your life, even for just a moment – I actually feel this way much of the time, lately. Unless someone says the word, “dissertation.”
39. Had two hard drives for your computer
40. Visited all 10 provinces or all 50 states – not even close. What a sad thought. I’ve been around most of the edge-states on the continental US, and of course my own midwestern state and the few that neighbor it. But that’s, like, half.
41. Taken care of someone who was drunk
42. Had amazing friends
43. Danced with a stranger in a foreign country – again, not willingly
44. Watched wild whales
45. Stolen a sign
46. Backpacked in Europe
47. Taken a road-trip
48. Gone rock climbing
49. Midnight walk on the beach
50. Gone sky diving
51. Visited Ireland – not yet, but I will.
52. Been heartbroken longer than you were actually in love
53. In a restaurant, sat at a stranger's table and had a meal with them – yes, but I never willingly talked to a stranger in a restaurant – that’s going too far.
54. Visited Japan
55. Milked a cow
56. Alphabetized your cds
57. Pretended to be a superhero
58. Sung karaoke - in Russian, no less. It’s better that way.
59. Lounged around in bed all day – it’s too embarrassing to admit how often.
60. Posed nude in front of strangers – no, but I once walked up and down Michigan Avenue in Chicago dressed in a clown suit, for an hour.
61. Gone scuba diving
62. Kissed in the rain
63. Played in the mud
64. Played in the rain
65. Gone to a drive-in theater
66. Visited the Great Wall of China
67. Started a business – it certainly didn’t yield any profit, but in college I helped found one of the first zines on the internet.
68. Fallen in love and not had your heart broken
69. Toured ancient sites
70. Taken a martial arts class
71. Played D&D for 6 hours straight – never played it at all or been tempted, but how many hours do I spend reading blogs???!
72. Gotten marrieddid it up right, too.
73. Been in a movie – sort of – I was an extra, and my shot got cut! For the record, it was that critic’s darling, Chain Reaction, with Keanu Reeves.
74. Crashed a party
75. Gotten divorced – God forbid.
76. Gone without food for 5 days
77. Made cookies from scratch. It's one of the few things I can be trusted to do in the kitchen. You can learn to do anything if you want the results bad enough.
78. Won first prize in a costume contest
79. Ridden a gondola in Venice – came very close. We were there, we wanted to, but we’d run out of money…
80. Gotten a tattoo
81. Rafted the Snake Dead River
82. Been on television news programs as an "expert"
83. Got flowers for no reason – I don’t mean to brag, but it happens regularly.
84. Performed on stage – High school band, baby.
85. Been to Las Vegas – I won $15 on nickel slots before I lost it again.
86. Recorded music
87. Eaten shark
88. Had a one-night stand
89. Gone to Thailand
90. Bought a house
91. Been in a combat zone
92. Buried one of your parents
93. Been on a cruise ship – I was on a ship sorta like that from Goteborg, Sweden to Hamburg, and another from England to Norway. One was overnight.
94. Spoken more than one language fluently – but only “fluently” when drunk.
95. Performed in aisles at Rocky Horror – no, but I sang along to the Sing-a-Long Sound of Music at the Waverly in New York
96. Raised children.
97. Followed your favorite band/singer on tour – only about two or three stops, tho. It was They Might Be Giants, in the mid-90s.
98. Created and named your own constellation of stars
99. Taken an exotic bicycle tour in a foreign country
100. Picked up and moved to another city to just start over
101. Walked the Golden Gate Bridge – I walked on it, and crossed it in a car, but didn’t ever walk the whole thing, if I remember correctly.
102. Sang loudly in the car, and didn't stop when you knew someone was looking
103. Had plastic surgery
104. Survived an illness that you shouldn't have survived
105. Wrote articles for a large publication – if knitty.com counts! Also for a small book collection which didn’t ever get published because the publishing company folded. How about the college newspaper?
106. Lost over 100 pounds
107. Held someone while they were having a flashback
108. Piloted an airplane
109. Petted a stingray
110. Broken someone's heart
111. Helped an animal give birth
112. Won money on a T.V. game show – I tried out for Jeopardy once, but didn’t make it – two of the categories in the test were sports, and opera. Sheesh.
113. Broken a bone – only if you count my little toe
114. Gone on an African photo safari – hopefully will someday.
115. Had a body part of yours below the neck pierced – one below, three above. I was sober for all of them.
116. Fired a rifle, shotgun, or pistol
117. Eaten mushrooms that were gathered in the wild – picked them, too.
118. Ridden a horse – was scared to death the whole time.
119. Had major surgery
120. Had a snake as a pet
121. Hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon – no, but I was at the rim
122. Slept for more than 30 hours over the course of 48 hours
123. Visited more foreign countries than U.S. states
124. Visited all 7 continents
125. Taken a canoe trip that lasted more than 2 days
126. Eaten kangaroo meat
127. Eaten sushi – regularly. I live in New York, it’s required.
128. Had your picture in the newspaper I was a National Merit Scholar, whoop-de-doo.
129. Changed someone's mind about something you care deeply about
130. Gone back to school – does it count if you never really left, you just took a year off to learn Russian in Russia?
131. Parasailed
132. Petted a cockroach – that’s disgusting.
133. Eaten fried green tomatoes – they’re yummy, if done right.
134. Read The Iliad
135. Selected one "important" author who you missed in school, and read
136. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
137. Skipped all your school reunions – so far, so good!
138. Communicated with someone without sharing a common spoken language
139. Been elected to public office
140. Written your own computer language
141. Thought to yourself that you're living your dream
142. Had to put someone you love into hospice care
143. Built your own PC from parts
144. Sold your own artwork to someone who didn't know you
145. Had a booth at a street fair
146: Dyed your hair – shades range from light auburn to plum to black-blue
147: Been a DJ
148: Shaved your head
149: Caused a car accident – I couldn't see. Thankfully, no one was hurt.
150: Saved someone's life