Monthly Archives: August 2012

JP’s Hobby Horse!

The hobby horse for my nephew is essentially done! And by essentially, I mean that I still need to finish stuffing it, weave in two ends, re-sew up the ears, and find a cane/dowel/broom handle to use as the ‘body’ of the horse. But that’s not really so VERY much left, is it? Right.

I do not have all that much experience knitting fair isle, so this was a really fun opportunity to experiment with color and tension while carrying yarn around back. My approach was to twist the two colors I was using around each other after every two stitches, to keep things nice and even. This worked out well, and now the ‘horse’ feels very thick because there is a double layer of yarn, so to speak. The pattern called for eyes to be sewn on using duplicate stitch, but I thought that buttons would be more fun and really pop.

I also changed the colors a bit. The pattern uses a full rainbow of colors, with an oatmeal/tan color as a neutral. While my nephew is turning two next month and might not mind a rainbow-colored toy now, I worried that in a few years he might feel like he shouldn’t have toys with rainbows on them, or be made fun of for playing with one. I struggled with this decision, because these kinds of stupid social pressures that we put on children (or really people in general) bother me a great deal, and part of me said, “I should teach him that it’s ok to be a boy and play with a toy that is rainbow-colored.” Ultimately, however, I concluded that he is two years old, this is a gift for him and not a political/social statement, and it is more important to make something that I think he will like than to ‘teach him a lesson’ with it. So I compromised and switched out purple for chocolate brown. The effect is to make the horse look more colorful than rainbow-y (I think, anyway. I don’t know, you guys let me know if I’m just being crazy here.)

Brandon thinks I should make the mane a little bit fuller than the pattern called for, as right now it looks a little like the horse is balding, or maybe like he has a mohawk. I’m still debating whether to add more or not, so if you have an opinion on the matter, please leave it in comments!

After working on my lace shawl for so long, this project felt like it knitted up in seconds, and my size 10 needles felt ginormous in my hands. I loved everything about this pattern – it was complex enough to be interesting and fun, but simple enough to not be frustrating. It is a very adaptable pattern, with a lot of room for experimentation with color or form. I considered doing something else for the ears besides knitting them on, for instance – maybe a piece of soft leather sewn on? – and there are plenty of other places for extra little touches to be added, such as the button eyes. The sky is the limit with this pattern!

I used Lamb’s Pride worsted weight yarn, 85% wool/15%mohair from Brown Sheep Company. One skein of each color was way more than enough, and I am now using the leftovers for a few fun little projects that I will be blogging about at a later time. The one thing about using this yarn that was a little annoying was that it is variable in its thickness, so at some parts of the horse there are little gaps where the yarn is thin. Other than that, I absolutely loved working with it, and I am planning to buy more for other projects in the future. If you are interested in buying some, there is a link to the company’s website here.

The pattern I used was in the Fall 2012 issue of Interweave Knits, my favorite knitting magazine, as discussed in a previous post. A link to pictures of all of this issue’s projects – and to subscribe to the magazine if you would like – can be found here. Finally, here is a picture of the magazine’s original hobby horse, which can be compared to my own take on it.

So, what do you guys think?

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Moving Away, New Adventures, and Potential Failure

As promised in an earlier post, it’s time for a rousing game of “Where Will Hannah Be Living In Six Months!”

Will it be:

A. Western Massachusetts

B. The Boston area

C. Montreal, Quebec

D. Austin, Texas

E. Seattle, Washington

F. Madison, Wisconsin

G. Somewhere in North Carolina

H. Vancouver, Canada

I. Los Angeles, California

J. San Francisco, California

K. Frankfurt, Germany

L. Somewhere in Poland

M. Burlington, Vermont

N. Some other, as yet undiscovered location.

O. Any of the above

If you answered, ‘O’, congratulations, you’re right! For those who are unaware, I will be moving to some sort of new location at the end of October, and I am very excited/nervous about it. Brandon currently has one job but is searching for a new one, and when he finds it we will be moving to that unknown place, which is potentially one of the above locations. I have been getting an increasing number of probing comments and questions about this from well-meaning friends and coworkers (yes, my work knows I will be leaving. :'(), most of which are along the lines of these:

  • Why are you following some guy around?
  • Why are you leaving a perfectly good job in this economy?
  • What do you plan to do once you get to this unknown place?
  • What if you can’t find a job?
  • Why are you leaving the most beautiful/wonderful/best place to live in the whole country? (subjective statement I know, please don’t hate me I love it here)
  • What about your school loans?

These are all legitimate questions that I find myself asking a lot as well, along with these ones:

  • How important to me is money/being comfortable vs. working on things that I love and that matter to me?
  • What can I afford to do right now?
  • Do I even really want a career at this stage of my life?
  • Is future me going to want to throttle present me if I have no retirement money because I was too busy pissing it away on ‘following my dreams’?
  • What do I really want?

I’m sure my friends and colleagues mean well with their questions, but this is the stuff that keeps me up at night. If anyone thinks I’m not considering this stuff, they are wrong – I think about all this pretty much constantly, and I have come to a few conclusions.

The fact of the matter is, this all may totally fail. I might come crawling back to my job after a miserable six months away, begging them to rehire me and telling everyone how right they were about what a terrible idea it had all been. Or…it could not fail. It just might be possible that I could end up going on an excellent adventure with my best friend, seeing new places and trying new things, and getting the chance to see if I can make a living (or part of one) with my writing. Maybe I’ll have my strength tested, and find out I am more capable than I ever thought possible. It could be that, 10 or 15 years from now when I’m ready to settle down and have a family of my own, I could return to Vermont, the best place in the country (that I’ve seen so far), and make a home here knowing full well that this is the place I want to be and where I want to live out my days. But, if that happens, I will settle down with the knowledge that I saw a lot of things and lived a full life, and wasn’t too afraid to try.

The bottom line is, I don’t want to live with ‘what ifs’ and regrets. I don’t want to stay here, stagnant, and then look back in a decade when I’m tied down with a family and wish that I had done something else first, something exciting and important and brave. I don’t want to look back and wonder what could have been. I want to know. And if it turns out that it’s terrible and I hate it and I run screaming back to New England, I am ok with that. That would not be a failure, in my eyes. If that happens, I would come back not wondering but knowing that this is the place for me, and where I truly belong.

Am I scared? Very much so. But I have never let that stop me before, and I don’t intend to start now.

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can.
-J.R.R. Tolkien

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The County Fair

I felt like an anxious parent dropping my kid off for his first day of college today as I stood awkwardly in front of a desk manned by two blue-clad, older women, waiting for one of them to check me in. Yes, that’s right: I was dropping off my lace shawl to be entered into the Champlain Valley Fair, the big county fair in the Burlington, Vermont area. The last time I entered something in a county fair was in high school, back in the teeny tiny Blandford, Massachusetts fair, and I was in the youth division. I remember the experience distinctly: several busy, no-nonsense elderly women held out impatient hands for my and my sister’s forms, and we stood nervously while they looked them over with a swift and critical eye. Every year my incredibly patient, kind, and loving father would be standing there juggling my yarn/knitting/cross stitch and Emma’s photography/artwork/jewelry, trying to explain to the women why we were late/didn’t have the forms filled out correctly. The volunteers would adopt a look that no-nonsense old ladies seem to have perfected: one that is at once polite and pained, sympathetic and stern. It’s the kind of look that says “I don’t have time for your shit right now so I’m going to beam you with my guilt-inducing laser eyes while maintaining a brisk and professional demeanor.” I always felt that that my amazing handwork ought to have earned me a tad more respect from these ladies, and assumed their behavior was a reaction to my youth and general ineptitude. However, it turns out that’s just how fairs are! (unless I’ve simply turned into a generally inept adult.) Here is a fairly accurate representation of how my check-in went:

 

Me, trying to stand near enough to the table to be clearly visible as needing something, but not so near as to be crowding the two very obviously busy elderly ladies.

Busy Lady #1, finally noticing me, barking: ‘What?’ 

Did I mention she was busy?

Me, shuffling forward, mumbling: I just wanted to drop off my shawl for the fair.

BL#1, appraising me critically and shrewdly, noting all of my faults as a human being and fair applicant: You’ve never entered here before, have you?

Me, shaking my head nervously: No, I haven’t. Fumbling as I take out my form: I have my form right here.

BL#1, turning away: I don’t have time for you right now, I’m waiting for one of the judges. 

Me, backing away slightly and clutching my shawl: No problem, take your time.

I stood awkwardly for a few minutes, witnessing the frantic energy with which the gigantic room was being assembled. People (women mostly) were bustling from place to place, organizing various crafts into categories, checking tags and folders and forms, and generally resembling a highly efficient military operation. Seriously, the government should look into hiring more county fair volunteers. A moment later a blond woman (presumably the judge, since BL#1 had time for her) came rushing up with a wreath decorated with birds and fall leaves. The two fell into a deep and detailed discussion about how best to display the wreath, and the distinction between a crocheted doily that was in the ‘crochet’ category vs. a crocheted snowflake that was in the ‘holiday’ category. The judge was not immune to BL#1’s businesslike attitude:

‘Well, if she wants to sell it, we need to have a form on file. If she doesn’t have a form and it sells, we pocket the money.’

She smiled a little at that, and I wasn’t sure if she was just kidding or congratulating herself on her clever get-rich-quick scheme. Finally, Brisk Lady #2 arrived.

BL#2: Can I help you?

Me: Yes, I have my forms to enter a shawl in the fair? Trailing away – …I wasn’t sure what category it should go into…

BL#2, sighing and taking my half-completed forms: Well, it could go into the ‘Stoles and Ponchos’ category, would that fit?

Me, uncomfortably: Well, a stole is usually rectangular and kind of like a wrap, and this is circular and definitely more of a shawl.

BL#2, looking over her glasses at me: How about a poncho then?

Me, more uncomfortably: Well, ponchos are rectangles or circles with a hole in the middle for your head to fit through, so this isn’t really a poncho either…

BL#2: Well then, what about the ‘Other’ category then?

Long pause.

Me: You know what, ‘Stoles and Ponchos’ is fine.

As she finished filling out my forms for me and had me fill out the top half of a W-9 form in case I win a blue ribbon and the whopping $6 that comes with it, I handed over my precious, beautiful shawl with more than a little trepidation.

‘Ooh, it’s so soft!’ she said with legitimate warmth, feeling the delicate baby alpaca strands with appreciation. We smiled at each other, and I paused, not wanting to spoil the moment and unsure if there was anything else I had to do. She snapped back into ‘volunteer’ mode.

‘That’s all we need, you can go now.’ She turned away with my shawl tucked under her arm, still folded up and without even having seen it. There was no time for that. 

I kept looking back at my little college freshman project as I walked away, nearly running into the judge, who was pushing a cart laden with bins of what I can only assume were more crocheted doilies. It was hard to tear myself away – it felt like it was all over so quickly, and thoughts of spills, accidental tears and misplacements crowded in my already anxious brain. But I shook my head free of them as I sank into the driver’s seat of my car – after all, these ladies run a damn fine fair.

 

Interested in visiting this year’s fair? Click the link here to find tickets and more information.

 

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Life’s Big Questions

Questions to ponder at 1:15am on a work night:

Why am I unable to write anything decent before 10pm on weekdays? Also after 10pm and on weekends? Why does Brandon not being here make me so much more freaked out about our apartment? How am I going to get through the next three months without sleeping? Why don’t I knit everything on size 10 needles and have every project come together as quickly as this hobby horse is? I should do more latch hooking. (not a question, but true.) Why do I have to be up in less than five hours? Why is money a thing? How can Paul Ryan be so attractive, yet so scary? Does anyone in the Burlington, Vermont area want to watch my two ferrets for the next three weeks? Why doesn’t November directly follow August? What should I get my Masters degree in? Can I get a part-time job that pays $15-$20/hour? How can I find a career I love? What is it about chocolate and peanut butter that is so frakking good? How can the U.S. land a rover on Mars in just a few years, but they can’t get high speed trains back home? How do I fall asleep right now when I’m so wired? Why can’t I think of better questions? How does Neil Degrasse Tyson know so many things?

Etc.

If anyone knows any of the answers to these questions, please let me know in comments!

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August 13, 2012 · 5:28 am

The Shawl – Photos!!

Well, the shawl is done, and here are the photos! I am planning to enter it into the Champlain Valley Fair – please let me know what you think!

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all of the laundry I’ve been neglecting…blocking is more fun! ImageImageImage

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Blocking

Blocking

Blocking of the shawl…is starting

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August 3, 2012 · 10:18 pm

Knitter’s Remorse

There is an oft-discussed phenomenon when someone is buying a house known as buyer’s remorse, which is when a person buys a house, gets super excited, and then, upon moving in, discovers a million things he/she does not like about it. The upstairs bathroom sink is drippy, there’s mold in the attic, you can clearly hear the neighbors doing things you’d really rather not have to think about….etc. Whatever the reasons, all of a sudden you are thinking that maybe buying this house wasn’t such a great idea after all.

I contend that there is a similar phenomenon experienced by knitters, and I’m going to tell you about mine. I just finished a shawl that I have been working on for three years now. And by ‘working on for three years’, I mean, of course, ‘working on for five months, losing for two years, then working on for two months.’ Obviously. So a few nights ago, there I was at 1am on a work night, racing the clock to get this thing off the needles so I could go to bed. Finally – FINALLY – I knit the last, wonderful, beautiful stitch (pictured below), and I fell into bed, utterly content and pleased with myself. The shawl was wonderful. Perfect, even. I needed to weave in the ends and block it, and then it would be the nicest shawl you’ve ever seen. Until last night.

Last night, Brandon got home from his bi-weekly commute to Massachusetts at around 11:00pm, and was ready to drop from sleepiness. Before we turned in, I asked him excitedly, “do you want to see the shawl?!” to which he very kindly replied, “of course I do!” So I got out the little plastic shopping bag I had it in (what else?) and held it up for him to see. It was the first time I had held it up and looked at it since finishing it, and then I had been delirious with tiredness. The second I let it hang from my arms, I knew something was wrong.

“Wow!” Brandon said. “Babe, that looks amazing!”

“No, it doesn’t.” I said. He looked confused.

“What are you talking about? It’s awesome!”

“No, it isn’t.” I folded it up and put it back in the bag.

“Wha…?” Brandon’s confusion was not difficult to miss. I flopped onto the bed next to him.

“I used the wrong yarn!” I wailed. Brandon’s eyes bugged out in sudden fear. “I used ALPACA. I knew I should have used mohair like the pattern suggested, but I was too cheap and I used ALPACA, and now it’s not going to keep its shape! Didn’t you see how it stretched down from my hands where I held it up, instead of staying firm?” At this, Brandon utilized the only sensible course of action left to him. He rolled up a magazine and whacked me on the hip.

I’m mortified by my mistake and afraid the shawl is going to hang terribly after it’s blocked. My only hope is that the hot iron will shock it into staying stiff, but I know it’s useless. I’ve decided I’m going to enter it into the Champlain Valley Fair – the big country fair of the Burlington area – but I know with that one mistake I haven’t got a hope of winning a ribbon. Next time, I will choose quality over my wallet!

I am hoping to have pics up by tomorrow or Friday – I’m a little behind on homework, so thank you for your patience!

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