Monday, February 27, 2006

Red [Black!] Letter Weekend

Let's talk student debt. I was luckier than most: thanks to pulp mill nepotism and the need to keep giant piles of woodchips safe, I spent three summers as a Firewatch in the early '90s [see: "Yore; Days Of"]. From May to August I patrolled the chipyard and kept a hairy eyeball out for skiffs of smoke. Get even a small fire going in a great big chip pile, friend, and you have a capital P problem. Mind you, the only fire I ever saw was during a rainstorm, and at the time I was having lunch in the Chip Tower with Ed Adams, who made soup every shift at noon or midnight. And anyway, I wasn't allowed to do anything about a fire: should I come across anything bigger than my steel-toed boot, my instructions were to radio for the fire crew.

They paid $23 an hour and time-and-a-half on Sundays. Luck into a Canada Day shift, and you
could just about treat the whole mill to ice cream. So my undergrad degree was mine, free and clear from the day the chancellor bopped me on the head, and there was always money left over for milkshakes and magazines. And peach coolers, the repulsive drink of choice in 1992. It was wonderful.

But then it was another young snapper's turn to patrol the chipyard and make the big bucks, and off I went to grad school, where, what with one degree and then another, I managed to get in hock with the governments of B.C. and Canada. It wasn't an outrageous amount, but it had five figures before the decimal point, and I'd only ever had a credit card with a $1,000 limit.

When I graduated for the final time in 2003 (so help me god I'll never pay another dime in tuition), the Royal Bank and I owned a sparkling new Ph.D. in English Renaissance literature. Which is
not a bad degree to have, out on the job market. It testifies to an ability to communicate and a willingness to suffer. In short order, I had a job that required both.

Right, so long story shortish, I started paying that pup down two years ago this month. When I quit the job at Crazy Ladies, Inc. and went out on my own, I considered slowing the payments down, but then decided that would show too little faith and might jinx the new little biz. This weekend I cut a big slice out of the nest egg, found a bank branch open on a Saturday, and finished it off. What you see above is the receipt for final payment. And a couple of Shakespeare erasers.

What does it all mean?

1. I own that degree.
2. No more putting off other things because "I just want to pay down my loan a bit more." I'm a ways off becoming a real estate baron or adopting an alpaca herd, but now I'm going to dream a little.

To celebrate the dropping off of the check, there were treats. Here you see Paul Auster's latest book, The Brooklyn Follies. If Paul Auster published his grocery lists, I would buy them in hardcover and read them. And probably you'd all get copies for Christmas. In addition: Ritter SPORT, yogurt variety. Big favourite. Why don't more chocolate bars have yogurt filling? And: first sock! This is the doorprize yarn [great typo...wrote "yearn" for yarn: so true!] from the Team Canada Opening Ceremonies party. It will be practice for my Sockapaloooza socks. So far, so good. I'm not having a transcendent knitting experience, but it's pleasant. Turning the heel was satisfying. I'll definitely make two.

Friday, February 24, 2006


According to this picture, I've got some kind of love affair going on with red, pink, and orange. I swear I didn't notice until I organized the photo shoot. Also: damn, do I need a haircut. The John Frieda Secret Weapon Frizz Ease is letting me down. But back to the matter at hand: gold medal for Kiri!

In the end, I did 11 repeats + the edging, which makes sense -- my total yardage of Lion & Lamb was about 65 yards short of the Cracksilk Haze called for in the pattern. Finished dimensions are 62" wide by 33" long, and it's very fetching over jeans and a black sweater. Also looking forward to wearing it with some sort of floaty sundress.

Shawls are such great projects: why didn't I know this? Once you finish the knitting, you're done. No worrying about iffy sewing skills, no pile of dismembered sweater pieces looking reproachful in the knitting basket -- just block, wait, and wear. I want to do another one immediately. I'm going to cruise through Wendy's FOs and find one that I think I can tackle.

Meanwhile...RIP, Yarn Diet.

Uh, whoops. I'm going to blame my lovely and crafty friend, SM, who led me into temptation this morning at The Beadery. This ain't your junior high-school bead shop, baby. If you have the slightest interest in jewellry and live within a day's drive of Toronto, you should get in the car/on the train/bus and come see this place. It's full of strokers, just like a yarn shop. I stroked ebony beads and turquoise beads and blown glass beads and Australian opals. And a whole lot of POLISHED ROCK beads, which is just more proof that my parents should have given me that rock polisher back in 1978 when I really really really wanted one more than I had ever wanted anything before. Because I could be making it big now, polishing rocks and drilling holes in them and creating works of art. Instead of which I'm drowning in yarn.

Right, so enough blaming Mum and Dad and back to blaming SM. After we parted on Queen, I walked down past Romni and sweet mother of pearl they were having a sale. What you see in the photo is two skeins of my true love Malabrigo (colourway: blue surf) for a project to be named later, and thirteen balls of my esteemed friend Lamb's Pride Bulky (colourway: blue magic) for Teva Durham's cabled riding jacket, because now that I've knit Kiri I have an inflated sense of my abilities and will spend several months dashing myself on the rocks of Cable.

Yes, the Olympics are ending, and I've got the blues. But such pretty ones.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Ready to Make My Country Proud

Speed blocking.
Vancouver, 2010.
Own the Podium.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Hit the Showers

As a younger knitter, I ran [shuffled through] four marathons, and I can tell you that Olympic knitting has a lot in common with the most Olympic of races; viz.:

1. The training is a ball.
  • Marathon: You scamper through long training runs, then drink coffee with your running buddies and swap stories about sore I.T. bands and the pros and cons of hill training. You plan your carbo-loading and buy expensive socks. You imagine yourself, sweaty but still sleek, crossing the finish line. You're going to look smashing.
  • Olympic Knitting: You troll through every pattern you own, check a few hundred blogs to see what others are choosing, think about what's in the stash. You swatch. You imagine yourself showing up at the closing ceremonies party in your fabulous new [insert challenging project]. You're going to look smashing.

2. The event itself is also fun, but not so much.
  • Marathon: You wait in the chute with many thousands of other runners, all sleeker than you. It's a little too cold or a little too warm. You wish you'd made one more trip to the port-o-let. The gun goes off! Your pace is too fast, then too slow. You worry about your pace and wonder if you're drinking too much or not enough water. You keep an eye out for the next port-o-let.
  • Knitting: You cast on and knit the first few rows of your project. You wish you'd spent some time in training memorizing the chart symbols. You wish you'd bought one of those magnetic boards for the chart. While calculating the number of repeats you'll need to do per day, you miss a yarn-over. You miss that you missed the yarn-over. You tink a couple of rows. You resume knitting and try to figure out how much yarn you'll use up per repeat. You miss a yarn-over.

3. The event is longer than you think.
  • Marathon: You hit the halfway point (kilometre 21) and you feel wonderful. You think, This Is A Breeze. What chumps these people on the sidelines are...they should be out here running like me, like a gazelle. At kilometre 28, you realize that you are well and truly screwed. What kind of Idiot, you think, does this voluntarily? I hate myself. I hate these socks. Where's the port-o-let? You contemplate giving up and veering into the nearest doughnut joint. You keep running/shuffling.
  • Knitting: You're confident you have enough time to finish, except that you may have to pull your first all-nighter since leaving school. Your left hand is now a claw. Any man who might want to marry you will have to put the ring on your right hand. How are you going to meet a nice man if all you do is knit? You hate yourself. You contemplate chucking the project and taking up beading. You keep knitting.

4. Finishing makes up for everything.
  • Marathon: You see your sensible non-running friends near the finish line, and they shout things like Just a little farther! You look terrific! What liars your friends are. You see people who have already finished -- HOURS ago -- with their medals and their cool silver tinfoil keep-you-warm blankets. You crave a silver tinfoil blanket like you have never craved anything before. You swear to yourself that if you can just get across the line and get one of those blankets, you'll throw away your expensive socks and never again break into so much as a trot. You cross the finish line. You are sweaty but not sleek. A clean and smiling volunteer gives you a tinfoil blanket, which you wrap around your salt-encrusted shoulders. Not running is the best feeling you've ever had. Awash in endorphins, you say out loud in front of all your friends that for the next race, you'll do the damn hill training.
  • Knitting: Other knitters are finishing left, right, and centre. Their projects are beautiful, they smile on their blogs, they talk about what they'll work on next. You finally start the edging. You don't rush, because you'll miss a yarn-over and not have the strength of character to fix it. You keep a nervous eye on the last ball of yarn, which is disappearing onto the needles at a fearsome rate. Casting off takes approximately eight hours. The last stitch comes off the needles. You shake out your claw and look at the remaining few yards of yarn. Your project sits in your lap. You think to yourself, next time I knit [insert impressive project], I'll try it in a solid colour...maybe a really deep green.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

10,500 Stitches to Go

We're part way through Repeat 10 of 12, which means that I have roughly 35 rows left, and the rows will average about 300 I should get the samheck off the computer and chew a few off! The downstairs punk is playing motivational top-volume stadium rock, which is only slightly better than his courageous marathon of sex last weekend, though that I could avoid hearing if I closed all the interior doors in the apartment and sat in the far corner of the living room. With earplugs.

This afternoon there's Olympic hockey: Canada vs. Finland, and the Canadians have some winning to do, after yesterday's Swiss disaster. Hoping to get through repeat 11 during the game.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

How Olympic Knitting is Like Magic Realism

Kiri is now almost big enough to conceal the panda: I'm part-way through Repeat 7 of 12 of the main chart, and the rows oh my they are getting long. I can no longer say "I'll just finish this row and then I'll [insert urgent matter here]" because the house would burn down or I'd wet my pants before I made it through the 200+ stitches.

Last night I made a mistake and didn't catch it for two rows...and I jerry-rigged a solution, which I've been trying to avoid doing. Part of my Olympic challenge is to give a damn about going back and fixing screw-ups. In general I subscribe to the if-you-can't-see-it- from-the-back-of-a-cantering-
horse-to-hell-with-fixing-it school of error repair, but a little more perfectionism wouldn't hurt my craft. Last night: too, too tired. For me, nothing good comes of trying to knit past 11PM. Brushing my teeth is about as dexterous as I can get when it's that appallingly late.

Yesterday, the Chief Olympitrix reflected on what she's learned from this one-project madness. I've learned a few things, too, and not just that I can't watch skating and knit lace at the same time. Back in the day at UBC, some guy I had a crush on encouraged me to read A Hundred Years of Solitude, so I got a copy and read it in small bites on buses and before bed, and I thought it was fine and had some clever scenes but I couldn't keep straight all the Aurelio and Arcadio Buendias and I lost the plot a lot.

Maybe a year later I had to write a paper in a hurry on magic realism in Marquez and Faulkner and so I re-read A Hundred Years over a couple of days and the Aurelios and Arcadios distinguished
themselves from one another and the magic realism grabbed me and held on. I Couldn't Put It Down, and not just because a deadline was coming at a gallop.

Kiri is affecting me the same way: ordinarily, I'd knit this pup over six months and never get particularly attached to it. Forced to focus on it for two weeks, I don't want to put it down -- and it's not just the race to finish. I've fallen in love with the logic of the pattern, and this Lorna's Laces has me mesmerized. Pay attention to the process, wise knitters say, and don't get hung up on reaching the goal. But what I'm finding is that the more time I spend on it, the more I get lost in the process. Magic, indeed.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Yo, Yo, Bloody YO

Day 3 is coming to a close: progress pic of Kiri, above. Currently it's lap blanket-sized, if you're a small stuffed panda. I've done Chart 2 twice of twelve times, and that's not bad, except that the rows are going to have to get a lot longer before I can sling this shawl fetchingly around my shoulders. Technical difficulties, one in particular, have slowed the pace. Today I watched part of a documentary on figure skaters trying to qualify for the Canadian Olympic team, and the narrator explained that to embed their jumps in muscle memory, "These skaters will practice their jumps a remarkable sixteen thousand times."

Whoopee, I thought (or may have said to the TV), I've done that many yarn-overs since lunchtime. I've never tinked so much or so often...for a while, it was once or twice a row, and often the one I'd missed was hell-and-gone back around stitch five. The pattern even prints the easy to miss ones in red: little red circles helpfully shouting "Stop! One more yarn over!"

In other knit-along news, I won sock yarn at the Canadian Opening Ceremonies party (which was a hoot), so now I'm ready to get going on my practice pair for Sockapaloooza. [Thank you, Team Canada sponsors!] I also have my eye on some yarn for my Sock Pal...there's a shade of Koigu that I think would be splendid. Today I bought the dearest little dpn toothpicks: US size ZERO. Zero? Can I subcontract these socks to a four-year-old? I've already got tendons that are knitting under protest. But thousands of knitters can't be all wrong, because if it weren't at least sort of fun, they'd be buying socks at three pairs for ten bucks and spending the yarn money on something that knits up on at least a 4.5mm. I'm willing to let them all convert me...once I get another couple of Kiri repeats under my belt - and on the panda - I'll cast on for a sock. Possibly under a magnifying glass.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Pre-Games Jitters

Santa Monica!...only ONE DAY more to wait for the Olympics to start. Last night I watched 3/4 of "Mondovino " and practiced the provisional cast-on for Kiri. Damn, is that fiddly! Probably not wise to try it while half-watching a subtitled flick. I'm glad I only need three stitches and that I have Sally Melville's The Purl Stitch out from the library, because her explanation made the best sense of the ones I could find. I've decided to do the cast-on in the afternoon while the opening ceremonies are on live (2PM EST), because I don't think I can do it in public at the Team Canada party. Not sure how I'm going to keep track of the pattern charts, the ceremonies, and a big 'ol beer, but heck: it's supposed to be a challenge. Look at that nice yarn, just waiting to get on the sticks!

The Romin' Snake scarf has had its bath and is now blocking on the ironing board. Maybe doing it in black wasn't the smartest choice, because the leaves won't show up as well as they would in a leaf colour, but I really wanted a black scarf, and an interesting one. Highly recommend this pattern.

And I'm having a small crisis over the Teva Durham corrugated: I'm worried I'm making the wrong size. I think it should have [slight] negative ease, but I'm knitting the 37" size...did I have a moment of self-delusion re: the capaciousness of my rack? Instead of frogging the almost-finished piece 1 [hate backtracking!], I'm going to do the 32" size of piece 2. Then when it's time to frog, I won't mind so much, because I'll have the sweater 2/3 done. Right? Right??

Time to do some positive visualizations and a little more carbo loading.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Knitting Is the Opiate of the Masses

It was a productive weekend, stitch-wise, here at OY. I’m almost finished the Annie Modesitt Backyard Leaves scarf (with apologies for misspelling Annie’s name and misnaming the scarf in previous posts…the fact checker in this joint needs a good scolding): I’m two repeats and an end-leaf away from having two Romin’ Snakes, which I will then bathe, block, and join. Black blobs on field of poppies:

In addition:

What is it? Pullover for a baby gorilla? Pas de tout! One clever fold, and it’s a little easier to see that this will be Piece 1 of the Teva Durham corrugated asymmetrical pullover:

The fat bit is the sleeve, which is three or four inches from being finished. This is the smaller piece, but it whips right along. The next piece is worked on the bias and will fold around and meet the long skinny edge…well, there’ll be pics. The lamb’s pride bulky is called “Pine Shadows” and has a slight halo of white, which is making me feel all romantical about snow on pine trees. Though I’d prefer not to look like one in this sweater.

The rest of the weekend was intermittently social. Lunch with the Kamloops chix, which always means laughing until we snort wine through our noses. It was so much less painful when we drank milk at lunch. Our knocked-up member is off to Mexico next week to get married…they weren’t going to bother, but both sets of parents were very keen on the idea.

Then on Sunday I went to church for the first time in way too long, but didn’t much like the hippy minister at Emmanuel Howard United. She talked diversity and acceptance and celebrating difference but didn’t make eye contact when she was shaking hands after the service.

And I’m all for the United Church’s very Canadian attitudes on God (imagine Him/Her/It how you will) and one’s neighbours (be nice to them, for crying out loud) but I don’t know…the order of service/weekly bulletin had an asterisk next to “kingdom” in the Lord’s Prayer, and referring to the bottom of the page, I saw that I was welcome to say “kindom” instead. I don’t like it when people muck with texts – particularly beautiful ones. While it’s true that words shape our beliefs without our even knowing it, I think we need more credit for being able to hold in our minds both the value of reciting a prayer that connects us to generations – centuries’ worth – of churchgoers and the understanding that the prayer’s words mean something different to us than they might have to those who preceded us. Do we really need a made-up word (honestly: “kindom”!) to keep us from thinking that the United Church advocates the return of a patriarchal monarchy?

Well, having said all that, I’ll go back next week and give it another try. Mustn’t give up after just one service. And, a strange coincidence: I watched Mrs. Miniver on Saturday night, and at the end of the movie, the minister reads Psalm 91. At church yesterday, the children's choir sang the same Psalm.

Those poppies posing as background to the WIPs? They’re going to become a curtain: I remembered how to thread this beast:

and now I just need to get up the nerve to cut the fabric. (measure twice three times; cut once!)

Friday, February 03, 2006

Sock Sock Sock

Today I'm editing a heap 'o high-tech white papers (who said "Happiness writes white"?) and then getting the heck out of the apartment to join [finally] Elena's gym (time to work off the batwings) and get some groceries and track down the next "I, Claudius" dvd. But the editing is a little dull, so I'm noodling around on the internet and building me a word cloud:Goes to show what I yap about the most, doesn't it?

I'm also poking around different sites looking for sock wisdom: it's
Sockapaloooza time! Yes, an unsuspecting knittin' kitten will be getting either my first or second pair of knitted socks (I might do a pair for me first, to work out the bugs in my technique). And another sock newbie will be making me a pair...I'm in love with the whole idea. This weekend I'll polish off the Romin' Snake and keep the Teva Durham corrugated moving along, and choose a sock pattern. Then next week it'll be Olympics knitting and sock yarn deliberations, and I think in week 2 of the Olympics I'll cast on for the sockhopping.

But before any of that: more editing. Must make rent and yarn money.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

A Bloggers' [Silent] Poetry Reading

With thanks to the literary doyenne at Grace's Poppies for organizing a great e-vent. Here's my favourite sonnet.

what time is it?it is by every star
a different time,and each most falsely true;

or so subhuman superminds declare
--nor all their times encompass me and you:
when are we never,but forever now
(hosts of eternity;not guests of seem)
believe me,dear,clocks have enough to do
without confusing timelessness and time.

Time cannot children,poets,lovers tell --
measure imagine,mystery,a kiss

--not though mankind would rather know than feel;
mistrusting utterly that timelessness
whose absence would make your whole life and my
(and infinite our) merely to undie

e.e. cummings

It's a perfect poem, if you ask me -- I have a different favourite line every time I read it (today I have two: 7&8), and I love the tension between the idea of timelessness and the tick of the sonnet form.

In other news, I'm Florence Nightingaling myself through a mean as hell hangover today -- the inevitable aftermath of a raucous night out with The Great Man (a former client from my pharma training
days [yeah, I used to teach people to sell drugs]). The GM gets his name from his ability to go on several benders a week and still arrive at the next day's meeting/conference/sockhop with clear eyes and a perfectly pressed shirt...even though he's usually nineteen time zones ahead of or behind his GMT internal clock (speaking of clocks). He's an inspiration and I think maybe a force for evil. At the start of the evening I explained that I would not be drinking to excess, but one bottle led to another and today I've managed to bathe, dress, feed myself, and not much else. The good news is that I hid the phone in the piano bench before I went out, so there was no drinking-and-dialling misdemeanours at the end of the night. Love the GM, but it's good that he's only in town a few times a year.

Good thing it's not a work day here at OY. I'm working up the energy to knit a few rows -- the fetching Brown Sheep in the photo is on the needles and becoming a Teva Durham corrugated v-neck, and I'm motoring along on the second half of the Annie Modessitt Falling Leaves scarf, which I am renaming Romin' Snake Scarf, because I work on it while eating up I Claudius episodes. The credits start with a nasty looking asp [?] slithering over a mosaic. Here's the completed first half of the Snake:

Isn't it evil looking? And yet in a soft, wrap-around-your-neck sort of way.