I’ve got some stuff that would tranquilize an active volcano.

I’ve been watching Star Trek TOS this summer. Gold, I tell you. Pure gold.

My awesome cousin Sarah finally got her blog up and running, so go check it out for New England comfort food and whatever else she’s cooking up: The Answer is Garlic. That meat pie recipe is the one our mothers got from their mother, who probably got it from her mother. I have wanted some ever since Sarah posted it, and this is just not the right season for it, so that tells you how good it is. Maybe I’ll make it as a treat for my husband when he gets home.

Oh, my poor husband. He went away to visit his aunt and uncle in Wisconsin and got a broken leg for his troubles. The universe has not been kind to him these past couple of years.

That alone can’t account for my silence. I had a surgery early in June and was off for a week recuperating from that. Otherwise, I’ve just been doing what I do: bringing the boys to their activities, taking care of the house, working on plans and new texts for teaching in the fall, and knitting. Sarah’s Flaming June is coming along nicely and should be done by the end of the month. I took a commission for a Going Green for another friend, and I said I’d start that in August. And my aunt, Sarah’s mother, also wants a Flaming June, so I’ll get that going ASAP also. Do I still need sweaters for myself? YesIdo–but for once, I have a very good reason to wait. I had a breast reduction (yaaaaaayyy! Many years I waited for that) and want the swelling to be fully settled before I make new sweaters for myself. The obvious advantage is that my back and neck feel much better; the one only knitters could appreciate is that now it will be much easier to knit for myself, since I’m much more proportional and won’t need to do a full bust adjustment as much anymore. The bad news is that now my Gwen has gone from too big to much too big, so I have to decide what to do about her. It might be beyond taking in. With my current measurements, I estimate I’ll have to make a size 8″ smaller than the one I finished. …Yes. Oh, well, I never liked how that zipper came out. And the new one will take less yarn, so I might get a second sweater out of what I have left.

Books! CraftLit just ran chapters 5 and 6 of The Age of Innocence, and it’s gone from interesting to amazing in one fell swoop. This is the first part of the book where the full intricacy of Wharton’s writing is evident, and Newland Archer’s musings about the status of women are a comprehensive refutation of the old ways and a reasoned argument for feminism in one. It’s just brilliant; has to be read to be believed. I am finding this book to be reminiscent of Austen as something of a comedy of manners, but unlike Austen, Wharton was writing about a time about 50 years in the past (1920 writing about 1870s New York). As a result, Austen assumed her audience was familiar with her references and their implications, but Wharton is explicating this time in history for both insider and outsider readers. And what she’s describing is both ridiculous and deadly serious, a dichotomy she manages exceptionally well. I look forward to the chapters every week, and I’ve been reading them on Kindle also, just to be sure everything is sinking in. Really great book; highly recommended.

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All fall down!

I was going to post earlier as I have been doing, during the perhaps two hours a week when I usually answer to no one, but I was called home for a sick kid and had to defer. When I came home, I found two sick kids, with different kinds of sick, but neither sick enough to actually have the starch taken out of them. That makes a busy and noisy afternoon. My boys are 4 years apart and the small one is just becoming old enough for them to quarrel. It’s the worst. I don’t know why I didn’t think of it when we decided we wanted another kid. There were four in my family. One must develop some kind of brain damage in adulthood that leads to thinking, “My kids will be nothing like we were when we were kids!”

Knitting:

Nothing especially interesting this week. I’m halfway through the second Phalangees mitt, so I’ll be glad to get those off to my friend Kim in the coming week. Went up a needle size on these, so they’re more stretchy. I tend to underestimate how tightly I knit, especially with something like mosaic colorwork.

After this, I’m going to get back to my Gwendolyn and my Hue Shift afghan until my sister decides what kind of shawl she’d like for her wedding. I have some gorgeous Sweet Georgia CashSilk Lace for that. I’m so thrilled for my sister, and happy to be able to contribute to her wedding clothes. She’s making her dress, and since it’s outdoors in spring in New Hampshire, she was concerned that the weather might turn on her. Always wise, especially since the site is on a hill.

Anticipation:

Alana Dakos announced on her podcast this month that Botanical Knits will be released soon, and I’m really looking forward to it. I loved her leafy designs in Coastal Knits, and the photography is just amazing for all of her projects. I ought to be able to set myself up with at least a sweater and a pair of socks from that collection, but it’s really the kind of thing where you want to make it all and only time constraints lead to picking and choosing.

This time of year always feels like the dead zone between all the big releases of the fall and Christmas season, and the sparser offerings for spring and summer. But it’s when I have the most time to knit, so I end up tapping my foot for the new Knitty and the new Twist, and all the rest. It’s too bad Stitches West is out of my reach right now. This would be a better time of year for me to go to a show. Stitches East always falls just when my teaching semester is at its most hectic. Perhaps next year.

I catch myself thinking I ought to learn to spin, even though I have no room for a wheel or the inevitable additional stash that comes with another skill. Last year at NH Sheep & Wool, I saw someone plying and explained to my older boy what she was doing and why, and she asked me if I spun. When I said no, she asked why. I don’t have a reason why. I don’t because I don’t. But it’s lurking there, waiting for me to have the time and/or the inclination.

Reading:

Back to Miss Silver. Wentworth’s characters are so finely drawn, it’s a pleasure to get to know them. I wouldn’t say she entirely succeeds in avoiding type, but she discourages the reader from making obvious conclusions most of the time. People are also believably discomfited in the presence of criminal enterprise, which is one factor missing from more recent mysteries I’ve read.

After this, I need to re-read Robert B. Parker’s The Judas Goat so I can teach it in expository writing, but that will be fun. I always enjoy the early books in the Spenser series. At that point, he clearly had the pleasure of learning and revealing more about the characters he was creating. Plus, it has Hawk. He makes literally anything better.

Wait five minutes.

This is why I don’t have a hat when it gets really, really cold. In a few days, it’s over and I’m on to other things, and no longer freezing my ears off when I have to be outside. The fact that it’ll probably get that cold again at least once more before the end of winter never really occurs to me.

Knitting:

I was out on Friday with my husband and the toddler, and before we reached our destination, the toddler fell asleep. So husband went in to his appointment, and I sat in the car with the sleeping toddler, and for a change, I had my knitting with me. I hadn’t been bringing it because I would drag it along and then not have time to work on it, and if I’m not going to use it, I don’t want to carry it. I’m already trying to keep track of the toddler’s things. If I lose my knitting, it’s bad; if I lose the blankie or the Talking Percy, there’s going to be a scene.

(If you don’t know what a Talking Percy is, I’m envious.)

As it happened, I got far enough with another pair of Phalangees mitts that it seems do-able to just keep going and finish them. I promised them to a friend for her mother:

The second time around, these are really quick and easy. The pattern has an intrinsic rhythm: groups of 5 stitches shifted this way and that to make the design. The thumb increases are regular, every x many rows. I barely needed the pattern for this one, and I’ll need it even less for the second one. I can’t believe I thought these might be too difficult for me to make. If you’re on the fence, jump. People think you’re some kind of wizard, unless they’re knitters, and then they know the secret.

That’s my beloved JennieGee project bag, btw. Most of the time, I get more questions about that than I do about my knitting.

Doings:

Three minutes left! And sadly, I barely have doings enough to fill them. I’m on the last Maggie Sefton book, mercifully. Other reviewers are complaining that the books are repetitive. Are they ever. I don’t know why I felt like I had to see them through, but I think I’m done now. I’m still watching The Office, after all, and that stopped being funny years ago. I started with the knitting mysteries as an effort to force myself to branch out. Otherwise, I’d hang around watching and reading only stuff I already know is good. But I think after this, I’m going to read Pyne’s book about Voyager, even though it’s a paper book and I’ll have to prop it to read while I knit. I can be reasonably confident that won’t make me feel like my brain is melting and running out of my ears. Perhaps if I get through the sweater and the afghan, I can knit Celestarium with a relatively clear conscience, while I read about space. Meta!

I’m going to try to get out of the house by myself next weekend. Fiber Loft is having a Super Bowl sale and while I don’t need any yarn, I do need a change of scenery.

Middle

I’ve been splitting my time between my Rocky Coast cardi and my Hudson Bay crib blanket, depending on how much effort I feel like making (and that includes which one doesn’t need another ball of yarn wound before I can start). Rocky Coast is past the infernal yoke increases and into the body, and the blanket is just miles of garter stitch, and neither photographs well at this stage. I still love the Organik yarn, but am finding that it felts to itself pretty easily. The first three skeins weren’t so bad, but the fourth one from last night was constantly resolving into a tangled mess. Let’s hope it’s a fluke.

Something always needs to be wound up, and both of my boys are unnaturally fascinated with the swift and ball winder. The five-year-old likes to use the winder for its intended purpose (and I’ll let him, though I watch to make sure he doesn’t wind it around the gears–that wouldn’t stop him), and the toddler likes to sit on the floor with it and turn the crank just to see the spindle twirl. I may yet turn them on to knitting, though I confess I’ll be just as happy if I only get them as far as winding skeins into balls for me.

I’ve given up on the ladynovels for this month–the nice thing about them is that if the current crop stinks, there will be six more on the first of the month–and gone back to Miss Silver. The second one was great, and the third, Lonesome Road is turning out to be just as riveting. I stayed up too late reading and knitting last night, and I’ll probably finish it tonight. The irony is that I got into them for the knitting, after the Miss Silver article in the Piecework literary knitting issue last year, but there isn’t a whole lot of knitting in them. They’re just good mysteries with occasional tantalizing glimpses of what the Miss Silvers of the world were knitting in the 1930s. It’s a nice bonus, though.

And this is why you shouldn’t read (anything distracting) and knit.

So last night, in a fit of optimism about my ability to finish a warm sweater before the weather turns, I cast on for the ubiquitous Rocky Coast Cardigan. I would like to take a second and gush about how much I love Coastal Knits; it’s been a while since I fell in love with a pattern book and this is just so charming, and I want to make everything in it (and/or go hiking; whichever). I have the nice Organik yarn to make it, and I had the needles all ready, and because I have been knitting long enough to get cocky about these things, I cast on and off I went.

Until–and I must be fair, here: there is nothing wrong with the pattern at all–I realized as I was working along yesterday morning that I no longer had a symmetrical number of extra stitches on either side of the shoulder cables. That is bad. It means that somewhere in the first couple of repeats, I was zinging right along and forgot to do one of the mirrored increases. And in fact, I forgot it twice. I would love to be able to say it was because one of the shorter members of the household caused me trouble, but the truth is that I was knitting while reading a serial novel of the sophisticated woman-of-the-world variety, and I may have…forgotten…what I was doing. The sad thing is that even as far as they go, this wasn’t a particularly good one, and still. Forced to frog the thing because there’s no non-obvious way to make up for missing two increases several rows back, and I cast on again and have nearly gotten to where I was when I went to bed. Oh, well. I am being more diligent now.

Slight digression about trashy literature follows:

Lately even my brain-candy ladynovels are leaving me cold, and I think it’s because I’ve overdosed on the three most prevalent varieties: hot cowboys, hot soldiers, and hot wealthy Manhattan power brokers. They are also disproportionately set in the south or midwest, probably owing to a bigger audience there. I’d complain about being underrepresented, but a) New England does not have a reputation for being inherently sexy; and b) there was one about this so-and-so Cape Cod family, though I maintain that taking wealthy power brokers and putting them on Cape Cod instead of in Manhattan does not make them not wealthy Manhattan power brokers. Nevertheless, Massachusetts girls need love too. Ladynovel authors, take note. If I only messed up a couple of increases, the book wasn’t that good. If I knitted in stockinette for six inches and forgot to cable altogether, there’s your RITA award. Bonus points if you manage to include a knitting heroine without being patronizing.

This place is missing something, and that something is wool.

I’ve spent my morning absorbed in the first Mason-Dixon Knitting book, and this is how you know I am perpetually late to the party. Yes, I know it’s not new, and no, I haven’t been reading the blog all these years to make up for it. I finally listened to enough Knit Picks podcasts (yes, from 2009! Leave me alone! I’ve been busy!) to get curious about all the Modern(e) Baby Blankets Kelley was always making, and I heard an interview with the MDK authors at one point, and when some Christmas funds came my way, I bought it.

Gushing follows: this book is full of the things I’m dreaming of making right now. I love sweaters like anything, but these delicious, soft, bouncy-looking home goods in the pictures are making me look with new dismay at my house, which is primarily decorated in cat hair and clutter. It’s always been kind of an issue, but our tenure in this house is approaching the seven-year mark, and that means that whatever charms it had when we bought it are becoming obscured by the need to repaint and gussy and renovate, little of which we have time or money to do right now. Plus, with this odd, late, balmy winter, it is finally getting cold enough that I’m chilly at night and worrying about the warmth and comfort of my one-year-old, whose distaste for sleeping is matched only by his propensity to remove his socks and, if possible, his pajamas, during his crib safaris. So much of mothering is based on the “I would just feel better if…” model, and right now, I would just feel better if I had a wooly blanket to tuck around those little bare feet when he finally lets go and sleeps.*

There are also patterns for rugs, which I love, especially since I have long since gone from the rubberized-acrylic bath rugs to the machine-wash-cotton-towel style. I never have enough of those; they always seem to go straight from the clean-laundry basket to the shower rod, to await the next contestant. For a while, I was looking for a crochet rug pattern, but I never found one that satisfied me, and a few purchases from Kohl’s let me put off the project for a while. But now…! I have a lot of cotton leftovers to use up this year, and cotton is nice to work with when it’s too hot to have wool on your lap in the summer months. The commitment level of rugs and towels is about right for me now, too.

But it’s winter now, and that means wool. Wool is so marvelous. I’m grateful that none of us are allergic. As I grow older, I feel this continuing and inexplicable urge to put wool on myself and my house and my boys. The Wisconsin relatives sent my mother-in-law some wool hooked chair pads to use at their beach place, but she put them on the kitchen chairs right away, and it was amazing how, in that chilly house, the wool chair pads made you feel warmer just by parking your butt on them. Of course, that’s true of most things this side of an actual ice floe, but still. I am chilly; I have wool. The course of action seems obvious from here.

It’s a good book. Leaves you feeling mossy. I recommend.

Eureka!

Had a moment of horror when I went looking for my cable pattern book and couldn’t find it. I wanted to make something I saw somewhere–it would be my first stab at designing, and though I have about zero faith that I can make it come out how I want it to, I’m putting the idea on file anyhow–and when noodling around Amazon, discovered that it is out of print and apparently scarce. Now it’s become rather imperative that I find my own, because if I buy a second copy, two things are sure to happen: a) I will find mine; and b) they will come out with an identical second edition that costs a quarter as much. Such an annoying occupational hazard with craft books, isn’t it? You never know what will turn out to be an enduring classic, and they’re all printed in such small quantities that you have to either snap it up when new and see what happens, or pass it up and kick yourself forever for missing a book that you can only get if your best knitting friend happened to buy it and dies suddenly without making provisions for that book in her will.

There is a new one, but people differ as to how good it is.

I bought mine three, possibly four, moves ago, and haven’t seen it in years. In my head, it was being kept in a box with a lot of other patterns. Yeah, that’s a help. I finally located it in the attic, in a box marked “Knitting.” Who knew I could be that logical.

The cable pattern I wanted? Not in it.