Applying What You Already Know About Fiber

•November 29, 2012 • Leave a Comment

I have kind of a confession to make.

At the end of last winter, I was in Target, and I noticed that they had their accessories on clearance.  Among them was a pair of flip-top mittens in a rather pretty blue and white variegated colorway.  I have a fondness for fingerless mitts, and I’d been thinking about making a pair of convertible mittens like these, but I hadn’t gotten around to it yet, and they struck me as kind of fiddly.  (Not that I generally have a problem with fiddly things, and I’d made mitts with partial fingers before without issue, but… I think it was the yarn.  I have a weakness for pretty colors.)  There were other excuses – I’m sure you’ve seen them before.  I had a lot of knitting in my queue, and none of it was mittens.  I have a hard time knitting for myself.  And so on.

The long and short of it was that I broke down and bought a commercially knitted accessory for the first time since I’d taken up the needles myself.  And since I bought it at Target and didn’t spend a million dollars on them, they were acrylic.

And then I forgot about them.  It was the end of the season, they went in the bin I keep my fingerless gloves in, and thus far this winter I’d been using my own fingerless mitts.  Then a concatenation of events caused me to lose one of my Codename: Garnet mitts (remember those? oh, and don’t worry, it’s just lost in my apartment and I haven’t had a chance to hunt for it yet) and found me digging through that bin in the very early morning.  Finding those mittens seemed like a blessing, because it was definitely getting cold enough for mittens.

That was yesterday.  I wore them in to work by themselves, and they were fine; last night it was cold enough that I layered them under my Hurry Up Spring armwarmers (and how glad am I that I made those over the summer? Super glad), but I’d been layering my Garnet mitts under them, so it seemed perfectly natural.

Yesterday, however, it was dry when I was commuting.

Today?  Not so much.  Which means my accessories got rained on, as they do.  My Through the Woods hood kept my head dry and my neck toasty warm, of course.  (If you’re looking for an extra layer to protect your head from the wind and precludes the need for a cowl or scarf?  Check that one out.  Fantastic.)

I’m sure those of you who know anything about fiber can see this coming, right?

Yeah, my acrylic mittens? Just got wet. And then my fingers got cold. And I reminded myself of all the wonderful insulating properties of wool, and I thought about the two balls of Felici Sport I have in my stash that was given to me by an incredibly kind stranger, and… well…

Can anybody recommend a good convertible mitten pattern?

The Monday Before the Election

•November 5, 2012 • 2 Comments

Sorry I’ve been so quiet lately. I finished one temp assignment and started another. This one is in Portland, so I have a lot more commute and my day starts earlier and ends later. One bonus side effect of this is more train knitting time, and another is that I finally seamed my Through the Woods hood and have been wearing it every day.

But I’m not here to talk about that.

I’m here to talk about politics, and civil rights, and marriage.

For those of you who don’t know, my fiancé Jack is transgender. He’s very male to me, but because of family health history, he’s opted to forego medically transitioning.

What this means is that as far as the law is concerned, we’re a gay couple.

In Arizona’s last election, they passed a constitutional amendment denying us the right to marry.

Imagine my surprise and delight when Washington’s legislators and governor passed a law legalizing marital equality. On Valentine’s Day, no less.

Suddenly marriage became a real thing, something to plan. We started researching venues and recruiting attendants, like any other couple.

And then enough signatures were passed to put marriage equality on the ballot. Instead of going into effect in July, it would be put on hold until November. Instead of marriage being something I had a right to as a consenting adult who was madly in love with another consenting adult, it was something that my fellow citizens had the right to decide about. It was a “lifestyle” that was somehow threatening to people who had never met me.

Let me tell you this. I’m divorced. I was married in 1999 to a man who was, at the bottom of it all, a Nice Guy. There was a lot of internalized misogyny and self-loathing that went into that decision, and a lot about settling and not rocking the boat as I went through with a marriage I wasn’t sure I wanted when it came down to it. On my wedding day, I was absolutely positive I was marrying the wrong man – but we’d spent a lot of money and I had a lot of family there, so I went through with it.

It was the kind of mistake that lots of young women in their early twenties make. It was the kind of mistake that everyone should be able to make, regardless of gender.

Because marriage isn’t perfect.

But I’m 36 now, and as many women in their mid-thirties have done, I’ve learned a lot about myself. As many people have done, I’ve been through a lot. And as many people have done, I’ve found a partner who treats me with respect and love and makes me happy every single day. I’m happier than I’ve ever been, and I want nothing more than to commit to sharing the rest of my life with him and have my state (and my insurance company, and so on) acknowledge that I’ve done so.

My legal last name is still my ex-husband’s – changing it back was a stress I couldn’t deal with at the time, and I have no desire to use my mother’s ex-husband’s last name either.

I’ve read a lot of different opinions about name-changing. Jack and I discussed it, at length.

I want to take his name. The change symbolizes the creation of our family, emphasizes my sense of belonging with him. The men whose names I’ve worn up until now have been bad for me; I think it’s about time I had the name of someone good for me.

But first, I have to wait for my fellow citizens to decide whether I’m deserving of making this choice. I made it at 22 without anyone’s intervention, even though I probably wasn’t ready. (Who’s genuinely ready at 22 to make decisions that will impact the rest of their lives? Very few people.)

My county votes by mail, so if you’re local, you’ve probably already voted, but if you have the opportunity in your state (for this election or any other), please, please vote in favor of expanding people’s civil rights. This isn’t about religion, or history, or any of those things. If you’re not in favor of gay marriage, you don’t have to have one. But I’m not in favor of marriages that dissolve in six months, and I’m not allowed to stop them. It’s about the ability of someone like me to make a commitment to another consenting adult they love. It’s about rights.

Happy Election Day, everybody. Get out there and vote.

Sunday Update: I Love Yarn Day!

•October 14, 2012 • Leave a Comment

This isn’t quite a gauge check, but I have something yarny to talk about!

Friday was the second annual I Love Yarn Day, so I celebrated by finding a project, winding yarn, and casting on.  The yarn in question was two colors of Tosh Merino Light in Glazed Pecan and Earl Grey, the project is the (brand new!) shawl Mormorio by Heather Zoppetti, which I am calling the Afternoon Tea Mormorio.

Madtosh is just as wonderful to knit with as I expected it would be.

I came to the realization recently that my gauge has changed from when I started knitting.  I used to be an incredibly tight knitter, to the point where I knit socks on US2 (3 mm) needles.  Lately, though, my tension has relaxed considerably.  I can no longer automatically go up a needle size and get gauge, and I discovered that I really do need to knit socks using a US1 (2.5 mm).  Problem was, I only have one US1 needle, and it’s got something on it.

So yesterday I went down to Pearl Fiber Arts and picked up an Addi Turbo Lace and a Hiya Hiya Sharp (and a skein of Dream in Color Merino/Silk sock yarn).  I like to have three sock-size needles available –  not that I ever have three socks on the go at the same time, but… reasons.

(One reason being that I’m designing a sock and I don’t necessarily want to have it interfering with actual knitting.)

Did you do anything awesome for I Love Yarn day?

Weekend Gauge Check: Project Reorganization

•October 7, 2012 • Leave a Comment

When I started the gauge check, in December of 2010, I was still doing a lot of processing about the end of Hurricane Isabel, and I was also helping some friends of mine negotiate a difficult and painful breakup.  I was doing a lot of thinking about the nature of relationships, good and bad, and learning how to build a healthy, solid partnership in the wake of abuse.

I’ve come a long way since I started this blog.  I’ve finished school, changed jobs, moved across the country.  I’ve worked to rediscover the person I was before the storm and embrace the person I’ve become after it.  Yesterday I took the last class required by the state to become a foster parent; all that’s left is paperwork (and a bigger apartment).  If all goes well, by this time next year, I’ll be a wife and mother.

Right now my life is in kind of a holding pattern, and my gauge check really reflects it.  It’s increasingly become a weekly report on what I did over the weekend, and I’ve found it to be more of a struggle to talk about something interesting with each passing week.

So for now, I’m retiring the gauge check.  I suspect that I may pick it back up when my life starts moving again.

What I’m going to do instead will be a series of reviews/book reports on my knitting library, tentatively titled Why I Picked It UpWhy will start with the books I’m not knitting out of for the Year of Good Intentions, explaining why I picked it up (obviously), what I like about it, and what purpose it serves.  I’m going to talk about why I buy craft books, because I’ve realized that there are reasons beyond patterns, and what I look for in a book that’s coming home.  Once I finish with my own library, it may continue on as a sporadic feature that includes books I brought home for the library, which will include a section on whether I’d buy it or not, and why.

Going into the new year, I’m thinking about doing a segment on fiber, where I try spinning or knitting with a new fiber every week.  The Big Shiny Idea involves two of each letter of the alphabet, one rare and one common (where possible), although I could probably spend several months just working on C.  There are a lot of breeds of sheep that start with C, I’ve discovered, and that’s not even counting non-sheep breeds like camel and cashmere.  We’ll see how that shakes out.

So, the long and short of it is the hiatus of the Gauge Check, but lots of new stuff to keep you interested.  Don’t worry, I’ll still be talking about my crafting – just right now, there’s not much of it.

In the meantime, I’m going to go back to playing Dragon Quest VIII.

Weekend Gauge Check: Oregon Flock & Fiber

•September 24, 2012 • 2 Comments

It’s time for our weekend rituals, the ceremonies of escorting one week out and preparing the next one. Which, around here, is the Gauge Check, where I take a look at my week and figure out where I’ve come from and where I’m going. Sometimes there are goals, sometimes I just talk about what’s going on in my life and my crafting. You are all welcome to join in in the comments.

Yesterday was my second Oregon Flock and Fiber Festival, and what a difference a year makes!  Last year I felt incredibly overwhelmed by the sheer amount and variety; this year I was familiar with most of the artists.

At this point, I really don’t feel like I need more fiber or yarn.  (It’s a space issue.)  I picked up a skein of Paca-Peds by The Alpaca Yarn Company, which is an alpaca/wool/nylon sock yarn, in the colorway Singin’ the Blues, but that’s all.  An amethyst necklace also decided it wanted to go home with me, and someone was selling “sample packs” of Jaquard dyes, so I grabbed one of those.  It gives me a way to try out more serious dyeing without investing much into it.

Mostly I enjoyed walking around and looking at the colors, feeling the textures, and talking to people.  That’s the best part of a festival, in my opinion.  Portland never has any shortage of crafting supplies, but being able to talk to the artists behind the yarn and fiber is a fantastic experience.

This week I finished off the Welsh Traveling Socks and put several more pattern repeats in on the Peacock Tail and Leaf Shawl.  I also dug through my physical library, trying to figure out what to cast on next for the Year of Good Intentions.

To be honest, I’m kind of at a loss.  I know I want to knit sweaters out of Big Girl Knits and Little Red in the City, but I don’t really want to cast on another sweater until I finish the Gnarled Oak Cardigan.  (I’m coming to terms with the fact that I don’t like the way I did increases on the sleeves, and I’m going to have to pull them out and start over.)  I’m also trying to get past the fact that the sweaters that catch my eye first are cardigans with a stockinette body and a decorative yoke, and how many hand-knit variations on the same type of sweater do I need?  Until I’ve knit numerous sweaters, one is probably sufficient, and Gnarled Oak will serve that purpose quite well.

For the most part, the other books are… not being very inspirational.  I bought Mason Dixon Knitting Outside the Lines with the intent of knitting the Belinda shawl, but the more I think about it, the less I think it’s actually a good fit for the way I actually wear shawls.  A lot of the other patterns I like out of the book are either sweaters or kids’ patterns, and knitting for a kid I don’t have seems like a weird kind of borrowing trouble.  (How do you knit to fit a hypothetical child?  What size do you pick?)

I was planning on knitting socks out of 2-at-a-Time Socks, but I bought the book (on sale, even) for the technique, not for any particular pattern – and most of the socks in the book are sport- or worsted-weight, and I’m not really interested in knitting socks that don’t fit comfortably in shoes.  If I wanted to knit something for my feet in a heavier weight yarn, I’d actually break down and make slippers.

That’s a good example of how I feel about the remaining books – I bought them for techniques, or inspiration, or because I enjoyed the way they were written, or what I most want to knit out of them is a sweater, and knitting anything else would just be settling.

In the meantime, I have other books that I’m excited about, that didn’t qualify for the project because I’d already knit something out of it or I bought it after I started.  So, I successfully completed seven projects out of books I owned, and I have specific plans to knit out of two others.  Can I redefine the parameters of the project so I keep going, or does that qualify as failing or giving up?

What I didn’t want to create out of this project was a bunch of things I’m knitting out of obligation, not because I’m excited about the object or the knitting of it.  I don’t want to knit a bunch of tiny mountains, for example, and then have a bunch of tiny mountains cluttering up my living room.

What do you think?  Is it safe to redefine the idea, or is that cheating?

Weekend Gauge Check: Defining Emotional Honesty

•September 17, 2012 • 1 Comment

It’s time for our weekend rituals, the ceremonies of escorting one week out and preparing the next one. Which, around here, is the Gauge Check, where I take a look at my week and figure out where I’ve come from and where I’m going. Sometimes there are goals, sometimes I just talk about what’s going on in my life and my crafting. You are all welcome to join in in the comments.

So I’m finding myself in a bit of a dilemma this week, because I’m struggling with the border between my own emotional honesty and sparing someone else’s feelings. Does my upset trump their discomfort? Or should I keep my mouth shut and wait to see what the fallout is?

I have a friend who has a partner that I strongly dislike. Being around the partner is emotionally exhausting; partner is relentlessly negative, bordering on hateful, and exhibits a number of other behaviors that mean every time I am forced to deal with them I end up angry.

With help from Jack, I worked to establish good boundaries that helped to keep my resentment in check.

Now, they’ve officially split up, though circumstances have forced them to continue living together. So should I still play nice with the partner, or can I be honest with my friend about how I feel?

At least for now, I’ll probably err on the side of discretion, and see how it falls out.

Emotional honesty, for me, is about being honest with myself first.  Yes, I’m battling the Cult of Okay, refusing to pretend to be fine for the sake of greasing the wheels, but I’m not trying to hurt other people.  What emotional honesty gives me is the ability to establish boundaries, to identify when I need to pull away from someone who’s causing me pain.  It gives me a place to say “No, this isn’t working,” from; it gives me space to not feel like a failure or a bad friend when I need to protect myself.

Isabel didn’t like boundaries.  If you were in a relationship with her, romantic or otherwise, she was the one who decided how close you got to be.  She was the one who decided when you were allowed to walk away.  When someone followed a timetable other than hers, I was subjected to the dual-pronged attack of listening to her complain incessantly about the “disloyal” former friend, and simultaneously demand to know when I was going to betray and abandon her.  Added to my own fierce sense of loyalty, I have a hard time knowing what a reasonable boundary is.  How much am I required to give before I’m allowed to expect an emotional return?  When is a good time to say “That’s enough, no more?”

I still don’t know.


Weekend Gauge Check: Houseguest Edition

•September 9, 2012 • 2 Comments

It’s time for our weekend rituals, the ceremonies of escorting one week out and preparing the next one. Which, around here, is the Gauge Check, where I take a look at my week and figure out where I’ve come from and where I’m going. Sometimes there are goals, sometimes I just talk about what’s going on in my life and my crafting. You are all welcome to join in in the comments.

Shot through an open window, a grapevine covered in clusters of grapes grows in front of a graffiti-covered brick wall.  The wall is close enough to touch through the window.My work week was, as usual, full of work.  (Last night I dreamed about getting a spreadsheet to balance.)  I didn’t even get much knitting done during the week, for reasons I can’t quite put my finger on.  Stress, maybe.  I put in a couple of rows on the Peacock Tail and Leaf Shawl most days, and a little bit on the second commissioned pulsewarmer, but that was about it for the week itself.

I picked up Jack on Thursday night, because we were planning to go to dinner, and as we were leaving, we noticed a fire in a field up the street.  He called 911, and when we heard the fire trucks coming, we headed out.  There’s no punch line or moral; it was just something unusual that happened.

Friday after work we went out to Powell’s and celebrated payday by picking up a couple of books.  I brought home Sock Knitting Master Class: Innovative Techniques + Patterns from Top Designers which I’d had my eye on for a while.  That night, a friend of ours arrived from the East Coast for a weeklong visit.  He was understandably tired and jet-lagged, so we headed back to the apartment.

Saturday morning, we went into Portland for some sightseeing.  We discovered a huge farmer’s market on the PSU campus, where Jack scored some bacon pickles (he swears they’re good) and we sampled all sorts of things.  I’d gotten used to the little Vancouver farmer’s market, and it was a nice change of pace to visit a big, varied one like this.  I definitely plan to go back.

Afterward, we caught the streetcar up to Pearl Fiber Arts, where my gift card from the stash sale was ready.  I brought home two skeins of Madelinetosh Tosh Merino Light (I might have a problem) in the glazed pecan (which looks much more golden than brown in my skein) and earl grey colorways (similarly golden and blue).  A gorgeous two-color shawl is in my future.  My guest expressed an interest in learning to knit, so he brought home a skein of worsted to learn with.

We showed off Powell’s (with the proper mix of caution and glee), the main library, finally checked out Portland Button Works, and then headed home. We watched some movies and I taught him how to cast on, knit, and purl, and started him with a simple hat, a la Elizabeth Zimmermann.

Today we went to Rose City Comic-Con, which was tiny and adorable but somehow full of awesome artists.

So once we’ve decided to move, Jack and I have the same conversation fairly regularly.  It goes something like this:

“This thing that we’re looking at would be useful to have, for reasons.”

“But then we’d have to move it.”

“True.  Never mind.”

Prints, however, are 1) flat, 2) light, and 3) can be kept in an existing binder of artwork until we arrive at our new location.

Yeah, we bought a lot of art.

A Miyazaki-themed nursery may have been brought up.

It was fun.

I’m up to 25 pattern repeats on my Peacock Tail shawl, and I actually picked up the second Welsh Traveling Sock (July’s Year of Good Intentions project) and finished the leg and knit the heel flap.  I want to get the heel turn finished tonight, so I better get back to it.

How was your weekend?

Weekend Gauge Check: Labor Day Weekend

•September 3, 2012 • Leave a Comment

t’s time for our weekend rituals, the ceremonies of escorting one week out and preparing the next one. Which, around here, is the Gauge Check, where I take a look at my week and figure out where I’ve come from and where I’m going. Sometimes there are goals, sometimes I just talk about what’s going on in my life and my crafting. You are all welcome to join in in the comments.

Oh, how I needed this three-day weekend.

We went to the movies on Friday and saw Amazing Spider-Man, which was a lot of fun.  I really liked this Peter Parker; he was bright and dorky and very much a teenaged boy.  I loved Gwen Stacy’s intelligence and competence and her refusal to be protected or coddled.  Also her taste in knitwear.

Saturday was the opening of the 2nd Annual Stash Sale at Pearl Fiber Arts. The store was crowded with bins of yarn, fiber, and accessories of varying qualities on (and under!) every available surface.  I dug through all of them, and found some beautiful skeins to take home.  Three skeins of Madelinetosh Tosh Vintage in the Flash Dance colorway, a skein of Handmaiden Camelspin (in what I believe may be the Nova Scotia colorway, though it’s a lot darker than the sample), and a skein of Navajo-plied handspun in Mosaic Moon BFL in the Dragon’s Lair colorway.

A pile of yarnAfterward, we wandered around Art in the Pearl, which is a small annual festival of the arts in one of the parks in the Pearl District.  It was still early in the day, so we had some marvelous conversations with artists about their work before it got too crowded and they got too busy.

A number of local groups and schools also had demos, which provided great photo fodder.

We wandered around Portland for a while, then headed back across the river to do some thrift shopping.

Today we started with the apartment-hunting process.  Upgrading to a bigger place is the next step in the adoption process, and I’m excited.  We’re planning on taking our time and finding a place we really love before we move, because we’d rather not have to move again before we buy a house, which is our long-term goal.

Knitting-wise, I put in some more work on the Peacock Tail and Leaf Shawl, and I was commissioned to knit some pulsewarmers.  I completed the first of those, based on the Mystic Light Pulse Warmers.

How was your week?

A pair of hands creating a pot

Line of copper bowls


Metal dragonfly on a yellow background




Weekend Gauge Check: Transitions

•August 26, 2012 • Leave a Comment

It’s time for our weekend rituals, the ceremonies of escorting one week out and preparing the next one. Which, around here, is the Gauge Check, where I take a look at my week and figure out where I’ve come from and where I’m going. Sometimes there are goals, sometimes I just talk about what’s going on in my life and my crafting. You are all welcome to join in in the comments.

Picture of Mario riding Yoshi with text "Keep calm and carry on" in sidewalk chalk.Fall is coming.

It’s not here yet; the week was still sunny and warm, but there’s been a wind that makes you think about light jackets and fingerless mitts and maybe getting that sweater finished.  The days are getting shorter.  I suspect that this was the last week that I’ll leave the apartment without thinking about bringing a coat – I may not take it, but I’ll think about it.

I feel like I’m ready for it.  Like a true Portlander, I’ve spent as much time as possible outside this summer, storing up sunshine to carry me through the long weeks of winter when the clear blue sky is more a concept than a reality.  I’ve eaten farmers’ market tomatoes and peaches and berries still warm from the sun, enjoying the new bounty of each week and the feeling of connection to the earth.  Soon there will be apples and potatoes and pumpkins, rich fall flavors that are every bit as precious as those first strawberries of spring.

A year ago, we were in the final stages of packing and cleaning, with less than three days left before our departure date. I fell in love with Oregon in the autumn, and while I’ve loved every season in its own way, I suspect that the autumn will always be my favorite.  Perhaps because it is so completely unlike Arizona.

One thing I do love about summer is the wide variety of things that happen here.  There were a ton of different possible things to do Friday after work, and we ended up at a local indie theatre on the PSU campus watching a French Hong Kong action film (which was just as weird as you might imagine).  Yesterday we went to a pop-up consignment shop, a block party, an estate sale, and Pearl Fiber Arts.  Today was completely unstructured, and we walked around PSU and then Nob Hill, which is slightly different every time we go up there.

The Peacock Tail and Leaf scarf has claimed almost all of my attention this week.  I sat in the park across from my office and knitted on it at lunch, and worked on it nearly every time I was on the MAX this weekend (which was often), and I’m working on the 20th pattern repeat, which is slightly more than halfway through, according to the pattern.  The finished object is supposed to be 49″ long, which seems kind of short to me, and I have more yarn than it calls for, so I may just keep knitting pattern repeats until I’m sick of them.  The far end is knitted and then grafted on (presumably so it’s not upside down), so what I’ll probably end up doing is knit to the end of the ball, put the scarf on waste yarn, knit the far end, and then knit pattern repeats until it’s long enough for me.  Alternative thought: knit until I (almost) run out of yarn, place stitches on holder, cast on as if I’m beginning again, knit until I (almost) run out of yarn, graft two halves together.  (Of course, if I do that, I’m committed.  If I knit until I’m tired of it, I can stop.)

It’s almost the end of August, and I still haven’t picked a pattern for the month for the Year of Good Intentions.  Rather than stress out about it, I’m going to skip August and pick a new pattern at the beginning of September.  If I get the July socks finished up this week, it’ll probably be another pair of socks; otherwise, it’s going to be something else.  I’m starting to feel knitting mojo again, and I’m excited about tackling another project.

What are your plans for fall?


Weekend Gauge Check: Trying New Things

•August 19, 2012 • Leave a Comment

It’s time for our weekend rituals, the ceremonies of escorting one week out and preparing the next one. Which, around here, is the Gauge Check, where I take a look at my week and figure out where I’ve come from and where I’m going. Sometimes there are goals, sometimes I just talk about what’s going on in my life and my crafting. You are all welcome to join in in the comments.

Things I’ve done this week:

– Worked 40 hours

– Knit three pattern repeats on the Peacock Tail and Leaf Shawl

– Made an anti-anxiety potion

– Cut off all my hair and dyed it black


How was your week?