Why haven’t I been blogging?

Usually when you title a blog post with a question, it implies that that question will be answered and perhaps remedied, rather than contemplated at length, but I can’t make such a promise in this instance.

My interest in blogging certainly waxes and wanes, both here and on my regular blog. I have a plethora of “life excuses,” including another long trip to Italy in October and November that I forgot to mention, crazy lots of stuff going on at work, and all kinds of illnesses ranging from bronchitis with borderline pneumonia (which almost prevented that Italy trip) and my current malady, swine flu. Bleh.

This blog, unlike my everyday blog or my non-sequitor Twitter and Facebook updates, is so focused in its subject that if I don’t have something specific to say about knitting or crafts, I tend not to say it.

More to the point, the way I “say” things here is largely through photography. It’s not that the words are just spacers between photos – I care a lot about those too – but I am not likely to write about a project if I don’t have photos.

(People who read a lot of knitting blogs are probably all “Ha, photography, that old chestnut!”)

I used to live in a light-filled apartment, with a photographer. It’s not that he shot my knits for me (at least not without some begging), but our whole apartment was set up in a way that was conducive to shooting (along with painting). We had white counter-tops and white windowsills, white desktops, off-white curtains and white walls that wouldn’t distort colors, and plenty of fill lamps and photography stuff that would block out the clutter or shadows or what have you. If I needed to take modeled shots, I lived in Brooklyn and was never shy for a backdrop.

Now I am living in my parents’ house, where there is very little consistent light. Every room is a different color, and there are all kinds of furniture and decorations (lovely stuff, of course). You’d think this would make for easier shooting, since it should be more interesting (and unlike our apartment, it’s usually very clean), but I struggle to find anywhere that doesn’t overpower the knits themselves with pattern and texture. More often than not, when I am shooting my knitting projects, I find myself laying them out on a large sheet of drawing paper on my bed or resorting to the top of the washing machine, to get a neutral background.

It should have been easier in the summer, since my parents have a truly lovely garden, but I struggled with boats, coolers, neighboring houses, and so forth always intruding in the background. And while my mother is patient and a very talented photographer, she doesn’t seem to understand, the way my ex-boyfriend did, that sometimes I need a couple dozen photos to get one where I don’t look agonizingly awkward and uncomfortable.

That said, I haven’t fully sorted out the photography situation, but I will at least make some attempts soon. I have quite a growing pile of FOs, which I’ve been mentioning since the spring, and I’m either lacking proper photos or am fairly dismally unhappy with those that I have. But I’m going to work on them and try to get back in the habit of posting more frequently.

I’m really looking forward to it.

Knitting to Wear

I’ve been thinking lately about why I knit what I do. Like many knitters, I get entranced by patterns and yarns, dream about creating unique garments custom-fit to my measurements, and I get a special thrill when it all comes together “just so.”

This summer I noticed that I have seasonal “uniforms” that I put together, without fail, every year. I’m sure it’s because my mother imbued a sense of classic styling in me very young, but there are few differences between dresses or outfits I would have worn at ages seven or twenty-seven. When I looked in my armoire, I noticed stacks and stacks of carefully-folded sweaters, shrugs, and little knits of all weights that I’ve amassed over the years and come to consider indispensable in dressing. Above anyone I know, I am that girl who always brings a sweater.

Unfortunately, my knitting output hasn’t really matched my wardrobe needs up to this point. Of the projects I’ve actually finished (which is its own issue), the two I’ve used exponentially more than all others were both shrugs. Every single time I wear them, I get compliments. My friends and colleagues – and even strangers in churches in Italy – admire their unique shape or color, ask where I got them, and refuse to believe how simple they were to make, until (in one instance), I sketched out a top-down raglan and explained exactly how it was made.

There have been a handful of projects that, if I’m being honest, I will probably never wear. Or they require so much work to “fix” that I’ve lost all enthusiasm for them. That bums me out, and for a long time it discouraged me from knitting anything wearable (perhaps you noticed the sock fixation?). Often I’d hit that point of realization partway through knitting them, and they’d languish for several years in hibernation, their pieces stacked in my knitting basket making me feel guilty.

I’ve come to this realization before, but I disregarded those intentions and launched into a flurry of accessories, socks, impractical strapless situations, and well, more socks.

I think I’ve sorted it out now. I’m learning about which type of garments suit me, and I’ve gone back through my projects in progress to make a secondary queue of sorts, dividing pieces into those which I really do intend to finish, versus those I plan to frog so I can reuse the yarn for something I will actually enjoy wearing.

That said, I’m still going to make socks and accessories, since I love knitting them and I do wear them a lot. In fact, I’ve got big knee-sock plans for this fall. I guess in general, I’m going to try to spend my “sweater time” a little more productively if I can help it, and actually get some of these big exciting wearable things made.

An abundance of light but nary a stitch

In the winter, I complain that my knitting photos are thin on the ground because there is insufficient light or lousy weather. Here I am surrounded with gorgeous spring light and ample opportunity to photograph knits… and I’ve been too busy.

The end of this past semester was incredibly demanding. I spoke at a science & art symposium, which required weeks of preparation. I postponed my thesis and graduation until the fall. I took a trip to Boston. I got a new sailboat (early graduation gift from my parents) and I have been pretty obsessed with getting it ready to take out on the water (and learning to sail). I attended a conference for a week in Los Angeles (didn’t even bring a knitting project – what is wrong with me?!). It’s just gone on.

And now that I’m back, I’ve been taking an Organic Chemistry class at the university down the road. It’s a 6-week intensive course with lab, meeting all day every Monday through Thursday, with hours and hours of homework, reading, and lab reports every evening. It is no exaggeration when I say I’ve had barely any time for anything else. Oh, but I’m trying to stay on top of work projects and my art history thesis too. It is exhausting.

The thing is, I haven’t lost interest in knitting. Or in knit-blogging. The scarce few minutes a day I spend looking through knitting blogs are some of my most pleasant moments, and I daydream about picking back up needles and yarn.

Like many knitters, I am currently obsessed with two Hannah Fettig lightweight cardigans. First, the Whisper Cardigan from the spring 2009 Interweave Knits, which I’ve cast on in this surprisingly lovely Knit Picks Palette in Twig:

This yarn has a history, as I originally bought it to make my ex-boyfriend a Henry scarf. I decided the color was not right next to his greenish-brown coat and when I thought about it next to his neck, I opted for softer Knit Picks Gloss instead. Then we broke up, so I had 800+ yards of both yarns sitting in my stash cabinet kind of mocking me.

I decided I would quite like a slinky little fly-away cardigan to wear over spring and summer dresses, and I love the way this project is going so far. I’m just about to start the second sleeve, but I’ve been totally remiss in taking any progress photos so far. I hope I’m not lying when I say, “Soon.”

This project got me all amped up for using thin yarns to make cardigans, so I went on a rash of queuing sweater-type projects using the laceweight I’d previously designated for various shawls. Making and attempting to wear my Flower Basket Shawl was an interesting lesson for me. While I can always go for a good scarf or rectangular wrap, I feel really awkward in a triangular shawl. I’m not ready to say they’re not my style yet, but they may not be.

Part of my attraction to knitting is this idea that you can create whatever you can imagine. I often open my closet and dream about all the types of garments I’d like to have floating out of it, which is how I know I really need to learn to sew. Whenever I put on a sleeveless dress, I open the right half of my armoire (where I store the sweaters, shrugs etc), and I wish some light-weight, airy colorful little cardigans with 3/4 sleeves would spring into being. Fortunately, I can knit them! And this is wonderful!

I wound one skein of Knit Picks Gloss Lace in Aegean, in preparation for the Featherweight Cardigan, my second obsession-sweater of this summer. I’ve already bought and swooned over the pattern (such elegant construction), and I can’t wait to make it.

I finished another project, too, and predictably, not made time for FO shots.

This brings the total to-photograph and to-post list for FOs up to:
– three hats
– two pairs of socks
– two shrugs
– one scarf

The list for WIPs is staggering and ridiculous, so I’m gonna leave that one alone until I catch up around here. I even have an indigo-dyeing project and articles on mordants and natural dyeing from, well, a year ago. Yikes.

I’m going to try to make some time for knitting in this coming week if at all possible. I really, really miss it!

Happy New Year!

Oh dear, I have been so remiss. I really didn’t mean to disappear over the holidays, but things got insane in my personal and academic life, and something had to give. Sadly, it was knitting.

I didn’t finish any of the handmade gifts I was working on this Christmas. I didn’t even start most of them. Since they were mostly for my immediate family, who saw firsthand the stress I was under, there was no issue giving them cards with an image of the pattern and yarn I was planning for them, to be given at some point before next Christmas.

I didn’t finish most of what I planned for this year. Looking at my knitting resolutions, it’s tempting to be discouraged.

I didn’t knit a pair of socks every month, I didn’t dye my own yarn again, I didn’t learn the techniques I planned (though I made some progress with the Christmas gifts I did start), and I let scores of WIPs languish. I didn’t post the mini-pattern I meant to, I didn’t write posts on mordanting and dyeing (those will come soon, though, since I have to write about them for lab reports due next week), and I didn’t even mention the rank horror that was indigo dyeing.

The only area where I succeeded this year was not buying any more yarn (except for gifts), and here I slipped up a touch too. I didn’t even have time to round up all the things I knit in 2008 and make one of those sexy mosaics I keep seeing on all my favorite blogs.

I’ve decided, though, to be okay with that. Knitting isn’t a chore – it’s something I do to relax and unwind. To the extent that I enjoy learning new things, using nice materials, and creating beautiful objects, knitting is a very satisfying diversion. I will work harder to keep this in mind in 2009.

As such, I do have goals for 2009. I have plans, ideas, visions, and dreams. To begin, I will catch up with 2008 knits, and we’ll go from there.

I hope you all had safe and happy holidays, and I look forward to getting back in touch soon!

Knitting Experience (meme)

I saw this over on Gypsy Coins & Peacock Feathers and thought it was an interesting list.

Bold = Have already tried this
Italicized = Plan to try this
Unemphasized = Have no desire to try this

Garter stitch
Knitting with metal wire
Stockinette Stitch
Socks: Top-down
Socks: Toe-up
Knitting with camel yarn
Mittens: Cuff-up
Mittens: Tip down
Knitting with silk
– Moebius band knitting (I’ve done it accidentally)
Participating in a KAL
Drop stitch patterns
Knitting with recycled/secondhand yarn
Slip stitch patterns
Knitting with banana fiber yarn
Domino knitting (I had to look this up, but sure)
Twisted stitch patterns
Knitting with bamboo yarn
– Two end knitting (this one is weird)
Charity knitting
Knitting with soy yarn
– Toy/doll clothing (does our dachshund count as a toy?)
Knitting with circular needles
Baby items
– Knitting with your own handspun (I have never spun, and I’m not sure I want to)
– Graffiti knitting
Continental knitting (I’m really happy with English though)
Designing knitted garments (patterns coming soon)
Cable stitch patterns
Lace patterns
Publishing a knitting book
Teaching a child to knit
American/English knitting
– Knitting to make money
Knitting with alpaca
Fair Isle
Norwegian knitting
Dying with plant colors (it was awesome)
Knitting items for a wedding
Household items
Knitting socks on two circulars
Olympic knitting
Knitting with someone else’s handspun yarn
Knitting with dpn’s
Holiday-related knitting
Teaching a male how to knit
– Knitting for a living
Knitting with cotton
Knitting smocking
Dyeing yarn (need to do more of this)
Knitting art (seems like I should)
Knitting with wool
Textured knitting
Kitchener BO
Knitting with beads (I’m doing this soon!)
Long tail CO
Knitting and purling backwards (will have to if I want to try entrelac again)
– Machine Knitting
Knitting with self-patterning/self-striping/variegated yarn
Stuffed toys
Knitting with cashmere
Knitting with synthetic yarn
Writing a pattern
Knitting with linen
Knitting for preemies
Tubular CO
– Freeform knitting
Short rows
Cuffs/fingerless mitts/armwarmers
Knitting a pattern from an online knitting magazine
Knitting on a loom (when I was a child)
– Thrummed knitting (honestly, I get irrationally creeped out).
Knitting a gift
Knitting for pets
Knitting with dog/cat hair (maybe)
Hair accessories
Knitting in public
Double knitting

It turns out I have a lot more experience than I might have thought, and I’m pretty open to trying new things. I’m looking forward to adding more techniques to my repertoire in my next few projects.

How about you?