Happy Feast of (St) Brigid to you!

2 February 2007 at 11:17 am (Friday poems, Life in general)

Or Lughnasa, or Crepe Day, or Veja Diena, or Groundhog Day, or Friday — as you please. Whatever you happen to be observing where you are.

I’d been thinking about posting some poetry, a propos of nothing in particular, and then happened on Anne‘s blog call for poetry in honour of St Brigid’s day. Being approximately Catholic, in a hatches, matches and dispatches sort of way, and somewhat Irish, I thought of poets Irish and Catholic, although I know that Brigid is probably about as Catholic as the Christmas tree. I thought of Les Murray (more Ir-ish than Irish, but definitely Catholic); I thought of Seamus Heaney’s wonderful poems about the bog bodies and Viking Dublin; but this was the poem I really wanted. I’m sure Brigid won’t mind sharing the day with another saint.


St Kevin and the Blackbird

And then there was St. Kevin and the blackbird.
The saint is kneeling, arms stretched out, inside
His cell, but the cell is narrow, so

One turned-up palm is out the window, stiff
As a crossbeam, when a blackbird lands
And lays in it and settles down to nest.

Kevin feels the warm eggs, the small breast, the tucked
Neat head and claws and, finding himself linked
Into the network of eternal life,

Is moved to pity: Now he must hold his hand
Like a branch out in the sun and rain for weeks
Until the young are hatched and fledged and flown.

And since the whole thing’s imagined anyhow,
Imagine being Kevin. Which is he?
Self-forgetful or in agony all the time

From the neck on out down through his hurting forearms?
Are his fingers sleeping? Does he still feel his knees?
Or has the shut-eyed blank of underearth

Crept up through him? Is there distance in his head?
Alone and mirrored clear in love’s deep river,
‘To labour and not to seek reward,’ he prays,

A prayer his body makes entirely
For he has forgotten self, forgotten bird,
And on the riverbank forgotten the river’s name.

Seamus Heaney

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… and six weird things

28 January 2007 at 4:26 pm (Life in general)

No explanation needed: you’ve all seen this one before.

1. Some of my nearest relations (by blood and marriage) do odd things to watches. My father and his mother both stopped watches, for no detectable reason, within a few days to a fortnight of acquiring them. My father couldn’t wear a watch at all until the advent of digitals, and even now can only wear the cheapest kind, with plastic componentry. We still don’t know why this happened, but I can promise you neither of them were abducted by aliens.

And my husband has super-corrosive sweat, which eats through the metal backs of watches — unless they’re the most expensive kind, made of unreactive metals like, oh, platinum. He also plays a brass instrument, and over time his supersweat has chewed through the lacquer on that too. He has to play wearing gloves.

2. I have a collagen disorder which makes my joints and skin hypermobile. This is useful for yoga class and moments when I need to scratch my own back, but also predisposed me to spontaneous dislocations when I was a small child, which was not very enjoyable. My parents had to be taught how to reduce elbow dislocations, so that they could do it at home.

3. I have five university degrees (plus a certificate) in three separate disciplines, and have studied in six universities, in five countries, on three continents. In my family, we call this chronic education. So much interesting stuff to learn, only one life to learn it in.

4. I’m descended, though my paternal grandfather, from first cousins who married. This is legal in England (and in many other places).

5. I’m also descended (maternal side this time) from a man who was told by his mother that he was the illegitimate son of Kaiser Wilhelm I. Who knows whether this was actually true (he did look a bit like the Kaiser, and his mother had been in service in the household of an army friend of the Kaiser’s), or whether it was just a bit of romantic gloss on an old scandal?

6. I have three citizenships (and passports): one by birth, one by descent, and one (indirectly) by marriage.

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150 things

28 January 2007 at 3:54 pm (Life in general)

When you’re short of things bloggable, steal a meme. Bold items I’ve done.

01. Bought everyone in the bar a drink
02. Swam with wild dolphins
03. Climbed a mountain
04. Taken a Ferrari for a test drive
05. Been inside the Great Pyramid
06. Held a tarantula
07. Taken a candlelit bath with someone
08. Said ‘I love you’ and meant it
09. Hugged a tree
10. Bungee jumped
11. Visited Paris
12. Watched a lightning storm at sea
13. Stayed up all night long and saw the sun rise
14. Seen the Northern Lights
15. Gone to a huge sports game
16. Walked the stairs to the top of the leaning Tower of Pisa
17. Grown and eaten your own vegetables
18. Touched an iceberg
19. Slept under the stars
20. Changed a baby’s diaper
21. Taken a trip in a hot air balloon
22. Watched a meteor shower (while swimming nude in the sea)
23. Gotten drunk on champagne
24. Given more than you can afford to charity
25. Looked up at the night sky through a telescope
26. Had an uncontrollable giggling fit at the worst possible moment
27. Had a food fight
28. Bet on a winning horse
29. Asked out a stranger
30. Had a snowball fight
31. Screamed as loudly as you possibly can
32. Held a lamb
33. Seen a total eclipse
34. Ridden a roller coaster
35. Hit a home run
36. Danced like a fool and not cared who was looking
37. Adopted an accent for an entire day
38. Actually felt happy about your life, even for just a moment
39. Had two hard drives for your computer
40. Visited all 10 provinces
41. Taken care of someone who was drunk
42. Had amazing friends
43. Danced with a stranger in a foreign country
44. Watched wild whales (orcas catching stingrays about 20m off the beach I was standing on)
45. Stolen a sign
46. Backpacked in Europe
47. Taken a road-trip
48. Gone rock climbing
49. Midnight walk on the beach
50. Gone sky diving
51. Visited Ireland
52. Been heartbroken longer than you were actually in love
53. In a restaurant, sat at a stranger’s table and had a meal with them
54. Visited Japan
55. Milked a cow
56. Alphabetized your cds
57. Pretended to be a superhero
58. Sung karaoke
59. Lounged around in bed all day
60. Posed nude in front of strangers
61. Gone scuba diving
62. Kissed in the rain
63. Played in the mud
64. Played in the rain
65. Gone to a drive-in theater
66. Visited the Great Wall of China
67. Started a business
68. Fallen in love and not had your heart broken
69. Toured ancient sites
70. Taken a martial arts class
71. Played D&D for more than 6 hours straight
72. Gotten married
73. Been in a movie
74. Crashed a party
75. Gotten divorced
76. Gone without food for 5 days
77. Made cookies from scratch
78. Won first prize in a costume contest
79. Ridden a gondola in Venice
80. Gotten a tattoo
81. Rafted the Snake River
82. Been on television news programs as an “expert”
83. Got flowers for no reason
84. Performed on stage
85. Been to Las Vegas
86. Recorded music
87. Eaten shark
88. Had a one-night stand
89. Gone to Thailand
90. Bought a house
91. Been in a combat zone
92. Buried one of your parents
93. Been on a cruise ship
94. Spoken more than one language fluently
95. Performed in Rocky Horror.
96. Raised children.
97. Followed your favorite band/singer on tour
98. Created and named your own constellation of stars
99. Taken an exotic bicycle tour in a foreign country
100. Picked up and moved to another city to just start over
101. Walked the Golden Gate Bridge
102. Sang loudly in the car, and didn’t stop when you knew someone was looking
103. Had plastic surgery
104. Survived an illness that you shouldn’t have survived
105. Wrote articles for a large publication
106. Lost over 100 pounds
107. Held someone while they were having a flashback
108. Piloted an airplane
109. Petted a stingray
110. Broken someone’s heart
111. Helped an animal give birth
112. Won money on a T.V. game show
113. Broken a bone
114. Gone on an African photo safari
115. Had a body part of yours below the neck pierced
116. Fired a rifle, shotgun, or pistol
117. Eaten mushrooms that were gathered in the wild
118. Ridden a horse
119. Had major surgery
120. Had a snake as a pet
121. Hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon
122. Slept for more than 30 hours over the course of 48 hours
123. Visited more foreign countries than U.S. states
124. Visited all 7 continents
125. Taken a canoe trip that lasted more than 2 days
126. Eaten kangaroo meat
127. Eaten sushi
128. Had your picture in the newspaper
129. Changed someone’s mind about something you care deeply about
130. Gone back to school
131. Parasailed
132. Petted a cockroach
133. Eaten fried green tomatoes
134. Read the Iliad and the Odyssey
135. Selected one “important” author who you missed in school, and read
136. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
137. Skipped all your school reunions
138. Communicated with someone without sharing a common spoken language
139. Been elected to public office
140. Written your own computer language
141. Thought to yourself that you’re living your dream
142. Had to put someone you love into hospice care
143. Built your own PC from parts
144. Sold your own artwork to someone who didn’t know you
145. Had a booth at a street fair
146: Dyed your hair (I did this when I was in my teens. Now that it’s begun to go grey, I have no inclination to dye it again.)
147: Been a DJ
148: Shaved your head
149: Caused a car accident
150: Saved someone’s life

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27 January 2007 at 12:56 pm (Life in general, Up my sleeve)

…my LSP Wendy, who has unmasked herself to me at last, with one final, characteristically stunning package!

Not a great image, as you can see, and it doesn’t show you the glorious colours of the yarn — but there’s no doing anything about the four sorry hours of tepid daylight we get at this time of year here…

In any case, that’s a beautiful crocheted and felted bag in Kureyon 40 (which you can see here in its full completed glory, and by real daylight); a cotton tank pattern; a mini sock blocker, with pattern (I’m intending to use some Koigu left over from my mother’s shawl); Carole Wulster’s customisable sock pattern book (which may finally teach me to kitchener, since I can actually understand her instructions!); two Dr Seuss-esque books (for G.); the winter 2006 Interweave Knits; some teacup notelets; a photoframe and bookmark; a Burt’s Bees hand and foot set; and four skeins/balls of stunning, co-ordinated, jewel-toned yarn — some Manos (my first, and not my last), two skeins of sari silk, and some Kujaku.

Wendy, you’re amazing, and I’m overwhelmed. Another super-generous package chosen with your hallmark intuitive craftiness: dinosaur books may just be a good guess for a three year old boy (he loves them), but how did you know he also has a thing about identifying types of trees? And the Burt’s Bees package is superbly timed: I cast on for Seraphim this week, and my winter-roughened hands are snagging horribly on the alpaca-silk yarn I’m using… Thank you, thank you, thank you.

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On with the show

17 January 2007 at 1:16 pm (Muddling through, Up my sleeve)

Thank you to everyone who read my post about G.’s assessment and did not immediately write in to comment that I sounded either horrendously pushy (counting in six languages indeed!), hopelessly defensive, or just barking mad. With the benefit of a little distance, I can see I might have (ahem) over-reacted somewhat to the parent-teacher interview, going into Full Panic Mode (one of my most familiar modalities) at the mere suggestion that investigation might be warranted. It’s a funny thing, being a mother, and I now understand all sorts of odd parental behaviour that mystified me in the past — such as the tendency to talk at endless, boring length about one’s child. And how We Think You Should Get Him Tested can become There Is Something Terribly Wrong With Him in the time it takes to come out of a teacher’s mouth and reach my ear.

Anyway. As the title says, on with the show.

I recall mentioning in the same post that I had uploaded a bunch of photos for later blogging.

Swatch and yarn for a top-down raglan with cable rib for B., with the camera wobble I specialize in. The yarn is some natural-coloured aran/heavy worsted weight bought for me in New Zealand.

A selection of red, purple, gold and orange yarns for Annie Modesitt’s Cocoon Sweater (a.k.a. Twisted Float Shrug, or Twist, Float and Shrug, as my brain keeps proffering it).

Weft for a couple of blankets, from my stash. The yarn on the left is recycled from one of my mother’s UFOs. None of the ball bands have survived, but it’s brushed, with a high animal fibre content (wool and mohair, at a guess), and there’s about a pound of it. And it’s purple: very, very purple.

The yarn on the right is seventeen balls of Debbie Bliss Soho, shade 08, originally destined for a sweater until I swatched it and discovered that it virtually felts in the hand. Irritating in a sweater, but perfect for a blanket that will be fulled on completion anyway.

I don’t have anything suitable for a warp in my stash, so I’ll probably buy some Briggs and Little Regal (possibly the evocatively named Fundy Fog) that will do as a warp for both — well, it’s necessary to finish a project, right?

And finally, this:

The photo does the subtle, gorgeous colours no justice whatsoever. This is the one unjustified exception to my yarn diet, bought in a moment of weakness from its dyer on ebay in early December. No immediate plans: I post it here in the spirit of full disclosure, or confession.

And I’m almost finished the 23rd square of Lizard Ridge…

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The psychic sidekick strikes again

12 January 2007 at 1:56 pm (Life in general)

Look what arrived yesterday!

It’s another fabulous package from my LSP!  There’s a knitted monkey postcard, a wonderful handknitted scarf, appropriated by my son immediately (“Look at the pretty scarf! It has squares! And rectangles!“), some Chibus (a.k.a. gigantic darning needles, or the perfect thing to seam your oh-so-close-to-finished Lizard Ridge), a red brocade purse, some great Christmas shears, a hot glue gun, a tiny photo album to hold wallet-sized pictures, a photo key ring, and a teacup fridge magnet, which has me wanting a cup every time I pass the fridge, which is often.

And these, too, of course:

Gorgeous jewel-toned Cherry Tree Hill Supersock Potluck, and a book from the wonderful Vogue Knits on the Go series to go with it.

I have mentioned before that my LSP has eerie powers.  She is either psychic or, at the very least, fearsomely intuitive.  Did I mention here that I had lost my glue gun when we moved into our house? Muse aloud about my frustration with conventional darning needles for seaming knitted stuff (they get lost in the wool, and the eyes are too small), or my inability to find anything purse-sized to store photos of my son? No, I didn’t, but my LSP has winkled these things out nonetheless.  And the book she sent me has a version by another designer of the medieval knitting pattern I was raving about on Miriam Felton’s website.  Thank you so much, LSP!

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Happy New Year!

4 January 2007 at 6:19 pm (Life in general, On the needles)

The SP9 moderators have very tactfully reminded me that I have failed to post now for a month, and that I might like to get back on the air.  Has it really been that long? Sorry, LSP!

Early December disappeared in a haze of illness and its consequences, of which the low point was a late night trip to the ER department of the local children’s hospital.  (We’re all doing well now.)

At around the same time, we had a pretty distressing parent-teacher interview at G.’s preschool, at which they suggested we get a developmental assessment done because he was failing playdough.  Obviously, this isn’t a fair representation of the conversation; I’m just sounding off.  I have a good deal of respect both for his teachers, and for the philosophy of the school, which aspires to something considerably higher than a holding pen for the kids of working parents.  I realize they have his best interests at heart, and wanted to make sure he got help, if it was needed, at a point when it could still be useful to him.

I also realize that he doesn’t map neatly onto the developmental milestones of early childhood.  He has been somewhat slow (although always within the range of normal, for whatever that’s worth) in acquiring gross motor skills, and adamantly refuses to use a ride-on toy.  He is unmotivated, to put it mildly, to demonstrate the kind of self-help skills the textbooks think a three year old should have, even though he actually possesses the capacity to do them.  He is not very interested in crafts, and dislikes getting his hands dirty.  He’s also not very interested in his preschool peers, although he’s engaged, sociable and affectionate with a range of older kids and adults from family members to our elderly Italian neighbour.  He can also count to 1000, and to 12 in five other languages, and, at 3 years and some small change, has taught himself to read at a grade 2-3 level. 

I suspect his teachers are afraid that this offbeat mix of qualities might fit somewhere on the autistic spectrum, and if I saw him only at preschool, and if he were less sociable, expressive and spontaneously affectionate — and not so very much the kind of child B. and I once were, albeit brighter — I suppose I might be too.  We were lucky enough, however, to get the chance for a lengthy consultation with a pediatrician over the Christmas break, who gently but firmly rejected the idea that he might have a developmental disorder, so we can take him back to preschool next week feeling reassured on that score.  I think I still need some reassuring from the preschool that his teachers will not see him, and (consciously or unconsciously) treat him, as a problem child, though.

To returning to things fibrous: I was all set at the start of December to blog some WIP shots, including some new Lizard Ridge blocks, and some pictures of projects in contemplation, but they’re still on the computer at home, awaiting some quiet time to upload them to Flickr.  I’m halfway through some toe-up, two-at-a-time socks, which are going well, if laboriously.  And I’ve bought the Kureyon I need to finish Lizard Ridge.

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December’s sock yarn

30 November 2006 at 11:28 am (Up my sleeve)

December’s sock yarn

Originally uploaded by The Ravelled Sleeve.

From left, that’s Meilenweit Megaboot Stretch #711, the Lisa Souza Wild Things yarn gifted by my LSP, Trekking #101, more Megaboot Stretch (#709), Regia Banner colour #5450 (self-striping, for Jaywalkers) and, in front, some Fortissima Socka #2420 (now sadly and inexplicably discontinued).

This photo doesn’t do the Lisa Souza yarn any justice: it was gorgeous in the skein, but in the ball the subtle variations in the dark background colour show up much more clearly, and the turquoise and rust splashes really sizzle. And it’s soft. I can’t wait to start knitting it.

I almost can’t bear to start knitting the Fortissima Socka, though, since it’s unlikely I’ll ever find any more. I bought it a year or so back, and I just take it out from time to time to ogle the rich, subtle, tweedy colours and squeeze it. You know what I mean.

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And still more Lizard Ridge…

30 November 2006 at 11:16 am (On the needles)

And still more Lizard Ridge…

Originally uploaded by The Ravelled Sleeve.

…with camera wobble at no extra charge!

I wanted to show you how the candy colours of the two #95 squares really make the deeper colourways glow, and only natural light would do. Plus, it shows the satisfying 3D bumpiness of the squares in their unblocked state. 19 squares done now! although I’m pondering returning one of my earliest efforts to Mr Noro with a letter of complaint. The offending ball was not so much thick and thin as thin and thin (fingering weight in places), and the finished square weighs about twenty per cent less than the others, so it looks and feels flimsy.

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December is…

30 November 2006 at 12:16 am (Up my sleeve)

… going to be sock month, in the great stash diet. I’m heading out west for nearly four weeks over Christmas and New Year, to give my in-laws time with their grandson (and vice versa), so I need some small, portable, discrete projects I can pick up and put down between meals, visiting, card playing and more meals. I’ve wound the yarn into balls for two-at-a-time-on-one-enormous-circ socks, and I’m looking out a range of patterns to mix things up a little, and take advantage of the range of space dyed, variegated and self-striping yarns I have to work with. (And they’re so purty: photos to follow when I have some natural light to take them in.)

All of which has got me thinking about my technique. When I came back to knitting a couple of years ago, I was just happy to finish projects, but the more I knit, the more impatient I become with my own knitterly imperfections. My selvedges row in and out. My ribs aren’t pretty, with the last stitch of every knit repeat invariably ending up stretched out and uneven. And, despite growing experience, I don’t seem to be able to pick up my speed.

The speed issue anyone watching me knit could immediately troubleshoot. I have an ungainly version of English knitting I think of as unmodified eight-year-old, since I took to it when I first learned to knit and haven’t changed since. I hold the right hand needle about half way down, dropping it to make every stitch, and then picking it up again. Slow? Why, yes. My right hand (which is holding and wrapping the yarn, remember, English fashion) has to travel about half a mile with each stitch. It’s probably a good workout, but otherwise it’s the knitting equivalent of two finger typing. If I’m ever to rival Eunny Jang in the productivity stakes, it’s gotta go.

The rowing out, ugly rib problem I had no solutions for until a few days back, when — in a search for a sock pattern generator that would let me customize patterns for long, skinny, low-arched feet (a.k.a. rat feet or skis, and ubiquitous in my household) — I happened across an article on combination knitting, made famous by the knitting heretic herself, Annie Modesitt. Among its other virtues (speed, evenness, cures baldness), this style of knitting is apparently supposed to be helpful for those of us afflicted with a tension difference between knit and purl, the cause of rowing out and baggy ribs. The article had photos or rib swatches attached, and I have to admit the combination sample was far prettier.

So there we have it: I just have to completely change my knitting technique and all my problems will be solved. I am happy at the prospect of a solution to my technical imperfections, really I am, but the thought of retraining myself makes this not-so-coordinated knitter want to lie down in a dark room with a wet cloth on her head. Eventually — probably quite soon — the desire to make rib, knit-purl or cable patterns I won’t immediately frog in disgust will win out over my inherent conservatism. Watch this space.

Elsewhere: LSP, I have converted the gorgeous Kureyon you sent me into three more Lizard Ridge squares. The two #95 lemon, lime and raspberry squares give the colour scheme a much-needed kick in the pants, making all the deeper colours of the other squares glow. I tend to be a bit timid with colour, going for the safe (let’s not say boring) choice nine times out of ten, and I need my hand forced now and then to make me experiment. Thank you! I’ll post a photo when I can take one during daylight.

And, in the odd quiet moment, I’m spinning up some glorious Fleece Artist Blue Faced Leicester roving. The colourway (sea greens and blues, and the softest of beiges) is beautiful, of course, but it’s the fibre I’m in love with: as soft as merino, but with enough crimp to make it simple for a novice like me to control. It really does deserve all the hype.

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