Several friends recently talked about wanting slouchy hats, and I decided to make one for each of them. Both hats are designed so that you can wear them without rolling the brim for a slouchy look, or roll the brim and wear like a regular watchcap style hat.
I made this, the Ultimate Pacific Tonal Hat, for Lauren. She wanted something that would go with both black and brown, and I thought that this colorway would suit her. The blues are so pretty!
This yarn is Knit Picks Swish in Pacific Tonal. It’s a 100% merino worsted yarn and I really like the feel of it knit up.
I used the same yarn but in a different colorway to make this, the Thunderhead Hat for my pal Amanda.
I really like the many greys in this colorway. One wouldn’t necessarily think that there are all that many variations of grey, but there are so many here!
I’m happy to report that both hats have been received by their people, who like them. It may not be hat weather in most places right now, but at least they’ll have a jump start on next year’s cold season, right?
A few weeks ago, we went to the 34th annual Mid-Michigan Model Train show, held at Finch Fieldhouse on CMU’s campus.
Apparently this event is well-advertised within train aficionado circles, because it was packed despite the fact that we had seen next to no advertising for it at all (a local hobby shop had a note about it on their marquis, but that was it). Several people brought large train setups so we could see them in action. One setup, which was really quite large, had a lot of little local touches, like the ‘Snoring Beagle Casino’ seen above.
This LEGO train was really speedy! There was a constant crowd of kids huddled around it, so it was hard to get a good look.
This steam train was a larger scale. It was carrying lumber, as it apparently would have historically in this area.
My favorite thing about model trains is the detail that people put into their setups. I love the little people posed doing different activities and the care with which the owners have thought out their towns and landscapes. Mind you, I would not want to be responsible for dusting one of these setups, so seeing them at a show like this is perfect.
This weekend we were lucky enough to attend a free (!) arts conference held at the Broadway Theater here in Mount Pleasant.
It was incredible! Organized by a professor in the CMU English Department, Ari Berk, Imagining the Fantastic is a gathering of artists who tell stories in various genres: writers of fiction and non-fiction, a visual artist, a composer/musician/filmmaker, an actor, and a swordsmith (!). They all had something to say about the fantastic and each provided a unique perspective on how fantasy plays into their work and/or influences them. This was the second ITF conference, but the first that I have had the opportunity to attend.
The speakers were: MT Anderson, Elizabeth-Jane Baldry, Berk, Charlie Bethel, Holly Black, Jake Powning, and Charles Vess.
Set up as a series of panel discussions and presentations, this conference was a really neat way to talk about a big topic, elicit insights from a variety of artists, and showcase the various works of those artists.
All of the participants shared ideas and opinions that were fascinating and thought-provoking. Several of them touched on an idea that Powning presented early on: the terror of nearing the completion of a project, the point where you know (as the artist) that you have eliminated more possibilities than remain. The thing you are making becomes a Real Thing, not the possibility of a thing, and can now be judged. The flaws you see in your work become magnified by their permanence. This resonated so much with me! I am way overdue for a post about the progress on my art quilt, and I think I’ve been putting it off not only because I haven’t had much time to work on it recently, but also because it is getting close to done, and I have that feeling that Powning described. I need to work through that stage and get to the point that almost all of the participants also talked about: how they often get to the point of finishing a project and, despite knowing that it is not their best work/perfect/exactly what they had envisioned, they know that it is time to let the thing go out into the world and stop working on it. Otherwise you will never finish it! Black noted that, when you’re at the crossroads of making a big choice in a creative work, you virtually always long to not make the choice, because it’s so much more comfortable to be in the place where you have all the options. How true that is!
All of this sounds very academic when I write about it, but the conversations were often hilarious as well as insightful. During the discussion on the Music of the Fantastic, Anderson and Baldry chatted about music history and how social, cultural, and religious mores and expectations were often represented and/or undermined by the music/ians of the day. They spoke about how at times in history, various musical techniques were banned by religious leaders, including the so-called Devil’s Interval: “The diminished fifth – don’t try it at home!”
I feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to go to this conference. It was well worth taking a vacation day on Friday! I hope that Dr. Berk and/or others are able to put together events like this again in the future. It was a real treat.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from watching creative reality TV competitions, it’s that if you focus on being right, you’ll nearly always shoot yourself in the foot. If you want to be successful, you need to instead focus on the creative outcome and put your pride aside. Of course, this is all the more noticeable because these shows are designed and edited to make the most hay of all disagreements and struggles. But it’s still true that generally you’ll end up looking like the ass you are if you insist on making sure everyone knows you’re right. This has also consistently been proven true in my life, especially in workplaces. We’ve all worked with (or worse, for) That Person, the bully who always has to be right and will sacrifice anyone they perceive to be blame-able for whatever went wrong. That Person always knew it wasn’t going to work from the start, and they will often sabotage the team process from the get-go, to create patsies they can later blame.
This is one of the reasons I’ve lost some interest in a lot of creative competition shows. Project Runway has devolved into what feels like a competition to set up the worst possible teams to guarantee fights between the jerks who have to be right and those suckers who don’t recognize what’s in store for them. Same goes for Under the Gunn, in which two of the mentors even seem compelled to bully the less jerky competitors. Face-Off falls into the same trap, as does Jim Henson’s Creature Shop Challenge. I still watch, but more often than not while playing Animal Crossing or tumblring.
If you’re looking for a creative competition show that avoids this type of bullshit, The Great British Sewing Bee is perfect. It’s cozy as all get-out and has yet to devolve into the bullying and bratty behavior that is so typical of USian creative shows. The competitors are driven to do their best and they have a clear desire to win (or at least do well enough to stay in the competition), but there is absolutely no element of sabotage or even, really, ill wishes toward their fellows. As a viewer, I’m rooting for all of them to do well, even if I have favorites, and I love that even though it’s a competition, it doesn’t feel like a zero-sum game. I’ve seen that there will be a US version of this show, and I really, really hope that they don’t ruin it.
I have been wearing the same pair of clearance leather Isotoners for the last half dozen winters and they are finally giving out. I routinely put my fingers through the lining when putting them on and several of the fingertips have almost worn through. I decided that it’s time to make myself some mittens! My fingers are always cold during the winter, so I thought that mittens with a lining would be the best way to go. As it turns out, there aren’t a ton of patterns that I could find for lined mittens where both the outside and lining are knit (there are a few where knit mittens are lined with fleece fabric, but if I’m going to knit mittens, I’m going to KNIT MITTENS damnit). The one I found and chose to make is the Lined Mitten by String Theory 2.0.
I love the yarn I chose for the lining. It’s bright and happy and soft and a fun colorway. However, I know that I’d probably get it dirty in short order if I used it on the outside of the mitten, so I selected a warm grey for that.
I think that the contrast works well! I like the way there’s a row of lining yarn at the wrist, so just a hint of that yarn is visible. This pattern is designed so that you knit the lining using a provisional cast on, and then pick up those stitches to knit the outside of the mitten in the other direction, so it’s all one piece. You finish the top of the outside of the mitten using Kitchner stitch so it’s not too bad to weave in that last end without being able to access the wrong side. I used the last bit of yarn at the top of the mitten to catch the lining so that it wouldn’t come back out when removing the mitten. As it turns out, though, the mitten isn’t really tight enough that I’d have that problem.
Here’s the first mitten done. It turned out according to plan, but I’m not 100% convinced that I love it. The shape of the mitten is pretty boxy (not that the pattern advertised otherwise, I just didn’t really notice it until after the fact) and I am totally not sold on the idea of a mitten without a ribbed cuff. I thought it would be alright, but my wrists are just too small for a non-hugging cuff. The wind will surely get in and defeat the coziness of the mitten. As much as I love the softness of the mitten yarn, I’m also slightly annoyed that the increases (halfway between the thumb and the cuff) are so visible in this yarn (I realize that most people are not going to be that picky, but I demand perfection!).
So now I need to decide: do I make the right hand mitten to match, even though I’m not convinced? What would you do?
…I’d quit working and go to school full time and learn all the things I’d like to know more about. Realistically, for this to be feasible in the world today, I’d need multiple millions of dollars. C’mon, winning lottery ticket!
photo “The Library” by Zhu, CC licensed
When I think about going back to school, I vividly remember how it was to be working full time and taking a full load of courses my last semester of grad school. I felt like I had made my bed and, if I survived, I would not choose to lie in it ever again. So I know that going back to school (even part time) is, at this point, not going to happen. I value my free time too highly right now and am not willing to spend it doing homework rather than knitting, trivia, and spending time with K. (This is not to mention the fact that financially it would require that first million dollars or something close to it.)
But in my daydream world, if I didn’t have to work and could just pursue the things that are interesting to me, I would absolutely go back to school. There’s so much I’m interested in and would like to learn about! A short list:
- art history
- fiber arts
- cinema studies
- creative writing
- women’s/gender studies
- computer science
- technical writing
Of course, none of these are with any sort of viable career in mind – just things I’m interested in and would like to learn more about. We’re talking dreamworld here! No practicality required!
And of course I realize that I can learn a lot about these things without getting a formal education. With the cost of higher education as exorbitant as it is right now, some would say I’d be better off to learn independently or in other venues. But I guess I still buy into the whole romance of higher education despite my cynicism about the business side of it (‘students as customers’ was a big thing when I first started undergrad, and despite its failures it is still around). I think that it allows for and provides opportunities that can’t be had in other settings, and I do place a lot of value on having earned a degree from an accredited institution of higher learning.
So! Barring the ability to ffwd to ST:TNG times when money seemingly isn’t an issue for anyone and knowledge is valued more highly, let’s get on that lottery thing.
So today I tried to buy some allergy medicine. This is medicine that I have taken every day for the last twenty-plus years. It used to be that I could get a prescription for it, which my insurance would cover, and it was NBD. Then it became a so-called Over The Counter drug, except I still had to buy it at the pharmacy counter because it’s made with The Good Shit. And then some well-meaning idiots decided that they would only sell a couple of days’ worth at a time because otherwise meth mongers would buy it all up and we can’t have that. Oh, and the insurance companies decided that since it was OTC, they wouldn’t pay for it anymore, even if I did have a prescription. And then the pharmacy decided, even if I have a prescription, if I have insurance that doesn’t cover the drug, then I have to buy the drug without the rx, in tiny amounts that mean I have to return to the store every few days. Because people with allergies are obviously weak and need to suffer even more than they already do. Apparently.
So because I take this drug every day, I have to wait until the day I take the last dose I have and then go to the pharmacy and hope that they will sell me some more for tomorrow. Usually they do, though a lot of the time they will only give me five at a time (instead of the oh-so-generous 15 that is the most they will hand over), requiring even more trips back to the damn pharmacy. And sometimes, like today, they will not give me any. AT ALL. Even though I have used all the doses I already bought (just one per day! I’m pretty effing careful about this!) and this means I do not have any for tomorrow. Because this means that I have to go to the pharmacy again first thing tomorrow morning (if I don’t take the drug at the same time every day, I will feel the pain) and see if they will be able to sell me any then. And if they don’t, I have to suffer. Because if I don’t take this drug as prescribed, I turn into a snot monster with raging headaches that make me a crabby danger to myself and anyone around me. I might as well just scrap doing anything at all ever if I’m not taking it daily. Who wants to do something to make up for the time I’ll have to waste lying in bed feeling like ass?
I am generally in favor of common sense solutions to any given situation. In my professional life, I’ve often written simple policies based on an expectation of common sense for everyone, even when I had to fight colleagues who wanted to write specific, nit-picky rules with particular line items and consequences for every possible problem that could ever possibly happen. (For instance, I’ve worked in libraries with staff who were obsessed with banning cell phone use in the library. My thought: make a rule that people can’t be disruptive to others’ use of the library. This will include any loud cell phone talking, along with any of the other MILLION things that people could do that you don’t want. And most importantly, in addition to working in all situations, it won’t punish the people who are using their phones to, oh, say, search the fucking library website so they can find things.) This stupid pharmacy situation is a prime example of why making blanket rules like this don’t work and end up punishing the people who aren’t the problem. My snot and sinus pressure are not the problem, people.
I’ve been giving some thought lately to the words I use. Some of them, like awesome and dude, almost certainly annoy a lot of people I speak with, but I really don’t care because they are meaningful to me and I enjoy using them. Others, though, seem to be in my vocabulary even though I haven’t given them much thought. How often do I say that something is crazy? Or insane? Probably several times a day if not more often. And what do those words mean? The way I’m using them, they mean wild or unexpected or rare, but that’s not the entire story they tell and I’ve started to realize that by using them I’m saying things I don’t want to be.
Having been in an education-related field for many years, I’m pretty careful about a lot of the words I use. I don’t believe in being PC for PC’s sake, but I am pretty cognizant of the way that words can hurt even unintentionally. I don’t ever say that anything or anyone is retarded, for instance, and I am usually pretty sensitive about words and phrases that might be taken the wrong way (I would refer to my Patronus, but not my spirit animal, because the latter is someone’s faith/spirituality/culture – not mine – and I don’t want to trivialize that). When I’m addressing a group, I remember my teacher training and try to use neutral words like people or folks, rather than guys or even ladies and gentlemen (binary worldview = lame). But I haven’t been at all respectful or even cognizant of the way I’m using words that refer to mental health until very recently. I’m not sure what sparked this thought, but I’m glad I had it. More and more people I know are speaking and posting publicly about their mental health, and I want to celebrate that because it’s been really inspiring. I definitely don’t want to be using words that make fun or disrespect. The last thing anyone needs when they’re already struggling is to be made to feel less than.
I’ve also been realizing just how often I use vague words that are barely meaningful when I could choose to be specific instead and actually communicate with precision. Why wouldn’t I strive for greater clarity? It’s embarrassing to realize that I’ve been so ignorant of my own actions, but I’m taking this as an opportunity to learn rather than feel bad about my failings. Here’s to self-improvement!
This is a child’s quilt that I started ages ago and finally finished recently.
It’s a simple subway tile style pattern that I sort of made up as I went – I’ve done four quilts in this style and I really like the way they turned out.
I used this quilt as an opportunity to use my new stitch-in-the-ditch sewing machine foot and it worked very well.
I considered doing some additional quilting on top of that, but couldn’t decide what I wanted and ended up being happy enough with it as it was, so I left it. I had previously sent a quilt to Carrie Anne for her soon-to-be-born son (like an idiot, I forgot to take any photos of it, d’oh!), and thought that her daughter would probably appreciate a gift at a time when the new baby was getting a lot of presents.
For the back, I used panels of the same fabrics from the front of the quilt, and for the border I picked a hot pink polka dot fabric that I thought set a nice, bold edge.
Aren’t these fabrics so springy and happy?
I’ve already sent this to its recipient and have been assured by her mom that she likes it (whew!). I know she loves the color pink, but I wanted to have a bit more than just one color going on in this quilt. I’m relieved that she’s pleased!
This weekend we went to see the new exhibit at Art Reach, entitled Blood is Thicker Than Ink: Envelopes & Post-its & Bandages = The Strange Canvases of Philip Carey.
63. Dream: “I’m Being Attacked by the 1812 Overture”
Carey does mostly drawings in various formats. The piece above was the largest, most textured work on display. It illustrates a dream the artist had in which he was being attacked by the 1812 Overture (I love this concept!), and he used cut-outs placed at various depths to really bring the idea alive. The way the art extends beyond the canvas helps emphasize the overwhelmingness of the music.
I am enamored with the concept of a Halloween emergency.
52. Dream: December 23, 2013
Seeing so many dreams illustrated (you really have to see the whole exhibit to truly get the feel) reinforces the strangeness of dreams. The old conceit of everyone finding anyone else’s dreams boring is turned around here, because the illustrations are so engaging. You look at one and you want to see all the rest to find out what other weird things he experienced.
45. Dream: August 24, 2012
For a number of reasons, this absolutely feels like something I would dream myself (librarians, I know you feel me). That’s the other thing about these dream illustrations: not only are you curious to find out what else happened, you find snippets of things and concepts that seem so familiar, they could have come from your own subconscious.
Wiggling Along Through Wiggleville
Carey also has a huge number of illustrated envelopes in this exhibit. He and a friend carried on a lengthy correspondence and he made each piece he sent into mail art.
Bring a Few Jackets and some Long Underware
Each envelope is quite detailed and he works the addresses into the pictures in fun ways. This really made me reminiscent for the days when I had penpals! (How I wish I’d kept in touch with them all.) I remember one friend from camp with whom I exchanged letters for probably a year or so, and each time one of us wrote, we included the same sticker, about which we made tons of very mature jokes (it was a rocket ship with a little puff of air underneath – this being middle school or so, we knew full well it was a fart and addressed it as such). Good times!
Carey also included some artwork that is made from and with the bandages he used during his dialysis treatments. The wounds on the bandages form eyes and the artwork is really well done. I didn’t take any photos of those pieces, though, as they seemed too personal and intimate.
This is an exhibit at which a person could spend hours and/or visit multiple times, finding new things each time. I recommend it!