Friday, August 31, 2007

Safer Campuses?

School is starting…here’s a way to use my blog for a good cause. I wrote this in April and still think it’s important information, although I didn’t find a timely place to get it published. If you think this is useful, please forward the link on to your students, teachers, or colleagues. Thank you!
© 2007 Joanne Seiff. Please do not publish this or post this on the web without permission

Ten Steps Towards Safer Campuses

Are you scared about your safety at school? What can you do, as an individual, to help make your campus a safer place?

No one can guarantee safety. It’s dangerous to cross the street. However, our country’s campuses are seen as open, safe places to take risks, lively centers of debate and free thought, action and ideals. We shouldn’t have to give up on those values because of incidents like the one at Virginia Tech, no matter how scary they might be. Here are a few steps, linked with easy to remember platitudes, which we can use to make campuses safer:

Follow Up: Seung-Hui Cho, the Virginia Tech shooter, frightened some university faculty enough so that they had him removed from class or referred him to campus security. His parents thought he might commit suicide. He threatened female students on campus. Each of these incidents, on its own, should be enough to warrant follow-up. When something strange happens at your school, don’t be afraid to ask those in charge to follow up. Removing a student from class or contacting security officials is a rare event for instructors in a university setting. After this occurs, one conciliatory meeting with a dean of students or a department head is not enough. A university advisor, a campus counselor, or member of on-campus clergy should be touching base regularly with a student at risk. It’s not just one person’s academic career that’s at stake -- It’s a person’s mental and physical health, and the safety of others.

We’re a Community: If you live on campus, you know that being a student isn’t just about attending class. Participating in an academic community, whether you’re a student, teacher, administrator, or school employee, means reaching out to others. A student is not just a body in Introductory Biology, but a person who might need a home cooked meal, a friendly conversation, or a “Good Morning” when you see them on the street. Some of the best learning experiences happen outside of the classroom. Promoting a web of relationships between students and faculty promotes communication and mentorship. It enables scared students to reach out, and it allows faculty to probe deeper when something is wrong. Communities can work together to help students or faculty at risk.

Each One, Teach One: Take responsibility for your own safety, and that of others. An academic community in which students take responsibility, not just for their own learning, but for their own health, safety, and well-being, will help prepare you best for life outside the ivory tower. Resident Advisors are sometimes considered responsible for those in their dorms, but in the ideal world, all students would be obligated to look out for one another. This is an important way to promote campus safety, unity, and a sense of familiarity and belonging, especially in times of crisis.

It Takes a Village: Learning communities are not just about students and faculty. Administration is important too, but no university could run without its cafeteria workers, janitors and grounds crew. On campus banks, restaurants, shops and other resources all are staffed by employees. Ask that your university brief every single person on campus and remind them of how to build and maintain safe community environments. It’s not only about paying employees a living wage—it’s also about including them in the institution’s academic mission, and helping them to create more than clean classrooms. A janitor at Virginia Tech faced the gunman and offered National Public Radio reporters an eye-witness account of the shooter early on. Every person counts.

Set Limits: College is sometimes seen as a chance to explore every angle of new-found freedom…sex, drinking and drugs are often the buzz words we hear about. What about violence? Students deserve safe environments. Universities must set clear boundaries that insist that students are there to learn in peace. This should be part of the contract when a student arrives on campus, and repeated frequently. University buildings at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill all remind students that carrying weapons on campus is not allowed. Perhaps that seems obvious to some, but the reminder might have been another helpful barrier in avoiding a campus shooting.

Enforce Standards: Ever seen a big cover-up when an athlete on campus breaks the rules? Universities often sweep student infractions under a large campus rug. When anyone breaks the rules—threatens others, creates a disturbance in a classroom, or causes violence, their actions deserve publicity. Universities need to be honest, open, and specific about what’s wrong, and why it isn’t allowed. You, as a student, need to remember what the penalties are, and know they’ll be applied uniformly. When students hear about on and off-campus penalties for wrong-doing, you’ll be reminded of what those campus limits are, and why they are there.

Encourage Cooperation: Competition is rough on some campuses, with myriad examples of students stealing other students’ work or committing other crimes against learning. Yes, the world is a competitive place, but universities do students no favor by encouraging them to compete in an unhealthy way. It’s the obligation of teachers to encourage cooperation (but not cheating!) whenever possible. Many students will collaborate and work in large teams in the work world. Look for classes in which the professors encourage productive collaboration in the classroom. This cooperation will not only create unlikely alliances and friendships with people you’d never normally meet, but also teach you valuable skills. Meanwhile, meeting students from all walks of life will you develop respect and compassion for people who aren’t like you.

Self-Defense: Many universities encourage students to take Physical Education. Why not sign up self-defense as part of your education? One hopes that you’ll never need those skills, but if you should ever need strength in adversity, perhaps a self-defense class might be a good first step.

Law Enforcement: When was the last time on-campus police got any respect? Develop relationships between campus security and everyone else on campus. Invite security to talk at your dorm meetings, in classrooms, and at campus events. Make sure your police force is social and open to friendly encounters with the rest of the campus community. Encourage your school’s administration to strengthen campus police force training and connections with local, state, and federal law enforcement.

Make Peace: We can all be positive agents of change. Do you see arguments on campus? Reach out. Offer to buy somebody a cup of coffee and talk it out. Step in to help with conflict. Be a busy body, in the best sense of the word. If somebody had reached Seung-Hui Cho in time, how many of those 33 deaths at Virginia Tech could have been prevented? How many of those people would still be alive today?

Joanne Seiff is a writer and knitwear designer. She’s married to a professor and worked in the past for Duke University, Erie County Community College and Western Kentucky University. She’s got degrees from Cornell University, George Washington University, and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. Read more of her work at or email her:

© 2007 Joanne Seiff. Please do not publish this or post this on the web without permission.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

In context?

Check out this comic!:
So, You think you can Knit?
It's the August 29th "Close to Home" comic, in case the link doesn't last...

In other news, I've been spending a lot of time reformatting patterns. Remember this?
The Scarf Cowl and Bug Finger Puppets have now reverted to my ownership again, and will soon be up on my website here.
By soon, I mean, in a week or two. I'm working on it!
I don't love the technical aspects of designing. Reformatting patterns, for instance.
Yesterday, though, Whew! I was on a roll. I took a break from the fiber festival BOOK work to do these patterns. Then, when I was going cross-eyed at around 3 in the afternoon, I went to check my email. Yes, my internet went down. There would be no emailing the web designer for a bit.
No problem, I thought, I'll go outside with the dogs. Harry and Sally shoot out the back door into the 97 degree heat. High pitched yelps and barks ensue. Next thing I know, three seconds later, Harry is carrying a young bunny out of the weeds on the side of the yard. He lays it down on the ground. He sits next to it. He looks sorry. I scream.
Harry- 1. Bunny- the big 0 in the sky.
The professor couldn't bail me out. He was teaching his first Genetics class of the term. The lucky guy is teaching an extra course at 8 AM for a few weeks, and then in the late afternoon for his usual genetics course. Needless to say, waking up before 6 AM to make all this happen, and working late into the evening, too. This death? All my problem!
The dogs watch while I shovel up poor DEAD bunny. I bring him to the place beyond the fence where the dogs can't go. It takes a long time to find a place in the ground that is soft enough to dig. (the soil is crumbly, dusty, and hard from lack of rain.) I bury Mr. Bunny.
When I go inside, the internet is up and running. I swoop through the rest of the work day, make homemade pizza, fresh salsa and chips for dinner-with guest- and bake bread for us, too. What's a little web blip? A day of technical editing? When I compare it to the life of this poor rabbit? Everything is back to normal--I can see things in context again. No griping... I have a great work life, if undercompensated. A (generally) great web connection. Even some very nice bird dogs, who are doing exactly what their genetics tell them to do. They retrieve well. They drop the dead animal quickly and offer it to me. They have "soft" mouths. Too bad for Harry and Sally that I don't hunt, and probably never will. Lately, these guys have been underworked and retrieving watermelon rinds that one of our neighbors likes to toss in our yard. If only I could teach the dogs to toss the rinds back? Is that part of hunting dog genetics? I should ask the professor...
At the farmer's market on Saturday, I bought these locally made pottery pieces. They were a bargain. I believe in art, and supporting local artists when I can afford to. We don't have much room for these textured, crackled beauties, but now that I've lived with them a few days, I'm not sure I could imagine giving them away as gifts, either!
I'm so lucky to be surrounded by this beauty...pottery. bunnies. dogs. knitted art. Even when beauty is cruel? I have to remember. I am lucky.

Monday, August 27, 2007

First Day Scouting

Yup, it's the professor's first day back at school. The weather was appropriately cool (72) at 7 AM when the dogs and I walked him to the university. (well, you know, he might get lost!) His first class starts at 8 AM. We tried to be positive and supportive family members...but for the first time ever, I didn't feel left out by the start of school. I used to be a teacher, and obviously, I was a student for a long time...two grad. degrees worth. This summer, at least, I was very busy with a different kind of career, and it still seems too summery, too early, for school to begin anyway.

Instead, I will celebrate with Cast-on's Knitting Scout Badges. I'm not quite as rhapsodic about scouting as Brenda Dayne is--I made it through Brownies, but gave up shortly after I became a Girl Scout. The problem? There were no boys. Yes, Joanne the kid liked hanging out with guys. I didn't get along that well with girls; the cattiness, the pink barbie nature of it all, the secrets? I just didn't fit in. Oddly, I now spend a lot of time in a largely female work world. I do encounter male writers and editors, but they are few and far between--mostly the knitwear design folks, book editors, magazine editors, etc. are all women. As an adult, I find the sisterhood of it all very enjoyable--and very occasionally, yes, just as confusing as I found the secret pink Barbie club folk.

Friday, August 24, 2007

sampling and containment

We can't go out too much these days; it's still over 100 every day. The soil is dry and crumbly and even dogs don't manage the heat too well. So, instead, we content ourselves with other excitements. Harry, for instance, delights in moving around this blue fish so that Sally can bring it back to its home on the office couch.

I've put Vicki's bag to immediate good use. I feel boxed in and overwhelmed by fiber. It was TOO MUCH! Everywhere. When it's this hot, feeling claustrophic in one's own office? Not so good. Here I've contained the Finn lamb fleece I bought in May in Maryland. I'll now offer a brief sampling exercise for spinners out there. Non-spinners? I also canned 8 jars of blueberry raspberry jam, 4 cups blueberry syrup for pancakes, 3 cups peach chutney and 7 cups of peach jam. Froze fruit too. Come on over for a sample! Now, look away during the spinning bits...unless of course we can tempt you with spinning?

1) Here you see the washed finn sheep locks at the top of the photo, and three preps. On the left, I teased out the locks by hand. Some people call this "Picking" but I think that's done by a picker which uses two sets of spikes or nails to pull apart wool. It's dangerous like a medieval torture device. I am a klutz and stick with my fingers. It's safer. Teasing is an old fashioned spinning term but it works for me.

The middle bit of fluff is flicked with a flick carder. The last long cigar looking thing is a rolag that I did with my hand cards. I didn't haul out the drum carder for this sampling. Combing probably isn't appropriate here because it's a short lamb's fleece with uneven staple lengths.

Next, I spun things up into 2 ply yarn with convenient spindles. (a Hatchtown is pictured here.) On the left, the teased yarn. It's relatively even, has a neat little halo or fuzz from occasional crimpy locks. It's textured. In the middle is the flick carded yarn. It's a little lumpy from uneven flicking or spinning. Flicking works better for me with longer staples, I think. On the right, is an even, somewhat tightly spun 2 ply from part of the rolag.

I then dove right in and knitted up the carded sample into a knitted one. (I manipulated the photo to see the stitches, but the color is gross. Sorry.) I used 2.5mm dpns that were sitting on my desk. They're perhaps too small for this yarn, but not by much. It came out to 5 sts per inch, but I'd probably manipulate things more by setting the twist in the finished yarn. (which will puff up the yarn and make it bigger and more lofty) I'm also not likely to spin things quite so fine for the finished product...whatever it will be.

Conclusions? I'm probably going to process this little fleece by hand. I like the teased yarn's texture best. Not a fan of flick carding for this crimpy short staple. If I run out of time or in the end wanted a very consistent yarn, I'd go for handcarding above drum carding; it requires less teasing prep and Finn can be delicate. I wouldn't want to damage the fiber.

Now I'm on to experimenting with some Icelandic roving. I bought the fleeces, got it processed professionally, and I'm now thinking about spinning my own Lopi-style my eye on a couple of designs in Norah Gaughan's Knitting Nature. Some day I might have time to knit them out of my handspun...
So, Kind readers, was this tutorial useful or interesting? I field a lot of questions about spinning, and maybe I'll address some of them here if you're interested. Let me know in the comments, please! Also, if this is interesting--take time to sample, experiment and play on your own. It's been a great way for me to learn!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007


It's hard to sum up the riches of the Michigan Fiber Festival. Some of its best highlights were the intangibles... Meeting up with lots of friends, old and new...Pictured here are:Vicki M of cascading leaves shawl fame, Another Vicki who is knitdesign famous: Heartland Knits and her lovely mother, lovely Elizabeth and her mother-in-law, Liz, the Chocolate Princess and well, lots of other amazing folks. Sorry I don't know everyone's name! What struck me most? The warmth and support of this community of spinners and knitters was evident. It was like a communal hug. Thanks for letting me join you for a few moments!

Music floated through the air at the festival, courtesy of harmony and grits, a wonderful roots music duo. Again, something else it's hard to snap a photo of, but it certainly made the fiber festival experience especially rich.

There aren't lots of fiber festival shots here--the professor/aka book photographer caught most of those, and I haven't had my old fashioned film developed yet. Briefly, this was a big festival, with 100 vendors, and lots to see! Instead of festival talk, I'll mention more "intangibles." Kentucky has no fruit harvest to speak of this year; an early thaw, late frost, and then months of drought took care of all of that. I didn't realize how starved I was for local beautiful fruit until I got to northern Indiana and Michigan. What bounty! Obviously, you can't bring home someone else's verdant greenery, 50-70 degree weather, and heavy rainstorms. (our first real heavy rain experience in months.) It's alarming how wearing it is to go without these things in our age of internationally flown in produce..but I try to support locally grown, sustainable produce, so I don't buy much that is trucked or flown in. Well, since I was physically in Michigan, we brought this home.

On Sunday afternoon, the professor and I went to a U-pick orchard. Our first official date was apple picking, back in 1994. We try to do some apple picking together every year. We got peaches and apples off the trees ourselves...

Then, we snapped up some raspberries and 5 lbs of blueberries! Now I have a lot of canning and freezing ahead of me, but I'm fortified by the peach crumble I ate for breakfast. Mmmm. Good.

The bounty continued when many of the above fibery folk gathered at Elizabeth's house for an amazing evening of Persian food and family hospitality. We had such fun together, and enjoyed the gift of meeting Elizabeth's rich extended family. Vicki M. gifted me with a shawl pattern (thank you!) and this bag. I am literally a bag collector; I will never have enough bags! This one is really special. Look, first it's a normal sized shopping tote:

Then, when you buy a fleece, 5 sweaters' worth of yarn, and other goodies? It expands. Wow.

We're now back to the high 90's and dry brown fields in Kentucky, but my heart has expanded to include all this richness. I hope I can keep the cool green lush joy of this weekend in mind for a long while!

EDIT: I've fixed the Heartland Knits weblink, and I realize now that I forgot to mention Jessica, to whom I talked for a long time on Sunday night! I'm sorry, Jessica! Do leave me a comment and tell me your blog address, would you?! I'm having a hard time keeping up with all this...

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Bad hot...wonder

It's bad hot all break in sight from our heat wave:
Tennessee and Kentucky
No use even dreaming of Crete..

but the forecast near Lake Michigan is 30 degrees Fahrenheit cooler than here. 70, not 105. We're leaving tomorrow. I feel bad leaving the dogs and the dog sitter at home!

I read and work on design swatches during the long hours inside. My desk is littered with them; when I can't breathe, can't sleep I dream up new patterns and brainstorm article ideas and work on stuff for the book. In the morning, if I've slept well, poof! most of them are gone and I begin again. It's stimulating and exciting, but sad too--so many good ideas never sell and end up dispersed like dead animals cast away by the side of the highway. I've been thinking about the drought a lot. Everything is dying...leaves falling off trees early, and the dead grass crunches underfoot.

Luckily the life of the mind is alive and well. A friend in Tennessee called. I asked her about rain and she said, "Rain? It's a fairy story someone made up once. Don't be ridiculous." She's reading books about the arctic and snow to keep her spirits up. Then her dog barked. She had to go.--The water truck drove up. On a farm with as many animals (and thirst) as she has, everything stops for the water truck.

Another conversation sticks in my mind, too. We saw a student we know at the farmer's market. She used to wait tables at a great sushi place in town; she's just graduated and is now on to graduate research. Like many university folk, she sees my smile as an invitation to natter on about science until she's got a question. I refer her to the professor. He's the scientist, I say. I am a writer. Her look is at once blank, surprised and disgusted, as if I purposely wasted her time. She's usually a sweet smiling person. I don't take it the wrong way. It happens often. The professor points out too that scientists are not known for their social skills!

I'm taking my inspiration from the book I'm reading, The Time Traveler's Wife. I remember the surprised expressions of the scientists who see my cluttered office. Here's a part of the book, a quote that took me into thinking about identity through a beautiful piece of writing. I think everyone assumes others and their experiences are "just like them" until they are forced by circumstances to reshape their understanding of the people around them. I don't flatter myself, I'm not this level of "artiste" referred to in the book, but I wonder if this is what the scientists sometimes see in me. Change Clare's sculptures and wire to yarn, wool and needles? This passage shows both that recognition of difference, the wonder and surprise.

"The hardest lesson is Clare's solitude. Sometimes I come home and Clare seems kind of irritated; I've interrupted some train of thought, broken into the dreamy silence of her day. Sometimes I see an expression on Clare's face that is like a closed door. She has gone inside the room of her mind and is sitting there knitting or something. I've discovered that Clare likes to be alone. But when I return from time traveling she is always relieved to see me.

When the woman you live with is an artist, every day is a surprise. Clare has turned the second bedroom into a wonder cabinet, full of small sculptures and drawings pinned up on every inch of wall space. There are coils of wire and rolls of paper tucked into shelves and drawers. The sculptures remind me of kites, or model airplanes. I say this to Clare one evening..The next day I come home to find that Clare has created a flock of paper and wire birds, which are hanging from the ceiling of the living room." (The Time Traveler's Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger p.275-276.)

Monday, August 13, 2007

what's new?

Even I've gotten bored with being under the weather, so it's no wonder comments have slacked off! So,ignoring the fever (yup, wee bit of fever now, and I'm leaving town in a few days for another festival, uh-oh), I'm writing about other stuff.

First, I should answer some questions. Peggy asked if I was spinning yarn from wool that she'd bought from me. The answer is, No. I have an excessive amount of medium-fine chocolate brown wool in my stash. Love the color, but alas, it is not all from the same sheep, so even if I spun up some other roving, it would not match the yarn I've already spun!

Mrs. J commented on what clothes I wear in our "extreme" temperatures. Well, good question. (btw, these aren't actually extreme for the United States, although it has been hot and dry a long while here and that's unusual.) I don't wear shorts all that often, but I probably wouldn't even consider it until the temperature hits 80F. (26 C) When it's hot, I wear a lot of loose sundresses, loose capri pants, tank tops, and skirts... but not all at once! I wear sandals almost exclusively during hot weather and go barefoot a lot at home. There is never an opportunity for sweaters of any sort in the summer here, although I may wear one in the evenings when we are up north in Michigan this next weekend.

On the other hand, when it's cold here, we don't overheat our house. With the thermostat set no higher than 20C (68F) and 15C(60F) at night, I have plenty of time to wear my wool socks, sweaters, and other woolies when I'm working and walking dogs. I find the winter weather here disappointing--I'm a fan of snow and cold. While it does get down to O F or -17C once or twice a winter, it's rarely that cold, and we have one or two ice storms a winter. We had more snow every winter in Virginia, North Carolina, and in upstate New York (of course), the other places in the US where I have lived. I like experiencing four seasons, within reason, and I miss real snow. For those in colder climes who think I'm falsely nostalgic for something I haven't experienced, I spent 4 years in Ithaca, NY and one in Buffalo, NY. In Buffalo, we had a long driveway and no plow contract. We shoveled snow on average about 3 times a week. I know what I'm talking about!

Janet asked if I was hot with lots of wool in my lap. First, I should mention that Janet is a writer/foodie friend of mine with a great blog. Check it out for wonderful tips, thoughtful ideas about food, and neat pictures! Now, back to the question...No, because I don't have any wool in my lap! I'm knitting a cotton tank top, and the socks, while wool, aren't big enough to bother me. Actually, I find wool breathes fairly well and I'm almost always knitting straight through the summer heat with no break. The sweatiest summer knitting? Last summer, I designed three sweater jackets for Knit Picks ( and each was 30 inches long. The most uncomfortable of the bunch was the wool/cotton blend yarn. Heavy cotton blends don't breathe well, and it made me terribly uncomfortable!

My illustrations for this post are literally the new things around here. My friend Marti of weebug knits sent me a present--I won it on her blog! This yarn, by Union Center Knits, is available at and is entirely fab. It's not colors I would have chosen on my own--but it's great for me! I'm absolutely certain it will match things I wear once I knit it up! Thanks, friend!

The clogs, up top, are also brand new. Greenish gray suede isn't normally considered practical, but well, you can never tell. In college I bought a pair of green Doc Martens and I wore those for 10 years! On Saturday, I took a rare trip away from home (sniffle) and found Dansko clogs on sale for $57. That's half off. Yes, one clog is a bit sunbleached, and it's green suede. Such a deal, I couldn't pass up--It's in my size, and the other clog is having a sunbathe herself right now in an upstairs window! Once she's a little bleached herself, I'll put on the special "waterproof suede in the rain" stuff and we'll be off on a long walk together!

(I'd never consider a Manolo or a stilleto heel, but another pair of clogs? Absolutely!--and yes, I am sexy in my clogs...)

Friday, August 10, 2007

cool front?

If you sense a general malaise over here, it might be the weather. I agree with all your comments, of course,but didn't want to be snarky in another post, it's not flattering or right, as my best friend's mother (from Alabama) would say, to blow out someone else's candle just to make yours a little brighter!

In this weather, I would blow out everyone's candles right away, dang it, but my second mother is right, ethically speaking. We're having a cool front today. The heat index is only supposed to be 101-106. We're also in the middle of a pretty severe drought. I can't remember the last time it rained, and we're more than a foot behind the average rainfall. The bluegrass state has some dead grass about now which- as you might guess- is unusual. We're on watering restrictions.

On the food front, we've subsisted on cold salads and other low effort cuisine all week but I'm taking advantage of the "cool front" to roast a chicken or two, bake a cake, and cook a lot of veggies. Then we'll eat cold leftovers again.

In knitting news, the tank top is cruising along--it's the aegean blue thing at the top of this photo and I've got a pair of socks on the needles as well. This is the Barefoot Spinner's superwash yarn (great stuff, but I don't think she has a website) and Priscilla Gibson-Robert's sock pattern, with a couple personal adjustments.

Spinning is in time-out. I washed all the brown yarn, and the professor helped me count up the yardage. 782 yards. I'd wanted something in the range of 850 to knit the sweater I had in mind. I've finished spinning the fleece... There ain't no more. I have some yarn in which I plied this brown with Chasing Rainbows hand-dyed fiber in the Mendocino Hedges colorway. It was, until recently, on etsy. I don't know how it would fit with the pattern I was hoping to do. I am thinking about it and letting the yarn marinate until I forgive it for being 70 yards short!

I'm on a steady diet of anti-histamines, asthma medicine and strong coffee (folk remedy to increase oxygen absorption which works for me...) I've been very productive on the work front. It's been a great week for the book! All I do is write, read and knit. I even received the first finished pattern from a designer via email!

Sally is the only person (well, you know what I mean) around here who is fine with the heat. She is so cool as to make the rest of us envious, continuing to chase squirrels, bark her head off, and show annoying amounts of energy. Sometimes I wonder how I ended up being lucky enough to adopt such a cool girl dog...especially like now, when I realize I've got stains on my shirt. I thought it was clean. Oops.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

up close

It's very hot hot as it's ever been since we moved to Kentucky. I've experienced hotter--North Carolina and Virginia were both worse in the summer, but this is pretty unpleasant on its own. Today we've got a high of 101 predicted, with heat indexes of 105 to 110. That's because we don't (snort) have "dry heat." It's chockful of humidity here.

I've spent a lot of time indoors. It's remarkable how an indoor air-conditioned 80-85 feels downright cold! As a result, I finished this sweater for the book. I used these arty shots because I don't want to do anything inappropriate and give away top secret designer details--but you can at least enjoy the texture right along with me. I'm very pleased about how this one turned out and now I just have to finish the number crunching and pattern writing.

I'm now onto some purely recreational knitting. (because everyone needs a break!) I'm working on this Ribby Shell in a cotton yarn I bought in Greece last year. It's a dead ringer for Tahki Cotton Classic and the shade is a deep aegean blue. After working on 5+ samples for the book, I'm glad to take this detour. I'm enjoying myself!

I really appreciate all the compliments about the IK article. Thanks, everybody! One thing I hope that blogging does for us is to point out that all these writers and designers? People who are often in the public eye generally? Writers and designers are just everyone else. Seeing people up close can either make me admire and respect them even more or...NOT.

I saw this article today. I'd call this a tabloid but it's online. There's something about the way this was made public--and how this actor saw nothing wrong with humiliating his ex-wife, mother of his children- that is, umm, distasteful. However, he's found just what he wants...

"She's just easy, and loving, and smart, and if everybody was just as happy to see me when I walk through a door as her, my life would be perfect."

Perhaps it's the heat that's making me snarky (sure, let's blame it on the heat) but does it sound like he's talking about his Golden Retriever? Now, kind readers, you know I love dogs and have nothing against Goldens. In fact, I don't think they are "easy." Ummmm. No. He's talking about his future bride, the next Mrs. Charlie Sheen. I've included the link to the whole article because I wouldn't want you to feel I've unfairly taken this out of context. Let's hope it cools down soon. Maybe the heat is offering me too much indoors time to be snarky. Is this how this man feels women should behave? Or, maybe I should say something else? Way T.M.I.? (too much information?)

Sunday, August 05, 2007

treats for dog days

We're celebrating the hot humid dog days of August here. Everyone (dogs included) spends a lot of time indoors. Today, for instance, we have a heat index of 102, and it's only 1 pm. Imagine what the temperature and humidity will be like at 3 or 4 pm! OK, on second thought, don't even think about it. Dang hot. That's all you need to know. Here are a few announcements:

Announcements, Announcements, Announcements...A, Double N, O, U, N. C, E, M, E, N,T,S...Everybody now....

Oops. I'm letting the summer theme get a little out of control. That's the beginning of the summer camp "Announcement song" from when I was a kid. Guess I'm getting cabin fever here. I have asthma and allergies sensitive to this humid, pollen-filled heat, so I'm stuck inside while it's so yucky out.

First, my article, "Green Knitting," is in the Fall issue of Interweave Knits. No weblinks available, but check it out at your favorite newsstand.

Second? Thanks to all the wonderful comments about inspiration and perseverance. It's heartening to know that folks who've actually written books-- like Janet, Kristin and Deb, understand just what I meant.

Finally, my friend Cindy sent this link. This is a British telly ad. Even if you're not a knitter (What? There are nonknitters reading this?) You'll laugh at this one. Then, right after you laugh, we'll find a Nana to teach you to knit right away! Enjoy!

Knitted Shreddies

Thursday, August 02, 2007

having vision

Yesterday I had a stunningly bad headache. This was likely due to weed pollen,which is going crazy here with our hot dry--but humid-- weather. I took medicine. I rested. Today I'm taking precautionary allergy medicine, just in case... However, even with all that going on, I saw something important.

I read this piece by Ron Savage. There are times when I need to hear a particular message or be inspired when wavering. This story offered me that inspiration. A writer or an artist has to have a strong vision, even if no one else does. Sometimes when editorial feedback is offered by committee (more often than not, in the media world) it's very hard for the writer to stand up for what maintain that original concept and inspiration.

I read this real story by Ron Savage and stared dumbly into space with my headache. I watched Sally organize the stuffed toys onto the office futon. (she does this all the time.) She has a vision of where she literally wants things to go.

Trying to maintain vision and excitement about projects can be hard. For instance, this brown handspun is almost all plied and soon will be enough for a sweater. I pile things up like this until it's time to wash and set all the skeins at once. Just a ball or two to go. I do the same with sweater designing, working "on the needles" from a sketch or a photo. I choose a size in the middle of the range I'll be working on. I take copious notes, and when the sweater's done, I use Excel or a calculator to work out the math for multiple sizes, extrapolating from size 40 or 44 to come up with 36 and 48.

I often lose the excitement, vision and inspiration about 2/3 of the way through. It's a slog. It's dull and it's just knitting the second sweater sleeve and doing math (not my favorite) or in the writing situation, it's editing or re-submitting something for the 5th or 15th time. There's still hope that it will be sold, that someone will want this writing or this size sweater, but the dream gets lost in the fog. At this point, I rely on the stubborn notion that I must finish what I start. Hopefully others will see why I had the vision, and will find value in it. Yesterday, Caroline told me that even though it will be a while before I get online at Ravelry, folks were posting my designs already. I had a real headachefog going on, but gosh, how reassuring! I wanted to give my creative vision a big hug or a piece of gooey chocolate cake! Now I'm going to knit the last sleeve of a sweater design. I have math to look forward to. Bleck. Lots of math.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

growing things

Lisa K. commented that "Growing things always blow my mind." I'm totally down with that. Things are productive around here, but I find hotel reservations, travel arrangements (for more October festivals-- Rhinebeck and SAFF) and even plans to meet up with family don't have a tangible feeling of accomplishment. Nor do trips to the pharmacy, grocery store, and health food store, all of which I had to do twice this week. No matter how much arranging I do, it's not much of a blog entry, either!

The Farmer's Market, the library, or the post office? Those errands always are enjoyable! The personal interactions are better at these places, and I'm getting something good or sending something good away, a physical sense of accomplishment! For several errands, it's less than 2 miles away...sometimes, if it's cool and there's not too much to carry, I walk, and that's lovely too. The produce - an heirloom tomato (Mr. Stripey or Pineapple) and the "pre-Salsa" ingredients, were grown by Chad, a student in the professor's department. Chad's family farm sells at the farmer's market and he knows who's coming to dinner at our house. He often slips in an extra treat based on which professor is eating here!

So, let's do some food talk, since all my knitting is stealth work for the book... Last night, our friend John (one of Chad's professors!) came over. We ate locally raised, free range chicken, roasted with salt, pepper, za'atar and olive oil. Inside the pan, I roasted potatoes and carrots. The drippings aren't good for you but they sure do taste good! For extra "seasoning", we had homemade salsa and plum/apple chutney. Side dishes included a Turkish eggplant and banana pepper salad, seasoned with garlic, lemon, salt, dill, red wine vinegar and olive oil, and a sliced fresh tomato salad with a few okra pickles.

I've accomplished a lot in the canning department. Here are dilly beans and okra pickles..I've fit in time for 10+ pints of pickled things this week, plus another 5 pints of salsa canned and a quart in the refrigerator. These treats are fabulous in the winter time; I can always have another guest at the table by going down to the basement and getting an extra jar or two. Unfortunately, I've practically worn out my canning pot and need to buy a new one now!

All the presents have been sent off to their new owners. Jan, here's your carpet warp, ready to travel to the Dakotas! Deb's ribbon and carpet warp is winging its way to Colorado, and Lisa's pink yarn? off to Idaho.

One of the funny things about living in an old house in a small town? Discovering all the flowers and architectural details we have in common with our neighbors. In a fit of energy this past weekend, I chopped down weeds until we could see our old spring house foundation, now a planter, in the backyard. I can now see these rain lilies from my office window. We have a big yard, with lots of interesting plantings, most of which we didn't do. Our neighbors have many of the same flowers, porch swings, and light fixtures. One can imagine that 50? or 100 years ago, someone shared their bulbs and cuttings with a neighbor. A truckload of swings or doors or fixtures arrived? Everyone bought the same ones. This is still true...we have the same chandelier (from Home Depot or Lowes?) as another spinner friend who lives a few blocks away. It looks great in her dining room. It's way too big for ours!

When a university town empties out for the summer, things slow down so I can pause on my walks with the dogs and see the details. I like to watch the gardens change and grow. The students' cars (and beer bottles) don't line the streets. It's a slow time, a quiet respite from the bustle we'll see in three weeks, and there's still time for those personal exchanges at the farmer's market and post office.