Friday, December 28, 2012

three knitted presents

. . . which I can finally show you. A hat for Tim, socks for Laura, and a sweater for Hannah.

Thursday, December 27, 2012


Now the sun has started to strengthen. Full of hope and resolve, armed with, inspired by Nice Things--a fountain pen; a pleasing bottle of blue-black ink; Shakespeare's poems in two blue, small, Yale edition volumes; a Lifesaver book; a leather tassel for the zipper on a future garment; Colours of Shetland, Kate Davies's new book; a ceramic slip stone for sharpening my needles, scissors, and knives; the carol CD most prominent in my childhood, a box of Moroccan mint tea, new kitchen shears, money to make this most expensive month a little easier--I am quite ready to shed the old year.

I am thinking of next summer's garden. Tim and I will build more raised beds, will buy a real lawnmower, make the yard better than it was before. Next Christmas I will have jars of jam to give away again, next winter on a night like tonight, I will drink tea from mint that I grew and dried. Simpkin will be grown up, safe, sweet, no longer shivering miserably during thunderstorms.

In the meantime, I feel lucky to be weathering this cold, this smothering northern slowness and isolation with Tim. We had quite the year. We'll have to work hard through the rest of the winter. I go back to work at the cafe tomorrow and my classes start on Thursday. I will need to get up early and go to bed late, to save money to stave off the monstrous leech that is Student Loans, to try to keep reading and writing for myself. But I can do it. I have great plans.

2012 passed by in a bit of a daze. Uprooted in March, I seemed to stop growing. Of the goals I made last January, I can take credit only for flossing and growing a garden. But here at the end, I can add that I managed to get straight A's in my first semester back at uni. And we bought a house. I finally banished the acne that has been plaguing me since I was 19. I published poems in three magazines and got paid for my writing for the first time. We rescued a tiny, sad cat. I struggled through my first "real" job interview. I started learning about making my own clothes. I didn't succumb to seasonal depression. I worked while going to school. As always, I am loathe to say that it has been a Good Year. But it certainly could have been worse. I think I am better equipped for next year: I feel stronger and older.

Sunday, December 16, 2012


Yesterday, Laura came over to bake gingerbread, watch The Terminator, and sew up a few of these. We used this Purlbee tutorial.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

December 13, 2012

I am here at my desk eating homemade pea soup. I am here to tell you that the quagmire has been waded.

Monday, I woke up at 5 am. I showered, and by 6 am I was writing the first section of an 8-page final paper, due at 3pm. At 3:30 pm, I walked into class with the 8 pages clutched in my hand, summarized the paper for my class, and was in the campus bar with everyone else by 4 pm. At 4:15, I left. I came home, put on a pot of soup, washed all the dishes, and started assembling and writing commentary for my poetry portfolio, due Tuesday. At 11 pm, I finished. Up at 5 am on Tuesday, I spent the morning catching up on the 100 pages of my rhetoric textbook which I had yet to read. A few minutes before noon, I left for school. I handed in the portfolio, wrote my exam, came home, watched A Charlie Brown Christmas, and fell asleep. Wednesday, I worked at the cafe all day. This morning, I was up at 5 am once again, at school by 7 am, and writing my last exam by 9 am. At 11:30, I was done. I walked 40 minutes across my beloved river valley blasting La Roux through my headphones to meet Tim for espresso, Italian hot chocolate, and fennel biscotti. I'm done.

I cannot tell you how luxurious it feels to be alternating knitting a sweater sleeve with cleaning the apartment. No papers! No tyrannical to-do list! No JSTOR tabs open in my browser! I plan to read unassigned novels and math, bake pfefferkuchenplatzen, knit, work out, decorate the fig tree, practice programming, perhaps construct a paper chain.

(There is a part of me that cuts her hair, pierces various body parts, plans tattoos, swears, wants to be as tough as Lisbeth Salander. There is another part of me that spends her evenings curled up with double-pointed knitting needles and silk-wool blend yarn, bakes gingerbread squirrels, and feels a great affinity with Laura Ingalls.)

Friday, December 7, 2012

Jo March

The way hair-cutting features in literature is quite interesting--usually a symbol of liberation, or insanity, or self-possession after being spurned. It seems to work similarly in real life. If you want to change yourself, or publicize a change, you get a haircut. 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Delicious Mail

Remember this plea? Well, after much stalling on my part, the cowls are knitted and ready to graft together. Cat's blue cocoons arrived today, with tea and a postcard:

And last week, there were tea-centric notecards and an embroidered teacup pin from the infinitely talented Em . . . 

All extremely happy. Thanks thanks thanks!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Adventures in Darning



I want to be someone who knows how to fix things as well as make things. Repair has been at the top of my mind for several months now. When a faulty knot (I know, I know) in the sole of one of my striped socks gave way, leaving me with a small hole, I decided it was a good time to follow tomofholland's advice and Darn It!

For my first darn, I think it's not bad. Of course, there's lots of room for improvement. This method of darning, mostly suitable for small holes, is called a Swiss darn (or duplicate stitch), and, theoretically, it can be almost invisible.

I'm also in the process of (more creatively and obviously) repairing a nasty gash in a black cardigan of mine. Perhaps pictures within the next few days. Have a lovely Sunday!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

drinking the dregs of my fifth semester

"I might say, that I had as much talent for Leavis-style dismantling of texts as anyone else, I even had a special bent for it, nearly a sadistic streak there, but it seemed to me not only a foolish game, but deeply destructive of myself." 
- Ted Hughes

Thursday, November 22, 2012

quagmire mittens

I've entered the quagmire of the semester--I hope to emerge alive in two weeks' time. Today I wrote an imitation of JFK's inaugural address for rhetoric class. Around the 500 word mark it came to me that I would like to start running again, and paint my nails. I feel lethargic and dowdy already, and I fear it is only going to get worse. I have plenty to say on the subject of why it is ridiculous to base 50% of a student's GPA on work accomplished mid-panic attack and on three hours of sleep, and how no one in their right mind could call my generation lazy (though they often do).

I've been procrastinating by finishing these mittens.

The wool is from a Canadian company called Briggs and Little. It's wiry and sheepy, and apparently will last forever. 

I had to do surgery on the cuff of the first mitt I knit. I had to unpick two rows after the second cuff turned out to be shorter. Did you realize that knitting only unravels one way? I feel that I am learning a lot on this knitting-front lately. 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

view from indoors

When it's this snowy outside, and the internet says -20 degrees, what do you do? 
Well, you buckle down and do homework--you write 1200 words of the progymnasmata for rhetoric class. 
You drink coffee with milk, listen to Ella and Louis Armstrong.
You shovel yourself and the cat out of your basement cave, and carve a path to the garage.
 You knit mittens, socks, and cocoons.

Cat! The cocoons are finally, nearly finished. Expect some mail soon.

Sunday, November 4, 2012


On Ravelry, one's 'stash' of yarn is a major fixture. It can be photographed, catalogued, looked up, and organized by weight, colour, fibre content. Some members have thousands of skeins ready and waiting. These are pictures from my own little 'stash'. For the first time, I have yarn for more than two prospective projects.

And it is beautiful yarn. Some of it was hand-dyed in France. The green skeins above are from an Irish spinning company; I'm going to knit Tim a cabled sweater out of them. Once I learn how to work cables, that is.

I have yarn for Christmas presents, for mittens for myself, for my first attempt at fair isle knitting. But this wool-hoard--with a wee bit of silk and alpaca and nylon thrown in--makes me uncomfortable. 

Buying this yarn, which I've done in a frenzy, all since August, has been as easy and pleasurable as sharpening my pencils or buying new notebooks. Or, for that matter, buying interesting ingredients from Superstore. Is there anything more appealing than provisions and supplies? It's easy to forget that the point is the writing and knitting and cooking, and afterwards, the reading and wearing and eating. 

And it's easy to get caught up in "learning", too. It's easy to spend hours reading forum posts, self-help books, lovely blogs. But it can be an ordeal to practice a new technique, to scribble shitty first drafts, to try to live some kind of good life. 

Mostly, I want to spend more time doing than preparing. It's quite hard.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The new plan

1. Lose a little more weight.
2. Get a lot stronger.
3. Get a quiff.
4. Get a tattoo. 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

"October Dawn" by Ted Hughes

Last year's pods, in our old backyard, which I miss.

October Dawn

October is marigold, and yet
A glass half full of wine left out

To the dark heaven all night, by dawn
Has dreamed a premonition

Of ice across its eye as if
The ice-age had begun its heave.

The lawn overtrodden and strewn
From the night before, and the whistling green

Shrubbery are doomed. Ice
Has got its spearhead into place.

First a skin, delicately here
Restraining a ripple from the air;

Soon plate and river on pond and brook;
Then tons of chain and massive lock

To hold rivers. Then, sound by sight
Will Mammoth and Sabre-tooth celebrate

Reunion while a fist of cold
Squeezes the fire at the core of the world,

Squeezes the fire at the core of the heart,
And now it is about to start.

Saturday, October 27, 2012