Friday, December 28, 2007

making sock progress

The dyed tube of yarn, folded in half, becomes 2 skeins that are fairly close in color intervals.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

striped sock yarn in progress

The experiment continues...
A mile of plastic wrap and 2 colors later, the tube of sock yarn patiently soaks up the dye.

new dyeing adventure

Oogyknitter has done it again: got me started on a new and exciting fiber project. Here is the long tube of yarn she made using Knit Picks Bare wool/nylon blend for socks. The 462 yards of yarn in this tube is destined to be dyed and then unraveled to produce a hank of sock yarn with stripes at regular intervals. I had the foresight to mark the middle of the tube so that I could fold it in half and apply the dye in a similar manner to each side.

back to blogging

Judging from the recent paucity of posts on this blog you might think the author hasn't been knitting. I've been knitting plenty, but not blogging much!
Here are the 9 x-mas hats for the nieces and nephews.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

lace trend

This is Falling Leaves scarf, which I started before I learned all that cool stuff about lace. Finishing the blue shawl gave me new motivation to dig out the abandoned scarf and finish it. Perfect timing as the leaves really are starting to fall.

Finished Blue Shawl

Who knew lace was going to be so addictive. All I needed was some education about how lace items are constructed! All of the lace weight yarn languishing in the stash has a renewed lease on life. The blue shawl was labeled "easy" and it really was until I encountered the border. And then I noticed I was going to run out of yarn. So, the border is only on one edge, but folded over it looks pretty good.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Victorian Shawl in Progress

This is the beginning of an "easy" shawl from the book Victorian Lace Today by Jane Sowerby (thank U Oogyknitter!). I've had this yarn, Feza Kid Mohair. for ages and am glad it finally has a known destiny.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Pomatomus attempt 1

This is a the first Pomatomus sock I have made. The pattern is challenging and the end result is beautiful. However, this rendition was too loose and the heel was bigger than I like, so it has been unraveled. I am working up the courage to begin again, with smaller needles. The pattern is free online here.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Small Wing Shawl

It's Day 2 of the short-on-words blog series.
Here is a small wing shawl, based on the pattern in Hoxbro's Shadow Knitting. It is worked with Knit Picks Palette in Bark and Garnet Heather as the main colors and Brindle Heather serving as both contrast colors. The colors appear differently depending on how it is viewed, which is the cool thing about shadow knitting.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Community knitting

Hi Brainknit fans (all 4 of you)!
I have heard your concerns and will be posting a series of SHORT entries for the next few days, mostly without reference to neuroscience.
Here is the Color on Color scarf, from Scarf Style, that members of the Camel Knitters Guild are making. It is near completion and will be raffled off early this Fall. We have each contributed scrap yarn and time and we hope someone will enjoy wearing it soon.

Monday, June 18, 2007

7 stitch itch hat

This hat gets its name from the short rowing process that allows it to have a hat shape. I progressively increased the number of stitches in each turn until I reached 7 and decided I was tired of short rowing. Luckily it worked out well. The hat is reversible, and I'm having trouble deciding which side looks best. It is my swatch to determine the gauge for the licorice twist hand-dyed yarn.

Twisted Dye Job

I have rediscovered the fun of hand dyeing wool! This wool is Henry's Attic Licorice Twist, which is unique because one of the plies takes up the dye more than the others, creating a twisted appearance. Here it is augmented by the space-dyed effect of 3 colors that have intermingled in places. I made 3 like this combination that includes lilac, raspberry and blue-grey, and one skein of a combination of kiwi and spruce green.

Binge Knitting

The word "binge" has a negative connotation, which would be an apt description of some of my knitting situations, but not this one. In a positive way it describes the process of how this sweater was completed, after it had languished for about 2 years in the far reaches of a remote closet. It was abandoned when my attempt to add the bottom portion to the bodice went all pear-shaped, literally, with far too many stitches that produced an exceedingly wide body, even for me! Somehow it was easy to unravel it after it was dormant for that long. I reduced the number of stitches and finished it in a matter of 2 or 3 days. That's the binge knitting part.

It represents the transition from a very difficult semester to the luxury of summer. I needed to reset my mind, to shift down a few gears, and having this very easy project that was half done already marked the transition perfectly. I enjoyed the soft yarn and the feel of every stitch as I marched through to the end. I felt ready to delve into summer research once it was finished. The fact that it can actually be worn is a bonus!

Sunday, May 6, 2007

felting addiction

What is it about felting that is so compelling? It could be the ease with which a large amount of previously-abandoned wool finds a purpose. Or the thrill of the unknown outcome. A project is often added to the "what the h#*@ is this?" pile, or it becomes the newest addition to my considerable trove of vessels. However, my latest endeavor has actually been used for its intended purpose, and it has generated positive comments from people who I don't know, who wouldn't be expected to feel obligated to be nice and say it's cool. Here are the before and after pictures. I told you I got inspired by your entrelac bag, oogyknitter!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

knitting in neuroscience class

We began the course in January with a lesson in knitting, to demonstrate some of the topics to be covered in the course. These included memory, the brain's reward circuits, motor function and stress. Every once in awhile we pull out the knitting and talk about how it relates to the topic we are covering. Today we were talking about the cellular mechanisms of memory.
As you can see, some of the knitting is more advanced than others, giving us an excellent basis for discussing the extent to which synaptic rearrangement had taken place.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Hand-dyed Reveals its Purpose

One of the biggest challenges I face in knitting is using hand-dyed or variegated yarn in a way that allows its beauty to show. So often it looks very appealing as a skein, but then the knitted fabric is rather ugly.
I believe I have discovered a few ways to use some hand-dyed lace-weight yarn that J and I made a few years ago. In the latest project I'm using the pattern from Scarf Style called Lady Eleanor Entrelac Stole, but in size 3 needles and the lace weight yarn. So, this rendition will be more scarf than stole, especially after I do a little felting...
Speaking of Scarf Style, the Camel Knitters are making "Color on Color" from that book as a group project. Our plan is to each contribute yarn and time to the project, and then raffle or auction it off for charity. It's been fun to plan and pass around.
I'm preparing a post on how the brain is involved in learning to knit. Stay tuned!

Friday, March 23, 2007

Knitting and Oxytocin

There is a new knitting group that has formed at work. We meet every Wednesday at noon (prompting us to consider a name with “hump” in it), with a different set of people each week, depending on competing demands. I have not missed a week as of yet, so far being able to manage my schedule to keep such a precious time free. This would be the second group in which I am a member. My other group, the Knitting Knuts (or Hens according to the husband) have been meeting for about 4 years, once each month on a Saturday afternoon/evening/night. We knit and drink wine and eat whatever inventions the members have pulled together (one time we had 3 soups and another time there was only dessert items). It has developed into a stable group of 5 people, with 2-3 others who appear occasionally. The formation of the new group at work has prompted me to consider the value and appeal of being a member of a knitting group. And, of course, I have considered the role of the brain and am wondering about the neurochemical basis of the formation and maintenance of these social groups. Oxytocin is a peptide neurotransmitter in the brain that has been linked to a range of social behavior. Perhaps the knitting groups are raising our levels of oxytocin, which contributes to the positive impact of the groups.

Oxytocin has long been recognized as an important hormone for a variety of reproductive functions, including the milk let-down reflex, uterine contractions during labor, and smooth muscle contractions during orgasm. It also is involved in the formation of stable mating bonds, which have been studied most thoroughly in little rodents called prairie voles. It turns out that prairie voles are monogamous, forming a pair bond with a mate and keeping that mate for many breeding seasons. If the brain areas that respond to oxytocin in the female prairie vole are removed or somehow disabled, the pair bond fails to form and the prairie vole becomes polygamous. The links below will connect you to some interesting information about oxytocin and the researchers who are leading the effort to understand its effects in humans.

Recent studies in humans have revealed that oxytocin has a complex role in social behavior. It does seem to be involved in mate attraction, although these studies are preliminary and more work needs to be done before any definitive role of oxytocin can be stated. You’ll find a compelling article on this subject in the February 2006 issue of National Geographic:
It is also being studied in relation to trust. If participants in an experiment are given a dose of oxytocin, they are more likely to trust an investment partner with their money than if they were given a placebo (Kosfeld, Heinrichs, Zak, Fischbacher & Fehr; 2005, Nature, vol. 435, pp. 674-676). Oxytocin has been shown to also reduce the threat impact of faces with scared expressions (Kirsch et al.; 2005, The Journal of Neuroscience, vol. 25(49), pp. 11489-11493). Normally, viewing a scared face will stimulate the amygdala, which then initiates a defensive response that is helpful in preparing the person to deal with whatever threat has produced the scared expression. For example, the amygdala can stimulate the hypothalamus, which causes the production of a stress hormone, cortisol, which gets circulated throughout the body and allows cells to use their stored energy to fuel an escape response and then help the body return to its normal state. When Kirsch and his colleagues gave participants oxytocin, their amygdala was not as responsive to the scared expressions. However, they were not aware of a change in anxiety: the oxytocin-treated participants said they felt the same as without oxytocin, even though their amygdala function was reduced. Apparently it’s all happening subconsciously!
For years the dogma in stress research was that cortisol was the pivotal stress hormone, and understanding its function was the key to understanding the stress response. Shelley Taylor has questioned this approach and her group has provided evidence that oxytocin is an important mediator of the stress response, as well. In her “tend and befriend” hypothesis she states that women are more likely than men to form social bonds and to use those bonds to counteract events that threaten one’s well being. Oxytocin is produced as part of the stress response and promotes these social bond responses (Taylor et al.; 2000, Psychological Review, vol. 107, pp. 411-429). This brings me back (finally!) to the knitting groups.

I didn’t expect my knitting groups to be so important to me. I look forward to them more than most other events and am extremely sad when they are postponed or cancelled. They are the only formal social groups I have, not being one to go to church or an exercise class, for example. Is it because of the knitting? I would think so, except that I knit all the time and often knit less when with the groups than at other times. The actual knitting might be important for other members, who only knit when the group meets. But for me, it must be something else. I thought it might be the food and wine, until the “hump” group started meeting and I found myself just as hooked.

One common attribute of the groups that is important for me is the chance to view my role models in a context in which I feel equal to them. As a Knut (Hen) I observe how very successful women have managed their careers and personal lives, how they have struggled to balance their responsibilities and goals. I learn something new at every meeting. They are all somehow connected to financial matters (accountants, financial planner, nonprofit organization consultant, lawyers), and so I find myself picking up that type of information, as well. There will occasionally be a query about how the brain works, a challenge because I want to go beyond the generalities and talk about the particulars, but mostly it’s about people, food and money. And yarn, fiber and knitting tools, of course!

As a Hump…

OK, time to settle on a name for this group. Our school mascot is the Camel (interesting stories: and we meet on Wednesdays, making the use of the word “hump” doubly appealing or appalling. So, from now on I will refer to this group as the Camel Hump Knitters, or, for short and less offense, the Camel knitters.

The Camel knitters are women who work in many areas at the college, including librarians, professors, administrators, a publication designer and the ice rink’s Zamboni driver/women’s cross country coach/grounds keeper. It is unlikely that I would have an opportunity to meet and get to know our Zamboni driver under normal circumstances, but knitting tends to bring together an eclectic mix of people.

Perhaps it’s the oxytocin…to be continued soon.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Beginning a new blog

Coming soon: images and thoughts about the brain and knitting