Sunday, December 27, 2009

Can't we open the presents YET !!!!!!!!!

This is my favorite holiday project. Roving dyed to match a Georgia O'Keeffe painting.

We had a white Christmas, much to Brown's delight.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Wool maven and a wurm

Brownie is growing into a teenager. He has developed a fondness for the yarn in my "random" basket, where he is often found making himself comfortable, treating a specific skein of hand spun like it was a mouse he's captured, and diving to find more yarn to molest.

He still likes to be carried around. Here he is helping me model Wurm (see Wurm on Ravelry for the free pattern, or, if you read German, you can go directly to It's the coolest hat to make and is surprisingly comfortable.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

New blog guest

My former test-driver, Barney, is no longer with us.  He passed away July 28 after being our buddy for 4 years.  We miss him very much.  We decided very quickly that we needed another cat, so we found Brownie.  He is a kitten, though he's grown so much in the last few weeks you would not think so.  Here are a few pictures taken in the last week.  He does not yet understand the concept of sleeping in a cat bed, but at least he is touching it in this shot.

His favorite thing to do is burrow in the magic blanket and make air biscuits.

Barney had no interest in yarn or fiber, but Brownie is a big fan of both.  

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Knitting as a procedural memory

The person who I consider to be the most famous psychology human subject passed away last December, at the age of 82, after being studied since he was 27 years old. It was at that time in 1953 that H.M. (as he was known until his death) lost his ability to store new memories as a result of a surgical procedure that was done to treat severe epilepsy. While the surgery was successful in preventing the seizures that had incapacitated H.M., it had a devastating effect on the rest of his life. It was thought at first that he was no longer able to form any new memories, but the work of Brenda Milner revealed that he was able to form some types of new memory, just not the kind that we usually think of. He could learn new skills, but he would not be able to say when and where he learned the skill or even that he had the skill. It would only be revealed in his actions.

When H.M. died, and it was revealed that his initials stood for Henry Molaison, it was also revealed that his brain was to be studied at UC San Diego, and that the public would be able to view the process and the resulting brain images at the Brain Observatory (see description of the HM project here). I was delighted to find the link to a NOVA episode that featured this work. It's definitely worth 10 minutes of your time! You can get there by clicking here: NOVA

I'm sure that if Mr. Molaison had been taught to knit after his surgery, he would have retained that skill and made some pretty awesome projects!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

new box

My mumma gets a new toy and all there is for me is this box.

New (and last) wheel

A Schacht Matchless!

It's a bit different...

hand-all hat

Here is a hand-dyed, hand-spun and hand-knit hat that I really like.
It might be some of the last yarn I spin on the old Babe's wheel!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

new twine

It was not twine when I made the purchase.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Maine Knuts

Some of the knuts visited Harpswell, ME for the weekend. We had a great time!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Melville Workshop Musings

I’ve been knitting like a fiend for 23+ years, but it is only in the last 3 days that I have been to a knitting workshop. Not just any ‘ole workshop, but one run by Sally Melville. The LYS that I frequent most often was offering the workshops, and I decided to rope a friend into attending. The only one that fit both our schedules was called Knit to Fit and Flatter and required us to produce paper doll replicas of our own bodies. This form of reality took multiple days to process and should be on every health-conscious person’s refrigerator. It might also help if it was posted at every donut/coffee shop between one’s house and workplace. Anyway, I recovered from that shock in time to listen to some instructions, which included producing clothes for our doll selves. It was good to get covered up and to learn that certain styles can be made to be flattering. I went home and dragged out all the sweaters that I wear frequently and discovered that these were the ones that “followed the rules”. I now feel totally empowered to make sweaters that will look appropriate on me and I will hesitate less to get rid of the sweaters that I love to look at, but not wear. I can’t promise I will actually get rid of these, I’m just leaning that direction. Small steps.

The best part was to return for another workshop a few days later with some of those rule-abiding sweaters, plus one that I knew could look better on me. It was made prior to my new understanding of the rules. I thought it would prompt Sally to say, “see what I mean”? She did say something like that, and then asked for some scissors to show me how to fix it. I don’t have a before close-up, but here is the aftermath of the sweater modification. Perhaps my other rule-breaking sweaters will meet a similar fate. I’m very excited to bind off the raw edge and add it to the rule-abiding pile.

In general the workshops were productive and very fun. I hung out with 2 good friends at the first one (I only roped one into it, the other came under her own volition). We all bonded by enduring the distress of viewing our paper doll selves. Here is mine, fully and appropriately dressed in my ideal short-length unfitted sweater and an A line skirt. I don’t actually own such a skirt, but that’s what I should be wearing. Maybe not those colors.

Sally’s view is that patterns should be more flexible than they are, with indications of where to lengthen or shorten the body or to adjust the sleeve to fit better. This principle is applied in the Knitting Experience series, but it’s dialed up a few notches in Mother-Daughter Knits, with the first chapter all about the fit and flatter material that was covered in the Paper Doll Self workshop. I know that this book is going to be an important reference for my projects going forward. I don’t generally follow patterns, but I may be convinced to follow some from this book. It helps to have seen some of the sweaters, modeled by Sally herself. More info about Sally is at her website:
Thanks, Sally, for the inspiration and the useful information.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

mahogany vest progress

Here is the vest in progress. The idea is to have a front that overlaps and ties on one side, with a very simple lace edge design.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Not a pipe-dream

As part of the no-new-twine-in-2009 effort, I have been raiding the stash and coming up with some rather random small projects.  People who don't usually get a knitted item from me for their birthday have not been so lucky this year.  This is a hat for one of the plumber brothers.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009


I experimented with some Knit Picks Palette in Tan. I originally got the yarn to make a vest, but it wasn’t the right color tan, so it was sitting around doing nothing. It was a convenient target at the beginning of the dyeing bout.

I used “cranberry”, “butterscotch” and “mahogany” ProChem One-Shot acid dye for these skeins. This is when mahogany hinted at its leanings toward rosey. Husband calls this color “autumn leaves”. Evidence gathered over 17 years of coexistence suggests that we have different sets of color receptors (he’ll say grey when I say purple). Despite this, I can see where he gets that idea.

Now knowing and liking “mahogany”, I dove into a bigger, more risky endeavor. Oogyknitter gave me 2 huge skeins of undyed Kid Silk Haze, an estimated 1800 yards of dreamy yarn. One does not just throw dye at such a prize before considering carefully the consequences. So it took me a few months to decide to dye the kid silk haze in combination with some Knit Picks lace weight wool/silk blend yarn, with the idea of stranding them together for a vest or some such project. I even did a swatch to see if the stranding would be feasible before I did the dyeing.

Here is the kid silk haze getting dyed.

And here is how both yarns looked when they were finished. Rosey!

I recruited an eager accomplice for the Dyeing Bout of March 2009. Nova brought over a truckload of wool from various sources and we spent the afternoon in colorful bliss. Check her blog for spinning/knitting progress.

The bout ended with the end of our Spring Break. I know, I should have been grading lab reports…Stay tuned for how the stranded rosies look.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Niece's scarf

In the continued effort to use up my endless supply of yarn I am happy to report that another finished object has left the premises!  This is hand dyed merino worked in a simple entrelac design (simple once you make 3-4 unsuccessful attempts at the second row). 


Thursday, February 5, 2009

Psi Hat

This is another hat made from the big wheel of wool. If you use your imagination, you can see the Greek letter psi repeated in the pattern, or maybe you see IgG antibodies like my geek husband.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Knitting as an Effort-Based Reward System

I’ve heard many knitters say that they use their hobby/craft as a type of therapy. I often joke that yarn is cheaper than Prozac, though I’m not so sure about that now. Fewer side effects, certainly! I have recently read a book called Lifting Depression by Kelly Lambert, who proposes the idea that our current social context is contributing to an increased incidence of depression because we don’t use our hands enough. She supports this idea by describing how the motor system has evolved to specialize in fine motor and sensory processing for the hands, first as our primary form of communication and then as the main tool for the tasks of daily living. She believes that a person can avoid depression by managing stress effectively and by establishing regular, daily effort-based reward experiences. So what is effort-based reward?

The idea is that completing a task that requires some effort, especially tasks that use the hands, provides a person with a sense of accomplishment. The regular experience of such accomplishment encourages the person to continue the behavior. The continued behavior strengthens circuits in the brain that counteract the processes that lead to negative mood states.

She gives a personal example of recovering from a bout of depression that was prompted by the death of her mother. She didn’t feel better until she rediscovered the joys of vacuuming. Her experience was that the manual labor led to the very obvious improvement in the appearance of her surroundings, a clear reward for her efforts. She was DOING something, taking control of her immediate situation (dirty house) and making a noticeable difference (clean house). Her experience was in keeping with the findings of her research program in which she explores the impact of stress on behavior in rats.

I find this idea very appealing. I have often noted that if I feel stressed at work the best remedy is to get in the lab and clean the glassware, or clear off the lab bench, or wash some rat cages. I realize as I’m performing these tasks that I should be leaving it for a work-study student, but I just feel like doing the work myself. I also find doing the dishes and laundry at home appealing (sometimes). Mostly, though, this idea relates to my long-standing focus on all things fiber.

Lambert actually uses knitting multiple times in her book as an example of an effort-based reward activity. This makes total sense. It involves fine motor control and sensation of the hands. The results of one’s efforts are easy to see, even when you are just learning. It is easy to learn and can be performed in many contexts.

I like to think that we can enjoy the conveniences of modern living (I’m in no hurry to use a washboard or to raise my own cows; sheep maybe…) and still use our brains as they were intended by incorporating effort-based rewarding behavior into our routines. So, next time you get a twinge of guilt for choosing to knit instead of applying harsh chemicals to your kitchen floor, remember that you need to flex the muscle between your ears: keep knitting!

shepherd's hat

This hat was made for the shepherd who gave my colleague the wool pictured below. 

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Left-overs wristlets

Here is a pair of wristlets I made for SIL, using left-over sock yarn. I'm making myself a pair now, less ornate and colorful with some hand-dyed sock yarn. They are rather useful when it's cold and there's lots of typing to do.

weekend dye job

The oily pile has acquired some color! I left a few skeins blank, but now that they are washed they have turned a few shades lighter. I made the rust skeins progressively lighter by adding them to the pot in 10-minute intervals. The dark blue ones are actually a mistake. I added too much dye to the pot, so they were much darker than I had hoped for. I took them out and added another set of skeins, which turned out the "right" color.
Here they are, close-up.

I have a striped sweater planned for them.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

2009 Pledge

No New Twine in 2009!
As you can see, I don't need any new yarn. Here is the pile of skeins from the big wheel of yarn (see Dec 08 post below). It hasn't been washed yet, so this is the weighed-down oily pile.
Oogyknitter says No New Twine, Or Its Kind, in 2009. I'm still contemplating that extreme stance...