Saturday, July 30, 2005

Knitting on the Rocks

Today's Extreme Knitting theme is on the rocks and in the air. Judy took her knitting with her on a vacation to the Badlands. Her son took the sock on a hill-climbing escapade. Here he is, with sock, after achieving the "summit":

Barbara took her sock on a rock climbing adventure to Table Rock in Linville, North Carolina. Here she is, between pitches,
getting in a few rounds:

Barbara didn't identify the route or its level of difficulty. But I'm pretty sure that it's a first ascent by a sock.

So now we leave the earth behind, with our first aerial entry:

Those are Amanda's hands, knitting a bag for her sister while flying in a small plane from Oregon to Florida this spring. She's over the Idaho/Utah border, at more than 11,000 feet. It looks like she's in the co-pilot position. Now I'm wondering...who took the picture? Was it the pilot? Does the plane have an auto-pilot feature? So, Amanda now holds the highest altitude record. Margene, however, still holds the earth-bound high-altitude record.

Hmmm...I wonder if any of the astronauts knit. Wouldn't it be something to have a picture of someone knitting in space?

Thanks for all of these week's entries! It's really great to see all the places where our knitting goes.

The Interview
Yesterday was interview day. I met a friend for lunch, then drove up to Rockville. This meant navigating the infamous Capitol Beltway, aka 495. My heart sank as I entered the on-ramp...and stopped dead, at 1:30 in the afternoon. It's way too early for rush hour traffic! It didn't help matters any that it was raining. However, traffic slowly moved and I arrived just a few minutes late. I could tell I was getting into the commuter mentality when I thought that 45 minutes wasn't too bad.

I talked to about 11 people, including the CEO and CFO. The interview took five hours and went very well. They had expected it to take about two hours. I asked a lot of questions, which is unusual for me (I usually freeze up in interviews). And surprisingly, I wasn't exhausted at the end. I was energized. I was still energized after the drive home, which took exactly one hour (through gorgeous western Montgomery County).

The job would be very challenging. It's in a space I don't know well and I definitely don't have the hard technical knowledge, given that I don't know anything about how computer networks work at packet level. But it will give me a chance to further hone my management skills. And I am as passionate about providing excellent customer service as I am about helping to create high quality software.

My biggest concern isn't my ability to do the job. It's the long, potentially stressful, hours and the long commute. There's a possibility of telecommuting a couple of days a week and pretty much everyone works flex time, so that will help somewhat. I'd be going against traffic and the commute route right now isn't congested. But that's still a whopping two hours of driving a day.

However, I don't have to make a decision right away because we're leaving for a week at the beach with Tom's family. I can mull over it while I'm sitting on the beach (slathered in high-octane sunscreen and under an umbrella, of course), listening to the sound of the waves breaking against the shore.

If you submit an Extreme Knitting Challenge entry this week, don't worry if you don't hear from me. I'll collect them up and post them next weekend.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Too Fast!

So here I am, enjoying my newly found freedom, when BAM! Out of the blue comes a request for a resume from a former colleague. Soon after I send it to him, the hiring manager calls and would like me to come in for an interview. On Friday. Like of this week. Yikes! It's too soon!

I suppose that's what happens when you hand things off to the universe. Yesterday, I was feeling incredibly open and light and confident. Today, I'm panicking. Not because I'm afraid I won't do well in the interview, but because I don't think I'm ready to take on another stressful position and particularly one that comes with an hour-long commute, one way. So we'd be looking at 12-14 hour days. That's going to seriously cut into my knitting time!

On the upside, I'll have money to buy yarn and attend knitting retreats. And I can take the back roads to work, which involves taking White's Ferry, which is about five miles from my house. This means that I can knit a few sock rounds while waiting for the ferry and during the crossing.

And in sock news, I cast on the sock yet again, using smaller needles. I really like the Old Norwegian cast-on and think it makes for a nice top edge. On about round 3, I looked at the sock and my heart sank. Danged if somehow the stitches flipped around and the inside is now the outside! I ran upstairs, flapped the offending sock at my husband, and ranted about the tribulations of knitting this stupid sock. He simply looked up from his book and calmly said "So don't knit it." What?! But I need to knit him something to wear! And I'm not going to let a mere sock get the best of me!

Several rounds later (I had decided that since the cuff would never be visible, I could live with it), I realized that it was an optical illusion. Silly me.

All the knitters I know say that socks are great projects for beginners. I cannot figure why anyone would want to inflict a sock project on a beginning knitter. There are all of those increases and decreases for the heel and toe. Not to mention knitting in the round with five tiny needles. It's enough to make a beginner's head explode (and I know what I'm talking about...I was there and it almost put me off of making socks).

Well, it's late. I need to get my beauty rest for the interview tomorrow. Ciao!

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

More Extreme Knitting

I have two entries today and both continue with the water theme that Cerridwen started. Amy submitted this photo:

That's her knitting (and presumably her arms) at the Dead Sea. She was hoping for a photo of her actually knitting while floating in the Dead Sea. For her good intention, she is awarded an Honorable Mention. If you'd like to read about her vacation travels, go here.

Right up there with Cerridwen for some serious extreme knitting is Janine (who I think is, alas, blogless). She decided to knit, not just on the water, but in the water:

You can see what's coming next, can't you?

Yes, that's Janine, knitting under the water. Don't you just love the way the skein is gently floating above her? Janine says:

My husband and I went up to Lake Wazee, WI to complete our open water SCUBA certification. Since we were camping, I started a simple garter scarf to keep me company around the campfire and during our lunch breaks. At the end of our second day with our diplomas in sight, things got a little silly. I wouldn't recommend underwater knitting for most folks unless you're REALLY in a time crunch for a felted project.

So who's where in the rankings? Very good question. Janine and Cerridwen are right up there, although I think Cerridwen has a slight edge on Janine for knitting while shooting Class II rapids. So, Cerridwen is in 1st place, with Janine a close 2nd. Margene drops to 3rd (high altitude record), with Jen in a very close 4th (she knit at 6000 feet, getting there under her own power). Amy receives an Honorable Mention for intending to knit while floating in the Dead Sea. Buttons and gallery are still in progress, so you'll receive them soon, hopefully.

I think anyone on the East Coast who knit outside yesterday or today deserves special Extreme Knitting recognition for braving the heat. Yesterday, the temperature at the Leesburg/Godfrey airport at 4:00EDT was 102 degrees Fahrenheit, or 39 degrees Centigrade. Fortunately, the humidity was only 40%. Today is much the same (102 degrees already), with slightly higher humidity. I'm not a big fan of air conditioning, but I'm very grateful for it today. I can't imagine what the women who lived in our house back in 1906 did when the temperatures got this high.

Keep those extreme knitting entries coming! The first group of prizes will be awarded in sometime in August.

Knit on!

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Look, Ma! No Gaps!

I couldn't stand it any more. I was not going to let a knitting technique get the best of me. I grabbed my practice swatch and tried again. Behold!

No gaps! There's a trick to this. When knitting the increases, you knit or purl the first stitch of the pair. Correct the stitch mount, if necessary, of the next 2 stitches and K3tog or sssp, then turn and yarn over. What is left on that needle will be a set of paired stitches, a single stitch, and another set of paired stitches (sorry, no pictures). Had the instructions for the YO short row method mentioned that, I wouldn't have had gaps.

Now I had a dilemma. I know what the results should be--should I simply ignore gaps so big that you could drive a Cooper Mini through them? Or should I frog the sock one more time? After much gnashing of teeth and waffling back and forth in true Libran style, I decided to frog it. Once again, the Sock of the Caribbean is no more.

To assuage my grief at having to frog hours and hours of work, I decided to pull out the spinning wheel and spin. It was just what the doctor ordered. What is it about spinning that soothes the soul? I felt something akin to joy at seeing a fluffy mass of wool turn into a smooth (albeit over-twisted) yarn. It was very satisfying. After spinning, I worked on the Fern Leaf shawl some. And then, the knitting goddess exacted retribution, probably because I was feeling confident in the pattern. So now, here I sit, ready to knit across the WS, but I'm on the RS. Gar! I think I'll return to sock knitting.

In cooking news, the August Gourmet features a peach blueberry cake on the front. It looks delicious! So, that will be tonight's dessert. There is a little farm stand set up on the corner and they have peaches, so I bought just enough for the cake. Everything was going well, until it came time to halve the peaches and remove the pit. I sliced a peach in half and gave it a deft twist to separate the halves. The halves remained firmly attached to the pit. What ensued thereafter was quite ugly, involving much bad language and stomping of feet civil, involving much cajoling and gentle persuasion. The peaches finally relented. They are slightlyvery mangled, but they are separated from the pit and are now quite happily baking in a moderate oven for a long time.

Jez, however, was nonplussed.

Monday, July 25, 2005


One of the traits that I have is my ability to be content to not do anything. My husband finds this to be very frustrating, because he's all about getting things accomplished. My take on it is that what's here today will be here tomorrow and what bad will happen if I don't accomplish what I set out to do, especially if I find something more interesting to do than, say, clean the bathroom?

However, I can see where this can become a problem now that my day-to-day routine has been disrupted by losing my job. It's also a problem because Tom works from home two days a week and doesn't like his routine to be interrupted. My plan is to use the two days that he works from home to work on my knitting and spinning. The other three days will be spent cleaning, cooking, doing laundry, running errands, looking for a job (and of course, knitting and spinning). I'm not going to get any more specific than that.

Since my introduction to the world of knitting and spinning blogs, I must admit that I felt a certain amount of jealousy admiration for those women who devote their lives to their knitting and spinning and writing and children. It seems like a charmed, idyllic life. Now I'm there (minus the children, of course). Will it truly be as charming and idyllic as I thought it would be? Time will tell, so check back often to see how I'm doing.

And speaking of structure, the sock is still bothering me, in a big way. I visited Terri's blog yesterday and was struck the truth in her "Less than Perfect" entry. It was very timely because the I was thinking about frogging it, again. My husband thinks the sock looks just fine. So Terri gave me the inspiration to carry on.

Then I got an email from Susan suggesting that perhaps my needle size is a tad too large for the project. I had been wondering about that myself. So, even though I had decided to not frog, maybe I'll frog the sock and switch to smaller needles. Maybe I'll stop using the pattern that I'm using (I mean, I didn't marry the thing!). Maybe I'll practice the YO short row before taking any drastic measures like frogging.

But I think what I'm going to do right now is work on the Fern Leaf shawl and then spin.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

On YO Short Rows

I've made good progress on the sock, having just completed the heel. But the sock still offends. Or to be more specific, the yarn over short rows still offend. Look:

See the white? Those are gaps--a whopping quarter inch each! I'm not happy.

I can understand not perfecting the technique the first time it's tried. I understand the technique much better now. So I expected no gaps. I knit tighter this time. But gaps I have. The only difference between these gaps and the gaps on the frogged sock are that these gaps aren't quite as tall. But I still have gaps. I hate gaps.

For those readers who have more experience with yarn over short rows, I pose a question. How do you not get gaps? What magic ritual must one perform before undertaking a yarn over short row heel?

This sock is not going to defeat me. I will not have gaps at the toe. Ha! I will use the slip-wrap-slip short row technique.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Kayaking and Knitting

Well, I must say that the third entry in the Extreme Knitting Challenge blew me away. Check this out:

This is Cerridwen (formerly blogless, now blogful), knitting while kayaking! And this isn't simply a float down a river either. Cerridwen says:

[The picture was] taken last April while I was participating in a kayak race down a 10 mile stretch of the Verde River in Arizona. The river has class I, II, and III rapids! I am knitting the Wool Peddler's shawl for my neice from _Folk Shawls_. My family realised that I crossed the line from "enjoying" knitting to "psychoticaly obsessed" when I didn't put down the knitting except for class III's and a few class II's. It was a lot of fun.

The knitting survived the race unscathed. The same can't be said for me. :)

And yes, that is a shark on her head.

So, Cerridwen moves into 1st place, with Margene in 2nd place for achieving the highest altitude, and Jen in 3rd place.

A couple of notes on the Challenge:

  • There is no deadline for entries; I'll run the Challenge as long as there is interest

  • Your entries don't have to be recent; if you have pictures that were taken years ago of you knitting in the extreme, send them in!

  • Umemployed--Day 4

    (Don't worry, I won't bore you with my day-to-day activities every day, just occasionally.)

    Being unemployed is very interesting. Not only are there all the strange emotions (depressed one day, manic the next), but one also sees interesting things that one normally wouldn't see while at work. I opted to stay home on Tuesday instead of going into the office to pack up my belongings (that was the depressed day). The day was spent blogging, emailing, and chatting online. Things were pretty calm, until I heard an animal squeal. That was kind of odd. Then the neighbor's dog started barking. Being ultimately nosy, I went outside to investigate and that's when pandemonium ensued. Piper (the dog) had cornered a young groundhog. Then she attacked it. Since there was a fence between the two yards, I couldn't do much of anything besides yell at the dog and spray water on her in the hopes that she'd leave the groundhog alone. But it didn't help. She killed the groundhog. That shook me up quite a bit.

    Then this morning I got up early (it's so much easier to get up early when you don't have to go to work!) to do some knitting. Jez was very interested in something on the deck. It turned out that a small family of cats took up residence overnight. There were two black and white kittens sleeping on the deck chairs, and the mother cat would occasionally come by to check on them. I'm pretty sure that these are the same cats that took up residence in our other neighbor's garage. Lyle had wanted to adopt the kittens, but never could catch them. I called her and she came over to get them, but they ran away. It will be interesting to see if the kittens return to L'Auberge Simonds tonight.

    And in knitting news, I'm at the heel on the Sock of Caribbean. But I'm stuck. Well, I thought I was stuck. In trying to explain just how stuck I was, I figured out what I need to do. So, thanks for listening! Here's the sock:

    Hopefully I'll be able to finish the heel today. I'm much happier with the second knitting, but we'll see how the second half of this short row technique works up.

    Ciao for now!

    Wednesday, July 20, 2005

    Embracing the Fear...and Letting It Go

    I've been rather introspective lately, given that I now seem to have a lot of "free" time. What could I have done differently at work that would have prevented the company from being in the situation that led to the layoff? What am I going to do next? How do I move forward?

    One theme that comes up again and again is fear. Not the fear that one would feel if in a dangerous situation, but fear of...the unknown, of failing, and, strangely enough, of succeeding.

    During the last week or so at work, given the incredible time pressure that we were under and the ramifications of the project not coming in on time (ironically, it did come in on time and we got the boot anyway; I think there's a lesson there), my mantra was "Let go of the fear." What was I afraid of? I was afraid of disappointing the customer and letting the Sales Engineer down. I was afraid the company would look incompetent (which it most definitely isn't). I was afraid the developers would get discouraged because we were finding too many severe bugs (which was our mission, so go figure).

    When faced with fear (especially in the absence of danger), it's helpful to ask "What's the absolute worst thing that can happen?" And more often than not, the answer proves to be not life-threatening, not dire, and very manageable. In this case of our project, the customer would find severe problems that we didn't find and we'd have to work very hard to get them a fix quickly. Yes, it would look bad initially, but there is an opportunity to provide excellent customer service and gain the customer's loyalty. Would the experience be painful? Yes. Will the lessons be valuable? Again, yes. So, after a bit of analysis, there really isn't much to be afraid of.

    I need to apply the same philosophy to my knitting. Take a look at the WIPs in the sidebar. There are lots of them and some of them are more than a year old. Why? Part of the reason is that I'm a slow knitter. But the other part is that I'm afraid to continue. I've reached a point where my knitting skills are challenged and I'm afraid that in continuing I'll make bad mistakes and the piece will be ruined, or it won't fit me, or it won't look good and I won't wear it. And the money and the time that I've spent will be wasted. (Duh! Isn't the time and money spent wasted by not finishing the project?)

    So, as I enter this period of unemployment, I do hereby pledge that I will embrace the fear and let it go. I will set aside time every day to work on an old WIP. I will methodically (well, methodically might be taking it a little too far) start designing one of my ideas.

    Extreme Knitting Challenge

    We have the first contenders in the Extreme Knitting Challenge! Margene is in the lead so far, taking her knitting (by tram) to 11,000 feet at Snowbird in Utah, then to the desert:

    Jen comes in as a very close second, taking her knitting on a backpacking trip up Mt. Hood, in Oregon. Here she is, knitting at 6,000 feet at Elk Cove:

    What a gorgeous setting! I could be knitting there.

    So, are there any folks in Colorado who want to take on one of 14,000 foot peaks? Perhaps all of them? I climbed Long's Peak (14,255') several years ago, but alas, I wasn't knitting at the time.

    Keep those photos coming! As entries come in, I'll post the pictures and adjust the rankings.

    Happy extreme knitting!

    Monday, July 18, 2005

    The Universe Has Its Ways...

    Well, I must say that this has been (yes, that's it, interesting) day. At work, we delivered the project to the customer (after working all weekend), the deployment was a little bumpy (customer-induced), and then I got laid off. Three-quarters of my team was laid off, which leaves one person to test the product and answer support calls, as well doing the five million other things that we did.

    This presents a dilemma. On the one hand, a part of me says "Free, free at last! Thank God I'm free at last!" On the other hand, another part of me is thinking "Ohmigod...I've got to find a job right away!" On the third hand (pretend I'm one of those Hindu deities with lots of arms), another part of says "Woo hoo! I can now devote lots of time to spinning and knitting and maybe I'll pick start weaving again." On the fourth hand...well, I could go on and on.

    What is clear is that for some time now, I've been feeling like I've gone as far as I could with developing a QE and Tech Support team, without spending more money, which wasn't available (my budget consisted of the team's salaries). So today's layoff was the universe's way of saying "Listen up, girlie-girl, it's time to take on something new. So you're outta here! Good luck. And write when you find work!"

    So, what's next? I'm going to take some time to figure it out and not just plunge blindly into searching for another job. Do I want to stay in high tech? Do I want to go low tech and try something new? Can I make fiber arts a more integral part of my life? Should I go back to school and work on a Master's in Social and Organizational Learning? Can I learn to just chill out for a while?

    For those who have responded to my challenge so far, thank you! I was very excited and pleased to see responses coming in. I hope you do excuse me for not posting them tonight. I've been a bit distraught distracted this evening. However, now I've got plenty of time to work on the gallery! I'll start posting pictures tomorrow.

    Tuesday, July 12, 2005

    Knitting in the Extreme

    Okay, I know that there are lots and lots of intrepid, adventurous knitters out there. So, in that spirit, I'm proposing a little contest to see just how far we take our knitting.

    To be eligible, all contenders should submit a picture of themselves (or their knitting) knitting where no (wo)man has knit before. Knitting while skydiving, scuba diving, bicycling, rock climbing, on rooftops, up a tree, etc. are all examples. It isn't necessary for the knitting activity to take place in the great outdoors, either. The key is to be imaginative (while keeping it clean!) and not harming the knitter or the knitting in the process (safety first!). It’s best if the activities are real, although points will be awarded for the most creative use of Photoshop, if necessary.

    All contenders will receive the right to display the Extreme Knitter button (currently under development). The button will link to a gallery of the extreme knitters (assuming I can figure out how). I’ll award some kind of knitting-related prize to the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winners. It would be nice if there were enough entries to award prizes every month. After all, there are different activities for different seasons!

    So don't be shy...send me those photos! You can find my email address under Contact section of "View My Complete Profile."

    Monday, July 11, 2005

    Sock of the Caribbean

    This weekend the Sock of the Caribbean went from this:

    to this:

    I ripped it all out and started over. It just wasn't happening for me, or for my husband's foot. I wasn't at all pleased with the heel and it really was too loose. The tension wasn't good. So I measured Tom's foot again and decided that he has a medium foot, not a large one. And maybe this time, I'll get the yarn over short row technique right.

    I had a dentist appointment at lunch today and took the sock to work with me, thinking I'd knit while waiting for the dentist (I knit all of three stitches). It took all my willpower to resist the siren call of the sock. It would have been so much more satisfying to see the sock develop in my hands than it was to try to effectively communicate that the project right now is a high-risk project. But it's very hard to quantify the unknown and I didn't get the outcome I wanted. In short, my expectations weren't met, leading to an unhappy work experience. I need to keep reminding myself to be attached to the process (I explained the risk of the unknown as best I could), not the outcome (we're shipping product, and are accepting the risk). I need to try to let it go. My fear (and it's just that,a fear) is that the customer is going to have a less than satisfactory experience. Ah, well...que sera, sera.

    On top of that, it feels like I'm developing tendonitis in my shoulder. That would be a bad thing...I've just started running again, I've reached my goal weight, the weight training is going swimmingly, and a new yoga session starts next week. Tendonitis would put a major crimp in all of those activities. I think ibuprofen and ice will be my friends for the next several days.

    Jez has the right idea:

    Thursday, July 07, 2005

    Thinking about London

    Words cannot express the sorrow and anger that I feel about the London bombings. My thoughts go out to the wounded and to those who lost loved ones in the attacks.

    Terrorism is insidious in its effect on people's lives. But so are the conditions that create such despair, fear, and hatred that make some feel they have no other recourse than to take up terrorism.

    At the core, every one of us, whether we be Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Jew, Mormon, Bhuddist, atheist, or pagan, black or white, gay or straight, no matter our nationality, every one of us is the same. We have the same physical needs, we have our dreams, we want to not suffer.

    Extreme poverty creates extreme despair. Extreme religious factions create hatred. The combination of the two is volatile and often leads to violence against those who are perceived as the oppressors or non-believers.

    Each one of us has a responsibility to make this planet a better place for each other. We can do this by little things...smiling at people on the street, saying hello, opening doors, helping others. We can do this by being open to differences, by learning about those who are different than us rather than fearing them.

    Every one of us can make the world a better and more peaceful place.


    Monday, July 04, 2005

    A Hometown Fourth

    There are some benefits to living on the main drag in an old town. Parades! And without having to leave the comfort of your front porch! Every year the town of Leesburg sponsors a Halloween and Christmas parade. Alas, there was no Independence Day parade. But thanks to the diligent work of the Historic District Residents Association (HDRA), the Independence Day Parade is back. And this year, they outdid themselves.

    The parade started with the esteemed Grand Marshall, Thomas Jefferson, riding in a coach and four (generously loaned by Sandy Lerner of Ayrshire Farm):

    If you are in Loudoun County, Virginia, for the Spring Farm Tour, be sure to stop by the farm. Ms. Lerner is doing some incredible work with organic farming and working with rare breeds.

    A young man marched, playing a patriotic tune on the clarinet:

    The HDRA entered a float displaying the flags of the original 13 colonies:

    And of course, the local fife and drum corps has to get in the action:

    If you like greyhounds, you can adopt one from this fine organization:

    There were the requisite old cars:

    And no parade is complete without a Zamboni!

    Or a Chinese dragon!

    The dragon movements were so fluid, and the percussion accompanying the dragon was very cool. Unfortunately, that photo didn't turn out.

    The Baltimore Westsiders Marching Band paid a visit. The drums were awesome!

    And the younger members of the team were so cute!

    And, to finish it off, the American Originals Fife and Drum Corps from Washington, DC, joined in the festivities:

    The town also does an excellent fireworks show. I don't know if we'll wander down to Ida Lee Park to watch. We may simply want down the street a bit and sit on the curb and watch.

    In knitting news, I was able to knock out a couple of rounds on Tom's sock while waiting for the parade to start. Surprisingly, it does fit...almost. It's a tad loose, but not as loose as I thought it was going to be.

    And I've got a love/hate relationship with lace. I love to see the pattern develop under my fingers. I hate miscounting and having to unknit several rows. But Jezebel helps with the counting:

    On the spinning front, I was hoping to get some time to spin today. But that's not going to happen. Maybe next weekend...

    Have a happy Fourth of July! And if you are going to play with fireworks, be careful!