Thursday, October 8, 2015

FO Friday: The Knit-Purl Blanket (2014 FO #13)

I am back! But only briefly, so please don't tell my supervisor I stepped away from my thesis for a bit. This is our little secret.

The last few weeks have been pretty crazy, uni-wise. I have put on without exaggeration 1.5kg from spending so much time sitting on my arse (both working and eating chocolate). I've been trying to take breaks and go to the park and the beach but the truth is that the final part of any research project requires a bit of slogging to get to the end and there's no just no way it can be avoided. Fortunately, slogging away is an activity that goes remarkably well with stockinette stitch, which means lots and lots of finished projects.

For example, this baby blanket is finished TWO MONTHS before the baby is due. This is an event that surely has never happened in the history of knitting baby blankets before.

Where's the tension? Where's the desperate race to finish it before the mother leaves hospital? 

The pattern was simple - I cast on 100 stitches and then knit it until it felt big enough. I then picked up stitches all the way around and knit the border in garter stitch until I felt it was big enough, then I cast off (yarn is Bendigo Woollen Mills Luxury 8ply in Citrus, Frost and Ghost. I used maybe half a ball of the Frost and Citrus and about 160g of Ghost. There are lots of leftovers).

It felt seriously weird not to be weaving in ends on the way to meeting the baby for the first time.

Of course, Lucy helped me block the blanket.

She is going to be so annoyed when she realises the blanket is not actually for her.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

WIP Wednesday: Hello Spring Edition

Yesterday was the first day of spring! Appropriately, the day was full of sunshine, so as soon as I had completed my daily word count I grabbed my WIP bag and headed down to the beach.

I am lucky enough to live about a block away from the beach so there are lots of different places along the bay for me to visit. Yesterday I decided to go somewhere I used to hang out a lot when I was younger: near the local surf lifesaving club.

I had a boyfriend once who was a lifesaver and had a key to the building, so we used to go there so we could duck in to pee (definitely an issue that is under considered when people decide which beach to go to. I suspect that often the warm spots one feels when swimming in the ocean are definitely there because of a lack of public loos!

There is also this gorgeous (although somewhat uncomfortable) mosaic chair which is ridiculously romantic to sit on and drink wine while the sun goes down. I guarantee smooching will follow the sunset, so be careful with whom you share the chair!

For non-romantic sunset drinking, there is a picnic table which fits up to six women who like drinking chardonnay at the beach very comfortably. (It was at this stage that I realised why I hadn't come here since my early 20s - I stopped drinking at the beach!)

I put the picnic table to a non-alcoholic use and set up my two Practically Pairfect socks.

Because I am crazy, I ended up buying another set of 2.25 mm needles last week so I could work on both pairs of socks at the same time.

The striping is so fun and the socks look fantastic (if I do say so myself). 

Welcome, spring! I've missed you and I hope you're here to stay.

Friday, August 14, 2015

FO Friday: Shades of Purple Blanket with a bonus spectacular moustache (2015 FO# 12)

This FO Friday post is one day late! I have a (not very) good excuse - I took all the photos yesterday but then I had one glass of red wine while I was cooking dinner followed by another one while I was eating dinner and then I was completely cactus for the rest of the night. I ended up in bed by 8pm watching a delightful film noir (Somewhere in the Night (1948), starring John Hodiak, who wore one of the most fascinating moustaches I've ever seen)

What even is the purpose of a moustache that size? I could not take my eyes off it. Anyway, it was a really nice night and I feel relaxed and refreshed today. However, I did not get any writing done (#noregrets).

This blanket is one I finished a while ago. In August 2013 I started knitting this for a friend's baby. I liked knitting it and thought it looked nice but the edge seemed too unfinished for the blanket to be given away as a gift. I tried a few borders but none of them looked right so instead I blocked the blanket to see whether that would fix the edging issues.

It was promptly adopted by Lucy, and the rest is history (I bought a nice baby blanket from Target. It was the right thing to do).

Mine, all mine.

The pattern is an easy one: cast on three stitches and increase every row by knitting into the front and back of each stitch. Continue to knit until you have used up almost half of the yarn. Knit three rows without increasing, then decrease by knitting the second and third stitch of each row together until you have three stitches left. Cast off.

The yarn iss Patons Soft Haze, which is lovely (although almost impossible to rip, so try to avoid making any mistakes!). It has sadly been discontinued. I used six balls to make a decent-sized blanket.

I still think the blanket needs a border - maybe a knitted-on icord? I would definitely make one of these again but this time keep it hidden from my mischievous cat.

Hey, what's my blanket doing outside? (I suspect that Lucy and I might spend too much time together...)

Monday, August 10, 2015

Hello Monday and a pair of true monster socks (2015 FO# 11)

Last week flew by in a massive deadline blur. I honestly didn't even realise I'd missed a week of posting until I sat down now to type this. That's hopeless! The days and weeks feel like they're zooming so fast at the moment I can't even keep up. I am seriously tempted to buy one of these gorgeous colouring books to help me be a bit more mindful and slow down. (haha when would I find the time to do that. Bluergh.)

I did take a few minutes time out today to take pictures of my latest pair of socks. These are full-on monster socks, made out of the 5-10g balls of sock yarn left after a pair of socks have been finished.

To make these, I collected all of the similar weight and feel sock yarns I had and divided them each into two balls. I then cast on and spiralled two at a time all the way up the sock, using an afterthought heel.

One thing I didn't do which I probably should have was weigh the itty bitty balls. Although I followed the same yarn sequence for both socks, since some of the balls were much bigger than others, you can see that the colour changes occur at different places in each sock (the right one becomes a lot more blue faster than the right one does, for example).

These taught me a lot about coordinating colours in scrap yarn. If I were to do it again, I'd divde the balls into 'warm' and 'blue' and spiral accordingly, so there would always be a bit of contrast, rather than what I did which was randomly pick the closest ball to me whenever I needed to add a new yarn.

That said, they are super warm and comfortable and when they're on, the colour discrepancies aren't really obvious.

I have now packed these socks up with the helical stripes set and will drop them off at KOGO, hopefully tomorrow.

In other news:

I know I am not alone in feeling like this winter has been going forever. However, I was ecstatic when I popped outside to observe that some of the coriander seeds I planted before this recent cold snap have come up! I was certain that they would have been destroyed by the frost.

So, although spring hasn't actually sprung yet, there are signs that it might be coming soon. 

Hopefully, very very soon - I'm done with the cold (and so is Lucy).

Thursday, July 30, 2015

FO Friday: Helical striped cowl and matching mitts (2015 FOs #9 and #10)

My life is extremely boring at the moment - write, edit, rinse, repeat. Last night, however, I went out! I went to a screening of Dirty Laundry Live - on a school night! After 10pm! What a wild child. It was very funny and it really was great to get out of the house and away from my computer (on a side note, I encourage everyone to get tickets to sit in the audience for TV shows once in a while. It's fun to see how things are done, it's free and sometimes they give you wine. For me, it's something a bit different to what I usually do and different is good).

We had 10 minutes to kill before leaving so I decided to take the opportunity to take some photos of two of the projects I've just finished. This was a bad idea! These photos are terrible and odd - they capture a lot of detail but tell you nothing at all about the project. Let me illustrate this in more detail.

This shot tells you nothing about how the cowl sits (it falls to just above my belly button).

In this shot, it is possible to see the desperation and exhaustion of a week of thesis work in the giant bags under my eyes.

This one's okay. The pattern is Mitt Envy - it's free and it's excellent. I added 10 rows extra to the cuff to provide extra under-jumper warmth.

The cowl can be worn in a long loop or doubled for a really warm, snuggly wrap.
(Oh, those bags!)

I'm not even sure what this shot was trying to demonstrate!

The wool I used was Heirloom Easy Care 5ply, four balls exactly. It was a bit rough to work with but softened up a lot on blocking and I think it will be really warm and durable. Now that it's done, I'm going to drop this project off at my local Lincraft KOGO collection point and hopefully it will find a good home where it is of some use to somebody.

Till next week :)

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

WIP Wednesday and a declaration of intent

Although I write this on Thursday Melbourne time, I am calling it WIP Wednesday because it is still Wednesday in parts of the world and because I like the symmetry of balancing the middle of my week with an update on my knitting. I have been working on the socks and this is where I am up to now:

Once these are compared to the picture from last week, you can see I've done quite a lot of knitting, which is surprising because I've also done a lot of writing, thanks to the inspiration from How to Write a Lot.

I suspect a weekly update of these socks will soon (already?) become incredibly boring! Especially since the photos are so crap (thanks, winter light and terrible photography skills). I shall give it another week and, if I start to bore even myself, consider changing my weekly routine.

In non-knitting news, I am a bit upset today. I am a St Kilda football club member who regularly goes to the footy and I hate what is happening to Adam Goodes at the moment. I absolutely boo on occasion - like if I disagree with a free kick or (more frequently) misunderstand something that's happened on the field but I would never boo a player or hurl abuse at someone. I actually don't understand the thought process of someone who goes out of their way to yell terrible things at someone else (ditto those who send abusive tweets - what is wrong with your life that you feel that being awful to someone is the correct action to take? I think people like Rita Panahi and Andrew Bolt are reprehensible hatemongers who should stop inciting anger and fear but I have never, ever, wanted to send them a message telling them to fuck off and die*). I said the same thing when Milne revealed how much abuse he copped each week - these players are doing their job and should absolutely not have to put up with that kind of crap. It's worse with Goodes, though, because of the ugly undercurrent of racism accompanying his treatment.

I can't take it anymore. Previously, when someone near me would say something awful in the interest of not causing conflict I'd let it slide, but no more. It's got to stop. When my mother forwarded me a hateful meme telling Goodes to fuck off, I called her on it (unsurprisingly, the conversation went badly. Apparently some racists don't like having their racism called out). When St Kilda play Sydney, I will go and cheer Goodes. A lot of people who I previously respected have really disappointed me this week with either their denial of the racism or explicitly racist attitudes. So, I will unfollow anyone on Twitter who doesn't condemn in absolute and uncompromising terms the way Goodes has been and is being treated. I want to live in an Australia where an indigenous man is not vilified for standing up for himself and his people. I want to be an agent of positive change. We don't have to accept the racism in Australia and I am not prepared to anymore.

*Interestingly, now that Rita has left SEN it's been interesting to see how little respect her former colleagues have for her. I always wondered what was going on there because she seemed so out of step with the rest of the personalities at the station. 

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Non-knitting content: How to Write a Lot by Paul J Silvia and how I was inspired to write a lot

I have been alluding lately to my thesis writing and how badly it is going. I am in the writing-up part of the process, which means I have pretty much done all of my research and I’m attempting to form it into a formal document which I will submit for assessment. The truth is, I am really struggling with it right now. I had all of last week to focus on writing and focus I did – I spent at least 40 hours with my bum on my desk chair sitting at my desk looking at my computer. But, at the end of the week, I felt no closer to finishing my goal than I had at the start. I’d done stuff – updated my Endnote library, changed fonts, moved paragraphs around, printed and highlighted a lot of articles – but that was really all just faffing. I had done work but it wasn’t productive or effective and I knew that if I kept going like that I would never ever get my thesis done.

In desperation, I followed one of the recommendations from the Thesis Whisperer and borrowed How to Write a Lot: A Practical Guide to Productive Academic Writing by Paul J Syliva (I know that some would say reading about writing is just another form of procrastination but they would be wrong). Oh my God! This book is amazing. In the course of my professional life I have read dozens of books on writing, grammar and style and this is hands-down the best book I have ever read on writing. Silvia begins by acknowledging that writing is hard. If you’re an academic, chances are you find research and data-collection somewhat enjoyable (I do!). Writing, on the other hand, can become “a sordid drama” (7) of excuses, guilt, procrastination, anxiety, avoidance and defensiveness (all of which I experienced last Tuesday alone). Silvia argues that writing shouldn’t be that way – it should be a mundane, regular part of the academic experience, just like teaching is. It should be just another thing that we do as academics, no drama, no stress, no angst. Silvia writes:

How to Write a Lot views writing as a set of concrete behaviors, such as (a) sitting on a chair, bench, stool, ottoman, toilet, or patch of grass and (b) slapping your fingers against the keyboard to generate paragraphs. You can foster these behaviors using simple strategies. Let everyone else procrastinate, daydream, and complain—spend your time sitting down and moving your mittens. (7-8)

Sounds fantastic!

Reading further, I found out that I was what Silvia categorises as a binge-writer – I faff about and procrastinate all week before spending one day just banging out words. As he notes, that’s a stressful and ineffective way to work. To become a productive writer, he says you need to institute an ongoing set of behaviours. These are as follows.

Firstly, you must set aside a regular time to write and stick to it. He says he gets out of bed and spends two hours writing every morning, before even showering. I can’t do that – I need to start the day with a coffee and the paper – but I am productive in the morning, so I have picked 9-11am every weekday. I programmed my phone so it goes into “do not disturb” mode on those hours every weekday and I will turn off the modem. I also have non-academic writing I like to do to keep me grounded in everyday life (like this blog!) so I also plan on scheduling an hour for writing in the evening from 4-5pm.

You can't see it clearly here but there are two mini whiteboards to the left of my computer with my academic and non-academic goals for the week outlined
Secondly, you need to set a list of goals. I have written a list of both academic and non-academic goals for the week. As well as weekly goals, daily goals must be set. Silvia says priorities need to be drawn up but because I am working on just the one project, that doesn’t apply to me now (although it will in the future as I start to work on different projects at the same time). I want to note here that writing doesn’t just mean adding words to documents – it could also be reviewing the literature, checking references or page proofs or reviewing others’ papers. Getting something published involves all of these processes, so they are all part of “writing”.

Ready to work with coffee, water, study knitting and a notepad for jotting down stuff like things that need to be looked up on the Internet or non-writing tasks that I need to remember to do at some stage
The final steps are to monitor your progress and reward yourself. These steps are hard! Silvia uses an SPSS spreadsheet to check whether he’s met his daily goals and to track how much he’s done on which project. I am traditionally very bad with this kind of thing – I’ve never kept a food diary or money tracker for more than two weeks. This seems pretty simple, so hopefully I can do it. In terms of rewards, I’m not really sure how best to reward myself. I really have weekly goals that I have to meet if I’m going to submit my thesis on time, so maybe every Friday if I’ve met my goals I can go out for Friday night drinks? But Saturday morning hangovers are not conducive to good weekends…I’ll have to think about it.

Reading this book has been a transformative experience for me. Last week I felt panic every time I thought about my thesis. I went to every length possible to avoid actually working on it and instead worked around it every way I could. But like Silvia says, why make writing such a special activity? It’s hard, but so is finding the motivation to go for a swim twice a week when it’s six degrees outside and I manage to do that without fail. If I can be disciplined in other aspects of my life, there is no reason why I can’t be disciplined with writing as well. I feel more positive about my thesis today than I have for months. Realistically, I know that I need to do more than two hours of work a day to get it done but I really feel if I use that solid time as a base, I can get this stupid thing done. Thank you, Paul J Silvia!

There was one distraction he did not give me any advice how to deal with though…