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Long haul

§ May 25th, 2008 § Filed under Life, Students, Work, etc., Travel § 29 Comments

Thanks, everyone, for the comments on the Ribby Cardi! I have been wearing it everywhere, even though it has been quite warm here during the day. The Eco+ is unfortunately already showing a tendency towards pilling with all this wear, and I hope that will not be a continued problem.

It will soon be too warm to wear all the wool sweaters, and I am packing them up. I took this picture for Swapna, who recently commented about imagining my cupboard full of handknits – they are not quite enough to fill a cupboard, but they are a decent pile and do nicely! I’m surprised that I don’t have more reds. Have to remedy that.

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It is also that time of year again, when I go home to India and this blog features more food and travel than knitting. Except that this time, I am going not just for the summer but for a year’s research trip. I have waited six long years after graduating for some time off from teaching, and this is some hard-earned leave to do archival research for a second project. I am eager to get my hands dirty in the archives again and start working on relatively uncharted territory. For many reasons, it’s not the trip I had hoped for and looked forward to, and am anxious about how it will turn out. But one big plus, other than being able to spend so much time at length at home with my folks, is that the project will most likely take me to places I have never visited in the south and east of India. So I am excited!

All this is a preamble to saying that I will be blogging from India over the next year. Some of it will be about food, some about travel, random observations about lots of things, and some raving and ranting about work. Even though initially it will be too hot to knit, I will have lots of time and opportunity to keep the fingers flying, and so I am trying to estimate how much yarn I should take with me, which is easier said than done.

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I plan to buy some acrylic yarns locally while I’m there, Swapna has most wonderfully arranged to get me some Pony rosewood needles, plus my mum already has all the notions I will need. But it’s not stopping me from trying to take my entire stash with me, and clothes and books and yarn and patterns are already overflowing out of my long-haul suitcase. Planning for that long a time away from my set up here is inducing tremendous anxiety as it is; tossing some knitting into it should be easy, but of course it’s not. Believe me, I am usually a light traveller and am taking this opportunity to freecyle and donate lots of things in the house, but am also suffering from an acute case of “but what if I need it?” syndrome, and an insane wish to pack books that have remained unread on my shelf for years. Also, all the patterns I want to knit right now seem to be, strangely enough, in thick, hardback pattern books.

So see you all soon on the other side of the world. But in the meantime, do tell: if you had to plan for a year away from your usual knitting routine, or even your usual non-knitting routine, what would you take and what would you leave behind?

Oh, and finally, did you see the cool “Ravel it” buttons on the left sidebar above each free pattern link? Ravelry offers a nice little html code to the pattern page and tells you the number of people making it – 118 people have made the Rangoli Hat! Okay, so it’s not Clapotis, but I had never imagined that so many people would knit it. It is most thrilling. I updated the pattern recently to correct some errors and suggestions people had pointed out, so if you downloaded it before May 22, do download the fresh 3.0 version.

Ribby Cardi!

§ May 20th, 2008 § Filed under sweaters § 20 Comments

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I am wearing possibly the best handknit design ever. If you haven’t knit a Ribby Cardi, buy the pattern right now and cast on, because this is not only an easy pattern, it is clever and simple and results in a most satisfying garment. This one has quickly raced to the top of my sweater charts, beating even my Cobblestone. I cannot believe I bought the pattern so many years ago and didn’t knit it.

What’s that you said? I don’t look so pleased with it? How about this, then?

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The basics:

Pattern: Ribby Cardi from Chic Knits
Yarn: Cascade Eco +, approx 1.5 skeins of the orange (0958) and 1 of the chocolate (8493).
Needles: Size 7 bamboo for the whole sweater, and 6 for the buttonbands and collar.
Gauge: Spot on, 4.75 spi.
Size: the 38-39″ one. It fits perfectly, with just the right stretch and ease in the side ribbing. A size larger and it would have been too loose. Bonne Marie Burns is very helpful and gracious with questions too, which is a big plus. Thanks to her for promptly helping me choose the right size and yardage.

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The mods:
I knit the body in one piece, the sleeves in the round and then seamed the raglans. I also added a buttonband instead of a zipper. I don’t like zippers, much less inserting them, so I went with a buttonband instead. If you remember in the last post, the buttonband was vertical, knit with the main body. However, I didn’t like the way the single rib gaped. Since it was knit with the body, my first thought was – oh fuck, now do I have to rip out the whole body? Thankfully, my second and more sane thought was, no, I can just drop the purl stitches in the buttonband all the way down and crochet them back up as knit stitches! Exit ugly ribbing, enter smooth stockinette.

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It worked like a dream, and only took me an hour or so to do. Then I picked up stitches along the side and re-sewed the buttons in – the old buttonholes at the edges vanished right into the pick-up seam. This new band is much more satisfying. Otherwise, I followed the pattern straight through and it worked like a charm. No errors. Here’s the regulation macro button shot:

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Seriously, this is the kind of sweater I love to knit and wear – clean lines, comfortable fit and sturdy yarn. The Cascade Eco + softened beautifully after washing. I was a little concerned about the ribbed sleeves being a bit tight on my arms, but the soak and block really relaxed them. I love how they fit around the shoulders. If it had not so hot these past few days I would have finished the cardigan sooner; I think I’ll go for a walk tonight just to wear it outside.

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Everyone, go knit one for yourselves!

Relief

§ May 9th, 2008 § Filed under Film, Life, Music, sweaters § 15 Comments

Teaching for this Spring is over, thank God. This has been the longest and most painful semester ever due to some heavy duty personal and professional stress, and now that it is nearly over, I want to dance like these guys in this song, jaate the japan, pahunch gaye chiin, samajh gaye na?” (Was off to Japan, but ended up in China instead, what say?) and throw my limbs and composure to the winds in sheer abandon.

Nothing like Kishore Kumar’s mad comic genius and wildly mobile body, face and voice, to liven up one’s spirits. The film in which it is featured, Chalti ka Naam Gaadi (If it runs, it’s a car) is available fully on youtube. See it – it is silly screwball comedy, as usual, but the soundtrack (by S D Burman), with lots of other Kishore songs, is superb. My favourite is Paanch rupaiyaa baarah aanaa.

The only silver lining to stress is that it keeps my fingers going feverishly. The Ribby Cardi body got done, and I added some buttons right away to see if it fits, closed. To my relief, it does.

ribbycardibodydone

Much of the knitting this semester got done as I obsessively watched TV episodes of Agatha Christie’s Poirot, pretty much back to back. Netflix DVDs of TV series are perfect – mindless, and without the advertisements. But I thought I should take a break after an elaborate dream I had one night where Inspector Japp was complaining to me over a beer about Poirot’s dashed interference in everything, and I then took it up with Miss Lemon to tell Poirot to step back a bit, because his success rate was undermining Japp’s self-esteem. I woke up and was half-afraid that I would start lecturing in class in David Suchet’s affected voice and manner.

But last weekend in LA in the hotel room I saw an episode of something called “What Not to Wear” and I think I might have found another guilty pleasure. I cast on the Ribby’s sleeve with a DVD of its episodes. It is SO annoying in parts, but weirdly seductive. I oscillate between analyzing the coded messages the show transmits about the power of shopping and consumption to solve all kinds of self-esteem, body-image, emotional issues (“I want to dress better so my kids can be proud of me” – WTF????), and enjoying the Cinderella or Ugly Duckling story that unfolds every single time. Admittedly, it’s not as bad as another show I saw that night that involved all kinds of surgery and whatnot. Plus the two hosts are irritating and I don’t care for the whole “let’s make fun of you before we do your makeover”, but I’ve seen some of their advice about silhouette and fit and visual illusions on various Ravelry groups as well, and it’s most interesting. And of the few episodes I have seen, all the women were different ages and shapes, and it’s fun to see how they choose outfits for them.

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So between Chalti ka Naam Gaadi and a feel-good Cinderella DVD this weekend, maybe my Ribby sleeves will get done soon too. Wish all my readers a relaxed weekend too!

Impromptu

§ May 4th, 2008 § Filed under Travel § 7 Comments

This post is for my friend Aparna in Bangalore, who I thought of a lot on a last-minute trip to Los Angeles this weekend.

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I went down for a special event and to hear a dear friend and colleague speak (some of you might recognize who all that hair in the foreground belongs to!).

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But it was also a lazy day of walking on the beach as the afternoon cooled down, exchanging gossip with friends, eating wonderful food, and getting a bit dizzy and nauseated in the famed LA traffic.

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Apoos, you were sorely missed!

(I got some knitting done, about which more later. For now, can you spot two recently finished projects in the pictures above?)