You are currently browsing the archives for January, 2010
No, I did not finish these while watching the Australian Open. I haven’t watched a game of tennis since Ivan Lendl stopped playing. (I know. Even I am embarrassed about him now, but I used to weep horribly every time he lost at Wimbledon!) I mostly watched Law & Order SVU reruns on my fragile TV reception, and Murder, She Wrote reruns on Netflix Instant Watch. After every episode I feel my eyes widen and stay like that, my head bobbing eagerly like Angela Lansbury’s, all cheeks and no chin. She wears handknits quite often on the show (’80s arans, mostly) but I haven’t ever seen her knitting, have you? She’s quite the active, running older woman on the show, and I wonder if they consciously stayed away from any knitting to avoid the granny image.
ANYWAY, one pair down, two to go.
Austermann Step socks, colourway no. 8. Pink and grey is a beautiful combination!
Toe-up with a crochet chain cast on and wrapped stitches, which I first learnt from Wendy’s tutorial here.
60 stitches for the foot, and 64 from the ankle up, size 0 bamboos.
A Russian bind-off. The way I learnt this (somewhere on the web) is to p2tog loosely, slip stitch back to left needle, p2tog, repeat all the way, preferably with a larger needle. But here is a video for a completely different Russian bind off , which is most intriguing, and which I look forward to trying.
I took care to make the stripes line up. All seemed well, until the very end of the second sock, when a couple of straight white lines threatened to derail everything. The cuffs were going to be all wrong.
I was whining about this to a (non-knitting) friend who couldn’t understand the fuss, and said, well isn’t that what handicrafts are supposed to be, slightly off? I muttered in my head about how I wasn’t sure who or what was off here, and after a deep sigh, frogged the second cuff, cut off some yarn and reknit it to get the two cuffs to match up. The Harlot is right, as usual; only a sock dork can understand the joy of the stripes matching up. I am not usually very obsessive-compulsive about these things, but I am, I find, a sock dork. The cuffs match, and I am pleased.
This yarn is good! A little fibery, but soft, and very warm. Cosy on my feet on a chilly saturday afternoon. I am itching to knit up the other two sock pairs, but I’m also dying to try out that sideways hat my grad student was wearing. Maybe head before feet next, then.
People usually lose socks in the laundromat, don’t they? In Boston there used to be a laundromat called “The Found Sock” near our flat on Comm Ave. In all these years I have lost many a store-bought sock in this way, but never the handknit ones. Rather than subject them to this sorry fate as the poor machine-made ones, over this winter I lost them rather more spectacularly – I took them across the world and lost them there. I know I took several pairs home with me; on return I find that only one pair made it back, that too because it was on my feet during the journey. I have no idea where I left the others, and it is so maddening! I opened my drawer here to find only one pair, now sadly frayed and torn. (I really don’t care for Louet Gems sock yarn).
It is cold, wet and windy in the Bay area, and so I went to Article Pract and got me some Koigu, Austermann and Trekking, and immediately cast on. The idea is to knit these up super-fast, every waking moment, before the semester swallows me whole. The Austermann is a gorgeous, soft colour, much like the hesitant, early morning light I snapped the picture in, during a brief break in the rain. It’s apparently treated with some aloe vera that stays on even after forty washes. I don’t know what it will look like after forty washes, but right now it’s smooth and glides neatly over the bamboo needles.
I also got some bright Koigu, and a sober Trekking, which looks like it’s bristling next to the more fiery red Koigu! I love the mess the Koigu skeins make, even when wound up. They always do that, refusing to stay in place, feeling slippery and nubbly in your fingers. I know what you’re thinking: that is not lovely, that is downright annoying. But I cannot help it; Koigu is above criticism, as far as I am concerned. The sales clerk allowed me to go back into the storage area to find some shades, and as I rummaged through nearly a hundred skeins and innumerable hues, I felt this strange sense of joy – a Koigu high of sorts! Even the relatively dull oatmeal shades dance and shimmer in this yarn, somehow. It is possibly my favourite among all yarns of all time.
I had my first graduate class today, and after a couple of hours of historiography and methodology and epistemology and so on, I finally couldn’t help myself and asked one of the students if she had knit her gorgeous garter stitch hat herself. She hadn’t, but it was handknit. She showed it to me, and before I knew it half the class had crowded around as we tried to figure out its construction. It was knit in three parts, one of them sideways, resulting in vertical garter stripes. Half the students in the class, turns out, are avid knitters. I closed my eyes momentarily and imagined all of us knitting away in the next class as we took apart the assigned book for the week. I won’t do it, because it’s too distracting for the rest of the students. I was sorely tempted, though, because I do urgently need to finish some socks.
Calcutta in the winter is always delicious – the crisp bite of cold air a welcome contrast to the humid hell that it is for much of the year. It is especially cool this year because of a severe cold wave across the northern Indian plains, and I am enjoying it very much indeed. But more than the weather or the music season, winter trips to Calcutta for me is about one glorious creation: notun guR. This is the fresh (literally, new) jaggery drawn from the date palm tree, that is available only at this time of year in these parts: a rich, molten mass of sweet divinity, a winter tan that lends a deep, golden hue to all the milk-based sweets that Bengal is famous for.
Of all these, the notun guRer shondesh (the crown-like piece with raisins to the top right) is, in my firmly unbiased and scholarly opinion, the best dessert in the whole wide world. Shondesh is of different soft and dry textures and shapes, and this one has a soft inner core with sugar syrup; in winter, along with its tan, is filled with notun guR instead. Truly, a bite into a fresh, soft piece is to transport oneself directly into heaven. (In the foreground is a notun guR infused roshogolla, also a milk-based, spongy thing that is very famous but, trust me, a poor competitor to the shondesh, and the darker rolls at the back are standard issue pantua-s, which look like gulab jamuns, but which every Bengali will hurriedly assure you are NOTHING like them.)
So, with this plate of goodies I wish you all a (belated) happy new year, one that is full of fresh, golden sweetness.
Last year I had asked only that 2009 bring me no surprises, and be uneventful. Naturally, it did not heed my request. 2009 took away many people I loved and respected, and knew since my childhood. I lost Bandu mama, one of the few likable people among my mum’s siblings, whom I had only recently begun to get to know as a fellow traveller in the world of Marathi letters, politics and history. He had no time during his work life to indulge many of his literary interests, but after retirement he had taken to learning Kannada and Urdu with great gusto, and wrote regularly and eloquently in the local daily Sakal on a range of topics. It is an irony that despite having been around him for so many years, I will have to use my skills as a historian and pore through this archive he left behind to deepen my acquaintance with this, unfortunately abbreviated, side of him.
Two formative, and ubiquitous figures – known to all of us in school as Singh-sir and Gijare-sir from my earliest memories – also left us. Singh-sir taught us Hindi in school, and was a good friend of my father’s; Gijare-sir lived right next door, in a divided bungalow, and his kids were our friends. Our families were quite literally close. We lived on a residential school campus, and so they were much more than just teachers – they were people you hurriedly wished on the way to class, dodged when playing truant, harangued for advice, chatted with, and made a point to meet when visiting back from college. I shall always remember Singh-sir with his slow, tall gait, popping nuts into his mouth as he made the rounds or dropped into our house for some tea, with some Hindi wisecrack or school gossip on the ready. So many years after leaving school and campus, I never stopped nodding my head and saying a singsong “goodmorningsir” to Gijare-sir, who lived right above us in a happy continuation of our school quarters arrangement.
Also taken, well before her time, was my first friend at work in Berkeley, Linda. She was funny, smart and warm; she helped settle me into the new workplace and we soon discovered common interests in yoga, fabrics and knitting. I used to like taking my tea cup in the afternoon into her office for a little chat and catch up on various campus news, and of all the reasons that made returning to work after my sabbatical so dreadful last semester, Linda’s absence and sudden death was the worst.
I have resolved to hold my breath with 2010, focusing only on the newness, and seasonal bliss of the jaggery.