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Baby steps, new threads

§ November 11th, 2011 § Filed under Baby things, Elsewhere on the Web, Life § 15 Comments

Today this blog is six years old. SIX! I can’t believe how far back it seems when I impulsively got a Typepad account, and stuck with it all these years. I’ve often toyed with the idea of stopping, partly from blog-fatigue or too much work, but always continued because it was a lot of fun. I’ve just picked up the needles again after yet another excruciatingly long summer and cast on for a hundred different things. But this anniversary, it’s time for a change. I haven’t updated in a while anyway, and the anniversary is as good a time as any to sign off with a flourish!

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I’m not tired or bored with the blogging – although baby and full time work have heavily truncated my knitting and blogging time. Instead, I’m moving to a new blog and location. Here is a link to Dhaage Dore, my new Marathi blog. This blog not only kept me sane when I was in the US academy, but also put me in touch with some wonderful people from all over the world. I am very thankful for these enduring relationships. But one of the best things I have learned through Desiknitter is the ability and freedom to effortlessly write on mundane matters, on anything and everything that comes to mind, away from the refuge of academese. And yet, I like to think that it has also improved my academic writing, making it less turgid and jargon-dependent. As I write more and more in Marathi, I hope to do the same with it on the new blog – it will be a place to bring together my scattered Marathi writings from here and there on this and that, to explore workable idioms for narratives of different sorts, and continue my crafting adventures in a new vein. “Dhaage dore,” after all, is “threads and strands.”

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If you read Marathi, do hop over to give me feedback. Even if you don’t, there will still be pictures of knitting, food and travel as always! I hope you will continue to vist and say hi. Thank you, as always, gentle readers, for your encouragement and fellowship over these years.
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(These are Regia self-striping socks, toe-up, with 10 stitches magic cast on and 44 stitches total….and the baby is nine months old, trying desperately to let go of my hand and walk by himself.)

A February Baby and its Sweater (in April)

§ April 13th, 2011 § Filed under About Me, Baby things, Life § 12 Comments

A couple of months back, I finished a long-running project: a February Baby. A boy design, my own!

February Baby

So of course, I had to make a February Baby sweater for him:

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Last year I made my first February Baby Sweater but posted about it in March. This year, thanks to the new arrival, I’m getting around to it only in April. Let us see if this monthly progression continues with more FBSs down the line..

Project Notes:

Pattern: Baby Sweater on Two Needles; Practically Seamless (Elizabeth Zimmermann, Knitterā€™s Almanac)

Yarn: Socks that Rock Fingering, in Vancouver Violet, maybe half a skein.
Needles: Size 5.
Gauge: 5.5 spi in garter stitch.
Size:To fit a 7-8 lbs newborn. 7.5″ total length, 18? chest circumference, 7″ shoulder to armhole, 4″ neck to armhole, and 4″ armhole to wrist.

I scaled the pattern down to fit a newborn – started with 50 stitches and went up to 148 stitches in 10 garter ridges. Then I did four pattern repeats, before dividing at the armhole. Then I measured him as I went along for the sleeve and body length. It fit perfectly when he was a week old, and he pretty much lived in it till he was a month old, but as March rolled around, it got too warm to wear. He still wears it occasionally at two months, but it’s now a little short at the sleeves.

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The sleeve instructions of this pattern, anyway a very loosely worded one, are somewhat ambiguous. Racing to finish the sweater amidst a suddenly, radically changed sleep schedule and a new person to get to know, I totally botched up the picking up of the stitches at the armhole for the body. I picked up too few, and as a result, the sleeves didn’t quite sit flat and right. But the edges folded in very cooperatively, so I just sewed the sleeves in with a seam allowance.

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Terrible to do it, I know, and even worse to photograph and blog about it. I should have snapped the picture, frogged the body, redone it with the right number of stitches and detailed the repairs. But honestly, an heirloom object as this first project for my son will likely be, I couldn’t have cared less at that point, and neither did he. I was just thrilled to finish it and put it on him!

Musical Memories

§ January 30th, 2011 § Filed under About Me, Life, Music § 9 Comments

The newspapers were already full of detailed updates about his failing health, and after several years of frailty, nobody could deny a sense of foreboding, even resignation about the news to come. After all, Bhimsen Joshi was nearly 90. Life and death themselves are blurred now for weeks on end by ventilators, stabilizers and all kinds of other gadgets. I have also often asked myself if it really matters that Lata Mangeshkar is still alive, or that Mohammed Rafi and Kumar Gandharva are not, when their voices, their music and the magic they made will forever be alive in my ears and heart no matter what their mortal status. But there still comes that moment of silence, finality and emptiness, and it came last week for one of Hindustani music’s giants.

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Working through the emotions that have been running through me the last week led to several dispersed ruminations about memory, music and family. The Anecdote (and more generally the Memoir) is arguably the most powerful means of transmission of knowledge about the social world of Hindustani music. Scholarly histories of Indian music often lament this because of the difficulty of corroborating and documenting it, but the personal or familial memory retains a powerful charge, shaping the public discourse and the aura surrounding past musicians, musical culture and their received history. The gharana organization of musical knowledge and history and the scholarly, historical study of gharanas as discrete units have their own pride of place; serious, expert analysis is likewise indispensable. The archive of anecdotes, however, is like a giant set of lively strands from Salman Rushdie’s famous sea of stories that makes up the historical memory of the musical world, and renders the individual musician at once larger than life and intensely personal, both eccentric and everyday.

Bhimsen Joshi’s exploits, in this genre, are legendary, from his incessant roaming of the country in search of a teacher, to his binge drinking, to his craze for cars and love for driving, to his inimitable, bodily style of singing, to his love for food. I need not repeat them here. The best and funniest one in English, even though it doesn’t really make him come off as lovably as many others do, is in Sheila Dhar’s Raga’n Josh, (pp. 142-145) the brilliant, master text of this “Memoir genre” of Hindustani music. But hundreds of people from Gadag to Gwalior to Kolkata to Patiala have a small, marginal, intensely personal Bhimsen story to tell, and indeed, retelling these stories appears to have been a principal means of articulating the sense of loss and sadness these last few days.

From as long as I can remember, we have told and retold anecdotes about Bhimsen Joshi in our family. My father knew him well as a young man, growing up in the same social, and musical circles of northern Karnataka spanning Gadag, Bagalkot, Dharwad, Hubli and Belgaum, his connections forged especially through his guru Shyamacharya Joshi, with whom Joshi also learned and worked in his early years. Shyamacharya was a quiet, retiring man with a genius for rendering devotional Kannada poetry by Purandara dasa and others into the most soulful Hindustani classical tunes; he also had a penchant for deadpan, one-line observations about the local musical world. If my introduction to the signature melodies of raga Kafi or Tilakkamod or Tilang came through his daasara pada compositions, my initial hazy sense of this rich and quirky world of small-town musicians and music-lovers in northern Karnataka to which my family belonged came from my father and his siblings’ retellings of his quips and observations. Bhimsen stories and the antics they all got up to – humbling a pakhawaj player here, singing a really long Darbari there, a really fine rendition of the Marathi natyasangeet chandrika hi janu sung for nearly ninety minutes, the raga Pilu tune composed for a staging of the Nala Damayanti play, the crazy shopping trip in the middle of it all – were central to these.

The stories that I most enjoyed were of Bhimsen Joshi’s sudden, unannounced driving trips to our house in a tiny town near Pune. He usually demanded a particular kind of Karnataka-style avalakki loaded with raw mango chutney and stuffed fried chillies from my mother, ate a mountain of it, and drove off after pronouncing upon its authenticity. I was too young to remember those visits, but can certainly trace my first memory of a live Darbari Kanada rendition to one of his performances in our town. Many such live concerts were to follow over the years as I became a regular at his Sawai Gandharva festival in Pune and became familiar with his early morning signature performances of Komal Rishabh Asavari Todi or Lalit Bhatiyar, but these too did not wipe out the energy and devotion he generated in the room with a Marathi abhanga concert in memory of our school principal. At Sawai one year, he gave my sister and I his characteristic piercing glance, and asked after my father. We were a bit startled that we looked so obviously like our father that Bhimsen Joshi Himself should recognize us and directly address us so, but before either of us could find our tongues he patted me on the shoulder and said, “Don’t waste time at the coffee stall here – Rashid Khan is going to go up next, find a place to sit down and listen to him carefully.”

And yet, as a teenager I also found myself increasingly dissatisfied. The ye olde, and seemingly pointless, stories bored me and what I perceived as excessive Bhimsen devotion weirded me out. My teenage self could not comprehend why my father had chosen to channel his own stellar musical talent into a personal and private spiritual experience. I fervently sought separate musical tastes, musicians who weren’t so obviously popular, others who were more self-consciously high-brow, and still others who were equally popular but just different. Being part of the Pune musical circles in college, which take their love for their favourite artists rather seriously, just bolstered this sentiment. I craved a more serious, technically informed, musical ear for myself that wasn’t, as I simplistically characterised it then, so rooted in “extra-musical stuff.”

Now I cannot believe I listened to so much Jasraj at the time – what was I thinking?! But mercifully, this effort to get away from the Bhimsen-inflected musical memories, bhajans, taans and bandishes also made me voraciously seek out his contemporaries – Kumar Gandharva, Mallikarjun Mansur, Kishori Amonkar or Amir Khan – as well as a lot of younger musicians. It made my musical ear all the richer over the decades, to be sure, even if not as technically informed as I had dreamed. But in recent times I also find myself returning to some old Bhimsen favourites again and again – an electric live Durga, the joyful Shuddha Kedar that inevitably comes to mind after a rain shower – saawan ki boondaniyaan – the incredible richness of his Malkauns, or the way in which only his sombre and reassuring Shuddha Kalyan can drive away my unexplained and persistent twilight blues. I am in awe yet again of the impossible energy of his music commanding those clouds to gather, umad ghumad, pell-mell, and burst with rain, his eyes just as piercing as his voice, compelling us to follow the trajectory of the notes and visualize the gathering storm.

I confess I am still not fond of his interpretation of many Kannada bhajans – the recordings are harsh and abrupt, and the melodiousness of Shyamacharya’s tunes, which captured the essence of the devotional poem for me, are missing in them. The Marathi ones, on the other hand, are sublime – magic is indeed a Bhimsen abhanga in Malkauns.

Our extended family had occasion to remember many of these stories over the last few days, Shyamacharya’s quips and tunes mixing in once again with replays of some of our favourite Bhimsen recordings – both classical, and “light” ones in Kannada and Marathi. As always, these also mixed in with Dharwad-Bagalkot lore, the older generation’s stories of migrating from northern Karnataka to Pune, their initial mishaps with the Marathi language, untranslatable bilingual Kannada-Marathi puns and jokes, and more.

Listening afresh to the retellings and the devotional tunes, I like to think my more mature ear can appreciate how finely the strands of family memory, musical knowledge and community are woven in them. Instead of merely supplementing or sullying an ideal, objective narrative of biography, either of a gharana or an individual musician, these strands challenge the very claims to such singularity beyond the bare arrangement of facts. They are marginal, as in they do not impinge in any significant way on the “track to greatness” narrative of the musician, nor are they especially technically insightful. But they are rich and ubiquitous. They compel us to acknowledge how such an ‘appreciation’ of individual musicians and our knowledge of the social world of music, indeed, musical knowledge itself, produce and reproduce each other at intensely personal, familial and communitarian levels all at once.

The Bhimsen legacy cannot but range freely across all these levels, much like the great man’s own inimitable voice ranged, and will continue to range, across the octaves. Even to write RIP after such a restless life and voice seems pointless.

Durga Puja

§ October 17th, 2010 § Filed under Life, Other crafts § 9 Comments

Thank you one and all for the responses to my last post! It feels good to be back in blogland. In perfect sync the weather cooled down late last week, and I promptly headed to a local wool store and cast on for something. It’s nearly done, too… will post more pictures soon.

Evening arati at a pujo on Panditiya road

A couple of years ago I had posted about being in Pune during the Ganpati festival. This time, am in Kolkata, the heartland of Durga Puja. As far as I can remember, people all around me have always compared the two festivals – the installation of the idols amidst colourful themed decorations, the immersions, the community/political overtones of the festivals, their historical importance, etc. Plus, every second Bengali I have met has at some point waxed eloquent (and often nostalgic) about Calcutta during the Puja… so I was very eager to experience it all. In many ways, the festivals are a lot similar – not least in the way the loudspeakers invade neighbourhoods.

Beautiful protima inside the buddhist temple pandal

Durga, pat painting style, Lake Place

But at least to my first-time-observer eyes, the nature of the celebrations is also very different. The art of the puja pandals is of a different order altogether, exploring many different textures, materials and themes… the visual magic and intensity that the various clubs that organise these installations create with bamboo, cloth, pith and clay is quite something.

The beautiful Sevak Sangha idol

Rather than indulge in comparative sociological speculation on the basis of my limited exposure, however, here is a slideshow of some of these wonderful creations within a small area of south Calcutta, mostly around my neighbourhood this year. Do click on the bottom right to view the slideshow in full-screen.

Some of these, however, deserve to be blown up on the page here too, not least for us fibre enthusiasts. Two of my favourite pandals were right around the corner from where I live. And while this meant that the neighbourhood was transformed in many ways, drawing huge crowds all through the night, complete with mini-vuvuzela sound effects, I was delighted to be able to just walk there when it wasn’t rush hour, and look at the installations in great detail. The Shib Mondir pandal, in recent years a major player on the pandal prize circuit, created a swirling, thick and colourful tropical jungle entirely out of jute fabric:

The jute jungle at Shib Mondir Mother earth, Shib Mondir

Pigeon in jute

An owl peers over the flowers

The idols at Shib Mondir

The youthful, playful Durga at Shibmondir

The other one by Bengal United Club, a much smaller one, was equally a riotous celebration of fibre, in very different motifs. Angular and flat icons that nevertheless burst into life through a mixture of rags in different fibres, and beads. The dancers and musicians seemed to leap out of the bamboo frames in the soft light of the dim lanterns; it was truly wonderful to peer at them closely and have them stare back at you.

The Bengal United Club idol

Archers, Bengal United

Cloth and bead magic, Bengal United

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Flautist at Bengal United

Today is the last day, when the goddess is bid goodbye until next year. Best wishes, dear readers, for Dasara, Vijayadashami, Bijoya…

A change in scene, weather, craft

§ October 6th, 2010 § Filed under About Me, Life § 18 Comments

There are many reasons why a blog post may be delayed beyond all decent limits:

1. You move bag and baggage to the other side of the world, namely back home to India, specifically Kolkata/Calcutta,

2. Said baggage, with all your knitting supplies, is delayed indefinitely at sea,

3. You endure a summer and monsoon so hot and humid that you wish never to see any wool ever again, and wish that all the yarn would just sink somewhere in the Indian ocean,

4. You are so delirious with joy about being back home for good that for once, you actually forget the knitting and the blog for a while,

5. You then begin to ponder the wisdom of picking a place with swampy climate in which to continue a cold-weather obsession hobby, and a blog about it.

6. You seriously consider retiring desiknitter for good, and mentally compose an appropriately tragic goodbye post on the approaching fifth anniversary,

7. You wisely resist the above melodrama, and ignore the whole matter for a few months, and focus on getting a new job, home and settling in.

8. You not only lose one camera in Mexico and absent-mindedly pack the other one into lazy, meandering shipment, you also give away the phone with the decent megapixel camera.

9. You kick yourself for missing many non-knitting, blog-worthy, photo-essay-worthy opportunities due to said lack of camera.

10. You often think of a post, but recoil from recycling a photo from two years ago, thinking this to be really bad blogging form.

All these reasons, and more, apply.

But, dear readers, climate change is with us, and so the blog adjusts. Not just its tagline, but also these little unwritten rules, and – gasp – even its principal content. We are nothing if not flexible.

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The long coffee break is nearly over, the froth finally settling down, just like me in my new job and home. The weather may actually be turning in a couple of weeks into a tantalizingly short autumn and winter. My knitting-focused truculence (I hope) will give way to a fresh, adventurous and seasonal crafty sensibility, because I simply have to do something with my itching hands and having the blog to record it, screw-ups and all, makes things more disciplined and fun. The long-delayed shipment, too, will finally arrive, and with it my beloved camera. I am madly thrilled about finally being back home, closer to family and all the stuff I have craved and missed all these years, and there are shawls to knit for aunts, booties for babies on the way, vests for fathers-in-law, little scarves for nieces and suchlike….

Plus, other gadgets and and a whole dizzying world of fabrics also beckon…. I am looking, with a gleam in my eye, at the Usha Janome Stitch Magic, periodically also dreaming about one of the old Singer foot-treadle machines. My tailor woes continue, so a more serious, methodical approach to the whole clothes fitting question is at hand. There might be some experimenting with basic gardening, and there is a kickass school of all kinds of embroidery and quilting not far away that is really tempting me!

Knitting may no longer be keeping insanity at bay for me as an expat academic in the Bay Area, but let’s see where all these desi crafting adventures in a new city near another bay (of Bengal) take me…. stay tuned, and see you soon!

Whirl

§ June 22nd, 2010 § Filed under Life, Simpler stuff § 5 Comments

Look:

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I know what you’re thinking – new yarn swift! Skeins being wound up on the double! New patterns being sketched, the fingers flexed, the needles eager to stab the yarn… Alas. The swift is indeed fantastic, and I wish I could just keep winding yarn on it, but the picture just sums up the whirl that is my life right now, with a million things to attend to, and finish, other than knitting.

In the last few weeks, this is all I’ve managed:

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It’s a good dishcloth too, made with Elann Esprit (the one with cotton-elastic) on size 4s, using a Barbara Walker stitch pattern from Book# 1. I got bored with the stretchy yarn and made it rectangular rather than square, but the garter ridges motif is ideal for the dishcloth. I should try the pattern with another, more conventional kitchen cotton yarn.

Things are going to be like this for a bit – I hope to be back soon. In the meantime, enjoy the summer/monsoon, everyone, hopefully with lots of mangoes (or other stonefruit) aplenty wherever you are!

Bad day

§ May 5th, 2010 § Filed under Food and Drink, Life, Screw ups § 8 Comments

You know your knitting isn’t going well when, tired of being frogged and carried around aimlessly for weeks, even your sock yarn needs caffeine. So badly, in fact, that it takes advantage of a sudden lurch in the car, and leaps rebelliously into a cup of half-drunk coffee and happily sits there, soaking it in.

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Worst part was I had to let it sit there for miles until I reached my destination. I couldn’t bring myself to knit from it any more even though there was a fair bit between the ball and the needles. Instead I clutched the half-done sock in fear that it would jump into the cup too, and took a photograph of the soaking ball instead. Later I washed and squeezed it out, but that skein, and any sock that eventually comes of it, is always going to stink of coffee.

I pretended to be all upset about it, and cheered myself up by buying this cool implement, which I have long coveted. The wait for it to arrive is already killing me.

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§ January 9th, 2010 § Filed under Food and Drink, Life § 12 Comments

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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.

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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.

Neighbours

§ November 22nd, 2009 § Filed under Caps, Hats, Etc., Life § 5 Comments

In recent times, our neighbourhood has seen some dramatic improvement. A new coffee shop has come up right around the corner. It has a study hall atmosphere to it with small square tables and mostly has solitary patrons – students from our school – huddled over their laptops and lattes, but it makes great salads and coffee and has a wonderful staff with a sense of humour. We have a friendly building with lots of people with common interests and we do stuff together. A couple into gardening spruced up our backyard. The bus stops right opposite, and the deli store carries wine. Even the laundry is trying to double as an art gallery for local artists!

But nothing beats my newest friend in the neighbourhood, Sally Field:

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Sally and her friend Becks belong to one of our neighbours in the next building, but they have come to prefer our backyard, and hang out there most of the time. Their owner moved their feeding bowls out here and leaves the food for us to refill from time to time. They are among the friendliest cats I’ve ever met. Becks is a little neurotic, and it’s practically impossible to photograph her at ground level – she immediately jumps into your lap and reaches for the camera. This is the best I could manage.

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Every other day, one of them is waiting at the building door when I come home, and if I have a grocery bag or something, they promptly try to jump right into it when I put it down to look for my keys. Sally decided to imperiously follow me in one day and check out my flat. She sat in the sun for a bit and then went back out. They prefer the outdoors, which is just as well, because I am not allowed pets, and it would be a shame if they liked my sofa and I couldn’t keep them here. Sally is also my silent morning alarm, because at dawn every day she perches herself on that gate, and the quiet twitch of her tail causes the motion sensor light at the back to go on and off, on and off, on and off – it happens to be right at my bedroom window. If it had been anybody but her I would have done violence to them and to the light. Instead, I rubbed my eyes groggily and took a picture of her from the gap in the curtains.

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Oh, so I finally started something else.
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I have reached the uncomfortable and unenviable point in my red shawl where I have to decide whether:
a) I have enough yarn left for the last 4 patterns and the border.
b) to break the symmetry of the shawl and end it here and starting the border at once
c) to rip back the cast on edge (it’s provisional) and ripping back the 4 initial repeats to maintain the symmetry
d) this truncated length will be enough after blocking.

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Momentous decisions, all. I took the only adult course of action out, which is to say I swore, rolled up the lace into a ball and flung it into the basket, had a cookie and then cast on for something else. I’ll decide later.

Taking a break from my paper on this gloomy sunday afternoon, my eyes glazed over with tiny, cursive nineteenth century handwriting from the archives, I am having fun both knitting and taking pictures of it from all odd angles. Is it a tent? A kite? You’ve surely guessed what it is, but I’ll tell you what it is once I’ve finished it, which will hopefully be soon.

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Somehow, having the 5 DPNs go in different directions and collapse on themselves is better than hauling my ass to the yarn store to buy a size 1 circular needle.

Four

§ November 11th, 2009 § Filed under Elsewhere on the Web, Life § 18 Comments

I can barely believe it, but it’s my blog’s fourth anniversary. Where did this year go? It seems like just yesterday that I blogged about it turning three. I really need to pay more attention around here!

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Thanks for the commiserations and suggestions about repairing the shawl – it’s still keeping me warm, and my friend who took this picture imagined it unravelling all the way as I wrapped it around me. But the malabrigo has fuzzed just enough for it to stay in place, and at some point undoing the centre motif, removing a couple of repeats and then reknitting and grafting it is a distinct possibility.

Talking about the anniversary, I have been wondering a lot about blogging lately, and knit-blogging in particular. Most of my favourite knit-bloggers (not the celebrity ones like the Harlot, or Grumperina, or Franklin) have gone silent, either because they got busy with new jobs or kids, or moved, or switched to Ravelry. I miss them. I tried finding new blogs to follow from a friend’s blogroll. But many of her links too were either broken, or were nearly a year or more old. The latest posts on a few apologized about neglecting their blogs or rued their lack of knitting time and mojo. So many people are tweeting, and while I’ve resisted following people into a 140-character description of fair-isle, I wonder if everyone’s just bored with oohing and aahing over cool photographs, and the online moment of sighing over the magic of blocked lace is now well and truly behind us?

So I ask myself why I blog, but also why I read knit-blogs, especially as an avalanche of work has hit me this semester, and I barely have time to knit, let alone write a journal about it. I know that blogging, either about knitting, food or travel, helps me relate to my own creative expression in a different way – finding an everyday idiom quite different from my academic writing, and a means of honing half-formed thoughts about stuff I like, that keep buzzing around in the brain. Of course I love Ravelry and I love people’s finished projects, but the best part about craftblogs, and knitblogs in particular for me, was a neat mix of process posts or notes about modifications to projects with the a-ha! photo, and bits of the blogger’s life and opinions about this and that. These seem to have vanished, and the Ravelry ‘notes’ section on project pages doesn’t do it for me.

It makes me wonder what the knit-blogs will look like a few years from now, or if they will still exist. On the one hand I cannot imagine not having one, and on the other the idea that this will continue for ever and ever is also a bit odd. Many of those going strong either have a strong non-knitting personal component to them (the Harlot), or have constantly kept it fresh through new crafts (Grumperina – who really made me take a fresh look at crochet), or have books and designs, and tours and tour stories (Franklin, Brooklyntweed, Ysolda). Does the craftblog naturally tire itself out at some point, and have to keep reinventing itself to keep going if it doesn’t have the semi-advertisement/design-showcase aspect to it? Are there interesting and journal-y regular knitblogs out there still going strong that you can recommend?

I saw the film Julie & Julia recently, and while I hadn’t heard of or read the original blog that inspired the film, I knew about the phenomenon of Julia Child largely through a couple of my friends who are excellent cooks. Apart from Meryl Streep the film was a disappointment because I had unwittingly, from the knitblog experience, expected more about the challenges of writing about a craft; about a work in progress; about how the medium of the blog both frees and traps you into consciously or unconsciously shaping your goals accordingly. All it did was make me hungry, and very annoyed that all that butter didn’t make that Julie put on one single pound!!

Midway through I said to the friend I went to see it with – someone should make a film like this on the Yarn Harlot! Her community organizing, her writing, her books, tours, the lakhs she has raised for MSF… even those crazies that keep writing to her spelling doom on judgment day for not being pro-American or whatever. Maybe they could even get Greg Kinnear to star in it!

Previously in this series: Three; Two; (I forgot the first one!); zero.

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