FO: Jaded Milkmaid

Pattern: Milk Maiden from Brave New Knits
Designer: CanaryKnits
Yarn: Berroco Ultra Alpaca

We have this amazing gourmet cupcake restaurant in town (called Coastal Cupcakes if you ever make it to our area).  While they have a set menu, they also have a rotating special every day that changes each month.  Because today was the last chance to get my favorite -- oreo cheesecake, mmm -- I conned my friend Erica into going downtown with me.  While we were munching by the riverfront I got her to snap some photos of the finally completed Jaded Milkmaid.

This is an excellent sweater, perfect for this time of year when our weather is bouncing from fifty to seventy-five and back again.  I love the vintage style with the slightly puffy sleeves and the bordered neckline.  Of course I'm destined to fall in love with anything that has a square neckline, I find it to be one of the most flattering styles on me.  I had originally planned to not knit the leaves and just leave the neckline square, but it proved to be way too Renaissance-painting-milkmaid crossed with Hollywood-Jane-Austin-character.  So leafy it is.  I'm glad now that I knit the edging because it really does make the outfit.

The pattern is knit with about five inches of negative ease.  I knit the medium, or 30.5".  Teresa advises to knit a size that runs about five inches smaller than the wearer's chest circumference, which makes a lot of sense when you look at the pattern.  The only problem I have is that  even with all of this negative ease the top is still a little gapey.  If I was going to modify anything I might look into knitting fewer stitches in the ribbing section, because there is plenty of give there.  The sweater itself is nice and long so that if you can only find one pair of jeans on the way out the door on a Saturday morning and those jeans happen to be a little lower waisted than you'd like sitting with your back exposed is not a major concern (Hey, it's a valid concern. You, over there, you know what I'm talking about).  The only downside is that when you stand back up you might get a bit of bunching in the back.

This was my first raglan ever.  I was really nervous that I would not understand the directions when I got to the sleeves, but it all made perfect sense.  The pattern directions were very clear and put everything into very simple terms that even I understood.  I have to say, attaching sleeves this way is like magic.  I don't know if I ever want to try anything else, it was just so cool.

So, overall rating? Five fraktoids out of five (I'm sorry, I've been dying to say "fraktoid" in a sentence for days).  It's beautiful, fun to knit (even if I was uneasy about a whole sweater on US 3 & 4), and the end result is just lovely.


It's Planty el Macetocico!

My sister has a specific playlist for every mood.  If she's frustrated with life or mad at the world it's Pink or Evanescence.  If she's happy it is  a sickening assortment of pop music that make you wonder at times if she has any taste at all (she does, she has better taste than me).  And while my current playlist might consist mostly of Metric and PJ Harvey, I can feel myself slipping into that style of happy that can only be expressed in cotton candy music.  Maybe it's the weather.  Despite the fact I love cold weather, today it is nice to have bright sunlight and a temperature requiring no more than a light sweater over a tank top allowing me to sit outside and read (I know the rest of the world is cold and snowy. And I envy you. Except today).  It was dreadfully rainy this morning but now is cheerful and there are screaming children, skateboards, and puppies everywhere (I can't think about the screaming and skateboards for too long or I'll lose my happy.  It's surprising how much noise carries to the third floor).  There's nothing really new in my knitting, but here are a few of the things that I know are behind my good mood.

This is Echo, the kindle that has come to live with me.  Monday was Chris' and my anniversary and he was way too sweet and got me the gift I really wanted but didn't know he knew I wanted.  Yep, he's just that good.  Or I'm just that talkative.  I choose to think it's the former.  Anyway, I've loaded up some Kathy Reichs, Anita Blake, and of course, Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, to do all the reading my heart can desire that my school schedule will allow.  Actually, I may be guilty of a little too much reading and a little less work than is good for me, but it's just so nice and fun. And I can read while I knit without any crazy balancing act!

New glasses!  There was this crazy online deal a few weeks ago in which a coupon code would negate the price of glasses.  So I got these babies for a whopping $15.  The price of insurance and shipping.  I've been wanting red glasses ever since Amy Acker rocked her adorable pair on Angel.

Maybe that's the source of my new red obsession?

I don't name my plants, but if I did, this would totally be Planty, the Potted Plant.

So they only had a clip in Spanish.  That might just add to the happy.

I've never been one to have a green thumb.  I tend to forget and the plant dies in my car in some freak frost (hey, it happens.  The right mix of good intentions, school vacation, and forgetful me can cause a lot of weirdness).  This Christmas Cactus is a clipping of one that my mom has at home.  That plant is actually a clipping from my grandmother's.  She died before my parents married but her memory has always been a big influence in our family.  Evidently she was a hard worker, had an impeccable house, and always ate her vegetables (I may not be sure on that last one, but I'm pretty sure if my parents thought it would help that would be the story).  I've had this one since last spring and it has finally bloomed!  It started blooming right after I decided to take more time on my thesis, so I like to think it was celebrating the reduction of stress around here.

Now I'm going to go back to reading in our fading daylight (sun goes down fast here on the coast) through my new glasses next to my plant while knitting.  Here's to happy!


WIP Wednesday: Seeing Red

The yarn shop I frequent when I go home does this really cool thing.  Every week a certain kind of yarn is on sale.  It could be a brand, a fiber, a color, or whatever theme the owner decides on.  The week after Christmas it was green yarn (when I purchased the yarn for my Jaded Milkmaid, which was completed on Monday! I hope to get some pictures this weekend), back in January it was Cascade, and the week before Valentine's Day it was all red and pink yarn.  Obviously, I can't drive six hours to the yarn shop, but my mom was able to snag some yarn for me.

The lighting here has been really bad as of late, so this is the only picture I have.  Sorry.
Last week I went to the mailbox to discover six beautiful skeins of Berroco Remix in this awesome dark red colorway (for some reason I'm knitting a lot of red recently, which is odd because it is not one of my normal colors).  If you have not heard of this yarn, you should really check it out.  It's made out of repurposed fibers including nylon, cotton, acrylic, and silk.  I had looked at the yarn the last time I was in the shop, but decided against it because it was a little out of my price range.  Twenty-five percent off brings the price tag down enough that I'll be able to pay my mom back out of my next paycheck.

The gauge swatch pictured is for the Salem Hooded Jacket from New England Knits (yet another of my Christmas books).  I was originally worried that the yarn would be too stiff or course for a hooded garment, but knit up it has a surprising amount of drape and softness to it.  I knit the swatch on US size 10s and got what I thought was close to gauge.  I then cast on a sleeve on Sunday to have travel knitting, only to discover on Tuesday that what looked to big a gapey was.  I had misread the recommended gauge at least three times. I have since frogged the sleeve and cast on again using size 9, which makes me a little apprehensive because I'm a naturally tight knitter and usually have to go up needle sizes not down.

I'm hoping, obviously, that the yarn and pattern will still work well together.  I love the idea of knitting this sweater in such a soft tweedy red and am planning to put in a black ribbon for the neck accent.  It reminds me of a Buffy EU story in which the gang has  to deal with a former slayer who was involved in the Salem witch trials (obviously not cannon, but the story is from the late 90s and the show was hardly making cannon).  The current plan is to knit the sleeve and then see how I feel about it.  Wish me luck!

Also, check out other WIP Wednesday posts here.


Life in Progress

First off, I feel like I should apologize for the unannounced blog hiatus.  It was intentional, but by the time I made the decision I did not have the time to give notice.  For those of you still reading, thanks for sticking with me.  I don't anticipate another extended break.

Why was I on hiatus you ask?  Well, funny story.  I am in my fourth, and theoretically last, semester of graduate school.  This is the semester in which you (the graduate student) are supposed to stop eating, sleeping, and wasting time on personal hygiene concerns so that you can complete, edit, and defend your thesis.  It is the semester from hell in a way that those not in the graduate school world often do not seem to understand.  You basically have an entire semester to do nothing but work on said thesis, a personally developed project that you alone design and set constrains for.  Not a bad deal, right?

I've spent the past 2-3 months charging into the breach, trying to accomplish this task.  I've made myself physically ill, turned my apartment into a scene from Hoarders, alienated friends and family, and basically been a major bitca to be around (Mom, call me for an explanation of the Buffy reference).  Through all of this, I've struggled to avoid daily panic attacks and serious self-destruction.  My quality of work, though a significant amount of output, began to decline.  I struggled to remember what I was trying to accomplish.  Every day felt like five and any sleep I managed to score was so fitful that I would wake up more exhausted than when I went to sleep.

Yesterday marked the one month point.  One month until the first (and virtually final) draft must be completed.  Last week I met with my committee head to discuss my progress.  She was very encouraging and helped me to get a better grasp of where my thesis was heading. During the hour I spent in her office I finally was able to sketch out a clear map of what I want to accomplish.  The flip side to all of this clarity?  I was able to see all of the gaping holes in my knowledge.  Not because I  have been slacking off but because I picked an excellent subject that I am passionate about but that falls into an area that is different from that which I worked for the past three semesters.

Long story short?  I am taking an extra semester.  It is both a liberating and devastating decision to make.  It gives me the freedom to research thoroughly and produce what I hope will be an excellent product.  At the same time, it means that I've exceeded the amount of time allotted to me.  It doesn't matter in some ways that only a few students are able to finish in four semesters and that these are generally not students working in a new subject area.  I am the girl who took four AP classes in a single year while juggling several extra curriculars.  I am the student who finished undergrad in three years rather than the more and more frequent five.  Not that I criticize those who have not done this or taken extra time, I just always expect myself to push the limits of what it is possible to accomplish.

This all probably seems to personal for this space.  And it is.  But I think know that it is an important part of my own life and one that many others have had to experience be they students or not.  And I think it is important to know that through all of this, I have not stopped knitting.  My progress slowed, but I did hold on to knitting as a way to process my own thoughts.  It is still the best therapy that I know.  Just as I have grown to understand that I really do need to knit gauge swatches before starting a large project, I needed to accept that I need to take the time to fully understand my thesis.  I needed to take the time to play with my materials, understand what threads I am bringing together, what project I intend to make, and how these pieces fit together.

See?  It always comes back to knitting.