Monday, December 28, 2009

2009: A Summing Up

I am not a numbers person. I've never liked math primarily because I'm not good at it. But, I do like data. For some reason, for me, expressing certain things quantitatively has a certain definitiveness to it; a certain elegance; a certain je ne sais quoi. That's why I keep track of some things by adding them up at the end of the year. For example, I know that I conducted 750 therapy sessions in 2009. I don't know how many hours I spent on paperwork or on the phone because it would be much less satisfying to tally up those kinds of things. I guess I mostly like to keep data on things that feel like accomplishments. This definitely applies to my leisure activities. I have lots of data on the things I do on my own time.

In 2009 I swam 64,475 yards. This is a somewhat pathetic amount of yardage, but I only really swam consistently for about 6 months this year, so from that perspective it's not so bad.

In 2009 I read 30 books for fun (not including professional reading). That's 12,238 pages. In this case, it may be more meaningful to list titles rather than just the data.

1.  World Without End, by Ken Follet
2.  Dreams from My Father, by Barack Obama
3.  Georgiana - Duchess of Devonshire, by Amanda Foreman
4-7  The Twilight Series (Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse, Breaking Dawn), by Stephanie Meyer - because I work with teens ... sometimes
8.  Devil Water, by Anya Seton
9.  The Age of Innocence, by Edith Wharton
10.  The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, by John Le Carre
11.  Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, by John Le Carre
12.  The Housekeeper and the Professor, by Yoko Ogawa (excellent!)
13. Year of Wonders, by Geraldine Brooks
14. People of the Book, by Geraldine Brooks
15. March, by Geraldine Brooks
16. The World Over, by Julia Glass
17. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, by Muriel Spark
18. Nineteen Minutes, by Jodi Picoult (distressing)
19. "T" is for Trespass, by Sue Grafton
20. Her Fearful Symmetry, by Audrey Niffenegger (intense)
21. Await Your Reply, by Dan Chaon (dark)
22. Behind the Scenes at the Museum, by Kate Atkinson (excellent)
23. Case Histories, by Kate Atkinson
24. One Good Turn, by Kate Atkinson
25. When Will There Be Good News?, by Kate Atkinson
26. 1066: The Hidden History of the Bayeux Tapestry, by Andrew Bridgeford
27. The Bayeux Tapestry, by Carola Hicks
28. The Needle in the Blood, by Sarah Bower
29. "U" is for Undertow, by Sue Grafton (great!)
30. Mistress of the Monarchy, by Alison Weir

 A rather motley collection, I must say. I often set literary goals for myself, but this past year I read whatever came to hand or struck me as potentially interesting. I also went on reading jags with particular authors I was enjoying at the time.

Ah, but now for the knitting. This was by far my most productive year with respect to creating knitwear. I attribute this to Ravelry. Before Ravelry (or BR) I would knit one, or possibly two, things a year. Many years went by when I didn't knit anything at all. After Ravelry (or AR), I have knit significantly more. There's something so inspiring about seeing things others have knit, accumulating patterns and yarn, queueing the projects, etc., that creates a much higher level of inspiration and productivity. So, now for the data. I knit exactly one dozen projects. "Projects" may have involved more than one item (e.g., a baby sweater, romper, and cap). When counted individually the tally was as follows: 2 sweaters for myself, 2 baby sweaters, 3 pairs of baby pants, 2 baby bonnets, 2 jumpers for my niece, 1 shrug for my niece, a smoke ring (or cowl) for my mother, a scarf (unblogged so far) for me, and a pair of socks (there were actually three) for my DH.  Okay, so I'm a slow knitter. But I had a blast doing it!

If I were more techno-savvy I would include a photo collage of these items, but alas I am clueless as to how to do this.

You may have noticed that I did not include the number of knitting books I acquired or how much yarn I purchased. Like I said, I only keep data on things that feel like accomplishments and don't involve guilt.

As for my resolutions in the New Year: No new yarn! Knit down the stash in 2010.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Images of Ancient Greece - Part 2

After knitting three of these socks, I finally had a pair to present to my husband on Christmas day. Here are some action shots of his modeling efforts.

They are close to being a matching pair apart from the fact that I was experimenting with "Judy's Magic Cast-on" and as a result the toe on the last sock was a bit longer than that on the first.

I also added 12 stitches after the ankle shaping so that I would have 82 for the stranded portion of the socks. This created extra "black space" up the back of the calf area, so I added in some embellishments to reduce the long floats that needed to be carried across the back.

The entire project took nearly a month (for three socks). I mostly enjoyed the process and learned a lot about sock construction. I also discovered that I really like mosaic knitting (incorporated into this design in the three Greek keys on each sock). I also enjoyed using toe-up construction but have more to learn about how to do it properly.

Overall, the pattern was very well-written and gets big points for creativity. However, there were a couple issues that I had to grapple with that could have been solved within the pattern which, BTW, is an expensive one ($8.00). If you are thinking of knitting up this pattern, keep reading. If not, this part will be pretty boring.

First, as mentioned above, the stranded portion includes some very long float areas. For me this was exacerbated by the fact that I increased by 12 stitches after the ankle-shaping to ensure that the sock could be pulled on over the heel. I think added design elements up the back of the calf would have helped ameliorate this. Speaking of the calf portion of these socks, it is not made clear in the pattern how to position the stranded portion on the leg. It is useful to think about this before beginning that part of the pattern. I chose to center the two faces of the main characters on the shin area. Speaking of the "back of the calf" part of the design -- the chart for this is inexplicably split in half. I am not sure why it was done this way. This caused me untold grief until I got smart and physically cut and pasted the pattern so that I could read across the chart more easily. I also wondered about making the design up the back of the legs in a matching pattern, but didn't think of it until after the socks were completed.

Second, it is important to realize that the stranded portion involves counted stranding. Now I know most people will find this to be patently obvious, but it may be worth emphasizing to someone who is considering knitting this pattern. There is no memorizing of the pattern for stranding -- you have to count every stitch! That being said, it was a lot of fun to watch the figures develop slowly as I knit up the leg of each sock.

My husband was inordinately worried that the socks would slide down, so I added 3/4 " of 2x2 ribbing above the final Greek key portion. As it turned out this was unnecessary and they would have stayed up just fine without it. The mosaic knitting hugs the leg and foot and renders ribbing redundant. This is another great feature of the pattern.

Finally, on the negative side, there are a couple of typos in the pattern. In the Foot section, for the medium/large size, there should be 34 (not 43) stitches on the heel needle. Similarly, in the first half of the Turn Heel section there will be 16 (not 14) stitches left unwrapped in the middle. These are not huge problems as one will immediately recognize the mistakes.

Project Specifications:

Pattern: Theseus and the Minotaur by Gryphon Perkins of Sanguine Gryphon Fiber Arts
Yarn: Bugga! yarn was unavailable so I substituted Malbrigo sock yarn in negro and Zen Garden serenity sock yarn in gold dynasty (absolutely fabulous yarn!)
Needles: US size 1 (2.5 mm) and US size 0 (for the ribbing)
Modifications: increased from 70 to 82 stitches after ankle shaping, used doubled yarn on heel, added 3/4" of 2x2 ribbing at cuff.
Duration: One month - 11/21/09 - 12/23/09

Theseus has slain the Minotaur and this chapter can now be closed.

Kali Nikta!