The Harvard Knitting Project

Thursday, November 30, 2006

making a niche

Thanks for the comments, spork and aurora! :D

So, in addition to knitting compulsively, I have this other unfortunate and clutter-making response to stress...

as you can see now that I have photos up, I bring an inordinate amount of stuff back to school with me every time I go home because I think it will make the dorm a nicer, more relaxing place to be.

You know what? It does! But I've been so busy trying to put the room together that I've had almost ZERO time to knit. Also, dadsock no. 2 has been frustrating: I had to frog 22 rows of herringbone color pattern because I messed up! waah! At first I couldn't figure out why it happened: the first sock went off without a hitch! Then I realized. I was trying to read, and later discuss, HEIDEGGER while I knit the beginning of the sock. Frankly, I don't think anyone can be expected to knit anything beautiful while reading about how Angst causes the Da-sein to be "held out into" Das Nicht. aaaaauugh! I'm really looking forward to next week, when HRP will be discussing Husserl, Heidegger's teacher, over brunch in Jordan Hall of Pforzheimer House, at which lovely gathering I shall NOT try to knit. :)

I've made a decision, though, which is that I'm going to submit the Noro Sweater Pattern, which remains unwritten so far but well-dreamed, to MagKnits. Cross your fingers for me. If they take it, they'll buy the rest of the yarn (!!!). Now, wouldn't that be pleasant?

In other news, I think I'm going to try to use up all that hideous yarn I bought when I was younger. The purple and pink stuff. From when I thought I wanted a purple-and-pink striped sweater. I kind of like the purple stuff...I'm thinking I'll knit the Mason-Dixon Knitting "perfect sweater". The only trouble is that I'm afraid I don't have enough of the purple...I may in fact have to resort to pink stripes...horrors! Maybe I'll knit it for someone else. Someone I don't like. But who don't I like? Dilemmas, dilemmas... I'll just have to reexamine the stash.

Well, when this mess is cleaned up, anyway. My suitcase is blocking Rachel's path to the bathroom.

Sunday, November 26, 2006


I may not have gotten around to it, but I am in favor of a manifesto.

This isn't just "The Knitting Project" for a reason. It's the "Harvard Knitting Project" because, since I came to harvard, I've been living what I think of as the anti-lifestyle (or the anti-mindful lifestyle, the anti-knitting lifestyle, whatever). You wake up in the morning if you have a morning class and in the afternoon if you don't, having gone to sleep no earlier than 2, and frequently later than 4. You go to class, come back, eat in the dining hall if you have time, study as much as you are able in your sleep-deprivation-addled state, hopefully find the time to hang out (usually just with your significant other and/or roommates and/or people you run into in the dining hall or laundry room), study more, work at your work-study job if you are me, probably go to rehearsal or other extracurricular obligation, procratsinate a lot, and study as much as possible. At the beginning of this year I reached a point of critical burnout.

I also have reached a critical stash point.

Late last academic year, after knitting a wave-patterned chulo for my boyfriend for christmas, I realized I really missed knitting, and sent off to my parents for yarn. It arrived in boxes and, during their annual frequent-credit-card-flyer's-miles visit, in suitcases. I kept it in my typewriter case. I kept it in my dresser drawers. I finally got a big plastic tub for it during moveout. I knitted two hats, using the yarn I spun when I was in grade school and some noro silk garden. I knitted five inches of an ill-fated cardigan out of ugly purple tweed (which is still sitting at the bottom of the box), and I spent most of the spring and summer working on disgustingly hip fingerless gloves using brown sock yarn and some of that trendy recycled sari silk yarn, until I realized I'd knitted two right gloves, and ripped them out in a fit of pique (R.I.P. in a tangled mess). I was still stressed. I was NOT in the knitting groove.

Then I discovered Mason-Dixon Knitting. I think I read like half the archives in two weeks. Coincidentally, while I was devouring the blog, I was staying with Kay Gardiner's niece Rachel B., who is one of the two Rachels who live in my suite at Harvard... though Rachel doesn't know the first thing about knitting and I didn't figure out the relation until later.

What I had been knitting the most, up till that point, and selling (!), was rocket-shaped, multi-colored vibrator cozies. But in August, Rachel B. commissioned me to knit her some flip-top mittens (which are fingerless gloves underneath and mittens on top). I bought some FANTASTIC black wool (RB is a stern minimalist) and set to work, using a combination of knucks and broad street mittens, but knitting them as one piece, picking up stitches from the back of the hand, because I hate sewing. They were a total joy. Interesting, full of new techniques and knitting theory to learn, and everyone thought they were just the coolest, and asked me to knit them some. I knit a pair of pink knucks for Celine, editor-in-chief of the Harvard Review of Philosophy, and modified fetching for the fabulous Professor Alison Simmons.

I learned to knit socks from the Yarn Harlot's Knitting Rules, which has obviously changed my life. I started using patterns from time to time. I think the biggest change in my knitting universe and universe as a whole, though, is that I started taking requests.

Knitting for my friends, to their specifications, makes a surprisingly big difference. With so many requests, I'm thinking about knitting all the time, and thinking creatively about it. I'm branching out (I learned to do increases! WHOAH...) in technique, color, and pattern. I still love hats, but I have broken free from their tyranny. :)

Knitting at Harvard is different from knitting anywhere else. It's the perfect break from the academic whirlwind --- not too complicated, just two stitches, a knit and a purl. It MAKES SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL. Knitting is the only way I've found to make beauty at Harvard. I've written things that are models of concision, models of precision. There is whimsy here, even in class, but it's buried amid so many rows and rows of people taking themselves way too seriously that it's hard to find. Everything sticks. Everything's harder than it ought to be. Knitting, though, just slips through my fingers: click, click, click, click, and soon the whole ball is gone and I've got a perfect little object, ready for finishing and giving away.

So that's why I knit here. And that's why I teach knitting. Spread the soft, wooly love.

Plus, unless I get this stash shrunk, it's going to eat New York.

I hope there's somebody reading out there, and I hope you had a wonderful thanksgiving.

socks for EVAH

So I've been home for thanksgiving (hooray!) and I've been knitting a LOT...(and not doing my homework a LOT)...

1. The momsocks are finished (and lovely, if I do say so. Great pattern --- knitty's "straitlaced"). I put them on while I was at Tessa's place in Santa Cruz and it took so much willpower to take them off again! I think she's going to love them...I left them at home though, wrapped in some paper, so I hope she's not feeling nosy.

2. One dadsock is finished. I have to get more black Baby Ull (from norway!) before I can knit the other one. They're "red herring" from knitty, in case you hadn't noticed, and while I really liked the way the colorwork ended up looking, it got really monotonous after about 6 inches (the pattern calls for 9.5 in of leg, I knit 8.5 because I just couldn't go on with it...). I didn't use the recommended yarn, and I used two different yarns for the different colors, which may have been a mistake. I did do a gauge swatch, but I didn't end up making any modifications because my gauge was just a little biggeer than the pattern's, and my dad's feet are pretty big. The sock came out wonky, though... they're going to need a lot of blocking. I've never blocked before! I guess now is as good a time as any to start.

3. Kavita's teddy bear. My first teddy. Vintage garage-sale brown wool. GORGEOUS. SO GORGEOUS! I am so happy with this bear, I almost want to keep it! But I'm not going to post a picture until I give it to her.

In other news, what is up with this whole knitting-socks-on-two-circulars thing? A woman on the plane saw me knitting the momsocks on dpns (I would never DREAM of purchasing two circulars when I have perfectly good size 2 dpns already) and was really surprised. She said she'd only ever seen or heard of people knitting socks on two circulars. What gives?! when did this trend start? Does the 2-circular method produce better socks, or is the public just deadly afraid of dpns? Persnally, I love my pointy sticks. Bendy sticks just don't do it for me.

SOCKS SOCKS SOCKS SOCKS SOCKS! Knit socks, everybody!

Saturday, November 11, 2006

the crimson and the zig-zag helmet

Well, the Crimson thinks knitting is a good example of anti-feminist backsliding...or something...(article)...but they're wrong, right? Right!

Anyway. Momsock no. 1 is finished and momsock no. 2 has been begun! And in my spare time, I knitted the Fantastic Zig-Zag Helmet Hat for my friend Kirk. I like it so much that I'm going to write up the pattern, wheeeeeeeeee! Also, taught Kavita to knit mitred squares. Despite the fact that I've never knit a mitred square. Ever. WHOA.

Up there's a picture of Kavita knitting a the first square of her blanket! I'll post a picture of the ZIG ZAG HAT (I am waaay too excited about this hat) when I take one I actually like...

Monday, November 06, 2006

Noro, the Women's Center, lost wallets, Plato

Welcome to the Harvard Knitting Project.

Yesterday, Mischa (a fabulous diva boy, and master swatcher) and I held the first-ever Harvard knitting circle in the Women's Center. We're not crazy about the message that a knitting circle held in the Women's Center, but they're buying us yarn and whatnot, and they seem really enthusiastic, so we left our reservations behind and plunged into the project, and so far it seems like a success! Cookies, hot chocolate, and some crocheted flowers...we even had a decent turnout of non-female-identified folk. And I'm crazy about cheap bulky Lion's Pride yarn. It looks fantastic in seed stitch, as Carolyn proved (photos forthcoming!)

As it turns out, it wasn't the first-ever Harvard knitting circle. There used to be something called the Harvard Neighbors, back in the day (Gazette article), the fabulous Amy Spoering held a Lowell House knitting circle a few years back, and there's a great little group through PBHA called "Stitch in Time", who teach knitting at Rosie's Place once a week, and also donate stuff they knit to UniLu's Harvard Square Homeless Shelter (I'm planning on joining them --- drop a line if you'd like to join up, too!)

Anyway. The circle was a predictable mix of girly girls and the queer community. But it was great fun and there are a few category three knitters (angsty philosophers) planning on coming next week.

In other news, I can't find my wallet ANYWHERE! Granted, my dorm is kind of a pit that eats everything, but this lack of wallet is really stressing me out. So, instead of working on my Parmenides presentation and paper (due tomorrow!), I have turned to the legendary Noro. I bought two skeins of Kochoran 10 (lime, grey, denim) last year for no apparent reason, because it reminded me of home (trees, fog, ocean). It's screaming "sweater," and so I guess I'll just have to buy a couple more skeins! I took out the ol' US no. 7 circular on which I knitted my first and only sweater back in prepubescent days, and started to swatch. And let me say....

This stuff is a dream! It knits up into big luscious stitches, and even on metal needles (which I kind of hate) it has a wonderful soft grip to it. I haven't swatched enough to see how the variagation works, but the blue is just beautiful! I've decided that this will be my first formally self-patterned sweater, so I'm sure I'll be blogging extensively about that. But really, there is no tranquilizer like Noro for an anxious Harvard crybaby like me. Mt. Auburn hospital bills be damned, Parmenides be damned, finding my wallet be damned, wool/mohair/angora blends are the important things in life!

Actually, when I went to Lamont last night to escape my knitting fingers and the CastOn on my iTunes (and ran into Mischa, whaddaya know), I did legit enjoy working on the Parmenides. It is such a nitty-gritty dialogue...and it's been a while since I really dug in to anything besides Sartre. It's a unique dialogue, because it features an eighteen-year-old Socrates as the interolocutor, and pre-Socratic giant Parmenides taking the role that Socrates usually takes. It contains pretty much all the standard objections to the theory of forms, and remains unresolved at the end. I'm always reminded of Wittgenstein in this Plato course, and as with the Philosophical Investigations, it's best not to try to make everything here fit into a beautiful, self-consistent piece --- it's not. It's a mess (like the backside of Fair Isle, hahahahahahaha). The regresses seem kind of facile, stuff like this -- if each large thing contains a part of the Large itself, then the Large must be divided and each part of the Large must contain a portion of the Small, because it is smaller than the whole of the Large. Likewise, the whole of the Small contains some largeness, because it is larger than the portions of the Small contained within small thing. So obviously there's some kind of problem -- but there is just such a total lack of solution. Not feeling very articulate at the moment. Maybe I'll do some more Plato blogging after dinner, or tomorrow. But I best leave it here for now.

In other news, the momsocks are coming along great!

and I can't wait until I figure out this whole photo thing...