Saturday, December 19, 2009

Inspiration

I've been very restless since yesterday. Part of it is because of my episode with the online orientation for my school district (which I'm still avoiding finishing), part of it is because I'm nervous about starting my job in January and part of it is because I don't have anything exciting on the needles right now. I will work more on the orientation today and prepare myself as well as I can for work in January. Those things are easy to work on. The lack of knitting excitement is another story all together. I don't want to start a shawl, since I'm participating in 10 shawls in 2010 next year and anything I start now won't count. Unfortunately, all the patterns I'm interested in right now are shawls! I have a lace scarf on the needles that's been hanging around my closet, trying to guilt me into finishing it for ages, but it's not very fun to work on. I did a few rows of it today and was bored almost immediately.

I decided that I needed to come up with a knitting goal that is personal and just for me. I wanted something that inspired me and had no time restrictions on it. For a while now I've been wanting to challenge myself to take a knitting book and make every pattern in it. I have a ton of knitting books here, but only a few would be suitable for such an endeavor. After perusing my library, I decided that I want to take the Knitted Socks East and West Challenge.



This challenge, which I have entirely made up myself, consists of knitting all of the socks in Judy Sumner's beautiful pattern book, Knitted Socks East and West. I have never been inspired by a knitting book like I have been inspired by this one. All I have to do is crack open the pages and I'm instantly lost in the beautiful photography and interesting commentary. There are thirty wonderful pairs of socks here, using distinctive Japanese stitch patterns. There are several new stitches to learn, all of which look exciting. I have really wanted to get into sock knitting, and this seems like the perfect way. I will be learning all about sock construction while creating some beautiful and unique pieces.

This challenge will be very loose. There are only two rules:
  1. I have to knit all the patterns in the book
  2. I have to knit them in the order they are presented
I will take as long as I want to do this and I won't try to power through all the patterns right in a row. I will be knitting loads of other things in the new year besides my challenge socks, so I wont get burned out on the project. This is a very long term goal.

I already have the yarn for my first pair, Konnichiwa. I hope this will be the perfect way to get myself out of my knitting funk and cure my restlessness. I'm excited to get started!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Lacy Little Bookmark

Today has been a really restless day for me. I had grand plans to power through as much of my county's online orientation as I could today. Those plans fell apart when I realized how terrible the program was. It's so fiddly and broken that I can only handle doing it in small chunks. I got a good portion done, then I got to a point where I just couldn't do anymore. I had to take a break. So I did some chores, made a grocery list and took pictures of the bookmark I knitted my mom for Christmas.



Pattern: Flourish Bookmark by Nina Casey
Yarn: Rowan Purelife Organic Cotton 4-ply
Mods: I stopped knitting i-cord at 8 inches instead of 10 because the tail was long enough.



I'm very happy with how this turned out. It was a very quick pattern. Of course, it took me a week to make because I made a mistake in the lace at some point and decided to just start over rather than fudge around with it anymore.



Blocking this piece made all the difference. It looked okay when I finished knitting it, but it didn't look at all like the project pictures on Ravelry. Giving it a nice soak and pinning it out really finished the piece nicely. I ironed it once it was dry to flatten it out a little more. It looks great!

Now I'm off to choose a book to gift to my mom along with it!

New School

I went to visit my new school on Wednesday. It was a very enlightening experience.

First, let's talk about the classroom. It's huge and beautiful! It's located in a brand new building which houses the sixth grade. There's only seven other teachers in there with me, and everyone seems really nice. It's like we have our own little club, completely separate from the rest of the school. The classroom is a "smart classroom," meaning that I have a sound system, a digital projector, a laptop and a Smart Board, which is a giant touch screen for making presentations. It's all top of the line stuff and clearly too good for me. I can't believe I lucked out like this. The teacher who is vacating the position is leaving most of her stuff in there for me. Decorations, lesson plans, tests, assignments - basically everything I could ever want is being provided for me. If I wanted to, I could completely coast by on the materials she left until the end of the year. Of course I won't do that, but it's nice to have some prepared things in case of emergencies.

I also got a chance to observe some of my students. I didn't introduce myself to anyone, I just sat in the back and watched a few lessons. Here's where I saw what my trouble is going to be. Their current teacher lets them run wild. She calls her teaching style "controlled chaos." From where I was sitting it looked more like regular chaos, but that's just my opinion. She goes out of her way to be a friend to the kids and wastes a lot of class time having non-academic conversations with them and repeating herself over and over (because they all won't stop talking). We have completely different views on what is appropriate in the classroom. That's perfectly okay - her way appears to be working for her and the kids absolutely love her - but I can't run my classroom like she does. Those kids are in for a rude awakening once I take over. I can already tell that my biggest problem is going to come from them fighting me on my rules and procedures. They will be going from an environment where the rules were very lax to an environment where the rules will be fairly strict. It's going to be a rough transition because they have so many bad habits.

So that discovery made me a little nervous, but I'm still ridiculously excited to start working. I have to go in there and be true to myself and my style as an educator.

I had to make the tough decision to drop out of my Villains swap this morning. I didn't want to, since I have been waiting for this swap for a long time, but I realized that I wouldn't have time to make a good package and learn to be a good teacher all at once. I'm bummed about it, but there will be other swaps.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Christmas Gift Cavalcade!

In between being excited/terrified about my new job, I've been knitting Christmas gifts like a fiend. I decided to knit as many gifts as I could from my stash this year, to save on money. All the people in my family that wouldn't appreciate a knit gift will get a tin of homemade cookies, which also saves money. You see, my husband and I would rather spend what Christmas money we have on each other. It's a little selfish, but this will be our first ever Christmas morning alone together and we want it to be special.

We've been together for about 8 Christmases now, but some were when we were kids in high school, some were when we were in college and were staying at a parent's house for the holidays, and the last one was when we were living with my mom. Now that we have our own place, this will be the first Christmas where we'll wake up in the morning and be all alone. I'm so excited! We've got all kinds of plans for a present-filled morning followed by a huge breakfast. The rest of the day will have to be spent with family, but at least we'll have the first part all to ourselves.

Anyway, I have a couple of gift projects to post about today. First up is the scarf I made for my MIL.



Pattern: One Row Handspun Scarf by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee
Yarn: Vanna's Choice in Cranberry
Mods: None



This was probably the most painless scarf I have ever made. As the pattern implies, there is only one row to memorize for this scarf. It is reversible and was very fast to knit. The single row of the scarf is easy enough to knit very quickly, but interesting enough to keep you from being totally bored while you knit it.



As my MIL is shorter than me, I knitted until the scarf was a little over 5 feet. It took about one and a half balls of Vanna to get it to that length. It lays perfectly flat, so there's no need to block it. However, I think I will run it through the washer and dryer as Vanna becomes wonderfully soft after going through that process. I think the scarf looks classy - almost expensive, and the color is perfect. I hope my MIL likes it!

Next up is the hat I made for my cousin -



Pattern: Rib-A-Roni by Jane Tanner
Yarn: Vanna's Choice in Black and Silver Gray
Mods: I made the adult large size, but stopped knitting the body at 6 inches.



This is probably one of the most boring hats I have ever knit. It's for a teenage boy though, so that kind of comes with the territory. It's not like I could experiment with wild colors or a lacy pattern. He is your typical teenager and his tastes in clothing run to the simple and the black. At least I got a gray stripe in there for some visual interest.



I made the adult large. I don't think he has a particularly big head, but I haven't seen him in a year and he's a growing boy, so I didn't want to take any chances. The whole hat is ribbed, so there's a lot of forgiveness in the sizing. I stopped knitting the body at 6 inches, because the hat looked tall enough at that point.



The resulting hat is a little big for me, which should be perfect for my cousin. I took care to knit it in a machine washable yarn too for ease of care. He lives in Massachusetts, so he will actually be able to use it! I think it actually looks pretty nice, despite how boring it was to make.

Last for today is the hat a knit for my dad:



Pattern: Armando Hat by Gina House
Yarn: Malabrigo Worsted in Oceanos
Mods: I added an extra body repeat.



If this hat looks familiar to you, it's because I have made it before for ym husband - in this same yarn too, no less. This is the naughty yarn with all the bad spots in it that frustrated me so much a couple months ago. I cut out the bad parts and used the rest of the yarn to knit this. When I was finished, I threw away the yarn that remained. I'm glad I found a use for most of it and got rid of the rest!



I chose to knit this hat again because I already knew it was fast, easy and looked good in this color yarn. The only change I made this time was to knit the hat with size 9 needles instead of size 10. The pattern calls for size 9, but the first time I knit this hat I didn't own that size, so I knit it with 10s instead. Since that time, I've purchased a Knit Picks Harmony 16" circ in size 9 (which I love), so I decided to give the hat a try using it. It came out smaller that I would have liked, so I had to add an extra pattern repeat into the body. If I was going to knit this hat again, I would go back to the size 10s. I should have left well enough alone I guess.

I also finished a lacy bookmark for my mother. It came out really nice, and I'm hoping that blocking it makes it even nicer. I only have a few more gifts to finish up in the next week, so I'm right on track to finish everything by Christmas. Whew!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

I Got the Job!!!

The title of this post says it all- I finally got a job!!!!! I had completely given up hope on getting this job after what I felt wasn't a very good interview. The principal said that they would be making a decision last Thursday, so when I didn't hear anything last week I figured that they went with someone else. I was SO surprised to get the job offer today! I won't start until after the holiday break, but I'm officially a 6th grade English teacher now!

This couldn't have come at a better time. I was getting to a very bad place emotionally. I was depressed about not being able to find a job and subbing was turning my brain to mush. I did not expect my life to stagnate this badly after college, and seeing the bright side of things and remaining hopeful was becoming increasingly difficult.

With this job I can see so many more possibilities for me. The world is in color again. We'll have money. We can go places and do things. We can save for the future. We can start planning for a family. My real life is about to begin and I couldn't be happier.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Cranford Mitts and Cowl

Well, I had my JOB INTERVIEW today. It was absolutely terrifying! The principal and assistant principal I interviewed with seemed very nice, but that did little to help my nerves. Although I did the best I could, I came out of it feeling like I didn't do very well.

They asked me a lot of specific questions like, "How would you teach reading?" and "How will you help your students prepare for standardized tests?" How am I supposed to know any of that? I haven't seen the textbooks the kids will be using, I haven't had the opportunity to attend the workshops teachers get to attend on strategies, and I haven't had to plan an actual lesson, ever! I could only answer questions like this in the vaguest of generalities. I felt like I wasn't being clear when I was answering just because I didn't know what to say. On top of that, I actually forgot the name of the school I interned at. Seriously. I did that.

I was a little depressed when I got home because I figured I blew the whole thing for sure. Then, my MIL called me. She knows this particular principal's wife through her job. She told me that the principal actually called his wife and told her that I had the best interview so far!

So now I don't know how to feel about the whole thing. Frankly, I'm just relieved that I didn't come off as a total idiot. Even if I don't get this job and I never hear from this guy again, I will be happy just knowing that I am capable of interviewing well.

What I do know for sure is that I need to stop obsessing over this interview! Time to blog about knitting!

I just learned yesterday that my swap box arrived safely to my partner in Canada! She seemed to like everything in it too. Now that she's seen all the knitted goodies, it's time to blog about them. I made her a mitts and cowl set in the colors of her Quidditch team, the Appleby Arrows.



Pattern: Cranford Mitts by Jane Lithgow
Yarn: Crystal Palace Yarns Panda Cotton in Deep Water and Rowan Purelife Organic Cotton in Oak Bark
Mods: None



I am very pleased with these mitts. The pattern was well written and very easy to follow. I always get nervous when it's time to pick up stitches for the thumb on projects like this, but I found that I didn't have to worry. The holes from the lace pattern disguise any little holes around the thumb gusset perfectly - they blend right in.



My partner in this swap has a lot of allergies. She can't wear any animal fibers, so selecting the perfect yarn for these mitts was a challenge. I knew I wanted to go with a cotton yarn, but I was afraid that a thick cotton like Peaches and Cream would be too stiff and bulky. I ended up picking a cotton, bamboo and nylon blend sock yarn for the body of the mitts. The nylon gave the yarn some nice stretchiness and the bamboo gave it some extra softness. The gray yarn at the top and bottom of the mitts is a pure cotton and it was a dream to knit with. So smooth and soft! I didn't know cotton could be such a treat. I will definitely use both of those yarns again.

I wanted the cowl I was sending to match the mitts perfectly, so I ended up improvising my own pattern using the same lace from the mitts.



Pattern: Custom Cranford Cowl by Smartcinderella (me!)
Yarn: Yarn: Crystal Palace Yarns Panda Cotton in Deep Water and Rowan Purelife Organic Cotton in Oak Bark



This was my first time creating my own pattern. I wouldn't call this a truly original design, because I borrowed most of the pattern from the Cranford Mitts, but I did apply what I borrowed to a completely new format. I'm very happy with the results. The mitts and cowl look like they belong together, which was my goal.



Now how's that for a professional looking swap gift, huh? A lot of time and thought went into these, and I'm very glad that they were a success with my partner.

And with that, my round of swaps is all done! I won't be working on any more packages until January, when I will get my partner in the Villains! swap. I'm totally excited for that, but for now I'm happy to take a swap vacation.