Thursday, July 30, 2015

FO Friday: Helical striped cowl and matching mitts (2015 FOs #9 and #10)

My life is extremely boring at the moment - write, edit, rinse, repeat. Last night, however, I went out! I went to a screening of Dirty Laundry Live - on a school night! After 10pm! What a wild child. It was very funny and it really was great to get out of the house and away from my computer (on a side note, I encourage everyone to get tickets to sit in the audience for TV shows once in a while. It's fun to see how things are done, it's free and sometimes they give you wine. For me, it's something a bit different to what I usually do and different is good).

We had 10 minutes to kill before leaving so I decided to take the opportunity to take some photos of two of the projects I've just finished. This was a bad idea! These photos are terrible and odd - they capture a lot of detail but tell you nothing at all about the project. Let me illustrate this in more detail.

This shot tells you nothing about how the cowl sits (it falls to just above my belly button).

In this shot, it is possible to see the desperation and exhaustion of a week of thesis work in the giant bags under my eyes.

This one's okay. The pattern is Mitt Envy - it's free and it's excellent. I added 10 rows extra to the cuff to provide extra under-jumper warmth.

The cowl can be worn in a long loop or doubled for a really warm, snuggly wrap.
(Oh, those bags!)

I'm not even sure what this shot was trying to demonstrate!

The wool I used was Heirloom Easy Care 5ply, four balls exactly. It was a bit rough to work with but softened up a lot on blocking and I think it will be really warm and durable. Now that it's done, I'm going to drop this project off at my local Lincraft KOGO collection point and hopefully it will find a good home where it is of some use to somebody.

Till next week :)

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

WIP Wednesday and a declaration of intent

Although I write this on Thursday Melbourne time, I am calling it WIP Wednesday because it is still Wednesday in parts of the world and because I like the symmetry of balancing the middle of my week with an update on my knitting. I have been working on the socks and this is where I am up to now:

Once these are compared to the picture from last week, you can see I've done quite a lot of knitting, which is surprising because I've also done a lot of writing, thanks to the inspiration from How to Write a Lot.

I suspect a weekly update of these socks will soon (already?) become incredibly boring! Especially since the photos are so crap (thanks, winter light and terrible photography skills). I shall give it another week and, if I start to bore even myself, consider changing my weekly routine.

In non-knitting news, I am a bit upset today. I am a St Kilda football club member who regularly goes to the footy and I hate what is happening to Adam Goodes at the moment. I absolutely boo on occasion - like if I disagree with a free kick or (more frequently) misunderstand something that's happened on the field but I would never boo a player or hurl abuse at someone. I actually don't understand the thought process of someone who goes out of their way to yell terrible things at someone else (ditto those who send abusive tweets - what is wrong with your life that you feel that being awful to someone is the correct action to take? I think people like Rita Panahi and Andrew Bolt are reprehensible hatemongers who should stop inciting anger and fear but I have never, ever, wanted to send them a message telling them to fuck off and die*). I said the same thing when Milne revealed how much abuse he copped each week - these players are doing their job and should absolutely not have to put up with that kind of crap. It's worse with Goodes, though, because of the ugly undercurrent of racism accompanying his treatment.

I can't take it anymore. Previously, when someone near me would say something awful in the interest of not causing conflict I'd let it slide, but no more. It's got to stop. When my mother forwarded me a hateful meme telling Goodes to fuck off, I called her on it (unsurprisingly, the conversation went badly. Apparently some racists don't like having their racism called out). When St Kilda play Sydney, I will go and cheer Goodes. A lot of people who I previously respected have really disappointed me this week with either their denial of the racism or explicitly racist attitudes. So, I will unfollow anyone on Twitter who doesn't condemn in absolute and uncompromising terms the way Goodes has been and is being treated. I want to live in an Australia where an indigenous man is not vilified for standing up for himself and his people. I want to be an agent of positive change. We don't have to accept the racism in Australia and I am not prepared to anymore.

*Interestingly, now that Rita has left SEN it's been interesting to see how little respect her former colleagues have for her. I always wondered what was going on there because she seemed so out of step with the rest of the personalities at the station. 

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Non-knitting content: How to Write a Lot by Paul J Silvia and how I was inspired to write a lot

I have been alluding lately to my thesis writing and how badly it is going. I am in the writing-up part of the process, which means I have pretty much done all of my research and I’m attempting to form it into a formal document which I will submit for assessment. The truth is, I am really struggling with it right now. I had all of last week to focus on writing and focus I did – I spent at least 40 hours with my bum on my desk chair sitting at my desk looking at my computer. But, at the end of the week, I felt no closer to finishing my goal than I had at the start. I’d done stuff – updated my Endnote library, changed fonts, moved paragraphs around, printed and highlighted a lot of articles – but that was really all just faffing. I had done work but it wasn’t productive or effective and I knew that if I kept going like that I would never ever get my thesis done.

In desperation, I followed one of the recommendations from the Thesis Whisperer and borrowed How to Write a Lot: A Practical Guide to Productive Academic Writing by Paul J Syliva (I know that some would say reading about writing is just another form of procrastination but they would be wrong). Oh my God! This book is amazing. In the course of my professional life I have read dozens of books on writing, grammar and style and this is hands-down the best book I have ever read on writing. Silvia begins by acknowledging that writing is hard. If you’re an academic, chances are you find research and data-collection somewhat enjoyable (I do!). Writing, on the other hand, can become “a sordid drama” (7) of excuses, guilt, procrastination, anxiety, avoidance and defensiveness (all of which I experienced last Tuesday alone). Silvia argues that writing shouldn’t be that way – it should be a mundane, regular part of the academic experience, just like teaching is. It should be just another thing that we do as academics, no drama, no stress, no angst. Silvia writes:

How to Write a Lot views writing as a set of concrete behaviors, such as (a) sitting on a chair, bench, stool, ottoman, toilet, or patch of grass and (b) slapping your fingers against the keyboard to generate paragraphs. You can foster these behaviors using simple strategies. Let everyone else procrastinate, daydream, and complain—spend your time sitting down and moving your mittens. (7-8)

Sounds fantastic!

Reading further, I found out that I was what Silvia categorises as a binge-writer – I faff about and procrastinate all week before spending one day just banging out words. As he notes, that’s a stressful and ineffective way to work. To become a productive writer, he says you need to institute an ongoing set of behaviours. These are as follows.

Firstly, you must set aside a regular time to write and stick to it. He says he gets out of bed and spends two hours writing every morning, before even showering. I can’t do that – I need to start the day with a coffee and the paper – but I am productive in the morning, so I have picked 9-11am every weekday. I programmed my phone so it goes into “do not disturb” mode on those hours every weekday and I will turn off the modem. I also have non-academic writing I like to do to keep me grounded in everyday life (like this blog!) so I also plan on scheduling an hour for writing in the evening from 4-5pm.

You can't see it clearly here but there are two mini whiteboards to the left of my computer with my academic and non-academic goals for the week outlined
Secondly, you need to set a list of goals. I have written a list of both academic and non-academic goals for the week. As well as weekly goals, daily goals must be set. Silvia says priorities need to be drawn up but because I am working on just the one project, that doesn’t apply to me now (although it will in the future as I start to work on different projects at the same time). I want to note here that writing doesn’t just mean adding words to documents – it could also be reviewing the literature, checking references or page proofs or reviewing others’ papers. Getting something published involves all of these processes, so they are all part of “writing”.

Ready to work with coffee, water, study knitting and a notepad for jotting down stuff like things that need to be looked up on the Internet or non-writing tasks that I need to remember to do at some stage
The final steps are to monitor your progress and reward yourself. These steps are hard! Silvia uses an SPSS spreadsheet to check whether he’s met his daily goals and to track how much he’s done on which project. I am traditionally very bad with this kind of thing – I’ve never kept a food diary or money tracker for more than two weeks. This seems pretty simple, so hopefully I can do it. In terms of rewards, I’m not really sure how best to reward myself. I really have weekly goals that I have to meet if I’m going to submit my thesis on time, so maybe every Friday if I’ve met my goals I can go out for Friday night drinks? But Saturday morning hangovers are not conducive to good weekends…I’ll have to think about it.

Reading this book has been a transformative experience for me. Last week I felt panic every time I thought about my thesis. I went to every length possible to avoid actually working on it and instead worked around it every way I could. But like Silvia says, why make writing such a special activity? It’s hard, but so is finding the motivation to go for a swim twice a week when it’s six degrees outside and I manage to do that without fail. If I can be disciplined in other aspects of my life, there is no reason why I can’t be disciplined with writing as well. I feel more positive about my thesis today than I have for months. Realistically, I know that I need to do more than two hours of work a day to get it done but I really feel if I use that solid time as a base, I can get this stupid thing done. Thank you, Paul J Silvia!

There was one distraction he did not give me any advice how to deal with though…

Thursday, July 23, 2015

FO Friday #8: Yet Another Pair Of Socks

Every winter I inevitably turn into a human bear, hibernating until the warm weather arrives. This year it has been even worse than normal due to Melbourne having the coldest winter it's had in 20 years and my impending thesis due date. Although winter sucks and I hate it, hibernating usually makes me feel warm and safe, like hot chocolate and cosy murder mysteries set in yarn stores. This year is a bit different - I just feel kind of fat (from being inside so much) and panicked (mainly due to the thesis). Because of my general crankiness and being so out-of-sorts, I've been neglecting all sorts of thing, like posting my FOs and waxing my legs (as you will soon see).

Today, I decided this state of affairs must stop! Not the waxing (I need the extra warmth) but definitely the tracking of FOs. So, I put on my Big Girl Underpants (which are, incidentally, indistinguishable from my everyday knickers, see previous paragraph about winter weight gain), went outside with my iPhone and took some shots.

This is a pair of socks I started last year for my mum for Christmas.

Clearly she did not get them! They are all ready to be wrapped up for this year, though. Can you believe it's July and I already have one Christmas present finished (*cough* five full pairs of socks to go *cough*)

They were knitted toe up, spiralled with leftovers from my Winter Is Coming socks and a ball of blue Patonyle from my stash. I used about 40g of the coloured yarn and just over 50g of the blue.

They are soft, comfy, and hopefully will be appreciated by their recipient. 

And now, photoshoot done and blog post posted, I am changing into my pyjamas, dressing gown and fluffy slippers. Baby steps...

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

WIP Wednesday: Christmas Knitting Edition

It's that time of year again - time to plan Christmas knitting. I am taking some time off work to finish my (stupid and ridiculously time-consuming) thesis, which means a) I'm hopefully going to submit on the expected due date and b) I'm going to be poor when Christmas Day rolls around. Hence, it's time to start looking at what I can do with what I have.

I have five pairs planned. With the three sets of sock needles I own, I have cast on for three pairs:

I thought maybe I'd take a picture every Wednesday in the same spot so I can see that I'm making progress to avoid that moment where you feel you've been working on something forever but all of your knitting is going straight into some sort of weird woolly black hole rather than contributing to the size of your project (see, my Helical Scarf project, which is ... dum dum dum ... done and soaking!):

From left to right: socks for Sam in Wendy Roam Fusion in Craic (yarn bought in the UK), a pair of Hers Spiralled Socks for Friend P in Patonyle (with matching His Spiralled Socks to come) and a pair of socks for my dad in Regia Design Line.

I've got five months, which should be heaps of time for five pairs of socks! But I would also like to make a pair for my sister and Friend J has a baby due in November and I'm only one side of the border away from finishing my Mitered Square Blanket...

We'll see.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

WIP Wednesday: This is the scarf that never ends; it just goes on and on my friend!

This last week has been the coldest week in my city for many years. As anyone who has read this blog for any period of time knows, I hate the cold. There is nothing more likely to make me take to my bed like a Victorian maiden than a forecasted week of temperatures at 10 degrees. Urgh. This, combined with a wee lurgy I've had for the last few days have combined to make me pretty much the most disagreeable person on the planet in the last few days. I'm cranky, short tempered and likely to stab anyone who irritates me with the nearest knitting needle.

Fortunately for humanity, I have largely been working from home. Unfortunately for me, I still haven't finished the stupid stripy charity scarf. It is the scarf that never ends! Here is the latest progress:

It hardly looks different to last week :( I am seriously starting to feel like it may never get done.

Last week
Three weeks ago
To alleviate the boredom, I started a Magic Ball Monster Stock. A magic ball is a ball made up of short lengths of yarn tied together and wound into a ball, which is then knitted like a normal ball of wool. My lengths were 2.2 metres each and joined using a weaver's knot. That's probably a little short  for each length (each sock takes about 160m to knit, so that's a lot of ends!) but it was pretty fun to knit. I just did a little magic ball as a test run and used it all up in two days. Now the project goes on hold until I get some more scrappy ends, which means...

..I need to start another sock (my inability to finish my stripy scarf seems kind of more obvious now...)

These are for a requested Christmas present and I am excited to be knitting for someone who really wants what I am going to make. 

Now, to finish the damn scarf...

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

WIP Wednesday: Here's a stripe, there's a stripe, everywhere's a stripe

Do you ever get that feeling that a project that you are working on will never be finished? You knit, and knit, and knit, and knit, and the knitting vanishes into a knitting dark hole (shout out to the Yarn Harlot, whose concept I am completely ripping off here). I swear I have been working on this scarf constantly. I have done at least one repeat every day for the last two weeks! But here it is, still unfinished and a long way from being done.

Two weeks ago

I guess it is a little bit longer...

The mitts are done except for the thumb, because I can't decide what colour to go for. I think it'll be a lovely set when (if!) it ever gets finished.

This morning I cast off a pair of Monster socks. They are still being counted as a WIP because, based on past experience, it can takes months for me to get around to weaving in all of the ends! I would like to include them in the charity pack with the scarf, though, so I do have an incentive.

 That's all, really! I am in the midst of the thesis writing-up process and I feel like literally the most boring person on earth. I know that people have got through this because I am related to two PhDs! But how they did it, I'm not sure, because finishing feels really far away for me right now.

Back to the grindstone! I'll try to do at least one fun thing before next Wednesday...