Saturday, September 29, 2007

Big Blue is Finished!

I began this sweater last February out of some stash yarn as a sizing experiment. I'd not knitted myself a sweater since 1969. I got most of it finished except the bottom edge and sleeve edges and put it away for the summer. Now it's done! The pattern is a Knitting Pure and Simple Woman's Pullover, the one that calls for worsted size yarn. It is very easy to knit, but in this very plain solid color, it was a boring knit. I would make the pattern again, but I will use a heathered or semisolid or tweedy yarn, not absolutely solid. The yarn is Paton's Classic "That's Blue!" and indeed it is--very blue. I did change the pattern a little bit--kept the rolled neck, but got rid of the rolled bottom for loose ribbing and used a garter stitch edge on the bottom of the sleeves. I don't need another roll of anything around my hips! The sweater is not see-through either. That's a trick of the flash--I suppose because the woolly board has a shiny finish that reflects.
I have been interested in reading the That Laurie posts on the Yarn Harlot's blog this week. As I lose weight, I am getting more and more pear-shaped. In fact, I think I'm beginning to resemble an upside-down lightbulb. Her comments about using top-down sweaters and putting the color or pattern emphasis on the yoke to address this figure type are really making me think about using this pattern again as well as getting the video and pattern to the Zimmermann/Swanson spiral yoke sweater.

Because I saw a remark about this on another blog--we have been remodeling this fireplace, putting a woodstove in as an insert. You can't see it because it's behind the sweater. Yes, I do know not to have the kindling sitting that close to the fire. In honor of the new fireplace remodel, I have one of those copper wash boilers that I am going to use for kindling and logs and it will sit a safe distance away. I could have cleaned that up last night or I could have finished my sweater--what can I say? It was in the upper '80s here yesterday! The wash boiler is still in my car.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Intimations of Mortality

It’s my class reunion—40 years since we graduated from high school and 52 years after most of us started first grade together. Amazingly we are mostly intact—as far as we know we have only lost three class members, including those who went to school with us for a few years but did not necessarily graduate with us. And we were of the Vietnam generation.

We are older, grayer, and differently shaped. Some of us have battled cancer and won. Some are still fighting. Three have lost spouses recently. We have all sorts of different careers, some unexpected, others exactly what everyone expected. Case in point: the boy we all thought would be a rocket scientist—the epitome of the science geek (didn’t have that word then) in the ‘60s, slide rule and all—is indeed a scientist working on alternative energy sources and missile systems. I became an English teacher, to the surprise of no one. On the other hand, the student we all figured was headed for a criminal career seems to be a productive and pleasant and conforming member of society. Some of us have retired already; some, like me, are almost there and looking for information on how to handle the life changes that another stage of life will bring. Many of us chose to become educators, probably because our own small town public school experiences were close to idyllic.

Our elementary and junior high principal, junior high football coach, and driver’s education instructor (small town—that’s ONE person) and two of our class sponsors were also there, as well as one of our 4th grade teachers.

And—we are no better at getting everyone to behave for a class picture than we were at age 6 or 16.

Tonight we will have a final cookout and go our separate ways, knowing that we have reached the stage of life that will bring many changes before the next time we’re together.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

I've Been Bitten!

Yesterday, the Eco Wool came in for the Hemlock Ring KAL. After supper, I used my ball winder and handy-dandy yarn swift (my DH) to wind it into balls. After posting to the group that I would begin knitting this afternoon after work because it was certainly too late to begin a project that required all that counting last night (We keep relatively early hours.) , I walked directly to my knitting spot, just to look at different cast-ons, you know, and stood up 16 rows later. Everyone is right--this is addictive, and fast! I hope I still feel that way at the end.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Another Fibonacci Sweater

This one is for my DGS. It is again from the Knitting Pure and Simple pattern. The yarn is LB Wool Ease from my stash. The Woodland Print has a more striped, less camouflaged effect than I expected when I saw it in the skein, but I do like the way it turned out.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Subject: Education (Knitting/Spinning Content is Peripheral)

WARNING: This post is both a compliment and something of a rant, of probable interest only to teachers, and even then probably only secondary English teachers. (I fondly remember the chairman of the English Department at my university--who was a Hemingway look-alike and cultivated it--advising us not to betray that we taught English, particularly when trying to socialize on vacation, in a bar, while driving down the length of Baja, or while trying to get a car repaired in a strange town. He insisted that any meaningful communication was likely to shut down immediately because people become so self-conscious.)

Yesterday, I attended a conference at Amarillo College. Under the umbrella idea of helping students make better transitions to the college world, we were presented with several workshops to choose from in a 4-hour period. The sessions were short enough that there was no room for idle fluff--the ones I attended were practical: methods, some of them innovative, were soundly backed up by years of experience, coherent explanations, and scholarly research. Each presenter sent us away with annotated bibliographies, sample handouts, and links to helpful Internet sites. There was no wasted time. We were also given the opportunity to say what we liked and disliked and what we would like to see added for next year.

Administrators, curriculum planners, directors of educational service centers—this is what teachers find both useful and motivational!

I had the same reaction to two other recent workshops—Jim Burke at the Panhandle Literacy Conference this summer and a workshop at Region 16 by Carolyn Coil last spring. For the record, I also found that I had the same reaction to some of our staff development this year, particularly the presentation by a school law attorney from San Antonio. Her subject was Special Education law; she was informative and entertaining, but she obviously respected us as professionals.

What do I not find to be of much value? Entire days spent listening to some very expensive consultant who has all the answers if every teacher in America will just do it his way—including, evidently, becoming a member of his particular ethnic culture and giving up knitting (Yes, I noticed. I never knit at school, but now I’m getting the urge to represent). I also do not need a day of singing songs or ringing bells or doing monkey skits, only to go away feeling that now I may be evaluated not on course content or student progress but on whether I have students pass papers in sideways or from back to front. Or even worse, that to be taken seriously, I need to strew education textbooks around my living room, replacing the copies of Pride and Prejudice and Ethan Frome, and, I suppose, my spinning wheel Matilda. After all, a teacher is not supposed to teach the subject--she is supposed to teach students. Teach them what? The idea that knowledge of subject matter automatically flows from classroom management tricks just doesn’t hold up.

I'm certainly far from being the perfect teacher--I'm constantly revising and evaluating how I do things, and I'm very aware that there are some aspects of my job that I don't do as well as I would like.

Some will say that I am missing the main point of the "motivational" presentations, but I’m not. Is good classroom management important? Of course. Can it be achieved by gimmicks or devices? Only to a limited extent. Does it have to be exactly the same for every subject or every teacher and age group? Students, particularly high school students, see through form without content very quickly. Furthermore, our students will enter a wide world of different college professors, different jobs, and different communities. I come out of those sessions as fired up as anyone—they’re pep rallies, after all—but, just as I suspect most coaches will tell you, they are of very little use if I don’t have any plays to run on the field, and they certainly don’t replace good coaching and a knowledge of the game.

For the record, I do know there are some sentence fragments in the preceding paragraphs--I'm working at a conversational tone. Loosen up!

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

No Photos for You (Again)

Yes, I'm knitting--working diligently on the second Fibonacci sweater from stash. I'm also spinning more of Abby's lilac Falkland roving. I did some a month or so ago and then decided I had a specific project in mind. Tonight I am ready to ply a couple of full bobbins.

I have been really busy with all of the first-of-school tasks that are time-consuming and not very fulfilling--keeping records of graded papers on legal pads because the computer rolls are not yet accurate enough for the computer gradebook to be opened, trying to convice students that I meant it when I specified a looseleaf binder with six properly-labeled dividers, deciding who does not need to sit by whom, and trying to learn the names of students I don't already know. (This year's seniors contain members of my last 2-year-old Sunday School class. Some of the personalities have changed; some have not.) In spite of the aggravations, beginning a new school year is full of the promise of new beginnings--of new faces eager to go out into the world, of trying a new technique to get a point across, of finding the opportunity to help a student who needs something extra, and of sharing with colleagues whose opinions I value. This weekend, I'm off to a short conference on bridging the gap between high school expectations and college expectations, a real concern where I teach because many, many of our students are first generation high school graduates and even more are first generation college enrollees.

I got up extra early this morning and spent an hour knitting a sweater sleeve and peacefully listening to podcasts. All seems at least temporarily right with the world. Oh, my, I forgot that faculty pictures are this morning!