Yesterday, my friend Teresa came by to pull me out of my studying cave for a few hours. We went to her friend Carolyn’s house, where we made these fine works of art.





Then, we chopped them up and applied some of her beautiful stamps to the painted backgrounds, and we made these:



Aren’t they fun? I love how the watercolor works in the background, and how “professional” those sloppy paintings ended up looking.

This was a fun exercise in roughness for me. I was introduced to that term last semester in one of my classes; a man named Christopher Alexander created a list of 15 principles of beauty, and roughness was one of them. I summarized it in my final project this way:

“Roughness is a characteristic of natural environments. It is created with a sense of freedom and abandon, and is an elegant solution to the question of how to fit regular items into irregular space. By breaking mathematical regularity, roughness allows misalignments and imperfections to coexist with pattern, and creates a more dynamic piece.”

I do really love symmetry, but most of the time am more drawn to organic, natural feeling work. Still, it’s sometimes hard for me to break the regularity of a pattern and introduce roughness that is unplanned. This project was fun because we worked the other way around; we created a lot of randomness, shuffled it up, and then created order and symmetry working from that. It’s always fun to switch up your work order and see what it teaches you about the creative process. I know I’m excited to have a fun new tool for playing with random elements!

After several weeks of bare needles, I finally have a project going again. (Sort of. That’s about two weeks of knitting, right there…)

It’s a good long project, too; another super wide worsted-weight scarf on size 3 needles. Fast enough to see progress, but also long enough to keep me in stitches for quite a long time, at the rate I’m going. The yarn is Shepherd’s Wool, and has been in stash almost exactly a year – I bought it in Maine last February at the SPA knitting retreat.

This semester has been busier than usual, right from day one. Lots of good things happening, but not much time to breathe. Fortunately, this week my whole schedule suddenly lightened up (combination of a snow day and a Monday holiday), and both days this weekend I’ve actually been able to take a few hours completely off. It came at the best time, too…I have two job interviews for summer internships this week, and really needed the time to prepare and regroup.

I haven’t gotten to the knitting yet, but I’m hoping to squeeze some in there before heading back to the grind.

Also, I randomly got a password reset email for an instagram account that someone set up with my email about 3 years ago (somehow…don’t know how they managed to do that without having access to my email to authenticate). I’ve tried to get onto Instagram several times since then and wasn’t able to, because my email was already in their system. I tried the tech help email route a few times, to no avail. And then, all of a sudden, last night there was a password reset message in my inbox, and I was able to access the empty account. Go figure.

So the upshot is that my little technology snafu seems to have resolved itself, and I am now ericagunn on Instagram. Get in touch if that’s somewhere you hang out!

My game of yarn chicken took a bit of a detour after I wrote the last post. I was pretty sure that I was going to end up with a 30 inch scarf, and also pretty sure that a 30 inch scarf is not very useful. So, I started thinking about things that I could do to modify the design. I pulled out the dressform, and started pinning the scarf on it.



I liked how the brioche rib naturally folded over to make a shawl collar, so I started thinking about making a smaller shawl rather than a full length scarf. I added a little bit of short row shaping at the shoulders, and knit until the scarf was just long enough to join, which gave me this.


(And plenty of yarn left over…there was no danger at all of running out with this version.)

I haven’t worn it yet, because it’s not enough to wear in deep winter, but I’m thinking it could be a handy fashion accessory to keep in the office for the warmer months. And my favorite thing about it is that I think the simple asymmetric fit would be right at home at Steven Be’s, where I got the yarn.

Unfortunately, I seem to have run out of luck with finding projects in the stash to cast on. I’ve tried to start at least three other projects since finishing the shawl a couple of weeks ago, and none of them have made it past the swatching stage. I am sure that there is something worth knitting in there, but it’s not jumping out at me, and I don’t have very many spare brain cells to devote to finding it right now. I really need to find an infinite, mindless project that I can cast on and knit until the end of the semester, but I keep coming up with small projects, because they require less planning. Maybe I’ll try another stash dive tonight, and see what comes up. It’s simply not possible that there is nothing to knit with all this yarn!

And just like that, winter break is over. I haven’t quite gotten over the fact that the new semester starts tomorrow, but here it comes!

I did actually manage to be home and spend some time crafting over the past couple of weeks. The handwarmers are done, and I am trying to decide whether it makes me too crazy to have things on my hands all the time. Having my hands covered up by something I don’t want to get dirty has been more of an adjustment than I’d expected. I’ve never noticed how often I wash my hands, or how much I use my palms and pinky/ring fingers to work, but I am constantly having to stop and take my handwarmers off before I can do things. I’m wearing them anyway for now, and may manage get used to it with time. That would be nice, since they do help to keep my hands warm. For the moment, though, the jury is definitely still out.

I’ve been spending a little time getting reacquainted with my spinning wheel, and I have this lovely pair of silver and gold skeins to show for it.


They really do shine like metal; I have no idea what they are going to be, but it will be beautiful. The gold is a yak/silk blend from Port Fiber that I bought at the SPA knitting retreat last February, and the silver is a yak/bombyx top from Rhinebeck 2013. The fiber was beautiful to spin, and the resulting yarn is very soft. I ended up with 370 yards of the gold and 308 of the silver, in a fingering-weight 2 ply (before washing…we’ll see what happens when it blooms). I’m sure this will turn into something special, when the moment is right.

While I was in the specialty fiber bin, I pulled out the carbonized bamboo that I bought at Rhinebeck that same year. I absolutely love the matte black color of it – a fiber version of graphite – but I’m not quite sure how I feel about the hand. It’s quite a sticky fiber, both to spin and to touch. It’s definitely an unusual feel; sort of a maximally-scaly kind of yarn. It’s not at all itchy or rough (in fact, it feels very soft), and I would be happy to wear it against bare skin (provided that my skin wasn’t too dry).

The spinning fiber has a ton of the tooth that you feel when you run your finger against the scales on your hair, or when you spin a braid from the wrong end, against the direction that it was pulled. As long as you keep the twist securely behind your drafting area, it spins just fine and is very smooth, but even a tiny bit in the drafting zone locks things up fast. I am spinning a modified long-draw, as always, but I’m doing a lot more controlling of twist location with my front hand than I usually do. Still, it seems to be coming out very even, and as I get used to the grip I’m finding that I don’t mind having that little bit of stickiness to work against. It’s been a very interesting contrast to the silk spinning, anyway, and it will be fun to see how it feels in the yarn, and when knitted up. I imagine that this fiber would be excellent if you needed a grippy yarn for something (maybe the palms of my next handwarmers?), but only time (and experience) will tell.

On the knitting front, I have continued my cast-on-randomly approach in an attempt to keep the needles full and get things moving out of the stash. This time, I settled on a skein of Mushi-Ishi that I bought at Steven Be’s when I visited Ellen in Minneapolis way back in 2010. The picture below doesn’t do it justice, but it’s a dark green and brown semisolid single with tweedy bits of white sprinkled in.


I have cast on for at least 3 projects with this yarn, and nothing ever seems quite right. Those tweedy flecks are enough to overwhelm just about any pattern (who’d have thought that such a tiny thing would make such a big difference?), and the dark color means that most details just don’t stand out.

This time, I cast on for a scarf using the same brioche rib that I used in the cowl that I knit earlier in the month. I wasn’t very excited about it for the first couple of inches, but it’s growing on me, and I quite like the feel and look of the fabric in a larger piece.

Unfortunately, the yarn ball is shrinking faster than I’d expected, and I realized last night that I’m a third of the way through the yarn and only a foot into the scarf. So, a change of direction was necessary. I could have ripped back and done a narrower version, but I decided to try for something a little more interesting instead. I added some short row shoulder shaping, and am now working toward a very short capelet/wrap with a folded-over collar.



So far, it’s fitting my dress model very well, and I’m hopeful that there will be enough yarn to finish it off. No idea if I’ll ever wear such a thing, but a finished garment is a finished garment, and there’s nothing like a little yarn chicken to start off the new year…











I’m not sure I’d call it a speedy knit, but I did cast off for the cowl on Tuesday night. Less than a month per project is an improvement, I suppose?

Considering that I cast on and knit without swatching, checking gauge, or really counting stitches, it came out at just about the perfect size. It’s big enough to slip down over my shoulders, and long enough to fold over at the neck.


That does make for a rather dramatic neck opening that I will probably close up with a shawl pin for warmth.


I haven’t worn it yet, so it remains to be seen whether this style works well for me, but I’m hopeful.

I have been having a hard time finding a new project to cast on (with all this wool around, I’m not sure why that statement is even possible, but there it is.). Knit night snuck up on me yesterday, and caught me with nothing on the needles. With limited time to plan, I grabbed a ball from the stash and cast on for a pair of handwarmers.



This time, the educated-guess cast on method isn’t working quite as well; the ribbing is ok, but the mitts are a little snug. If I’d switched to stockinette for the hand as I’d originally planned, it might have worked out, but I think these will probably be frogged and reknit with an extra 2-4 stitches.

I did an asymmetric increase pattern at the thumb to avoid interrupting the 1×1 rib. I do like the increase line, but I’m not sure I’m a fan of the slanted look it gives the rest of the ribbing, so I may rethink that next time around, too. Fortunately, handwarmers are small, so it isn’t a big deal to pull back and start over. Who knows…I might even come up with a more interesting project in between. For now, it’s just nice to have something on the needles again, and to be making progress. Here’s hoping that it continues!

From a knit-free October, we sailed right over a knit-free November, and halfway into December as well! The semester ended last Friday, and I’m still kind of reeling from the intensity of it. This was the semester for getting up to speed; in addition to learning the basic “grammar” of design, there were also several new tools and a whole lot of disciplinary culture to pick up on. It’s exciting to be in a world where everything is completely new, but it also takes a lot of time and attention to perform at a high level when you’re starting from scratch. But, with just a few minor ends left to weave in, it went very well. I learned a lot, and had fun doing it, though there were a couple of weeks where I could have done with a bit more sleep.

In addition to finishing the semester, I actually managed to finish a project last week.


After many months of what seemed like infinite knitting, the second welted garter shawl is done. There was a bit of yarn chicken with the dark blue on the i-cord bind off, and I know for a fact that I could not have made another repeat with either of the other yarns (because I tried and had to rip back – one of the skeins was about 12″ too short to finish the repeat), so I am satisfied that I got all that I could out of those three skeins.

Looking at the shape laid out, the dark blue center seems a little out of place with the rest of the shape. I added an extra set of increases at the transition from dark blue to the shawl body, since that’s where the shoulders should be. In another version, I might start those extra increases earlier to make the join more continuous.

I also spaced the increases differently, and added the extra pair at the row edges of the blue version, to help it wrap all the way around a bit better. The blue version isn’t blocked yet, but here’s how it compares with the shape of the purple one.


We’ll have to see how it performs in the wearing, but so far I’m thinking that I’ll like this one better.

After a couple of days of empty needles, a couple of failed swatches and several trips to the stash, I started a new project on Saturday night. In a bulky yarn on size 6 needles, this cowl is coming together really fast. It’s just a simple brioche rib, and I love how the texture is working with the colors.


I briefly considered some holiday gift knitting, and then promptly decided to look at the calendar and talk myself off that ledge before I even got on it. Two weeks before Christmas in a knitting-deprived state is not necessarily the best time to show judgment about what can be accomplished in time for gifting. I wanted to enjoy the holiday season, and big needles, fat yarn and no deadlines seemed like a much better way to do it.

I’m hoping that a “quick win” will help to jump start my knitting mojo again, and that I might manage to make up for lost time over the break.  I have a seemingly infinite list of things to work on in the next few weeks, but it is really nice that grading final exams and prepping for spring classes is not on that list this year. It’s been a long time since the end of the semester actually meant an end to work, and I plan to fully enjoy it. Even if I do keep right on working, at least it will be at my own pace and on projects that I choose. And I’m hoping to find some time for knitting in there, too. Fingers crossed that I’ll be back soon!

Sorry for the radio silence, but there hasn’t been much going on around here, knitting-wise. Going back to grad school in a new field while working part time has pretty much eaten up all of my energy this month, and Branden and I have been focusing hard on spending what little time is left doing things together. He’s having a really busy fall, too, as his startup pushes closer and closer to the do-or-die moment, and when we’re both this busy it’s extra important to find time to actually see one another in between.

With one thing and another, I have pretty much only knit at knit night (and have only made it to knit night about one week in 3), and on the occasional bus ride to school. I think if I tallied up the hours of knitting this month it would come out to less than 10, and possibly less than 5.

The second welted garter shawl is inching along (sorry for the terrible photos, but perfectionism right now leads very quickly to no blog, so here’s what I got in my dark office this afternoon). At about 30-40 minutes a row, this project is feeling longer and longer all the time. With no knitting time, the yarn balls are feeling infinite, but I’m pretty sure it’s getting close. Another stripe or two, and I should be into the garter stitch border and then done.


Which, of course, means that it’s time to start thinking about another project, because the end of projects always sneak up on me unawares when life is busy like this. To that end, I started a swatch.


Does it look more impressive if I tell you that this is the second time I knit it? Thought not. You know you’re scraping bottom when an inch and a half of swatch is worth a blog mention, but it did take me about 3 weeks to get this much done…

While not knitting, I have been very much enjoying the colors of fall. This year has been a pretty spectacular display; it came late and has just stretched on and on. I think we’ve had color for over a month now, starting with the maples, which lit the world on fire.


They are mostly faded out now, and we’re into the rusty reds and oranges of the oaks and the bright yellow of the birch trees. The green pines are really beginning to stand out from the crowd, and I just love the grays and beige that show up as the grasses die back and the bare branches start to show.



What a difference two weeks makes, huh? We’ve gone from fiery October into the depths of a New England fall. Suddenly it seems real that Thanksgiving is right around the corner. Sometimes the change to deep fall happens almost overnight; this year, it’s been more protracted. It’s my favorite time of year, so I’ve been enjoying the long, sweet fade into gray.

The weather is getting colder and The Tired has come out of nowhere to hit me full-force this week and last, so I think our days of wandering in parks and going out and doing might be fading out with the season. Quieter weekends at home should be good for more knitting time, at least. Hopefully I’ll be back soon, with lots of knitting to show!

I’m puttering my way along on the latest welted garter shawl, and the rows just keep getting longer and longer. That’s entirely my own fault, of course, because not only did I design the thing, but I also couldn’t resist tinkering with the shaping just a tiny bit more in this version.

While I really like the purple version of the shawl, the wings are just a tiny bit too short to stay wrapped around my shoulders. That’s an important feature for me, so I thought I’d add a few more increases in this version to see if I could make them wrap more. This has two direct consequences: first, it is quite likely that I won’t love the new shaping and will end up ripping back and reknitting again (such is the life of a pattern-improviser). Second, it means that the rows get a lot longer a lot faster, and I’m getting a bit bogged down in the knitting of the middle portion.

To keep myself occupied, I’ve been dreaming up what to do with this yarn:


That’s the Shepherd’s Wool that I bought at the SPA knitting weekend in Maine last February. I really love my basketweave shawl, and am thinking that this yarn might just want to become another shawl along the same lines. I took out my stitch dictionaries the other day (for the first time in months and months), and had a look around. Nothing has solidified just yet, but I have some ideas floating around that need to be tested out.

Now, I just need to successfully finish the shawl so that I can start swatching!

About 10 days ago, I proposed a very ambitious project to Branden (not knitting-related). The deadline was tight, and the goal was set almost impossibly high, and for the past week and a half we pretty much threw everything over in order to make it happen (I’ve put in about 100 hours, I think, and 45 of them in the past 3 days).

I was half way through the bind off for my crescent shawl when we started, and I haven’t even touched it since. But it’s almost there.


I’m far enough along to say that the shaping seems to be working this time, minus some bunching at the edge that I think will work out with blocking.

We carried the other project over the finish line at about 2 o’clock this morning, and I’m hoping to finish the shawl bind off in the car on our way out of town today.

That leaves me with nothing on the needles, and no project planned. I’m thinking it might be time for another color?


You can’t get much more mindless knitting than knitting the same stockinette and garter shawl three times in a row…

I’ve been fairly quiet about it here on the blog, but this year has been a time of big changes for me. I left my tenure-track position at the end of June. After much soul-searching, I came to realize that the realities of faculty life are not for me. Much as I like teaching and research, the overall environment just didn’t work well for me.

I told my department chair back in January that I would be leaving at the end of the spring semester, and since then I’ve been doing some pretty intense thinking about what comes next. I applied for a bunch of things, did an interview or two, talked to a ton of people, and spent a lot of time writing and cogitating. I’ve seen a big drop in my crafting productivity, mostly because that energy and creativity was needed elsewhere.

After many months (years, depending on how you count) of consideration, I’ve decided that I’m going back to school. The irony of that decision is not lost on me – I certainly haven’t made it very far out of academia yet – but I think that this is the next step I need to take to get where I want to go.

I’ll be studying Information Design and Visualization at Northeastern University. That’s a big name, often shortened to “infovis,” and basically it’s about telling a story visually using data. It’s an interesting blend of the hard-nosed, data driven science world and the art world, and the storytelling part ties in the teaching as well.  It feels like a much better fit than where I’ve been, and I am really excited about this new venture.

I’ve found that lots of people have a hard time figuring out what exactly infovis is (and it is many things), so it might help to have an example or two. I’m particularly smitten with the work done by Fathom Information Design, a design studio here in Boston. Their recent projects on global animal trade and gender equality are particularly good examples of the kind of complicated visual storytelling that they do.

I have a ways to go before I’m playing at that level, but I’m excited to take the first step. Classes start in just a couple of weeks, and it strikes me that I’ll need to come up with some train knitting soon!

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