London Adventures, Part 2

My next couple of days in London were spent doing very tourist-y things: Kensington Palace, Hyde Park, a hop-on, hop-off bus tour, the Sherlock Holmes Museum (of course!), a look at the Buckingham Palace gates (the Queen was home), and about an hour in the National Gallery.

Having slept in due to jet lag, my companion and I missed the hotel breakfast buffet. We headed across the street to a Wetherspoon’s for a full English.

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The Kensington Palace tour is split into three separate tours (soon-to-be four). My companion and I followed two of the paths through the public parts of the palace. One focussed on the court of George II, and the other was a look at the life of Queen Victoria. The entrance has a light sculpture called “Luminous Lace,” which my knitter’s eye found very beautiful.

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Nowhere in the US will you see a door that says this:

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At the end of the George II segment, we were instructed to…

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Outdoors, it was a beautiful day, and we strolled through the gardens of the palace, and a bit of Hyde Park.

We then attempted to go to the Sherlock Holmes Museum, but a large group of schoolchildren waiting to get in meant that we couldn’t. We ambled down the road to a pub on the corner, sporting this sign:

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Since this sounded like our kind of place, we headed in for an late lunch. Hidden on the menu, described as “lightly seasoned and battered cod fried to a golden brown, with fried potato wedges” was fish and chips. Add a drink, and done.

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The following day was a bit wet and blustery, but we persevered with our bus tour, bravely riding on the top of an open double-decker bus. We got a great overview of central London, and managed to get into the Sherlock Holmes Museum this time.

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We were amused at the attempt by area businesses to cash in on the Holmes name.

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As cold and wet as we were by late afternoon, we decided to have a solid hot lunch. Meat pies were had by all (though mine was a bit overdone) near Victoria Station.

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Dragging ourselves back to the hotel at the end of the day, we dined on bread and cheese and fell into our beds. Just as well, as the next day, my friend was off early on a bus tour to Stonehenge and Bath, while my plans included a bike tour of central London and a climb up the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral.

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London Adventures, part 1

Finally showing my “international” side, I recently spent 12 days in London, seeing the usual tourist sights and having tea. But I also tried a few less-known activities, and met a couple of celebrities. In this resurrection of my comatose blog, I’ll share my experiences, possibly in more detail than you’d prefer.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

My flight landed at 10 am, and my roommate and I were to be at the Southbank Centre Royal Festival Hall by about 4:30 pm for the BAFTAs. In the meantime, I needed to get through passport control and customs, get my baggage, and navigate from Heathrow to my hotel. Then I needed to get all gussied up in a formal gown and finally, find a way to the event. I was nervous about having enough time for all this, but in the end I had nothing to fear. We even had time to go out for coffee, which I needed since I’d had maybe 5 hours’ worth of broken sleep on the plane.

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Despite being warned by a local that taking a taxi to the event was a poor idea due to Sunday traffic, the thought of going on the tube dressed in formal gowns made us decide to risk it anyway. Again, our fears were unfounded, and we arrived a bit early. This was good, since no one seemed to be able to direct us to the box office to pick up our tickets at first. Eventually we found it – but then no one in the ticket office knew exactly where we needed to go to enter the event. Since I was wearing 5-1/2″ heels and a formal, full-length gown, walking about in the rain looking for the entrance didn’t really appeal. Luckily we bumped into some people we ‘knew’ – aka talk to on Twitter – and they knew where the entrance was, even though they weren’t going to the event.

So the time came to stroll the red carpet. It wasn’t empty. No, it was infested. Infested with Daleks!

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After being whisked inside and up to the 5th floor bar terrace, my celebrity-sighting was confined to the screen set up for our convenience, since the wall around the terrace was about 4-1/2 feet high. I did see a few of the Twitter- and Tumblr-famous, however, including the recently-kissed-by-Chris-Pine Cumberbuddy.

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Technically I was in the same room as a lot of celebrities during the show, but as Graham Norton said in his opening monologue, it could be called the “Royal Festival Barn.” Here was my view from the second-to-last row:

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After the show, my roommate and I went back to another friend’s hotel for drinks. I managed to dump a gin and tonic in my lap. Luckily, this was probably the worst thing that happened to me the entire trip. And smelling like gin isn’t the worst thing in the world, now, is it?

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Dear heavens, I forgot I had a blog

What with all the moving and changing jobs and whatnot, I forgot to blog. Or, I knit so little I had nothing to blog about. I am still working on Bigger on the Inside. I’ve finished the top lace section and have picked up for the Tardis section. That’s it.

The Stash has a new, albeit unorganized home in what was meant to be the dining room of our new rented home. The skeins sit there, looking pretty, calling to me as I sit at the computer for far too long. Twitter and Tumblr are amazing time sucks, as I’m sure you all know!

I had a noteworthy mail day yesterday: three club shipments at once! Socktopus, Three Irish Girls, and Cookie A club packages all converged on my doorstep. Cookie A noted that that was “a lot of yarn love,” and I had to respond that actually, the Yarn Love would arrive on a different day. Interestingly, two of the three yarns were green, and the third was a variegated color way that had green in it. Not what I would have assumed for August selections.

Three Irish Girls: “Luau” on McClellan Fingering

Okay, I’m so excited about my yarn now that I’m going to stop blogging and go knit (kids willing).

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Obviously, my priorities are in order

I haven’t blogged in a while. I’ve been too busy moving and starting a new job to knit much, and therefore I have little to say on a blog that is usually about knitting (when it isn’t about Benedict Cumberbatch). I have destashed a fair amount of yarn, mostly giving it to the ladies of my local Stitch-n-Bitch, who support various local charity knitting projects.

I said goodbye to yarn that has lived with me for almost two decades. Yarn that has moved with me over thousands of miles. Yarn that I had such high hopes for, once.

And then, in the midst of all this destashing, I caught a Wollmeise update at The Loopy Ewe.

After crowing about my score on Twitter, a friend asked, “Wait. Didn’t you just destash yarn!?!?!”

My answer: “This isn’t “yarn.” It’s Wollmeise.”

When I arrive at my new abode this week, my Wollmeise will be waiting for me. A housewarming present. The Welcome Wagon in wool.

Maybe, for my next project, I should knit some.

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My current main project (there are always at least three things on my needles: car knitting, socks, and Something Else) is Bigger on the Inside, designed by Kate Atherley and offered (for free! amazing) on Knitty. This pattern calls for Lorna’s Laces Solemate in a new color created for this pattern: Bigger on the Inside. I, however, immediately remembered upon reading this pattern that Indigodragonfly has a color called Tardis, available in a variety of really yummy bases. I frantically Tweeted Kim the Dyer to see what she had on hand, because this project was suddenly at the top of the queue. She just so happened to have 2 skeins of extra-lovely merino-cashmere-silk already dyed that color on hand, the psychic enabler that she is.

Progress has been slow, due to all the craziness mentioned above, but progress there is, and it’s lovely. When life settles down a bit, I’ll finish it. And then maybe I’ll knit up some Wollmeise.

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The Great Knitting Magazine Dilemma of 2012

As I’ve mentioned already, I’m moving to a smaller house this summer.

I have a lot of knitting magazines. Like close to 600 knitting magazines. At least 32 different titles, from at least 5 countries (many foreign-language titles have an English translation supplement). I have the full publishing run of some, sporadic issues of others. They go back to 1996 (I have some older magazines, but I’m not counting them. They are part of the ‘vintage knitting’ collection.).

How do I know this so precisely? I keep a spreadsheet listing each issue, along with the patterns and articles I liked in them.

They gather dust, sitting in their library magazine racks, most in the dark of a closet. I seldom knit anything from them. I realized that I don’t use the spreadsheet to choose a pattern to knit. I generally use Ravelry to choose my next project, and if I happen to choose a pattern from a magazine, I can then confirm that I own it already.

It’s time for them to go.

I have already spent about 6 hours paging through magazines (thank goodness I developed the habit of either folding down the page corners or adding a sticky flag when I liked a pattern, or this would take much, much longer. Following the live-Tweeting of Eurovision by my friends across the pond helped tremendously!). I’m probably about a quarter of the way through. I am doing something that used to make me cringe, but I must do in the name of space-saving: I am ripping patterns out of magazines.

Surprisingly, I am finding that most of the patterns I flagged more than a year ago, I no longer love. If a magazine has 3 or more patterns I think I want to keep, I keep the magazine intact. Only one or two: out they come, to be placed in a page protector and filed in a binder. I will overhaul the spreadsheet at the end to reflect what is left. The defiled magazines go in the recycling bin.

Issues that hold no charm for me will be given to a charity bookshop.

It’s quite liberating, getting rid of so much mass. And I only need to spend about another 18 hours on it.  –swoon–

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Letting Go

I’m moving. I’m moving to a smaller home. Everyone in the family must pare down possessions to accommodate. And that includes -gasp- my knitting stuff. Books, yarn, tools, bags, accessories…every item must be assessed and either accorded a space in the new house or -gasp- GO AWAY. Some yarn and books have already been shuffled off to loving new homes.

I expect that, after the initial fairly painless paring-down, I may have to go back and make decisions that feel akin to cutting off my left arm. It’s hard to decide whether it’s worth hanging on to that lovely silk, or the sweater’s worth of alpaca, when for the past 4 or 5 years I have knit mostly with sock yarn. Styles change, my tastes change, and I don’t want to kick myself for giving up on that Norwegian wool. But if I’ve owned it for 10 years and not knit it yet, does it deserve to be relocated yet again?

The size of one’s stash is a very personal thing. It is dictated by inclination, financial means, and space limitations. It may also depend on the tolerance of one’s family and the cunning of one’s hiding places. The amount of yarn I own may seem obscene to one person, an inspiration (or an aspiration!) to another. I definitely have what is referred to as “SABLE,”or Stash Acquisition Beyond Life Expectancy. Hopefully I will turn my children into knitters before I die, so I can go gentle into that dark night knowing that my yarn will still be loved.

At the same time, I yearn to live a more considered life. I recently visited a friend in Manhattan, and was impressed by how her family lives in four modest rooms. I have decreased my yarn-buying over the past year, asking myself each time I am tempted, not, “Do I need this yarn?” because of course the answer to that is “No,” but, “Does this yarn blow me away? Do I love it?” Yarn that I bought because it was on sale, or I liked it well enough, or I thought it would be a good basic to have around just in case the fit came upon me to start knitting an Aran sweater at 8pm on a Thursday: these yarns sit in my stash, always the bridesmaid, never the bride. A quick search of my stash on Ravelry (and oh, how I love the stash-library function on Ravelry) shows that I have 12 skeins of sock yarn that most of us would consider “green.” Yes, there are many shades of green, but do I need to have 12 of them? Green isn’t even my favorite color. What will I do with a dozen different skeins of green sock yarn? (Sheepish admission: I had more than that, but have sold or given away some sock yarn this past week. Second sheepish admission: I appear to still have at least 20 skeins of blue sock yarn.)

In the end, I will get rid of a lot, move, and then possibly get rid of some more. I will have scrutinized my stash, reminding myself of what’s in there, and what I’ve forgotten. What will remain should be a stash that I love unreservedly, where every skein is an inspiration that I can’t wait to cast on.

 

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In Which I Give Benedict Cumberbatch Kisses, and He Gives Me One Back

Many of you have been waiting with bated breath for my full report on the PBS Sherlock screening on May 2. Rather than tell the story over and over, I have been promising that I will blog about it and post the link. It’s been a busy few days, so it’s taken me a while to get to this point. I must admit I’m a bit disappointed with my photos – the lighting was rather dim.

This was the first time I have ever attended such an event. I have gone to a few conventions, but never with any interest in meeting a celebrity. I had three goals in meeting Benedict Cumberbatch: shake his hand, make him laugh (or at least smile), and be remembered by him, although I will never know whether I succeeded in that.

Rather than dress up for the event, I elected to wear my Sherlock Hemlock T-shirt – the same one a fan sent to Benedict a few years ago and he has been photographed wearing several times, including at the taping of an episode of Cabin Pressure. I hoped he would notice it and smile.

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Here’s the line behind me…PBS announced the morning of the event that people could come any wait as stand-bys, and the confirmed guests and the stand-bys were all waiting together in one line. Through the magic of text messaging (and being recognized from my photo), I found my Twitter friends @Scientits and @StormingTeacup (see photo below) and Ravelry friends rmartin and 4mpersand.

Once we got inside, there was a reception with snacks and drinks. Large monitors displayed Tweets on the #SherlockPBS tag. @scientits Tweeted to our friends at home: 

(So much for “International Knitter of Mystery,” hey? Such is life.)

@StormingTeacup took a photo of us with our drinks in front of her Tweet on the monitor, so later we could Tweet the photo and feel all meta.

Eventually the crowd in the room seemed to thin a little, and we saw a Tweet that said people were in the theater for the screening. So we high-tailed it to the theater. @scientits, @StormingTeacup, my guest (@EvieManieri) and I (@KnitMairwen) wound up in the 4th row from the stage. We got stiff necks watching the clip from A Scandal in Belgravia on the huge screen. I hope you can tell how close we were by the angle in this photo.

And here we are (circled area):

After the confirmed guests were seated, standbys were let in to fill the remaining seats.

Then the screen went up and away and Rebecca Eaton, Sue Vertue, Steven Moffat, and Benedict Cumberbatch came out. The video is available online (start with part 1 here) and better pictures than mine can be found here. I thought that the session would have been improved by the questions having been collected earlier (while we were waiting in line, or even solicited via email from the confirmed guests or on Twitter and Facebook from anyone, prior to the event) and asked by a moderator. It would have pruned out questions that were either not really of relevance to most of the audience or had been answered in prior interviews, plus cut out the long preambles we heard from a few people. In addition, those of us with questions wouldn’t have been distracted from the panel by holding our arms in the air and looking for the microphone wranglers. If I had been called upon, I would have asked Steven Moffat whether he would give us a three-word teaser for season 3 of Sherlock, in the manner that season 2 was teased with the words “Adler, Hound, Reichenbach.” I figured I would either get a good answer or he would say something funny, such as, “Don’t. You. Wish!” or “Not. A. Chance!” (We have since heard from Mark Gatiss that the first episode of season 3 will be based upon The Adventure of the Empty House, for what that’s worth.)

After the Q&A came the autograph session. We were told to form two lines: one for Benedict and the other for Steven and Sue. Of course Benedict’s line was longer, and in fact stretched back out the door onto the sidewalk (we couldn’t loop around and fill the stairs because that would be a fire hazard). I was assured by a staff member (though of PBS or the venue I don’t know) that we would all get through both lines. (Remember this, folks!)

Worried that she wouldn’t get to meet Steven Moffat, which was her priority, my guest @EvieManieri left me to get in Steven’s line. I stood with my friend 4mpersand and her mother in Benedict’s line. As we got closer and closer, it seemed more and more surreal that Benedict Cumberbatch was actually standing 20 feet away; when he was on stage for the Q&A, it wasn’t that much different from watching him on video. As I got close to the front of the line, I did get one good profile shot, featuring the Star Trek sideburns: 

Just before I got to him, the handler assigned to him announced that there could be no more posed photos with Benedict due to the length of the line. Luckily 4mpersand and her mother volunteered to take photos of me interacting with Benedict, since @EvieManieri was still in Steven’s line and couldn’t take pictures for me. I am incredibly grateful for the action shots, though disappointed that I couldn’t get one with both of us smiling at the camera.

Finally, it was my turn. I stepped up to Benedict and held out my hand. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Benedict. I’m Catherine.” He shook my hand and thanked me. “Both Adam Robertson and Vaughan Sivell asked me to say hello to you.” He raised his eyebrows and said, “Oh? That’s nice.” I continued, “And Vaughan said you should do your Alan Rickman impression for me.” He smiled wide and said — 5 words I didn’t catch, since the pitch of his voice was so low and there was so much noise. I’m pretty sure one of the words was “Rickman.” Then he asked me to spell my name for the autograph (I brought a poster made my @myanglofiles (http://thelondonist.tumblr.com/), photo below). After he had signed it, he pointed to my shirt and said, “I have that same shirt!” I answered, “I know you do! Why do you think I wore it?” “It was out-of-print when I got it!” he replied. Then I pulled out my present for him: a plastic “champagne bottle” of Hershey Kisses. (see the notes at the end if you are unfamiliar with them – I do not know how well Hershey’s is known internationally) “I brought you this because it’s from Pennsylvania, like me,” I said, placing it on the podium. He thanked me again. “And now I can say that I’ve given you kisses.” He grinned, and said, “Yes, you can. I’ll give you a hug.” And then he put his arms around me and hugged me. To my surprise, he also kissed me, right on the point of my right cheekbone. I managed to give him a sideways peck on the neck, and got the chance to inhale his scent. When we parted, he thanked me again and handed me my signed poster. I thanked him and started to turn away. “Wait, this is your pen,” he said, holding out my silver Sharpie. “You can keep it if it will help,” I offered. “No, it’s fine, you take it,” he answered. I took the pen back, and he turned to the next person in line (4mpersand’s mother). 4mpersand told me that both she and her mom got photos, so I’d have two angles. I continued back along the line and encountered @scientits and @StormingTeacup, who squealed “He hugged you!!!” and gave me hugs and high-fives.

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Buzzing, and still able to feel where Benedict had kissed me, I joined the line for Steven and Sue. I wound up talking to a lovely artist who had given him the button he’s wearing on his shirt in the photos with me. @EvieManieri came by and showed me the great photo she had taken with Steven and Sue. I was probably about 30 people away from Steven when I saw that they cut off Benedict’s line. Then suddenly there was an announcement that the building was closing at 11 pm. They were packing up immediately and leaving. (@EvieManieri tells me there is a union regulation that theaters in NYC close up at 11 pm) Benedict was ushered out the door, waving goodbye over his shoulder. I climbed the steps right behind Steven, but he didn’t stop long enough for me to say hello or shake his hand. Benedict, Steven, and Sue hopped into a waiting car, which had a crowd by it. (There’s a short video around of those last few minutes, and evidently Benedict misplaced that fantastic Westwood patchwork grey jacket. I hope he got it back.)

I will note that some confirmed guests did not get to meet everyone (like me and @EvieManieri) and some may have gotten to neither Benedict nor Steven, while some stand-by folks got to meet one or both guests. In my opinion, this wasn’t fair to the winners. It should have been obvious that, with the stand-bys added in, there were far too many people for the known limited time. I have written a note to PBS Channel 13 thanking them for the event but also pointing out some changes that could have made the evening run more smoothly. If they host another high-interest event, I hope they will organize it better. In addition, the autograph area was kept very dim, and it was hard to get good photographs with the average camera.

Notes:

#1: yes, I realize that I have no shoulders.

#2: As I said, I don’t know if everyone who might be reading this is familiar with Hershey Kisses. The Hershey Chocolate Company is based in Hershey, PA, USA. Their chocolate is a basic, everyday chocolate, not a gourmet brand, in my opinion. The Hershey Kiss is perhaps their most famous product: a one-bite morsel of milk chocolate (they now make many variations, but the milk chocolate Kiss is the original) wrapped in silver foil with a paper label sticking out the top. 
Here is a closer view of the package I got Benedict:

#3: Here is my signed poster. I really wanted to get Steven and Sue to sign it as well. I suppose I could mail it off to them to sign, but I am afraid it could get lost in the post.

#4: Both Adam Robertson (“Bill” in Third Star, @AdamRobertson9) and Vaughan Sivell (writer and producer of Third Star, @Mug7) actually told me to say hi to Benedict for them if I met him, and Vaughan did tell me to request the Rickman impression. I didn’t make any of that up. I was glad that I asked Vaughan how to properly pronounce his last name, because I would have guessed incorrectly (and sounded like an idiot).

I had a great time and I was thrilled to meet Benedict. I managed to remember what I wanted to say, but it was all a bit of a blur. I wish I had caught what he said in his Alan Rickman voice. I was completely gobsmacked that he hugged me and gave me a kiss on the cheek. And he smelled lovely. He was completely gracious during the whole event despite how tired he was (I know he was on live television at 10 that morning, and it was after 10 pm when I got to him) and how many autographs he had already signed. He took the time to chat with me a little, and hopefully he was a little amused in return.

I also enjoyed meeting some of my online friends. I wish they all lived closer to me! But @scientits lives in London, @StormingTeacup in Texas, rmartin in Maryland, @EvieManieri in NYC (both not so terribly far from me), and 4mpersand in Manitoba, Canada!  I also got the chance while in NYC to meet up with some people I hadn’t seen in years and buy a pair of Fluevogs (happy birthday to me!). All around a successful trip.

And yes, I did wash my face that night, just like every other night…but if I concentrate, I can still feel Benedict’s kiss on my cheek.

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Special thanks to @scientits, @StormingTeacup, 4mpersand, and @myanglofiles for photos and permissions and to PBS NY Channel 13 for hosting this event. Extra-special thanks to @EvieManieri, who put up with me disrupting her family life for two nights.

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We interrupt this knitting blog for some random squealing

This blog has always been about knitting, or not knitting while wishing to knit, or doing knitting-related things.

This post is not about knitting.

I seldom win anything. The last time I won a contest of any kind was 1996 (I won tickets to see David Byrne at The Electric Factory in Philadelphia. He rocked!).

Evidently 16 years is the lucky interval, because I won tickets to the PBS prescreening of the first episode of season 2 of the BBC show Sherlock. This event, which will take place on May 2 in New York City, will feature co-writer Steven Moffat, producers Sue Vertue and Rebecca Eaton, and Sherlock Holmes himself: Benedict Cumberbatch.

I’m going to be in the same room with Benedict Cumberbatch.

I’m going to meet Benedict Cumberbatch.

Be happy this blog has no audio. I’d probably pierce your eardrums.

Watch this space, gentle readers.

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Sometimes it’s more than just yarn

I got a gorgeous skein of yarn in the mail today. When it was offered online, it practically took my breath away. And when I read where 20% of the sales prices was going, it made me cry:   

Thank you once again, Sharon, for supporting a cause we would rather not think about. When I saw this incredible color way, I was saddened that it’s a limited edition.

And then I realized: that’s the point.

 

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Acute Startitis

So in my last post, I was frozen by the endless possibilities of what to knit next. In the meantime, I have cast on three new projects and brought a neglected project back to life. Because of course I must have:

  • A project suitable for knitting while talking with friends and/or watching something which requires most of my attention (subtitles/complex plot/Benedict Cumberbatch)
  • A project suitable for car passenger knitting, i.e. not so simple I get bored stiff but no chart-reading required (which would result in queasiness) or knitting while paying attention to an audiobook
  • A project that has enough going on to need a little attention, but allows me to listen to music or think about something else
  • A project that’s complex enough to be interesting when nothing else is going on, and may include charts, complex concurrent shaping increases and decreases, insane stitch counts, and/or tensor calculus, and is usually, but not always, socks

Having multiple projects on the needles at the same time means that none of them get completed too quickly, but a medium-difficulty project can be promoted if I want to get it finished first (one of which I do, since it’s a gift). Life with children (and the ever-beckoning siren song of Twitter) guarantees that the maximum-difficulty project will be on the needles for a while to come, and indeed that’s my semi-resurrected neglected project.

Maryland Sheep and Wool is coming up in a few weeks, and I’m sure my stash will expand yet again and my queue will be rearranged. Watch this space for the MS&W report!

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