Monday, August 27, 2012

"Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery." -Jane Austen

         Wow, it’s already the end of August and school is once again in session. This time around, however, I am not joining the throngs of backpack clad students who are swarming the WSU campus. As you all know from my earlier posts, I graduated this past May and am now a part of the working world (though my job rarely ever feels like real work). When I really sit and think about how I won’t be attending classes anymore, I get sentimental and quite sad. I love to learn and I really enjoyed being in the kind of academic atmosphere that my classes provided. On the flip side, when I remember that there will be no more papers and projects and other stressful things that come with college, I breathe a sigh of relief. A huge weight has been lifted from my shoulders.
         Yesterday, a friend and coworker of mine asked what I would do on the first day of fall semester, the first day that I did not have to attend classes. She suggested that I do all the things I never had time to do during school. That got me thinking; what did I have to sacrifice during my college years due to lack of time? Well, for one thing I was never able to read all the books I wanted to. As an English major I always had a stack of novels and short stories that I was required to read. I ended up enjoying most of them, but reading a book out of requirement is different than just picking one up of your own accord. There’s always a bit of resentment attached when you have no choice about your reading material. Since my shelves are packed with books waiting to be read or reread, I’ll have no problem making up a long list of titles to occupy me in my newly acquired free time.

           It will come as no surprise that I’m also looking forward to knitting more than I could while in school. This summer I was able to accomplish quite a few projects despite my phase of low motivation, but usually knitting would be put on the back burner at the start of school. Now I can continue with all the projects I am currently working on and those I have been contemplating for a time. There are a few pattern books on my shelf that I am just itching to work from and now I hope I will be able to. The Jane Austen Knits magazines, chock full of literary inspired knitting projects from her novels and time period, have been calling my name for months now. I received the first one as a Christmas present from my sister and brother-in-law last year and practically jumped up and down when I saw how it was a combination of two of my favorite things: literature and knitting. Unfortunately, time really does fly and suddenly it was six months later and a new Jane Austen Knits was being published and released. Of course I had to buy that one too. I have the best of intentions and hopefully I will be able to use them before the third edition (yes, another set of Austen inspired patterns comes out in the fall) is on magazine stands. I confess, I plan on collecting all of these publications whether or not I end up knitting everything in them. They’re just fun to have. Jane Austen is one of my favorite novelists and I've either read or seen adaptations of almost all of her books. There's something comforting about sitting down with a good Austen romance, a cup of tea, and the sun smiling on your face (I recommend reading Jane Austen on a quiet sunny day, perhaps in a garden or on a front porch; this will guarantee a full experience of her work). Just thinking about that makes me want to knit up a few shawls or stockings. And I think I know of a good place where I can find a few patterns. :)

           And so, as I wrap up writing this post, my mind jumps to the students sequestered in classrooms, busily scribbling notes or typing away at laptops. I can’t help but smile in both relief and longing. Part of me is wishing I was there with them, but the other part is doing a cartwheel, thrilled with the feeling of freedom that I now have.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Red, White, and Yarn

            As we all know, the Olympic Games are a big deal. Athletes train their entire lives just to have a chance at competing. The strength and ability that the participants have is astounding, and for a little over two weeks, the world is enthralled by the talent they display. This year the games were held in London, a city saturated in history and exuding tradition. For those en route to England, it was the chance of a lifetime; for the rest of us, it was an opportunity for diversion from the typical. Life’s mad dash slowed a bit as so many focused their eyes on the world’s youth, living vicariously through their quest for glory.
            I cannot be excluded from that group of people who almost constantly tuned in to the excitement that is the Olympics. Though I always prefer the winter Olympics over the summer, I eagerly anticipated July 28th, the day of the opening ceremony. Not only was I excited to cheer on our U.S. athletes, I was also eager for the kickoff of the Ravelinic Games. The Ravelinic Games is a knitting event cooked up by the social media website called Ravelry. This site is dedicated to knitters, crocheters, weavers, spinners, and other fiber freaks. Here we can share the items we’ve made, find patterns, discover new yarn, and connect with people who share our passion. A few years ago, when a different Olympics was on the horizon, an inspired member of Ravelry, along with those who run the site sent out a challenge to their fellow fiber-loving friends: create something special, something that challenges you, something that will show off your skills while the athletes at the games show off theirs. At this time, the event was called the Ravelympics. The name was changed this year due to controversy over whether or not using the name “Ravelympics” was a mockery of the real Olympic Games; the dispute was resolved after an apology letter was sent from the U.S. Olympic Committee to appease outraged Ravelry members.
          While many on Ravelry created teams and competed in actual “competitions” (like sock knitting, afghan making, etc.), we at Yarnology decided to take the casual route. We told our patrons that if they would like to participate all they had to do was cast on a project the day of the opening ceremony and cast off the day of the closing ceremony. Many chose something that they had never knitted before, thinking this was a good chance to challenge themselves; some decided to finally make that piece that had been calling their name for so long; others took this opportunity to use up some yarn in their stash and finish a project that they had been putting off. I did a combination of the three.
            A while ago I purchased yarn to make a skirt out of one of my lace knitting books. Though I sometimes claim to be a lace knitter, I’ve really only knit a few lace projects, which is certainly not enough to be considered an expert. I looked forward to the time when I could complete this skirt and display the work that went into my handmade piece of clothing. That was, however, about a year ago… The yarn, wound and ready to go, sat patiently inside a brown paper bag waiting to be turned into something beautiful. When deliberating about what project to make throughout the two weeks of the Olympics, I remembered my blue yarn that was meant for that lace skirt and I dived right in. There were a few moments when I thought for sure that I wasn’t going to get that project done in time, but remarkably I did. I bound off my last stitch two minutes before midnight on the 12th of August, just hours after the closing ceremony was complete. I confess that I felt a huge sense of accomplishment; nothing, I’m sure to what the Olympians were feeling at that moment, but great nonetheless.
            Last night, Thursday August 16th, a large group of knitters gathered at Yarnology to show off what they had completed and admire each other’s items. Amid the talking and laughing, the Yarnology staff passed out “medals” to those who had participated and gathered. Our quirky awards were things like “The Michael Phelps Award” for most projects completed or attempted, “The Katie Ledecky Award” for newest knitter, and “The Gaby Douglas Award” for smallest project. It was such a blast not only to see the projects our friends had made, but to gather and share something in common with everyone else in the room. I suppose that’s what the Olympics are all about: coming together no matter what differences exist, and sharing a passion with those around you. I’m always sad when the Olympics end, but in two years there will be another set of games with different events, new athletes, and more knitting projects to enthrall us.

My blue lace skirt:

Some of the wonderful people who came to celebrate the Ravelinic Games with us at Yarnology.