Episode 6

The topic for Episode 6 is stereotypes, feminism, and the fiber arts.  I talk about the research on sex differences and the accuracy of stereotypes about men and women, the three waves of feminism, and women’s returning to the fiber arts.  In addition, on our way to the classroom, I muse about the refreshing weather, my aimless week of knitting, and a couple of giveaways.  You’ll learn a little bit more about Dracula and see who made the Dean’s List this week.

Welcome to everyone who has joined the Ewe University group on Ravelry, an erudite group of fabulous people with excellent vocabularies.  You should join us, if you haven’t already!  Thank you so much to everyone who contacted me this week.  I love hearing from you!  You can subscribe to the show on iTunes or on this web site by clicking on the “Follow” tab at the bottom of the page and entering your email address.  For the show’s RSS feed, look on the right sidebar menu — scroll down until you see the “Entries RSS” link and click on it.

Thank you to show sponsor Halcyarn Knitting Accessories.

Listen to the Show:



Around Campus

Yay, it’s fall!  The weather is cooler, the cornfields are turning golden, and the harvest has started.

Amber waves of grain

Amber waves of grain

I found something startling on my husband’s work bench in the garage — listen in to see what it is!  I also talk about my fashion show modeling experience as well as making preparations to be a vendor at the Bishop Hill Spin-In on October 19.  Stop by my booth and say hi!

 The Dean’s List

This week’s Dean’s List features Lo-Lo Moisturizer Bars made by Bar Maids.  I am a hand lotion junkie, and this is my go-to hand cream right now.

 The Academic Status of My Knitting Projects

No pomp and circumstance this week…I’ve felt kind of aimless as far as knitting goes.   I should start some gift knitting but need to make some decisions about patterns and yarn.

Sock Circle:  I finished my section of my friend Rose’s socks.  I knit a 2 inch segment in a chevron pattern from the Elphaba Fingerless Mitts pattern by Valerie Johnson of Wandering Cat Studios.  I used Lorna’s Laces Solemate, which is 55% merino, 30% outlast, and 15% nylon, in the Mixed Berries colorway.  I used my 9-inch circular Hiya Hiya Sharps in U.S. size 1 (2.25mm).

Rose started with the taupe cuffs and I added the section with the pop of pink.  They make me smile.

Rose started with the taupe cuffs and I added the section with the pop of pink. They make me smile.

JUNIOR:  Moving into Junior status this week is a pair of fingerless gloves that I’m making for my niece for her birthday in October.  I finished one glove this week.  It is such a quick an easy pattern — the Happily Ever After Mitts by Susan B. Anderson.  I’m knitting these out of Panda Soy yarn, which my tag says is 60% bamboo, 22% soy, and 18% elastic/nylon but the fiber content listed on Ravelry is slightly different.  I’m using a U.S. size 2 (2.75mm) Ciao Goo  9-inch circular needle.  Although the pattern calls for a size 3, I wanted to make them a little smaller to fit my niece.  The first one turned out great!

Quick and simple gift knit

Quick and simple gift knit

A Class Project

Last week I assigned a class project, should you wish to participate (and I hope you do!).  This is an activity that is being hosted jointly by me and by Sara of the Yarns at Yin Hoo podcast.   (Sara and I will have separate prizes, and double dipping is allowed!)  Your task is to write an old-fashioned snail mail letter to someone who has taught you something meaningful.  After you have mailed your letter, go over to the Class Project thread in our Ravelry group and post a brief tribute to this teacher.  The deadline for this project is October 31.  You must be a member of the Ewe University group to participate.  Did I mention there will be prizes?

I will randomly draw two winners after the deadline.  The two prizes are:

  1. A knitting project bag of your choice from Halcyarn Knitting Accessories
  2. A skein of yarn of your choice from Evermore Studios

 Awards and Scholarships

Our group on Ravelry is growing every day!  I’ve decided to have a giveaway drawing when we reach the 99-member mark because 9 is my favorite number.  Thank you so much to Lauren, who has generously donated a fabulous prize:  Two skeins of Claudia Hand Painted yarn in the Magician’s Cape colorway.  It is a beautiful fingering weight yarn made of 100% merino wool with 175 yards in each skein (so a total of 350 yards in both skeins together).   Once we reach 99 members, I’ll do a random drawing from everyone in the group and notify the winner!

Gorgeous Claudia Hand Painted yarn to be given away in celebration of 99 group members on Ravelry

Gorgeous Claudia Hand Painted yarn to be given away to celebrate once we reach 99 group members on Ravelry

At the Library

This week I’m up to Chapter 24 of Dracula.  Only a few more chapters left to go!

In the show, I talk a little bit about the work of the late professor Raymond McNally from Boston College, who brought the real Vlad Dracula/Vlad Tepes/Vlad the Impaler to the public consciousness when he published a book called In Search of Dracula: A True History of Dracula and Vampire Legends in 1972.  In this book he asserts that Bram Stoker intentionally based his Count Dracula character on this real historical person.  However, his arguments are controversial, and professor Elizabeth Miller, the noted Dracula scholar, disagrees.  I briefly discuss what we know about Bram Stoker’s actual intentions in creating the Count Dracula character.

 In the Classroom

Listening to the book Dracula this week got me thinking about gender stereotypes and sexism.  The female heroine in the book, Mina Murray Harker, is described on several occasions as having a mind more like a man than a woman but then the male characters get together and exclude her from the dangerous pursuit of Count Dracula because it is “men’s work.”  In the show I talk about stereotypes regarding how men and women differ and how accurate those stereotypes are.  I also discuss how sexism arises when qualities associated with one sex are more valued than qualities associated with the other sex.  Stereotypes are one way we simplify the world with automatic processing — the kind of thinking that is involuntary and outside our awareness.  The Implicit Associations Test (IAT) from Harvard University is one way you can see automatic stereotypes in action.  You can choose which version of the test you want to try, including gender, disability, religion, and race.  Even though almost everyone displays unconscious biases in these tests, research has shown that people still have the freedom to choose how they behave.

I review the three waves of feminism, starting with the suffragists from the late 19th and early 20th century and moving into the women’s liberation movement of the 1960’s and 70’s which objected to the oppressive stereotypes associating women with things like wearing dresses, cooking, cleaning, child care, and even knitting.  In the third wave of feminism (mid-1990’s), young women started coming back to these traditionally feminine characteristics and behaviors out of choice rather than obligation.  Maybe embracing these activities (like knitting) that our mothers and grandmothers and great-grandmothers participated in will improve their value.  Maybe it is time we reclaim crafts and celebrate them.


Episode 5

In Episode 5 I talk about the power of the fiber arts to prevent and alleviate depression.  Listen in as I discuss the research on how important it is to use not only your brain but also both of your hands together in creative ways that result in rewarding products.  Other ramblings include my new Jamberry nails, a class project assignment, and more historical tidbits about Dracula.  You’ll also find out who made the Dean’s List this week.

Welcome to everyone who has joined the Ewe University group on Ravelry and to all who contacted me this week.  I love hearing from you!  You can subscribe to the show on iTunes or on this web site by clicking on the “Follow” tab at the bottom of the page and entering your email address.

Thank you to show sponsor Halcyarn Knitting Accessories.

Listen to the Show:



Around Campus

The tomato plants have pushed out an end-of-summer bumper crop this week.  I am thinking I need to start canning, which I’ve never done.

Some of our roma tomatoes. (And yes, that sign is in my kitchen.)

Some of our roma tomatoes.
(And yes, that sign is in my kitchen.)

This week I got some new Jamberry nails.  These are rather wild and crazy for me, but they’re fun.  My colleagues are mesmerized by them, and my students think they’re cool, so that makes me feel hip.

Left:  My crazy chevron nails this week Right:  Jamberries as they come out of the package

Left: My crazy chevron nails this week
Right: Jamberries as they come out of the package


The Dean’s List

This week I am thankful for Susan B. Anderson.  I just bought her Topsy-Turvey Inside-Out Knit Toys book and am also knitting one of her patterns, the Happily Ever After Mitts.


The Academic Status of My Knitting Projects

FRESHMAN:  Sock Circle Socks

I knit a pair of cuffs for my own socks and then passed them on to Gail, who will knit the next section of them.  The yarn I used is Austerman Step on a U.S. size 1 (2.25mm) needle.  For the cuffs I just knit 2 inches of 3 x 1 ribbing.

My sock cuffs that went to Gail for the next section.

My sock cuffs that went to Gail for the next section.

This week I received a pair of sock cuffs from Rose and I am knitting the next section on those.  So far I have my part done on one sock.  I am using Lorna’s Laces Sole Mate in the Mixed Berries colorway.  The zig-zag pattern I am using is from Elphaba by Valerie Johnson of Wandering Cat Studio.

Rose's sock cuff with my section added

Rose’s sock cuff with my section added

FRESHMAN:  Fingerless mitts for my niece

My niece’s birthday is coming up next month, so I thought I would knit her a pair of these lovely Happily Ever After Mitts by Susan B. Anderson.  I’m using Panda Soy yarn by Crystal Palace, which my ball band says is 60% bamboo (but the info on Ravelry says 49% bamboo).  As you know, bamboo is definitely not my favorite yarn to work with, but I think the first mitt is looking pretty nice on U.S. size 2 (2.75mm) needles.

My niece is going to love the purple.

My niece is going to love the purple.


A Class Project

Listen in as I assign a class project, should you choose to participate.  It involves thinking of a meaningful teacher in your life and writing them an old-fashioned letter.  Post a brief teacher tribute on our Ravelry thread and you’ll be entered in the prize drawing.  The project deadline is October 31, and I will be drawing two random entries for these prizes:

  1. Choice of any knitting project bag from Halcyarn Knitting Accessories.
  2. Choice of any hank of yarn from Evermore Studios.

This project is a joint activity involving both Ewe University listeners and Yarns at Yin Hoo listeners.  So you can double dip by posting in both Ravelry threads.


At the Library

This week I’m on Chapter 17 of Dracula.

In an effort to expand my literary horizons, a few years ago I started a tradition of reading a horror classic for Halloween.  I am looking for suggestions for good book.  Please go over to the thread on Ravelry and post your recommendations.

Gail provided some intriguing information on Dracula, a brand new TV series which will be on NBC this fall.  The official trailer is worth watching!

In this week’s show I give some more history on the real Vlad Dracula and how some of the accounts of his behavior may be greatly exaggerated or even fabricated with the intent of besmirching his image.  (Yes, I do get to use the word besmirch in a real sentence!)  Thus, Vlad’s reputation is considerably darker in  Western Europe than in Eastern Europe.  In Romania he is an important historical figure and considered a hero.  The Western idea of Dracula the vampire is not a part of Romanian culture at all.


In the Classroom

Martin Seligman, the researcher who started the positive psychology movement that we discussed in class last week, was one of the pioneering researchers on depression.  I talk about his seminal work on learned helplessness and how this was applied to the human problem of depression.  Then I introduce neuroscientist Kelly Lambert and her research on “effort-driven rewards” which is the idea that our brains are wired for exerting effort to achieve a goal.  When we are handed out rewards without any work at all, it makes us less motivated, less persistent, and less resilient.  Lambert includes knitting as an example of the antidepressant brain circuit in action.  We are using our brains to plan and design something, working with both of our hands in tandem to create something that is rewarding to us.  She says activities like this are way better than popping antidepressant pills.  So next time you are knitting, spinning, weaving, crocheting, take comfort in the fact that you are preventing brain disorders like depression.


Episode 4

Episode 4 features a lesson about positive psychology, optimism, and the experience of “flow.”  I also talk about my quiet week in Minnesota, visiting the hometown of Judy Garland, and astonishing facts about the loon.  Additionally, I convey some scholarly information about the historical figure, Vlad Dracula.  Well, that sounds like a hodge-podge of  material for this week’s show!  Give it a listen and see how I manage to tie everything together.

Welcome to everyone who has joined the Ewe University group on Ravelry!  You can subscribe to the show here by clicking on the “Follow” tab at the bottom of the page and entering your email address or by subscribing in the iTunes store.

Thank you to show sponsor Halcyarn Knitting Accessories.

Listen to the show:



Around Campus

Last week I recorded from our cabin in northern Minnesota.  This is what I got to wake up to every morning.


You can see why I spent my days sitting by the lake and knitting.  I also got to watch four eagles who were around our beach area for a few days.  They are magnificent!

I visited The Yarn Gallery in Grand Rapids and got some souvenir yarn.

I talk about the Minnesota State Bird, the Common Loon, which cares for its young by carrying the babies on its back.


The Dean’s List

This is a segment where I recognize high achievement and excellence in some domain.  Today I am acknowledging and thanking the podcasters who keep me company on a regular basis and bring a little bit of “home” to wherever I am:

Paula from Knitting Pipeline
Dawn and James from Wolfe Farms
Hannah from Traveling Sock Knitter
Denise from Knitting Den (who is my friend and pen pal!)
Jasmin and Gigi from Knitmore Girls
Aimee and Darren from Knitting in Circles
Mel from Single Handed Knits
Zena from Knittynatter
Steph and Stacie from the Must Stash Podcast
Tina from Knitting Blooms
Steve and Callie from Dramatic Knits
Dr. Gemma from the CogKnitive Podast

I enjoy your shows so much and truly appreciate all your efforts in putting out such well-produced and inspirational shows.

A new podcast that I love:  Yarns at Yin Hoo with Sara
{P.S.  Sara and I are working on a joint activity with prizes which we will share with you when we get the details worked out!}

The Academic Status of my Knitting Projects

Last week while on vacation at the lake, I knit like a maniac!  I made great progress on several projects:

GRADUATED:  Striped Socks


These are knit from the Basic Ribbed Socks pattern by Kate Atherley. The yarn is Tough Love by Knit and Fiber Creation in the Bill Weasley colorway.  I knit them on U.S. size 1 (2.25mm) Hiya Hiya Sharps.

GRADUATED:  Melon Sorbet Shawl


This is the Melon Sorbet pattern by Hale Prinzessin.  It is knit out of Walkabout yarn by High Prairie Fibers (DK weight).  This yarn is 100% Australian wool — it’s a sturdy yarn, a little bit rustic, in a custom colorway that I commissioned.  I knit this project on U.S. size 8 (5mm) needles.

FRESHMAN:  Drape Front Sweater


Still languishing in the Freshman class, this sweater is apparently in no hurry to graduate.  I have worked on it, though!

The pattern is Drape Front Sweater by Roberta Rosenfeld.  I’m knitting it out of Lana Grossa Meringo yarn, which is an angora/wool blend in pink.  It’s very soft and nice to work with.  It’s on U.S. size 6 (4mm) needles.


I am joining a sock circle that is starting at one of my local knitting groups.  We will each be knitting the cuffs of a pair of socks and then passing the socks around for each member of the group to knit on each week.  At the end I will have a pair of socks which has been constructed with knitting contributions from all my friends in the circle.

At the Library

Don’t be too scared by the creepy werewolf howl on the show in honor of Dracula, the book I am currently reading.  I’m on Chapter 10.

I also talk some more about the real historical person, Vlad Dracula — also known as Vlad the Impaler or Vlad Tepes (pronounced tse-pesh in Romanian), summarized from the work of professor Elizabeth Miller, an internationally recognized expert on Dracula.  (What a fun job!)

In the Classroom

Today’s lesson is about positive psychology, optimism, and the experience of flow.  Psychology has historically been lopsidedly focused on the negative aspects of human nature — psychopathology and mental illness.  We’ve spent less time studying the positive side of human nature — how people flourish, thrive, and become happy.  Since 1998 we have been trying to remedy this neglect and have promoted more research on human strengths, virtue, and satisfaction with life.

I talk about the research on happiness.  Listen in for answers to questions like:  What do people want more–happiness or fame/fortune?  How happy are people?  How do happy people benefit over those who are more gloomy?  Are rich people more happy?

I also discuss the personality trait of optimism, the belief that, in general, good things are likely to  happen.  I cover some of the research on what optimistic people are like.

Lastly, I talk about professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (pronounced chick-SENT-me-hi-ee) and his research on flow.  Have you ever been involved in an activity–maybe knitting or spinning–so deeply that nothing else seemed to matter and you lost track of time?  You were probably experiencing flow.  Listen in for the nine qualities that characterize flow experiences.

Final words for thought:  Savor the present, be wise enough to catch moments of beauty — the sunset, a hummingbird, the smell of orange blossoms, your yarn.  A mere ten seconds can create a happy memory for a lifetime!

Episode 3

In this episode I talk about the research on pet ownership and the physical and psychological benefits of animal companions.  I’m recording this week from our cabin in northern Minnesota, and I got a fabulous new microphone, so the background noise should be greatly reduced — yay!

Thank you to show sponsor Halcyarn Knitting Accessories.

Listen to the show:



Around Campus

This week I’m at one of my favorite locations, Woman Lake in Minnesota.  This is the view out the window:


It’s been a little busy here this weekend because of the Labor Day holiday, but things should quiet down after Monday.  The weather is fabulous here!  At  home we’ve been having heat indexes of over 100 degrees, and here it is starting to feel like fall!  Yesterday the high was 64 degrees.  I love it!

I talk about the Timber Ridge Knitting Retreat, which I went to two weeks ago.  It was a wonderful day of knitting at my friend Ann’s “barn.”  Here is a picture:


The weather was perfect so we sat outside and knit all day.  This picture was taken early in the morning, and we had quite a few more people show up over the course of the day.

At home we have been inundated with zucchini!  I have made so many zucchini recipes, I don’t think I can look at another one!


The Academic Status of My Knitting Projects

GRADUATING SENIOR:  Second sock of the Basic Ribbed Sock pattern by Kate Atherley in Tough Love (80% merino, 20% nylon) by Knit & Fiber Creations in the Bill Weasley self-striping colorway on US #1 Hiya Hiya Sharps.  I wanted to finish the sock so badly but didn’t.  I’m about ready to start decreasing for the toe so should be done soon!


SOPHOMORE:  Melon Sorbet Shawl, a triangular shawl pattern by Halbe Prinzessin.  I’m knitting it in Walkabout yarn by High Prairie Fibers, which is a gradient yarn in a custom colorway which I designed!  It has purple, teal, and gray in the transitions.  It is 100% Australian wool and is spun and dyed by Abi at High Prairie Fibers.  This week I finished a few more pattern repeats.


FRESHMAN:  Drape Front Sweater, which is a pattern by Roberta Rosenfeld from Vogue Knitting, Winter 2011-12.  This should be an easy stockinette-based pattern…but I somehow managed to goof it up and ended up ripping out 11 rows this week.  Naughty knitting!!!  We are back on track now, though.  I am halfway done with the back and left sleeve.


At the Library

This week I finished Heirs and Graces by Rhys Bowen.  I was not expecting the quick ending but even I was not surprised at the attempted plot twist.  Still, I would give it 3 out of 5 stars and recommend it for light summer reading.  The reader, Katherine Kellegren, gets 5 stars — she is awesome!

Next in the book cue is the Bram Stoker classic, Dracula!  Although I don’t normally like scary books, I do like this one and have read it several times.  I talk about some of the background on the book re how Stoker changed his vampire’s name from Count Wampyr to Count Dracula after running across the name Dracula in a historical book.  He also changed the homeland of his vampire from Austria to a more mysterious Transylvania.  Also, your quiz for the day:  What does Transylvania mean?

In the Classroom

Today’s topic is the benefits of pet ownership, which was inspired by a difficult situation being faced by Dawn and James of the Wolfe Farms podcast.  Their dog, Fuji, has been diagnosed with lymphoma.  Please consider supporting Dawn and James with your thoughts, prayers, and monetary donations.  Go over to Wolfe Farms and make a purchase and/or donation, for which you will receive a beautiful Fuji “Fight like a girl” button.

I cover the research on the history of domesticated animals (especially cats and dogs) as well as the evidence pointing to the physical and mental health benefits of pet ownership.  In closing, I talk about a fun study which examined personality differences between people who identified themselves as a “dog person” or a “cat person.”

If you are interested in reading more about these topics, here are the sources I used, which will get you started:

Gosling, S. D., Sandy, C. J., & Potter, J. (2010).  Personalities of self-identified “dog people” and “cat people.”  Anthrozoos, 23, 213-232.

McConnell, A. R., Brown, C. M., Shoda, T. M., Stayton, L. E., & Martin, C. E. (2011).  Friends with benefits:  On the positive consequences of pet ownership.  Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 101, 1239-1252.

Walsh, F. (2009).  Human-animal bonds I:  The relational significance of companion animals.  Family Processes, 48, 462-480.

Thanks for coming to class today.  I hope you learned something!