Wednesday, December 2, 2009

This 'n' That

Dude, I have been a terrible blogger lately. Been busy, ya know? I know you do because who isn't busy this time of year?

To keep it simple and get you up to date on my life, this is what I have been up to:

More sample knitting on top secret projects. Sorry! No pics allowed.

But to counteract my top secret knitting, I have been interspersing these little guys into my knitting time:

Berroco's Minutia '08 patterns. I am so hooked. Really, seriously addicted to these things. I have made six so far and have had to limit myself to only one a day, otherwise I probably would have made all 36 tiny sweaters already! (They published the first Minutia set in 2007, and recently released Minutia 2009--each collection has 12 sweaters.)

I was originally going to make these as part of my KK present to a family member (we pick names every Thanksgiving). But that plan got parked by the wayside when I decided to go in a different direction for my giftee. That did not, however, stop me from knitting tiny sweaters. Now I can't stop. Seriously. Can't. Stop. I'm sure the only thing that will stop me will be to eventually run out of scrap yarn. Other people make baby clothes or scrap yarn blankets. I, apparently, make tiny sweaters that are of no use to anyone. Go me.

What else...well, the most exciting thing I did today was try to "do" my hair. I haven't done anything with my hair in ages. I have straight and very fine hair. By "very fine" I mean that if I gathered it all up and put it into a ponytail, it would be about the thickness of my pointer finger. Doing anything with my hair is like wrestling limp cornsilk. Sure, I know that having silky, smooth hair is supposed to be a good thing, right? Put it this way: when I was a kid I was in a production of 'Annie' and all the orphans were supposed to rat their hair and look dirty. I distinctly remember the two directors standing backstage trying desperately to rat my hair, to no avail. I was a total orphan poseur and everyone knew it. Pretty much the only things that will work in my hair are those flat barettes that you have to bend in the middle to open. Everything else just slides out. I will trade my hair for yours any day.

But you know what makes me feel better? (Not that I really feel bad...come on, people; it's just hair!) My new slippers. Purchased on sale. I feel like a muppet. They're awesome.

Monday, November 16, 2009

I Made Socks. No, Really!

I have long been one of those knitters who admire complicated-looking socks from afar. Sure, they look nice, but who wants to knit them? And yeah, sock yarn is fancier and prettier than most other yarns that I would consider wearing in public, but who wants to knit socks? OK, so there are a lot of challenging patterns out there and socks don't take very long to make, but...who wants to knit socks?

So I gazed at sock patterns from lauded designers such as Cookie A and Anne Hanson, but could never quite get myself over that whole "who wants to knit socks anyway?" hump. I would knit socks for other people once in a while, but never for myself. And then finally, something just snapped and I wanted to knit socks. Of course, not being a sock knitter left me with a giant hole in my stash: no sock yarn! The way other knitters tell it, you would think the stuff would multiply in my stash just by rubbing two skeins of wool together. But no luck. Then I scored some Regia sock yarn on major clearance at Little Knits and set to work.

Behold, the first socks I have ever knit for myself (both from Cookie A's book, Sock Innovation):



I have to admit that I got a little bored with the Wanida socks. They weren't really very challenging to knit. I'm going to knit up more pairs out of Cookie's book (but I will probably skip the simpler ones) as I come by more sock yarn. I think the appeal for me is the fun of working on complex patterns in small bits. I don't foresee myself as needing an entire drawer of hand-knitted socks just for the sake of having them. We'll see though...I think this is just the first step down the rabbit hole.

Oh, and I also got The Brain to take a few loooooong-overdue shots of me in my Hex Coat. (Norah Gaughan, Berroco Ultra Alpaca) I finished this back in June but just wasn't really happy with it so I never bothered with photos. I just really can't see myself wearing it, to be honest. It's long, heavy, slightly scratchy, and really large. I purposely knitted it at a smaller gauge than called for in the pattern and made the smallest size option (46" I think?) to try to get something close to normal ease with it, but it's still quite large. Please excuse my strange smile in the photo: it is not a look of smug satisfaction, but rather a grimace of "oh-my-god-get-me-out-of-this-thing-it-is-100-degrees-in-here!". Plus, I didn't know The Brain was including my head in the shot so that didn't help either. :-P

For those of you familiar with the Uptown area of Minneapolis, the painting behind my head is a print by artist Michael Birawer of Cafe Barbette. It was our favorite weekend brunch hangout when we lived in the area (I miss those buckwheat crepes!), and I got the print as a wedding present for The Brain. I encourage you to check out his online gallery. He has been painting notable hot spots in the Twin Cities for nearly 10 years now, and began adding scenes from Chicago in 2003. He has recently started painting Las Vegas, too! Many of his paintings include wooden cut-outs that are mounted on the main canvas to give it more of a 3-D quality. All of his works are vibrant and memorable, especially when you're familiar with the areas he depicts. I will definitely want to add more prints to my walls some day.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


OK guys, pity party is over. Time to move on. Thank you all for your lovely comments (and to KGLO from the Rainy Daisy blog: thank you for all your kind comments -- I'm sorry I don't have an email address to respond to!). Things could always be worse, of course, so it helps to keep things in perspective.

You know what else helps? Working out. I've gotten into a better routine this year and I like that. I ran out to the store the other day because I had a gift card and I got this game for the Wii for only $10. Score! I have only used it once so far and I liked it, but I will give a more thorough review in the future after I've been using it for a while (if I remember...).

Speaking of reviews, I believe I promised a review of my new yarn swift! If you recall, my old swift was a homemade contraption that was falling apart and made winding yarn quite difficult. I did enough sample knitting that I was able to invest in this new swift from Crazy Monkey Creations. I really didn't want an umbrella swift that would need to be clamped to a table, and this was the best alternative I could find.

The website says to allow one to two weeks for production, and another 3-5 days for shipping but I got mine in about a week, if I remember correctly. I was very happy with that. Even though the swift came flat-packed in pieces, they include a very detailed photographic manual to help you put it together (but really, you probably don't need it). All the pieces are well-crafted and solid, and the whole thing smells like new wood--love that!

Now, because the whole thing is very sturdy, it is also a little heavy. I don't mind that, but it does make it a little difficult to haul around when I need to use it. To help solve this problem, I went to the hardware store and picked up a simple pull handle for a couple bucks and screwed it into the back of the swift. Now I can pick it up without grabbing the arms, which probably isn't the best thing to do with those fragile pieces.

The whole thing rotates very smoothly and evenly. I was a little nervous that the heaviness of the arms would cause the rotation to slow down, but it really doesn't. The one thing you have to be aware of is to make sure that the yarn-holding hooks are evenly placed on the arms. Because each one is adjusted individually, it can be a little tricky, but if one of them is way off it can affect the tension on the yarn as it spins. Thankfully, the hooks are very easy to move and there are guidelines etched into the wood to help you space them correctly.

Overall, I am extremely happy with this swift. It is a simple yet effective piece of hardware, and I really can't picture having any problems with it. There aren't any small pieces to break, there are no fussy strings to keep track of (as there sometimes are in umbrella swifts), and the only movable piece is a giant screw and that's not going anywhere. This swift gets a definite two thumbs up from me!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Quick Catch-Up

Oops. No post for a while. I would like to say that I've been super busy. Unfortunately, the opposite is true. I haven't been busy enough. Unemployment tends to leave you without much to do. I know: when you're employed you dream about having weeks and months of unscheduled time in which you can do whatever you want. You'd get so much done! Read all those classic novels you've never read! Clear out the storage closets! Paint the spare rooms! Learn new hobbies! Work out every day!

Pattern: Bamboo Socks by Lorraine Ehrlinger
Yarn: Trekking XXL

In reality, my days are more like this:

Get up.

Check email.

Read blogs.

Answer email.

Work out.

Run errands (if any--I try to spread them out over the week so I have something to do most days).

Scour employment boards and apply for jobs.


Pattern: Ethereal Fichu by Jackie Erickson-Schweitzer
Yarn: Buffalo Gold Buffboo

A couple weeks ago I was thisclose to getting an interview for a really good job. Not my dream job, but one that pays more than I was getting as an undergrad 10 years ago, which is the best offer I've seen since the economy went down the tubes. After working for a week on the written portion of the interview process (creating a two-page newsletter and writing a three-paragraph press release), I was not chosen to proceed. Whatever. Usually I don't even get a confirmation that these places even received my application. I've tried leaving my Masters degree off the resume but that doesn't seem to make a difference, so for my own pride I'm leaving it on.

I'm still getting test- and sample-knitting jobs from time to time. The above lace shawl is for Buffalo Gold, and I have another sweater in the works for Hannah Fettig as well. I am very grateful and happy to have this work. But DUDES, I need a job soon! Even if it's only for my sanity because I tell ya: I'm getting a little stir-crazy down here!

I'll try to post a review of my yarn swift up here soon. Preview: I LOVE IT!!!

P.S. Thanks for letting me whine. (Letting me? It's my own blog! LOL) It's been a long couple of weeks.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The One In Which I Am Super-Duper Proud of Myself

So...I may have mentioned once or twice before that my apartment is a dirt and dust magnet. I mean that literally. My apartment sucks this stuff in the windows like it's feeding off the grime of the city. I can't figure it out because no one else around here seems to have this problem, but I am not kidding when I say that each time we sweep the apartment, we end up with a pile of dark gray dirt large enough to masquerade as an ant hill. I am not a filthy person, so needless to say, this grosses me out. Big time. Wearing socks or slippers is a must in my apartment unless you want the bottoms of your feet to turn black. I was working out in my living room a couple weeks ago (Wii Fit is more fun than an actual workout, what can I say?) and my running-shoe-clad feet actually slid across the floor! We store the Wii Balance Board in a zip-up pillowcase just to keep it clean, and that white pillowcase is looking rather gray these days.

Dust and dirt settles on everything in the apartment. I am constantly wiping down the mantle and the windowsills, the bookshelves and the desks. I have to dust-bust the couch and armchair every time I sweep. This leads me to the topic of this post: if that much dust and dirt covers everything in the apartment, what is it doing to my poor keyboard?!?

I have had to pop all the keys out of the keyboard and give each one a thorough scrubbing several times since we moved down here. The last time I did this, I had had enough. I pulled an old tea towel out of a drawer and tried to use that as a cover. Not only did it look terrible, but it didn't really work. The grime would get onto the keyboard anyway. I spent an hour and a half yesterday prying all my keys out again and giving them another thorough scrubbing. I was thisclose to telling The Brain that I absolutely wouldn't stand for thtis any more and insisting that we move to the Arctic Circle when I decided to Do Something About It.

So I hauled out my trusty(?) sewing machine and made a keyboard cover. I just took the keyboard measurements and winged it, and I think it turned out pretty well. I even lined it with contrasting fabric and used fusible interfacing for extra structure and reduced porousness. It may not be the world's finest sewing job, but it does the trick and it makes my work space look more streamlined and professional.

The best part about the whole project is that I was able to use fat quarters that were sent to me a few months back by my fabulous bloggy friend, Jacey. Thanks, Jacey! The fabric was put to good use and it matched my color scheme perfectly. :) You should check out Jacey's blog for some knitting awesomeness and extra-yummy Food Fridays. She's also having a blog contest in honor of her 2nd Blogiversary, so go visit!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Oh Yeah...the Blog!

Here is what my past couple of weeks have been like:

I really need to blog today. I really need to blog today. I really need to blog today. Oh, crap! It's nearly midnight! I'll blog tomorrow.

Next day: I'll blog as soon as I finish this. And then this. Oh, and this other thing. Oh, crap! It's after midnight! I'll blog tomorrow.

Three days later: I really feel like I'm forgetting something. I know there was something I was planning to do...oh yeah! I needed to eat lunch. That must have been it.

I kind of crapped out on my personal goal of blogging at least once a week, didn't I? Oh well. At least I threw a podcast up there to keep you entertained. Thank you, everyone, for your kind comments. I really like listening to podcasts while I knit but I know there are some people who really aren't interested. That's OK. We're just doing this for fun and will not be hurt or offended in the least if you don't feel like playing along.

And I do promise to post to this blog...when I can remember. :-P

So, what has been happening over here? I'll give you the quick run-down:

My final lace project for MacKintosh Yarns was completed and sent off. Ice Queen by Rosemary Hill, free pattern in Knitty. Knitted with MacKintosh Yarns Brigit Lace, a silk/cashmere/alpaca blend. Final thoughts: Like knitting with cream. Plus: beads are fun.

I managed to get the first of three pairs of legwarmers off to my sister in Minnesota, just in time for the first snowfall of the season. I had some leftover yarn (Berroco Vintage...a decent yarn. Inexpensive and machine-washable, yet also kinda waxy-feeling.) so I whipped up a Ripley hat to go with them. That pattern is super fun, and the knitted-in slouchiness helps you look effortlessly cool.

The second pair of legwarmers, Mosey by Susan Power, also in Knitty. Also in Berroco Vintage. Also, my first time making pom poms. I actually ran out to Jo-Ann and got a pom pom maker set. It promised "Perfect pom poms every time! No trimming needed!" Once I relaxed my opinion of "perfect", the pom poms turned out OK.

I also whipped up a Spiral Cowl by Keri McKiernan out of the fabulous yarn I got from Leann at Enchanted Hues. I love hand-dyed yarns, and I love them even more when they don't pool! This yarn had the perfect amount of little bits of color that peeked out from a swirl of dark blues and greens. I love it! I just need to find the perfect button to finish it off. I'm thinking black glass, maybe?

Next up: more legwarmers for my sister. She's going to have the warmest legs in Minnesota this winter!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Giving it a Whirl

If any of you read my brother's blog, you already know the news because he beat me to the punch (by 16 hours), but here it is for the rest of you: We decided to put up a podcast!

You can listen to it here at Libsyn, and read show notes here at Blogger.

Does the world need another knitting podcast? Probably not.
Do we care? Nope. Not in the slightest. :)

It's our first episode so obviously we're a little rough. We'll continue to improve. I promise. Feel free to leave constructive criticism for us because we can take it. No need to comment on the fact that we both sound waaaay more Minnesotan than we think we do in real life. Or the fact that I sound like a complete ditz. I'm an intellectual giant! ( disguise, apparently)

It's just an idea we've been tossing around for far too long, so we decided to go for it. We're having fun and we hope you do, too.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Stick A Fork In It

Ugh. It's been one of those weeks, ya know? It's Thursday already and I'm just now getting a chance to let you know what happened after my lace emergency of last week. First of all, I want to thank everyone for your helpful and kind comments! I know it's something we've all been through before, and every time it happens I think, "Well that was stupid! I'm never going to make that mistake again!" Famous last words, of course.

I decided to play it safe and figure out how much yarn each border repeat was going to take. Using a very scientific method of sticking a safety pin through the yarn at 3-foot repeats, I calculated that each row of the border took about a foot of yarn. A foot! That would mean that to do the border as written, I would need about half the yardage from the entire skein. Umm...definitely not enough for that.

So I ripped. I ripped out about 24 hours' worth of knitting. I ripped out the outer border. I ripped out the inner border. I ripped out my grafted seam (and a beautiful seam it was, too). I ripped out 3 pattern repeats from each side of the shawl. When I was done, I was left with this: two shawl halves and a bunch of little balls of yarn in various lengths.

Then I started the process over again. I grafted the two sides together. I picked up stitches and knitted the inner border. At this point, I was contacted by Liz, the dyer extraordinaire at MacKintosh Yarns, who told me not to panic and that even though there was no more yarn in this color to be had, I was welcome to stick a crochet edging on the thing and call it done. Now, maybe it's just that I didn't want to admit that a shawl had defeated me. Maybe it's my Midwestern work ethic. Maybe it's simply the fact that my crochet skills can be called "sketchy" at best, but I wasn't about to just throw any old thing on the shawl.

So I did what any self-respecting knitter does and picked a simple (read: low-stitch-count) border out of Victorian Lace Today and used that instead. Good thing too because by the time I had finished knitting up the border on Tuesday night, there was barely more than a tiny coil of yarn left. Whew!

Problem solved. Major crisis averted. The shawl is blocking and all is well.

Oh! And I just have to say a word about this yarn: MacKintosh Yarns Spinneret Lace. It is a 55/45 blend of silk and superwash marino. I just have to say that after repeated knittings and rippings, it held up just fine. No pills, no fuzz, it still looks great. It's nice and smooth and has good drape, and it's not thick like some 100% wool laces can be. I think I may have found my new favorite lace yarn. Just sayin'.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Lace SOS

All right, intrepid knitters. I need your help with something. I'm still working on the Print O' the Wave stole for MacKintosh yarns, and as predicted it's knitting up very quickly. I flew through each of the separately-knitted sides. I grafted the two sides together in the center. I picked up the 640 stitches around the outside and knitted the inside border. I casted on the 17 stitches for the outer border and started working my way slowly around the outside. And now...

Now I'm afraid that I won't have enough yarn to finish it.

It's a nightmare. If this stole were knitted in one piece, I would jut rip back a pattern repeat and go from there. But it took me EIGHT HOURS just to graft the two halves together, pick up stitches around the outside and knit up half of the inner border. It took me another EIGHT HOURS to finish the inner border and knit up 25% of the outer border. Ripping back right now would not only be excruciating, it would leave me with several (rather long, it's true) lengths of yarn.

So here's where you come in: I need you to tell me what you would do! Would you, a) keep knitting the border and hope that there really is enough yarn to complete it, or b) cut your losses and not waste another moment of your time by ripping back right now?

I've never been all that good at estimating how much yarn I have left--I usually end up with much more than I thought I would need. I'm worried that I'm using that as an excuse to blind myself to the truth: there simply isn't enough yarn here. I suppose I could try to figure out how much yarn each border repeat uses, and then measure out my remaining yarn to see if I have enough. That actually works in two ways: I will know for sure before I rip out all my work unnecessarily or waste more time knitting, and it will also force me to spend time troubleshooting and therefore postpone the inevitable. Hmm...what do you guys think?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

More Random Happy Things

I feel as though I use this blog to complain about things a wee bit too much, so here are some more random happy knitterly things that have been going in the past week.

First off, I won a contest that Leann was having over on her blog. She was giving away an item of the winner's choice from her Etsy shop, Enchanted Hues. She has some seriously beautiful stuff over there, people. It actually made me glad that I don't spin because her fiber is so pretty. I really want some of that Eastwick! Hmm...she also custom spins any of her roving...I'll have to keep that in mind. As it is, I had a hard enough time choosing between all of her yarn colors. I was really drawn to The Great Pumpkin, a bright blend of orange shades, and Poisoned Apple with its deep reds. (Btw, how much do you love her color names?) In the end, I decided on a skein of DK weight superwash merino in the Forbidden Forest colorway. I'm so glad I did (although I'm certain I would have been happy with any color I chose). It's the kind of color that you can't take your eyes off of. It seems to be the darkest green you can imagine, almost black. (Is it black?) It has bits of brighter greens and browns that blue? Purple? Every time you look at it, it seems to change color. It is soooo mesmerizing and I LOVE it. This is definitely in my queue of yarn I need to knit up rightnow. I'm thinking a nice cowl...maybe the Spiral Cowl by Keri McKiernan, or the Faberge Neck Warmer by Nina Machlin Dayton. Something to think about...

My second random happy thing is that Hannah Fettig released the pattern for her Lightweight Pullover! Yeah, I know, you're probably sick and tired of me saying this, but I knit the sample for this one too! It was seriously the most pleasurable sweater I have knitted in a long time. Part of it was that the yarn is scrumptious (Classic Elite Fresco) but mostly it is the pattern itself. Like a lot of knitters, I really like to challenge myself with my projects. Bring on the complex lace or colorwork or cables, and I'm in heaven! But the truth is that the sweaters I wear the most are the ones that are mostly stockinette. They just look so polished and wearable. This is definitely one of those sweaters, and it knits up so fast! Just look at that drapey funnel neck! Not too much of a cowl, but not too much of a turtleneck, either. I will be working one of these up for myself soon. I can picture myself wearing it everywhere...if only it wasn't so dang hot down here in San Diego! :-P My one regret is that I didn't think to take FO shots before I sent it off to Ms. Fettig so I don't have any photos for my Rav projects page. :( Ah well, live and learn, right?

And wait...what's this? This pile of wood on the floor?

Omigosh, it's a new swift!!! This is a brand new Heavy Duty Vertical Yarn Swift from Crazy Monkey Creations and I am soexcitedomg to have it! My little brother kindly made me a tabletop swift for my birthday nearly two years ago, and it was great at first...but you could only wind the yarn in one direction or it would tighten itself up and stop turning. But then you had to reach over the spinning posts and hold onto the little wing nut in the center of the swift to keep it from unscrewing itself and falling apart while winding. Yarn ends tended to fly free and wind themselves around the center shaft, gunking themselves up in grease, and even when everything was running smoothly, the thing kind of wobbled and I could hear the center screw gouging its way into the wood. So...out with the old, in with the new! I knew I wanted a swift that didn't necessitate clearing off the entire kitchen table in order to use it, and I didn't want an umbrella swift that needed to be clamped to the table, either. When I found this online I knew I had a winner! I am very pleased that my knitting-for-hire has been able to buy such a great new tool. After being out of work for so long, I had forgotten how nice it is to be able to pay for something for yourself. I haven't tried it out yet, but I will be sure to report on how it performs.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Random Happy Things

I decided this post should be about random happy things today. And why not?

First off, I am excited to report that the comfy purple Gooseberry Cardigan designed by Hannah Fettig that is on the cover of the new Interweave Knits Weekend magazine was knitted up by yours truly! The fabulous Ms. Fettig posted a call for help on her blog back in...April? May? Some time ago anyway. I answered the call and was given the privilege of knitting up her wonderful design for INTERWEAVEMAGAZINEOMG! I was super duper excited to see that they put it on the cover (because I'm a ginormous dork), and I ran out to buy a copy the day it hit newsstands. And if you look in the back at the Staff Projects, you can see that Eunny Jang herself is wearing it! Too fun!

After sending off my most recent shawl, I moved right along to the third in the series of shawls for MacKintosh Yarns. This time I'm doing the Print O' the Wave stole by Eunny Jang in MacKintosh Yarns Spinneret Lace Yarn in the Mossy Bog colorway. I am happy to report that I am in love! This yarn is the best! It's a 55/45 superwash merino/silk blend and it is so smooth and alive that it is so much fun to knit with. The color of this yarn is just perfect for the pattern, and the way the stitches change directions makes the light hit the yarn differently and really gives it a nice shine and makes the color vary from one angle to the next. I liked it so much that I sat down yesterday and in one evening knitted up 9 out of the first 17 pattern repeats. This one will be a quick knit, I'm sure!

And now, a little story that did not make me happy but that might make you chuckle so I'll call it even: When I was a child there was a candy called Tangy Taffy. It was a fruit-flavored taffy sold in a long strip. I loooooooved Tangy Taffy. I think they used to only come in cherry and grape flavors, but after a while they started putting out mixed flavors, like strawberry-banana or mixed berry. They also started coating the top of the slabs of taffy with giant, brightly-colored sugar crystals. These changes were gross and I stopped eating the candy.

Somewhere along the line, Tangy Taffy was discontinued and subsequently resurrected as Laffy Taffy by Nestle's Willy Wonka Candy Company brand. (A quick search on Wikipedia divulged the following, rather unhelpful information: "A former taffy, Tangy-Taffy is also now discontinued and has been replaced totally by Laffy-Taffy," which is essentially what I just told you. You have now been told twice. I hope you're still paying attention. There will be a quiz later.)

While shopping at Target on Monday, I passed the candy display (oh, all right, I was there on purpose looking for Twerpz, which seem to have mysteriously disappeared from candy shelves everywhere, to my eternal broken-heartedness) and found the Laffy Taffy. Remembering how good it was as a child, I grabbed one and brought it home.

Once home, I sat down at my desk to get some work done and started happily gobbling my way through the sticky mess. (No, I don't know why my keyboard keeps getting so dirty. Why do you ask?) I was halfway through the gooey slab of taffy when I found A HAIR. A wiry, black hair embedded in my candy. Ew. Just...ew.

So I immediately called the number on the packaging and was helped by a very slow yet very serious woman on the other end of the line. I had to give her my full contact information. I had to read three different codes to her off the packaging. I had to answer a whole litany of questions about the hair: What color is it? How long is it? Is it curly? Wavy? Sraight? Where in the candy is it? Had I noticed anything odd about the packaging? Had I noticed anything else odd about the candy inside? And so on...

Then she asked me if I would be willing to mail back my "sample" to them if they sent me a postage-paid envelope. Sure. Fine. Then she asked me if I was able to take pictures of the "sample" and email them to a super-special, top-secret link she was going to email to me. This link is only open for three days, and then I guess some sort of internet black hole is going to swallow it up. Okaaaaay...sure.

I was trying not to laugh at this point because really, it felt more like a criminal investigation than a mundane food complaint. I felt like I was working in a crime lab when I took these pictures! Before I got off the phone with her, she reiterated that they take their food production very seriously, and assured me that all employees who come into contact with any step of the food production process are required to wear hair nets, and any men who also have beards must wear a special hair net on their faces as well. Then she told me that they would be sending me replacement samples and some coupons, so all was well.

When I told my brother this story, his reply was: "OMG! You're even unlucky with your candy!!!"

Yes, sad but true. Don't worry: I will keep you all informed as this situation progresses, because I am positive you are all on pins and needles to see how it turns out.

And now I leave you with the final happy thing:

Proof that shimmery happiness can be had for only 97 cents. (Please ignore the red and puffy post-shower feet.)

Monday, September 14, 2009

Poking Around

I feel like the groundhog (you know, The Groundhog), sticking my nose outside to take a look around. I'm about to go back under, but I thought I should put up a post about what I have been up to.

It has been an insanely busy last month or so, and it's going to remain that way for some time to come, to which I'm sure you can all relate. I have been working night and day on a super-colossal top-secret project that I hope to reveal in about a month. Until then, my brain will be kind of scrambled, I'm sure.

In my last post, I had been halfway through the first of four shawls I was hired to knit as samples for MacKintosh Yarns. Well, I finished that first shawl in time for it to go off to Stitches and I am very happy that I was able to finish it on time.

Pattern: Kiri Shawl by Polly Outhwaite
Yarn: MacKintosh Yarns Rhiannon Lace Weight, color Hibiscus
Needles: Addi Lace size 6
Finished Size: 80" across the top, 45" down the center
Mods: Added pattern repeats until I ran out of yarn, then bound off.

I quickly moved on to my second shawl project and blocked it last night:
Pattern: Lughnasadh Shawl by Renee Leverington
Yarn: MacKintosh Yarns Skye Lace Weight, color Morrigan
Needles: Addi Lace size 6
Finished Size: 72" across the top, 41" down the center
Mods: Added three repeats of the center stitch pattern in order to use up as much yarn as possible, and to help balance the design.

Here's a question for you: What do you think of superwash lace weight yarn? The Skye Lace Weight, while beautifully dyed and lovely to work with, is a superwash merino. I seem to be noticing a lot of superwash lace yarns floating around these days, and my question is: Why? You're not likely to toss your lace projects in the washing machine anyway, right? I mean, you have to block them out so you might as well soak them carefully before doing so. Are these yarns made to be used in lightweight garments, like Hannah Fettig's darling Featherweight Cardigan (for which I have the pattern and the yarn...just waiting to have the time)? I generally prefer to stay away from superwash yarns unless I'm knitting for someone else, but superwash lace weight? I'm confused. Any thoughts?

OK, back to the grindstone. I have to finish up a baby sweater I was hired to knit (so cute! I can't wait for it to be released so you can see it!), then I can get going on my third shawl. I'm really looking forward to this one--it's green! :D

Friday, August 28, 2009

In Which I Show the Rotary Cutter Who's Boss

Hello, bloggy peeps! Sorry for the long absence after leaving you with shots of my mangled finger. (I have to admit that after all the blood stopped gushing, it clearly wasn't as bad as it had originally seemed. However, for a knitter (on a tight deadline, no less!) who uses that exact spot on that exact finger to help maneuver things, it has been pretty annoying.) Thankfully, I have been able to retrain my hand to knit just fine while holding that finger out of the way. It makes little everyday things annoying though--like typing and flossing and all that fun stuff. But my youngest sister (a 9 year old newbie knitter) was kind enough to knit up a squooshy finger cover for me and send it in the mail. Isn't it cute? She "discovered" seed stitch all by herself and has been whipping out these little thimbles/finger warmers/finger covers. Mine comes in handy because it keeps me from bumping my finger into things. :)

As long as my finger was on the mend, I was not about to let the rotary cutter win! So after staring at it hatefully for a couple of days, I buckled down and tackled that tote bag. I spent all weekend (when I was resting my hands from their new way of knitting) sewing this thing up and I have to say that I'm very pleased with how it turned out. :)

It's a tote bag pattern from the first issue of Stitch Magazine (published last fall). It's lined on the inside and has two layers of pockets on the outside for storing all your sewing/crafting stuff in. I have to admit that I was afraid my machine's needle was going to break from sewing through all that fabric, but it held together just fine. There were a couple of mishaps, such as sewing both sides of the bag together at one point, but I managed to fix everything that came my way. There are a couple of mistakes in the pattern: they have you fold the top layer over to the inside way too far, and the instructions for the straps would end up only 1/2" wide if done as written. Thankfully, I had some spare brown fabric and interfacing so I was able to make new straps.

In knitting news, I received my lace yarn from MacKintosh Yarns last Friday and I have been working on the first of four shawls. Can I just say: Wow! This yarn is nice stuff!!! My first project is the Kiri shawl out of Rhiannon Lace in a nice deep pink color called Hibiscus. This is probably the smoothest 100% silk yarn I have worked with and it took a while to get used to. It's so slippery! But it is also shimmery and so light you wouldn't believe it. I'm over halfway done with the shawl and it has gotten so big that it takes about 15 minutes to do one row. I was complaining to my brother about how my progress seems to have slowed down so much now, but he sagely reminded me that I am still using up yarn at the same rate. Oh, yeah! Thanks, Pete!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The One Where Sewing Quickly Goes Downhill

Hello, all! (And a hearty welcome to my newest reader: Mom!) Thanks to everyone for their kind comments on my first sewing project. It was a lot of fun to make that tote bag, and I'm totally jazzed about jumping back in for my next one. But more on that in a minute.

First, I want to talk about my latest knitting projects (because this is a knitting blog, after all). I recently had the privilege of knitting up a sample sweater for Hannah Fettig's newest sweater design, and I finished that last week. I gotta tell you: this was the softest, cuddliest, most enjoyable sweater I have knitted up in a long time! Keep an eye on her pattern release because I predict that a lot of people are going to want to make this one. I'll be first in line!

In other fun knitting news, Hannah also asked me to knit up another sample for her, which I was more than happy to sign on for. And I also got asked by a hand-dyer to knit up some lace shawls out of her yarn. How exciting and fun is that?!? She's overnighting the yarn to me so that I can get started right away, and hopefully have at least one shawl done before she goes to Stitches in early September. Unemployment does have some benefits, I guess.

While I am between projects and waiting for yarn to arrive in the mail, I decided it's time to get back to my sewing. This leads me to my next bit of fabulousness: one of my super fantastic blog readers, Jacey, actually sent me a pile of fabric! Can you believe how generous and super sweet that is?!? Jacey and I have been commenting on each other's blogs for a while so we're bloggy friends, but I was still bowled over by her offer. Free fabric for the poor and destitute!!! What a friend! She even threw in some zippers and bias tape so I can practice with them. I can't tell you how excited I was when this package showed up on my doorstep earlier this week. Thank you so much, Jacey!

I got a JoAnn flyer in the mail last week, and you were right, Cookie, when you said that picking up another hobby was going to be trouble. I couldn't resist running out to get a rotary cutter (on sale!) so that my previously jagged edges can now be all neat and clean. (Just like the real sewers do it!) Enthused by fun fabric and new tools, I used a couple of free hours this afternoon to sit down and cut out pieces for my next tote bag. Things were zooming along, and I was wielding that rotary cutter like a pro!

Until... (If you are squeamish, you might want to stop reading now. I mean it.)

Well...first there was a slight bump and then a snap! and then a small spurt of blood on my pretty fabric. Then a geyser of blood which I managed to contain until I got to the kitchen sink. I had sliced right through the end of my finger!!! The snap was the rotary cutter making a neat and clean cut right through my fingernail. (Just like the real sewers do it!) Now my finger is bandaged up like a mummy because I'm afraid that even the slightest bump will dislodge the little wedge of fingernail that is so valiantly hanging on, or cause the top half of my finger to flap open. I know...EW!!! (Pictures at the end of the post. You've been warned.)

I honestly don't know what's so great about sewing. What has sewing ever done for me? I never bled all over my knitting because of a puncture wound! It must be a sign. Maybe I need to change my handle to "Competent Knitter, Clumsy Sewer"? I want to finish that tote bag, but the thought of using that rotary cutter any time soon kind of makes my skin crawl. And the worst part about it? I have to figure out how I'm going to knit lace at top speed with my mummy finger!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Dudes, I Sewed!

That's right: I taught myself how to sew this weekend. Yee-haw!

I went to jury duty on Friday morning, but they chose the jury and dismissed the rest of us before lunch. As interesting as it would have been to serve on a murder trial, I'm actually kind of relieved that I don't have to. Besides, I have been able to enjoy The Brain's week off with him and it's been very nice. :)

After I got home on Friday, I headed out to Jo-Anns for some bobbins and to scan the patterns. I ended up getting one Vogue pattern for a wrap dress (which they say is Very Easy...I'll be the judge of that), and a bunch of random buttons that were on clearance.

Then, on Saturday, it was Learn To Sew Time! I still had the pieces from the tote bag that was part of my sewing class from earlier this summer. I ditched out after the second class period because I really felt that I would learn better by teaching myself. That meant that I missed the directions on how to assemble these random pieces of cloth. Hmm...

After playing around with some scraps of fabric to test the tension (I have to tighten the main thread tension almost to the max...I don't think that's normal), I dove right in. It was just a matter of sewing a couple of rectangles together, and then sewing the straps to the top. I had no idea where I was supposed to place the straps, so I just kind of guessed. How do you like my fancy-dancy "you-can't-rip-me-out-no-matter-how-hard-you-try" X stitching on the straps? Yeah, I agree: it could use some improvement.

Here's one thing I wasn't anticipating: I can't actually hold the bag open by pulling the straps away from each other. Not too effective. I'm sure I did something wrong, but I'm equally convinced that it could not have had anything to do with the two rectangles of fabric that I cut off the tops of the bag before sewing them together. They were on the pattern, but clearly they were just extra fabric that wasn't meant to do anything, right? Kind of like a third nipple. Off they came!

I was so super excited about sewing some more that I went back to the store on Sunday and picked up some sale fabric to make a tote bag (from a real pattern this time) out of the first issue of Stitch magazine. (I can't find a photo of the bag online.) I haven't had time to get back to my machine yet, but it will be there waiting for me when I am! :)

Oh, and thank you to everyone who left comments with suggestions and/or encouragement about my newest...craft? Skill? Hobby? I appreciate it!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Let the Good Times Roll

So...remember the jury summons I got a few weeks ago? Yeah, well, that's where I've been spending my time over the past two days. I have to go back for a full day tomorrow, too. They're doing the jury selection process for a case that is estimated to last about three weeks. Three weeks! That's a lot of time down the tube. But I'm happy to do it--it's rather interesting, and I've never been called before. I just wish it wasn't happening right now: The Brain is finally taking some much-needed time off next week, and I would really like to be around to enjoy it with him! But there's still a chance that before the end of the day tomorrow they will decide not to use me. I can't decide which I would prefer, so I guess either way I won't be disappointed!

No news to report on the knitting/sewing front. And if I don't check in over the next few weeks, you'll know why!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

The Roundup Continues

Thanks for all the kind comments on my last post--both about the FOs and about The Brain's pay cuts. I know we're not the only people going through this (not by a long shot!) so it's nice to hear that people aren't so jaded by everyone's problems that they can't offer sympathy or support.

But enough of that. In my grand tradition of exposing all of my embarrassing quirks and foibles, I have another story for you:

The Brain and I were invited to a barbecue at one of his colleague's places last night. It was to be a small gathering: three other profs and the husband of one of them. I have been working this past week on getting back into the habit of running every day, so I was quite proud of myself for doing my full workout three days in a row. "I went running for three days this week!", I told myself, "I'm going to look so slim and sporty at this barbecue! People won't even notice that I'm the only one there without a PhD because they will be marveling at my poise and the special radiance that can only come from such a healthy specimen of the human race!" ... Then we got there. Conversation turned fairly quickly to cycling (The Brain rides with a local club), then trail running, then triathlons. Turns out that everyone else present at the gathering could kick my ass in just about any sporty endeavor you can imagine. I wasn't fully deflated, however, until the (only other) woman casually dropped a line about participating in the IronMan competition a couple of years ago. You know, while also struggling through her first year as a faculty member. So she didn't have a lot of time to train. *gulp!* Yeah...I've been unemployed for over a year and my major accomplishment is that I went running for three days in a row this week. LOL!

Must. Set. Higher. Goals. :-P (Speaking of which, is there anyone else in the San Diego area who might be interested in doing some trail running? I'm talking super beginner stuff, not those crazy-ass ultra-serious groups who meet up at 5am on Saturday mornings and run for 6 hours straight. If you're also proud of running for three days in a row, I bet we could work something out.)

Aaaanyway, I wanted to continue with my roundup of things that have been going on over the past couple of weeks. Guess what...I got a sewing machine!!! I was browsing around on Craigslist a couple weeks ago, and I came across a posting for a sewing machine in my neighborhood. This woman was moving to a smaller apartment and didn't use the machine any more, so she was happy to get rid of it. She was only asking $30 for a Kenmore machine, so I emptied my bank account and headed over to her place first thing in the morning because I was worried that the machine wouldn't last very long. It was still there, and the woman even threw in a tote bag full of never-used patterns, batting, tracing paper, safety pins, etc. She plugged it in and sewed a few things for me so I could see that it works well. It's missing a few accessories, like part of the button foot thingie, but right now I am such a newbie that I don't think I'll be sewing anything but crooked lines for a while.

I'm super excited to learn to sew now! I need to get some bobbins and a couple tiny pieces for the machine, but I have the major hurdle over with. I just got a Jo-Ann flyer in the mail yesterday with an ad for Vogue patterns at only $3.99 apiece and the usual 40% off coupon. I'll have to head over there next weekend to see if I can pick up a couple of patterns. Next time I have cash, I can get some fabric. Little by little, I'll learn to sew if it kills me!

Speaking of learning, does anyone have any recommendations for learn-to-sew books? I have checked out a few from the library to do some comparisons. So far, I have the Reader's Digest New Complete Guide to Sewing, Vogue Sewing, and The Complete Photo Guide to Sewing. If you have any opinions on these, or any other books, please weigh in!

Oh, and if anyone can explain to me what the heck a "fat quarter" is and what you use it for, that would be cool too!

Sorry for such a long post! I need to post more often so I can avoid this verbal explosion.

P.S. A super huge thank you to Dana who, after I posted about wanting a sewing machine ages ago, actually offered to sell me her Kenmore for the cost of shipping. Thank you so much, Dana! Your kindness has not been forgotten. :)