Friday, January 30, 2009

Down the Autumn Arbor (Woolen) Rabbit Hole

OK, woah. I had a thing going. I was on a roll! A new post every day for what, three weeks!?! That has to be some kind of record!

But you wanna know what happened? I fell down the rabbit hole. Totally and completely. That Anne Hanson must add some powerful stuff to her patterns, let me tell you. I have succumbed to the magic that is the Autumn Arbor Stole. The wonder of the pattern combined with the beauty of the yarn is so strong that I knit too much.

Yes, sadly, I was only supposed to do 7 repeats on the first side before starting over and doing 7 repeats on the second side. (The two identical halves are then grafted together in the middle.) But for some reason I just kept on knitting and knitted up 8 pattern repeats before I glanced at the pattern to make sure I was on track. Oops!

I'm not going to worry about it too much. For one thing, I'm 5'10" so even though I'm knitting the "tall" size, I'm not going to object if I have more length than the pattern specifies. (Although...that would really only make sense if I wore the stole vertically, since I'll probably be able to wrap the thing around my body at least three times when it's finished.) But's all about proportion, right?

The only thing is that there was one tiny knot in what I can only guess was the middle of the skein. That knot guessed it...right after the 7th repeat. So if that was the middle of the skein, then I won't have enough yarn to do 8 repeats on the second side and I'll have to rip back the first side, splice the yarn together, blah blah blah. But I'm totally not going to worry about that right now. This stole is coming out so beautifully and the yarn is so lovely that I don't care about anything else. I highly recommend this pattern to anyone, and I definitely recommend purchasing the kit from The Woolen Rabbit. This yarn is to die for. Seriously.

* * * * *
In other news, I recently found my way to a new knitting blog through a comment. It looks like it will be a nice read so I'm looking forward to future posts. The blogger said in her first post that the first person to comment on her blog would get a necklace from her Etsy! Well, I was that lucky commenter, and her necklace arrived yesterday. I can't tell you how pretty this necklace is! I'm very excited about it, and it's hanging next to my computer so I can see it every day (until I wear it out, of course). Thank you, Julie, for such a lovely gift!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Wrong Place, Wrong Time...Again

Once again, I seem to be living in the wrong place at the wrong time. (Although I guess you could argue that near the end of January, the right place to live is anywhere other than the Midwest. Or Canada. And speaking of Canada, The Brain was a little tweaked about the post in which I mentioned that large Asian food markets were not something either of us is used to, since he is from Canada and I am from Minnesota. He didn't ask me to say this, but I think he would like you all to know that he is from Montreal and that Montreal has everything, including Asian food markets, certainly. In fact, their Chinatown is so large that they built themselves their own hospital. Actually, you could probably say that if you can't find something in Montreal, there's a good chance that it doesn't exist. I did point out to him, however, that they do not have large Asian food markets sitting in a strip mall next to the Staples office supply store. He had to agree with that. In fact, Minneapolis does have several specialty food stores and world bazaars and so on, but also not in such a conspicuous location. I can think of meat processing shops (you know, so you can bring in your hunted goods and have them made into sausage and so on) more readily than I can think of an Asian foods market. But I digress.)

Wow! A whole paragraph of digressions! Fun!

To get back to my point...the American Swedish Institute opened their Bohus Exhibit yesterday, and I can't help but feel a little wistful about the fact that I spent most of my life trying to get out of Minneapolis (because of the weather only--otherwise it is quite an ideal city in which to live), and now that I am about as far away as I can get and still be in the continental United States, they have this exhibit and I can't get to it. It's probably just as well though, because I've been wanting a Forest Darkness (black) sweater kit for a while now and I might not be able to resist picking one up if I were there and given the current state of my employment situtation...I'll have to content myself with knitting up my stash.

Speaking of which, I just finished the 3rd repeat of my Autumn Arbor stole and I loooooove it!!!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

All Laced Up

Woohoo! I told myself that I had to finish up my Cassidy and my lace swatches before I could move on to my next big project...and I did! I still need buttons for my sweater before I can do an FO post, but I mailed the swatches off yesterday afternoon, so here are all the pictures. Sorry they're not as crisp as I would have liked--it's been really gray and cloudy here and let's face it, I'm no photography expert.

Just to remind you, I was knitting 6" x 6" lace swatches for J.Knits hand-dyed yarn company. I had the choice between knitting plain stockinette or adding patterns to the squares. Well, I don't know about you, but if I was going to be knitting that many squares with laceweight, I needed to do patterns for two reasons: a) it would be dreadfully boring if I didn't, and b) it gave me a chance to play with the yarn, test out some patterns, and learn more about lace and how it behaves.

The company only asked for 10 swatches, but I knit up 15 just in case some didn't turn out and also so they would have a choice about which ones they thought worked best. They sent me five different colorways: two variegated and three semi-solid. I have to admit that I liked working with the semi-solids best. Partially because I generally prefer semi-solids, and partially because (as we all know) the lace patterns tend to become obscured when they have to compete with colors. I tried to choose stitch patterns that had more stockinette for the variegateds.

I had a lot of fun doing these swatches. The yarn is a very thin laceweight--almost cobweb--and 100% alpaca. It is reeeeeeally nice. It's only the second alpaca laceweight I have worked with, and I like it so much better than the Misti Alpaca I used for my very first lace shawl a couple years ago. This yarn is very smooth and felt like silk. Lovely. I can't wait to get my hands on some of their giant skeins and knit up something full-sized and beautiful. :)

And the next big project that I cast on for? My Autumn Arbor Stole, by Anne Hanson! I ordered the kit from The Woolen Rabbit last fall when the pattern was first released and I have been itching to cast on for it ever since. I love this pattern, and I am in love with this yarn too! I love it so much that I even ordered a second kit for my brother's birthday last November (he got the green colorway). I really love merino laceweight yarn, and this yarn is so soft and sproingy but not too tightly twisted, and the color changes are so subtle when it is knitted up that it gives the fabric greater depth and looks so lovely. I'm actually twice as far now as I was when I took this picture. And check out those huge yarn cakes! I had to cut the yarn in half because it comes in one giant 1650-yard hank! This is definitely some yarn I will be working with in the future. :)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Ta Da!

I finished Cassidy!

Finally...I thought that hood and those button bands were going to be the death of me. I desperately wanted to cast on for my next big project, but I knew that if I did before I finished the sweater, it would be too warm to wear it once I finished.

Oh, wait...I'm not in Minnesota any more. It's in the 70s here. I may never get to wear this sweater.

Which brings up another thing I've been pondering: I love knitting sweaters. I have a lot of sweaters already, and I'm likely to keep adding to the pile. I'm running out of room to store all these sweaters. Herein lies the question: is it crazy to get a second dresser to house all of the sweaters that I keep knitting but which I never get to wear?

Don't answer that.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

I Don't Know About You...

...but I'm breathing easier already. :)

Monday, January 19, 2009

Near Misses

OMG! It turns out that Anne Hanson was at Balboa Park last Friday, mere blocks from my house! If I had known she was going to be there, I would have camped out down there all day so I could accost her and gush. Actually, getting close enough to make sure it's who I think it is and then playing it cool and ignoring the person is more my style, but I'm ignoring that part.

After the little photo shoot yesterday, The Brain and I drove out to a shopping center I found online which was supposed to have a Japanese book shop. I have been wanting some Japanese stitch dictionaries for a while and really don't want to pay the high shipping costs from ordering them online so I was excited about the opportunity to browse through the collection first-hand. Well, it turns out that the book shop is actually inside an Asian grocery store! (Sorry, this is a first for me. I'm from Minneapolis and it's not like we have giant Asian food markets everywhere.) So while I picked through the bookstore to find the knitting section, The Brain wandered around the market.

I came up empty-handed. They had a fairly sizable knitting section, but it was half knitting, half crochet and mostly full of pattern books for children and accessories. The Brain, on the other hand, was ecstatic to find out that they had a deli counter that sold freshly-prepared sushi ingredients! (Again, we were a bit outside our element. And he's from Canada--again, no large Asian markets.) We've been wanting to make our own sushi for a while now but weren't quite sure how to get the proper ingredients. Problem solved! Plus, the prices were really nice. We didn't make our own sushi yesterday, but we did pick up some pre-made lunches and gorged ourselves at home. YUM! We'll be back, so look for some sushi-making posts soon! :)

Sunday, January 18, 2009

FO Post: Central Park Hoodie

At long last! My Central Park Hoodie FO post! Actually, because I was running out of yarn and omitted the hood, and because I live a couple blocks from Balboa Park, I christened my version the Balboa Park Hoodless. Kinda catchy, no?

The Details:
Pattern: Central Park Hoodie, by Heather Lodinsky
Yarn: Filtes King Extra Stampato in Olive, 15 balls
Needle: Addi Turbo sizes 7 and 9
Size: 36"
Mods: No hood, added length to sleeves and torso

It only took me a week to knit up all the pieces for this sweater, but then I had to head out of town for Christmas. Once I got back, I blocked the pieces and seamed them up but realized I didn't have enough yarn to finish the sweater as written. I knit the button bands and then picked up stitches all the way around the neckline and knit in 2x2 ribbing for 9 inches or so.

I probably could have gotten away with a hood if my swatch hadn't lied. The swatch didn't grow much when I blocked it, but man! Those sweater pieces grew like you wouldn't believe! It was all I could do to pat them back into the size they were supposed to be when I was blocking them. Each piece had easily stretched out about 6" longer than it should have been. This is some stretchy-ass yarn! I bought it from one of Elann's closeout thingies and I was really nervous about how it would turn out. (But really, at ~$30 for an entire sweater? It was a risk I was willing to take.) It's a strange sort of 8 (10?)-ply merino yarn in which half of the plies are the main olive color, and the other half are a variegated mix of oranges, whites, yellows, blues and greens. It could either blend together really well, or it could end up looking like a circus. You can see the detail of the yarn best in the collar pics. Bottom line though, this yarn is quite soft and squooshy. I can easily see myself grabbing this sweater to go run errands around the neighborhood, and I actually think that having no hood makes it a bit more wearable (for me).

I'm not too sure how many opportunities I will have to wear this sweater though. There I was out in Balboa Park in the middle of January and I was SWEATING BUCKETS! I'm still not used to the weather down here. It's like we're stuck in some timeless paradise while the rest of the country is dealing with snowstorms and power outages and the like. There were actually butterflies flitting all over the valley behind me. Butterflies in January?!? Dude, I am so not a Californian (yet). I made sure The Brain got some of the palm trees in the picture. Please excuse my smile/sneer. There is a reason I'm not a model (aside from the obvious people, please). Also, the bangs are a recent and impulsive acquisition and I'm not quite sure I can rock the look. My hair is just too fine to pull off a nice thick fringe, and without it I feel like I'm back in high school circa 1994. But you're here to see the sweater, not criticize the model, right? (Who am I kidding? We all do it.)

Oh yeah, one other thing: the sleeves do seem a bit snug, just like gloriana pointed out in her blog. I hadn't realized this was a common problem until after the sweater was finished. Good thing the yarn is so stretchy! It really is quite comfy all around. :)

Saturday, January 17, 2009

I'm Getting Old

So, I finished up my CPH yesterday. I mean really finished it, with buttons and everything! I was going to head down to Balboa Park with The Brain this afternoon to take some nice FO shots, back just hurts too damn much! I have no idea what I did to it, but it's the kind of back ache that hurts just to breathe, you know?

Here's what I need: you know those water wing things? The inflatable arm cuffs that help kids learn to swim? I need an inflatable torso-holder-upper. Do those exist? A quick Google search for inflatable back braces shows that this simple model (pictured) is pretty much my only option. Not really my ideal, because I want one with a built-in heating pad.

Oh, and it must also dispense Dr. Pepper and Red Vines.

FO post coming soon. I promise!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Book Review: Seven Things that can "Make or Break" a Sweater

A few years ago, when I was a newbie knitter and Knit Picks was pretty much the only online knitting store I knew about, I ordered a few books from them. The three books, of varying sizes, arrived in a large box with absolutely no packing materials inside. ALL of the books were horribly damaged--spines were crushed, pages bent in half, and covers horribly mangled. To their credit, Knit Picks sent replacement books (with packing materials!) but I vowed I would never order books from them again. Amazon is always cheaper (and with much faster shipping, too!).

But...I needed to order a Lucy Neatby DVD for my mom, new knitter that she is. And Knit Picks is having their book sale. And one of the books I wanted to get was $10 cheaper than on Amazon, so...I caved and ordered another book. Two, in fact, but more on that later.

I have had my eye on the book Seven Things that can "Make or Break" a Sweater, by Margaret E. Fisher for a while now. I like technique and reference books, and I figured that if there was one book that could show me the most common "mistakes" in sweater knitting and guide me to the "correct" way to do things, it would be worth a read. You know, bump my sweater knitting up a notch. So I was quite pleased to have this book in my hands and I settled onto my couch to read the first chapter...

And then I read the whole book. In about 15 minutes.

This book is definitely written for the newbie knitter. I mean, a whole chapter devoted to "k2tog" and "ssk"? Certainly not the fine technical skills I was hoping to refine with this book. So...I flew through it, didn't learn anything, and decided to include it in my mother's birthday package.

However, while this book is not for me, I did find several things about it that were very nice. First of all, if I had been a newbie knitter, it would have been nice to have all of these techniques in one place. Instead, I picked them up here and there over the first few years of knitting. Secondly, the book is written very clearly and almost sparingly. There are no overly-long explanations of the whys and hows of these techniques, which is very nice if you're just trying to learn these things. Thirdly, the full-color photos are very clear and make it very easy to understand exactly what she's trying to teach. And finally, she includes a pattern for a baby sweater which you knit bit by bit using the techniques you just learned in each chapter. This immediate reinforcement of the lessons would help new sweater knitters learn, I'm sure. In addition to the baby sweater, Fisher includes 6 more patterns for adult-sized sweaters that are simple yet allow the new knitter to practice their techniques further.

Final verdict? For me--waste of money. For a new sweater knitter--a good reference filled with lots of guidance. I hope my mother likes it. :)

Thursday, January 15, 2009


Gosh, I keep reading all over web-land about all these people who are going to TNNA this year. They're all touching down in San Diego and enjoying the great weather and getting excited about what they're going to see and who they're going to meet. And you know what? I can't go and I would really really like to.

Of course I can't go--it's an industry trade show! I'm not a yarn store owner or a designer or a fiber company.'s right outside my door! And it would be really cool to look at all the new stuff from all the companies! My grandparents used to own a pharmacy/gift shop and they would let me come to the trade shows with them when they did their buying every year. It was a lot of fun. Do you think that if I go stand outside the convention center with a sign that says, "Will Cook You Dinner If I Can Pose As Your Assistant" anyone will take me up on the offer?

That's kind of nutty, isn't it? Yeah, I thought so too.

You know what else is frustrating? Last year their show was up the coast in Long Beach. I lived right next door in Newport Beach. Good grief, it's like they're following me around the state laughing because I can't join the club!


In other news: there is no news! I've been working on those lace swatches so I haven't gotten anything finished lately. I just need to sew buttons on my CPH. Buttons! And finish knitting the damn hood on my Cassidy. I'm getting inch at a time.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

In Which I Attempt to Solve one of Modern Life's Biggest Mysteries

The mystery is: Why do people leave voicemail messages on the phones of people who are obviously not the intended recipient?

A few days ago I finally changed my cell phone number to a local one, despite having lived in San Diego for six months. I just never bothered to do it before, for various reasons. But ever since my number changed, I have become more popular than ever! I have gotten calls from Sacramento, Seattle, New Hampshire and Wilmington, Delaware, to name a few. And because these callers leave me voicemail messages when it would seem obvious that the voicemail box does not belong to their friend/family member/colleague, I thought I would perform a public service and distribute these messages, just in case these people read my blog.

If someone put in a service request at (name and beginning of case number cut off in computerized message), and your claim number ends in -578X, please call your contact at the company.

Tina, please call Dr. B. at the New Day Clinic about a "personal matter".

Angelika, I think your mother is looking for you. I'm not sure, because she doesn't speak English and she just kept asking for you over and over.

"Hey, Man", you got a call from "It's Me". He wants to know if you're still down for this weekend.

I think that's it. If I get any more, I'll let you know.

* * * * *

No knitting news to speak of, HOWEVER, you stash-down doubters will be delighted to find out that although I did complete the Central Park Hoodie and took the 1485 yards off my total, I came across a 1650 yard hank of laceweight that had never been entered. The universe is a big one for balance, isn't it?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Book Review: Color Knitting Techniques

From the comments on yesterday's post, it sounds like a lot of you really like hummus! In answer to Jacey's question about whether I have ever tried to make my own: yes, The Brain and I used to make our own hummus, and yes, the hardest part was always getting the consistency just right. But then The Brain broke our blender and we haven't gotten a new one, so...homemade hummus is on the back burner for now. :(

Anyway, on to the book review! "Santa" left me some cash for Christmas, in the form of cards from my grandparents. Instead of spending it on more yarn, I ordered some new books. The first one I have read so far is The Essential Guide to Color Knitting Techniques, by Margaret Radcliffe. I may have mentioned that one of my goals this year is to knit a full-size stranded colorwork sweater. I have been working up to that goal by practicing on a couple of smaller projects (fingerless mitts and mittens), and I wanted a book that would give me a few more tips on the technique so that I won't make a ginormous mess of things when I get started.

This book was just published in December, 2008, so I couldn't find many reviews of it and had to go on faith. I have Radcliffe's The Knitting Answer Book already, and I have found it very helpful in the past, so I already knew her to be a thorough writer. But holy crap! I was NOT prepared for this book. There is just so much stuff in here that I never even thought of before. Reading it was a whole series of "I never knew that I didn't know that" moments.

First off, this book is big: about 9" x 11". It is a hardcover book with thick, glossy pages full of full-color photos (naturally). It has all the heft and feel of a textbook, and it sort of reads like a textbook as well. (Not in a dry, boring way, but in a very thorough, explanatory way.) I really can't believe that a book of this quality is less than $20!

She starts the book of with a brief review of color theory and how to best choose yarns that compliment each other. Then she launches into chapters based on different color techniques: Stripes, Pattern Stitches (with a mini stitch dictionary), how to work with Multicolor Yarns, Stranded Knitting, Intarsia...she even has chapters on finishing techniques and designing your own colorwork knitting projects. The back of the book has a glossary of knitting techniques, a guide to using charts, how to interpret symbols, and additional reading recommendations. This book is so packed with information, that I don't think you need any other books on color knitting techniques. I got everything I needed to know from this book, and then some. Seriously, I'm not likely to do any modular knitting, and I hate intarsia, but I know everything I need to know about it now. She even covers double knitting, helix knitting, shadow knitting, mosaic knitting, twined knitting (never heard of it before!), and entrelac.

All in all, a very thorough and high-quality reference book that I can easily recommend to anyone out there who wants to try new techniques. It won't make you an expert on any one thing, but it will show you the hows and whys of different techniques, and highlight problems you may encounter, along with clever solutions to them. I was so fascinated that I read it cover-to-cover in only two days. :)

Monday, January 12, 2009

Things I Love: A Random List

The California skies in January.

A simple lunch of whole wheat pita bread, hummus, and avocado.

My new wall hangings. (Thanks, Hilary, for the hanging worked perfectly!)

Slathering The Body Shop Body Butter on my feet before lacing up the sneakers and going for a run.

Bloggy peeps, Rav buddies and other forms of knitting geekiness.

(Speaking of which: Yes, Ariel, that is a whole slew of Ultra Alpaca in the bottom picture on my last post. I ordered it all at clearance prices last year and had a particularly horrid time getting all 25 skeins of it to arrive in the mail. I'm embarrassed to say that I have not knit up one inch of it. It's tainted, what can I say?)

In actual knitting content, I seamed up my CPH last night (yay!) and started seaming my Cassidy this morning. Once those pesky ribbed button bands are all blocked out, I'll have some FO posts for you. :)

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Stash Down 2009

OK, I blew it. I did not finish those two sweaters by the end of the week. I'll be lucky if I finish seaming up the Central Park Hoodie tonight. That's OK though. I was happily distracted by new library books, lace swatches, and an Amazon order that came yesterday. More on that later (and some book reviews to come!).

What I have also been doing is mulling over the state of my stash and how I'm going to get rid of all my current yarn by the end of the year. This does not mean that I cannot acquire more yarn this year, nor does it mean that I can only knit from my stash. It just means that I want to clear out the old stuff before it sits around for too long.

According to my Rav stash list, I have about 23,000 yards of yarn. I know! That's a lot. Not a ton by some standards, but much more than I need to have sitting around, that's for sure. If I want to get rid of it all by the end of the year, that means I need to knit up an average of 450 yards a week for the rest of the year.

Hmmm...not too bad, but assuming I also want to have a life, that might be a bit difficult. But we'll see. I'm going to try to keep track of how much yarn I have on a week-to-week basis. If I can figure out an easy way to put that on my sidebar, I'll stick something up there.

I'm looking forward to finishing up those two sweaters because I haven't taken the yarn off the stash list and that will knock a chunk off! :)

Saturday, January 10, 2009

My Mother, the Knitter?

While many people learn to knit from a relative, normally a mother or grandmother, I am one of the many people who taught myself after a series of coincidences got my curiosity piqued. (I worked with another girl who knit, and then I moved across the street from a fabulous yarn store.) My own mother did not knit, and while she sewed lots of our clothes over the years, I never had the urge to learn that skill. (Until now, but that's another story.)

So it was welcome news when my mother announced a year or two ago that she planned to learn how to knit. My brother and I were supportive and offered our help, but like many people who make pronouncements about their intentions and then let them slide, nothing much came of it. Oh, she rustled up some ancient aluminum straights and some old acrylic yarn from the bowels of the house. She also visited the knitting group at the local college hoping, I think, that someone there would teach her the basics (they didn't). And last spring when my sister's friend was having a baby, she used it as an opportunity to teach herself how to knit a giant, acrylic garter-stitch blanket.

It was not until I was home over the holidays that she really revved up her engines and became serious about knitting. She wanted to make a sweater. A pullover, to be precise. We scoured the pattern listings on Ravelry: page after page of worsted-weight pullovers, but she saw one she liked on the first page and that was the one she was determined to make. The sweater that called to her was Wisteria, by Kate Gilbert. Our next stop was the LYS so she could pick out some yarn (I recommended Cascade 220 for her first sweater: sturdy, big on yardage, short on cost, and lots of colors to choose from). After sending the poor shop worker up and down the stairs to check on the quantities of her chosen colors, we were invited down to the store rooms ourselves so we could see which colors had sweater quantities, and of those, which color she liked best. We left the shop with a nice, dark green (which will help hide wonky bits), a new Addi circular, and a cable needle.

Now, by regular standards, this sweater isn't too complicated: knit in the round from the top down in one piece, and mostly stockinette except for the top and bottom cables. But it has been a huge learning curve for my mother. I don't think my brother or I were aware of just how much she didn't know. She didn't know how to purl, and was wrapping the stitches backwards. She didn't know how to do m1 increases. She didn't know how to cable. She didn't know how to knit in the round. She didn't even know how to check her own gauge! My brother and I each helped her as much as we could before we moved back to our respective states after vacation was over. The last I heard, she had ripped out her collar for the third time after various mishaps, but she is still determined to get through it somehow. I'm sure she will, but I'm sending her a Lucy Neatby DVD for her birthday next week just in case. ;-)

Friday, January 9, 2009

Swatch It

Back in December, I was perusing the discussion boards on Ravelry and found a post asking for swatchers for J. Knits, a hand-dyed yarn company in New Hampshire. 'EARN FREE YARN!' caught my attention--what better way for an unemployed person to earn yarn than to knit for it? I'm always willing to test-drive some new stuff so I sent off an email letting them know of my interest and waited for a reply (while they waited out the power outages in New England).

Long story short, they accepted me as a swatcher of their lace yarn and I returned from the library yesterday to find an envelope of colorful mini-skeins on my doorstep. Just look at those fun colors! The yarn is 100% alpaca and is so soft to the touch. I can't wait to get started! I have the choice of knitting plain stockinette or doing lace patterns, as long as the swatches conform to their size requests and gauge.

I'm going to have some fun this weekend trying out different stitch patterns from the Barbara Walker books I picked up yesterday. I was thinking about dabbling in some lace designs this year, and this seems like a good place to start. I'll keep y'all posted on my progress as I discover my inner Anne Hanson. ;-)

Thursday, January 8, 2009

The Day of Moving Backward

No progress yet on finishing up those two sweaters. I kind of needed a break from manic cabled cardi knitting yesterday so I whipped up a Gala hat for my sister's birthday. It's blocking now, so I'll post pictures tomorrow. Thank you to everyone who sent me kind wishes yesterday. It's always sad when an important figure in your life moves on.

Today seems to be The Day of Moving Backward. Or maybe The Day of Sisyphus? Not in any huge way, but it seems as though all day I have been trying to make progress and I come to find out there is more there to do than I thought.

It all started out innocently enough when I was reading through my subscribed blogs this morning. Every time the counter made it down to 1 unread blog, another person posted something. Then another. I was chasing that elusive '0' for about 15 minutes!

Then I went to the library to return that you-know-what book (unfinished) and to pick up 3 books that had arrived from my hold list. It turns out that there were 11 books from my list that all happened to arrive on the same day. I didn't even realize until I got home that I had checked out two copies of the same book! Thankfully, 4 of them are Barbara Walker treasuries so that knocks the must-read list down to 7.

And finally, I was just downloading my stashed yarns to an Excel spreadsheet so I could keep track of which yarns I started the year with in order to make sure I use them all up by the end of the year. While I was doing this, I discovered 33 skeins of yarn that I had never added to Ravelry. WTF?!? My stash isn't that big! I was just having a discussion with my brother yesterday about how we can't understand who these people are who just "discover" bags of yarn in their houses. Eek! But to be fair, I was very aware that they were in my stash--I just didn't realize that I hadn't added them to Ravelry yet. It did bump my total yardage up by about 3,000 though. :(

All right, time to suck it up and tackle that CPH. If I knit fast enough, I'll probably have enough yarn left for the button band and collar, right? I just hope I don't discover that I still need to knit a sleeve or the entire back or something. ;-)

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

So Long, George

I got some sad news today from a fellow undergrad theater major. Our beloved director, George, passed away during brain surgery earlier this week. He was only 11 days shy of his 80th birthday.

George had more energy in his late 60s/early 70s than a lot of the college students who passed across his stages. His creativity was boundless, and despite having been around the block more than a few times, he always made us feel as though we were the most clever and innovative students he ever had. He was the kind of professor who, if you saw him in the campus grill or walking across the quad, you were always eager to call over for a burger or a chat. He never failed to entertain us with his stories of shooting films in New York on the fly, taking acting classes with a young woman named Norma Jeane, or traveling the country as Hamlet when he was in his teens. We were all proud that "the old guy" was our friend.

George was my favorite theater prof, my best director, and also my introduction to real film studies. It was because of the foundation he provided me with that I went on to get a second degree in film/media/culture, and eventually went to graduate school for the entertainment industry. And even though his mind started to fail him even while he was still my advisor at school, I always remember him fondly for his interest and encouragement.

He will be deeply missed.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Two Sweaters by the End of the Week?

See that pile of hand-knitted goodness? Those are the pieces to my Central Park Hoodie, which were finished before the Christmas holidays. I put them on hold because, well, I was running out of yarn. It seems to be a common thing with me these days. *sigh*

Anyway, because I didn't have a chance to block the pieces before I went out of town, I started a different sweater, Cassidy, in its place. I will be finishing up the second sleeve of Cassidy today. Then, while those pieces are blocking, I can seam up the CPH and assess what I can do with my remaining yarn. I'm hoping for button bands and a ribbed collar, at the very least.

In other craftiness, The Brain and I decided that we wanted to add some more color to our apartment. San Diego is filled with a lot of hand-crafted, colorful artsiness (see the Spanish Village Art Center for an example--we like to walk down there on the weekends and browse the galleries). We also like to browse through all the arty goodness at Bazaar del Mundo, and were pleasantly surprised with a gift card to their shops by The Brain's parents after their visit with us last November.

The first thing we knew we wanted to pick up were some lengths of hand-woven cotton cloth in some vibrant colors. Combined with a couple of wooden dowels from the hardware store, we think these will make some lovely wall hangings for our bedroom. The only thing stalling us now is the question of how to attach the cloth to the dowels. The Brain is all for just gluing the cloth around the dowels at the top and bottom, but a) we don't have a glue gun, and b) I'm afraid the glue will soak through the cloth and look tacky. I would prefer to fold the cloth over the dowel and sew it down, but we don't have a sewing machine and I'm not sure either of us are confident enough with our hand-stitching to make that idea look presentable. So for now, our pretty cloths are languishing in the office, waiting for something to give. I have a feeling I'll end up caving and going with the glue idea, but don't tell The Brain that! ;-)

My other favorite find at the shop is the variety of colorful paper flowers they have all over the stores. We put together this bouquet of six huge blooms for about $20. They add so much brightness to the dreary winter living room that I want to get more for every room of the apartment. Love! :)

Monday, January 5, 2009

How to Offend a Knitter

Alternatively titled, "How to Make Sure No One Knits for You Again. Ever."

Late last spring, my younger brother begged me to make him a hoodie. We looked through several pattern books, and he settled on Under the Hoodie by Kristin Spurkland, from Stitch 'n' Bitch. Yes, it was written as a woman's pattern but that wasn't really an issue. It's a simple, boxy pullover with a hood. He wanted it in a solid color and chose Berroco Ultra Alpaca in Pea Soup, so I got started and over the course of two weeks while I was also writing my Masters Thesis, I cranked out this sweater and mailed it off to him with the express understanding that all he had to do for me in exchange was take a couple of photos with him wearing it so I could see how it looked.

Well, he put it on and declared that it was too short, even though I had measured him and knit the sweater to his specs. My knitting brother was nice enough to order more yarn, pick up stitches near the bottom of the sweater, and knit a couple more inches onto the bottom. As far as we know, he still hasn't worn the thing. When I was in town to help my parents move back in October, the sweater arrived in the mail from our brother and The Ungrateful One didn't even try it on. It lay draped over the back of a chair in the basement the entire time I was there.

When I was in town for Christmas I tried again to get him to wear the sweater for photos, but I was continuously rebuffed. My knitting brother reports that he once made a scarf (per request) for The Ungrateful One and the only time he has seen it since he finished it, it was crumpled up into a ball in the corner of the bedroom, next to the radiator.

By contrast, when I was in town in October one of my sisters was praising my knitting so much that I gave her my Mini Clapotis, and then spent the next two months knitting up scarves and leg warmers for her that she raved over repeatedly. I just got a card in the mail from her today, thanking me AGAIN for all the beautiful things I made for her.

Guess who will be getting more knitted items for her birthday in a couple of weeks?

Guess who will never be getting a hand-knitted item from me ever again?

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Running and Reading

As my brother pointed out in the comments to yesterday's post, he did not recommend those Malabrigo Hand Thingies to me while we were staying at our parents' house over the holidays...however, as Jacey correctly pointed out, she did. I probably read her blog post at my parents' and mixed up the source in my head. Thanks, Jacey! I'm looking forward to knitting those up as soon as I finish a couple of sweaters. :-P

Now, onto the running and the reading. See, I love to read and I used to do more of it (before knitting became my leisure activity of choice). I also like running and want to do more of it. Last spring I bought a used treadmill that I found on craigslist. It's the 3rd used treadmill I have owned, and they always work just fine for me. I know a lot of "serious" runners scoff at running on a treadmill, but I have several reasons for it:

1) I have exercise-induced asthma and hate to be out in the middle of nowhere if I can't breathe and need to grab my inhaler and lie down.
2) I have many outdoor allergies which, mixed with my asthma, make running outside difficult.
3) I don't have a running buddy out here (I used to go running with my sister in Minneapolis), and I tend to think of outdoor running as more of a fun social activity.
4) During most parts of my life, the only time I can go running is in the evening after it's already dark out.
5) I used to live in Minneapolis where, let's face it, I was a wuss and wasn't about to go running outside for about 5 or 6 months out of the year.
6) If I don't have a running buddy, I kind of prefer to do something constructive and/or entertaining while I run. By that I mean watch a movie or read a book.

Aha! Now we get to the reading part of the post! When we moved down here to San Diego last summer, we found ourselves with a spare room that we decided to use to store our bikes/treadmill/random exercise gear. It works wonderfully for that purpose since we can line the 5 or 6 bikes up on one side of the room, put my treadmill on the other side, and still have enough room left over to lay out mats for stretching/weights, etc. I'm happy that I don't have to keep the treadmill in the living room any more, but that also means that I can't watch movies while I run. For a while I was catching up on all the "recommended reading" books from grad school that I bought but never had time for. Everyone needs a break from the serious stuff though, so lately I have been reading...


...the Twilight books.

I know. I'm a little embarrassed to admit it, even though everyone else in the world has been reading them too. They're so not my style! Vampires? Teen romance? Not my thing. And no offense to the people out there who love them, but...I kinda think they're crap. There. I said it. I'm really sorry, but I don't understand how it's romantic for some creepy guy to hang around and watch you sleep even before you start dating. And what ever happened to females being strong and capable, and not needing a man to protect and save them? And talk about a horrible example of extreme co-dependence. I've known couples like that in real life and man, do they always have problems. Plus, they always seem kind of creepy and maybe a little off in the head. Don't even get me started on the thinly-veiled pro-abstinence stance throughout the book. (Not that I think all high schoolers should be jumping into bed with each other, but it's a bit heavy handed.)

So why am I still reading them? I don't know! I read the first few chapters of the 4th book and stalled for a while, so I think I'm just going to give it back to the library unread. When I went in to pick it up a few weeks ago, the woman who checked it out to me said, "What are you going to do now?" I had no idea what she was talking about so I told her I was running to the grocery store next door. "No," she said, "what are you going to do when it's over? I started them all over from the beginning." I didn't want to make her feel bad, so I just said, "Well I only read them when I run on my treadmill so hopefully that will make it last longer". Then I scurried out of there as fast as possible.

Now obviously, these books were not written with me in mind as the target audience, and I should be judging them on their merits according to that audience. This was a big problem I had when I was reviewing scripts and books for the film companies I worked at: I would read some chic lit book, or some raunchy frat boy comedy and absolutely hate it, but I would be forced to write a review based on its merits according to a specific audience. However, for the reasons I stated above, I still think these books are not exactly presenting a very favorable example of characters or relationships and before anyone starts pointing out that it's just light reading and therefore I should lighten up, I will say: Dude, I know! That's why I'm all done talking about them.

I think I'll go back to ignoring the popular books and stick to real literature. I may seem like a book snob, but it's my time and I'll read what I please! That said, if anyone has read any good books lately that you want to recommend, I'm all ears! :)

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Ooops...I DO Have New Yarn!

Thanks so much, everyone, for your kind comments about my Coraline! I have a feeling that sweater will be getting a lot of wear. :)

OK, so remember when I said that I wasn't going to buy any new yarn? Well, I may have forgotten to mention a couple of teeny tiny yarn acquisitions that I made while I was in Minnesota...

First off, I paid a visit to my favorite LYS, The Yarnery, and couldn't leave without getting something so I picked up one skein of Malabrigo worsted in Autumn Forest. I hate buying yarn without a project in mind, and since it took me so long to find anything to do with the last random skein of Malabrigo I had, I really shouldn't have picked it up. But I have a soft spot in my heart for Malabrigo (who doesn't?) because it was the first yarn I bought when I was learning how to knit and I fell in love right then. (I am NOT counting the 2 skeins of some nasty Plymouth variegated that I used to make my first pillow cover!) But never fear! My brother came to my rescue with a pattern that uses Malabrigo in the exact same colorway! Malabrigo Hand Thingies saved the day! I'm keeping the yarn handy for the inevitable point when I am a little tired of working on the two sweaters I have on the needles right now.

My other acquisition really is teeny-tiny. My brother brought me a little gift home from school: this petite ball of Trendsetter Yarns Angora. In white! I was just thinking about how I have never used white yarn, and I should really do something about that. This little puff of yarn has only 22 yards of pure angora, but it is so soft and fluffy and weighs practically nothing at all. Too cute! He told me that the LYS workers said that people mostly use it for Santa beards and other crafty things, but I don't like little knick knacks and cutesy things so this ball will most likely sit in my stash and be taken out to be petted every once in a while. I actually had a dream about it while I was staying at my parents' over the holidays: I dreamed that I woke up and my brothers had taken this little puff ball and USED IT ALL UP! My nasty brothers knitted up all of my angora and I was SO MAD at them for it!

No good, worthless, stupid, nasty boys. Worst. Brothers. Ever.

Friday, January 2, 2009

My Coraline

Finally, a post about my favorite FO ever, my Coraline sweater!

As soon as Ysolda published her pattern, I knew I wanted to make this sweater for myself. I bought the pattern right away, but then had to search for the perfect yarn. I ran across Debbie Bliss Prima online early last year and for some reason I needed to make this sweater with that yarn. But being in grad school, I wasn't about to pay full price for anything so I had to wait. And wait. And wait. Finally, in August, I sold my car and decided to use some of the money to buy the yarn and just my luck, I found it on clearance online!

Actually, more in keeping with the kind of luck I tend to have, I ended up waiting several weeks for the yarn to get to me because the online shop (run by one woman) did NOT send it out within 24 hours, as the website claims, did NOT send me tracking information, when I called and finally got through to the woman (who did NOT answer the shop phones when her website said she would be available) I was told that it should be arriving any day. Really, she had mislabeled the package and it got sent back to her, then re-sent to me. Frustrating? You bet!

After finishing off a couple of other WIPs, I finally started my Coraline at the very end of October. Let me just say that I looooooove this pattern. Everything is finished as you go, including hems for the bottom, attached i-cord for the sleeves, etc. Because it is just straight stockinette all the way up with no waist shaping or increases for the sleeves, this should have been a quick knit. Instead, I started getting bored with it and frustrated with the yarn so it took much longer to finish than it should have.

A word about Debbie Bliss Prima: this yarn is 80% bamboo, 20% wool. The end product is very soft and drapey, and surprisingly warm. However, I was completely disgusted with the number of knots in every skein. Each skein (of the 13 I used) had at least two knots, if not more. Some of them even had random lengths of yarn that were no more than a couple of yards long. Imagine my confusion when I was searching for the end to start a ball and ended up holding onto five. Five ends?!? In one ball?!? To make matters worse, I was worried about running out of yarn and I had to waste precious inches and time weaving in ends as I went. Plus, since the sweater is solid stockinette, those ends aren't easy to hide! I have to admit that my care paid off because they are not visible unless you're looking for them (the black color also helps), but man, what a pain! This is only my second experience with Debbie Bliss yarns, but I can guarantee that I will not be wasting my money on them again. For something with a premium price, I expect a better product. My apartment is now officially a Debbie-Bliss-Free Zone!

Sorry for the rant. I just want you to be warned. ;-) Maybe this will help y'all with your "mindful stashing" or "slow stashing" or whatever the proper term is for how everyone is treating their yarn purchases this year.

I finished the sweater up on December 12 and had just enough time to block it and let it dry (which took days) before I headed up to Minnesota for Christmas. I'm so happy I had it with me because it looks and fits just perfectly and goes with so many dressy or casual things. :)

Bottom line: LOVE the pattern. LOVE the sweater. My favorite FO yet!

Details (and more pics) on Ravelry
Pattern: Coraline by Ysolda Teague
Yarn: Debbie Bliss Prima (blech!)
Mods: Lengthened arms and body, no buttons

Thursday, January 1, 2009

New Year, New Stuff

As promised, this post is a little update on new knitting-related stuff I have acquired. No, I did not go overboard and buy a lot of yarn or anything, but it's fun (for me) anyway!

First off, my amazing husband, The Brain, got me a Namaste Malibu bag for Christmas! It's not quite as bright green as it looks in the photos--it really is a nice, sedate olive color, which is exactly what I had wanted. (It helps to leave magazine clippings on the gifter's desk with the color choice circled and several shop choices highlighted.) I loooooooove this bag, and I don't usually carry my knitting with me anywhere, but for some reason I had to have it. Right now it's sitting on my couch, holding my current WIP. I can imagine carrying it around as a regular purse, but since I'm not much of a KIPer (by choice--I just love knitting in solitude on my couch, generally), it probably won't be used the way it was intended too much.

Secondly, when I returned home from the cold and snowy Minneapolis winter, I found a package from Alana at the Never Not Knitting podcast at my door. Yippee! She had a blog contest a couple weeks ago, and I won! Inside the package was a copy of the latest Interweave Knits (my favorite knitting magazine) and a skein of what I think is her own handspun. Thanks, Alana! I tried to get a close-up of the yarn, but I need more practice with my camera because it kept coming out blurry, but those colors are so bright and spring-like that I think they're perfect for driving away winter blahs. I can't wait to find just the right project for it! If you haven't checked out the Never Not Knitting blog or podcast (linked from blog) yet, you really should. Alana is so relatable with her projects and her yarn choices, and her little daughter is just the cutest model ever!

And finally, my latest acquisition also involves a magazine review. I was in the bookstore the other day picking up a copy of the latest Knit.1, when I inexplicably grabbed the winter issue of Verena as well. I first heard about this magazine when their fall issue was hitting the newsstands, and since I'm always interested in checking out new stuff, I picked up a copy. For those of you who are not familiar with this magazine, all I know about it is that it has been published in Europe for a while now, and the latest issue is only their third in North America.

I don't know how I feel about this magazine. On the one hand, each issue is stuffed with patterns, and many of them are cute. But on the other hand, there are so many patterns crammed in with no real information about them (and the designers' names are conspicuously absent). The end effect is a blizzard of patterns that makes it hard to focus on any one piece that I would want to make. They have the same ads that are found in other knitting magazines, but they also have "advertorials", in which yarn companies pay more for an ad that reads more like an editorial, and they also highlight designer clothing and accessories that are used in their photo shoots. It feels like I am reading a giant billboard, rather than a magazine interested in its content.

I have not made any of their patterns, and I have not scouted out anyone who has on Ravelry so I don't know what the pattern-writing quality is. My final judgment is that I probably will not be purchasing this magazine in the future, mostly because there are so many other cute patterns out there that are designed by people that I want to support, not this anonymous advertising mill. But on the plus side, each magazine features over 50 patterns so if you just want a wide variety of options for a mere $7, I say go for it.