Sunday, June 28, 2009

I'm Glad That's Over!

You know, I wasn't going to let my previous post sit up there for very long. I figured that the general malaise I was feeling would pass, and that I would be able to post a more fun! upbeat! post shortly thereafter.

Instead, my week went downhill quickly. Each day seemed to play out like an episode from a bad tv series. Nothing *horrible* happened, but everything seemed so random that by Friday I was afraid to leave my apartment to run errands because I was sure I would get flattened by a falling meteor or blue ice or something. To add to the worries about pay cuts at The Brain's job (the alternative being job cuts, and since he was one of the last people on board he would likely be one of the first people cut), here is a random sampling of what happened last week: I woke up on Wednesday with an out-of-nowhere illness that necessitated hours at the doctor's office and antibiotics, the illness caused me to miss the casual grad school "reunion" which I had organized up in LA, I applied for a line of credit at the bank a week ago just in case (see above note about pay/job cuts) which should have taken "a couple of hours" to be processed, but instead has now taken over a week and has included extra trips to the bank to deliver pay stubs, tax returns, utility bills, driver's licenses, etc., one missed work opportunity and a separate work setback, and...a broken couch. I should have known better than to sit on it! (Thankfully The Brain was able to fix the last one...all the others: well, sometimes life just sucks.)

But no one died, no one was hospitalized (that was the week before, heh), and no one has lost their job (yet). The good news is that I actually finished my Hex Coat (post later) and I got a fun box in the mail from my sister! Yay for yarny gifts!

My sister is a multi-lingual world traveler and nursing student extraordinaire. She was recently completing a series of courses in China and she got me some yarn while she was over there. She doesn't know anything about knitting so she really didn't know what to look for, but when she got back and told me that she had picked up "two things of yarn", I was expecting two hanks of undyed handspun or something. What I got instead was two cute little plastic yarn bags with 10 balls each of yarn in them. I have no idea about the fiber content. The yellow bag says that it contains "high-grade elaboation knitting wool". I tried looking up the word "elaboation" and I still have no idea where they were going with that. The package says it's an 80%/20% blend of something, but judging by the feel of the yarn I'm going to go ahead and say it's 80% acrylic and 20% other plastic.

The package containing green yarn actually has sheep and a goat on the front, so I'm guessing it might actually contain some sort of natural fiber. It certainly feels a bit less squeaky. There is no English on this package (not like it helped much on the other one), and I tried typing "gaojijingpin hunfangrongxian" into a text translator but didn't get any help on that either. It is apparently a 75%/25% blend of something-or-other. I think the packaging is pretty cute no matter what it contains. :)

And finally, in knitting news, I cast on for my Tempest last night. You may recall that I overdyed some yarn to use specifically for this sweater. Well...I'm not sure I like how they go together, now that it's all said and done. The stripes just don't contrast enough for my taste and I'm really not sure I'll be satisfied with the final project if I just keep going with it. So...I think I'm going to rip it out and keep one or the other of the skeins to use in a different version later on, if I can find another yarn to use. I realize now that when I was dyeing, I should have done some kind of dip-dye and only let the tan part of the yarn hang in the dye, while keeping the vibrant purple out. That would have given me a bit more contrast. But...too late now, and there's no guarantee that I would have liked it any better.

Thanks for sticking through such a boring, informative post! I'm really hoping something entertaining will happen to me soon so I can spice up the blog a bit! :-P

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Blogging Apathetically.

There. I said it. I'm apathetic today about nothing in specific and everything in particular. I'm still getting things done because I have to, but I'm not really feeling it, you know?

I quit my sewing class. Why? Well, it's not that I'm not interested in sewing, it's just that I really don't see the need to sit through a four-hour class once a week just to learn how to do it. I read the recommended book (at left) from start to finish over the weekend (but I skipped the sections on how to make certain types of collars, and so on) and I realized that I really do not need someone else to help me learn this stuff. I learned more from that book than I had from the eight hours of class I already sat through. So I just stopped going. I am still looking forward to learning how to sew, but I'm just going to wait until I can afford my own sewing machine and teach myself then. I have to admit that something about piecing together specific shapes of cloth and making something useful out of it really makes the diligent, organized, puzzle-loving part of me want to do a lot of sewing right now! *sigh*...someday. :) I do want to thank everyone for the encouraging comments you left about learning how to sew. I'll get back to it in the future! Promise!

I had a long paragraph typed out here about the job market and potential pay cuts at The Brain's university, but I don't want this post to be a downer. I will say this though: 10% is a lot of money to take out of someone's paycheck, especially when they're still expected to do the same amount of work. Just sayin'.

Instead of moaning about the economy, I'll show you knitting! The Hex Coat has been seamed up and the hexagons have begun (see bottom of coat). I hit a snag yesterday while seaming up the sleeves. I was trucking right along until I realized that I had attached the sleeve to the armholes inside out. :-P So I had to rip out the seam and start all over again. I'm brilliant, I am.

I'm impressed with how well the hexagons fit into their wavy little notch (no credit to me at all--Norah Gaughan did all the heavy lifting). The only thing I don't like is that the hexagons are knitted in the round from the border in, resulting in having to rotate the entire coat over and over and over...I think I'll have to leave this project for random TV knitting soon. It's not as though I'm in a huge hurry to have it done!

The second installment of the Year of Lace will be arriving shortly. (Hooray for gifts that keep on giving!!!) I'm really looking forward to seeing what this pattern will be like. Calgary knitters have been able to pick their kits up since Saturday and have started to post spoilers on the group page. I'm doing my best to avoid them!!!

Saturday, June 20, 2009


Well, it's been one week since my blogiversary post. Thank you to everyone who left a comment, whether you are regular readers, de-lurkers, or new visitors! I had 20 comments, which is a respectable following for me. I assigned everyone a number based on the order in which the comments were left. Then I hopped over to the Random Number Generator and came up with...ikkinlala! Congrats, ikkinlala! I will send you an email asking for your information. I checked out ikkinlala's Blogger profile, and although she doesn't have a blog listed there, I figured that any Canadian student (my husband is Canadian! and I like students!) who is also a Pisces (I'm a Pisces!) can't be all bad, right?

On to the sewing update. Last Monday in class we learned how to wind our own bobbins and thread the machines. I had trouble finding the last hooky thingy before threading the needle, but there are some very helpful students in my class and we finally sorted it out. I practiced doing some straight stitches on some scrap cloth, "straight" stitches weren't really straight. At all. I'm going to have to do some more practicing. But hey, that's how we all learned to knit too, right?

The cloth shown here is what I chose to use for my tote bag. The grellow is going on the outside, and the brown flowered cloth is for the lining. I know they're not exactly perfect matches, but a) I don't care, b) it's just a first sewing project that I'm expecting to mess up anyway, and c) they make me happy. So there. :) I washed the...uh...shoot. What do you call pieces of fabric? Just "fabric"? OK. I washed the fabric and now I have to "square" it, which is really just a fancy way of saying that I have to rip a strip off the top and bottom of each piece (with my bare hands!) to make sure I have straight lines there. Then I have to iron it, pin the pattern to it, and cut the pieces out. Keeping in mind that the laminated class pattern I used wasn't perfectly straight, that I'm not sure I can cut the fabric around the pattern perfectly straight, and that we all know I can't sew perfectly straight...I'm looking forward to a very crooked first project...unless three crookeds make a straight? No, I don't think so either. :-P

And finally, here are a couple photos of my Hex Coat. I have the two sleeves done and most of the two fronts done. I just have to add arm shaping to the back piece and then I will be ready to sew all those pieces together. After that it's just a matter of knitting the hexagons around the edges of the front and it will be all finished! Just in time for the weather to heat up, of course.

Actually, speaking of weather, June Gloom is still going strong (and has been for...quite a while!). Last night The Brain and I went to a small gathering at the house of a fellow faculty member to watch a film projected onto a screen hung in their back yard. It was quite a nice setup, except that it was SO COLD! I don't know why I still haven't learned this despite living in California for two years now, but: IT GETS COLD AT NIGHT! VERY COLD! I was wearing my Cassidy hoodie and my Endpaper Mitts, but I was still shivering the whole time. See, back in Minnesota, when it's hot all day, it's hot at night too. It's hot and muggy and the humidity keeps building up until you have a thunderstorm and everything cools down. And then the cycle starts over again. Down here it's hot while the sun is out, and then once the sun goes down it gets cold. I understand it in theory, but I still find myself confused every time I go outside after dark and I'm cold. Every time. Don't they say that's one of the definitions of insanity: doing the same thing over and over, and expecting a different result? I don't think I'm insane, but man: it is very difficult to override a lifetime of weather expectations!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

It's Blogiversary Time!!!

Oh my gosh, can you believe that I almost missed my own blogiversary?!? Today's the day, and I have so many other things going on in my life (unlike all of you, right?) that I would have missed it entirely if I hadn't put a reminder alarm on my phone. Whew!

To celebrate my two years here in blogland, I am having a little giveaway! I've never done one of these before, so I thought it would be about time. :) Just leave a comment on this post between now Saturday, June 20, and I'll put everyone's names into a random number generator and pick one! Please feel free to de-lurk to put your name in the hat. I always feel bad if my first comment on someone's blog is when they're giving away free stuff, but trust me: I will feel like I won a little battle if I get you to leave a comment. ;-)

What do I have to offer?

To start with, two skeins of Curious Creek Fibers Nakuru in the Early Sunset colorway. Each skein is 72 yards of an aran/worsted mohair/wool blend. I originally picked these up to make a pair of wristwarmers/fingerless gloves/something like that. It turns out that the several pairs of fingerless gloves I already own never get a full rotation because of this certain thing called a "warm climate" that we have going on here in southern California. Who knew?

In keeping with the light purple theme of this post, I am also including one skein of Malabrigo Lace in the Cuarzo colorway. 470 yards of merino numminess is plenty for a little summery, lacey goodness.

I'll be sure to find a few more nifty little tidbits to tuck into the package. So please leave a comment and celebrate my blogiversary with me! The more, the merrier!

I have also been up to a little something different this past week. See if you can guess from the photo. That's right, I took my first sewing class! I have been so inspired by all the multi-crafty geniuses I read about on the blogs, so I decided to go for it and try something new. I have never used a sewing machine in my entire life, but they have free (FREE!) sewing classes in the continuing education program through the San Diego community college system, so I showed up for their summer session. Unfortunately, a meager budget year means that they cut the course down to only five class sessions. But I'm optimistic that that will be enough time for me to learn my way around a sewing machine and make a little tote bag for my efforts. I'll keep you updated on my progress. Of course, I have no sewing machine of my own (and no way to afford one for a while), but I'm hoping that this class will be enough of an intro for me so that if I ever am in a position to get a machine, I will be able to teach myself what I need to know. After all, I taught myself everything I know about knitting and I think I've been doing OK so far. :)

Oh! And I just have to respond to a comment Jacey made on my last post. No, I have not actually knitted 13,000 yards of yarn so far this year. I have merely removed that yarn from my stash. This was done mostly by knitting it, but also through some destash efforts and the gifting of a sweater's worth of yarn to my brother. So...I cheated, a little, but it's helping me clear out my old stash and it's getting yarn to people who are more likely to use it than I am. :)

Monday, June 8, 2009

Into the Dye Pot

Remember this?

Yeah, that yarn there on the right? The bright purple and tan yarn? (All together now: Eww!) I got the yarn as payment from J. Knits for some swatches I made for them a few months back. I ordered up two skeins of their Superwash Me Light Sock yarn to use to make a Tempest cardigan. The colorway photo on their (old) website made it look as though the skein was actually purple and dark gray. Not tan. (Ew!) There was no way in bleep I was going to put those two skeins together in one sweater!

To be clear: this yarn is lovely yarn. Soft, pretty, generous yardage. It will make a really really nice sweater. Just not in those colors. So I did what any self-respecting do-it-yourselfer would do: I got myself some black acid dye and a skein of cheap, bare yarn and went to practice.

I was stalled out for a while because I didn't have any suitable pots for dyeing. The local thrift shops were fresh out of pots, and even though The Brain brought home a ginormous beaker from his lab, it wasn't quite big enough. I finally bit the bullet and picked up an enameled pot from Target and went to work. I followed the exact directions with my first practice skein and ended up with DARK, DARK BLACK yarn. My goal was to turn the tan into a dark gray and tone down the bright purple a bit, not cover everything in black. So on my second practice skein I cut the amount of dye in half. It came out mostly black with a few light spots.

By this point I was getting impatient so I just threw caution to the wind and cut the amount of dye in half again, then threw my precious purple and tan (ew!) yarn into the pot. It came out looking quite nice, if I do say so myself. The tan had turned a light gray, and the purple was more subdued but kind of splotchy. I dyed it again, and this time it came out just right. Yay me!

When you place the two yarns next to each other, you can still see that the purple/gray yarn definitely has more of a warm tone than the gray/black yarn. I'm hoping it won't look funny when it's knitted up into stripes, but I'll take my chances. The difference aren't quite so drastic in real life. I think this may be my next project, after I finish up my sweater coat. It's not old stash yarn, but I deserve a break from that for a while, right? I also have the next installment of the Year of Lace coming up in a few weeks, so I will at least have some summer-appropriate knitting to do. :)

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Call Me Crazy

Hey, check it out: It's JUNE. June! When did that happen??? And what is up with the weather in California? It seems like we were having heat waves while the rest of the continent was digging themselves out of snowstorms, and now everyone is enjoying summery weather while we sit through weeks of mid-60s cloudiness. It's not the weather I mind (I do like that it's not scorching hot), but the fact that I have absolutely no way to measure the passing of time. People from northern climes often say that they like having four seasons because "you appreciate the good weather more". I say, ballz to that! I like good weather any way you slice it! BUT...this Minnesota gal can't tell winter from summer any more, and the months seem to go by in the blink of an eye.

I have been on a finishing kick lately...of sorts. I never have many projects lying around, so I don't know if you can officially call it a "kick", but I finally blocked my Little Birds and Laminaria. Both turned out well, but I will have to do FO shots later. Little Birds needs buttons, and Laminaria needs a photographer.

I started the Petal Halter ages ago, it seems, but have been having so many problems with trying to get the sizing right that I keep working on it for a day or so, then abandoning it for other things. I'm tall, so I'm trying to rejigger the pattern so I can make the length of the larger sizes, but I'm not very big up top so I'm trying to preserve the width of the smaller sizes. The problem is that the top is constructed in six "petals" that are knit individually, then sewn together two-by-two to create three layered tubes. Each petal is knit from the center out, then attached end to end with a second one. Because of the way the petals are constructed (knit sideways instead of bottom up), and because of the way they are angled and overlapped when sewn together, I am having a hard time adjusting the sizing.

I started out doing what I thought would work, but ended up with a tube that fell right off my hips when I tried it on. I ripped it all out (and ended up with 4 mini skeins of yarn), and started again. This time, the tube was much smaller, but is more suited for the bottom hip area than my chest (see photo of this tube sewn together). I made the next two petals much smaller than those, but I haven't had the heart to sew them together (see photo again). I'm afraid that they won't fit. If they don't fit, I will give up on this project. I don't want to face the fact that a project may have kissed my ass. A project, no less, that several other Ravelers have made and look great in!

So, in a fit of avoidance, I searched around for a new project to work on. I knew I wanted to use up some old stash yarn (look at the counter on the right--I'm over halfway down!), and I also wanted to use one of my pattern books that has not been used yet either. I settled on the Hex Coat from Norah Gaughan's Knitting Nature in Berroco Ultra Alpaca. No, you do not need to mention how ill-timed my choice is. I am fully aware that knitting up a knee-length moss stitch coat in a wool/alpaca blend is not the most logical of choices. In southern California. In June. But for some reason, it seems to be just what I needed. I already have one front and one sleeve done. Crazy!