Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Jellybeans, Redux

I've finally finished them, the Jellybean Socks I posted about a bit back. If I didn't enjoy cables and little nuances, I'm pretty sure I would just knit socks like these all the time - they're lovely and simple and quick. And I do enjoy having a knitted sock, despite the fact that some of them you have to hand wash. My mother was sweet enough to model them for me, in our very frigid dining room. Today it's only five degrees (F) outside, and probably only close to 50 or 55 inside, which, to me, is quite chilly. I've been walking around the house with a cardigan and three layers on, not to mention the knee socks and house slippers.

The photoshoot would have gone a lot easier had not these two rascals been shoving their way into every picture. Cats, naturally fascinated by everything they're not directly involved in, are excellent at blocking good camera angles. At least they're sweet. The big orange tabby on the bottom is Rus, though she also goes by 'Russie', 'Roodles', 'Rusylin', and 'Chubs'. She was Dempsey's companion, when we brought him home, and was getting quite lonely (and fat) without anyone to play with. This holiday we stopped by and picked up Leopold, who goes simply by 'Leo', and is pictured near the top. We aren't exactly sure what kind of cat he is, being that we picked him up at the shelter, but I like to fancy that he's a British Shorthair with a buff colored coat. Handsome little fellow, and the most loving cat you'll ever meet. He loves being carried around, and looks like he'll be a real bruiser when he gets bigger - Russie is a year old, while Leo is only six months, to give you a clue.

I've been busying myself this holiday wrapping up my knitting for the new year. One of my big resolutions is to finish all my Ravelry 'works in progress' before moving onto anything new. While I've been doing well - I mean, look, half the mitten finishing is done - some things are awfully tempting, and I'm having a hard time not starting on the Gwenydd scarf I've been wanting to make, or one of the many sweaters on my list. Is it horrid that I've been tempted to buy enough yarn for yet another sweater that's yet to be started?

When not knitting, I cruise around our small town, often stopping in the antique store to have a look at their books, postcards, and miscellanous nonsense. Yesterday, I stopped in and checked out the 1/2 price table, to find a pile of knitted children's clothing. While a lot of it was garter stitch and cleverly designed, none of the yarn was worth salvaging (mostly acrylic, probably Red Heart) - until I came to a little knitted hat. It was a baby-sized toboggan hat, all garter stitch with little ear flaps, and made out of cream-colored acrylic. But, on the very tip-top of this cap, was a lovely, wonderful, real-rabbit-fur pom! At only 75 cents, I knew at once that it was coming home. I had the girl at the counter clip off the hat and I took home the pom, already dreaming of possible colors that it would look lovely atop. I'll have to knit a hat truly worthy of this treasure, that much is for certain!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

A Visit from a Friend

Here's Devin with myself and Danielle, who is 'soimpossible' on Ravelry

One of the great disadvantages to living in the Midwestern US is that everything seems so much farther away. Despite that, on the east coast, you may travel from New York to Kentucky and it might take you upwards of many hours, you still feel closer to New York than you would if traveling from Iowa to Oklahoma. Or Denver to Chicago. The Midwest is, in short, very very wide. It's a big place, and the people are more spaced out than in more populous areas of the country. So when I go online to Ravelry and read how so many people know each other from such-and-such knitting group, and are traveling to so-and-so's to visit their LYS, I can't help but feel a twinge of jealousy. A twinge, I believe, that is shared by many of us Midwestern knitters.

Today, however, I got to relieve that twinge, when the administrator of the Malabrigo Swap group, Devin F, came to visit me and enjoy some gift exchanging in the spirit of mod-to-mod adoration. I run the Malabrigo Junkies, and the Swap is sort of our 'sister' board - many of the members float back and forth and know each other well from both groups. Devin is great fun - she was hilarious and a pleasure to have over, and even though her dogs kept trying to escape her husband's backyard wrangling, and Devin had to deal with a very large, very fat cat trying to make her into a personal chair, I think it was a good time. And she brought me such lovely, perfect presents!

First, some of Devin's own famous salt caramels. They're much talked about on Ravelry by swap partners who she's spoiled, and, after trying one, I can see why. The caramel flavor mixed with salt is unusual and exquisite - not to mention that the caramel is the absolute best consistency. My favorite part is that they're wrapped in brown wax paper, and look so lovely and crisp sitting in a little row.

She also brought me two lovely packets of buttons she found on Etsy. After she left I took them out and really looked at them - so many interesting shapes that I couldn't stop photographing! There are about a zillion other pictures of them on my flickr, if you care to look. (I could look at them for hours but figured that my blog readers might not find a button-centric post quite as intriguing as I might.) Along with these, there was a set of little aromatherapy to help with sleep - it's scented chamomile and lavender and I'm already endeared to it! She also gave me some stickers in a funny little Japanese envelope I utterly adore, but that wouldn't photograph at all. Perhaps I'll try it in natural lighting later.

And, of course, there was yarn! A skein of Mariposa Malabrigo Merino Worsted (so gorgeous!) And another skein of Indecita silky Malabrigo - this one is a little darker than the original two I've got so I'll figure out something awesome to make from it separately.

Friday, December 26, 2008

A Very Merry Holiday

I love holidays. Holidays of all types, really, appeal to me - mostly because I'm not required to go anywhere or do anything in particular. But Christmas has the added bonus of being done with finals, gathering your time around family, and both giving and receiving things that you've wanted all year, from the people who know you need them most.

With the economy the way it is, this year was probably a practical Christmas for most of us. I got a beautiful new winter coat in a sunny mustard yellow, some new pajamas, an electric toothbrush (an idea I have been resisting vehemently but now will admit is probably all right, after all). But there were other things that I wanted, rather than needed, that I got too.

First on my list (and perhaps the 'least likely' to happen, in my mind), was a ball winder and swift. Every knitter out there knows that this is an invaluable item, once you own one. If you've ever seen one at work in a yarn shop, you'll certainly know why. It turns those strange spirals of a hank into a neat little yarn cake that winds from the inside out while you're working with it. They're lovely - and the best ones are made of wood, with a little Royal brand ball winder being the standard accompaniment. I got both. And spent all afternoon today making little yarn cakes and stacking them up like so many blocks. It took a little practice to get the tension just right (let's say that a few of these cakes will be standing up all the way until the end of the ball), but it is so fun! I can't wait to turn all of my stash into little blocky cylinders!

Those of us who are still buying our schoolbooks realize quickly how exorbitant and luxurious owning our books, rather than simply borrowing them from a library, really is. My father is an avid book collector - paperbacks, hardcover volumes, and even a few leather-wrapped tomes line the shelves of his small office-library. When we were young our parents would always buy books for us, but now that I'm older, the books I love generally come strictly in hardcover, or the paper they're published on increases their price (I have a thing for glossy photography.) So to receive books on a holiday is, for me, the very purpose of Christmas - to give something to anyone who doesn't need it, but very much wants it, is so much in the spirit of the season. This year, one of the books I wanted more than anything was Jane Brockett's "The Gentle Art of Domesticity". Mrs. Brocket writes a blog of which I (and many people) am fond, Yarnstorm. When she released her first book earlier in the year, I craved her photography, insight on quiltmaking, cake-baking, and sock-knitting.

A book I didn't expect, but have recently come to love, is Domino Magazine's realease 'The Decorating Guide'. It is a step-by-step guide to finding your inner inspired decorator and translating your 'style' into every aspect of your home. The book walks you through the different sections of your living space - dining rooms and foyers, bedrooms and home offices, to help you achieve what you've always wanted with either things you have or things you buy. I'm finding it very inspirational, and am already holding consultations via my own dining room for the neighbors. A necessity until I have my own space to decorate!

More to come soon - including the ever-secretive Christmas knits! Happy holidays to you all.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Shrug it Off

So, I bought the Fitted Knits book by designer Stephanie Japel some time ago - it's a great collection of pretty, practical and actually flattering patterns that are designed for most body types or can be altered to fit you, no matter how you're built. My friend Danielle had already made the Two-Tone shrug from the book and, after trying hers on, I had major covet. It wasn't until I lined all my stash up side by side that I realized just two skeins of my favorite yarn - Malabrigo worsted - was more than ample to make a garment. The shrug fits beautifully and is warm, not itchy, and probably going to become a wardrobe staple on chilly weekends at home, for certain. It works great over a tank top, too - a great way to extend your summer stuff.

Two-tone Shrug by Stephanie Japel
Yarn: Malabrigo Worsted in Roanoke and Paris Nights

Saturday, December 13, 2008

A Sad Farewell

He was a good cat. A great cat. When we were picking them out at the shelter, we noticed him immediately. His super-soft fur and big, pleading eyes. He had been found in a dumpster, fighting for his life while his mother and litter had abandoned him - we named him Dempsey, after Jack Dempsey, a prizefighter. That's what Demps was. A fighter. He was a sweet, sweet little kitten. He loved lap and sunshine and cuddling up against you when you were sleeping. If you were feeling sick, he'd sit with you on the couch all day. Having had a taste of human food at an early age, he was always trying to beg your food - no matter what it was. 

He was only a year old, but we could notice definite changes in his behavior. This november, around Thanksgiving, he wasn't eating right - we took him to the vet and put him on antibiotics, and he seemed to recover. The aversion to eating came back this December, and we took him back to the vet - he wouldn't eat anything. Not kitten treats, not baby food, not specialty food, not wet food - nothing. And he wouldn't drink any water. The vet did an x-ray and revealed that one of his lungs was nearly collapsed, the other filled with fluid. Feline infectious peritonitis, an uncurable congenital defect, was claiming our tiny beloved kitten. So we had to do it - what else could we do? He will be missed, but certainly not forgotten.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Earthly Scents, Sights, Sounds

If there's one thing that I adore about winter (and yes, I do adore something about this horribly cold, miserable season), it's the way that it makes you feel alive. There's no denying that you are a living being when you take in a deep breath of searing cold in the morning, or feel your face tingle back into warmth after you hurry inside. For me, it's all about feelings and textures - the sights, sounds, and scents of wintertime.

I love the smell of juniper and the way snow reflects ice in the most appealing and dangerous way. I love how, upon entering a gather of trees in the wintertime, their boughs filled with snow or ice or simply nothing at all, they stand stoic and quiet. Trees are quieter in winter than in the summer, certainly.

I think in the winter I'm more drawn to knitting, painting, drawing, smelling, listening to things that have earthly tones. Lately, the new Alison Krauss/Robert Plant collaboration, entitled 'Raising Sand', has been repeating on my iPod. There's something remarkably human about Plant's voice, while Krauss has always had an ethereal tone. It somehow seems like the merging of the season to me. Especially the songs Sister Rosetta Goes Before Us, and Killing the Blues.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Christmas is Coming

And I'm just trying to finish up a few things before it gets here. Finals, obligations, and so many more things have been demanding my time. At least I'm almost finished with all of it. When I get home, I'll heave a heavy sigh of relief.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Baby Beluga

I promised you a swatch. Yes, that is a wee white wale. Yes, those are little starfish. Yes, there's going to be a lot more on the pattern than just this. In fact, a lot, lot more. But I didn't want to give too much away. One thing I will say, though, is that the Dos is a dream, absolutely wonderful to work with. The softest sportweight yarn I have ever touched, and when it comes out I'm pretty sure it'll be a staple yarn for most baby garments.

Seriously. It's just that good.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Jellybean Socks

There is nothing so satisfying as almost being finished with a pair of socks! This has been my in-class, doctor's-office-waiting-room, visiting home and watching movies project for the last week, and they're almost finished. Self striping yarn is wonderful! All you need is a basic sock pattern, a set of double-pointed needles, and some free time, and you'll have yourself a pair of socks that look amazing. The colors remind me of the Jelly Belly jellybeans, with their bright colors and interesting flavors. I'd say that these socks are flavored strawberry, mango, lemon and blue raspberry.

Tomorrow look out for a swatch for the new mitten pattern!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Weather Outside is Frightful

I hate riding the bus, and not really for any good reason. Generally, the Cyride (Iowa State University and the city of Ame's joint transportation system, for those of you not in the loop) is clean, timely, and travels pretty much anywhere you want to go. The buses are warm and they don't smell funny and the drivers are, if not pleasant, quiet and not mean. It's not the ride I hate, or the bus, but waiting on the bus that I don't enjoy. It's freezing outside! Horribly, horribly cold, and all that the Iowa wind makes me want to do is curl up into a little ball on the sidewalk and shiver my insides out. Or possibly just go inside and knit all day instead of attending classes.

Neither of which are viable options.

The actual bus ride, for me, is more fascinating than anything else. Every passenger on the bus goes out of their way to avoid eye contact with the other riders, staring either at something in their own hands (cell phones are a popular choice), or off into empty space, giving many of the bus' patrons a blank, robotic appearance. I'm usually absorbed in some music or other on my iPod, and I'm always amazed to note how people's movements tend to mirror the feeling of the music for me. I sometimes wonder if this is pure coincidence or if my mind naturally prefers music with life-like fluidity. This theory is still up for grabs.

When I don't have music, though, my mind wanders into the realm of the creative, and I spend the bus ride thinking up some design or other. It's always a treat to come home and find the yarn I'd bought a week ago sitting in the house's mailroom, where I can gather it up and open the packages as I retreat to someplace warmer, and generally friendlier.

Today, I found the remaining two skeins of Malabrigo Dos I need to begin design on a pair of colorwork mittens. Here's a sneak peek of the colors, at least. Sketches to come later.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Inside Out Toque

I finished this project awhile ago, but didn't get around to taking pictures of it until today. It's originally the Big Blue Beret pattern by Kelly Maher (find it here), but instead of knitting and using the 'proper' side, I decided to turn it inside out and not include the pom. Knitted in Malabrigo worsted, of course - the colorway is Polar Morn, a gray with pink undertones.

Today I made a trip to Target and had to make that perpetual choice between new sunglasses (don't say their un-needed, even though it's winter. I have a serious addiction,) or new music. I was brave and chose the new music - Jenny Lewis' CD 'Acid Tongue', which I mentioned in my last post, the new Death Cab for Cutie CD 'Narrow Stairs', and Beck's new release, 'Modern Guilt'. I'll review them and get back to you, but I will say that the packaging for Acid Tongue was adorable - a little sleeve like a mini record, complete with fake 'polaroids' of studio shots. Very cute.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Inspiration Notebook

I'm in the middle of something, and there are several names for it. Inspiration. Enlightenment. Happenstance. It started with a project for one of my classes - a notebook based on how we derive inspiration for our fashion designs based on the world around us - either the media, or magazines, or nature, or photography, literature or art or music. It was during this process (and the after-process, which included standing up in class today and presenting said 'Inspiration Notebook' to the class) that I realized my methods of inspiration are very important, and they very rarely show up on this blog.

When I began writing on here, my intention was for it to become a catch-all for my thoughts. But as I'm finding more and more, when my thoughts get really busy or really interesting, I have a habit of trying not to catch them. So I'm trying something new. This little blog is going to get a little makeover. No, I won't be changing the heading (yet), just the content. While everyone else went through their period of enforced inspiration last month, for NaNoBloMo, I'm enforcing my own PaDaBloMo (Personal Daily Blog Month), in which each and every post that I put on here has to be something interesting, and something relevant, and something I felt inspired by during the day. Starting now, I'm going to start carrying my camera around to school. I'm going to start looking again at little things and carrying a sketch book to write down notes and cut out pictures.

And most exciting of all, I'm going to start listening to music again. I wasn't able to for awhile (though, some friends in particular will claim that I have no excuse, since I've got a computer...), because my iPod decided to go kaput, but now I've gotten a new one. It's pretty and orange, and lightweight, and it has a lovely display and all kinds of nifty features, including a maze game that is excellent for playing in boring lectures. But the best part is, after all, music!

So, what am I listening to? Right now, I would highly recommend Roisin Murphy, and her album, Overpowered. The whole thing is just a masterpiece mix of jazz, electronica, synthesizer, and her amazingly rich, dreamy vocals. You should really check out the show she has posted on her website - she plays a lot with sound. The same-titled track is one of the best on the album, but I'm equally in love with Sinking Feeling from her earlier, Ruby Blue CD.

Of course, my love affair with Jenny Lewis and her various incarnations (The Postal Service, with the Watson Twins, Solo, Rilo Kiley...) isn't going to end anytime soon, and I'm currently digging the new sound that is 'Acid Tongue'. I haven't downloaded the whole thing from iTunes yet, but I'm quite addicted to the samples I'm getting from Youtube and Pandora Radio.

On the knitting front, I've been wanting to design something based on this painting by Max Ernst, and worked up in the new Malabrigo yarn I'm testing: Gusanito. The word, I've been told, means 'little caterpillar' in Portuguese, and I will certainly agree - soft and squishy and just the right amount of fuzzy, this yarn certainly reminds me of something adorable I'd find munching away my herb garden. I bought it in several colors, but only the Malachite colorway is going to become something surreal. Something with i-cord. And cables....

Monday, November 17, 2008

Malabrigo Dos

Recently, on Ravelry, there was much commotion and going-on about Stitches East. Like every Stitches fiber festival, there was the usual excitement - a chance to see all your favorite vendors in one place, maybe score a picture with the Yarn Harlot - and the now-mandatory stop by the Ravelry tent to try and recognize your fellow fiber lovers. I used to live on the east coast and never knew that Stitches existed, until I moved out here. They've got them planned for everyone really - West, Midwest, East - and these dream festivals occur far enough apart that you could probably attend all three. I'm one of the unlucky few who had to move into her new dorm on the exact day of Stitches Midwest, and missed our venue entirely, though it was only a mere six hours away, and for the next few days after had to endure the onslaught of 'look what I picked up' and 'wow, we got free samples' from those who went and scored.

This year, however, I was incredibly envious of those attending the East show, simply because one of my favorite yarn vendors - yes, you guessed it, Malabrigo - was going to have samples of a new yarn they're testing. They're not even sure yet when it will be available for distribution, this yarn (named 'Dos'). All the Malabrigo oglers just know that it comes in lovely colors.

So, imagine my surprise when, after jokingly stating to a Stitches goer, "Why don't you stop by the booth and pick me up a skein?", she did just that. And even mailed it to me. In fact, she didn't pick up one skein, but two! And in the most lovely of colors, as well! Yes, Tamara is a tricky one! I'll let you know what I decide to knit up with it soon enough - I've been busy with super secret Christmas gifts lately!

(The lovely khaki color is called 'Distant Thunder' - it's twin is named 'Blue Bellis')

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Under the Blacklight

I have been keeping myself very busy lately. Between school and the random amounts of knitting I am trying so very hard to accomplish, I haven't had much to post - or much of interest to post about! Right now I'm finishing up Christmas presents, too, so I can't really show those off here (my family does read my blog, after all).

What I can show off, though, are these neat pictures I took at one of the Halloween parties from last weekend. I wanted to see if I could take pictures of black-lighted scenes by erasing the flash. And you can - as long as there are enough people dressed in white to properly reflect the light back to the camera. Lucky for me, we had a passel of penguins show up, and the provided just the right amount. I think I'm going to use the bottom image as a base for a painting I'm going to (attempt) to squelch in over break.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Everyone Loves a KD Lady...

These past few weeks have been so wonderful. I came to ISU and didn't know anybody, and have met so many people so quickly - my dear friend Kristin, who understands me in and out though we've only known each other a little while. We have the most fun over the weekends and it's always exciting to see her during the week!

One of the things that I told myself I would do when I came to Iowa State was participate in the Greek system's rush. I have a lot of friends at Drake and a lot of friends at other colleges who really enjoy being a part of the Greek community, and although I had always talked about rushing, there was a huge part of me that was skeptical. So when I transferred and came to Iowa State, I decided that I would finally give it a go. Who knew that I would meet so many people so quickly and find just the right fit? And who knew they'd like me back as much as I liked them?

When they brought me the bid last Saturday I was so excited I nearly cried. I didn't even wait the 24 hours you've got to decide - I said yes and called their recruitment person right away to confirm. I'm moving into the house very soon, as well. And I can't wait. I can't wait to do all the fun events and meet all the people I haven't met yet and get to know all of my pledge class. 

I love me some Kappa Deltas!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Bluebells and Cockle Shells

I would say that I need to stop spending money, but that's not really true, considering that I have been so remarkably good with everything I have spent, and everything I have bought has been something I really wanted or needed and waited a long time to purchase.

I seem to be on a color kick for fall right now - not traditional fall colors, mind you, just my new favorites. Last post, it was all about the reds. This post? Well, we just have to make room for some winter blues. I went to the mall this last weekend and was pleasantly surprised to find nearly everything on my list. At the top? Sensible winter pumps that I can wear even when it's a little chilly, with knitted socks. They're lovely, navy blue with faux buttons! If there's one thing you buy yourself this winter, it should be a pair of navy pumps. They were all over the runways and I think the look super chic if you dare to pair them with a pair of black tights. I'm doing so, anyway, when the weather gets a bit colder.

While out, I also picked up one of my new favorite essentials: another pair of sunglasses. I have a horrible addiction to sunglasses. I would probably own over twenty pairs by now if I didn't seem to lose them every once in awhile - leaving them here and there, letting people borrow them. I'm notorious for wearing them to parties, so you know that a pair of navy blue aviators didn't slip my radar!* They weren't horribly expensive, either - from Heritage (it's a division of Forever 21), and they come in yellow and red too, if you're into getting a pair.

Of course, no addiction to a color is complete without the purchase of yarn. I found someone on Ravelry who was selling two skeins of one of my new favorite (and newly discovered) colorways - Azul Bolita. This is a huge huge huge color this year, or it should be - our fashion teacher was telling us just the other day how, after a display in New York of several Japanese Iris paintings, 'Iris-inspired' blues should be swamping the fashion market. Even if they aren't, I love the color - who doesn't love purple blues? And had to have something made out of it. In true Malabrigo style, there was a colorway to match this need. I picked up both skeins for a really reasonable price and they were shipped and arriving before I could snap.

It's a sort of moody blue color, and should look utterly lovely with my light gray and white herringbone coat this fall. Although I'm hardly wishing for the weather to turn, I'm gearing to have most of everything I need for it ready in time.

*(this has to be one of my favorite pictures ever.)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Rose Red

There's something to be said for sales. Good sales mean that you can buy something and not feel guilty. Great sales mean that you can buy more of something and not feel guilty. Amazing sales mean that you can buy whatever you want and know you aren't spending any money at all.

I got wind of an amazing sale a few days ago (it only lasted a few hours, if that), and bought 5 skeins of Malabrigo Chunky yarn in the most lovely of colorways for half off! Half off! So now I'll be making a Juliet, after all (it's a Zephyr Girls pattern) and it will be lovely and incredibly warm.

The best part? The color looks really good on my complexion, and the pattern is quick and easy. Is this a win/win or what? As far as winning goes, I've been doing a great job of it lately - keeping organized, setting goals - they've all become a huge part of my daily repertoire. It's really amazing, considering that my lack of organizational skills has really worked against me in the past - yes, I'm that student that never turns things in on time, forgets about deadlines, and always seems to squeak past anyway. Not this year, though - new school, new commitment to personal bests!

My goals for the year are, like most students, simply to make the best grades possible. I know I can ace a 4.00 and get scholarships for this next semester and next year - I know I can! On top of it, I'm currently running through informal rush, joining clubs (I'm a member of the fashion department's club and also a writer for their magazine, Trend), and maybe even starting a few - the school has no yarn and fiber club, and I'm eager to try and get one running.

Impressive, I know. Want to know the secret to staying on top of it all?

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Ramalama Bang Bang

I have been very busy lately, but unfortunately, not with much knitting. School is remarkably time consuming, and I've found myself having less and less time to myself and more and more time with new friends, in classes, homework at night and out on the weekends. I think it's all just part of getting into the swing of things, but I really need to find some time in here just to get laundry done!

I do have some cool cool news, though - my parents bought me a camera! It's GORGEOUS and wonderful and it's a Canon Powershot A590. It even has image stabilizer, since I have a horrible case of shaky camera hand. I've been taking shots of my new project with it (well, not so new. It was my bus knitting until I realized that I don't really have time to knit on the bus.) It's still in progress, but when it's finished it'll be a buttoned, wrap-around scarf/cowl that has the coolest damn stripes about. Noro's awesome like that.

All in all, school is fun and I'm getting settled in. Don't wish me luck, though - wish me more time to knit!

Friday, August 22, 2008

A Wee Bit Busy

I do have new projects to show off, but they aren't finished, and I haven't had much time to work on them. I'm also currently without a camera, having just started school, so it may be a short while before my next post!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Sew Organized

I have needed to get more organized for a long time. But with the addition of a very small dorm room next semester (although I am on my own and not sharing it, thank goodness), it really, really, needed to happen. Which meant that the first step was finding space for all my finished objects - all those hats and scarves that you see me knitting all the time have to live somewhere, right? (Well, some of them have homes in other states, but we aren't talking about those right now...)

So, I went on a google escapade and found myself some nifty tutorials for making box bags. You know, bags that have a boxy shape and store things somehow better than the regular kind? They've got a tough bottom that makes them perfect for knitting projects, and for hanging on little hooks in your wall and still looking attractive. Which is exactly the sort of thing you need in a dorm room that you're pretending is an apartment. Attractive things on your walls. My 'theme' colors for the room are very bright - I was quite inspired by Jane Brockett's uses of colors like hot pink, teal, yellow and green - so I needed bags that would fit into this color scheme. Thank goodness Wal*Mart, which usually has nothing I like, had something worth using.

I chose a very traditional blue and white toile and lined it with a hot pink leaf pattern, then used the same leaf pattern in a teal color with a traditional yellow and white scroll plant cotton. The last bag was the same lining as the green, with the most wonderfully hideous color of yellow I could find. There is something about mustard yellow that delights me to no end. Especially using it. The sewing was relatively easy, I used this tutorial. I did make a single modification - using interfacing between the cotton-cotton layers to keep them from showing through when sewn together and give the bag a little extra oomph (some of the cottons were pretty flimsy). When I iron cotton, I always use starch so that the pieces not only keep the wrinkles out, but have some stiffness in the finished product.

And voila, delicious little box bags perfect for keeping hat and scarf sets in!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Set in Motion

So, I finally have a bit of time off from work and have taken some of it to spin (among various other things that will be mentioned quite soon!) As many of you know, Molly sent me some absolutely lovely corriedale fiber, for no particular reason, in both a teal and jade (brighter teal) colorway. I've decided to try and spin a large amount of it up in the next two weeks, so I've been working hard on singles.

I'm pretty sure I'm going to enter the finished yarn into the monthly contest in the Spindler's group on Ravelry. The theme for September is 'rock groups', and I think if I ply the jade with some copper thread it would look a lot like turquoise. Otherwise, I'm aiming for a high-tension 2-ply of the teal and jade. The singles this time around have been a lot easier and a lot prettier than my original spinning, which shall not be named or shown. Ever. It was with a nightmare fiber from a very greasy sheep, and probably a mutton sheep to begin with, not a real fleece sheep. But here, for your enjoyment, are some singles:

Fiber: Louet Corriedale, colorway 'Teal'
Gifted from Molly (Riprap, on Ravelry)
Spindle: Butterfly Girl Designs - Lacy Agate Spindle (2-set)

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Secrets Revealed - Part I

So, I very recently participated in two swaps on Ravelry - one for the Malabrigo Swap group, and another for the Urban Outfitters Knits swap group. I have had to sit and keep all of the surprise secrets under wraps until the presents arrive at their destinations and are fully opened - and they're finally there! Kristen, the recipient of the package from the UO swap, has finally opened it, so now I can post all the delicious pictures you know I couldn't resist taking!

Now, you've all seen the strawberry basket I made for her - I couldn't resist showing it off in the last post. But you never would have known that it was the first of many fruit-themed items I sent her for the swap! Sometimes it's hardest to pick a theme for your package, simply because by nature, a swap is sending out presents to someone you've never met. Of course, you get to stalk them a bit via the internet, and learn a little bit about them through questionnaires and group threads - and that all helps. But still, you have to think of just the perfect thing that you'd send them to brighten up their day.

Kristen, for instance, seemed to really like Japanese culture. Most specifically, I felt like she draws a lot of inspiration from cutesy kawaii and manga, so I wanted to do something really adorable. Then I found these stitch markers at Dragon Lady Designs on Etsy, and knew exactly what my theme would be! So I set about finding other things to go in with it - and what present that has a fruit theme is complete without something tasty to eat while unwrapping it?

My first thought was to buy some of those Runt candies, you know, the ones that are shaped like little bananas and strawberries and oranges and are subsequently colored and sometimes don't have the correct flavor? I mean, who doesn't love candy that looks like what it's supposed to taste like? (Unfortunately, I didn't get a picture of them before they went in the package.) While at the grocery buying the Runts, I couldn't walk past these most delicous-looking taffies:

I have personally sampled this kind to make sure they weren't the nasty, too-hard kind, or the delicious but dangerous very-sticky kind. And they were perfect. The flavors were even good! So I bought about a zillion of them and decided to pack them in both swap packages.

Of course, no swap package would be finished without adding yarn. And what swap package could I possibly send out that didn't contain at least one skein of Malabrigo? Although Malabrigo did offer me several options for fruit themed color (Strawberry Fields, for instance), I decided to jump off a bitty cliff and buy Citrus, even though Kristen said in her swap questionnaire that she didn't like orange. And we all know how I feel about orange!

(I'm pretty sure that if it had been you, you wouldn't be able to resist this yarn, either.)

Friday, July 25, 2008

A Tisket, A Tasket

A strawberry basket. This is my first crochet project, and let me say, that I much prefer knitting. Crochet hurts my hands and although the results were lovely, I don't know when I'll be next attempting this project. The beads took a very long time to sew on, as well.

Hopefully, the recipient likes it!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Gifts from the Emerald City

When I was very little, one of my favorite movies was the Disney addition, "Return to Oz." It didn't have the press of the original, or Judy Garland, or even another famous actress - but I would not doubt to say that the set was better, the story more interesting and the actors more talented. The costumes were exquisite and even now, now that I own it on DVD, it is one of my favorite movies. There is nothing like a movie Jim Henson helped produce, is there?

One of my favorite scenes in the movie is where Dorothy, imprisoned underground by the Gnome King, has to release her friends from his Emerald City collection by touching green things in a treasure room. All members of the Emerald City turn into things the color of their home when they are transformed, and Dorothy uses this as a strategy to recover her friends and help them escape the Gnome King's clutches.

Therefore, you may understand why the color green, especially globes, glasses, vases and dishes, hold as special a place in my heart as the movie does. Somehow, I almost always feel like a green object has a connection to me, like an old friend that I had to spend time to recover.

I found some new friends in the antique store this weekend: a set of beautiful hand-blown apothecary jars! My current mission of dorm renovation includes new, more attractive storage solutions for my stash. These jars are the new homes for yarn scraps and buttons, but I couldn't resist showing them off before getting filled, too.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Another Swap Package!

Okay, so while I am probably the worst and most slow person to get swap packages out ever (I just want to make sure they're perfect before getting sent, is all!) my partners from both the Malabrigo and UO (Urban Outfitters group on Ravelry) are like, super amazing at getting everything out on time and making me feel guilty for taking so damn long.

Yesterday, I came home from a horrible, no good, very bad day at work to this:

Two skeins of Noro Silk Garden Lite in colorway 2017. It's hard to believe, whenever I see Noro, that these are the same colorway. I'm sure I'll be able to tell better while knitting them up. Into what, I have no idea - the package also included a pattern for an 'Orca Tails' scarf, but I haven't felt much like scarves lately. This Noro will probably sit for awhile anyway - I have like, a million things to complete (including the Great Mitten Finishing!)

Along with the Noro was an abalone shawl pin - absolutely gorgeous! I recognized the material right away because my father, who is sort of obsessed with guitars, is always going on and on about various materials used in the making of them. Abalone is used most commonly in guitar detailing for the fretboard (the part you put your fingers on). Guitarsmiths use them for the little dots and sometimes to make little animals or fancy whatevers. Anyway, it's very pretty, as you can see:

So basically, now that I've gotten both packages, my goal is to send out the two from my house today. Hopefully. If I can get finished with the crochet project I took on for one. But I'm going to try, really hard.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Back to Spinning

So, I never really posted anything on here about it, but I have been learning to spin. In fact, I actually spun my first yarn a long while ago - some very greasy gunky stuff that ended up becoming an art project that will never be shown to anyone ever. After I'd used up all my roving (and patience, really), I put the drop spindles away and focused on knitting again, claiming that 'due to the yarn mandate, I had no money with which to buy any roving.'

Well, obviously, someone heard that silent plea - Molly (Riprap on Ravelry), sent me some gorgeous lovely wonderful corriedale yesterday - it's from Louet. I guess she had started spinning and just decided it wasn't her thing, so thought I might want to give it a go again! Yesterday, I came home not only to find the Magic Yarn Ball package, but to find a fluffy bunch of gorgeous bright and dark teal roving:

I'm really excited to try some neat spinning techniques. Molly suggested in her note that I mix the two rovings (the one you see in the picture is just the darkest one. Did you know that roving is remarkably hard to photograph? I had no idea it moved so quickly - every time I took a picture it was blurry!) This is a great idea, since I want the ending yarn to be plied, and I'm going to try and make some fairly thin singles this time around. Who knows? Maybe I'll have enough yarn to make something cool!

Molly knows that I love hedgehogs, too, so the card she sent me had the cutest little guy on the front. I think I'll name him Boris.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Sealed Signed Delivered Yours

Oh my goodness. Warning - this is a very picture-heavy (and therefore long) post! (But everything is work safe, no worries!)

Is there anything more fulfilling than coming home from a HORRIBLY long day at work and discovering, on your placemat, something that you didn't even know was coming? Even better - something that you knew was coming, but not when, and were very very excited to get? If you've ever had such an experience, then you must have been a member of the last Malabrigo Swap. Because I know of no other addiction that can yield such satisfactory and surprising results!

My swap partner this round - Barb, sent me pretty much the most gorgeous, wonderful package ever. No, seriously. There was a thirty dollar minimum on this swap and she went overboard. Above and beyond in the stalking and searching and locating and exact picking - it's fantastic. Okay, so although there is never enough chatter and praise for this wonderful event, my wonderful partner, or this wonderful gift - or better yet, the wonderfulness that is Ravelry - I will move on and show off all the awesome knitting swag.

First off, I opened the package to reveal three skeins of yarn and the Magic Yarn Ball (MYB - it's a ball of yarn that contains hidden prizes!) The MYB was made of Seleccion Privada Malabrigo Merino Worsted, in a colorway simply dubbed 'S'. It's a maze of yellows, greens, and blues, and I'm not sure what I'll make with it - but whatever it is, it'll be fantastic. With the MYB was a skein of Hollyhock Malabrigo Merino Worsted. Hollyhock is bright purple-pink and I'm pretty sure it will be a cowl. Or something else. I haven't actually decided yet.

After that was a skein (yes, actually, there is more yarn!) of Andy's Merino II. This colorway was 'Shamrock', a very very bright green and yellow (I'm pretty sure Barb had a lot of fun picking out bright colors). I've used this yarn before for a Koolhaas I knit a long time ago for Bennette - which he's sure to love, but hasn't been sent yet. I still like touching it too much, and he's in North Carolina and won't need a hat anytime soon anyway. He's down with it. I asked. But now that I have my own skein, his might actually make it's way into the mail!

Okay, so there was one last skein of yarn, and perhaps I was saving the most beautiful for last. I just purchased my first laceweight fairly recently - from Sandra Singh, and it's Malabrigo. Before that, I had never really considered laceweight. I mean, I don't wear shawls or anything. And it is hard to knit with really tiny needles. Maybe I was holding off because I was afraid. But after Barb sent me some Laceweight from No Two Snowflakes, I am going to have to get on the up and up with lace knitters. This stuff is gorgeous. In fact, even the packaging was gorgeous.

On the back of the tag, it says:
"No Two Snowflakes presents one-of-a-kind handmade art for individuals. Each piece and product has its own unique story, and no two will ever be exactly the same!"
Item: 'Unfurled'
Material: Wool/Silk
Yardage: 440 yards
Weight: Heavy Laceweight

This stuff is incredibly soft and fantastic and gorgeous and everything. I love it.

So, what else could I do, after seeing all this, but unravel the MYB? And discover two types of ribbon from The Ribbon Jar. The first is a lovely silk in a blue dye, and the second was a chartreuse and chocolate Harlequin pattern!

As well as some buttons! First, some lovely brass buttons, then some little bitty bone buttons! I'm pretty sure some of them will get used for my Coraline Pattern - which Barb also bought and sent!

She also included a cookie-baking book by Martha Stewart! I haven't had a moment to go through it yet, but it looks divine and I can't wait to begin baking - if I could only stop having 8 hour work days! Thank you so much, Barb - it's gorgeous and wonderful and I had the best time unraveling everything! I look forward to finding something to do with all this yarn!

Oh, and PS - there's another little something that came in the mail today from Molly, but you'll just have to wait and find out tomorrow!