Sunday, June 27, 2010

Inspiring Things - Brigitte Sire and Color Collective

I feel like recently, I've fallen into a deep, deep well of inspiration and thoughtfulness and general creativity. I'm generating ideas at the speed of light, faster than my hands or fingers or pencils or pens can draw them out, write them down. A lot of it has to do with the sudden abundance of inspiring sources I've recently discovered -- many of them interconnected (one link led to another, and another). I have so many inspiring people in my life right now, too -- artists and philosophers and writers and fellow bloggers. So I thought I'd share a few here and there, in hopes that they might inspire you, too.

The photography of Brigitte Sire has a really lovely feel to it, like a very sunny sunny day in almost any season. I adore how so much of her work makes me imagine it's a brilliant autumn day, and I'm looking in on something small that is happening at an un-designated place in the world. If I could get this sort of vintage, sweetened feeling out of my own photography, it would be wonderful. I'm miserable at portraiture.

For color, I recently discovered the blog Color Collective. Nearly every day, the author, Lauren Willhite, picks a photograph that inspires her and identifies five colors from the palette to inspire her readers. I seriously think that this blog was a stroke of simple brilliance on her part -- identifying what makes a photograph colorfully intriguing, and isolating that so that it can be re-used in endless ways. I plan on using many of these color collections in my own knitting, interior decorating, painting and journaling.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

More New Music?

Has anyone heard the news? Jenny Lewis is releasing a new album with her boyfriend, musician Johnny Rice. There's only one single out -- Scissor Runner, which you can download for free here if you sign up for their mailing list with your email address. It's pretty poppy and sweet, though I haven't decided if I like it more or less or equally much as the new Zooey D. and M. Ward album, She & Him Volume II.

Sigh, if there's anything I love most about summer, it's the sudden onslaught of new music! I only wish I could be in the states to hear more of it with the windows down, driving and wearing dresses. Winter in Montevideo is far from frigid, but it's still winter!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Current Obsession - Florence + The Machine

Gosh, I don't think this band can get any more incredible, or fit as many of my favorite things into one thing. Awesome music, good back bass line, amazing lyrics and a fantastic singer.

Please, please, check out Florence + The Machine!

Monday, June 14, 2010

A Knitting Tour of Uruguay, Part I

I have been increasingly surprised by the generosity of the people here, especially amongst those that are considered my Uruguayan family, and their friends. Still, it was a surprise to me when another Ravelry member contacted me (she's from here in Montevideo) and offered to take me on a day through the various knitting stores in the area. While Montevideo is the source of several huge knitting companies -- Malabrigo, Manos del Uruguay, and a few others -- it has surprisingly small selection on the point of woolen yarn, though the cotton and acrylics are wide and varied. This is because Malabrigo in particular has their yarn labeled as an export-only product to escape the hefty Uruguayan taxes for selling in-country. Not to mention that while there are surely a few choice knitters who would love to buy the softest merino known to man, most seem to prefer acrylics for their easy care.

Veronica took me on a three-store-tour, starting with one of the largest 'big box' style stores -- Balitex. In spanish, 'helidos' means yarn, and 'lana' can mean both wool or woolen yarns. Balitex carries a small selection of woolen merino yarns, under the brand name Abuelita (which means 'little grandmother'), and there were also several bulky corriedale yarns for sale, though most of the stock is a vast array of cotton (I will have to go back and purchase some, really) and acrylic.

I ended up buying two skeins of merino, in a middle-weight (somewhere around dk, I think) -- a total yardage somewhere around 1000, for only around $5 US (U$ 100 or somesuch) each. It's a deep, rich, burgundy color -- but I'll have pictures for you tomorrow. What I particularly loved about this yarn store was that it had such a wide array of color, all displayed so you could see it. We went in another, smaller, store later in the day, and I only purchased ribbon, but they had all the yarn bagged so it was 'protected'.

Afterwards, we met up with some other Ravelers from Argentina, and went to the Manos del Uruguay outlet. Here in Uruguay, Manos not only makes yarns, but also has a clothing and product line -- they're an entire brand. They sell yarn and cones of yarn at the outlet, upstairs, and it was so exciting to dig through the giant bins and see what you could find. I felt a little guilty for 'cheating' on Malabrigo, but since I only bought colors the company doesn't have, and some of them were gifts, it was easy to convince myself that the U$140 pesos a kilo was an amazing deal (I got three skeins of yarn for somewhere around $10 US).

Last, but not least, we went to the yarn store that was closest to those we have in the states. I am not sure what the whole name means, but a 'punta' is a stitch, or point, so obviously it's a play on knitting. They had largely an acrylic-blend selection, and also sold several knitted items in addition to yarns. I didn't end up buying anything, though. Even though my money goes very far here (in terms of yarn) I felt a little like I'd splurged all day.

Pictures of the yarns in part two!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Anna Sui Fall 2010

I have totally fallen in mad, mad love with the Anna Sui Fall 2010 collection. While a lot of folks would probably look at this on the runway and think about how in the world they'd wear the mish-mosh of prints and colors in real life, I see what Anna was trying to communicate. In the words of, the collection was "a passport to the Arts & Crafts movement of the late nineteenth century, bleeding into Art Nouveau.... while the mood of the clothes was vintage bordering on antique, the overall impression was curiously un-retro."

I have long been a fan of Sui's work, but I think this collection rocketed her to my top 5 favorite designers. Of course, you all are well aware of my love affair with color and pattern. It's only natural that I'd adore the extreme of both in a hearty runway dose.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Saturday Night Asado

There isn't a lot of literature on the internet about visiting Uruguay, about the cultural traditions or the clothing or the food, and I'm trying to remedy it a bit by writing what I can on here. Something that I had read a lot about was 'asado', which I assumed from research was the type of meat consumed -- Asado, rather, is what we call a barbeque here in the states. The meat is actually ribs, and is salted thoroughly and then cooked over the heat of a fire's coals. Antonio was our grill master for the evening, and hurried us all indoors as soon as it was ready so we'd eat it hot.

It was delicious, but I think that the meal itself is really an excuse for everyone to get together and talk, laugh, and drink wine. We had red wine, agua con gas (or, for me, agua sin gas, or 'still' water), baguette, salad and dulche de leche ice cream for dessert. Carla, the daughter of Elena (who is hosting me during my stay here) makes the most amazing guacamole I've ever had, in both a spicy and regular variation. I plan on getting the recipe from her, but I have a feeling it's got more to do with having fresh avocados than which spices you include.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Playing with Color

I have a lot of projects here that involve playing with color. To pick colors for yarns at the mill, we use different color cards from paint companies, fabric companies, and my favorite -- Pantone Color Collection books. I'm certain that this is going to be one of my first purchases when I return home. There isn't anything better for finding exactly the color you're looking for, really, and you can even send away for full-sized fabric swatches in the Pantone color shown in the book.

I'm playing with a big project right now, and I can't divulge the details, but I can give you a sneak peek, and let you speculate on your own. The only thing I'll say is that it involves lots of gorgeous, rich color!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Yarn Review - Malabrigo Rios

If you haven't heard yet, Malabrigo Yarns is going to be releasing a new yarn at TNNA this June! It's a plied superwash yarn (four plies, worsted weight) that will hopefully fill the demand for a sweater-worthy yarn that is super-soft, machine washable, and durable (with less pilling than the original Malabrigo Worsted). Since I arrived at the mill, I've been eyeing all the piles of Rios, which is in full production and should be in stores by September, at least, for those yarn stores that order at or right after TNNA.

While the official color card hasn't been released yet, I can tell you that all the colors I've seen are exceptionally gorgeous - Rios is superwash and takes the dyes differently than typical merino wool, with a different vibrancy and depth. I did bring home a few test skeins to sample. I'm knitting one of the single skeins up (it's a sort of denim-blue mix, a mistake color, not one of the color card colors) into a 4 x 4 ribbing scarf for a little boy who's birthday I was invited to this weekend. The other three skeins are from the same lot, and are also mistake colors -- they'll be knitted up into a vest pattern, if I can figure out the complex construction I'm hoping for.

The structure of Rios isn't splitty at all, which I think was my main worry -- the plies are very cushy, but not overspun, and the entire yarn is very round and even, making it possible to have really lovely stitch definition. I found it most comfortable to knit on size 8 needles, but I was looking for something quick, and I think Rios could comfortably fit on 7's or 6's, all the way up to 10's, if you like a loose stitch. The superwash content doesn't add that waxy or squeaky feel some superwash yarns have, though the finished product does have more sheen than regular merino. The colors are fantastic and have a unique sort of depth to them that resembles that of Madelinetosh, Wool Candy, or Sundara Yarns.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Hola, Malabrigo!

Yesterday, I made the long-awaited pilgrimage to the Malabrigo Factory. It's in Cerro, an area of town that is named for the largest hill in all of Montevideo. During the colonization of Montevideo, the Spanish built a fortress on top of the cerro (hill, literally), and all of the industry in Montevideo has subsequently grown up around it. Though there are many people in this area of Montevideo, many of them are very poor, and do not have cars, or even bicycles, so they still have horses. I'll get into that later.

The factory is part of a much larger building that is under restoration. Inside, excluding the Malabrigo mill area, it is very dark and made almost entirely of concrete. Antonio told me that it used to be a beef manufacturing plant, and all of the tracks on the ceiling that now hang yarn used to be used for hanging beef products. The elevator for the factory also shows this tradition -- it is large enough to fit an entire live cow. Now, though, the factory has a much less gruesome use: Malabrigo Yarn is housed here! The factory actually goes by a different name to the entirety of Uruguay and all of the post-dye manufacturing (the spinning mill, packaging, etc.)
I will be working both at the mill in the main office, where I will update the Malabrigo Yarns website blog near-daily; at the laboratory, where I will help develop new colorways and give my input on test yarns; and in the secondary office in downtown Montevideo, where I will draw up designs and knit test swatches for various projects. I have many things to show you -- all the work at the factory is so exciting and interesting!