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Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Crafters United

If you're anything like me, you've felt small and helpless in the presence of such sadness and devastation in Mississippi and Louisiana. Craft Revolution is asking bloggers to pass along information about its effort to raise money by selling handcrafted items and donating all of the proceeds to hurricane charities.

Initially, I felt queasy about donating money and getting a free product in return, so I just gave to the Red Cross. But the more I think about it, I love the idea of the crafting community working together. Their initial goal was $1,000, they surpassed that in just one day. That's why I love the do-it-yourself community.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Do you believe in magic (loops)?

I found many ways to disappoint my father as a teen-ager. He was my school's athletic director and a math teacher. So, naturally, I was a lackluster tennis player and dropped honors calculus for pottery my senior year. He never blamed me for being a poor athlete because there's only so much one can do to overcome being horribly uncoordinated. But he swore up and down that I was good at math and throwing that talent down the toilet.

So I sort of feel like knitting let's me tap back into math, but in the warmest and fuzziest of ways. Alterations to patterns and yarn substitutions require skills I haven't used since the mid '90s. I feel as though I'm definitely reawakening an unused part of my brain.

And I guess some knitting techniques challenge my poor coordination, too. Like the magic loop recommended for the sleeves of the Hot Lava Cardigan. I admit that double pointed needles confound me some days, particularly that first row. My sleeves inevitably look like crap. My seaming skills have improved tremendously, so I had resigned myself to knitting most things flat. But then this pattern introduced me to yet another way, the magic loop.

Maybe this technique is old hat to some of you, but the magic loop and I are just getting to know each other. You basically use a very long circular needle to knit small circumferences, like sleeves. When done correctly, it kinda looks like this:



(Please ignore my big toe).

But when I started my sleeves, the magic loop felt unwieldy and uncomfortable, kinda like this:



This cardigan has an unusual construction, and I hate to admit it, but at this point it looks eactly like a shrug. Since a few folks know of my newly instated shrug ban, I lie and tell them I'm knitting an elephant trunk cozy, which is what it kinda looks like at this point.

I'm also starting a new feature on my blog called "The dumbest thing I've done all week." There is a lot of competition for this distinction. I've been working a lot of overtime and odd hours, so I'm exhausted and taking shortcuts like parking illegally and driving on empty.

But this week's winner occured Tuesday, when my bathtub wouldn't drain. I was livid, particularly since this precise thing happened a week ago, right after my super temporarily turned off the hot water. There was apparently a pipe issue following a flood in my typically well-run building's basement. The super had to use some sort of loud machinery last week to get my pipes running again. So when the tub wouldn't drain again this week, I was ready to call the management company or the mayor or something. The super came back and found the culprit -- I had pushed the stopper down. Oh dear. So dumb.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

She is finished!

Let's all say a hearty hello to the infamous Lelah top!



(Can you tell that behind that fence is a junkyard? I was kinda desperate for greenery. I get jealous of all the great finished object pictures taken by people in lush locales.)

As you all likely know, this is the adorable free pattern from Christine at Knitting for Boozehags. I think she is such a hilarious and authentic knit blogger -- and I love her site's redesign!

This was a fabulously fun project. I've never experimented much with lace, so I'd recommend this pattern for other first-timers. Yes, you have to pay a lot more attention to your knitting than with stockinette stitch, so you can't zone out while watching "The McLaughlin Group" or reruns of "Ten Years Younger." Not that I do either of those things. Very often.

Here's a close-up, just for kicks:


I jumped headlong into my next project -- the hot lava cardigan by Blue Alvarez Designs. Now, some of you might look at this sweater and say, "Huh, that looks like a shrug. Hasn't she made enough of those?" And yes, just a few posts back, I vowed not to make any more shrugs. But I say this is *not* a shrug! It's clearly longer than a shrug! It is definitely suitable for winter! And I'm making it anyway!

This cardigan gave me the chance to pick up some yummy Manos del Uruguay in a really alarming shade of blue. I decided to splurge on yarn since I'm working some serious overtime in the next week or so, and it's making me crabby. I picked it up at Seaport Yarn downtown, which I've never visited before and really liked. (Except for the doorman who hollered at me for not knowing that I was supposed to sign in before entering the building. He acted as though I was sneaking into a courthouse or airport. Hello, I'm headed to the YARN STORE. I guess he was protecting the building's other tenants from all the dangerous, militant knitters out there. Or maybe I need to lighten up.)

So I've been carting this project around a lot but discovered today that there is one public place where I simply will not knit -- the auto repair shop.

My inspection is up in two weeks, and since I'm nuts, I decided to take my car in today. (Hey, there is always the chance that it would need some obscure part that can only be imported from Pluto.) I was stuck sitting in that gawd awful, teeny tiny waiting room for two hours, but I just couldn't bring myself to knit. I was paranoid enough that I would get ripped off, that they would take one look at my Neon and decide that I knew nothing about cars. (Which I do not.) I felt if I busted out my knitting, they would *definitely* decide that I knew nothing about cars and fail my inspection. So I read a well-thumbed Time magazine from the Nixon administration and, oddly, the August issue of Vogue.

It must have worked because that bucket of bolts actually passed its inspection. I wanted to hug it and kiss it a la Lindsay Lohan in "Herbie: Fully Loaded" -- which I suffered through with my cousin's triplets. But I think hugging and kissing a car makes knitting look downright rugged.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Oh, the horror.

While I'm not so young, this knitblog is. So I experienced a new sensation this week -- blogging shame. See, I should be finished with my Lelah top. But I'm not. And I had a horrific knitting disaster near the end of it. Now, a few months back, this would be my little secret. But now I have a blog, and folks know what I'm knitting and how stinking long it's taking. (I guess that's awfully paranoid. Y'all do have lives and knitting of your own.)

So, instead of lying to my readers, I'll just fess up.

I had to cut my knitting.

Now that feels better. See, I was totally cruising and made a common mistake -- I was so excited to finish Lelah that I cut corners. I guess I'm just an impatient person. I was sewing in the elastic and just not being as neat and tidy and even as I should have been. How could I be? The end was in sight!

So when I finished, my Lelah kinda looked like hell. You've probably been there -- it was fine to the untrained eye, and maybe only I would notice that it looked so uneven and crappy. I tried to reconcile the mistakes, deciding I could put the worst parts under my armpits. (Yeah, I was desperate.) But I would still know the awful truth.

I started picking out the seam that I sewed, and I couldn't! The stitches were too tight and I was totally screwing up the yarn. After maybe an hour, I knew that I needed to do something drastic, possibly something heretical. I couldn't rip out the crappy rows, so I just cut back to a nice clean part and pretended it never happened. I don't want to relive it, and I CERTAINLY didn't take any photos, but it's over and now I'm taking my good sweet time. And I still have little loops of yarn on my bed. Eek.

Boy, that was self-indulgent. Anyway, I do have a finished object!



It's yet another Little Star Afghan which was introduced to me by High Energy Jenny. My dear friend Lisa is having her first little one, and the shower was Sunday. They want to be surprised by the gender, so I just decided to make the blanket a gender-neutral-but-totally-unpractical white. It's made of Mondial Splendid, which has a little sheen to it. I've never given a handmade gift at a shower, and I was really bowled over by everyone's reaction. Totally worth the effort.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Getaway!

It took seven hours, but Jonathan and I arrived at my parents' new cottage on Conneaut Lake, Pa., on Saturday. My mother called during the last leg of the trip to warn us to look out for the Amish -- apparently they ride buggies near the cottage and don't always look out for oncoming traffic. We don't want to be the New Yorkers who wiped out an Amish family.




Here is the cottage -- we do not ever refer to it as the red barn house:




Mom cooked us spaghetti, my favorite, that first night. We had a great view of the neighbor's bonfire from here. (For some reason, everyone there feels compelled to burn things.)

My parents were looking for a cozy place where they could get away, and this spot certainly succeeds. They can walk to the shimmering lake, passing all sorts of cute summer homes with names like "The Shady Lady" and "Not Quite Lake Front." There is also a small, financially challenged amusement park nearby for my brother's enjoyment. (We went there when I was a child, and I had the worst pizza of my life, but I'm over it.) Conneaut has perhaps the greatest number of mini-golf spots per capita than anywhere else on earth.



But the big draw is a few miles away at the Pymatuning Lake Spillway in Lineville, PA. I'm still not sure what a spillway is, but people flock there because the walleye are so plentiful that ducks walk on top of the fish. (The town actually has signs that say "Lineville -- where the ducks walk on the fish.") But while we were there, no ducks walked on the fish. The walleye just ferociously fought over bread that tourists tossed in the water. The ducks seemed to be above it all. It was nasty:




I was terribly relaxed all weekend. (although it was so quiet that I was nervous. At night, I was convinced some kind of axe murderer was winding through the woods. And what if a bonfire burned out of control?) I spent a lot of quality time working on Lelah, even at the beach. She's almost finished.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

No more shrugs -- no foolin'

This is the last shrug that I'll make, buy, or otherwise acquire, at least for a little while. But, really, how could I resist knitting yet another shrug after viewing the copious shrug options from the Interweave staff? Despite the blurry photo, I was drawn to the cabled shrug. I was powerless to it, really. Don't blame me! Blame Interweave!



This was, overall, an enjoyable knit. It called for entirely too much yarn, for starters. Based on the pattern, I bought five skeins of a Paton wool blend that came 210 yards per skein, and I only used three! Am I missing something?

The pattern also promised that it was "one size fits all," which is suspect to begin with. Naturally, I wasn't that surprised when it turned out slightly too big. It has a strange construction, so I couldn't really try it on as I went. I had to rip out a few rows, and it's still not a perfect fit.

It's not flawless by any means, but I learned kitchener's stitch, which wasn't nearly as bad as I expected. And my seams look better than ever. AND I got to have more fun with cables. Here's a close-up, taken by my long-suffering boyfriend, Jonathan:



When I asked him what he thought of the finished product, he -- predictably -- shrugged. Yeah, that joke doesn't get old.

I admit that I'm a little disturbed right now. My friend Kristin and I saw "Happy Endings," which was great, then stopped at a spot on Amsterdam Ave. for steamed veggies and sangria. Only we got a little more than we ordered. After finishing my sangria, I noticed what appeared to be a large seed on the inside of the glass. I ignored it, then realized that none of the fruit in my drink had such large seeds. Upon further inspection, I realized that the seed had legs and was, in fact, a nasty amber-colored bug. Probably a cockroach. Blech.

Kristin insisted that we complain, but I'm meek when it comes to such things. This seems like a major contradiction, since my job requires me to bother the families of murder victims and sneak into hospitals. But I leave my brassiness at the door. I simply can't deal with being nasty and pushy on my own time. I'm downright timid. Kristin had no problem complaining, thank heavens, and was given a tour of the kitchen by the manager. We got our dinners free -- after they offered us another half carafe of sangria. Um, no thanks.

Let's just pretend that never happened, why don't we?

In other news, I'm starting up the ubiquitous Lelah top, designed by the always entertaining and oh-so-talented Christine at Knitting for Boozehags. I know everyone has made it already, but you're just going to have to deal with yet another.

Here is the Cascade Sierra I picked up for the project today. I already wound one of the hanks into a ball, and I'm SO BAD at that. Too many knots:



I also have a nasty cough. It's August! How is that possible!