Monday, July 30, 2007

The White Stripes

First of all, I'd like to thank everybody for your supportive comments on my last post. I'm glad to know I'm not alone with occasional frustration and misunderstandings over something as inessential as a hobby. And don't worry, I don't get nasty comments like that all the time; mostly I just get mild confusion. When we're watching movies, I get the same reaction as you do, Sarah -- you know, I am capable of walking and chewing gum at the same time, so why not knitting and paying attention to a movie?!

In any case, I'll still knit happily on.

Unfortunately we're still having computer issues over here, so I can't show you any knitting photos (but I finished my Sidewinders, so hopefully I can show you those soon!)

Yet through the magic of iPhone, I can show you this fabulous photo of Jack White and the wonderful mirrorball that took my breath away during Saturday night's show. Actually, it's not that great of a photo, and it doesn't sufficiently show the awesomeness of the light in the venue, but that is okay. I don't know how they did it but it was luminous and amazing, and the effect of the white light and red stage was mesmerizing.

Jack White and mirrorball

Embarrassing confession time: before Saturday, I'd never been to a rock concert, and we kind of went on a whim. We'd talked about it but never got the tickets. So Saturday afternoon we're running over to Vienna, checking craigslist, calling strangers, and generally hoping to luck out and find sold-out floor tickets. Somehow we did, and ended up on the floor about 8 rows back from the railing. I had a lot of fun! Jack was all over the place, and Meg even got up and sang In the Cold Cold Night while Jack hid behind the drum kit. Very entertaining. And we were good and wore earplugs so as not to go deaf quite so quickly!

In other news, I've gotten further in planning the blog overhaul. There's going to be a new name, a new layout, a new color scheme, and a new feel overall. Of course if you read this through RSS you may not notice! However, the url is going to change; I'm not sure if everything will automatically redirect. If it seems like I've fallen off the face of the earth in the next two weeks or so, check in with me because that might not actually be the case.

And finally... another week or so and I should be getting my Ravelry invite! And the overhaul on this end should correspond to a new name over there, too. The check-your-spot-in-line feature at Ravelry is addictive for those of us who are a little antsy....

Friday, July 27, 2007

"Knitting is a stupid hobby"

"Knitting is a stupid hobby." Those few words, spoken by the other member of my household, nearly drove me to inarticulate rage last night.

We had sat down to dinner - enchiladas, if you want to know - and I was in the midst of talking about the new 25th Anniversary Vogue Knitting magazine. I had wanted to share it, show how it was put together, and figured we could have a laugh at the preponderance of advertising and bizarre design that filled its pages. Alas, this was not to be so. Not only was I interrupted with a complete non sequitur on his part, showing me a different magazine from another genre (hello, can you sit down and listen for a minute? you're not the only one here with interests or opinions), but the reaction I got was totally unexpected. I was shaking my head at the latest Maie Landra-Koigu design (a suit set with short tuxedo pants, modular construction to the tune of 55 skeins of KPPPM and sequins, sequins for crying out loud), hoping to get some agreement on the fact that the design as written was prohibitively expensive and a little ridiculous. No, in response, I hear, "of course -- knitting is a stupid hobby."

That about killed my appetite right there (which was a shame; they were good enchiladas).

Look, I don't believe for one second that everybody should be a knitter. It's not economical, it's slow, it's repetitive, and in most cases (unless you're a pattern designer) it's not even that mentally stimulating. I recognize these drawbacks, if you want to call them that. But I enjoy the process; I like choosing colors and patterns and making something that is beautiful, flattering, and interesting.

So why did this comment bother me so much? Yes, it was a little insensitive. As we all know, there's no accounting for taste. I don't have to enjoy playing video games, or collecting porcelain figurines, or working on cars, or breeding cats, or any other hobby out there. I don't expect other people to enjoy knitting. I can't even expect people to like the way knitting looks, and that's acceptable to me. I didn't worry too much when he said that he didn't personally care for the aesthetic of knitting. This is fine - I don't have to like the aesthetic of high heels, cropped pants, or synthetic fibers, and I certainly wasn't trying to force him to wear anything I'd knit.

Our discussion continued and the opposing viewpoint emerged that knitting was slow - so slow as to be a throwback to a pre-mechanized era (which, of course, is true). To the other member of my household, who works with computers, this was anathema. He couldn't understand why anyone would want to make something so slowly, by manual labor, when surely there were faster ways. When I countered that of course there were faster ways, but they were less satisfying and produced different results, his argument gradually seemed to boil down to the idea that I was wasting my time as well as my intelligence on such drudgery.

Part of the argument was about a difference of opinion on aesthetics, and as I said, that's a matter of taste and we don't have to agree there. But the accusation that I was wasting my time and intelligence fell into a different category. I felt insulted. I don't knit all day at the expense of my other important responsibilities. I don't define myself exclusively as a knitter. Why, then, is it so bad that I enjoy something that is slow, that is downright inefficient? How can I explain that it's not always about the product but the process? That it's not about speed but creative expression? That it's about personalizing my wardrobe and my surroundings, about having something unique? I should be able to take pride in this work as much as any other work I do. Why, then, do I feel so belittled?

Monday, July 23, 2007

Beautiful Argosy

Beautiful and delicious. And quick!



I think Argosy gives a lot of bang for the buck, especially if you pick a yarn you love. This is a pretty simple pattern that is easy to memorize and fun to knit. I don't often make things twice, but hey -- I will definitely recommend this pattern.

I wish I could just up and splurge on Noro yarns so often, but maybe these things are like candy: it's only fun if you only get it every once in a while.

The stats:
Pattern: Vyvyan's Argosy, on knitty.com
Yarn: Noro Silk Garden Lite 2011, 2 balls
Needles: #6 circs that were annoyingly long, but they're the only ones I've got
Mods: I widened the scarf to 7 blocks wide rather than 5; I like to wear my fingering-weight Clapotis and figured I'd be happier with a wider, slightly shorter, scarf. I got 22 center-panel repeats with just a little ball of yarn left over. I haven't actually measured the scarf, but it is a nice scarf length and I wouldn't want it to be much longer.
Notes: I got lucky with the yarn. Noro usually ends up with awful knots in inconvenient places in the color progression. In 2 balls I only had one knot and was able to successfully splice my way out of any overly jarring color changes. Before I blocked it I washed it with wool wash and conditioner -- between that and the blocking it feels much softer and drapes nicely.

Here we are, blocking:



This is in the room that is still full of cardboard boxes and unpacked stuff, so it's a miracle I had enough room to block this.

And finally, to see all the colors closer together, the cognitively-dissonant pre-blocking shot.



Modeled shots? Maybe when it's not a million degrees with killer humidity (actually it's gotten better around here and I didn't want to hassle anybody with the photography right now).

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Sidewinders

Please enjoy this slightly stiff photo of my foot inside what actually turned out to be a sock. Can we say, hellooo, awesome vertical stripes?!



Shocking, indeed. With a foot not in it it doesn't seem quite sock-shaped, but I'm sure a washing and a blocking will take care of that. I love my cheap ol' wire coat hanger sock blockers.

I need to get on the ball and make the second sock, but I've spent most of my knitting time today working on the button bands, collar, and sewing on the Grannie Smith cardigan. I've got one sleeve left to set in, the side seams to do, and the buttons to sew on, and then it will be ready for fall. Unfortunately doing the sewing on mohair requires serious natural light, or sitting under my hot hot halogen lamp, so it will have to wait for another day.

I've been killing time today while the other member of my household has savored the latest offering in the J.K. Rowling enterprise; it arrived around 2PM today in a cute little Harry-Potter themed box from Amazon. Wonder what it cost them to print up all of those boxes special, with warnings to muggles and cute little delivery owls. I still have to read the prior 3 books before I get to book 7, so I'm absorbing spoilers and figuring I'll forget them by the time I get to the last book.

Blogging has been stifled in the past week due to computer problems (said other member of household had to take the only computer with iPhoto to work to fill in for a very broken desktop). I didn't want to bore you with no photos whatsoever.

Still to come: Argosy! Cupcakes! Grannie Smith! All with lists and lists and lists of stuff to do, because I forever am trying to organize myself that way.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Madness

While I am probably unable to believe six impossible things before breakfast, I have been able to scare up some weird and wacky things to do.



Like this Sidewinder sock. I hope blocking makes these better, because a fix seems to require ripping out 100% of the sock.



Which I have finished knitting. And I ripped out the provisional cast-on, and have been avoiding trying to graft 125 stitches together all afternoon. I put it around my foot, and I think it will fit. I think. Kind of. It used surprisingly little yarn, which makes me even more suspicious. The thought of stripes running the wrong way for an ordinary sock sways me when I am discouraged....



But I love love love these colors and textures! Even garter stitch is pleasing on little bitty needles, and I really like the feel of it. Even if it is a weirdly shaped object that may or may not actually fit, depending partially on if I can summon up the guts to actually, you know, sew it together. Because if I didn't, that would be a big waste. Guess I need to get on that!

Who wants a mojito cupcake?



Looks yummy, huh?



All lined up and ready to go... sadly these were a disappointment, and for all their attractive qualities were actually rated a C- (!) for achieving mojito flavor. For all the rum and lime and mint I put in these, they turned out more like vaguely minty muffins with weird frosting. No good cakey texture, no hint of rum (except an overwhelming punch from the few that we literally injected rum into)... just a disappointment.



Okay, so they're better than no cupcakes at all. Once these are gone, even though I want to make some orange ones, I think we've had enough citrus (I made lemon bread, too). Mmm, devil's food? Chocolate and peanut butter? Chocolate and amaretto? Chocolate and coconut? The possibilities are endless... until I run out of those little paper wrappers.

Just trying to stay cool and collected in the face of heat, humidity, a never-ending mess in the kitchen, and continued unemployment. Forgive me if I get a little twitchy... but it's time to go knit.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Four Things for a Thursday

Lately I've been thinking about a blog overhaul. We've been considering buying new domain names, and I could actually have an independent blog, all of which sounds cool and scary. With all this time on my hands, I thought, I could surely think of a name that was something clever, easy to remember, and representative of me and my interests. Well, I thought wrong. I am completely free of clever, snappy ideas. It's almost blissful, until I remember that it's really irritating. It's as if I don't know myself well enough to put my essence into a word or two. Then again, maybe it's a good thing that I can't fit into a word or two. Let me know if you think you could do it.

Know what else is really irritating? A room that looks like this:



That's the second bedroom in the apartment, which I tried to tackle today. I got about halfway through and suddenly ran out of closet space. What used to go in a huge walk-in closet now has to fit in about 4 feet of hanging space. The remainder of the closet is full of boxes, and there's nothing I can do about it. Anybody have any good storage solutions?

My blissful state means I've been knitting like crazy.



I am still trying like crazy to get a color-accurate photo of the Pomatomus socks, but I am coming to the conclusion that it's simply impossible.



These have been the bane of my existence for way longer than they should have been. Pomotomus got its introductory post way back in last September. I knit the first cuff on #2s, decided it was too big. Ripped. Remade the entire sock on #1s, which, of course, was too small. Waited until I could swap for #1.5 dpns, which aren't made by too many manufacturers. Ripped out the entire first sock and started over. Then when I finished it it mostly fit but the toe was too pointy. At that point I decided to give in and make the second sock, which was finished in line waiting for the iPhone; I ripped out the first toe and re-did it then, too. Finally they are done!

Yarn: Brown Sheep Wildfoote, 2 skeins.
Needles: #1.5 bamboo dpns (2.5mm)
Time to complete: 9 MONTHS
Mods: Stubby toes for my wide feet
Comments: This yarn is wonderful; beautiful jewel-like colors, but it's overdyed. It crocked (transferred by rubbing) all over my bamboo needles, which are sort of bluish now. And when I washed and blocked the socks, the water ran a gorgeous, brilliant electric blue. This seems to be fairly common for Brown Sheep yarns, so I wasn't surprised. But if you see me wandering around with blue feet, maybe these are the reason why.

On the other end of things, breaking a land speed record for finishing was the Baby Surprise Jacket. I love love love innovative patterns, and this has been one of my favorites for fun construction techniques. I think everyone who tries it and is careful to follow the directions feels the same way. I stumped a friend last night with the unfolded sweater when I asked him to fold it into the proper shape... it's such a neat feeling to transform the non-flat surface into something wearable (that is, if you're small). And I was so excited about it coming together that I neglected to take a photo of it unfolded.



Yarn: Hobby Kids, just a little over 3 skeins
Needles: #7 nylon circs
Time to complete: 3 days
Comments: Ok, so I messed up the buttonholes. That's okay. And it still needs buttons. That's okay too.
This wasn't my first BSJ; you can see that one (which, I have to admit, I like a little better) here. And there is a great shot of BSJ topography here.

Continuing in the realm of strange and wonderful construction techniques (huh, guess I must be feeling adventurous lately) are these.



Just like the ruffly thing turned into a baby sweater, this somehow is going to turn into a sock. Fabulous. I'm enjoying the Lorna's Laces and I think the instructions for the Sidewinders are exhaustively well written. Not looking forward to two giant grafts, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it!

Last but not least, there is Argosy. I need a new scarf or wrap for the fall, and while I wasn't initially that impressed with the photos on the knitty pattern, seeing Argosy up close and personal changed my opinion.



Noro Silk Garden Lite is yummy, especially when you get it on discount from the yarn store where you were once employed as a graduation/going away gift! Thank you, Linda and Sara! I joined the KAL so I guess I should go introduce myself over there.

The marbled cupcakes are all gone (there were only twelve!). Next in the cupcake lineup looks like mojito cupcakes. Sounds good for summer, doesn't it?

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Marble Cupcakes

Even though it was almost 100 degrees and humid here yesterday, I ran the oven to bake cupcakes. Normally I'd balk at the energy use, especially with the air conditioning on (we really should get a toaster oven) but these were a special request from my overworked partner-in-moving. And since moving is a pain in the neck, he gets what he asks for.



Marbled cupcakes, from scratch. I used the old Betty Crocker Dinette Cake recipe (the original edition of this says something along the lines of " 'most cakes are too large for my small family!' Here's one you can actually finish before it goes stale!") so it wouldn't make so many, partially because I didn't want 2 dozen cupcakes hanging around, partially because I didn't have enough sugar, and partially because I only have two six-cup muffin tins. I had almost forgotten what real cake tastes like because I've made too many box mix cakes lately. The only drawback is that I don't have an electric mixer, and I actually gave myself a blister beating the batter by hand. How silly!



And if marbled cake wasn't enough, these ended up with marbled frosting, too. This was not as successful, but still fun.

I went to the grocery store this morning, and they had super-fancy decorated cupcakes, with flowers and fruit and even some with frosting octopi on them. But I bet none of them were marbled!

I don't think I'll be venturing out any more today. It's well on its way to breaking 95 again today and if I don't have to be out in it, I'm not going to.

I just joined the Argosy KAL, so I think I'll get started on the scarf... but I also want to swatch for Sidewinders and I wound the yarn last night. And I have to cook ravioli filling. But I think the very first thing I'll do is have another one of those cupcakes. Yum.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Home Sweet Home

...more or less. I moved this weekend and while nobody likes moving, I'm glad it's over and I had no major snags with packing, driving, unloading or returning the truck.

Most of the public space in the apartment was unpacked yesterday.

This, however, is what the spare room looks like:

Moving leftovers

Same boxes, different apartment. I have to find room for all of that somewhere (where, I don't know) and make that useable as a guest room again. Yikes.

But I have found free time to knit! Hooray! To celebrate being all in one place, I'm starting a whole bunch of projects.

Current projects

There is Noro Silk Garden Lite in a beautiful colorway (greys, pinks, purple, brown) for an Argosy scarf.
There is Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock in Bittersweet for Sidewinder socks, which I have been dying to try since the pattern came out.
And there is about half of a Baby Surprise Jacket in Hobby Kids, which I started yesterday. No, there is no emergency knitting needed for imminent babies, but I like to have at least one baby sweater in reserve should the occasion arise. I'm so happy to just be able to sit down and see all my stash and knit whatever I like. Again, this is my poor sick mind in denial over the fact that I really do need a job and I can't stay home and knit and do laundry (and bake cupcakes!) all day. Even if it's going to be 99 out today.

I will miss my knitting friends from Delaware as I look for new people to hang out and knit with here in Alexandria!

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Transitions

After weeks of pretending -- and believing -- I've moved to Virginia, I had to come back to Delaware and face reality. I might have been living in VA but all my stuff was in DE. It's amazing how long you can live out of a suitcase provided you have laundry facilities....

But this is my reality:
packing

A living room full of boxes and tubs. For a (ex-)grad student, I don't have that many books, but for somebody who wants to move, I have way too many books. Funny that.

And gee, in this photo you can't hardly see the two giant tubs of yarn, or the two sewing machines, or the, um, other tub worth of yarn that hasn't been packed yet. Right. This is what a yarn diet gets me?

The kitchen and the closets haven't been touched. Those are next. Yuck....