Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Stuff on My Mind

Sometimes, I have to take a reality check.

I'm struggling these days because I have lots of family in the Philippines, and since Typhoon Ondoy hit last week, I've been worried about my aunt. We hadn't heard from her since last Wednesday. Thankfully, we did get word from her that she is ok.

What disturbs me most about this awful event is my relative forgetfulness of the seriousness of these disasters. I mean, they happen a lot in that part of the world, but it feels like I'm becoming more and more desensitized to them. It's the Philippines... they have disasters...

Something that really shook me today, however, was seeing this video, showing a family literally being swept away by the water. That water is going really fast! Imagine the terror of both the family and the onlookers. I struggle to hold back the tears watching it. This is real. This happened.

I hope and pray that I will never, ever get used to seeing these disasters, and that I will not be insensitive to the real suffering that goes on in the world. I'm not saying that I should be sad and depressed all the time. Rather, I want to be aware, awake, conscious, and not too wrapped up in the little things that, ultimately, don't really matter.

Anne Morrow Lindbergh wrote:

I do not believe that sheer suffering teaches. If suffering alone taught, all the world would be wise, since everyone suffers. To suffering must be added mourning, understanding, patience, love, openness and the willingness to remain vulnerable.
Perhaps it is fear of being that vulnerable that causes us to become "used" to seeing the worst. It can be difficult to be brave enough to watch things happen, things that we can not control. But if we don't, how can we teach our children empathy, care, and kindness? For, if we can not see why we should be kind, and the difference that it makes in these situations, how can anyone want to be kind?

It's time for me to remember to stay awake and conscious of life, and how it can easily be swept away, and to be aware of how important it is to make the most of every little thing I do.

Anne Morrow Lindbergh also wrote:
I must write it all out, at any cost. Writing is thinking. It is more than living, for it is being conscious of living.
In the same way, I think I could say that I must create at all costs, for it is more than doing. It is being conscious of doing, of sensations, of the wonder of my muscles that are making these things. It is being conscious of the miracle of being this person, this combination of atoms and molecules that walks and speaks and makes.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Still Rockin' After Dockin'

Well, here I am, on dry land. We arrived home yesterday, after the ship docked early in the morning in Vancouver. I only had one day of seasickness, and then I seemed to adjust to any rocking after that.

The only problem is that my body doesn't seem to want to stop swaying. I'm hoping I haven't become landsick.

Anyway, I had a wonderful trip. I saw all the things you expect to see in Alaska: whales, dolphins, eagles, otters, seals, sea lions... and I ate like there was no tomorrow. I tried to abstain, but when they put the cake right next to the salad bar, what are ya gonna do?

We arrived in Vancouver in the morning and boarded the ship at around lunchtime. I had a minor meltdown upon arriving at the docks - I was so worried that I felt sick on the train from the airport. After lunch (of which I did not eat much because I was afraid of the my tummy disagreeing later), I felt much better. After the obligatory safety and lifeboat practice, we set sail with the sun setting, off to Alaska!

We spent the first day sailing, and on Tuesday, we docked at Juneau. It was wet and grey, but it was still so cool to be there.

Hubby and I didn't have any plans here... we just walked around the shops, bought all the souvenirs (t-shirts, mainly, because I'm Filipino, and that's what you buy), and found a shop where I could buy a flash card for my camera (because I realized that I didn't bring the cord to download my pictures, and I only had a 128MB CF card).

We decided to find the library, because we figured we may as well take advantage of the free wireless there (hubby works all the time), and on the way there, I turned my head, looked up, and what did I see? Skeins of yarn, hanging in the window on the second floor of the building I was passing.

"Stop!" I say.

"Wha?" Hubby says.

"We are going across the street right now," I say.

And we did. The store was called Skeins, and on the steps on the way up, we met Sophie, the yarn dog, who greeted us with a sniff, and who proceeded to follow hubby around because he's the one the doggies all love.

What a great little shop! It carried a whole bunch of the standards: Noro, Cascade, Debbie Bliss. But who wants to buy the same ol' stuff that you can get back home?

I just noticed the sale shelf on the left there!

I asked if there was anything local in the shop, and the lovely owner brightened up and led me to the far wall where I found a wall of Rabbit Ridge yarn, as well as Raven Frog Fibre Arts yarn.It was all handspun and hand dyed and painted, in wool, silk, rayon... lovely big skeins. I settled on a skein of Rabbit Ridge sock yarn in the colourway called Turquoise Sand. So lovely...

Now that I think about it, I really wish I'd bought a skein of the Raven Frog as well. I was being mindful of a budget, but it would have been nice to get another Alaskan yarn. Maybe after Christmas, I'll see if it's possible to order some. There was a beautiful skein of raspberries and creams that was just speaking to me.

Yes, I went to Alaska and broke my yarn diet. And it didn't even stop in Juneau...

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Going Along Swimmingly - Trying to, anyway...

Still haven't packed yet. My excuse is that I'm waiting for another load of laundry to dry. The forecast for Alaska looks cold and rainy, but it couldn't rain the whole time could it? The positive side to this is that I have FABULOUS hair in damp weather. I never used any product in my hair when we lived in Belfast because of it.

I'm actually truly worried about motion-sickness while we're on the boat. I'm terrible with it. I have a fair arsenal of things to try to keep it in stead, including ginger tablets, wrist bands, and Gravol. Someone has suggested to me to cut the Gravol into quarters, so that it doesn't totally knock me out (as it sometimes does). I forgot to buy some soda crackers, but I'm guessing the boat will have something to nourish me in the event that I can't keep anything down. I'm trying not to think about it, but I really don't want to be the person ruining the whole trip with my pathetic stomach.

I'm still really excited about it. I've been restless all week, thinking about all the new things I'll see, and maybe some of the new people I'll meet. I'm not much of a partier - haven't been since I was in university. I'm really looking forward to walking on new land, seeing new landscapes, sitting in new places, watching the world and people go by.

I managed to score a destashed kit for last March's Year of Lace. It will be the Woodland Shawl, and I'm so excited for when it arrives in the mail. Last night, while thinking about it, and about Alaska, a little idea hatched in my mind: would it be possible to knit silhouettes of a mountain landscape, in reds, burgandies, purples? Probably in intarsia, maybe with some lace around the top border. Has anyone done this before? Could I do it? Can I make it happen? Hmmm...

It sort of puts me in mind of some art that a friend of mine has in her home that her husband purchased while he was in China. They are charcoal smudgings, where the artist uses the side of the hand, dips it in charcoal dust, and then rubs his hand up and down, creating silhouettes of mountains, trees, water... some of them are remarkably detailed. I wish I could find an example to share. I may go over sometime and take some pictures of them.

I'm realizing that my posts have been somewhat devoid of any visuals, but I'm sure I'll have plenty to share when we get back!

Monday, September 14, 2009

To Travel as a Hooker

This is a post about CROCHET, ok? Because that's what you're supposedly called when you crochet. You crochet with a hook, therefore, you are a hooker. And you wanna know something else? My mother taught me this craft. Ha!

Alright, enough with my clever innuendos. Let's just say I couldn't let the cable-stroking thing go.

Knitters are constantly on edge about whether or not you can fly with knitting needles. This airline says yes, this article says no. Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA, or Catsass, as my hubby likes to call it) doesn't currently outright say if it's ok. They sort of gloss over it, saying that any other items not on the list but may pose a threat may be removed. It depends on the day, or position of the moon, how scary you look... I dunno. I won't argue it. I mean, I understand that it's important the people feel safe, and really, I don't want to be the person to provide some psycho with a weapon just because I wanted to finish a scarf.

Anyway, I tend not to bring my knitting along on any holiday requiring air transport because of this, but naturally, being the OCD crafter I am, I need something to keep my hands and brain busy. I can only read for so long, and I can only poke my husband to ask him about the time so many times (I don't wear a watch - I have crazy corrosive sweat).

So, crochet it is. I have plans, people. I intend to work on either of these two projects: The Spiral Scrubbie by Judith Prindle (which will help me work through the embarrassing amount of Handicrafter Cotton in the basement) and the Victoria's Secret Skirt.

I was collecting leeks in my garden for dinner last night (which I can not share with you, because I'm Asian, and it is the mission of all Asians to keep our food secret so that the rumours of what each dish is actually composed of can provide us with entertainment for many generations), and it occurred to me that I spend a heck of a lot more time these days planning what projects to pack for vacation than I do planning what clothes I should pack. What does that say about me?

Anyway, I am not in a very good headspace today. I decided to start my second sleeve for my Copycat Sears Cardigan on dpns. My Denise cables kept coming apart with the other sleeve, and I was spending a lot of time picking up stitches and muttering, "crap, crap, crap, crap..." This sleeve has been coming along alright on the dpns, except I realized that I forgot to do that last two increases, so I spent the greater part of my lunch hour trying to go back and create the stitches with my needles. I've given up until I can get home and find a crochet hook before the whole thing felts with my frustration. My hooker side will save me, I know!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Things That Continue to Amaze Me

1) People who write seamless patterns.
2) How cables just pop up while you're knitting.
3) How strands of wool will just felt together to make one continuous strand of yarn.
4) How good Jennifer Garner looks in those pants in Elektra.

I've been spending a lot of time this week on working on my Copycat Sears Cardigan. So far, I've just about finished the first sleeve. I'm determined to finished the second sleeve before next weekend, before I go on vacation for a week. We're going on a cruise to Alaska, and while I fully intend to bring something to work on with me, it won't be this project. I just have visions of it falling into the water somewhere and felting, or losing my luggage with my WIP in it. Notice that I don't have any fears about the boat actually sinking... just fear about losing my knitting!

Anyway, I thought I'd better stop and take some photos of this thing at this point. Sometimes, it's just good stop and stroke the cables. That was actually going to be the title of this post, but I thought better of it - I mean, if I ever become famous, I'd hate for the cable-stroking thing to come back to haunt me!

As you can see, the cables are quite serpentine in the way they undulate along the sleeve. I still have one more repeat of the pattern to go, but I'll stop at 20 inches so that it can be joined to the body later on. I think that, now that I've got the hang of it, I can get the other sleeve done fairly quickly.

I happened to pick up my copy of the Holiday issue from Vogue Knitting 2006, and I happened to flip to a page showing the Ribbed Waist Top by Gayle Bunn. It's sort of an asian-inspired, kimono sleeve top. It's strange - I happened to be in a coffee shop earlier this week and found a top in the most recent issue of Elle that I really liked, and it happened to resemble this one. I think I'd like to make it for myself - make it my size, add some short rows at the bust, and embroider some flowers onto the shoulder. It'll actually be something like I top I had a few years ago that I really miss.

I've been realizing more and more how much I like spending time figuring out these patterns in my head, solving problems, finding ways to make things fit better. It's been very relaxing. I suppose that's what makes people knit, crochet, sew... it's the joy of making things work, and being able to twist and turn shapes in your head, to see things from all sides. I used to do it a lot when I made jewelry as well. I never thought I was very good at that before. Maybe I'm better at it since I started knitting!

The problem is now I'm obsessing about what yarn I'll use for this project. Come on, I'm in NO position to be buying any more yarn! But, if I happen to come across a cornflower or electric blue in DK weight in a cotton/rayon/viscose blend, well...

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Ode to

Indigirl tweeted in my ear yesterday that we should support with stories of how the website has changed our lives. That might sound like a strange request, but it didn't seem very strange to me once I started thinking about it. So, here's how Knitty changed me for the better:

I moved back to Canada in 2006 after living for a number of years in the UK. I thought, hey, I've got some unique work experience. I'll get a job no problem. Just a matter of time...

After four months of waiting and working a few odd jobs here and there, I applied for a job as the Event Coordinator at my local Michaels. At the time, I was starting my Etsy shop, and thought that, apart from having some cash, it would be great to get the discount so I could build my supply stash (hmm, that's another story yet again...).

The neat thing about Michaels is that it's full of people who know how to make EVERYTHING. Want to paint? Sure! The girl in the frameshop has a class. Cardmaking? Of course! Scrapbooking? Fuggedabahdit. Knitting? Go talk to Fran.

So, I talked to Fran. I already knew how to crochet, so the transition was relatively easy. I trawled through the patterns in the yarn section (I did this on work time, since it was part of my job to put them out), and chose a few things I wanted to make. One fateful day, a customer left an old copy of Vogue Knitting in the store, and it ended up in my classroom.

Well, that was it. I had to make everything in that magazine. I just needed to know how.

Enter I learned a ton from this site (and still do). And, while looking through all the sections, I entered the free pattern section and found Indigirl's Rosedale pattern on Knitty.

I know. Ironic, huh?

Ok, so what's the big deal? Well, what surprised me most about Knitty was how homey the website felt. (Yes, I feel websites.) I felt like the people who ran the thing really got that I was hungry for the hip and beautiful stuff they offered. I read every single article, even emailed a few of the designers on the first day. And they replied the next day. These people shared my hunger, my need to try everything, to learn and to create.

Knitty changed me from a girl who wanted to knit into a knitter. I read and worked through enough of those patterns to know what worked, what didn't work, and what was just plain crazy.

About a year later, in my local library, my hubby pointed out a book displayed at the front. It was called Big Girl Knits. I'm a big girl (curvy, ok?). And who wrote it? Why, Knitty's own Jillian Moreno and Amy R. Singer. They found me again! And I learned... oh did I learn!

So, Knitty is one of the most wonderful websites I have ever found, and when I meet knitters here and there, they ALL know it. It's like we are all alumni from this great school, like Julliard, or the school in Fame that I can't remember the name of.

Cheers, Knitty! Thanks for all of your hard work and dedication! And if you ever need someone to work for you, well... ahem... waves...

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Social Networking - is anyone really out there?

I've been chatting with a friend (we'll call him Dawg) about this blog and about whether or not anyone really cares about what I write here. He says, "Well, you have to MAKE them care."

Alright people, listen up. You are going to care, or the knitting needle here on my desk is going to MAKE you care. I'm telling you. Don't resist. It'll be a messy, irritating wound.

I've signed up for Google Analytics (and it's making me giggle because the tab at the top of my Firefox window currently says, "Google Anal") and so far, I've had some pretty decent statistics, despite the fact that I really haven't told too many people about this blog.

It's funny - I read other people's blogs, sometimes religiously. I feel like I know these people, but I really don't. And really, the stuff you write on a blog is really the noise that goes on inside your head. I often wonder if that's how these people actually talk.

In case you are wondering, yes, this is how I actually talk. Or speak. Whatever the correct term is.

Is it part of my generation now to form relationships with people we've never actually met? Absolutely. One of my very dearest friends lives in Sweden, and I've only ever met him in the flesh once. That was after almost 10 years of talking to him online and in email. Is there anything wrong with that? I don't think so. In fact, it was only after I started chatting to people online that I realized the wideness of the world - and really felt that the possibility of traveling around the world was real. If that's not a positive mark for social networking, then I don't know what is!

I did, however, turn down the opportunity to join a local bowling league recently. I weighed the pros and cons carefully - I would make new friends, get some mild exercise, get out of the house. The thing that did it? Budget. I mean, I could be spending that money on yarn!

Anyway, enough of my little musings. If you're reading this and enjoying this, then thank you for taking the time. I do sincerely hope we get to chat one day about things we find mutually interesting.

By the way - a knitting needle wound IS terrible. I once got one jammed right into my thigh. But that's another story...

Changing my shoes and sweater Mr. Rogers-style and making my exit.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Brain... unable... to function...

Woooooweeee... Pattern writing is difficult! I'm trying to write out a pattern for myself to make this sweater, which I spied on the website:

I've got the wool all ready to go - it's the Cascade 220 that I balled yesterday (well, I made one ball, ok?). I've been spending a lot of time thinking of all the finer details, like: how do I increase in seed stitch? How do I make those pockets? When should I start decreasing at the neckline to get that nice collar? Owwwww... my brain hurts. I think I've got the pattern to the state where I can't really continue until I start working on it.

I also spent this morning making a test sleeve for this project. I'm using the cabled sleeve from Mariah, which was featured on a couple of years ago. I'm getting rid of the purl "background" on each edge and just throwing those cables in to float in the seed stitch, all raised and celtic-like. I still don't know when I'm going to start the cables on the front yet, but I'm guessing I'll start them earlier than later - it'd look dumb to just have them start before I have to finish them!

Apparently, seed stitch relaxes a bit more than stockinette. I'm using Amy Swenson's Rosedale as a template for this design (which I made last year for myself), but I may have to make it a size smaller than I would have, just to account for the positive ease, but I think I may just wait to see how the sleeves turn out before I do that.

All this waiting is not fun. I am planning to cast on later this afternoon on a smaller project before I tackle this one. I need a bit of space from this. I just don't know how pattern-writers do it!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Self-portraits - or, why I am not a model

Ok, first of all, I did not run out of yarn for my jacket, which I have named the Unwilling Noro Project. I managed to salvage every single scrap of yarn I had left and finished the whole thing, including the border at the neck. I think it looks pretty good, for something I just threw together. The neck and back could be narrower, but meh, it's done, and I'm fairly happy with it. I just have never found a yarn that was so unwilling to be made into anything, hence the name.

One of the most difficult problems I have is taking photographs of myself wearing my projects. I'm always disappointed by what I look like. I think I have this filter over my eyes that makes me think I look better than I actually do, as most women do. Case in point, the taking of these pictures.

I originally took pictures of this project in the bathroom. I thought, hey, I have a mirror, I can put the camera in front of it so that I can see the display in the mirror, position myself accordingly, and bada bing, bada boom, photos of me!

The weird thing was, even though I could see myself in the mirror, the resulting photos were NOTHING like I thought I looked like. And well, the lighting wasn't good for the colours in the jacket, so, back to the drawing board for moi.

You might wonder how I'm taking this photos without assistance. The secret? The Quick Pod.

Please excuse the junk in the background. The dining table is doomed to be my junk repository.

Anyway, I purchased this handy-dandy little tripod at the local IGA for the low price of $16.99, and have found it extremely useful ever since. The original purpose was to take photos for my (now closed) Etsy jewelry shop. I find it ever so useful to take all the natural-light photos of anything I make with minimal wobble. I set my camera up on it, set the timer and let it go, and voila: clear photos!

The Quick Pod shrinks down into a nice, compact set of pieces, and comes in with a little carrying bag.

The little chrome telescopic legs are removable, and the telescopic "neck" can be adjusted to two heights, which comes in handy for those times when you are standing in front of the Eiffel Tower and have no one to take your photo (I dunno, this was the example that came with the instructions). If you want, you can hold it out in front of you to take pictures, or set it on the table.

Here are the photos I took of myself with this gadget. I thought they turned out pretty darn ok.

In other news (dude, it's news for me), I swatched for a new project today: Sweater Babe's Chic Cables and Lace Cowl Neck for my mom. It calls for size 10 3/4 needles. I have 10 1/2 and 11. Figures. Luckily, I'm getting gauge with size 11 (or 8 mm). I also took some advice and blocked the swatch with some hair conditioner, which has softened the wool considerably. I'm sure there are folks out there who would disagree with my choice of softener, but I think I'll stick with this for now, and then buy some Eucalan or Soak so that my mom can wash this sweater without having to worry.

I also balled a skein of Cascade 220 in burgandy. My friend Lisa says balling wool is relaxing for her. Well, it started out that way, until I got tangled up like a cat on catnip in a wool shop. Luckily, it only took me an hour to escape! I'm going to swatch for another project with this - a sweater that Sears had in their catalogue that does not come in my rather substantial size. I'm going to create the pattern a la Elizabeth Zimmerman and knit it from the bottom up - at least, that's the plan. We'll see what comes of the swatch.

Onwards and upwards!

Friday, September 4, 2009

It's just not enough

Argh... I'm working on my Noro Chirimen jacket, and I've just realized that I'm not going to have enough yarn to finish it. Sigh. I hate it when this happens.

There are a couple of frustrating things about this:

1) The obvious. I'm not going to get it done, and I won't get it done until I can get into the city to find another two balls of it.
2) This yarn has been a huge disappointment from the start, and I can't help but think that I would have had a much better experience with another yarn.
3) I hate having unfinished projects lying around.

I bought this based on all the hype and positive talk about Noro, mainly about their Silk Garden. I thought, well, this is Noro, it's beautiful, it's got great colourways, why not?

I've discovered that Chirimen is an over-priced disappointment. It shreds, falls apart, and it's absolutely full of knots. Of course, I discovered THOSE reviews after I started working with it.

I went to the Noro website and found this on their "About Us" section:
The basic principle for NORO Yarn is "Spin yarn by hand" Use machinery only for what cannot be done by hand. This hand-spun yarn is made from finely dyed wool,lined faithfully according to color and weight, carefully maintaining the slow spinning speed by our crafts persons. Since the human hand is used in the spinning process, the natural luster and texture are obtained without considerably impairing the wool fiber. Lining up the yarn by hand results in irregular arrangement of wool, thereby giving the yarn more bulk. The features of the NORO Yarn are lightness. softness and loftiness. Please view the thickness of our yarn as an average value. Because it is a handmade yarn with raw materials being weighed and lined by human hands, thera are areas that are thick and areas that are thin. There are areas where the strand is tight and where the strand is loose, so please knit gently and discover the joy of knitting NORO yarns.
You know, there is plenty of handspun yarn out there that is of absolutely perfect quality. Granted, Chirimen is at a cheaper price point, but really, I paid $10.95 for 75m. Surely, I should get a better quality yarn for that

About the knots:
Unlike other yarn. handmade NORO Yarn cannot be continuously spun without knots. Spun yarn is finished by rolling up at aboute 80-90 grams.
Then the yarn is knotted together in a ball or hank. Please understand that in some cases, there may be a knot or two in your ball or hank of handspun NORO Yarn.

A knot or two? I found knots within the first 10 inches of the ball. That is just silly.

So, my problem here is that I want to finish this project, but I'm not liking it. I want to like it. I want to feel the normal pride and happiness that I feel when I finish something. I think I will, but this will be a difficult one to get through.


Wednesday, September 2, 2009

A domesticated animal

Over the past few years, as I've shared my interest in crafting, homecooking and gardening, I've often heard the remark, "My, aren't you domesticated!" Girls that I know who don't normally cook will pull something out of the oven and say, "How domesticated am I?" It's a word that irks me. I've spent a little time thinking about why.

I think it's because it seems to belittle the amount of time and passion that I put into the things I make. It implies that I'm a "good little wife" with no brain and nothing else better to do. Quite the contrary. I like to believe so, anyway.

"Domesticated" brings to mind cows and chickens, animals that came from wild stock that have been farmed, made docile and quiet, who will submit to being handled and moved around. A good little animal.

Well, darn it, I am not a cow.

I love what I do. I love having things to work on, and I love talking about what I am working on. I recently brought a necklace to work that a colleague has been waiting ages for me to fix. To make sure I did work on it, I left my current crochet project at home. I finished the necklace over my lunch hour and immediately felt bereft. I had nothing to do! Nothing to work on! I missed my yarn!

No, I am not domesticated. I am artful, crafty... and useful. I feel joy in my heart when I can create. It just so happens that I create with yarn, with food, with plants and with jewelry. I like to be at home with my family, sitting on the couch, on the deck, in the kitchen. I like to chop vegetables. I enjoy making dinner, even when I'm stressed and on a time limit. I rejoice when I can pull it all together. It makes me feel good about myself, especially on the days when things don't work out so well at work.

Please don't put me out to pasture. I just want to knit and crochet.