Monday, February 25, 2013

Inspiration Mondays: Vargas Knitting

I have pretty good focus, most of the time. And when I say focus, I mean the concentration kind. And when I say concentration, I mean obsessive concentration. And by that, I mean that, when I am concentrating on something that I am obsessed about, smoke sometimes comes out of my ears.

Yesterday, I finally remembered that I had been given a gift certificate for a skein of yarn from my friend Tara's shop. As luck would have it (we'll call it luck), I couldn't decide between two skeins, so I decided to buy one and use my certificate for the other. The reddish skein is called Wacky Watermelon, and the one in front is called 1957 Chevy.

That's the object of my obsession.

It's the colour of a lot of the cute vintage kitchenware I come across in vintage and second-hand shops. It's like a pale blue/mint/robin's egg... well, 1957 Chevy colour, really. And it got me thinking about other 50's/60's vintage stuff I love so much:

Mad Men Fashion:

Vintage luggage (yeah, that baby is mine):

And Vargas girls:

So, I started wondering: is it possible for me to knit something inspired by the famous pin ups that Vargas used to paint? I started searching, looking at image after image for something that might be something I could make. Page after page of these over-the-top, curvy beauties finally brought me to this image:

That shrug she's wearing... I think I could work with that. It's interesting: flowy and textured. I could wear that... except with maybe a little less cleavage and stockings. I know, it's probably not Vargas if there's no cleavage, but if I'm gonna make something like this, I have to at least wear it in public. My mother reads this blog, after all.

Anyway, today I am inspired by the 1957 Chevy skein and the intense, swooping shapes of the 50's and 60's. And maybe I can figure out how to bring a little more shazaam to this knitting thing I do. Wish me luck!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Things That Should Take An Hour

In no particular order, here are some things that ought to take an hour.
  • One of Rascal's haircuts.
  • A batch of muffins, from mixing to removal from the oven.
  • The bus ride from my parents' house to the university (at least, it used to, back in the Dark Ages when I went to school).
  • The first rise of a loaf of bread.
  • A good massage.
  • Knitting a couple of inches on a sweater...
Except, no... that doesn't happen here. It seems to take way longer for that last one to happen.

I've been speeding along with my Rosamund's Cardigan, but you know the problem with speeding, right? Sometimes you go quickly, but sometimes, you get pulled over for being silly enough to rush.

I had a chance to sit down and work on this sweater last night. I worked a few rows, and thought to myself, I think I'm almost ready to start the lower border on this thing. I wonder if it's long enough yet?  I usually need to knit a few extra inches on my sweaters because most patterns are too short for my torso, but I have yet to actually write down a measurement for myself for my own reference. Instead, I knit, then try on, then rip out, then knit some more... and somehow, I end up with a sweater.

I tried this one on and thought, Three more inches, then I'll knit the border. That should take me about an hour or so...

But no... that didn't happen. Instead:
  • My Denise needles came apart for the ten billionth time and one of my cables fell apart.
  • I tried putting the needles back together, but dropped some stitches on the cable.
  • I tried putting the cable back together, but I got some of the stitches twisted up the wrong way.
  • I spent the rest of the hour unravelling the cable down for five rows and working them back up, which took extra long because it was at the end of a row and it's always messier at the end of the row...

At the very least, I'm smart enough to know to quit while I'm ahead. I spent the rest of the evening winding another skein of yarn, enough to finish the sleeves, then I did some stretching and chatted with some friends online before I went to bed.

So, I'm stalled on this sweater right now, but I today I get to go over to Tara's house for a knitting afternoon. Perhaps tea and treats and good yarn gabbing will set me back on the right track again.

Did someone say treats?

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Inspiration Mondays on a Tuesday: From an Old Dog

You are never too old to set another goal or dream a new dream. --Aristotle 
I had a really good tiger dream. Also, I want to be a spy when I grow up. Or own a Sushi restaurant. --Amelia, age 4
I met a lady at the pool a couple of weeks ago who walked up to me and started chatting to me like she knew me. This happens to me quite a lot. I think it's either because I must look like someone people know already, or I must have a terrible memory for people's names and faces. Either way, a lot of people walk up and just start talking to me...

Anyway, she started chatting to me about swimming, and the pool, her grandchildren, and about people we seemed to mutually know, and then she said, "You know, I'm really grateful for the people here at the pool. They've helped me quite a lot."

"Oh?" I said.

"Yes," she said. "I wanted to learn how to swim a couple of years ago, and they taught me. I wanted to be able to get into the water with my grandkids if we went on holiday and there was a pool there. I'm a slow swimmer, but I'm slowly getting stronger."

"That's amazing!" I said. "Well done!"

Later on, I spent more time thinking about it, and I was amazed all over again. I don't know of anyone who has decided to learn to swim as an adult, never mind as a grandparent. I mean, many people take up walking or running or even knitting, but swimming involves being comfortable with someone showing you how to time your breathing so you don't drown. That's a lot of trust and a big habit you have to develop. But she's done it, and that's so cool.

I like to think of myself as being pretty brave and willing to try new things, but that's not necessarily true. I like the safety of the regular, the same ol', the day-to-day. There have been times in my life, though, when I've taken the plunge and was ready to make a new reality, to wake up in new places and in new circumstances and in a new way of life. I haven't felt that for a long time. It is inspiring to see that it is indeed still a possibility, even though I'm not in my twenties anymore.

So, maybe I shouldn't feel so silly if I still have aspirations to be a spy, or own a sushi restaurant, or to work with tigers. If the lady in the pool didn't drown, then I won't either. A few new tricks might be what this old dog needs.

Maybe I better tell him that, too. Though, I'm pretty sure his aspirations are pretty much set for sleep, walks and the occasional barking fit. But who knows? He may surprise me yet...

Sunday, February 17, 2013


Last week was the sort of week that you just sum up with one word: survival. And while I did make it through the week, it resulted in a house that looks something like this:

And it also results in desserts that look something like this:

Luckily, it's a long weekend here (except for the couple of hours I had to work on Saturday night), and that means lots and lots and lots of time to clean the house play with yarn. It started out with a bit of project-planning, as was the case for these skeins, which are going to become a version of Claudia Geiger's Grande Plage Cardigan:

Then after that, it was all out yarn-wading. I pulled out skeins from my shelves and my baskets and just put them together for the sake of pure admiration. Here's a group of pinks and raspberries:

A bunch of blues:

My own hand dyed silvery greens:

My beloved reds:

I love colour, what can I say? The saturated jewel tones are my favourite, and my stash is chock full of them. What surprised me, though, is that I seem to be moving toward a trend of the more gentle pastels and neutrals. Here is a pile that I've been musing over for a long time. It is perhaps this long, frosty winter that is pushing me in that direction. I kept glimpsing these colours as I walked with Rascal yesterday afternoon:

While I walked back and forth from the table to my yarn stash(es), the hubby looked up from the couch and said, "Do you have enough room for all of those?"

"Of course I do," I said, as I stuffed some skeins back into a vase on the side table.

I don't have a problem. No, I don't.

Anyway, all this yarn means that I have to make sure I put energy into knitting them up into things. Here's a little preview of my Rosamund Cardigan in progress. Let us not dwell on the mountain of stash that awaits. Let us just lose ourselves in the beautiful cables in this pattern...

Keep your eyes on the cables... nevermind the stash...

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Inspiration Mondays on a Tuesday: Just Sweaters

Today, quite simply, I am inspired by yarn. No big shocker, but this is different. This is sweater yarn.

After nearly a year of abstaining from knitting myself a garment while I was becoming healthier, lowering my blood pressure, and losing weight, I am finally able to say, "I think I'll knit myself a sweater." And that is a big, big deal, because:
  • I've had to watch others make beautiful things that I couldn't cast on for.
  • I've had to endure disapproval of this personal health project, both verbal and silent.
  • I've spent almost a year beating up this body day after day and being extra careful of what I put into my mouth so I could reach this day.
  • I can now knit a sweater with significantly less yarn than I ever could before, because I'm 79 pounds smaller, and that's a LOT of yarn I don't need to cover myself.
Luckily, WEBS had a big sale of Cascade 220 in discontinued colours that coincided with me reaching my health goals. That was quite decent of them, really, to hold a sale for this occasion... ahem...

Lots of people asked me what I would do when I got to my goal. And finally I said, "I will knit myself lots and lots of sweaters." And most people thought I was crazy when I said that.

But I think I'm pretty lucky, myself, because I made it. And now... I get my reward.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Infinity, Tested

I've had a busy, productive Sunday so far. Worked out, walked the dog, and then cooked my face off. My kitchen now has a batch of bean and chickpea soup (lunch for the week), fresh pita (for the freezer), pre-made banana and almond porridge (breakfast for the week), baked falafel (also for the freezer) and lemon and poppy muffins (for my tummy). In a continued fit of efficiency, the dishes are all washed, my coffee is sitting next to me, and my muffin is slowly disappearing into the bottomless pit called my stomach.

Through all this work, I have been contemplating this:

Yeah, I know. It's yarn. But it's freaking me out.

It's some leftovers I had from a skein Yummy Yarn Studio. I made a shawl with this, thinking I'd use up the entire skein, but I was left with about 40% of it unused. It weirded me out then, but then I discovered I'd used the wrong size needle. Meh, no big deal. I'd use it up eventually...

So, recently, I went on the hunt for a fingerless mitt pattern to use it up. I found Simone Drager's Straightforward Mitts pattern. It said it would use about 160 yards. I figured I'd use more, since my hands are wide and larger than most women's hands, and I'd want a longer cuff. I figured I'd use at least twice as much yarn as called for.

So, I cast on, knitted away, not really paying attention to how much I was using. I added more rows before I made the thumb gusset. I made the cuffs longer. I added several more rows to the length. I made the thumb longer and wider. Bigger, bigger, bigger...

But I still have way more yarn leftover than I thought I would. Either I have smaller hands than I thought, or the mods I made weren't nearly as serious as I thought. Either way, I still have about 17% of the orignal skein left. I'll have to find some use for it, but still... weird...

And it's starting to freak out the others, too. I better get it used up before I have a riot on my hands...

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Inspiration Mondays on a Tuesday: Food Geniuses

Fact: Pinterest is a huge menu of stuff that makes me hungry at 10 o'clock at night.

Fact: Even though I know this, I spend many evenings tempting myself into a stupor.

Fact: It is through Pinterest that I have learned that there are several food geniuses on the internet.

These geniuses are people who have either:
  1. Found ways to make foods that are tasty despite dietary restrictions.
  2. Written recipes for food that are delicious, low fat, and naturally flavoured.
  3. Created meals that feed families full of real ingredients and that their children love to help make.
  4. Found amazing ways to celebrate the vast array of the things that are available to us here in the First World.
Food is hard. I mean, eating food is easy, but everything else about food tends to be shrouded in a bunch of controversy and emotion. Our lives are full of food experiences, both good and bad, and we're constantly bombarded with images of stuff we should eat, stuff we shouldn't eat, stuff that was good for us but is now bad for us... it's a confusing world for those of us who can choose what we put in our mouths.

What inspires me about these food geniuses is that they seem to find ways to take that away and just create one experience: a treat, a meal, a snack. That's all. Reading their blogposts and looking at their photographs is already an experience in and of itself. I'm grateful for those experiences, and they inspire me to move out of my meal ruts, to try out new things, and to challenge myself to make better choices.

And goodness knows I like a challenge.

Here are a few food geniuses I invite you to meet. I also invite you to move out of your comfort zone and give some of their things a try. Feel free to share your favourite sites in the comments below!

By the way, the photo below is of a meal I experimented with a few months back. I can't remember what it was, but it looked so good while it was cooking that I took a photo. I guess I really am a foodie!

Not Without Salt - "Not Without Salt is a tool for helping you eat well and enjoy the process of cooking and baking real, good food."

Shutterbean - Simply put, it's a blog about Food, Photography, and Pretty Things. - Delicious, low fat recipes for families.

Pennies on a Platter - Recipes for families that are tasty, nutritious, and value for money.

A Year of Slow Cooking - A blog detailing someone's year of exploring recipes using a slowcooker.

Gluten-Free Goddess - Home of the recipe for the gooiest chocolate cake I've ever seen!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Made That, That, But Not That

It's been kind of a low-fibre time around here. Not THAT kind of fibre... I mean the yarny kind. Knitting is happening only sporadically, spinning is not happening at all. But what I lack in yarny productivity, I've more than made up for in making other stuff.

I spent an evening last week making this lemon poppy seed muffin recipe by shutterbean. I needed to use up some yogurt I had stashed in the fridge, and I bought some lemons exactly for this purpose. Nothing like perishable food to turn an awesome recipe into an obligation!

I gotta say: these muffins are fist-pump-in-da-air good. I used full fat greek yogurt, but decreased the sugar to 3/4 and the butter (I used margarine) to 1/2 cup. Still freaking awesome, and at 263 calories, fewer calories than any "healthy" muffin I've come across thus far.

My Betty-Crocker-Goodness didn't stop there. In another effort to use up yogurt (I buy it like it's going out of style and end up desperately trying to get through it) I also made and froze a batch of raspberry scones, which I have been using as a late-afternoon-fuel-up before exercise. It's based on this recipe, except I used up the bag of frozen raspberries from my garden taking up room in the freezer. And yeah, I know the purpose was to use up stuff taking up room in the freezer, and yeah, I know ended up putting stuff back into it, but hey, freezer math is not like regular math, ok?

And last night, I made a huge batch of chocolate chip cookies for the hubby to take to his flying club today. I would have taken a photo of that, but I was too busy licking the bowl washing the dishes, and by the time they had cooled, I was too sleepy to get up and photograph them. They must have been good, because they were all gone by the end of the day.

The only fibery thing I've got to show for this week wasn't even made by me: it was made by my friend, dkzack, who called me over to her desk to ask me if I wanted it. It was made for someone else, but it didn't suit them all that well, and she offered it to me. It's made from the Tundra Toque pattern, which I have had queued for a while, but just haven't gotten around to making.

I am nothing if not a gracious recipient of knitted items. I had a butterfly pin sitting on my desk, which I had inherited from somewhere (goodness knows where... all sorts of things land on my desk at work... ask me about bobbleheads sometime...), so I pinned it on, and shazam: cuteness!

This lack of fibre will not last long. I have just cast on for Rosamund's Cardigan, and man, I'm so excited to get it knitted up. It's the first garment I will have made for myself in almost a year, and the yarn has been languishing under my desk at work for longer than that.

And yes, I do keep yarn under my desk. Doesn't everyone?