Friday, May 30, 2008

The Chevron Love Hat

Okay, well here she is in all her glory. There are a few little imperfections which I won't dwell on (like the hem being a bit crooked which skews the knitting to the side a bit) but overall I think it's pretty cute. It fits more like a watch cap than like a cloche -- I was anticipating it would not be so snug at the hem but would bell out more. If only I had seen more of them on Ravelry, I would have been aware of this. Perhaps in the future I will make another one and change the pattern slightly to allow for it to have that lovely shape. Even just using bigger needles at the bottom and progressing to smaller ones at the top would probably accomplish this... I would also need to use a firmer yarn than the drapey loveliness of the Louet Gems I have used for this one. Hmmm... *begins to plot one out*

In fabric news... because I didn't get my fabric fix when I was in Portland (and had planned to spend oodles of money on crafty goodness) I went online for a little fabric shopping to make up the difference. Imagine my delight to come across this beautiful fabric collection by Sandy Gervais, called Fresh Squeezed.
The patterns have a lot of citrus colours and shapes, with a bit of watermelon pink and blueberry blue thrown in for a lark. I grabbed a jelly roll of strips plus enough fabric to make this adorable little diamond patterned lap quilt. It is certainly more of a challenge to put together than the hexagon ones I've been making (though the pattern assures me that the top can be sewn in a weekend) but I think I can handle it. *crosses fingers* Watch for this one to show up when I am a bit closer to finishing the hand quilting on Requiem. I find that the hand quilting makes my relationship with each quilt a lot more personal. It also prolongs the process of completing it, which is probably the only thing keeping me from making a new quilt every couple of weeks.

In the meantime, I have been working on some secret little baby projects which will be revealed when the time comes... and now I find out there will be twins! *dusts off her EZ books again*

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Great Things in Small Packages

Well today I learned a lesson about the importance of using the right tool for the job. I have been working on my Chevron Love Hat, and making some progress, but it's been a bit annoying, since I was fighting my way around double pointed needles with it -- don't get me wrong, I love my double-points, and use them for socks and mitts and all sorts of smallish projects. In this case, the number of stitches on the hat brought them awfully close to the ends of the needles, so I was always stressed about possibly dropping stitches, as well as worried about having the right length of yarn carried between the needles, so there wouldn't be either ladders (carried yarn too long) or puckers (carried yarn too short) between the needles. Last night I realized that it's silly to be so stressed out over what was meant to be a cute little Instant Gratification Project to take my mind off the endless entrelac lap throw. Today I just went out and bought a short little circular (which is what the pattern directed me to use in the first place.) I may never need it again in my life, but the $5 is so worth it, since this project is now infinitely easier and less stressful and will have better memories when it's finished.

The other exciting thing I have to show off today is this itty bitty little skein of yarn which I've spun myself for the first time ever! Whee! Yeah, okay, it goes thick and thin, and parts are underspun and parts are overspun, but in essence, it is yarn. And I made it. Despite my frustration at not being perfect with it the first time around, I am reminding myself that there is a learning curve to every new skill. If I am helping someone else learn to knit, I remind them over and over that while it feels awkward now, and the stitches look weird and uneven, in a few weeks or months, it will feel like second-nature to make those motions, and things will be uniform and lovely. This is the lesson I am reminding myself of when I despair that I am not made to be a spinner. Between my quilting and sewing and knitting, I will keep making tiny little skeins and before I know it, they will be beautiful and worth showing off. This one, I might frame and put it on the wall to remember how it all began.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Things I Love Today

1. courtesy of WhipUp, this most adorable little frigging acorn ever! Love!

2. also by way of WhipUp... this one makes me long for a house to decorate...

3. Two great books I've recently read that have reignited my joy in the written word: Lonely Werewolf Girl by Martin Millar (funny edgy British modern-day-fantasy) and The Birth House by Ami Mckay (moving heartfelt Canadian Maritime tale) which I recommend you not get through the links above, but buy locally or visit your local library.

4. A recent BBC interview with Gore Vidal, who is no longer just an astute historian and erudite political voice, but now also a hilarious and bitchy old codger. As I said to my HLM after the interview wrapped up, "Gore Vidal is what is great about people."

5. Hawaiian music. If you haven't heard Justin Young sing Kaili'ohe, you just don't know what you're missing. 'Nuf said.

6. Jaw-droppingly amazing terrariums.

7. Making links. Hee hee.

8. Having two cool things to show you pictures of tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Tangential Progress

Well, things are poking along on both of my blankets. They have reached a place where there are many hours (days, months) of work left, with no end in sight. This of course makes me dream of other projects and want to work on anything with a little instant gratification. So I present to you a pair of fingerless mittens, made in about a day for a coworker who requested a pair. These are made out of one of the self-striping yarns that I hand dyed and used for Portland Socks. I had lots of yarn left over at the end of those socks, and wanted to see for myself how adorably this yarn would stripe, if used on its own. So cute. They are totally basic mitts: I just did some 1x1 rib for a couple of inches, then switched to stockingette for a while. For thumbs, I cast off four stitches in one row and cast on another four in the next row, then at the end, did a single crochet around to finish that edge. Of course, at the top edge of the mitten I did another inch or so of 1x1 ribbing. So easy, so satisfying, so cute when they are worn. And instant gratification.

Yesterday, I went to the post office and picked up a parcel, which contained my birthday gift from my sisters (thanks girls!) They gave me an online gift certificate to Pick Up Sticks, which was brilliant. I promptly used it to get some yarn and a *cough cough* yarn spinning kit. Here is a photo of some Louet Gems Fingering Weight quietly sleeping in its natural habitat. It is destined to become a really cute chevron hat. (ravelry link)

Okay, so I admittedly have been tempted for a long time to try spinning my own yarn. Recently everyone in blogland is flashing around their gorgeous rovings and beautiful yarns and incomprehensibly beautiful Baby Surprise Jackets made with their own spun yarn. I resisted the urge for a long time, since I have so many time- (and money-) consuming hobbies already. What can I say? Like Oscar Wilde, I can resist anything except temptation. So I bought myself the book on my trip to Portland (already knowing I was giving in to the Dark Side) and then when I got the gift certificate, I promptly ordered myself a Louet Learn to Spin kit, which contains the pretty rovings and very plain drop spindle you see. If I can manage to do it at all well, I will probably go crazy and start ordering fancy spindles and fill my house with rovings. I will then give all the yarn away because I won't have any more time to knit, with all the spinning to do. Such is life.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

the Portland Socks revealed

So I finished my Portland Socks during the last few days of my holidays. This yarn was last year's birthday prezzie from my sisters -- thanks girls! It was a Louet yarn dyeing kit, and it came with the three colours you see: poppy red, cherry red, and blue. At the time I was way into self-striping yarns, and reskeined the whole lot of yarn and made it into three colourways -- one was poppy red with blue, one was cherry red with blue, and one was the two shades of red. Seemed like a good idea, but then I decided that I didn't want socks that had stripes that change colours every third of the sock. Plus I wanted an excuse to try the helix stripes. So I decided to do the toe/heel/cuff in the two reds, and then alternate the other three yarns in helix stripes for the rest of the sock. Still with me?

The helix stripe technique is a bit fiddly. A bit more fiddly than just doing regular stripes. Of course the benefit is that there isn't a column of yarn crawling up the back of the sock, and there is no mismatched join between rounds. Not that you can tell with this yarn, anyway.

In any case, I like them -- I like the way that the alternating self-striping yarns make a pattern that looks almost random. They are warm and snuggly and make me smile.

Other news: plugging away on the entrelac lap throw, but it is slow going... The quilt frame is here and I have basted the whole quilt sandwich together. On with the quilting...

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The Lazy Days of Spring

I've just returned from a week in Portland OR, where I had a very nice time, stayed in a posh hotel which had a real sense of humour about itself, exemplified by this exerpt of the room service menu. The weather there was pretty good (no snow, for example) although I did get rained on a bit. Comes with the territory. There was some really nice warm sun the last couple of days, which really made the city look so beautiful and green.

In truth, I had many plans for Portland that didn't pan out in the week I was there. I had, for example, planned to make a trip to a couple of Portland's cupcake shoppes and have an impromptu contest for who makes the better Red Velvet Cupcake. (Admittedly a bit of an unfair contest for Northwestern bakers, as Red Velvet is really more of a Southern specialty, but I never said I was fair.) As it turns out, I only made it to one of the shoppes (but I made it there twice.) For the record, their Red Velvet could use a bit more cocoa. But the cream cheese icing was perfection. Really. Of course I didn't take a photo of the Red Velvet cupcake. I fully intended to, but before I knew what I was doing, there was suddenly a swipe through the pretty icing. And then another swipe. And then a bite. Pictured here are a vanilla cupcake with pistachio buttercream (yum) and a little baby cupcake that is banana chocolate chip poundcake.

I had also planned to do a lot of fabric and yarn shopping while there, but didn't really manage much of either. I spent a lot of time searching up and down the downtown streets for a particular fabric shop, only to eventually realize that it was now empty and up for rent. The other fabric shop I found was rather small and mostly uninspiring. I made one extravagant purchase of some Koigu at Knit Purl (only I would go to the States to buy Canadian yarn, I know.)

I spent a fair bit of time (over two days) at Powell's Books, which truly has to be seen to be believed. It is a full city block in area and even has more than one level. Anything you can imagine is there. I even got a coffee table book of the complete pinups of Gil Elvgren for only $15. Sweet. I actually managed to only buy a half-dozen books or so, but I could easily have bought a hundred.

The last discovery I made before I left town was this little chocolate shop hidden behind Jake's Famous Crawfish. It is called Cacao and when I saw their sign: "Drink chocolate" -- obviously I had to check it out. This tiny little gorgeous shop serves the most decadent chocolate drinks and sells all sorts of international chocolate bars and cocoa and nibs and perfume... amazing. Pictured is the little shot of Spicy Special Dark Drinking Chocolate that I had on my last afternoon in Portland. It was thick and spicy and fantastic. Then I bought a Smoked Bacon Milk Chocolate bar to bring home for my HLM and I. Surprisingly good.

That last photo really captures my time in Portland -- sitting in various coffeehouses (or chocolate shops) with my book and a hot drink. Heavenly.

Knitting content: I was working on a pair of simple socks for my trip, but they are not quite finished. I will post them asap.