Apr 29, 2009

A Day in April

I just turned... ahem... let's just say "an age" and leave it at that. I had an awesome time over this year's birthday weekend. My very good friend, Faith, came into town for a yarn shopping trip! We headed out to the Twin Cities at what I would consider the crack of dawn on Saturday, and went to the Three Kittens Yarn store in Mendota Heights, and Borealis Yarn and The Yarnery, both in St. Paul.

I had been to the Three Kittens before, where, for some unknown reason, I decided against buying the yarn made from milk. I had since come to regret that act of woolly thinking, so this time, I picked up two skeins of the 80% milk sock yarn. Our next stop was The Yarnery, where we were delighted to find that everything was discounted by at least 20%. I ran a amok in that store, buying three skeins of Cascade Ecological Wool for a sweater I have wanted to make, a skein of Alpaca Sock yarn and two skeins of black Cascade 220, which, while I have no particular project in mind, is always useful. Finally, we went to Borealis Yarns. I was also able to pick up some Snuggly Bubbly, which I will probably make into a Baby Surprise Jacket. Finally, I found some navy Hempathy, which I will use to make some socks for my fiancé.

My main objectives, other than getting to spend time with Faith, were to pick up yarn for my cardigan pattern, buy yarn made from unusual or interesting fibres, and find some nice baby yarn. All in all, the trip was a complete success! I even found a cute clasp for my Butterfly cardigan, and locking stitch markers to finally finish my Ben sweater!

Despite this bounty of yarn and yarn accessories, the best thing I received this weekend was, instead, an early wedding present from Faith. I was just so grateful that she bought me the Addi Click set! I have been having so much fun with it and repaid her generosity by making silly sound effects every time I switched out the needles. I was so excited to be the proud owner of interchangeable Addi Turbos, that I instantly set them to work on the Deborah cardigan with my new Ecological wool. These needles are truly amazing, and I was able to finish the entire back panel over the weekend! I also finally learned how to do the continental purl stitch!

My only regret from this trip was that I forgot to charge my camera! I had this very wonderful idea of having various pictures of us outside each yarn store, inside the stores staring pensively at potential purchases, beaming gleefully with overflowing bags of wool and cotton.... But alas, it was not to be. Luckily, Faith had more photographic wherewithal than I, and took this picture:

10 Things #5: The Halfway Point

I finished my Moroccan Slippers from Fabulous & Flirty Crochet. They were super easy to make and went really fast. I used acrylic instead of the recommended wool/llama blend, and as a result, the puff stitches tended to strain the sc's into which they were made, and so the puff stitch motif looks a little stringy. Also, the first slipper I made came out way to big, so I dropped to the medium size and went down to a size H hook.

They are very cosy and I couldn't be happier with how rapidly they were made. Technically, they took 22 days, but this was my right-before-going-to-sleep project, so for most of that time, the slippers were in hibernation. In actuality, there were only three evenings when I actually worked on them, and I managed to churn out three slippers in that time! I think they look cute, flaws and all, and as they are only going to be worn around the house so it doesn't really matter if they are a little imperfect!

That's Five!

Apr 28, 2009

10 Things #3: *

The Excuse: I freely admit I am cheating on this one. I was going through some deranged love-my-heritage phase which culminated in my purchasing a book of patterns for knitting old style Aran sweaters. There's a reason Aran sweaters were modernised to the versions you find in shops these days; the original patterns were ugly. By the time the book arrived, I had come out of my misguided belief that I wanted to dress like a fisherman, and had moved on to my obsession with lacy sock patterns. I also took issue with the lack of charts in some of the patterns, as I am not able to follow strings of K1, P1, ssk, T3f, C2F, C2B, T3B, Sl1, P1, PSSO, K1, P3, K1, P1, etc. etc.

The Solution: I followed one of the nicer cable patterns and made a little cotton square. I had originally believed that I was going to make a few dozen of these squares and make and Aran sampler baby blanket.

That was a stupid idea. Cabling with cotton is a really efficient way to develop arthritis in your hand. It's so stiff and has no give the way wool does. The really dumb thing here was that I had previously suffered through making a cabled purse with acrylic yarn. That was equally painful, and I, at that time, promised myself I would only ever cable with wool. There is also no point in making a cotton baby blanket. Cotton is a light and breathable fabric and would do nothing to keep a baby warm. With those frustrating epiphanies, I threw the cotton square into a drawer and thought nothing more of it.

Until now that is. I have been lured into the world of making cotton dish-cloths by the seedier elements of the South Bend Knitwork. I am very conscientious of my impact on the environment, so I love that I have replaced my plastic sponges that sit in landfills forever, with cotton dish-cloths that can be put in the washing machine and eventually composted. I also like the fact that there is no risk of damaging pots and pans like there is with the scratchy green side of the sponges.

So here it is. My finished project from the book, Patterns for Guernseys, Jerseys, and Arans, my cotton dish-cloth!

That's Four*

Apr 21, 2009

My Trip to Massachusetts

I was pretty darn excited when I discovered that Murder She Wrote had been adapted into a series of books. After all, murder mysteries are among my favourite things in life. Knitting is another of my favourite things. So you can only imagine the frenetic version of giddy that came out of me when I discovered this:

Yes, my two greatest loves finally tied the knot! I had heard rumours of such a series, but didn't have solid proof until Nick and I were looking for places to live in Massachusetts. We wandered into a realtor's office and met with a lovely woman, who was crocheting when we arrived. At one point, she was giving us long and boring directions to the various locations. Obviously, with my sense of direction I wasn't listening to that, so, instead, I was gazing around her office when I spotted the book on her desk. My mind is primed to spot pictures of yarn, and murder mystery-related keywords, so this really stood out! I took note of the name and resumed the less important task of finding somewhere to live.

The stars were really aligned on this one, and when I got back to Minnesota, I was emailed a Barnes and Noble gift card for a survey I had completed. I picked out "Died in the Wool" and "Knit Fast, Die Young". My order should ship within 3 days. I am quite literally on the edge of my seat. I plan to pass the time by devising some way to read my knitting mysteries while knitting at the same time. I know, it's the dream!

In other massachusite knitting news, we looked at a condo that was being cleared out and prepared for renting. The relatives of the owner were holding a garage sale when we arrived. Evidently, the lady who owned the house was elderly and her daughter now had power of attorney. I think the woman was going senile and was now living in a home. While this was quite sad, I did manage to pick up this yarn for 50¢! I am going to wash it, and also attempt to piece together enough of the label to figure out what it is. I think it's some sort of cotton.
(NiP: I pieced together the label and it read "Spinnerei Schweizerthal A.-G.". It also said that each skein, of which I have 4, has 225 yards.)

What a great State!

Apr 15, 2009

There's No Tact in Tattoo... Trust Me, I Checked!

This train of thought was prompted by watching a segment on a certain morning show that I prefer not to admit publicly to watching. The topic was tattoos. Evidently, Jessica Alba has had a little bow tattooed above her coccyx, the location of which qualifies it as a so-called "Tramp Stamp". The conversation covered a number of celebrity inkings, the one that stuck out in my memory was Brad Pitt's map of the New Orleans levee system. The stencil of an actual band wagon must not have been to his liking, I guess. Come to think of it, what does a band wagon look like? I digress. The really interesting thing about this piece was the choice of diction. In what is usually a light-hearted and often inconsequential morning show, many of the statements about tattoos were uncharacteristically condemning!

I have a tattoo. Some people might say that I have more than one tattoo, but on the off chance that my parents are reading this, let's leave it in the singular. I, by no means, speak for the tattoo community. I'm not even sure that it necessarily qualifies as a bona fide community. The art of tattooing does, however, represent any number of things, from cultural heritage, to personal history, to the proof of binge-drinking gone awry.

Like any product of disposable income, tattooing is a reflection of our personal preferences and opinions, running the gamut of gaudy to tasteful. However, unlike other representations of personal choice, tattoos have the unique ability to evoke the most vitriolic of comments from people. Normally, when confronted with someone else's poor taste, most people will keep quiet, find anything remotely related that is nice to say, or simply lie their way through a complement. If your friend was showing off his new car, you would never abruptly tell them, "That make of car is just so ghetto!" If your room-mate was displaying the spoils of her most recent shopping trip, you probably wouldn't blurt out, "Mini-skirts are for hookers." It's not the opinion I take exception to; It's the feeling of complete entitlement that people seem to have to blatantly insult your personal taste to your face. In any other situation, people at least remove the derogatory parlance, opting for more of a positive spin in their assessment. For instance, to the fabric-wielding room-mate, you would have probably replace references to the oldest professional with more generic comments about longer skirts bringing out her eyes.

My fiancé and I were chatting with a mutual friend, who asked if he had any tattoos. He didn't so much as flinch before launching into his diatribe about tattoos being dirty and gross, and how he would never abase himself enough to get one! Labouring under the perception that my fiancé has reasonable eyesight, and doesn't suffer from prosopagnosia, I can assume he knew I was within earshot. As I am sometimes a little high-maintenance, this was certainly a departure from his usual routine of toiling to avoid insulting me! I want to be clear on the point that this does not rise above the level of puzzling interest for me. I have not started a Facebook group called "Tattooed Individuals Deserve Better Interpersonal Treatment!" nor I am petitioning congress to add "Tattooed Individuals" to the list of protected characteristics. I just never understand what it is about tattoos that prompts people to set aside their diplomacy. My best guess is that it's the association between tattoos and the seedier elements of society, punk rockers, gang members, Amy Winehouse, etc. etc.

I doubt it's that simple, but nevertheless, let me explain the story behind my tattoo. My best friend, with whom I spent most of my formative years, was celebrating her birthday. We knew that she would be leaving the country, and decided to mark our friendship, and on some level maintain a bond when we were separated by getting the same tattoo of a rose. I am glad I got it, and looking at it reminds me of a wonderful friendship and a great, yet erstwhile, period of my life.

PS. Mom and Dad, if that wasn't the tattoo you knew about, Sorry!

Apr 6, 2009

The Silver Paw of Fate

I am one cat closer to my attaining birthright! My fiancé brought his cat, Panthro, with him when he visited recently and left him here with me. We had a reason for the cat staying with me, though when I try to retell the reasoning, I realize it may be more a brain fart in logic's clothing. Nevertheless, I now have two cats. I also have a recliner. It's not quite a rocking chair, but it's progress. And I knit and watch Matlock when it's on. All in all, I am well on my way to being the local cat lady.

My first cat, Buttons, has not been as enthused about the new addition to the family. He growls whenever I handle Panthro first and then pick him up. They also rough-house constantly and, Buttons being a long-hair, I have run the vacuum cleaner at least every other day. I was getting upset at the idea that they would never get along, and indeed, that Nick and I may have to considered getting rid of one of them (obviously not Buttons). That was until I was home during the day last weekend.

Why they can't be like this at 3am, and rough-house while I'm at work is a little annoying. But at least they're getting along!

Apr 4, 2009

A Stimulating Workout Plan

I am so depressed and worried by this economic climate. I feel like every time I turn on the TV, be it the news, a commercial, or even prime time programming, an inordinate number of sentences start with the phrase "In this economic downturn...". I actually heard someone say "This is the worst economic climate we've ever been in" on the Chelsea Lately Show!! I'm also heartbroken on a daily basis by stories of people losing their homes, their jobs or having to watch their small businesses fail by no fault of their own. It's scary, it's depressing and above all, it's aggravating.

What I know about economics would fit into a thimble, probably leaving ample room for an index finger. But from what I have gathered, this whole global mess of lost jobs, homes and general financial security can be pin-pointed to the actions of a handful, when compared to the global population, of people. My understanding (and don't bother correcting me; if endless hours of BBC World News didn't get it into my head, you won't fair better in 2,000 characters or less), is that money was lent between banks, and the "toxic assets" didn't out to be very good pieces of collateral. Now the whole banking community is re-enacting And Then There Were None. I get it. If you're stuck on an island with six people and a corpse, you likely won't want to go explore the creaky mansion alone with one of your suspicious companions. But you are going to have to do so eventually. The only question is "When?" Do you stay in the relative security of the drawing room as your supplies (or in the economic version, jobs) are whittled away until you have absolutely no choice. Or do you man up and volunteer to reconnoitre before you reach that point?

I know I am a good mixture of simplistic and misinformed on this issue, but I feel like the various steps to recovery are inevitable, and we could all just decide to do it faster and get back to stability sooner. One thing we all keep hearing about is "Consumer Confidence". It's usually positioned, in a delicious twist of irony, after doom and gloom statements about people losing all their savings or the Dow Index acting like lead balloon. But, essentially, the take home message is if we all throw caution to the wind and indulge in a little retail therapy, everything will recover. What the heck??? The whole complex world of finance can be reduced to the plot of Elf? Are you kidding me?

Well, spending money has never been too much of a problem for me. My father always joked that I had an allergy to money, which led me to get rid of it as soon as possible. In more recent years, I have attempted to be better with my personal finances, and while I am successful about staying out of the red, I don't often foray to far into the black either. With a reasonable postdoc salary (compared to my grad school pittance), and a looming wedding, I have been making better efforts to avoid non-essential purchases.

I was especially tempted by the Firm Wave system. Recently, I have been working out as most soon-to-be-brides do. Typically, when I am in my fitness phases, I shower myself in exercise-related treats to keep myself motivated. I was about to enter my billing address on the Firm website, when I decided to convince myself that I have enough exercise equipment and this was not a necessary expenditure. Over the next few days, I went back and forth on the issue, until I saw the new issue of Newsweek on the break-room coffee table.

Yippee! It's not wasteful splurging! It's my civic duty. I checked my bank balance to ensure I had enough money to buy the system (buying things on credit is why we all here after all!) and Hey Presto...

Even better. In keeping with the Buy American provision of the Stimulus Plan...

10 Things in 1000 days

I decided to rationalize my impulse purchasing of knitting books by setting myself a personal challenge.
Here's how long I have left:

Quotation of the Day

This Day in History

Is There Anybody Out There?

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