Monday, July 31, 2006

Good clean Harlot fun!

Everyone, including myself, had a great time on Saturday at the Yarn Harlot's book signing. Congrats to the staff at Hill Country Weavers for organizing and running such a smooth event. With 200+ knitters in attendance the Baptist Church was cool and comfortable, providing ample space to spread out in the pews with our bags of knitting and books for signing. Stephanie spoke for at least an hour and took questions at the end, then we all took our #'s that told us when, approximately, our time would come to get in line for the signing. Knitter's lounged, shopped, enjoyed scrumptious brownies and longnecks, and bloggers conversed. I dallied in the church and ended up in the last group to get their books signed.
Here I am, knitter/fan # two hundred and something and Stephanie is still smiling. It was a pleasure to hear her speak at the church because it allowed me to put a voice to her words (her voice was deeper and more resonant than I expected) and if possible, made her writing even more funny and witty for me than it was before. She has a comic timing that rivals the best stand up comedians. When she told the story of how she was introduced to an entire party of her husbands coworkers as a "knitter," and looking to him to give further explanation, she's a doula, a freelance writer, etc., discovered him nodding enthusiastically, I laughed heartily - we all did.

It was upon receiving her first book as a gift that I fell down what Stephanie called "the proverbial blog rabbit hole." I discovered as so many others have before me her blog and then the knitblog community at large. After starting my own not to long ago I chanced to meet through comments local knitbloggers. Eureka! Up until now my circle of knitters was much to small - my 2nd oldest sister, who taught me to knit, and two coworkers that knit scarves occasionally. Finally, my own kind! My own fiber obsessive knitting kind! So to thank her I did give her the Daisy Sock Bag, of which she remarked that the green was a favorite color of hers (a happy accident I thought at the time) and the bag would come in handy at the airport. Hurrah! I did feel strangely nervous though, or was it just plain silly? I work in theatre and have even done a little movie work (I'm in the credits for A Scanner Darkly, the new film out directed by Richard Linklater. Ya'll should see it, it's a trippy good time!) so I've met and worked with "famous" people. Because of that I feel strange about autographs, so I had to tell myself that a book signing was different than asking for an autograph, but rather a chance to meet and speak to the author. I, and I think many others as well, think of the Harlot as more of a sister or friend. When we read her blog, or one of her books, or gather at an event like this, it's as though we're all sitting down for a collective cup of coffee together (or beer).
The three other bags found homes too. Tina and I agreed to trade some of her lovely stitch markers for the blue bag. I'll do some investigating and post all the details of how you can purchase them from her Etsy shop soon. My computer and Blogger do not always get along so I'm trying to get this post in before the hissy fit ensues and the entire business freezes up.
Christine from Big Pink Cookie and Kristin from Yarn & Order found it in their hearts to give the pink and orange bags homes.
Christine gave a great play by play of the day over on her blog, including the total of our bill at Guero's after the book signing. Here we are taking over a large portion of their backroom. When I walked over to the restaurant and entered I had become so comfortable carrying my sock with my own sock bag swinging from my elbow that I didn't think twice about it still being in my hand and in full view of the busy front room. The hostess took one look at me, looked at the sock, and said simply, "Your group is in the back."

I met so many great people and I know I'm forgetting most of you here besides those I've mentioned above - Julia from Yarnmaven, Kelly from Kelp, Alicia from Knitnmama, Caro from Splityarn, and many many others. I so enjoyed talking to all of you and look forward to seeing you all again in the future. Kudos to Christine for helming the meetup at Guero's.

On another note about Saturday, I got several comments and had discussions about how I carry my yarn. One person remarked that I knit "Continental." Another simply commented about how I use my left middle finger to wrap the yarn. The truth is that for several years, although I knew that not all knitters carried their yarn alike, I wasn't around anyone to compare with. Even the sister who taught me to knit commented on this. I pointed out that I must do it the same as her but no.
At some point in time after she taught me how to cast on, knit, purl, and bind off, I developed this way of carrying my yarn. I have to admit, sometimes my left pointer finger cramps up a little, but it works for me.
Does anybody else carry their yarn like this? I'm curious. I decided to try some other techniques later Saturday evening. Carrying the yarn on my right hand led to a revelation as to why I rarely ever get gauge with the recommended size needles when I'm using the recommended or a comparable yarn. I am a loose knitter. Apparently a very loose knitter. Don't worry Mom, this only pertains to my knitting tension and nothing else! When I carried with the right hand my stitches were super tight - not bad, but it slowed me down alot. I think I'm going to stick with the loose knitting and just swatch right off the bat with a size or two smaller needles.

In exploring this I remembered that on the cover of Knitting Rules! Stephanie herself is knitting, so I picked it up to decipher her yarn carrying technique and what do I realize? How long have I had a copy of this book? How many ads for the event had the book cover art as part of the ad? Isn't it in her sidebar? This same book that as I smiled with surprise when she said the green of the Daisy bag was her favorite color as she was handing the book back to me - what color is the yarn she is knitting on the front of the book?

Lime green. Daisy Sock bag green.

I might want to work on my powers of perception before I start grad school.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Finished Sock Bags!

Here they are all finished and ready for tomorrow. There are two votes for giving the Daisy Bag to the Harlot and I think that it may be the winner in my mind too. It is quite possibly one of the cutest things I've put together all year and it has the added charm of originating as a vintage pillowcase and is therefore one of a kind. Feel free to continue to weigh in now that they're done. I added another feature to all of these which is the button pocket on the outside. I realized quickly that I didn't have a place on mine to tuck a darning needle or little scissors into. I'll have to add one to mine eventually.
For that first one I had used a scrap of 1/2" upholstery foam that I scrounged up to make the round bottom hold it's shape. As I didn't have any more I had to come up with another method of doing so on these. My solution was to create piping to set into the seam of the body of the bag to it's bottom. It works nicely and I think is a nice touch.

I enjoyed making these and look forward to trading them out. My job at the theatre emcompassed many things so I didn't always get to sew on each production. Sometimes I would create the patterns and do the cutting but then pass them on to other stitchers. It's nice to have the time to sit down and create something at the sewing machine again.

Not to forget the knitting though I have gone back to a some gift knitting. No, not more warshrags but rather a log cabin blanket that I won't be showing here until it is finished and gifted. It is cotton (because we are in Texas, after all) and did I mention that prolonged cotton knitting hurts my hands? Now that I'm about 50% done with it it has become fairly heavy which is shortening the amount of time it takes for it to wear out my hands. Then I remembered a recent post on Wendy Knits and realized I was using the wrong type of needles for the project! I love my bamboos because they are lightweight, make no noise, and the yarn doesn't slip off unexpectedly. However, with the almost overwhelming size of this thing my bamboo US 6 circulars are inhibiting my ability to get through this blanket with any speed as the yarn is dragging on the needles. So I got my first pair of Addi Turbos and they are PERFECT for this project, absolutely PERFECT. I have several other projects lined up that will use 6's as well that I'll try them out on. I have to say I may be entering dangerous territory with these new needles.

It's a slippery slope.
See ya'll tomorrow!

Thursday, July 27, 2006

The Yarn Harlot comes to Austin!

The excitement is building over the impending visit of the Yarn Harlot here in Austin! If you live on another planet and did not know this, live in the vacinity, and would like to come, please note that it is an RSVP event. She will be speaking and signing her third book, Knitting Rules!, hosted by Hill Country Weavers on South Congress. The actual event takes place at the Baptist church just down the street. For more information and to RSVP please click the link in my sidebar. I swear I will take the time during my self imposed period of unemployment to learn how to properly link within the text of my post. I'm sure it's much easier than it seems.
For someone who now has so much free time I feel quite busy! I tend to create projects when I'm around the apartment. Like this nifty little bag. I've seen others like it being sold online and thought surely I can put something together with some of the fabric in my sewing room that I can't seem to get rid of. Ta da! I rather like it. A sock fits in it just perfectly and you can hang it in the crook of your arm and knit on the bus, or while your waiting in line to have your book signed by the Harlot!
While I was at it I decided why should I keep the sock knitting bag to myself? If you are going to be at the Harlot event or if you are coming to the knit bloggers gathering across the street at Guero's restaurant afterwards, I would be happy to trade a bag for a drink and/or something tasty to eat. Or just surprise me with a trade of some handspun or your own handmade craftiness of some sort. I'll have four, although I may offer one as a gift to Stephanie, since it was receiving her first book as a gift that led me to her blog and the knitblog community at large. As you can see I've just got them cut out here (they go together quickly) and the smaller turned up corner is the contrasting lining fabric. The exception is the daisy print which will be self-lined. Anybody have an opinion about which one I should give Stephanie?

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

What I've been up to...

Knitting as many of these cotton warshrags as my hands could stand to make. As I mentioned before they were getting a little achy. They all came out quite nice and my coworkers liked them alot. One of my favorites is the lime green with orange which I gave to my buddy Derek. It was a happy accident to discover that orange is his favorite color! He got the Vogue Stitchionary book for me - I can't wait to have fun with that.
Saturday evening I spent some time with my friend Noelle. She lives in the neighborhood that That Guy and I will move into in September and we're super pysched about being neighbors. We like to take walks together. It nice to have a friend that enjoys getting some exercise! She had just bought these new gym shoes that day and in a fit of silliness we became convinced that we needed to document their unsullied shiny newness in a, "Still Life with knitting, gym shoes, and candle," photo.
I had my last day at the theatre on Sunday and it was truly bittersweet. I rejoiced that I was doing my last load of laundry for wardrobe but lamented leaving the shop. When I started the job it was so exciting to have a space, a shop, that I could call my own. Now I'll have to share. The other sadness is that I really like my coworkers, and in particular there was one that I didn't really get to say goodbye to, which is Shannon. Now, everyone in a nonprofit works hard, but as the Production Manager Shannon has a true grab bag of responsibilities and she really holds all the production departments together. She also has absolutely the biggest heart of anyone I know and I'll miss seeing her on a regular basis.
Work was not the only thing I said goodbye too. I also said Auf Wiedersehn to The Meeper. I did not give my car this name but rather it came with it, and now I have sold my loyal Meeper. We did let his new owner know about the promise I made it. When the car reached 100,000 miles I promised it that if it made it to 200,000 miles I would give it a Valhalla sendoff - I'd set it on fire and push it off a cliff into the ocean. I don't know exactly how I thought I'd manage this, and I'm sure I would have had to go to Mexico in order to get away with it, but it's a romantic idea to me. Selling the car was intentional - I won't have to buy gas and I'll get used to getting around other ways. UT has a great shuttle system and you can't park anywhere in the interior of the campus without paying through the nose at the parking garage, and even the permit parking is a hike to the theatre building.
Eventually we might get one of these little cuties. Meet the eGo scooter. It's electric and gets you 25 miles on a fully charged battery. It's still considered a bike so you don't have to get a special liscense or insurance. It's top speed is 25 miles/hour which is just fine with me because really, any faster and it would be a motorcycle and I really don't want to go that fast. While Austin is a "bike friendly" city it's still can be a dangerous place on a bike of any sort. You've got to stay off the main roads and take the neighborhood streets, wear a helmet, don't wear earphones or talk on your phone (I have seen people doing this!), and ride defensively at all times.
Regardless I can take the shuttle - then I can knit on my way to campus!

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Random Thursday

I've been rather distracted this week as I finish up at the theatre but when I start my month off I'm sure I'll have a lot more to write about. Also, the computer is threatening to freeze up so I'm rushing to get this post in before this happens.
Remus is the youngest and most photogenic of our three cats. Abraham is quite handsome as well, but as he has never never been a lap cat he has never provided such an irresistible photo op.
I've been working on several small knitted gifts for coworkers that I don't want to go into detail about in the off chance that any of them actually read my blog. I'll be sure to post some pictures after I've gifted them. I will say that they involve knitting with cotton. For the first time in my life I knit so much cotton that my hands finally said enough already we need a break from this inelastic fiber! So I turned to the ever patient Pearl Buck Swing Jacket and all the sproingy goodness of the extrafine merino. I'm discovering as so many others have in this knitalong how enjoyable and easy to knit this pattern and it's charts are. It is sure to become a favorite.
I will leave you with this gift certificate provided stash enhancement. The yarn in the foreground is destined to become a Charlotte's Web shawl after I admired Christine's from Big Pink Cookie (see link in sidebar) I knew I wanted to make one. The Cashsoft will likely become a hat or scarf, and most exciting of all is the ball winder. I wound several stash items in celebration of this acquisition.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Bike Ride

I'm taking ya'll on a bike ride today but don't worry, there's some knitting at the end. For my siblings and friends in the midwest, this is just a taste of my home away from home. Austin has a wonderful system of Hike & Bike trails. One of the main areas is in the heart of the city on what the locals call Town Lake. This is really a part of the Lower Colorado river, but they call it that anyway. We live south of the river in what is simply called South Austin. That Guy and I currently live in the 78704 zip code which according to the many bumper stickers you see around, it's not just a zip code, it's a way of life. This is the view from the pedestrian sidewalk crossing the South First Street bridge heading north and looking to the west.
As you complete the trek across the bridge you have in your view the whole time the new City Hall. Some people scoff at it's architecture - personally I like it. On Friday all summer long they have a concert at noon in the plaza and you often see what are likely press conferences outside when the temperature is milder.
After heading west on the north side of Town Lake for a while you can continue on or cross the Lamar pedestrian bridge. As you can see here, there's plenty of room for bikes and people running or walking, and there's benches lining the sides - a modern promenade. I'm facing south as I take this picture.
This is the view from the pedestrian bridge if you look to the east. From here I continued across the bridge and headed east on the bike trail back towards the S. 1st St. bridge. On both sides of the bridge the trail runs right along the river's edge and allows you to feel like sometimes you aren't in a big city.
Here I'm a little further along the trail. To the left is Town Lake, and to the right is the dog park. On the weekends it's pretty busy because it's one place downtown where the owners are allowed to let them off their leashes. There's plenty of open space for them to run around, catch frisbees, and swim in the river. Can you imagine a cat park? How funny would that be, they'd all be hissing at each other, slinking around with their bellies low to the ground, or climbing trees. And they surely wouldn't be swimming! (MOM, the Stevie Ray Vaughn statue is just to the left of where I'm standing).
Before turning off the trail and heading for home I decided to stop and knit a few rows on what I'm calling the Neopolitan warshrag. I get a hankering for ice cream just looking at this thing. However, I only made it a few rows because it felt much hotter once I got off the bike. Also, I was feeling a little gritty by this point and wanted to hit the pool!

Friday, July 14, 2006

Gotta' love the Patagonia

Here it is, my finished, modified Waterlily pattern. Sometimes it's good to listen to yourself when you need to change things up a bit. I'm not feeling so guilty about setting Pearl aside because getting away from the size 6 needles was just the break I needed to galvanize myself against tiny needle fatigue. Don't worry, I'm not going to slip into the fast pace world of bulky weight yarns and super size needles, recklessly casting on chunky oversized creations that no one in their right mind would wear.
Here is a photo of the back. Photography credit goes to That Guy who very patiently waited for me to decide where to pose for this and wasn't the least bit embarrassed. He also offered and bought me yarn at the LYS after we got his hair cut (the LYS was across the street from where he goes) and went in the store. SIGH. What a keeper!

There were moments with this project that I worried - have I paired yarn with a pattern that was never meant to be? I just wasn't sure how it would turn out. Although I had done a gauge swatch in which I got stitch gauge, and although I initially got row gauge as well I could tell that it would grow in length since I was using cotton. Ultimately, it carries the same silhouette and details as the original pattern and I love it. If you have that issue and compare it to the original, you will see that with the growth in length from the weight of the cotton has made my neckline considerably lower. With the eyelet in the pattern though I would wear a tank underneath anyway, and I quite like it. It breaks up what might have been an overly chunky knit. Really, the only change I made to the pattern was that I did less rows betweens decrease rows since I didn't have the yardage called for in the pattern. It's a good thing to because if I had done it as written, even if I had enough yardage, it would have ended up being a dress!

The other thing I love about this top is the way the three different skeins colors balanced overall. The Patagonia cotton, even if you have skeins that were dyed at the same time with the same colors, will have variations in how much of each color is present. The first skein that covers the hips has hardly any of the amber color, but the second which covers the bust is riddled with it. The third skein, used in shaping the straps and then to finish of the bottom edge, is much cooler, infused with some lavender, and the amber deepens almost to a golden green. The way the stockinette stitch works up reminds me of feathers!

On another note, I am closing in on my last week at the theatre. I'm very excited about grad school and have been looking forward to this time off that I've planned, but I will miss seeing my colleagues day in and day out. The last show that I will have made a costume for has it's final preview tonight and opens tomorrow. I'm going to try to not cry, but I make no promises!

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The sun in Texas

As I mention in my header above, I'm a Hoosier (that means I'm from Indiana for all the non-midwesterners out there) that woke up one day in Austin, Texas. I'm not just trying to be funny with that one - I often feel that way when I wake up in the morning. I'm more than 1,300 miles away from the place that was my home for 26 years of my life. 24 were spent in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and two in Chicago, Illinois, before That Guy and I sold all our stuff, packed up our two vehicles, sedated the cats (there were only two at that time) and drove for two days to reach what has now become our home away from home in Central Texas. We moved here in September. I had visited not even a year earlier to check out the graduate costume design program at the University of Texas. Although I ultimately decided not to go that next fall, we moved here anyway!

Many things strike me about this part of the United States. The vegetation is so very different than where I grew up. The trees are for the most part shorter, closer to the ground, sort of scrubby, and they grow in a twisted, kinky way. Each kink illustrates time when water was scarce and each twisting growth exhibits when it was plentiful. Ground plants seem oversized with tough, leathery leaves. Perhaps most striking to me though is how much more intense the quality of the light is here. Being just a little bit closer to the equator makes for bright relentless sunshine all summer long - and I do mean looooonnngg. We are in it's midst at this point and it's only going to get hotter. Morning and evenings after sunset are the only logical time to be outside if you are going to be stationary. We may go for a bike ride this afternoon, but we will be sure to take water along and to put on sunscreen. The heat isn't so stiffling if you are in motion.

I took advantage of the shade our west facing balcony provides in the morning hours to sit and begin knitting this ballband pattern warshrag from MDK. I marveled for the umpteenth time at the way the sunlight here intensifies all the colors around us. In the midwest the trees do not exhibit this intense chartreuse except in the golden hour just before dusk sets in, and then only at the height of summer. The rest of the time it appears in quantities so scarce as to be barely discernable, so overcome by deeper, cooler shades of grun (green auf Deutsch, your German for today). Thus proving that all colors occur somewhere in nature regardless of how uncannily bright they are.
You know it's time to go back inside though when the shadows retreat and the sun advances dangerously close to the railing! Also a factor is the neighbor below who smokes like a chimney. How I managed to be outside for an entire hour without him coming out is beyond me because it is usually more frequent. It will be nice when we move to the rented house at the end of August to escape this unpleasantry. You may be wondering, what are those scraps of yarn on the railing in this photo? They are the only remains of the modified Waterlily pattern that I knit out of the Patagonia Organic Cotton. Seriously! All that was left was two yards of the third skein and a pile of trimmed woven in ends. Does it get any better than that?!
Here is a closeup preview for your knitted viewing pleasure. A field of varied colors of which words are inadequate to describe how happy they make me. Sigh. More on this FO in the next post. Bitte habt ihr alle ein schoenes Tag!

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Dancing Chicken Fried Steak

As a theatrical costume designer and technician I find myself saying odd things at times. "It'll never read," is a favorite. Whenever there is a tiny spot on a costume, a slight bumble in setting in a zipper, you must ask yourself, "Will it read?" At the distance the audience sits from the action of the play, will they be able to see or "read" it? This isn't to say that our standards are lowered in this practice but rather that it is 2am and tech rehearsal starts at 11am and we are in desparate need of sleep. I say we, but this past week it was really only me in the costume shop at work. In the effort to help save the theatre money I elected to not only design and pattern a costume but to do all the construction myself. Although it took a lot of energy it was great fun to sit down and sew rather than delegating the project to someone else.

The costume in question being for a play called, "I Am My Own Wife." Without going into to much detail - it is a one man show about a transvestite, Charlotte von Mahlsdorf, who survives not only the Nazi regime in Germany but the Communists as well. The one actor plays not only Charlotte but also numerous other characters in the course of two acts. The costume? A "simple" black housedress. The challenge has been to design something that works for the main character but also suggests the other characters as well. Since it was just the one costume I had to luxury of arranging two mockup fittings to perfect the fit of the dress. Today I finished constructing the final garment and saw it on the actor briefly to mark the hem, and I'm very pleased with it. But really when it comes down to it, I made a dress for a man to wear. Fun! And as the title of this blog suggests, I've also made a dancing chicken fried steak costume as well. He got a laugh every single performance!
Now for the knitting! I've made a little progress on the Pearl Buck Swing Jacket. Here you can see that I've gotten into the chart for the back and I'm finding reading it much easier going than I expected. However...Pearl is on US 6 needles. The Longhorn hoodie was on 6's as well, and the Log Cabin blanket I'm knitting is guessed it, size 6 needles. So I just couldn't help it, I caved and cast on another project! I needed something fast and loose on big needles that would just fly right off them.
So I turned to the stash for gratification and this jumped out at me - very yummy Patagonia organic cotton (it begged me to buy it when I saw it, I couldn't leave the store without it) out of which I'm knitting the Waterlily pattern by Katy Ryan from the Spring 2006 IK. I don't have quite the yardage called for so I've adjusted the pattern to make it a smidge shorter. It's a long sleeveless top and as designed it would have hit at the widest part of my hips so the shorter length should be more flattering on me. Although I feel bad about cheating on Pearl I can look at it this way: It should be a FO lickity-split.
The last bit of knitting news is stash related. Remember the lovely Habu Bamboo that I won at the KnitFlix night? I was trying to decide what it might become and ultimately decided that it needed a companion to round it out. After careful perusing at the LYS another Habu came to the rescue and told me that together they could become ein schoenes Schal - a beautiful scarf. In particular, a Scribble scarf a la the MDK knitting book. Gluckliche stricken! (Happy knitting!)
P.S. Everything is healing up nicely where my wisdom teeth once were, and the best part? No more pain!

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Happy 4th of July!

I would be a horrible aunt if I didn't post on my adorable nephew and rack up some embarrassment points on his behalf by posting this bath picture in honor of his first birthday which took place on Saturday. Really, how cute is this little guy!?
That Guy and I are both actually off today so we've made plans to celebrate the fourth. He's off at the moment hanging out with his hospice lady. We're driving out to Elgin for the afternoon to a friends party and then coming back in to town to watch the fireworks from the roof of the theatre I work at! It is the best place ever to watch them because they are shot off from the baseball diamond in the park adjacent to the theatre building, so you can see them shot off and exploding above - really fantastic! It's within walking distance of our apartment also so we get to avoid the traffic.
And now for some finished objects!
Looking at my list of what's on the needles I realized that a couple of things actually have been finished. This linen facecloth is pretty much done. I may add a crochet border and it needs a good blocking, but otherwise it is ready to go in the gift pile (at this point it is the gift pile!).
I wasn't happy with any of the handle options I explored and then one day I realized that the felted bag was really meant to be a pouch. Last night I sewed in a zipper and ta da! It quickly found some yummy Patagonia organic cotton nestled inside for a future project.
Perhaps the most important FO of them all - the Longhorn Hoodie is finished! This picture is of the inside intarsia work, although there are a few places where it was more logical to carry the yarn which is why you can see some stranding going on. I'll try to get That Guy to take some action shots of me wearing it to post. The couple that I took of it on the dress form don't look all that different from some of the progress photos, except there aren't any ends hanging down now!

I've wondered for some time now - am I a process knitter or a product knitter? I've worked on this hoodie for several months now and was particularly pleased with myself when I figured out how to make the chart and the results when I swatched it. It's my first sweater and the first project with lots of finishing required. As I got closer and closer to finishing I resisted all urges to cast on another project. Yet now that it's finished I've simply moved on to the next thing. I did show it proudly to That Guy and plan to show it to several people at work, but I was surprised that I didn't feel like going around knocking on the doors of my neighboring apartment dwellers and completely weirding them out by shoving the thing in the face and asking them how cool it this! It could also be that the temperature in Austin reaches highs in the 90's everyday and I won't really be able to wear it for another 5-6 months! Given my excessive yarn hoarding during the past few months and the sheer number of projects I have planned I guess I'm mainly a process knitter who likes to see things get done. This bodes well for the long anticipated Pearl Buck Swing Jacket, which as you can see below I have cast on and started. I just tell myself that it's cheaper then therapy.

Have a very safe and happy holiday out there!