Sunday, December 26, 2010

Miss Mohair: The Story of a Discarded Yarn

I love thrift stores. I love that I can find awesome things for super cheap. I love the hunt, the search for the great find hiding behind racks of muumuus. I always look for yarn. I have heard of people finding sweater quantities of cashmere/wool yarn at thrift stores for unbelievably cheap. While I have not been that lucky, many years ago I did find this:

I was sure it was good quality lace weight mohair. What I was unsure about was how to use it. I had no idea how much yardage might be in the ball or what I might want to make out of it. And so it pulled up a chair in my stash with some other yarns and commisorated.

"What are you in for?"
"Bulky black and white boucle. I'm too 'busy' for her. Whatever that means."
"How long have you been in here?"
"Five years," the boucle bragged, thinking it had been here longer than the rest.
"Six," said the mohair, "she doesn't even have an Idea for me."
The others gasped. "Really? Not even an Idea? Tsk..."

That's quite enough of that Miss Mohair, because I did think of and execute an Idea this year. I made a small neck scarf for my mother for Christmas. While she is not necessarily the pink person, she does like red and I found the mohair to be a deep enough pink that I decided she would likely wear it. The danger here was that the gift was a surprise and I had no opportunity to play 20 questions in order to figure out something the receipient would certainly wear.

"Are you cold?"
"Where are you cold?"
"Do you like blue? Coral? Teal? Beige?"
"Fringe or no fringe?"
"Long or short?"
"Is there a button shape you like?"
"What are your thoughts on the sizes of button holes?"

Instead I played with fire and knit on the fly. As I'm sure you know by know I am making valiant attempts to get my stash under control, which is how I came to think of an Idea for Miss Mohair. I would make a small neck scarf for my mom. Swatching in mohair is difficult because ripping it out causes pain in my heart as the fibers rip apart; so I just cast on for feather and fan and prayed my knitting mojo would be with me.

For the most part it was. I knit about six inches of feather and fan, looked down and decided it was difficult to see the pattern. Despite being a lace weight yarn knit on size four needles the mohair in the yarn was disguising the pattern. It was too late to go back and jump up three needles sizes so I plunged on ahead.

In order to make the pattern more noticeable I decided to add in some stripes of stockinette. This was a good decision because it made the knitting easier and the ripple of the feather and fan pattern showed up better. I really like the pattern that developed from this problem. I would not have added the stockinette stripes otherwise. I will knit this pattern again in a yarn better suited for it.

Best of all, my mom likes it.

(Miss Mohair is in a new home in my box of leftover balls and is settling in nicely.)

Monday, December 20, 2010

Bamboo Wind Chime Tutorial

Has it only been one day since my last post? Yes! I'm out of school right now so my blog is going to feel the love!

I decided to make some bamboo wind chimes as gifts for various people in my life. The pole cost $3.75, I made two wind chimes out of it, and the process only took a couple of hours.

I'm not an avid wood worker and I'm not a professional. I had fun making this and I hope you do too! However, don't expect perfect results. 

I did all of this at my kitchen table!

If you have questions please feel free to comment. All comments are emailed to me. I may edit this from time to time to clarify.

There are some tutorials online here and there, but nothing that I really liked, so I made up my own. Without further ado, here is the Bamboo Wind Chime Tutorial.

  • Bamboo Pole
  • Miter Box Saw
  • Miter Saw Box
  • 2 Clamps
  • Drill
  • 1/2, 3/8, 5/16, 5/64 and 1/16 Drill Bits
  • Ruler
  • Sandpaper
  • Fishing Line
  • Beads (optional)
 Step 1: Gather your materials.

I bought a length of bamboo from my local hardware store in the outdoor section. They have bamboo there that gardeners use for stakes. I found the pole with the largest diameter I could get, which was about 1". A pole with a larger bore would likely be easier to work with.

All of the tools I used can be found at a hardware store or in the garage of a handy person in your life (I used all of Terri's tools).

Step 2: Decide on graduated lengths that you will cut into the bamboo.

The length of the bamboo will affect the pitch that it sounds. It is best to have 1 1/2" or more of a difference between each length.

My 1/2" drill bit is a little over 4" long. Since later in the process I am going to drill out the bore of the bamboo the longest piece can't be more than 8". If you have an extension for your drill bits your longest piece can be longer.

The lengths that I used for the wind chime in the picture are 8", 6 1/2", 5", 3 1/2", and 2".

Step 3: Cut the bamboo using your measurements.

Clamp the Miter Saw Box onto the edge of a sturdy table and then clamp the bamboo to the box. I'm right handed so I used my left hand to sturdy the box and used my right to saw. If you are left handed you can reverse the setup.


Cut your longest piece from the widest end of the bamboo. Continue on up the bamboo so that as each piece is gradually shorter it is also gradually smaller in diameter. 

Once you start sawing don't stop! Just have at it.

Sometimes the edge of the bamboo might splinter. When this happened I would take the clamp off and rotate the bamboo so the side that is left to saw through is closer to the top. Be careful if you do this though, or you might end up with two saw marks in different spots.

After you are done sawing you should have bamboo lengths that look like this:

Step 4: Drill out the inside of the bamboo.

Hold the base of the bamboo piece against the ground and use the 1/2" drill bit to clear out the center of the bamboo. If you have trouble starting it you can use a slightly smaller bit first.

This takes some practice if you are like me and have rarely used a drill. I practiced on some scrap pieces before drilling into my project pieces. Some tips include to let the weight of the drill do most of the work. You don't need to really press into the bamboo. Make sure that you periodically take the drill out of the bamboo to empty the bit.

You must have a very firm grip on the bamboo or this will not work! If you have access to a garage full of tools there might be a vise or something like it that could hold the bamboo for you.

Step 5: Measure and cut a length of bamboo for the top.

With all your pieces ready to go you now can measure for the top piece. Lay out the bamboo on the table with a small gap in between each piece, about a quarter of an inch. This space will give the pieces room to move.

Mark the bamboo at the point where you will cut it. You want the length to have a little bit of overhang over the two edges.

Step 6: Measure and mark 1/8" from the top on opposite sides of the piece where you will drill the holes for the top of the bamboo.

Imagine you are going to drill straight through the pole. This would produce two holes on opposite sides of the piece. This is what you are going to mark, but not what you are going to do.

Step 7: Using the 5/64" bit, drill through one side of the bamboo, turn the piece over, and drill the hole in the other side. Have your cat supervise.

My Miter Saw Box had a groove in it that held the bamboo nicely. I used a clamp to hold the smaller pieces in place while drilling.

You want to turn your piece over instead of drilling straight through because the bamboo will not split as much if you do it this way.

Step 8: Lay out and mark the top where you will drill holes for the top piece.

It is important to have your chimes all laid out where they will end up in the end. Mark on top of the top piece where the middle of each chime is.

Step 9: Drill through the top piece on your marks using the 1/16" bit.

This time you are going to drill straight through the piece of bamboo. This will mean that there will probably be some light splintering in the wood, but it's on the bottom and the next step will take care of that.

Step 10: Sand any rough edges.

Any hanging pieces of bamboo or rough edges can be sanded away. This doesn't need to be perfect, just enough to get the rough edges out.

If you want to paint or stain your wind chimes you can go to town sanding and then paint or stain.

Step 11: Thread your chimes together.

Using fishing line go through the top of your top piece and come out the bottom. Thread a bead or two on the line. Thread the bamboo piece on going through one side and coming out the other. Go back up through the beads again and up the same hole in the top piece. Go down the next hole in the top piece and repeat the process.

Once you are done threading tighten everything up and straighten any of the chimes out that might be crooked. The fishing line should be coming up out the two sides of the top piece. Tie a knot at either edge flush with the top piece to prevent the line from moving around.

Step 12: Tie two knots in the top to hang the chimes by.

Holding the chimes up tie your first knot so that the chimes are not slanted one way or the other. Tie a second knot about 3/4" lower. This loop is where the chime will hang. You could also attach a key ring here instead.

All images and text are my own personal property and you have every right to share the link but no right to claim this as your own.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Adding Prep to the Wardrobe

Look I have a finished object to show you! I actually finished quite some time ago, but I only recently had some decent pictures taken of it.

"I should wear that green vest I made today," I thought. "Hmm, I don't have pictures for Ravelry of it."
"Terri! Terri where are you?" I shout as if our two bedroom apartment is some gigantic field which needs shouting over. "Come take pictures of me!" I say brandishing the camera.

This vest came about under uncertain circumstances. Several years ago I owned a bright blue polar fleece vest. I enjoy bright colors and the brightness of that blue added some cheer to the contents of my wardrobe. However, I rarely wore the vest and in one of my recent moves I decided to donate it instead of take it with me.

Regarding my history with the aforementioned vest, why would I then spend many hours making another vest which might prove just as difficult to fit into my wardrobe? I must be very very silly, or just a knitter with yarn and a neat pattern, or maybe both.

I made my dad a sweater a couple of years ago and bought an excess of yarn that I would need. After the sweater was finished I had several balls of Cascade 220 in a lovely dark heather green sitting in my stash. I started fishing around for a pattern that called for the amount of yarn I had left because I'm trying to get my stash under some sort of control.

The pattern for this vest is called Honeycomb and is freeing available from Knitty. Two things helped me choose this pattern over some others I was considering. It called for the yardage I had left and the way it was marketed got me. Preppy you say? Well I could use a little prep in my wardrobe. Becoming a teacher you say? Well that's what I'm going to be very soon. Maybe this vest was right for me.

Don't you just adore those books?
I love the smell of old books.

I enjoyed knitting this vest because it became class knitting. I knit all the time in my classes, but the pattern can't be too complicated or I start paying more attention to my knitting than I do to class. Even though I read in other people's Ravelry pages about the vest I didn't believe them that the cable row took a while. Well, compared to the other ribbing or just knit rows they did take a while! Good thing I like cabling without a needle or I would have hated this vest.

I added a few rows in the waist to make it a little longer. I ended up having just enough yarn to only do five rows of ribbing in the neckline and arm holes instead of the eight called for. Whew! Towards the end I actually had all three areas of ribbing on the needles trying to figure out how much yarn I had left and if I could get away with another row around all three.

I am very pleased with the result and even more pleased that I actually wear it!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Neat Beans

It's been a month since my last post. Did the end of the semester come about and make me wish I was an octopus so I could have eight arms to get everything done on time? Why yes, yes that did happen.

Did I also perhaps wonder why I write in this blog? Yes, that happened a lot too. I think about writing more than I actually write. I should just quite thinking so much about it and do it. Blogger tells me that people have been here at least. If it weren't for the stats reassuring me that someone was out there who might have read this I certainly wouldn't have kept writing.

Thanks for reading this, anonymous Internet readers. This is for you. If you perhaps enjoy something I write it would neat beans if you could write and tell me so.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Good Consumer. Good.

I feel like this post needs a kind of disclaimer because I am writing in a different style this time. I love snark, wit, and sarcasm and occasionally attempt to put it in my writing. This entry is an exploration of that tone. I'm not entirely sure if I will write more posts this way or even that I needed this disclaimer. Perhaps I'm just avoiding writing the actual post.


As a person moves beyond the first stages of learning how to knit they usually begin to be either a product knitter or a process knitter. In other words, they knit because they are product whores or because they enjoy the zen meditation state they fall into as they knit.

The images of these two types of knitters is not without their bias. A product knitter, I imagine, is the kind of consumer that capitalism happily produces, the person who lusts after what they cannot have and who works tirelessly to obtain ever increasing amounts of stuff. This person is the good consumer who, capitalism tells us, keeps our economy going.

The process knitter, on the other hand, sits on the floor in lotus pose calmly knitting through everything and doesn't care if mistakes are made or if the cat starts eating the sweater. This knitter uses good materials to enjoy the process ever more and is occasionally surprised that a finished object occurs at the end of knitting.

My current project has convinced me that I fall squarely into the product camp. I want it like a good consumer wants black friday to hurry up and get here already.

I know that I am a product knitter because I do not enjoy knitting this thing. I made a scarf for a friend some time ago out of a mystery yarn in my stash which I'm sure some well meaning person gifted to me. It is a purple worsted weight acrylic boucle. This means that its a pretty color, kind of lumpy, and splits like a needle going through fabric.

I didn't particularly enjoy knitting the scarf either, but I am trying to use up my stash because I'm poor and buying yarn when I already have lots seems silly. I designed a large reversible cable to go down the middle of the scarf. Why did I try to make a cable, something that needs good stitch definition, in a yarn like boucle that has almost no stitch definition? Because apparently I like to torture myself.

And not just on the one project. My dear friend asked for a matching hat for her coming November birthday. "Of course I'll knit you a hat to match your scarf! I'd love to. I have more of the same yarn too!" Great.

Since the scarf had a cable, the hat needs cables as well, because I need continuity or my brain will explode. That leaves me at today, knitting cables with a yarn I already know won't show cables very well and wishing the stitch definition on the hat was better.

Today I am a product knitter. People ask me why I knit. Sometimes I give them the product answer. I like to knit because of the things I can make. They are unlike anything store bought. They are my own creation. Something I give them the process answer. I like the feel of knitting. I like knowing how the decisions I make about my knitting will affect the finished object. Sometimes, it calms me down. This product/ process debate is really all just a cover up for the fact that I don't know why I am knitter.

I don't know why I am knitting a cabled hat in purple acrylic boucle worsted weight yarn, except that I want it. Except that my friend has been such a good friend to me for so many years. Except that every stitch is totally worth it.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Curiosity and the Circle of Compassion

"The tendency to centralize into ourselves, to try to protect ourselves, is strong and all-pervasive. A simple way of turning it around is to develop our curiosity and our inquisitiveness about everything. This is another way of talking about helping others, but of course the process also helps us. We work on ourselves in order to help others, but also we help others in order to work on ourselves. The whole path seems to be about developing curiosity, about looking out and taking an interest in all the details of our lives and in our immediate environment."

Pema Chodron has opened a new world to me. Each of the short meditations in this book has pushed me towards a shift of perspective. I live mostly in a place of concrete. I spend a good portion of each day in my car going to or coming home from school and looking at concrete. My gut reaction has been to lament that I live in such a place, to lament the loss of the vast network of wetlands that was here before the concrete was laid. I wonder where all the animals went that lived here, but really I know that most of them perished. Pema has helped me to, not necessarily get rid of those thoughts, but to see my life and what is in it, to notice, to pay attention instead of dismiss. Instead of yearning to be somewhere I am not, I am paying attention to my own life. After all, I don't want to miss it.

Developing curiosity on the surface seems easy, but really is a radical approach to life. It is not simply to be curious or to notice when you are curious but to actively make yourself be curious.

And what of my knitting? I know the knit and purl stitch so well it feels like I was born knowing them. I know what they look like and what the feel like passing through my fingers. I know that I prefer to knit and that knitting ribbing is getting easier. How can I develop curiosity about something which is so much a part of me?

I pay a lot of attention to my knitting, not out of curiosity, but out of a desire for perfection. The acceptance that I am human and will make mistakes is something I will probably be working towards for the rest of my life. I have come to terms with and know this about myself. For me then, it is turning this rapt attention I have for my knitting into a curiosity rather than scrutiny.

I just finished a scarf for my dad for Christmas. A few weeks ago he asked for a scarf about three days before going on a vacation where it was likely to be cold. I valiantly started without much hope of finishing before he went on the trip and with the idea that it would likely turn into a Christmas gift. Which it has.

The scarf is a wider version of mistake stitch rib. On one row I *knit 3, purl 3* and on the other row I *k1, p1*. The pattern is reversible and deliciously squishy. About halfway through the scarf I noticed that on the *knit 3, purl 3* rows I was knitting a tad bit tighter. This meant that on the knit stitch ridges that the pattern creates, every other stitch was a little tighter than the other stitches. The difference between curiosity and scrutiny is the difference between a curious acceptance of how the pattern looks when I knit it and the desire to make it all be even.

I half-heartedly tried to make it all even but it didn't really work and so I relaxed. This scarf is more me than I could have tried to make it be me. Very few people will ever notice the discrepancy in the stitches that I am talking about. Perhaps the lesson for me in all of this is that I can still develop a curiosity towards my knitting in the way of developing an acceptance and even likeness for the ways I knit that are different from the ways others knit (otherwise known as mistakes).

Sunday, October 17, 2010

In which I encounter a caracal and discover a new yarn shop.

There are two yarn shops that are close to me in Long Beach. One has recently closed its doors and while I have heard they have plans of reopening, who knows when that will actually happen or where they will be. This has left me with one local yarn store which, while a decent store for various reasons, is not the yarn store of my dreams. Many of the people who work there are haughty and I usually can't wait to get out of there. I go only when I desperately need something I know they will have.

This, combined with the opportunity to drive south for over an hour and a half on a day trip meant that I got to stop by Clever Knits, a cute yarn store in Vista, CA. But why was I on a day trip in the first place?

This weekend Terri and I celebrated our 2 years together. We drove down to Escondido yesterday to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park (formerly known as the Wild Animal Park). It was a roaringly fun day exploring the park and seeing all the animals. My favorite memory is seeing the animal encounter with the Caracal.

Animal encounters are where they actually have the animals outside their enclosures. The one we saw was just outside on a grassy area. One trainer had the caracal, named Carlton, on a leash and in her other hand was what looked like an oversized cat toy on an really long rope. Just as we got there she started moving the cat toy all over the place and Carlton would run and jump and did some back flips too. It was really an awesome sight to see. When he caught the toy he just sat down and held it in his mouth for a long time as if to say, "Got it! Mine. All mine. Got it."

Before we set out on our adventure I did a little searching on the Internet to see if there would be any yarn shops that we could stop at on our way back. First, I wanted to stop because I am tired of my local yarn store's attitude. Second, one of the best ways for knitters to commemorate a trip is to buy yarn there. And this being a special day celebrating a special occasion, I felt justified in adding to my stash.

I could not be happier with my decision to stop at Clever Knits. The store, like many yarn shops, is rather small. But I have never had a better experience at a yarn store. I felt welcome, appreciated, and valued. I wasn't rushed and I wasn't hassled. No one stared at me.

The woman behind the counter I later found out was the owner's mother. A short haired slender lady with metal rimmed glasses she simply stated to feel free to ask any questions if I needed help. The center of the room is dominated with two sitting areas, one with a couch and several cozy looking chairs in fresh chic prints and the other a long table, perfect for laying out large projects or taking a class. Along one wall was a bookshelf that I simply didn't look into because I knew I would want one of everything, a small basket of five or six bolts of fabric in adorable and modern prints, a wall of hanging patterns, and a notions corner with lantern moon needles that, when I saw them, I almost drooled.

Really, I needed a bib to be in this place because the other wall was covered in yarn. And not just any yarn, yarns I have heard knitters talk about on the internet but that I had never actually seen or touched. There was Malabrigo, unfortunately only in a lime green color or I probably would have bought some. Trekking XXL in one of my favorite dark turquoise colors that faded to black and back again. There were others too, like delicious cashmere and silk blends. The shop also carried a line of organic wool yarns that I had not seen before. Not to be too out in the stratosphere, there was also a large selection of the ever useful Cascade 220.

I decided to go with a ball of sock yarn that is dyed by a local hand dyer. I have been drooling over hand dyed yarns over the Internet and ruining perfectly good keyboards for some time. Apparently the theme of this post is drool. I love supporting local businesses as well as local artists. It helps me make living in a big city not feel so big. The yarn also earned "+2 buy me" because it is various gradations of my current favorite color.


Monday, October 4, 2010

Cockroach Kitchen - in which I deviate a bit from blathering on about knitting

Terri and I moved to our new apartment several months ago. As you live in a place you start to really get to know the quirks about it, or why it was cheaper than other places you inquired into.

The building went up in the 70's, so much of it is older and in need of some care. When we toured the place the apartment itself seemed very clean with new paint and fixtures and the like. It was one of the cleanest we looked at. And we looked at a lot of places. As we began living here, however, it became aparant that we are not alone.

The saving grace in it all is that they are not everywhere, they are only in the kitchen. The cockroaches take advantage of something I did not know to look out for, an improperly sealed kitchen. There are gaps in every corner and crevice inside the cupboards where wood should meet wall. I'm not even really sure how you could mess up a cupboard install so poorly. Isn't it all supposed to be sealed?
We have tried all the normal options. Roach traps. Borax killer stuff. Telling the management and having the bug man spray. Then I found a gap under the kitchen cabinet that is probably an inch wide. Who knows where it leads but I'm betting somewhere into a neighbor's apartment where they don't care so much about the roaches.
Terri and I have been using foam sealer to try to fill in these gaps. It is seriously easy to use, just shake the can, point and spray. I did a bunch of sealing of the upper cabinets yesterday and got so excited about using it that I forgot to change into grubby clothes and ruined a pair of pants. Oops!

We are on a sealing quest. I don't want to live with cockroaches and I have to do everything in my own power to get them out. I am hoping that sealing will solve a lot of the problems. We just have to make sure to seal everywhere. I'm even going to seal around the dishwasher. Deposit back? Meh, I can scrape all the foam off if I want to when we leave.

After we've sealed everything we can I'm going to get fresh roach traps and have the bug man come spray again.

Despite my determination though, the cockroach has been around a lot longer than we have. Mad props for that.
Wasn't that a lovely digression into cockroaches. Ick! I have actually been knitting quite a lot lately, much more than I had expected. More on that to come, and with pictures too!

Sweater Debut

Bye bye September!

Things I remember from you:
- The week before my birthday, which Terri declared my birthday week and for which I got a present every day. Me, lucky? Yes.
- My birthday. Dinner, friends, karaoke with wigs. Yes, wigs.
- School. Teaching clarinet students. Scary and terrifying and exciting.
- The hottest temperatures in a long time. Probably to make up for the surprisingly mild summer we had. All the hot of summer came packed late in September on two days.

But I knew that hot weather would pass and now October wishes to declare that it is rightfully here with some colder winds and spitting rain.

It hasn't really rained here in a long time. The kind of rain that makes really good puddles and washes your car for you. Most of the rain has been the sprinkly-make-your-car-even-dirtier kind of rain. Which is the kind of rain October has started with today.

Bring it on October! Because I have a sweater made for you and your weather. It's cable band around my shoulders and snug nubbly sleeves are ready to keep your cold away.

Today I debuted my Cable for Jeans sweater of the previous post... even though I haven't sewn on the snaps yet. No matter though, because it really isn't cold enough to need it closed all the time, and a safety pin in just the right spot did most of the work.

It was snuggly and delicious. Like drinking a cup of hot chocolate everywhere I went; walking along, tasting the sweet warmth.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

A Fitting Sweater

As luck would have it, last year a nearby yarn store happened to be having their annual sale on my birthday weekend. And my father happened to go to dinner at a restaurant next door the night before the sale started and saw them getting everything ready. In previous years I have sent my father to a yarn store and told him to pick out anything he thought I might like and that would be my birthday present. It worked out quite well because he has an artist's eye and picks out things I like and would not have normally looked at myself. Seeing that this yarn store was going to have a sale and that my birthday was coming up around the bend he did the smart thing and got me a gift certificate.

To this day I think it is one of the best yarn related gifts I have ever gotten. This particular store carries some luscious things which are rarely in my budget. Last year, however, armed with a gift certificate and a sale, I was free to really shop. I saw a bag of 10 balls of Rowan Scottish Aran Tweed in a deep blue tweedy jeans color and quietly put it in my little hand basket. (And by quietly I mean I snatched it out of the bin and might have let out a squee of delight to the puzzlement of the other shoppers.) Periodically while shopping I would take it out of my basket, stare at all the pretty and think about its possibilities. What would I make out of it? A sweater for sure, but which one? Since a Rowan yarn sweater was now actually in a price bracket that was reasonable instead of astronomical, the bag became one of the things I purchased that day.

But what sweater to make? A little research on Ravelry revealed that the yarn produced nice cables. I found a pullover that I really liked in one of my Interweave magazines called the Dovetail Pullover by Kathy Zimmerman. I wanted the sweater to have cables, but not too many cables as I live in Southern California and the yarn is 100% wool. Even though I did quite the search, I think I knew in my heart all along that I really wanted to turn this yarn into The Truffle.

The problem with The Truffle pattern is that it wasn't a pattern, it was a tutorial. The person who wrote it was essentially copying a sweater she saw in a store and wanted to preserve the rights of the person who originally designed the sweater, which I can respect. This is the link I have to the tutorial, but there is currently nothing on the blog. It reminds me of how important it is to save articles from the Internet that you want to refer back to because you never know when they might disappear.

I talked with some knitting friends online about which sweater to make. Should I go for the one with a pattern or the one with a tutorial that will involve lots of doing of the maths and be much harder and that I was afraid I would never finish? A friend rightly pointed out that if I chose the Dovetail I would always be looking over my shoulder and wondering about that other sweater. I would forever wonder what that other sweater would have been like. And it is likely that I would regret not even giving The Truffle a try.

And so I did the math. I made seven swatches for this sweater. I measured myself and a sweater that I liked that fit me. I made target measurements. I did more maths. And it worked. It worked! It fits like it really was tailored for me.

Since the blog is no longer up to tell you about the construction, here are the basics. The yoke is knit first using short rows to make a circle while staying in the cable pattern. Then the bottom of the sweater is cast on, knit in rib and then switched to the body cable pattern. One of the reasons I liked this sweater for this yarn is that the back is entirely seed stitch, so not as hot as if it had been cabled as well. I added waist shaping. The back and front sides are shaped to fit the yoke curve. Basic sleeves are also knit in seed stitch. I used the Knitter's Handy Guide to Sweater Patterns as a reference here and for the armhole decreases on the body. A small collar is knit by picking up stitches around the top of the yoke. Stitches are then picked up along the length of the front opening to make the ribbed button band. I blocked and then added on snaps.

Things I learned from this sweater:
  • Swatching really works.
  • I can knit a sweater in three months.
  • Measuring and knitting on gauge actually results in measurements that fit.
  • Sleeve caps and armholes can be fudged a bit and still look great.
  • This is the use for learning math in school that is actually applicable in my life.
  • I can design a cable if I want to.
  • I'm really awesome! My knitting has come a long, long way.

Friday, August 6, 2010

To Be Moving

The photograph above is an explanation, a reason, an excuse for my not so consistent blogging. I have moved! My life is still mostly in boxes and the furniture is coming tomorrow. Currently the choices of living room seating consist of a bean bag chair, an office chair, or a sofa cushion.

It is just beginning to sink in that I am currently living with the person I love dearest in this world. While in the hustle and rush of moving I became absorbed with the minutiae, with the packing, taping, moving, and unpacking of boxes. Last night was the first night I waited up for Terri to come home from work. And now we are sharing a closet. And our shampoos and conditioners are commingling. And the fridge holds her magnets and mine. A multitude of little things pulling me into the reality of living together. I wonder at how I got so lucky.

Last month I finished two knitting projects. One was a repeat knit and the other was a sweater that I am prodigiously proud of. More on those a little later.

Sunday, July 18, 2010


I smell mouth watering scents emanating from small independent cafes in San Francisco. I feel textiles running through my fingers in San Jose. On a farm in Eugene, Oregon I see myself sitting in a field watching alpaca vie for the spot on top of the hill. In China I visit temples, gaze at skyscrapers in Tokyo, ponder rice fields in Korea. I haven't traveled anywhere in a while, and I think it might be time.

This world offers so much experience, so much of life. I wonder why people look to the stars for new life to contact when our own world provides endless places to explore. My most recent vacations have felt like teases, a three day trip to a place I want to explore for six weeks.

I miss New Zealand, land of rain, sheep, and memories. I am not going to forget, though, that my year there was hard. Uprooting myself from my support network was harder than I had expected. With the bleak weather and my few social resources I was depressed for a while. And despite this, maybe because I am willing to admit that it wasn't all rainbows and cookies, I want to travel again. I know what to expect now. Oregon has really been calling my name lately. San Francisco too.

While I do love Long Beach, I am tired of the Los Angeles sprawl. The people, air, and freeways I can deal with, but driving for endless stretches of city gets me down. This area used to be wetlands, beautiful and stinky and home to shorebirds. And now humans have made it a home for us. The urban planning for this area is a joke. There was no planning. At least, nothing that included accommodating both people and wildlife. In my one life I would like to live in an urban place that values the environment and preserving it.

Instead of living in the place I was born simply because I was born here, I would like to choose where I am going to live. I want to live in New Zealand again. I don't think I would want to live there permanently, but I know that a part of my heart is still there. I spent a week on a llama farm in New Zealand and I want to spend another six months there. What a wonderful experience to have.

I do worry about leaving again. I missed my friends terribly when I went to New Zealand. But communication is better and better these days. Perhaps it wouldn't be as difficult to keep in touch. I know that a part of me would feel guilty leaving, for moving so far from my friends and family. But there are so many wonderful places to explore. Another year or two away couldn't hurt. I could always move back. I guess that, really, I just want to keep the door of possibility open.

I have one more year of school left to complete and then who knows, maybe it would be a good time to wander.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Mountain Oak

This weekend I went camping in Angeles National Forest. And when nightfall quickly came after setting up camp I realized I had forgotten my pants! I think I laughed for five minutes straight before I was able to ask Terri if she had an extra pair.

I've been writing this blog for about a month now and I think it is time to introduce Terri. She is the most awesome girlfriend ever. We have been dating for a year and half and are currently looking for an apartment to live together. Very exciting!

Terri and I play Scrabble a lot and this weekend Terri amazed me with her ability to play Scrabble while driving in traffic towards the mountains. While I really enjoy playing the game, I'm not the best speller. I do try, but my brain just thinks spelling is really stupid and so I'm not very good at it. This makes Scrabble interesting because Terri has to make sure I don't do things like spell taxs. I know taxes is spelled with the -es on the end, but I get excited about adding -s onto the ends of words and forget.

Even though this was Terri's first time camping you wouldn't have known it because, among other things, she brought extra pants. I still can't believe I had no pants. Just shorts. No pants. Ha! That first night Terri roasted corn over the fire and I finally realized why people like corn. It can be yummy!

Some friends joined us on Saturday and we went hiking across the road from base camp. First we went around a small nearby lake. It was really pleasant with people on the lake relaxing and fishing. Then we found a wide trail and headed up into the mountains. It was really just my friends and I up on the mountain side.

I didn't realize it at the time, but it was nice to get away. When we drove back into the city I remembered all of the things I needed to do. It was then that I realized that my brain had really taken a vacation from thinking about all that stuff. It was as if my brain waves slowed down and let me just be there, camping.

My friends, who only came up for one night, have already said they would like to go again. A sign of a successful trip. I would like to go again too. I have always wanted to go camping in Joshua Tree when it is wildflower season. I think that is next on the list for sure.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


Not to brag or anything, but I just finished the best thing ever. I am so proud of this bag. It is what I dreamed it would be. Here's the story.

Three years ago I was far away from my knitting friends and living in New Zealand. I missed them and was, of course, planning Christmas gifts in July. Melissa asked for the Bob Dobb's face in the book Domiknitrix by Jennifer Stafford on a messenger style bag. Since she had no color preference, I decided to get creative and use up some leftover colors from other things.

The chart for the face uses three colors in one row, two for the face and one for the background. Having recently read some of Kaffe's books I decided to jump on in and use a combination of stranded and intarsia techniques. It took a while to knit Bob's face, but I admit managing all the little yarn balls in the back was fun. The rest of the bag was completed using random striping. When I returned home and gave Melissa the bag she was very excited. She loved how the face looked in knitting.

I didn't know it at the time, but I had made the object of which I would become most proud. I would talk about this bag whenever people would ask, "What is the best/coolest/most awesome thing you have ever made?" While I was happy that my hard work had gone to another knitter, I found that I was sad that I didn't have the thing I was most proud of knitting. I think this sadness came from a desire to show people the awesome that I had made myself and not being able to.

At the beginning of this year I decided to make another bag using three colors in one row. A bag that I could be proud of. But what to put on the front? I wasn't really into Bob Dobbs and I had already done that chart. My participation in a Harry Potter group on Ravelry (I'm a big dork) got me thinking seriously about a dragon motif. I've always adored dragons and having one to parade around sounded like so much fun. The chart would need to be in three colors, of course and so I set about looking for a dragon pattern that I liked. Not finding anything suitable I decided to design my own.

The bag itself is a simple messenger style. I knit the dragon first and then continued striping for the body. In an effort to chip away at my stash I used yarn I had on hand. A few days ago I finished sewing the lining and then sewing it into the bag. This means that it is officially done!

I love it. Even though it doesn't really go with anything in my wardrobe. I wear it proudly anyway.

Monday, June 14, 2010

A Philosophy of Knitting

Several years ago I discovered a button on someone's blog that led me to Cast-On, a podcast about knitting. This opened my eyes to the world that is podcasting. In case you don't already know, a podcast is just someone with a microphone who produces a show and then puts it on the internet for other people. It is often kind of like a radio show. Podcasts are especially accessible through the apple software iTunes, but most podcasts are also accessible through other means. There are podcasts out there about every imaginable topic, and of course the ones that interest me the most are the ones about knitting. I thought I would write podcast reviews here in my blog on occasion to help spread the word and start conversation.

When I discovered Brenda Dayne's podcast Cast-On I started at the beginning and listened all the way through. Every episode. I liked this podcast from the first listen. It is a structured podcast with different segments such as Today's Sweater and usually an Essay which is sectioned off with music that Brenda picks from the podsafe music network (music that artists put out there that podcasters can freely use with due credit).

The reason, though, that I think I like this podcast so much is because Brenda explores the philosophical side of knitting, the why and the wonderings of the stitches. Indeed, she has said a couple of times that the podcast is actually in the iTunes category of philosophy and not in the arts and crafts category because that is where she feels Cast-On belongs. I enjoy the creativity of the podcast, of how she structures the different elements and of how she fits each podcast into her current theme. And she gives me something to listen to as I knit.

If you are interested in listening to Cast-On I wouldn't start at the beginning, simply because there she is finding her voice, and in the meantime does some complaining. I would urge you to start instead with her series on the muses or to work backwards as some people do.

I'm always interested in discovering new, great podcasts, so if you listen to one you think is just darn tootin' awesome drop me a line, k?

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Lost Art

Drawing courtesy of SaraSchool from DeviantArt

I am one of those people who knits in public. While a professor drones on unintelligible things which I don't need to write down I knit. In moments before and after classes where I need to write I knit. Riding the bus or sitting on a park bench I often have knitting with me.

A few weeks ago I was riding the bus to school. I do this from time to time as it is free for uni students to ride. I get a little exercise walking to the stop, save money, and increase my knitting time. People like to talk to you when you're knitting on the bus. Many people have their own opinions about knitting and want to tell you them. As a young woman I don't fit the prejudiced image of what a knitter should look like and therefore, I think, I confuse people. I become intriguing. Often I listen to my mp3 player which often discourages the public from talking to me. However, I've lost my headphones and so, on this particular day, I was knitting and my ears were available for comment.

I've ridden the public transit system for many years. In my city there is quite the variety of interesting characters. I don't mind the bus riding experience itself so much as I mind the creepy people. I have developed quite the radar for these people in an effort to keep my interactions with them to a minimum and to protect myself. I'm a city girl and I'm not stupid about these things. Most of the people that ride the bus are nice folk, but I've still had enough encounters with creep to be wary.

On this day a few weeks ago I got on the bus and made my usual scan. No one too out of the ordinary and no one who seemed like I should keep the pointy objects out of sight. I sit near the front where there is a better view as the bus drives past the ocean, put my backpack on my lap, unzip the top and start knitting. I keep my knitting in the bag as then all I have to do is rezip and get up to exit.

Near the university a man who has been riding since before I got on gets up to walk off the bus. As he passes me he says, "That's a lost art," and walks off the bus.

As my dark navy knitting was sort of buried in my bag I am doubtful he could have seen the cable work. But perhaps he had. I am sure he meant his comment as a sort of compliment, as a way of saying, "Wow I'm amazed anyone still knows how to do what my mother did."

I wanted to show this man all that is not lost about the art of knitting. About the thousands of people making beautiful things out of knitting. Ugly artful things. Useful things. Boring things. Meditative things. Funny things. Gifts of love and tenderness. Color work that takes my breath away. If knitting is a lost art, then why are people inventing new techniques, new ways to bind off, new ways to knit a sock? I wanted to go online to Ravelry and show him the vibrant communities of people together forging a language of knitting for today. I wanted to prove to him that it's not just me, that I and my art are not lost.

I do have to say that I am profoundly grateful for the internet and for my ability to access it. Without it I too might have the opinion that knitting was a lost art, that I was one of only a handful of people left who knit. But through the internet I have come to connect with a vast network of knitters whose everyday practice of the craft proves unequivocally that knitting is anything but a lost art.

Friday, May 14, 2010

My Plants Will Protect Me From the Zombies!

I decided many years ago that I just don't like horror movies. I remember sitting in the movie theatre wondering why I had paid money for an experience I was clearly not enjoying. Other people, like my best friend, can go and enjoy them, but I will stay at home and knit watching six hours of Pride and Prejudice.

Zombie movies, however, are my exception. I really enjoy zombie movies. I don't know why I have this dichotomy. I think part of it has to do with the fact that serial killers and torture are part of the real world and that zombies are so fictitious. Either way, I thoroughly enjoyed my latest zombie movie experience Zombie Land. The gore is a bit much at times, but I'll power through it to get my zombie fix.

When my girlfriend got the game Plants vs. Zombies for her birthday I was, therefore, intrigued. It seemed to be a confluence of three things I enjoy: video games, zombies, and gardening. From the first time I played the game I was hooked. The basic tenet is that you are in your house and have to keep the zombies from getting across your lawn to your house or they will eat your brains. You protect your lawn by growing sunflowers to give you sun and planting various offensive and defensive plants. In the main game there are a series of levels to pass and then there are side minigames to play to earn more money as well.

The first night I had it I stayed up all night playing because I was mildly addicted. It was like eating chocolate with bits of ginger in it, I can't just have one piece, I usually end up eating the whole bar because it's that good. And just like the chocolate, the game isn't that bad for you, but too much can make you a little ill.

The game has won a fair amount of attention as many people enjoy the gameplay. It is a smart game and has many variables from which to alter gameplay. It requires you to come up with your own strategies and allows you to experiment with using different offensive and defensive styles. I think the variety and freedom of the game are one of its strongest points.

The only downside to playing this game, or any other video game, is that I can't do it and knit. I wish I could play Plants vs. Zombies using voice commands:
"Plant sunflower in A1"
"Harvest sun"
"Plant potato mine in D4"
It would be awesome! Because I could knit! It would mean that I could justify playing PvZ as knitting time!

Alas, until the advent of affordable voice activated video games I will still have to label video game time as "relaxation" time.


Friday, May 7, 2010

In Relationship with Books

I will soon be moving to a new home. I am very excited as my girlfriend and I will be moving in together and I get to decorate! Whee! I don't actually mind most of the process of moving house, packing and unpacking are kind of fun. But I'm not a fan of lifting heavy boxes of books. Nor of my girlfriend throwing out her back and then I am left to carry everything myself... one handed... up hill both ways.

When the whim strikes me I will go through my collection of books and weed, attempting to make the size manageable. This whim comes especially before I am about to move. I have books that I would like to read at some point and I consider if I actually will get to that point. If I have read the book I consider whether I would read it again. I consider if it has the old book smell and if I donate it to the library they would actually use it.

Mostly, however, I consider the relationship I have with them. When I became interested in origami when I was eleven my aunt gave me a book of origami that she had when she was my age. Even though I rarely do any folding these days I keep it because I do fold once in a while, and it reminds me of my aunt's kindness. There is my copy of Animal Dreams by Barbara Kingsolver that I have read and reread and still love. Practical books on gardening and vegetarian cooking alongside antique stuffed animal Steiff price guides and the first six Harry Potter books. There is Kafka from high school and Maus and Hemingway from college.

However, if I could only keep a few books I would choose my knitting books and a volume or two of poetry. The relationship I have with my knitting books is an indispensable part of my practice of knitting. The inspire, teach, and encourage me to keep going. I know that the authors of these books share with me a love of craft and I feel as if we share the secret to a happy life, one dedicated to doing the things we love. It is like having tea and playing a game of chess with an old friend, stimulating and relaxing, joyful and contemplative.

I cannot comprehend my life without poetry. The pull and thrust of words, the way they slide on my tongue as I read Whitman aloud, how they give me back to myself, is worth carrying the box up three more flights of stairs. Every poem contains the possibility to shape my life each time I read it. I need these books with me, to revel in the sound of words. I need these courageous poets, who put so much of their own lives on the page that others might taste life in a different way.

My relationship with my books is one of the most important relationships in my life. Through sickness and in health, til death do us part, I will be reading.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Somewhere in the Knitting

There are two weeks left in my semester plus finals week and all I want to do is knit. My cat, Sweetie, has no problem with this whatsoever. She wants to eat the yarn. Or lay on the wool vest I laid out on the bed before I could even get my tape measure out. Or sit on my head so that her curly tail is in front of my eyes so I can't knit and must pet her instead.

However, this propensity to knit instead of do things like make sure my electricity doesn't get shut off when my roommate moves out has got me struggling to even remember what time management is.

I will start the day with good intentions. Plans. Ideas. Things To Do. All with the idea that I will pick up the needles after I've done them. And I find myself sitting down in front of my computer eating breakfast and before I'm done with my morning Ravelry I realize I've got knitting in my hands and an episode of the Lime and Violet podcast playing.

I think this trend is a culmination of many things going on in my life. I am stressed out beyond comprehension. My roommate moved out quite to my surprise and I am now paying a month of rent on my own. School is rapidly coming to a close and all of my classes have things due either right now or in the next few seconds. A friend I thought I could trust has shared with other people things I told her in confidence.

All things considered, I'm not really surprised I keep turning to my knitting. It seems to be the calm in the storm, a way to be in my life, to be here, and yet escape from the mess around me. Somewhere in the knitting, I am finding a much needed sense of quiet.