Thursday, April 28

The shrug saga continues

Cotton angora...2005_0404Image0004 your destiny.

As every knitter knows, there are roughly a jillion shrug patterns out there. Shrug patterns that suit every imaginable taste. If you're looking for a shrug, my guess is that somewhere, there is one with your name on it. Short-sleeved, long-sleeved, poofy, streamlined, lacy, minimalistic. They're all out there, just waiting to suck you in with their trendy and trend-setting allure. And, being the fickle knitter I am, how can I ever be sure that this shrug is the one with my name written on it? I'll tell you how. By knowing how to read the signs. That's right. The fact is that
this shrug pattern calls for the exact yardage that I already have. Now, I'm not a superstitious person, nor do I get caught up in mystical hullabaloo, but how else could I interpret this except for that the gods of knitting, knowing how difficult this decision would be for me ("But, ooh, that shrug looks pretty too..."), have smiled upon me. And I will accept this sign. I will accept it and believe that this shrug and I were meant for each other. I promise, little shrug, to never sneak around behind your abbreviated back, looking at other shrug patterns that might be even better, second-guessing that you are the one.

Sometimes, my creative neuroses find a satisfying outlet in sewing. Last week, I made a purse with an upolstery sample square that I got for $1 at a local craft joint. Yes, I had to dive to the bottom of the bin of upholstery samples to find this one, but it was worth it. After all, there was a hand-written sign posted above the bin--"Only $1! What can you make?"--and I've never been one to take poster taunting lightly. Anyway,
I made it following, approximately,
this tutorial for a clutch, although clearly I made some customizations and alterations. If I were to do it over again, I would definitely interface the crap out of those brown border pieces, which are a little too crinkly for my taste.

So, I was shopping in my
favorite store the other day, new purse in tow, and the sales clerk said, "Oh, I really like your bag." Though my first inclination was to blurt out ostentatiously, "I made it!," I responded simply, "Thanks." I'm wondering how other knitters and sewers out there deal with this. It's wonderful to be proud of one's handicrafting skills, but to my mind, it's just a little bit obnoxious to respond to compliments by loudly proclaiming to everyone that you are, indeed, talented. Maybe it's just me.

In lieu of a snapy conclusion, and because I love photographs of her, I will end thus:

Louise Brooks is the quintessence of fabulous.

Monday, April 25

Yikes, stripes, or alternately, which shrug?

There are days when knitting is so incredibly rewarding that you want to puke. I had one of those days yesterday, when I started (finally) on my minisweater. In the beginning, there was trouble (Boobholder: The Beginning, coming soon to a theater near you). Not major trouble, but things were not as smooth as I would have hoped. It was like knitting mohair on bamboo needles, whereas I wanted the experience to be as easy and as liquidy and as glittering as knitting on my shiny new Addis is. Maybe, in fact, the new needles were part of what made the knitting so rewarding (eventually). I suddenly felt like a competent, ept (as opposed to inept) knitter, no longer hiding bashfully behind her amateur status but striding proudly out in front of her newly-discovered skillfullness.

Anyway, to get back to the initial strife-let. Cheerios (which is what my little sister calls my husband, since he has a Cheerios T-shirt he often wears) and I flew to my homeland this past weekend, so, obviously, I used the opportunity to knit (for the first time) on a plane. This did not work out, because I was wedged so tightly into my seat (airplanes are NOT a comfortable place when one is 6'1") that I was worried about the nuisance my undulating elbows might be to my neighbor (who was not my husband but instead one of those people who feels entitled to extend beyond the borders of his own seat with his arms and knees and complimentary beverage). Given this circumstance, an occasional elbow in the neck of Hogs-the-Armrest might have been just the thing, but it was early AM and I was tired and I felt like being the bigger person. So I read over the pattern for a while, making sure I understood everything, and then slept. And then left the pattern in my seat pocket when we de-planed. (Ok, so I admit it. I just wanted to use the word "de-planed.")

Well, not a huge setback, since I could print out another (though my parents' internet connection is as slow as molasses in January). But then I started and, about 20 rows into the thing, I realized I was doing right-slanting increases on both sides of the markers. This would not do. However, as a result of these things, I am now more proficient with increases (though, I'm sure I'll still have to refer
here the next time I need to execute one. I always do.). I have successfully frogged back to a specific row in my work instead of just ripping out the whole thing, which has been my former solution. And I am mastering the delicate art of "reading" my knitting. It makes me lightheaded with glee just thinking about it.

Ok, ok, enough of this. Here's the WIP of the hour, poorly lit, but ready to show you a good time. The striping was inspired by
Jess. The colors are not very accurate. In real life, it reminds me of raspberries and grapes. And also, the stripes will be even (except for purple border at the top). There, being protective, is the Patons Classic Merino I am using. Also on display, in their knitting premiere, are my homemade stitch markers. See them sparkle?


In other WIP news, I am momentarily setting aside my tank-top-desigining daydreams and doing a bit of re-shuffling of the yarn I have set aside for projects.

Lelah, I will now be making you out of the formerly messy, now quietly subdued, mercerized cotton in a beautiful dusky purple color (previously slated for creative inspiration and, eventually, a new tank).
Lovely blue Cotton Angora, as per Wendy's sage advice, I am no longer enthusiastic about knitting you into something that will have to be pulled over my head, so that you can lodge your fuzzy stowaways between my teeth. You are now destined to become an innocuous shrug to go with my new dress,
plaid dress
which will debut at a friend's wedding in a month (and, hopefully, at number one on the pop charts). Now the only issue left to ponder is, which shrug?

Friday, April 15

Procrastinator, Alligator

So, I haven't been the best bloggist of late. But, lest my blog feel sad and unappreciated, I haven't been the best anything of late. Student, teacher, person in the world... (that last one may be a bit harsh, but three is always a nice round number for lists). But, today I have several things to be thrilled about:

1.) I got my SP yesterday, which also means my SP got me, and as much as I'd love to say that I'm looking forward to the Knitty SP4 because I love spoiling other people (which is absolutely true. I adore buying/making gifts for people and putting together cute little packages), it's pretty exciting to know that I will probably be spoiled as well.

2.) I started
Lelah the other day, and while it was not necessarily fun casting on 150+ stitches (several times, because I'm lousy at estimating yarn length for cast-ons), I think it will be a quick and easy knit. And it will result in a killer top for me.

3.) My NEW ADDIS arrived! (Remember what I said previously about excalmation points and all-caps.) I now totally get why other knitters are always preparing burnt offerings for the Temple of Addi Skacel.

4.) I can now cast on for my
minisweater. (I was merely waiting for the German needles to arrive before beginning my ex-pat-living-in Germany-designed garment.)

5.) Hubs and I are going to NY tomorrow to see Dave Holland. Who is awesome.

6.) I am about two seconds away from being a real PhD candidate. Once my prospectus has been approved, it will be smooooooth sailing. (Although, before that can happen, I have to finish revising the damn thing. Procrastination--it's my forte.)

So, last night my band had a gig, and while I didn't have any smashing new knitted duds to wear, we did perform amidst dinosaur bones (triceratops skulls a-plenty) and full-fledged dinosaur skeletons. Which isn't something one gets to do everyday. (Seriously, I'm not even joking about the dinosaurs...)

Sunday, April 10

Another day, enabled once again

Recently, I've been overwhelmed by a burning desire to design something. In fact, this was one of the reasons I first took up the needles and taught myself to knit. Now, understand that I don't have the most garment-making experience in the world, let alone garment-design experience. But I figure, how hard can it be? I'll never know unless I try. And once that lure was cast, I just kept biting at the bait.

My first thought was to design a scarf for the Vogue Knitting-sponsered
Purling for a Passion scarf design contest. A scarf isn't difficult, right? It's just a rectangular strip of knitting. But it has to be creative...and therein lies the rub. I've been in a frenzy trying to choose just the right stitch pattern from my new books. Here's the yarn I'm using for said scarf (yes, yes, the submission deadline is about five days away, but I'm a habitual procrastinator, and I work best under pressure. I don't think I ever started working on a paper in college more than two days before it was due.)
Isn't it cute how they're snuggled up together in my ugly armchair? (I know you can't see the whole chair, but trust me. It's ugly) The darker pink yarn (Mission Falls 1824 Superwash Merino) is so soft and so cozy that I'm a little jealous that it's necking with the Patons Divine.

Then there's my recent rash of knitting purchases. Multiple consumergasms. I love the color of this cotton but, my God, I wish I had a ball winder. And a swift. Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we endeavor to design ourselves a summery top.
I somehow talked my husband into helping me coax this messy, unholy pile into submission. I might finish untangling it just in time for fall.

Yesterday, I bought this deliciously cuddly yarn for a stole I'm going to make for my Mom for Momma's Day. It's Classic Elite Miracle, and it's heavenly. Oh, and there's a new pair of Brittany birch straights. Not for the stole, but for my own pleasure.

Wednesday, April 6

Fashion euphoria, knitting ADD

So, I'm going to let you all in on my little problem. I love fashion (we haven't reached the problem, yet). I sometimes feel a little ashamed, a little secretive, about this, because fashion is one of those things that intelligent women should be above caring about. I'm sure you know what I mean--fashion is shallow, surface, ultimately meaningless. For me, however, putting together a smashing ensemble, or even topping off a casual outfit with one indescribably hip and unexpected accessory...well, this is one of the things that I live for. Even if that's stating it a little extremely, it's not a stretch to tell you that fashion and self-expression are synonymous for me.

So get to the problem, already.

Well, looking through knitting patterns is like browsing high-end clothing catalogues for me. It's an opportunity to pick out unique items, or not-so unique items, that I can personalize and make my own. Unfortunately, this means that I do a lot more settling on projects than actually finishing them. The other day, my far-from-fashion-conscious husband said to me, "Isn't it overwhleming to have so many things you want to knit? If it were me, I wouldn't even know where to begin." Pshaw, I thought at the time. But he kind of got to me. It IS overwhelming. I do know where to begin, but what I don't know is how to finish. I always get distracted by some other sparkly clothing item, the radar beeps, "Ooh, I must have that," and then the lonely back of a vest just sits next to my armchair for a week as a I dream of summer tops or fuzzy cardigans.

And (*voice drops to a whisper as she looks around furtively*) I hate swatching.

Monday, April 4

Knitting, like drugs, requires a lot of paraphenalia

Unfortunately, my photo hoster is being difficult and stubborn today. I was going to post some picture of my, to quote Napoleon Dynamite, "flippin' sweet," newly-acquired knitting accoutrements, but I will simply have to detail them in writing. I picked up five skeins of Debbie Bliss Cotton Angora for this top. I also got...(drumroll)...MY VERY FIRST PAIR OF ADDIS! I don't think I need to express any further feelings about this purchase that haven't already been effectively conveyed by my use of all capital letters. (I don't whip out the all caps for just anything. Or the exclamation point for that matter).

The rest of my purchases will do a bit better without pictures, since they are all items to enliven my bookshelves. I got:
Nicky Epstein's Knitting on the Edge
Big Book of Knitting Stitch Patterns
(I'm so completely thrilled with both of these books; I have no idea how I will decide which delicious patterns to try first. The hard decisions a knitter must make, eh?)
Nancie Wiseman's The Knitter's Book of Finishing Techniques
and, finally, Rebecca #29, which also excites me to no end. Of course, I will have to make the stylish cache-couer that seems to be the current darling of many online knitters, but I'm also stoked to make this (as long as I can find the necessary yarn for it):

(I am referring to the second picture, the deep-V-neck, exactly-the-type-of-cardigan-I've-been-wanting cardigan. The halter top is darling, too, and kind of Roman Holiday-esque, but, unfortunately, I'm afraid one must also have Audrey Hepburn's bust to pull off such a sweater.)

So, on a totally different note, I am taking part in the Knittyboard's SP4, (Secret Pal gift exchange) and because I thought they may be of interest, I've decided to post some of my questionnaire answers here. A little peek into the mind of Cara. By no means should anyone feel compelled to read my ramblings. Call me Blabby Blatherson, but sometimes I cram far more detail into my speech and writing than is normally advisable or acceptable in polite society. All have received warning.

1. What is your current skill level (beginner/adv. beginner/intermediate etc. etc): Well, I’ve only been knitting since September, but I consider myself a fast learner, who likes to learn new techniques and, if I do so say myself, picks them up pretty quickly and easily. In other words, I wouldn’t really balk at the idea of complicated or “advanced” knitting but rather, would relish the challenge. (On the other hand, my spiderweb capelet would laugh if it ever read this.)
2. What are your favorite fiber colors? I like colors that are deep, bright, and bold, especially purples, greens (and greeny-blues), reds, and pinks. I think I tend to like colors with food names, you know, eggplant, pomegranate, pumpkin, chocolate…or maybe I just like eating.
3. Are there any fiber colors you absolutely do NOT like? If so which? I run screaming from any shade of yellow (just because I look hideous in yellow and tend to knit mainly for myself). Washed-out pastels make me want to sit in a corner, rocking and muttering to myself (muted colors are good; I’m talkin’ baby-type pastels or any colors that suggest a country, cutesy “use me to paint roosters and garlands on a decorative shelf” vibe). And don’t’ get me started on bright florescents.
4. What are your favorite fibers? Mmmm…let’s see. I love natural fibers, the softer, the better (I have a cheek-rubbing test I do for softness). I also like playing around with (natural) textures, so fuzzy, furry, boucle, variegated—all these are good. I’m a little bit of a yarn snob, I guess (though I can’t REALLY afford to be. Details, schmetails), but I certainly don’t hate acrylic or acrylic-blends, as long as they are soft and cuddly. And of course, cashmere, but really, I only know what it’s like to knit with cashmere from my knitting daydreams.
5. Do you have any unwelcome fibers (stuff you just don't need more of or like?) Seeing fun fur causes me to make a sound similar to the sound I think you’d make if you ever tried to swallow fun fur. I also tend to gag involuntarily at the thought of chenille, eyelash, or trellis yarn, and anything plastic-y or scratchy. Yarns that wave their tentacles at you, like scary, alien life forms, kind of frighten me.
6. What is your Dream Yarn? I’m dying to knit something with Rowan, especially the big plushy, cozy ones. I’ve fondled them lovingly at my LYS several times, but have never had any in my hot little hands.
7. How do you feel about novelty fibers (both the yarns and the items made with them)? How do I feel about the plague? How do I feel about eating glass?
8. What is the next thing you want to learn (techniques etc.) on the needles? Gosh, there are so many things I’d love to try. I have my first cabling project waiting in the wings (Hurry Up Spring Armwarmers from SnBN). I’d love to try intarsia. I also want to steek something. Mostly just because I like the word steek.
9. What item(s) do you knit the most? I’m a pretty selfish knitter. I see garments I like and think, “I’d love to have that for myself.” This is not to say that I don’t or wouldn’t make things for other people. I tend to like funky, unique, stylish, and fitted items—no oversized sweaters or shapeless, ugly patterns for me. I like having small items around to keep me busy while working on larger stuff. I’m not a big knitted-purse kinda gal, but I’ll do stuff like scarves, hats, armwarmers, etc.

FAVORITES: Who/What is your favorite...
Chocolate: A better question would be, “Say, Cara, is there any chocolate you don’t like?” To which I would answer, white chocolate, Hershey’s chocolate, or chocolate loaded down with crap (by which I mostly mean dried fruit, which has absolutely no business living in chocolate). Maybe, though, my all-time favorite chocolate thing is chocolate covered cherries. *Salivating*
Muppet: Statler and Waldorf (the guys who sit in the balcony, haranguing everyone)
Flower: Gerbera daisy or tulip
Ice Cream flavor: Again, I can’t pick just one. Ben and Jerry’s Oatmeal Cookie Chunk and Cherry Garcia. And Mocha Chocolate Chunk (or the nearest approximation of it). My favorite ice creams ever come from a local joint where I grew up (Cincinnati area) called Graeter’s. If you’re not from around there, you probably don’t know about it. Unless you heard Oprah calling it one of the best kinds of ice cream she’d ever tasted. (Yup, that’s true.)
Fragrance: I have this coconut-lime body spray that I really like, but for the most part, I’m not really a fragrance kind of gal.
Shoes to wear: Red (I have a weird thing for red shoes. I have at least six pairs. More accurately, I really just have a thing for shoes. And I would take funky over function any day. Though I do appreciate the comfort of a simple pair of flip flops, you would probably never catch me hoofin’ it in a pair of athletic sneakers. Aesthetic sneakers, maybe.) (Whoa, that was a big parenthetical…)
Type of garden: Herb
Animal: I like giraffes. And ligers.
Beverage: Red wine. Or chocolate milk. (What does that say about me?)

RORSCHACH ETC: [In case the numbering wasn't a give-away, I skipped some.]
19. If you were candy would you be sweet, sour, or cinnamon? Cinnamon. Definitely cinnamon.
20. If you were a fruit which would you be? For some reason, this question is giving me the most trouble. Ok, um…tomato.
21. Are you a Java Junkie? I mean, I like coffee (cream, no sugar please), but I don’t get my coffee intravenously or anything.
22. Your birthday, in case it falls during the swap and your SP wants to send you a card: September 19.
23. Do you have a personal mantra? Not really. And especially not if it’s ever been slapped onto a poster and sold in ‘Successories’ or a little kiosk in the mall.
24. How do you really feel about socks? I like wearing them, especially weird ones and stripey ones, but I’ve never knit one. I’m kind of opposed to the idea of knitting socks, even though I have no basis for it.
25. What is your shoe size? I come in at a 10 or 11.
26. What kind of music (and/or which artists) do you listen to when you are happy? I really like jazz and funk. The Amelie soundtrack is a great mood enhancer—I love love it. Other things I listen to when I’m feeling upbeat: Beck—Midnight Vultures; Nellie McKay—Get Away From Me; Blood, Sweat and Tears; Weezer. My musical tastes are somewhat eclectic.
27. Rate yourself on a girly/fruh fruh factor from 1 - 10: Personality-wise, I’m probably about a 4, although I must admit to having my girly moments. For example, I really love fashion and getting all dolled up for special occasions. And I think my answer to the chocolate question speaks for itself.
28. What languages do you speak (besides English)? I kind of speak German and a little French. I can read German, French and Italian pretty well (as a side effect of my grad work). I also spent a semester in Budapest while in college, so I know how to tell a Hungarian that I’m hungry.
29. If you could have any "super power" which would it be? Maybe the ability to retain everything I’ve ever read, heard, or learned. Like, super-intelligence. Yeah, that’s kind of a nerdy, academic superpower, I know. OK, since we’re dealing in the realm of pure fantasy here, then I choose telekinesis. Or maybe mind control. Or maybe just a killer bod. Literally.
30. You're given $10,000 for travelling. Where do you go and why? Paris. I’ve developed this obsession with my idealized image of Parisian living (which is kind of a conflation of French movies and what I’ve read about the turn of the century in Montmartre). I want to live in a cute little apartment there, with a terrace and vintage décor, learning the language better, traipsing to the market every day for cheese and baguettes that I would carry away in my little basket, enjoying espresso at sidewalk cafes and people-watching, going to museums, and blowing all the rest of my money on weekend train rides to the French seaside for nude sunbathing.

Friday, April 1

The stash, the stash, I'm going to flash my stash

(In case it wasn't readily apparent, that should be sung to the tune of "Hi-ho," otherwise known as the song the dwarves sing on their way to work in Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.)

Yes, that's right everyone. Today you will behold the questionable glory that is...not stash. Keep in mind that I've only been knitting for about eight months. I wish I could say, "April Fools!"--my stash is bigger than this. But alas.

Here she is (No worries. My floor is clean.):

And now for something completely different. I mean, close-up.
This is my Patons Classic Worsted, all obtained, on sale, from the wonderful A.C. Moore. These are set aside for
a) a sweater
b) various minisweaters.

Some blue/green yarns:
Notice the Crystal Palace "Musique" and "Labrador" and GGH "Relax" that I have no idea what to do with. There's also some Lion Brand Cotton, Moonlight Mohair, some knock-off cashmerino (that feels delicious anyway) and some 100% wool worsted.

Some yarns in the pinky-purply color family:
Again, several yarns that have yet to find a purpose in life. (Not the Noro, though. Those are just dying to become armwarmers. Someday all their dreams will be fulfilled.) Also, more faux-cashmerino, Crystal Palace Merino, Plymouth Divine, Lamb's Pride Bulky, and some unidentified odds and ends.

After viewing other, vastly superior stashes today, I feel compelled to apologize for my somewhat disappointing showing. And even more compelled to take a trip to myLYS.