Thursday, January 29, 2009

Green Squirrel

I made this hat for my sister for Christmas. I had found this little corduroy squirrel iron-on in a funky shop in Northampton and decided I must knit something for sis that I could iron it on to.

Once upon a time, when my sister was in college, she had green hair. She also carried on conversations with the squirrels on campus. Her friends started calling her Green Squirrel. She's a little nuts, I know, but I love her anyway. I love her enough to design a hat around an iron-on patch. It was going to be a plain green hat with the squirrel on the front, but I love this tree cable and it seemed to be the right thing to put on a squirrel hat.

I've finally gotten around to knitting another one and writing up the pattern which I have named in honor of my baby sister and her crazy hair dying, rodent whispering ways.

The pattern is available as a free download on Ravelry, or you can email me and I'll send you a copy.

The original hat was done in some Classic Elite Skye Tweed that was kicking around in my stash. Since that yarn has been discontinued, when I went to write up the pattern I turned to my favorite yarn - Berroco Ultra Alpaca.

The tree cable is adapted from Barbara Walker's Third Treasury of Knitting Patterns - a book I adore. If you are a knitter and don't own all 4 books in this series, go out and buy them now.

The intertwining trees sit on a reverse stockinette stitch background. (And don't you dare moan at me about all that purling - it's not a big deal, I promise.) The cable instructions are both charted and written out depending on which way you prefer to work.

The final version is about 17 1/2" around by 7" deep. Stitches could be taken out of or added into the reverse stockinette section to make it bigger or smaller around. But you'll have to finagle a bit with the crown decreases. (Do let me know if you figure out a good way to do this....)

To shorten the hat, skip some rows in the trunk section of the trees (rows 1-8 of the chart).

Thanks to my coworker Tara for modeling for me. You're a star! And I owe you lunch.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Sunday morning craftiness

It's going to be a full on craft fest in my house today. The ladies of my tribe are coming over for Crafty Afternoon and Jaz has offered to help assemble the reusable produce bags. I've got all the supplies for the bags: 250 yards of tulle (!!!!), two shoeboxes full of ribbon for embellishing and two sewing machines. I have all the other supplies we need too, including: chocolate, guacamole, tea and the My So Called Life DVD Box set.

I was sitting here, sipping my coffee, considering getting dressed and vacuuming the living room, when I got to thinking about this little paint can. It arrived at my work a couple of weeks ago in the mail. It was a gimmicky mailing that contained some chocolates and an invitation to a workshop (there was some punny sort of reason it was in a paint can, but I can't remember what it was...). I brought the can home thinking it would be a good container for something. It's been sitting on my kitchen table ever since.

The leftovers from my Inauguration Day scarf have been sitting in a pile on my coffee table for the last 4 days. It seemed like the perfect marriage of materials and a good way to start Crafty Sunday. I tied all the yarn scraps together and started winding them around the can. I ran out before it was completely covered, but decided I like it that way.

So simple and completed in the time it took to drink one cup of coffee.

It reminds me of a pencil holder I made in school and gave to my grandfather when I was little. It was a frozen juice concentrate can with twine wrapped around it and seashells glued all over. It sat, full of pens and pencils, next to my grandparents' phone for years.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Atlantic Scarf

This scarf was inspired by a conversation I had recently with an old friend. Not long after we spoke, the design popped into my head and it became a drop-everything-and-work-on-nothing-else until it was finished sort of project.

The cable I saw in my head didn't exist in any pattern book I could find, so I ended up creating it myself. It has two columns on either side of busy twisted cables. Every so often a part of each cable branches off and intertwines in the center before being pulled back in the direction it came from.

After some thought, I decided it should be done in reversible cable (so that it could be looked at from both sides and all angles), but after a weekend of failed attempts I gave up. The only way to recreate the image in my head was to make it one sided. Better to be true to my original vision than attempt to turn it into something it didn't want to be.

I had planned to make the scarf using one of my favorite yarns, Ultra Alpaca, which is a 50/50 blend of alpaca and wool. It comes in many shades of blue, but none of them was quite right. I wandered around Webs and stumbled on Classic Elite's Inca Alpaca in the exact color I wanted.

It's 100% yummy squishy alpaca. The cables do not pop as much as they might with something with a bit more wool to stabilize it, but this scarf is luxuriously soft. Bury your face in it soft. If it was practical and sensible to wear handknit underwear I would want all of mine made with this yarn soft.

The pattern is available as a free download on Ravelry, or you can email me and I'll send you a copy. The cable instructions are both charted and written out depending on which way you prefer to work (I do aim to please everyone...).

Maybe I need to eat more comfort food

Dear Writers and Producers of Lost,

I’m completely hooked on your show. I have been since the very first episode when the plane crashed on that damn island. I watch every week.

I’m on the bus. Ok?

So there is no reason to end EACH and EVERY episode with a cliffhanger. I’m going to tune in next week no matter what.

And most of the time, you don’t just end them with regular cliffhangers either, but scenes with mysterious happenings or people that make no sense in the context of the episode. Scenes that force me to go to the internets and look stuff up. I get that you've created some sort of revolutionary melding of the medias, but, at the end of the day, I just want to watch TV.

Case in point: This week’s season opener ended with Ben talking to a woman who was facing away from the camera. She kept almost turning around, and the music was building and we waited for a huge reveal. When she finally turned around the music hit a note that made it clear we were supposed to exclaim, “Oh my god it’s Ms. Hawking who sold Desmond an engagement ring for Penny in that store in London the first time he time traveled and told him that he would never marry Penny!” Instead everyone in the room where I was said, “Who the FUCK is that?”

Because? You didn’t include that one little scene from that one episode in Season 3 in the recap episode. Because we watched that hour long recap episode before the season opener. She was not in it. (You also neglected to touch on the themes of time travel in the previous 4 seasons. Information that would have been VERY USEFUL to be reminded of before watching the new episode.)


However..... I do have to forgive you a little because you wrote the terrific line delivered by Hurley after Sayid broke him out of the mental institution:

“You know, maybe if you ate more comfort food, you wouldn't have to go around, shooting people.”

Love it.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

It's not over until Dianne Feinstein sings

Some members of my tribe made the journey to Washington, DC to join in the Inauguration craziness there (Tina has lots of photos). Those of us who were left behind managed to celebrate fairly well in our own way I think....

I donned my Inauguration Day Scarf (all 365 rows thank you very much) yesterday morning and Traci and I headed to Eleanor's house for a champagne toast and a little Obama Dance Party.
From there we walked downtown to join some other friends at PCT (the home of Drinking Liberally). My little town was all decked out for the day:
PCT had put out a good buffet spread, but I couldn't eat once the day's most important activity started.

When the master of ceremonies was announced Traci thought they said Singer Dianne Feinstein instead of Senator. We waited and waited hoping she would burst into song.... She never did.

Our new VP took his oath first:

Our new president (He's really the president!!!!!!) ushered in a new era with a sobering, but somehow, joyful speech (or maybe I'm just projecting the joy I was feeling). In PCT (where we booed loudly when Rick Warren was introduced) a cheer went up when Obama gave a shout out to atheists:

"For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus — and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace."

Look Elly is radiating happiness! (Or maybe I need a new camera....)

And, finally finally, the now jobless George Bush left town. I wonder if he understood why 2 million people were cheering there in DC and if he imagined the celebrating that was happening in homes and bars across the world as that helecopter left the ground?

Back outside, we found more decorations had been put up in the center of town. His sign says, "Will work for food."

Everyone on Main Street was beaming. The sun was shining, we have a new president and, right then, nothing was wrong in the world. We walked around grinning like idiots and resisting the urge to hug strangers.

We wandered over to the radio station to visit Jaz (who was busy spreading the good news across the valley) and pick up our commemorative t-shirts. "The world is changing. Are you listening?"

We were late for the after party at Mama Iguana's and most people had gone. We decided to have a few margarita's anyway...

It still doesn't seem real, but all reports are that he's doing good things already.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

It's the Best Day Ever!

Happy Inauguration Day!

I woke up this morning with the wise words of Spongebob streaming through my head....

its the best day ever - spongebob
(be forewarned that this song will now be stuck in your head FOREVER).

Friday, January 16, 2009

This week...

It's cold this week.

It's one of those weeks where I and everyone around me keep asking the question, "Why do I live here?" Outside this morning, it actually hurt to breathe. I decided to quit whining about it though when I received this photo from my Aunt Amy in Maine of her thermometer this morning:

That's 32 degrees below zero. That makes my -5°F seem downright balmy.

This week brought evidence that my fear of flocks of birds is not unfounded.

A flock of birds brought down a plane. I'm glad no one died (I don't think there were any injuries even). And I truly believe the pilot is a superhero. (Apparently, the odds of surviving a water landing are pretty slim. Does that mean I should pay attention to the safety instructions next time I fly or just continue to ignore them?).

For those of you who don't know, I'm not so fond of flocks of birds (or schools of fish). It's not an incapacitating phobia - they just make me feel nauseous and a little afraid. It's a group think thing - it's like they have one mind - and it freaks me out. (Birthday girl) Jaz and Bill discussed my little phobia on the air this morning (the January 16th show starting at about 13:40). Bill tries to reassure me about the odds of this happening at about 15:55. Sorry Bill, the words "The air is lousy with birds" didn't help. Not. At. All.

This week Traci made me cry.

Traci's recession-busting post is beautiful. She made me think about my own life and what really matters in it. I have a fabulous loving family. My parents and siblings do things that inspire me daily. I have my next-door family that means so much to me I'll never find the right words. I have my just-the-right-shade-of-geeky friends. We're a little tribe that formed out of nowhere and now I can't imagine life without them. I have a gaggle of knitters (including one famous one) around to inspire and enable me. I have old friends (those friendships that have been through so much and lasted so long they will never break) in faraway places doing all sorts of inspiring things. I work in a beautiful place, for a good and unique publishing firm, with intelligent people whose company I enjoy. I'm surrounded by amazing, clever, creative, smart and funny people on all sides. The economy counts for nothing in the face of all that.

This week I was surprised by a politician.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi played a prank. On YouTube. This is the person who is third in line for the presidency. She, or some smart person on her staff, under the guise of launching a new YouTube House of Representatives station, RickRolled us. I love this in the same way that I love Obama refusing to give up his Blackberry. Is it strange that their tech additions and pop-culture savvy make them seem more human to me?

Monday, January 12, 2009

My Self-indulgent weekend

Our Super Supreme Uber-Geeky Game Night was canceled due to a lack of an instructor, so Pete and Traci decided to have a Regular Run-of-the-mill Game Night Friday night. I don't know what was in the air or if we all just really really needed to let off some steam, but, man, we were funny. Everytime someone opened their mouth hysterical things came out. I haven't laughed that hard, for so long, in years. None of it is all that funny in retrospect of course - you couldn't explain to anyone who wasn't there why these things were funny. Jaz did her best to document it (Looking at those photos I may have to reconsider the wearing of berets. Why was I wearing that all night?). What Jaz failed to mention was who won that marathon game of Apples to Apples. Not that it's at all important.... I don't care about these things... It was really all about the group spirit.... But just incase YOU care... I won.

On Saturday I slept later than I've slept in the past 12 months and then got up, made a pot of coffee and sat in my Flannel PJs reading a book until well past noon. Possibly the most decadant morning I can remember. Ok, maybe not, but still it was pretty good.

Over the holidays, I found myself jonesing to make a new scarf. Scarves are a knitter's bread and butter. The comfort food of fiberholics. And it's been a while since I made one. Saturday afternoon, I became obsessed with a scarf design I'd had in my head for several days. It's inspired by a conversation I had recently with an old friend. I could see in my head the cable pattern I wanted and was sure I'd seen it in a book somewhere. I pulled book after book off the shelves of my (unreasonably large) knitting library and scoured the internet with no luck. I even made a trip to Webs for a book that was missing from my collection (after IMing Tina to make sure it was in stock, of course). The pattern in my head wasn't there either, but there was one that would do as a starting point.

I scribbled and sketched and swatched and ripped. Somewhere in the middle I cooked a yummy dinner. All through Towelhead (Does Aaron Eckhart purposely seek out the skeeziest possible characters to play?) I swatched and ripped and ended the evening with a ball of yarn. I was convinced that this cable needed to be reversible and couldn't make it work.

Sunday I discovered the limits of my charting software, switched to Excel and drew what I thought was the final chart. I made a pot of chai and took it next door to swatch the new chart with Traci's moral support. We put on An Affair to Remember and by the time Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr's boat was landing in New York, I'd already started to suspect that it wasn't working (the knitting, I mean, not their affair, that was clearly working very well). I'd frogged the whole thing before the movie ended and we started arguing about whether Deborah Kerr was being stupid for not telling Cary Grant about the car accident or if she was just trying to be a strong, independent woman.

Meet me in 6 months at the top of the Empire State Building.
Just remember to look both ways before you cross the street.

I gave up on the reversible cable then. This thing is not going to be able to be looked at from all sides. It's one sided - my side. The original vision of it in my head. I charted it and started knitting. By the time I went to bed the scarf was 1/4 done.

A full weekend of obsessive knitting resulted in about 15" of scarf. Completely self-indulgent. I did exactly what I wanted to do and I have very little to show for it.

In other news, I am planning a new batch of the reusable (no-more-plastic) produce bags I sewed (Me! Sewing! It's crazy!) for friends and family for Christmas. I have not actually used mine yet having been away basically since I finished them, but apparently they're all the talk at the Winter CSA. I've ordered the fabric and should have more made in the next couple of weeks. I'm hoping to sell them on Etsy, but I've got no idea what to charge. Any thoughts?

(Picture stolen from Jaz because I've been too lazy to take one of my own....)

Friday, January 9, 2009

The Right Thing to Say on Every Dubious Occasion

Thanks, Eleanor, for pointing this book out to me and providing a very unneeded distraction from my work on a Friday afternoon. Not only did I read the whole thing, I then had to go on every book site I can think of and search (fruitlessly it seems) for a copy. If you need me, I'll be scouring the shelves of every used bookstore in a 300 mile radius.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

What works on a Wii and what doesn't

I teach beginning knitting classes. I will swear up and down that anyone can learn to knit (except my mother). But this is going too far. Wii knitting? I will have to see it before I completely discount it, but I can't imagine how it will work. Will you knit a virtual sweater? Where is the sense of achievement in that? New knitters need to feel proud that they've actually produced something. I know I'm a bit beyond the video game generation, but I've never seen the sense in spending hours solving or cracking (or whatever the kids call it) a game. Is this the same idea? You learn to knit on the Wii and complete a project that you'll never get to squeeze or wear? Maybe the skills will translate to actual needles and yarn, but will you ever do it after being bored to death making a virtual hat?

Wii Pole Dancing is a completely different story. If someone (Traci? Eleanor?) could sort that out, I think it would create totally useful skills in the real world and keep you fit at the same time.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Never satisfied.

I'm currently staying in a big high-rise downtown hotel in San Francisco. My room is mostly adequate - exactly what I expect from a bland, but expensive, chain. The only real problem is the sink. It is really really small. Not a problem in general, but it has a normal sized, and very high powered, tap attached to it. The tap extends most of the way accross the sink making it hard to reach into the basin. If you turn on the tap all the way it hits the far side of the basin and sprays upward like a fountain. If you try to wash your face in the sink you have to lean severely to one side and contort your arms around the tap and you still end up drenched from chest to crotch. Teeth brushing is an adventure in water spray. I understand that it's not the largest bathroom and they were trying to maximize the space, but please, powers that be in the Hilton chain, choose tap in sizes that work with the sink. Don't make me curse you every time I turn on the water For a couple of days before checking in here, I was staying at a crazy funky B&B in Haight-Ashbury. I didn't have a private bath, but there was a sink in the room. Even there, in a place run by a decrepit (but adorable) old hippie woman, in a room that contained artwork made from severed mannequin heads, the sink did not soak me every time I used it.