Friday, November 30, 2007

You know you live in Southern California when ...

you get this excited to see...



yep, puddles of rain.



We are having a glorious, rainy day here. You have to appreciate it while you can you know; we only see it a few times a year.



Look you can even see it falling off the roof (because we have no gutters, because it never rains in Southern California)!

Hope you are enjoying whatever weather you have today.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Mini mi-s (mittens that is)



Last night I just didn't want to work on any of my current WIPs. Not an unfamiliar feeling for most knitters from what I can tell around here in blog land (I think that's how people end up with 15, 20, 40... wips). Rather than cast on for another large project, I decided to try my hand at some mini mittens.

You'll perhaps remember the cover of the Webs holiday 2007 catalogue I showed you earlier this month and my delight at all the little tiny mittens? Well I've been thinking about this ever since and even found the pattern for the babies on the Webs' webpage. Last night seemed like the perfect time to look through the my leftover yarns and whip out some little mittens. Easy, breezy, super simple, and they look so cute. Two pairs down, no telling how many more I'll make.

This morning I thought about how I would take pictures. I've been really impressed lately with some blogs I've been visiting and really feel inspired to improve the overall visuals in mine (for a sample take a look at Tiennie Knits, a friend to knit with, cashmere blend, flint knits, dyed in the wool, ... and another thing, and bag 'n' trash - home of monster yarn, not to mention brooklyn tweed just for a sample).

I started out with the same old mittens on the dining room table runner that I seem to always use...



boring.

Maybe I really need to make a light box to improve the color and visuals. But even then, maybe we need some staging....

So I went to the back room, found the pine cones and bark I brought home with me from our trip to Maine this summer and did a little prop utilization. I think the top photo is a little better. Lest we forget where we've come from, I give you the doggie rear for some perspective (on life and the size of the mittens!)



Thanks for visiting today!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Home

S is back from Maiduguri! I'm very jealous because it sounds like his trip was fabulous! Here's a few photos to give you a small taste of Nigeria.



Here he is (far right) with members of the International Sociological Association PhD laboratory travel group and some faculty and students from the University of Maiduguri.



These are women from a village called Alau.



This photo is one of our favorites... a man fishing near the dam at Alau.



And fishing.



Here's a street scene from Maiduguri... S said that motorcycles were the primary mode of transportation around.



Beautiful hmm?



Many more photos can be found on flikr.

I'm glad to have him home... he's definitely still jet lagged, but catching up. Sounds like the group was treated incredibly well there, but it's good to remember that not all parts of the world have access to all the riches and privileges we have here in the US. Seeing his pictures and hearing his stories definitely makes me interested in visiting Africa and gives me a much bigger picture of the world.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

A relaxing weekend

This has been one of those delicious long weekends where you've been able to do a whole lot of nothing. I love that. And the best part... there's still two days left of the weekend to do more nothing!

Now I say I've done nothing meaning that I've done what I wanted to do when I wanted to do it. Took some long walks with Sterling, did a little knitting.



Through the magic of free time I finished up the back of the celtic tote. I'm about 1/4 through the front now too.

I also pulled my clapotis out of hibernation and worked on her a bit. I did, that is, until Dylan knocked over a cup of hot tea, onto the couch, my yarn, and me. Had to put that aside to dry out. Laugh... maybe it just wasn't meant to be.

And best, last night I heard from S. Last night was his last night in Nigeria and then his long days of travel begin. He'll fly back through Amsterdam again (although no fun there on the way back, just a few hours of lay over) and will be back at LAX tomorrow afternoon. Can't wait for him to be back!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Giving thanks



There are so many things in my life to give thanks for. Everyday is a good day to give thanks. Today is a good day to give thanks.

[photo shows our early thanksgiving celebration about a week ago before S left for Amsterdam and Nigeria; S's trip continues to go well]

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Tote-ing along

Have you noticed that there has been no knitting mentioned on the last few posts? Could it be that I haven't been knitting?

Well actually, for once, that's not it. I have been knitting!

As I shared in my post before I left for Philly, my brain decided I really needed to cast on for a new project... the celtic tote... to take on the trip. The tote and I, we shared some time together on planes and in airports and we are now very friendly.



I just love cables!

Now this back of the tote really should be bigger... about 14 rows bigger in fact, but I had two instances in which I had to play kermit. The first was just after starting. At first I didn't pay close enough attention to the chart and didn't realize that one type of cable used only 3 stitches rather than 4. I realized my error even before I finished knitting the row, but had some difficulties ripping back. I ended up just ripping back to the plain reverse stockinette stitch and starting over.

My second mistake was a bit bigger and took more time before I convinced myself that there was indeed a problem. At some point in my travels, it seems that I stopped paying close attention and knitted one row of the chart twice. Now on face value, it may not seem that this woud be that big a deal. Well it was a bit of a problem because I started cabling on the back of the fabric instead of the front. Somehow, I managed to keep the purls on the front (the purls are the background) but only the cabling on the back. Sigh.

At first (probably within a couple of rows of making the mistake) I thought things looked a little odd, but I decided I shouldn't jump to conclusions and continued. Planes changed, I moved from one knitting environment to another, before I knew it I had a number of rows knit and it was clear something was wrong. The cincher... when I looked at the back I could (sort of) see the cables that should have been on the front (but of course since I kept my purls on the right side even these weren't perfect).

With some despair, I finally admitted my mistake and rip, rip, rip. Thank goodness I've finally learned to read my stitches because I had to do a bit of investigation to figure out which line I did twice and then rip back only that far. I also didn't want to undo and cabling on the last row I ripped/saved.

Fortunately, the bag was saved, everthing was re-grouped, and all rows with errors have been reknit. I'm back to a clean slate and moving forward. Yeah!

So far I'm very pleased with the bag and think it's going to be very attractive. I'm hoping to make a bit more progress this weekend.

And the other good thing... you know the reason I started this bag was to teach myself to knit continental. I think I've got the basics down. I'd love to see how different people hold their yarn when knitting continental because I'm not totally comfortable with how I'm doing it (my pinky keeps cramping up holding the tension). My purls are definitely more challenging than my knits as well (I need to find a trick to wrapping the yarn around the needle in a purl).

If anyone has suggestions, I'd love to hear them!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

So what's a girl to do ...

... when surrounded by so much lovely fiber?

Well bring some of it home of course!

I'm actually very excited about the yarn that I acquired on my trip to Philadelphia. Not only was it quite fun to check out new stores, but what I found I either "needed" or I really, really "wanted".

Let's start with the want shall we?



Blue Sky Alpaca's Suri Merino (60% baby suri and 40% merino) acquired at Loop. Man is this yarn soft! I just love the rich color of this yarn, and have I mentioned how soft it is? This will definitely have to be some sort of stole, scarf, or shawl.

I would definitely fit this into the luxury yarn category (not the price of a new car, but not a bus ride either) and therefore my splurge was limited to two skeins: 328 yards total. I need to look around to come up with a good idea for this stuff. I definitely don't want to waste it!

And in the need category:



Cascade 128 purchased at Rosie's Yarn Cellar. Suprisingly I haven't been able to find this yarn in any other LYS and had been planning just to order some online eventually. When I saw enough in stock to make a cardigan, I scooped it up. I've had an eye on a Stephanie Japel pattern, the bulky cabled cardigan, that I think will work very well with this. The color brown is even richer in person than in the photo. I'm looking forward to this knit... should be quick given the chunky yarn.

In some ways I think it's very sad that new yarn makes me so happy. But you know what, I'm happy! Future hours of knitting joy to look forward to!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Philly fun (and a S update)



This past weekend was my annual trek across the country for educational conferencing (and usually a bit of fun too). This year's destination was Philadelphia and good times were had by all. In addition to all of the good work-related activities (which I won't bore you with here), we explored the city a bit...



we ate some good food, we did some shopping, I helped Em get her knitting skills polished up, and, are you ready, I successfully coerced people into going on a yarn crawl with me! Now I did not think this would be a possibility at all before the trip. But Friday night as we were looking at the conference schedule for Saturday, and as I was helping Em with her knitting, I realized that I needed to get Em a set of needles (so I didn't have to send mine home with here, which I had taken off a project in process). What a good time to go yarn shopping right?!

First stop, Loop.



These pictures do not do the place justice (sorry for the blog-unworthy blurriness).



Bright, open, airy, colorful. A beautiful selection of really nice yarns. The staff were very friendly.



(a wall of koigu... nice).

They had lots of very nice yarns, including some very high end products. I was struck that this place was very much modern. Clean lines, bright, lots of open space. Reminded me of some popular up-scale clothing stores these days. (Interestingly, looking at their web page, they say they carry "hand-dyed and luxury yarns" and I think that's very accurate.)

After a bit of time there, we walked to Rosie's Yarn Cellar.



I thought this place was great! (Also terrible photos... many apologies!)



This place was warm, cozy, just full to the brim with lots of different yarns. Again, the staff were incredibly helpful.



In some ways these guys were the perfect complements of each other. I felt like, going to both, I got all my needs met. Warm and cozy + bright and open. Both had super stock, both had friendly people to help. And amazingly, I don't think I completely exasperated my friends who went along for the ride.

Next time I'll share the purchases I made.

The weekend zipped right by... between all the shopping and conference sessions, the weekend was gone before I knew it. Fortunately yesterday my travels home were also noneventful and now I have a short week. Yeah!!

On other travel fronts, S made it to Maiduguri, Nigeria (which he describes laughingly as a "charming little developing city of 15 million." Sounds like the rest of his trip to Amsterdam was good and he's enjoying Nigeria so far. I'll post more pictures as I get them.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

That's the life!

I am sooooo jealous! S is having a fabulous time in Amsterdam. Through the miracle of digital cameras, the interne, and skype (for actual voice conversations), take a look.



S having dinner with our friends Doug and Ilda at an Indonesian (dutch colony) restaurant... the food was called "rise table" like dim sum. The curry mackerel was yummy according to S.



Here's S on a bike... they rode from Doug and Ilda's home to the Hague. Notice what's on those little hands... yep fingerless gloves knit by yours truely. Don't you love seeing a good handknit in use?



A molen (windmill) in Doug and Ilda's little city of Wassenaar.



The queen's place. S notes that it has a moat around it buts says "then again everything has a moat around it here."



S loved this photo... look at all the trolley car lines overhead. He says that there are thousands of people using bikes for transportation and lots of public transit. Nice.



This is in the hague. The building to the right is the Mauritshuis Museum and then the one with the green light is the Binnenhof (the Netherlands Parliament)--the turret part is where the prime minister's office is. S and I think that this is beautiful lighting.



And last, one more beautiful photo of the Parliament building. S said they basically rode their bikes right up to this building and the PM's office--no security. That's the way it should be, I think.

Makes you want to travel doesn't it?

Inspired or Insane?



Yesterday was a big day here at the LizKnits household. S flew to Amsterdam ... yep, the city in the Netherlands. Yesterday afternoon the shuttle came, picked him up, wisked him away to LAX, and (sort of) deposited him on a plane. This morning he called and he's there! He's only been there a few hours so far (it's a long flight, and to boot, they are 9 hours ahead of us) but it sounds like he's having a great time. They've taken the train to where he's staying (amazingly we have friends that are living there this year and he's staying with them for one night in Wassenaar) and now they are going to bike over to the Hague and go out for dinner and drinks! It sounds like he's getting treated royally.

This trip is actually part of a world-wide extravaganza. S gives two talks at the Free University while he's in Amsterdam and then flies to Nigeria for the main part of his trip. He's been selected to take part in the International Sociological Association's International Laboratory for Ph.D. Students which is being held in Maiduguri, Nigeria this year. He'll give another talk there, see a few of the sites, and then will return home in about 10 days. Wow!

So what's a girl to do with such activities surrounding her? Well she could get ready for the trip to Phildelphia she's taking tomorrow. Apparently my brain decided that the best way to prepare was to swatch (see that pretty picture above?). (I'll point out that this was instead of working on one of many other work-related projects that need to be done asap).

Now it's not clear to me whether this is inspiration or insanity, but as you may know, Michael's is having a 25-50% off sale on all yarns this week. On monday I went in and bought some Patton's wool. I knit English method (throwing) and I've wanted to learn how to knit Contiental. I've seen many people recommend that you start with a felted project as the felting will hide all sins in the irregularity of the fabric as you learn to manage gauge with the new method. I had picked out a couple of felted bag patterns as starters (the Andrea bag, Celtic Tote).

Well you'd think I'd be satisfied with that, I have wool, I have a plan, I can go on my trip and take up this quest when I return. Well... not so much. For some reason my brain decided that maybe Patton's would work well for another sweater pattern I have my eye on (and of course I'd need to check gauge to see if it would work so I could rush back to Michael's before the sale ends). Now I'm not really a big believer in big-shop yarn so you'd think I'd know better, but I felt compelled to swatch to see if I could get gauge for the sweater. Hence the lovely green swatch of many patterns and many needle sizes above. You swatch for a bag, you swatch for a sweater... you see where this is going. Long story short, I realized the Patton's will be too scratchy for me for the sweater but should work fine for the bags. At least I don't have to crazy go back for more yarn.

So I should be able to return to work... prepare for my trip now ... right?



Turns out that casting on for the Celtic Tote was part of my mind's idea of preparing for travel. Yep last night I sat down at my computer, watched some videos on how to knit and purl continental style at KnittingHelp.com (love the site) and started knitting.

Now I still feel like a kindergardener with one of those giant 1/2 inch diameter pencils making ugly, non-word looking scratches on a paper, but I did manage to eek out a few rows and I at least *think* I understand what I should be doing. The best thing ...



Look you can already see the beginning of the cable design!

I think that I'll be taking this project with me on the plane. I don't want to risk messing up Elizabeth, and after my allergen-provoking-trauma knitting experience on the plane last time, I probably shouldn't take clapotis (alpaca) or Elizabeth (angora) with me anyway.

So maybe this was inspired?

Monday, November 12, 2007

The cable-ing... at last!

I am really beginning to appreciate what people mean when they get stalled out on an UFO because of miles and miles of unfinished stockinette stitch. Lucky for me, the miles of SS came at the front of Elizabeth (the Elizabeth Bennet cardigan from Fitted Knits by Stephanie Japel) and they have now ended!



Yep, right down there, at the very bottom of the picture, right after those purl rows... the beginning of cables!



They are still little babies but I've never been so happy to move onto another stage of a project. I think the cabled peplum of this cardigan will keep me much more engaged that the upper bodice has.

And the other good news...



Tentative reads suggest that the final sweater should fit. The waist will hit where the waist should hit and it doesn't seem too big or too small (so far). This wool-angora blend is definitely growing on me too (literally and figuratively, given the shedding). The soft halo of the fabric is definitely attractive. Maybe that generally fuzziness, given the right lighting, will transform the everyday appearance into something special... you know it seems to work in the movies when everything is blurry (see Horse Whisperer for a good example... grin).

I'm excited to have gotten this far, not just for the pure joy of getting here, but also because I joined the Fall Cable KAL. Now I have some pretty little cables to post. Hopefully they will grow and grow and become impressive in a short period of time! This also seems like a good time to post an update on the Fitted Knits KAL. I still haven't seen many Elizabeth's out there on the needles. It's still too early for a final vote, but so far I'm giving it a thumbs up. Maybe the KALs will encourage others to cast on.

See you at the KAL!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Yarn crawl

Yesterday I had about 10 different things I could have done.

There was a conference I could have gone to in LA.
There was the SnB LA knit and spin in at the Original Farmers Market.
There was a sale for a yarn business going out of business.
There was an artisan sale here in Pomona in the Fairplex.
I could have stayed home and worked on conference submissions (this is what I will be doing today!)

OK... I exaggerate... there were 5 choices. I was a bit overwhealmed by the choices though. The best ones were all in LA which is about an hour's drive for me with traffic and all events started at 10am. I'm not a big morning person and Friday night I just couldn't commit to any one choice. Saturday morning came and I still couldn't decide. Maybe I should just hang out around the house and just do nothing? Finally the moment to make a choice and get anywhere on time came and I at least took a shower so I could go if I had inspiration while I was wet.

In the end (big suprise) I did some of the yarn related activities. By the time I was dressed, I was committed to not going to the conference. Then S asked me to stay around and have lunch with him. He's working on several big deadlines right now, and this made my choice easy. No early morning yarn related activities -- maybe next time LA SnB. After lunch I still was back and forth... should I drive an hour to go to a sale that may have nothing? What if they have really great stuff (like Cascade for $3 a skein as suggested in the ad)? After a bunch of wasting time I decided to just get in the car and go.

Off to the sale at what used to be Azalia. Traffic was terrible... what gives with the thousands of cars on I10 on a saturday? And the sale... pitiful. Now I didn't get there until 2, so all the good stuff could have been sold in those 4 hours, but there was nothing. No cascade, not a single skein. Not even a big gaping hole on a table where cascade could have been. A bit of a dissapointment.

Well not to waste a trip to the city, S did send me on another shopping errand. Soap from Soaptopia. Have you been to Soaptopia? It's a great little store. We stocked up on soaps and sea salts for ourselves and a few for gifts too.



They gift wrapped one bar of soap (middle left, cellaphane bag). Isn't it cute? I also got a cute little candle, vanilla scented, as a gift (for spending so much money... laugh). You should check the store out... it's in Venice which is a great, funky little community and close by to my next stop, A Mano Yarns.

A Mano was hopping yesterday. There was a group of knitters all hanging out, knitting away. I, of course paralyzed by stupid anxiety, just looked around at yarn but didn't join the group. Have I mentioned this silly social anxiety fact before? Geez... why don't I just get over myself. After time spent amongst the wool, I was off... back to the traffic. (Ohh I just looked at their calendar and A Mano has a garmet finishing class. I need to sign up for that!)

Cleverly, on the way home I decided to hit one more store, Unraveled in Monrovia. A quick detour off the highway and there I was 30 minutes before closing. You know this really is a lovely store... open, friendly staff, good yarn. I fondled a few skeins, considered my next knitting goal and then...



Yep, I came home empty handed. Despite all the great stuff at both A Mano and Unraveled, I didn't buy a thing. How's that for restraint? (I did learn that Unraveled is having a 25% off everything sale next saturday for their anniversary though -- put it on your calendar if you're close).

Of course when I came home I found this...



the Webs Holiday 2007 catalogue. Now this looks like a great tree for the holidays! I wonder how much left over yarn I could scrounge up to do something like this?! I also saw more than one sweater in the catalogue that caught my eye. Maybe there is more shopping in my future....

Friday, November 09, 2007

The weekend begins

I am soooo looking forward to this weekend. It was a crazy busy week and I'm ready for a little down time. Of course it may only be a little down time as I have some work that must be done by monday. We'll see how I manage that.



Elizabeth is coming along nicely... cables are in sight. Since I took this photo, I've finish the waist decreases and just have some straight stockinette before the fun begins. Maybe I'll actually get to that this weekend and will have pictues to share by monday.

Now I just have to figure out what I'm going to do with myself tomorrow....

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

She looks like a sweater

Elizabeth and I hit a milestone this weekend... the sleeves have been separated from the body.



A quick try on suggests that we're on track size wise, but of course you know I'll remain skeptical until it's done and I see it actually fits.

I am sooooo looking forward to the start of the cables on this sweater. I suppose that's the best part of doing this top down... the boring stockinette is all up top... the fun come next!

I'm using the called for yarn with this sweater which is a wool-angora blend. Now if I had realized it was angora before I bought it, I might not have put down the cash. I've never been much of a fan of the floating fur. I have to admit that the resulting fabric is quite soft and cozy, but the shedding is a bit crazy. Wish me luck as I approach the bottom half!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

I'm so proud of my Dennis



Did you hear about it?

Shame on the democrats. Dennis, you did the right thing. More power to you.

[picture taken at the Harkin Steak Fry in Iowa in 2003]

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Who needs Rhinebeck ...

when you have Torrance? [laugh]

Today was the Southern California Handweavers' Guild's Weaving and Fiber Festival in Torrance, CA. I went with fairly low expectations given the size of this year's Fiber Fest in Santa Monica. I was very pleasantly suprised by the activities though.

S was kind enough to drive over to Torrance with me for the day (he dropped me off and went off on his own) and we arrived about 10 minutes after the opening. I was very impressed to see a line of people waiting to get in!

The Guild had a raffle with lots of prizes set up in the front room...



as well as some good exhibits.



And then of course there were things to buy... 3 fairly large rooms full of things to buy in fact. This is a small part of the Village Spinning and Weaving table (this is a store out of Solvang, that's close to Santa Barbara... almost local). I'll show you what I got there in a minute.



There were books...



there was fiber...



and of course there was yarn.



There was a decent selection of all things knitting, weaving, and spinning. There were buttons, and beads, and wheels and looms. The crowd was large enough to feel energetic but not so crowded as to be claustrophobic. There was a good chance to see (and buy) some unusual things and to pet pretty yarn and fibers.

I did quite a bit of advanced planning for this shopping venture. I typically buy yarn for specific projects and find myself a bit overwhealmed when faced with yarns and fibers that I know I won't have any specific outcome for when purchasing. I feel this way in yarn stores too unless I'm looking for one specific thing.

So over the past few days I made myself a wish list of yarns with the various weights and yardage I'd need. I also (very smartly it turns out) brought my yarn example cards with me. What are these you might ask? Well they are index cards to which I've taped pieces of yarn of various sizes so I have examples of what sock weight looks like, what chunky looks like, what worsted weight looks like. I actually created them when I got my Joy so I could think about what different weights would look like when spinning. They were a life saver today when I was faced with lots of yarn, none of which were marked with weights (all I got was content and, sometimes, yardage). Using my cards I could tell generally what each skein might give me knitted up.

The other thing I did before this trip was print out a guide regarding how much yarn is needed to knit a sweater, or scarf, or hat, etc. I hate that feeling of not knowing how much to buy. It's still a bit of a guess, but I feel like it's at least educated this way. Of course the real trick is when you see a sport weight yarn and you wonder if you doubled it if it would knit up as Aran and if you did that then how much should you buy. You see the where the math skills come into this hobby?

There were some really wonderful things to see, yarn wise. There were several booths selling hand dyed yarns... everything from silk to merino to cashmere. While all of this was beautiful, most of it had price tags to match its value. I decided not to purchase any of this today (I am trying to live within a budget these days).

So what did I buy? Well I bought bargains!



On the spinning front, I purchased an extra bobbin for my Joy and a handcrafted niddy noddy (you can see both at the top of the photo). Both of these came from Village Spinning and Weaving. I was hoping I could find an affordable niddy noddy. When I was looking in this store's booth, I found a bin of what I thought might be niddy noddys but just wasn't sure. I asked and sure enough, that's what they were. They are very clever and come apart for easy storage. They are hand made such that the two dowels that form the arms are turned so only one end will slide into the holes. This prevents them from sliding in one side and then out the other. When you are ready to take the skein off the niddy noddy, you just pull out one of the dowels and you're set. For storage, you simply have three flat pieces that lie parallel (and look not much like a niddy noddy... grin). I think this is quite nice, I love that the niddy noddy is hand crafted, and it was very affordable. They have some on their website for sale if you want to see more images.

On the fiber front, I found some great sale yarn at Newton's Yarn Country which it turns out is based out of Anaheim. First, on the far right, I got 4 skeins (320 yards each) of Softball Cotton (a three-ply, 100% combed cotton) in a rich brown color. I also got 2 giant skeins (650 yards each) of Softball Cotton Bulky in a dark grey color and 3 more of these in a blush color (320 yards each). I'd say that the bulky dark grey and blush cotton is actually about a worsted weight yarn and the brown yarn is more of a DK weight. Of course, I won't really know what I've got until I try swatching some up. I'm hoping that I'll be able to come up with some summer sweaters with each of these though.

I had hoped to find some good wool yarn in aran weights for winter sweaters but this was not to be today. Nevertheless, I'm quite happy with my purchases and had a great time looking around. It is good fun to be in an energetic place full of happy yarny people.

=]