Monday, February 2

Is wine good for migraines?

No, wine is not good for headaches. But that doesn't mean I'll deny myself a glass of red-- this is day 6 of migraine hell and I'm so pumped full of ibuprofen and tylenol that I figure a glass of wine can't hurt.

Don't feel too sorry for me, though. I've been a migraineur for most of my life, though I didn't admit they were migraines until I was about seventeen or eighteen. Either way, I've had years of tuning out the pain. So even though I took all my druuuuuugs and a long, hot shower, I'm still being productive. Or productiveish.

I started the Karate Sweater a month or so ago, and the body knitted up so quickly. I've been putting off finishing it--just the sleeves and collar are left-- because the giant needles are so unpleasant to knit with. 70% of the time I spend on each row is wasted trying to shove my stitches back onto the large needles from the small cable connecting them.

Other than making my arm (soon to be armSSSSS) look kind of hulk-like, I like it. It'll be long, oversized, and bizarre. If I can just keep with these needles I'll have it done in a day or two.

Thursday, January 29

Russian Fever

Somehow, over the years, my attitude toward yarn has slowly morphed from proudly indifferent to just this side of obsessive. I suppose working in a yarn store doesn't help, but in reality I was well on my way to fiber crazy before I even stepped foot in the store. Years of of knitting have taught me that my old attitude, a saucy one that rolled its eyes at fiber snobs and people who skipped lunch in order to get that special hank into their stash, was ridiculous. Now, seasoned with dozens of projects and years of experience. . . I finally understand. Today, for possibly the first time in my life, I was truly, fully, yarn crazy.

What finally got me? This fantastic red angora. I haven't bought any angora in years, nor have I really lusted after any. But man, something about this yarn-- the color, the fuzz-- called out to me. This yarn absolutely must become a fantastic red, fuzzy, Russian-looking toque. And god knows after my recent hat misfire (ahem, Koigu) I need a little something jazzy and red to fix my knitting juju.

Speaking of that hat misfire, I've decided to open up the fate of my beret to opinion. Your opinion!
Here are some photos of the hat. It's definitely bigger than I had envisioned, but not nearly as bad as I thought the first time I put it on. The thing is, I'm just not sure if it's bad enough to rip. Just so everyone knows what went into the hat: 6 months of on/off knitting (charted every other row...), size 3 and 1 needles, and thirty bucks worth of Koigu. Oh, and I can't forget the allergic reaction to the needles. I don't hate the result, I guess I'm just having a hard time imagining if I can live with it, and maybe even someday love it.

So, what's the verdict?

Friday, January 23

While I've been gone, I've been knitting.

Well, I guess I haven't actually been gone. I just haven't been writing in here. Admittedly the writing hiatus has been partially due to my uncertain feelings about blogs. Blogs are so narcissistic , which is what turns me off about them, but now that I don't have any papers to write for school I really do enjoy having an opportunity to write little essays. And afterall, knitting is my favorite subject.

And boy, apparently not writing has given me some time to get some knitting projects under way/done. So to get us back into the swing of things, here is what I've been knitting.

1. I FINISHED the Springtime in Philadelphia beret. You know, the fabulous semi-lace Koigu one I've been working on for what seems like forever. Overall this was a somewhat time consuming knit, but didn't take me anywhere near the actual six months it was on the needles. I don't think I ever worked on this project at home-- almost all knitting was done completely on public transit (mainly while job searching) or in waiting rooms. I also stopped working on it for a month or so in the middle, because I discovered that I was having an allergic reaction to my Susan Bates needles (which were the only 3s I had). I resurrected it recently and was able to finish it within a few days. No post-blocking (or finished) photos yet, but they'll come soon.

Project Specs:

Pattern- Springtime in Philadelphia Beret by Kate Gagnon
Yarn- Koigu KPPM, color P118C (I think, it's speckled pinks). 1.5 skeins.
Needles- Susan Bates US 3, random metal DPNs size US 1 for ribbing
Cast on/off- August 10, 2008-Jan 20, 2009
Comments- What the hell, this is HUGE. There is nothing more disheartening than finishing a sock weight lace beret you've been working on for six months only to realize it makes you look like you're wearing a very fashionable and expensive hairnet. I'm considering my options with this one: ripping it out and reknitting it seems like an unattractive option, while shrinking it seems scary but promising. I've heard awful rumors Koigu doesn't shrink... so we'll see what I do with this hat. Whatever I do, though, I'll do something. I should note that I think the pattern is very well written, fun to knit, and just challenging enough. Not sure if it's the pattern or me that made it huge, but I'm thinking it's the latter.

2. My first socks! I avoided socks for years because I was terrified that I'd uncover a new obsession... and now that I've entered into sock territory I'm finding all my fears were well placed. I must. knit. more. socks.

Project Specs:
Pattern- Ann Norling Adult Socks II
Yarn- Nashua Grand Opera, black. 2 skeins.
Needles- Brittany Birch DPNs, size US 4
Cast on/off- Dec 12, 2008-Jan 10 2009
Comments- Very straightforward, and a great first sock pattern/experience. Using a DK weight yarn for my first pair was essential-- I couldn't have chugged through a fingering weight pair my first time around. The Grand Opera is kind of splitty, but I mean it's a sparkle yarn... what did I expect.

3. Large Cable Scarf for my Mom

Project Specs:
Pattern- none, improvised.
Yarn- Malabrigo Chunky, color Indigo. 2 skeins.
Needles- Harmonies, size US 11.
Cast on/off- Dec 23-Dec 26 2008
Comments- A large cable scarf, knitted as a last minute Christmas gift for my mom. Malabrigo is fantastic to work with, as always, and the color is great. So soft knitted up, too! This was a simple pattern, and I'll write it up for those of you who want it for free.

4. Rachael Neckwarmer out of Iro

Project Specs:
Pattern- Rachael Neckwarmer
Yarn- Noro Iro, don't remember the color name anymore. I skein.
Needles- Harmonies, size US 11.
Cast on/off- Nov 17 2008-Jan 10 2009
Comments- Well written pattern, and my first time doing short rows. I loved them, and I'm so pleased I now understand how they affect the shape of fabric. I'm also very pleased to finally be done with this yarn. I knitted this into a highly unsuccessful scarf months ago, painfully frogged it a couple of times, and then let the yarn languish for several months. The Iro is interesting... very plant-matterey. Hard to rip out. Not that soft... but boy are the colors pretty. Let's just say the Iro isn't my thing, but my mom sure does like it.

There are many more projects to blog about, but I've gotta run. More later!

Sunday, November 23

Susan Bates, why have you forsaken me?

A lot of people are allergic to wool, and a very unlucky few are even allergic to alpaca. Me, I haven't got any fiber allergies that I know of... but I do have a bitchin' metal allergy.

It's strange, because I wasn't always allergic to certain metals. As a kid I bought and wore just as much cheap, mystery-metal plated jewelry as the next little girl. But as I got older my reaction to jewelry got stronger. First it was an aversion to earrings-- a life-long avoidance I only recently realized was due to discomfort. This mild pain shifted more recently into a fierce reaction: big, red, swollen, infected earlobes. Gross.

About a year after realizing that I could only wear gold in my ears (only solid gold, how convenient...) I developed a strange rash on my chest. After a few weeks of, "Gee, what could this possibly be?" a fateful moment in the mirror revealed the cause of my small rash. Leaning forward, open-mouthedly applying mascara in my bathroom mirror, my eye caught the little harp pendant around my neck. The charm hung exactly where the rash was, and when I turned the charm over I saw little glimpses of silvery metal peeking through the gold plating. I decommissioned the charm and within days my rash was gone.

Even though I'd known for years about the earring thing, the necklace bit caught me off guard. I was amazed that I was that sensitive to metals. It was an "Aha!" moment, much like the moment I had today on BART. While knitting the last few rows of the Springtime in Philadelphia beret I began to feel soreness in my thumbs and index fingers. I glanced down and saw that, by pushing the stitches up off my needles (I knit English), I was rubbing my fingers over and over against my needles.

I got rid of all Addi Turbos long ago, understanding that the nickel content was to blame for my unpleasant knitting experience with said needles. After getting my set of Harmony wood needles this year I nearly forgot about any metal needle problems. It was only for this pattern, which calls for needles smaller than those I have in my Harmony set, that I branched out into different needle types.

I've liked Susan Bates needles for years. I like the light-grey coated ones, not too slippery, not too grabby. But after today, and considering my soresoresore fingers, I'll have to veto the Susan Bates, too. Perhaps the most devastating about the whole situation? I can't finish this beret until I get replacement needles!

Wednesday, November 19


Yes, that's right-- you're looking at a proud new member of the Imagiknit staff!

First day's tomorrow. Oh my god!

Monday, November 17

Let's just sharpen some tree branches and knit with those.

Lately audio books are my thing. I like to listen to them while I knit, while I'm on public transit, or more frequently while waiting for public transit to arrive.

I'm lucky, because the city library here is fantastic. I'm a bit spoiled, having just graduated from being able to access one of the most extensive libraries in the nation, but the city library does not disappoint. In fact, I find way more cool stuff there than in my alma mater's stuffy library (stuffy, but gorgeous). I managed to check out almost every David Sedaris audio book, two Barbara Walker Stitch Dictionaries, and a bunch of knitting pattern books. The problem with the library, though, is you have to return things.

I got my free yarn in the mail day before yesterday. What a fantastic gal Tamara is for sending me that yarn, now I get to knit a FREE sweater. Well, almost free. Still gotta go buy these ginormous needles called for in the pattern. All the yarn shops near my house laughed when I called asking for size 35 circular needles. I caved and tried Joann's and Michael's, and after about thirty minutes on hold was amazed to find that Michael's did in fact have size 35, 29" circular needles. Armed with my iPod and a newly uploaded recording of Sedaris' "Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim," I rode two busses through the ghetto to get to Michael's. Wouldn't you know, they didn't actually have size 35 circulars. Ugh.

So, in order to keep myself from going nuts, I bought some yarn. I had a weird flashback to buying my first yarn, a decade ago, at a Michael's in Southern California. How funny, even then--before I knew that lovely LYSes existed-- I got the feeling that this was not how one should buy yarn. Sure, they've got a ton of acrylic and cheap scratchy wool, but is the knowledgeable, knitting-crazy staff? Knitting is such a calming, beautiful, and skilled activity... it just seems that the fluorescent-lit aisle of a super store is not the place to begin your knitting experience.

That being said, I DID buy yarn there. But only because it was cheap, and because I needed to make Sam another hat. Well, Sam needs another hat like he needs a hole in the head, but I need to make him one. I got a skein of what I think is Wool Ease Thick & Quick, but it had the Homespun label on it. I didn't realize this until I was out of the store, thinking to myself, "Gee, that yarn sure was cheap...". Turns out someone had put the wrong label back on an unlabeled skein, and I ended up with a skein of forest green Wool Ease for two bucks! Score.

So I'll churn out a quick beanie today. I need to complete something, and keep myself busy while I wait for the mailman to deliver my size giant needles.

Thursday, November 13

Strangest, most wonderful day.

Today has been, by far, the most surprising and fantastic day I've had in a long time.

First, the day started with a job interview at my all time favorite yarn shop. I don't want to say which shop because I don't want to jinx it, but I can tell you that the selection, staff, and owner are all top notch. It's the kind of small business I'd like to run someday.

After my fantastic interview (I'm still waiting to hear if I'll be offered a job or not, so good thoughts my way, people) I decided to stay where I was (boy, being this vague is hard) and knit at a beautiful, sunny park. I figured I was already most of the way there, and I did have that cowl to finish up.

Little did I know that apparently knitting in public translates to "Please bug me and tell me your life story". First, at the park, some mid-thirties guy sitting next to me on a bench went on at length about his troubled relationship with his girlfriend and his role as absentee father to his 19-month-old daughter. The weirdest part is he was totally unprovoked-- it's like my knitting subliminally broadcast a message that I was a good listener, and that he should go ahead and entertain me while I did whatever boring, methodical, old-ladyish activity it was I was engaging in (he went so far as to tell me he would never imagine me as a knitter. Ouch.).

After about fifteen minutes, and in mid bind-off no less, I made an excuse that I had to catch a bus and hurried off. I remembered that I was just a couple of blocks away from a very famous bakery/cafe, and headed there. I figured I could have a nice cup of tea, sit at a sidewalk table, observe life, and finish the cowl. Unfortunately, this time my knitting invited the attention of a middle aged physician turned glass blower. He figured we had the arts in common, and so he talked and talked about his existential mid-life crisis and how he blows mainly, but still "does some physician stuff occasionally". This is still confusing to me; does that mean he's like, an on call physician? Does he go to the hospital in between glass blowing sessions and do a couple of exams?

Anyway, the guy was nice, but he crossed the line when he offered to take photos of me wearing the finished cowl. I guess I started it (before he began talking to me) by taking a couple of photos of the cowl laying on the table. He saw my camera on the table, and after about ten minutes of chit chat offered to take a picture of me wearing it. He wouldn't let me protest (having my picture taken by strangers is up there on my list of uncomfortable moments) and took my camera, stood up, and then began to tell me how to model. I was expecting a quick "point, click", but instead the guy kept saying stuff like "Now look up like there's a bird in the sky, a very interesting, mysterious bird..." or "Look coy, like you're shooting someone an evil glare". All of this resulted in my nervous laughter, and a few comments like "No, seriously, I don't do that face."

Shortly after the world's most uncomfortable impromptu photo shoot I made yet another empty excuse, downed my remaining tea, and left with one of his business cards, "In case you ever need any blown glass." The thing is, as weird as those guys were today, they meant well and were actually pretty nice.

Speaking of niceness, the cap on my lovely day (which, if I haven't made it clear, has been lovely because the cowl is beautiful and the job interview was great) is FREE YARN. Remember how a few weeks ago I became smitten with Twinkle's Big City Knits? Well, I finally decided which piece to make: The Karate Sweater. I figure big holes and slouchy styling are a good way to avoid looking like a stuffed sausage in a bulky knit. Anyway, I had been looking for some Lion Brand Wool Ease Thick & Quick (cheap, yes. In my book bulky doesn't deserve a big investment.) in a particularly hard-to-find color. I found some in a Raveler's stash, and to my surprise she offered to GIVE me the yarn. How unexpected! Thank you, Tamara! What a great gal, and a CAL alum, too! Any idea what little item I should knit her as a thank-you?

So here I am, on the other side of my job funk (for now), with a beautiful finished object, some free yarn, and a potential new Ravelry buddy. What a great day. And for fun, here's a relatively good photo that came out of the world's weirdest photo shoot. I think he caught me by surprise in this one, because in every other one I look kind of wild-eyed and uncomfortable. Cowl needs a button, I think, and once that's done I'll get the pattern compiled.

Tuesday, November 11

Knitting helps.

Yesterday as I walked back to the BART from yet another failed job interview, fighting back a lump in my throat, I thought to myself, "I wish there was a damn yarn shop around here to distract me from myself." But of course there aren't any yarn shops to stumble upon in the financial district of San Francisco, so I settled for french fries instead.
Thank god I uploaded a new David Sedaris audiobook onto my iPod. I zoned out to his lispy, girlish voice and by the time I got home had almost completely rid myself of the sinking feeling in my stomach. Any bad feelings totally vanished when I found this fantastic package from my Mom and Dad, complete with Spam Museum trink and some cotton on the hoof, waiting for me on my doorstep.

It seems that the only relief I get from the feelings of uncertainty and failure that job searching brings about comes in the form of knitting. Knitting has always had a calming, regulating effect on me--something I seem to need now more than ever. So in the spirit of burying my feelings of rejection and disappointment, I'm off to finish a cowl design I've been knitting up. Who knows, I may even conquer my sewing machine today.

Friday, November 7

There are aspects of knitting that seem, to me, to be a little cultish.

Or at least that's what I started thinking today as I was browsing Ravelry project pages. There are people whose project pages are full of washcloths or cowls, or others still whose pages exhibit lace shawls exclusively. Then of course there are Sock Knitters-- reigning queens(or kings) of the cult-ey exclusive knitters.

As hard as I try, I just don't understand the dedication of these monotype knitters. It's hard enough for me to crank out one lace piece, let alone fifty of them. And beleive me, the moment I finish a lace something-or-other I cast on immediately for something gratifyingly solid, brainless, maybe even wholly garter stitch. And the washcloths... I understand that they're a fantastic way to use up extra fiber or even make a biggish swatch worthwhile, but WASHCLOTHS? My brain cringes at the thought of putting anything I hand crafted (and most likely spent a couple of hours on) in a sink full of dirty, scummy dishes. I suppose I'd be a little more okay with knitted washcloths if they were used for shower purposes only, but even then I can't help but think "The only person who will ever see this is me, naked."

But the beauty of art and craft is that it's neither black nor white. Just because I, personally, could never turn myself into a little sock knitting sweatshop doesn't mean that someone who loves knitting socks can't do so exclusively. And who's to say that the little lace forays I make are any less valuable than the impressive, blind-nun-like lace that others dedicate themselves to? We knit what we love, and for that I respect people who have found something they love so much that they knit solely that type of item. Me... I love everything and want to knit everything. Wait, is that why I'm casting on for a pair of sleeping underwear? (Nope, I'm just nuts...)

This subjectivity is one of the reasons I love knitting, and I'm finding that it's one of the reasons I'm beginning to love painting, too. I'd never really seriously painted before, but thanks to a class at my local community college I've been able to dabble lately. I'm really my only critic; one of the things I love most about the class is when a peer comes over to survey my work--work that I feel falls short of my expectations--and looks at it with fresh eyes, seeing my success instead of my mistakes. It's just like me looking at pages and pages of knitted lace and socks and seeing only beautiful objects instead of a slipped stitch here or a missing yarn-over there.

In sum: boy do I love art.

(p.s. painting is still a work in progress)

Wednesday, November 5

Today is a beautiful day.

I don't like to talk about politics. Usually I'm the girl who, at the first mention of George Bush or the war, changes the subject of the conversation to her pet bird's vocabulary or her current knitting obsession (all the while searching for an exit route). It's not that I don't care about the state of the country, it's just that I don't find it particularly enjoyable to share/hear political opinions. If you ask me, politics are pretty personal. So I keep myself out of them, and it seems to work pretty well for me.

But the city I chose to live in doesn't share my low-key political attitude. I mean, this is to be expected for the city that hosted the Free Speech Movement and, more recently, a nearly two year long tree sit. It makes perfect sense, then, that Berkeley would have had an amazing reaction to the election of Barack Obama.

The moment that the news announced Obama had won people mobbed out into the streets. Never one(s) to pass up a party, my roommate and I got carried along with the celebration. Thousands of people gathered at the south end of campus; people climbed street signs, sat on rooftops, hung out of windows. . . all the while chanting "U.S.A!", "OBAMA", and "YES WE CAN". It was a pretty fantastic sight, and it did something strange to me. It replaced my normal feelings of indifference with feelings of pride and a sense of hope.

Now let's not get too carried away with politics. Never far from my life, my knitting was the main reason I wanted to watch the election coverage. Hours of precious knitting time, and I chose to devote them to the Springtime in Philadelphia Beret. I realize I haven't posted any progress shots so far, which is strange because this WIP is by far my favorite thing I've ever knitted. Favorite yarn (koigu...), favorite pattern, favorite needles. I. love. this. hat. I want to have one on the needles at all times, because it really is a perfect portable knitting project.

In fact, its portability is probably the reason I haven't taken any photos of it yet. Most of this hat has been knitted on BART, in buses, or in waiting rooms. I was kind of saving it for those moments, which translated into a pretty slow progression. I've resolved to finish it sooner rather than later, so I'm going out on a limb and knitting it---gasp---while at home. And boy oh boy will I have a lot of time to knit, because all my damn yelling at the rally the other night cost me my voice.