Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Fabric and the Evolution of Joann's (at least for me)

Last week I set out to Joann's to purchase a red "carpet" for our Hollywood-themed work event. One of the perks of a career in marketing / communications is getting a chance to dapple in the lighter side of business. I settled on a bolt of red felt, which worked spectacularly. I tried to convince my coworkers that we have an arts and crafts day and create some Valentine's Day decorations to adorn the office, but no one was buying it.

I just couldn't resist this. It will make a cute knitting pouch or lining for something...

Anyway while at Joann's, I spent some real time digging through the fiber - the first time in years and made some pretty surprising observations . First, a little background. I used to live at Joann's, The Rag Shop, even the Wal-Mart fabric section (don't judge!) and knew the fabrics by heart. Most of my time was devoted to the wall of calico. My main obsession was batik fabric, which I could never find amongst the standard fabric templates, and funky colors of corduroy. Basically, I just looked for anything different. I would have walked miles for this gem:

this was my "pricey" purchase at $3.95/yd.

But, with a healthy fabric stash and piles of clothes I've hoarded over the years with intentions of cutting up coupled with my recent jonesing for fancy, designer fabrics, it's been some time since I've seriously looked through Joann's (I've been in twice before to round up materials for the Weekender Bag, but managed to stay on task - plus, I didn't know what I was missing!) Oh, and until recently I lived really far away.

MY OBSERVATIONS (both of them):

Joann's is Ginormous. Was my old Joann's just really crappy or they all just five times bigger now? Seriously, my old Joann's had your usual fabric area, home dec, maybe an aisle devoted to unfinished wood, some dried flowers and some baskets thrown in a corner. And also junky kid crafts. These new-fangled Joann's have 5 aisles devoted to scrapbooking, a rubber stamp (?) aisle, a ribbon section bigger than my apartment, even a framing dept! I actually think all these additions are good, but I just wonder how all this happened under my nose.

Batik fabric!

I guess this craft revival really did happen, huh? Or is it really just the supersize trend?

The fabrics. Oh, how I love thee! I had tears in my eyes when I saw at least 5 or 6 shelves devoted to batiks! (but, where were you when I needed you?) After a quick walk through the $1/yard aisle, I was already pushing my hand-held basket (what was I thinking, right?) along the ground with my foot and stacking it with bolt after bolt of dirt-cheap fabric. I was even sweating! When I got to the cutting counter, I actually felt bad for people waiting behind me. At least they got to stare at all my pretty fabric. :)

I'm seeing lots of skirts and totes and pouches and maybe even a hat or two...

I think this one is my favorite and at $1/yd., you can't go wrong!
In other sewing news, I saw on YaiAnn's blog that Amy Butler is finally selling the bag I mentioned a few months back - but only as a premade item (for $112!), no pattern. Grrr. So bummed, but I'm gonna strike back and make my own pattern. I'd be happy if it's half as cute!

I think a nice, classy skirt for work...

As for my pile 'o WIPs flashed on my last post, I'm dutifully working on each and every one of them and making some decent progress. I'm officially captivated by Demi, which thrills me. I was worried its complexity would become a headache for me.
Hopefully I'll have something finished to report soon!

Friday, February 02, 2007

Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'

What to talk about today? Knitting or fabric? Knitting or fabric? Knitting? Fabric? Okay, knitting.

Last week, I reached a point in my knitting quite foreign to me. I had nothing on the needles. With this freedom brought an uneasiness and insatiable need to find the "right" project. I started with this to keep me occupied while I mulled over my next big project.

I was making good headway with this project, loosely following these directions and even using the magical 96 stitches. But I started this project without valuable information. Apparently, the intended owner of the hat has a giant head and was even nicknamed "Domer" in high school (or so J reports). I've been friends with "Domer" for years, how could I miss something like this? Maybe I am in the clouds like J is always saying... Anyway, after trying this on every row or so and making J model every 10 rows or so, the project is on hold indefinitely. J thinks it's too tight and after the first mishap (scroll down), I'm not gonna make "Domer" pretend a second time to like a hat that doesn't work. Plus, look how long it is! He'd look like Dumb Donald from Fat Albert. I might just keep it for me after ripping some rows and see if I can make another hat with the left overs. Selfish knitting....
After that headache, I swatched and swatched and finally cast on for this:

Yay! Demi. It's about time I gave this a chance on the needles. The yarn's been hibernating in the stash since spring/summer or whenever Rowan announced they were discontinuing the Yorkshire line. I took Ashley's advice and expanded the chart and cut and pasted it all together. Mine's huge somehow. I just kept enlarging and enlarging until I thought it was legible, but didn't realize just how big until I taped the sucker together. It's like sweater blueprints. I'm knitting the small size on smaller needles, which is already causing me worry. All my sweaters always have a little more ease than desirable and I got gauge after washing my swatch (with smaller needles than suggested) and the smaller size schematics match my best fitting sweaters (see how I'm trying to prove some point to myself), so I decided to cast on for the small size. I'm worried because I'm usually a medium in store bought sweaters. I feel like I did my homework, so I'm gonna go just go with it. ... deep breath...

This puppy is gonna take me awhile. It takes all my brain capacity to remember what each symbol means and then remember what cr2 or cr3d or cr5yd97nd tbl means. It takes patience, people! Hopefully I'll get it done by the end of winter, although that's gonna be tough if Punxsutawney Phil's prediction is on the mark.

Because I couldn't just work on Demi without my brain turning to mush (plus, how am I supposed to watch TV?), so I cast on for these:

Mmmm fair isle. This is my first time working with Gems Pearl and dang is it thin! Also, I'm not sure if I got a bum skein or something, but I found like 5 knots in the orange during winding. Ugh.

Then, out of nowhere I had a yearning need to cast on for socks. Like, during-work-I-couldn't-stop-thinking-about-sock-yarn kind of need. Well, that happens more frequently that I'll admit, but this time I ran home and winded a skein and cast on. I was going to see this, so I could only knit about 3 rows before I had to leave. Still, I had to cast on.

And you know what, it felt good! This is a pretty good color depiction of the skein - a swampy brown/green with loads of bright color stripes. It's the bonus rare gems skein from the BMFA Sock Club. Want more? Okay...

Okay, see my problem? I went from no projects to many projects in the blink of an eye. Bad knitters ADD. Bad Kelly.

Also, here's one of the recent FOs. I played around in photoshop to make the picture look cool. It's hard to take photos of your own legs! Legwarms from LMKG in Cascade Alpaca.

Because I want this to go down in history for longest post ever, here's a sample of the other activities from last weekend (it's not all about the crafts over here at la Casa de Drago[knit]fly).

There's Zoe overseeing her latest brew - a batch of IPA - I bet your cat doesn't brew beer (mmmm, beer)! Check out her serious face - she's all business when it comes to beer.

Next time we'll chat about fabric and my recent work junket to Joann's.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

100 Things (1-10) & Marble Arches

Thanks for all the nice comments about Beau! Again, I'm sorry I haven't email you all personally. I'm still not getting email addresses in my comments. Anyone know how to fix it? The change coincided with my move to the new blogger - could it be a change in the settings?
Anyway, we've got another FO in these parts...


Pattern. Marble Arches by Sandi for BMFA
Yarn. Pink Granite Medium Weight - special for Rockin' Sock Club
Size. Medium
Needles. Size 1, Addi Turbos
Started. 11/6/06 ish Finished. 1.17.07. I twisted the cast on of the first sock and then reknit the foot of the first sock, which added some time.
Mods. Knit a heel flap rather than short rows. I tried the short rows first, but when you could fit a finger through some of those holes, I ripped back (I made this decision *after* I completed the rest of the sock. For some reason the entire foot was too tight and just looked ugly. I probably would have sucked it up and dealt with the holes if not for the uncomfortable fit. How's that for lazy knitting? Here's the shiny, new heel.
I also changed up the toe by kitchenering a bit early and with more stitches. It just feels better on my feet like that. I could have made more mods that I don't know about - I ditched the instructions when I got to the heel flap.
Thoughts. This is a great pattern, one I plan to reuse for other socks. Even though I know the cables are fake and comprised of some ssk, k2tog and m1's, I'm still fooled. My mind spins at all the other knitting trickery that must be out there. Is there mock fair isle, too?
A close up of the "cabling."
I love how the pooling created nice, thick stripes. I think the areas with thinner stripes around the top of the ankle obscures the pattern. That means a lot coming from me because I think pooling ranks up there with bumpy seams and pilling alpaca. This is pooling I can live with.
If anything I would say my feet are on the large size with size 9 shoes, but for some reason both my properly-gauged blue moon medium socks are on the loose side (I love you, Blue Moon, for making me have "small" feet!). Nothing you can see, but I can feel it. Maybe I have thin feet or something. With Rock 'n Weave, I thought it was a fluke, but this confirms it. Next time, I'm going for size small. And I digress...
I don't know, though. These feet look pretty wide (and oddly flat) to me. (Ignore pasty winter skin).
Oh - one more thing. Ruffles = pretty cool. Ruffles on socks = Ingenious. All socks should have ruffles. Check 'em out up close:

Final Verdict. These socks rule. I'm wearing them right now and actually wore the first one with a different sock while making the second. Come on, I know I can't be alone with that one:)
With the socks off the needles, I only have the secret project going. One project on the needles must be some sort of record for me.
It's getting awfully chilly here in New England. We had our first flurry today, but not while I was home so Miles didn't get to play outside in his first snow. I'm sure they'll be more of that. I'm taking advantage of the cool temps to sport some handknits. Today I wore Electra. Aren't work-appropriate knits the best? Check me out.
Now that I'm home and the heat still hasn't kicked in, I'm wearing Nimbus (my warmest sweater ever. Oh, how I wish Rowan didn't discontinue Polar) on top of my work getup.
100 THINGS (1-10)
I've seen this all over the blogosphere and will be the first to admit I'm late to the party (I think the party might even be over). But, I don't care. I love reading about the knitter behind the knitting and feel like I should offer up something about me. I'm not deluded enough to suspect you're all wondering what else there is behind this knitter, but, well, I'm doing it anyway. Hopefully, I don't chase you away or even worse, bore the crap out of you. I'll pepper the post with pictures in hopes of keeping you entertained.

I know I get lost in a full list of 100, so I'm shamelessly copying
Julie at Fricknits and only dishing out 10 at a time. So, here we go. Numbers 1-10.

1. I've lived in 5 states in my 27 years--4 have been in the last 9 years. In chronological order leading up to most recent... New Jersey, Virginia, California, Massachusetts and Connecticut. Hopefully, I'll keep it to 5. Moving is a pain in the ass.

2. I sing a lot. Never any actual songs, just my own little ditties with content usually surrounding my animals - a recent song was "cone dog" back when
Miles *was* a cone dog. All songs follow the tune of an existing song, I just change the words. "Cone Dog" went with a blend of the "Dreidel Song" and "Jingle Bells." Ironically (and much to J's chagrin), I'm tone deaf.

3. Various people have taught me to knit, a skill I would promptly forget. My grandma taught me at least twice when I was growing up, my bff once about 5 years ago, a BIL's girlfriend, various books. I became obsessed with learning, but had some inexplicable block. Finally, it stuck with me in October '05.

4. My first needle art was crochet. Judge all you want! For years of my youth, I hooked along on a royal blue, black, and white (blech!) afghan. I still have it somewhere although I never officially finished. It is GIGANTIC, but I always wanted it bigger. I think blankets should be huge and cozy. Oh, and I used no other than Red Heart from Jamesway. (Is that store still around?) I got back into crochet in college and made a million Lion Brand boucle scarfs. I thought I was splurging on "good" yarn.

5. In college, I sewed many of my clothes, all of the hippie dress, backless shirt, corduroy with inserts type variety. I still have every piece of clothing (see number 6) and sometimes resurrect an item for old time's sake. Truth be told, I'd probably still wear more of it if I could get away with big corduroy pants, a patchwork top and a giant, ropelike hemp necklace. I don't see too many 27 year old professionals in that getup, though. Bummer. Here's a picture of my most favorite dress, made early in my sewing career (it was my third dress). Cat thrown in for cuteness.

6. I am a packrat. I save everything. I have movie ticket stubs from high school and so many lifted rocks from national parks, I can't remember where they're all from. Conversely, J saves nothing.

7. I studied English in college and was fascinated by medieval studies. My plan leaving college was to pursue a PhD in the subject and teach college. Now I work for an insurance company. There's a disconnect somewhere in that.

8. When I was born, my umbilical cord was wrapped around my head twice. I didn't cry right away and still have faint broken blood vessels on my cheeks.

9. I would rather watch a movie over and over again than one I have yet to see. Movies I've recycled tirelessly include Zoolander, Clueless, Beauty and the Beast, and The Breakfast Club. I have also seen every Sex and the City episode at least 10 times.

10. I drink a half a pot of coffee every morning. I am useless without it.
That's all for now!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Beau: Finished


This has been finished for a few weeks and already sported in three states!

Pattern. Beau by Kim Hargreaves Source. Rowan Vintage Style
Yarn. 5 and them some balls Rowan Yorkshire Tweed in Husk from
Needles. Size 6 and 8 Addi Turbos
Buttons. Random ones from my mom's stash (I bought some, left them at home - I finished this at my parents' house)
Size. Small
Dates Knitted. November 12 to December 25 (talk about cutting it close!)

Mods. Nada. (well, I think the wrong sides of the front and back are now the right sides, but you couldn't tell, could you?)

This was a great pattern and I was flying through for a while on those big needles and thick yarn. I put it down for a few days and had a hard time picking it back up. It's not the most exciting project and guy sweaters are huge!

The sweater has a rustic flair and the tweediness and color of the yarn makes it resemble hemp. J compared it to the drug rug he wore in HS (don't judge! you know what I'm talking about!) J loves it, so success! He says it's warm and soft.

The yarn feels scratchy and rubbed my hands raw, but nothing a good wash and block couldn't tackle. The finished product has amazing drape and a soft, yet durable feel. A major yarn upgrade from J's last sweater knit in Lamb's Pride Worsted - that stuff's itc-hy. J didn't like the "little hairs" all over it. When I told him they were mohair, he wanted to know what the hell a mo was. Ha ha. He still tells that joke.

Photos courtesy of New England winter darkness.

And here's an action shot for you! This is Beau (and Patrick) on NYE in DC! Beau's first vacation -- awww!

The yarn is most like the color in this shot. I should have taken more photos in the hotel room!


Already thinking of my next project, I bought some yarn for some Endpaper Mitts and Anemoi Mittens. After going to no less than three stores that carried zero solid color fingering weight yarn (my LYS - by default because of proximity - didn't know which yarn was thickest--dk, sport and fingering -- this is also the yarn store that didn't know who Elizabeth Zimmerman was AND told me that they couldn't search for a color for me while I waited on the phone. Sigh, I miss Boston and its yarn stores aplenty), I ordered these gems (ha ha!) from kpixie.

I'm thinking I'll use the teal and grey (looks more like cream in this pic) for the mittens to achieve a cool, sophisticated look and the orange and cranberry for some fun, happy mitts. My hands are gonna be warm and stylish.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Pirates and Resolutions

Thanks for all the kind comments on the weekender! I've tried to email everyone personally, but all emails are showing up as "noreply." In any case - thanks!

I know I'm a couple days behind New Years for this, but I've been whittling down my resolutions for the upcoming year. So, here are my five knitterly resolutions for '07.

1. Get comfy with making my own mods for a better fit.
2. Only make projects that I know I will wear.
3. Make a fair isle sweater - perhaps a Dale...
4. Do a little designing of my own.
5. Be a better blogger!

And just for kicks, a few non-knitting related resolutions:
1. Keep challenging myself with sewing, I'm seeing some quilting in the near future.
2. Stay consistent with running - maybe another marathon?
3. Keep in better touch with my friends! (I say this every year).

Okay, that's all the housekeeping for today. Now onto a finished object from (gasp!) last year.

(fluff courtesy of 50% Alpaca)
Yarn. Berrocco Ultra Alpaca, 1/2 skein each black and natural

Needles. Size 3 Clover Bamboo 16" circs, Size 3 Bryspun dpns, Size 2 Susan Bates 16" circs.
Mods. Subbed yarn, used larger needles for lining.
(you can see the join in the back, there)

Dates Knitted. December 29 to December 31.
Comments. This pattern rules. So quick and addicting watching the little skulls come alive (ha ha). The yarn was a little 'eh for me. It's soft enough that I thought it would be an appropriate lining yarn (not the best idea, not the worst. a little itchy, but no so much I can't wear the hat). Great yardage, though, I can make a whole other hat (or mittens!).

And for those of you who like this sort of thing: the inner workings.

That's all for tonight. More pics of Beau need taking before I can post that FO, I started a secret project (oooohh!!) and bought yarn for some hot Eunny Jang colorwork projects. Oh, and I finished a marble arch sock.