Monthly Archives: February 2008

Why does inspiration turn so easily into frustration?

So, I had been in a finishing mode for a while and now I’m not. My list of WIPs is growing and many more ideas are flowing. As if the blogs I read and Ravelry aren’t enough to make me bulge with creative juices and overflow with inspiration, last weekend I visited the Craft and Folk Art Museum.

CAFAM

I CANNOT BELIEVE THAT THIS IS THE FIRST TIME I’VE BEEN TO THIS WONDERFUL PLACE. If you haven’t been you must go. I used to drive by it every day on my way to work, but since I moved to the Westside, it’s been an out of sight out of mind kind of thing. It is a very small museum. I think they usually only have one or two exhibits on at a time. But in addition they have the most lovely gift shop that carries mostly fair trade goods. Next time I’m in a pinch and need a super duper gift for someone special, but don’t have time to craft it myself, I will be shopping here.

Right now they have a lovely exhibit on puppets. No photography is allow so I spent a lot of time sketching eyes and faces.

Eyes

Eyes

Face

Face

They also have an exhibit by a woman whose medium is the Japanese art of Katagami. I was especially interested in her works that featured representations of ginko, pine, maple, cherry and bamboo. Loved it!

So now here’s the part where inspiration turns to frustration… I want to turn everything I see into knit, but don’t have the real know how to do it. For the last two years I’ve actively pursued projects that will challenge me and teach me new skills, so that one day I can start creating something original. I feel like this is a double edge sword though because I easily get caught up in collecting patterns that I want to knit and at this point have more in the queue than I could knit in a lifetime. When do I put down the patterns and pick up my sketches and start listening to my knitting muse? Now I know everyone is probably shouting “Now, Now, Now!” and you’re right. There’s no time like the present. I guess I don’t really have to knit a full on aran sweater to start experimenting with cables, or toil away at huge lace shawls before improvising with YO and K2tog. Maybe my problem is that what I want to do is so big in my head that I can’t even fathom where to begin….

Anyway enough inside my head talk… tonight I’m meeting up with my friend AJ for another Hemlock Ring Blanket lesson. This is not something I would have chosen to knit necessarily, but I am enjoying the process and having a ton of fun enabling my friend. The yarn is from my stash (Plymouth Boku, a Noro knock off with way fewer knots. Highly recommended.).

Hemlock Ring Blanket

Hemlock Ring Blanket

I joined the KAL on yahoogroups and it was extremely helpful, since following the chart and pattern from Jared’s blog was problematic for me. Anyway this shouldn’t take me long to finish and I’m not in any hurry. There will be no guilt if it languishes in the WIP bin for a while. BTW, AJ is knitting it in Blue Sky Alpaca’s Organic Cotton. It’s going to be beautiful.

Then I have two projects that are currently sharing a set of size 8 needles.

Bonsai Tunic

Bonsai Tunic

Clapotis

Clapotis

The yarn for Clapotis, which is Blue Heron Rayon Metallic Sportweight, smells so strong of detergent that it makes me nauseous and gives me a headache. I keep persevering because I really like the look and feel , but I might have to relegate it to outside knitting only.

Well, it’s getting late in the day and though I have more to share, I’m running out of time.

Have a lovely weekend!

Outside my front door!

xo, Jill P.

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Jill P. is making me look bad

JP,

You keep coming up with really beautiful posts and interesting things to say, and I’ve got nothing.  I’ve been doing some steady knitting, but nothing too great to show.

I have been having some bad luck with my Options needles, through no fault of their own.  This last weekend I went to visit my Uncle in San Jose.  My Mom is staying there for about a week And she’s going to Stitches West this weekend.  I’m so jealous.  I did give her a few things to look for, for me.  Maybe I’ll get some Raven clan STR out of it!  We all drove up to Lafayette (east side of Bay) for a Chinese New Year potluck at my cousin’s house.  Here’s a group photo!:

Anyway, back to the needle.  I of course had my knitting on the flight and in my tote bag in the car.  When I got to my Uncle’s house, I realized that one of my Options needles was totally bent.  It was mind-boggling.  It was a size 6US needle, a metal one.  It was bent maybe 30 degrees.  My Uncle had to pull out pliers and tools to unbend it.  I should have taken a picture.  I have no idea how it happened.  It would have taken a lot of force to bend it like that.  Our only idea is that it got shut in the car door somehow.  That still doesn’t answer any questions though, because my bag was on my left side in the passenger seat, away from the door.  It’s a mystery.

And then a couple of days ago, the cats were playing around and Miely was digging under the couch at my feet, maybe looking for a toy under there.  Or so I thought.  When I actually look to see what’s going on, she’s already bitten clear through one of my Options cables that was in my bag on the ground.  So annoying.  I’m not surprised she did it, she’s kind of destructive.  Once she was playing around with a “fridge pack” of cream soda that was on the ground in a cubby.  She was pushing the cans back and seeing them roll back.  Next thing there is cream soda spraying out across the room, onto the table and my roommate’s computer and the cats have ran off.  She bit into a full can of soda!  I can’t imagine how much pressure it would take to rupture the can. 

Not too much needle drama, but enough to feel like a trend.  The needle my Uncle straightened seems to be working out okay.  There are a few textured sections from the tools, but they aren’t snagging or anything.  I might order another set when I eventually put in a KnitPicks order.

I’ve been working on the Cross Strap Top from Vogue Spring/Summer 2007.  Every time people ask about it, I alway make excuses for it. “I’m making this top that nobody likes but me…”  Since there’s a pretty strong consensus against it, I feel like I need to let people know that I’m aware that it isn’t a popular choice.  But making something that hundreds of people aren’t making is kind of exciting to me.  I will join that one other picture on ravelry!  I’m enjoying the knitting, but it’s really involved.  FYI: a crapload of errata.  A whole written out page!  Even the pattern chart is different than the one in the magazine.  I’ll never do a Vogue pattern without looking around for corrections first.  This pattern takes a lot of thinking.  There’s two charts, and it’s always asking me to increase in pattern, and it takes a lot of thought to remember where I am on the pattern.  My difficulties are multiplied by the fact that I’m either too lazy or too cocky to use row counters.  I’m not sure how it’s too lazy, because they would simplify my life, but I am too lazy to buy them and then get accustomed to using them.  So now I’m kind of using my magnetic chart keeper, but mostly trying to remember where I’m at and reading my knitting.  I don’t have any good pictures of the top, but here’s one of the back.  The front is more interesting with a giant cable down the middle:

Notice that Car Repairs for Dummies book by my bed?  I really want to be able to do all maintenance and non-body work on my car.  I think that would be pretty exciting.  Monday, after realizing there was no SnB, I discovered my headlight was out.  Then I bought and installed a new one all by myself!  No consulting anyone over the phone or anything.  It’s a little victory, but an exciting one nonetheless. 

Sometimes I realize that I pride myself on really stupid things.  Here are a few random things that I pride myself at being good at:  I’m good at getting out tangles and knots, putting together riveteers (like in a stock room/vault), and jigsaw puzzles.  I know there’s a few more.  It seems so ridiculous to get your self-worth by being good at jigsaw puzzles.  But I am crazy good at jigsaw puzzles.  When I’m really bored I go to www.jigzone.com and do jigsaw puzzles online.  I’ve been crazy ramble-y today so I better stop!

See you tonight at That Yarn Store in Eagle Rock.  Martinis and yarn!  Ooh, I went to two bay area yarn stores this last weekend and all I bought was the latest Rowan Magazine.  What self-control!

 Jill B.

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So flabergasted at myself I almost forgot to blog it!

Warning: This post contains a wicked lot of photos. Avert your eyes if you’re easily offended by rainbows!

The scarf/shawl I declared I would be knitting forever is finally finished… Actually I finished it last week and have been unabashedly showing it off wherever possible. (Read: I wore it to Compatto. They are very generous with their oohs and ahhs there!) This weekend it’s slated to debut at That Yarn Store’s Martini Night and the monthly GLASG meeting.

Those who knit with me know that I have been crab-assing about this project for over a year. Feeling bored with the feather and fan pattern and doubting that in the end that my work would do the beautiful rainbow handspun from Perchance to Knit the justice it deserves. I was given an unexpected knitterly boost when this humble little piece of lace became one out of 305 of Brooklyn Tweed‘s favorites on Ravelry. Since then I’ve felt obligated to see if ultimately it could live up to such an honor.

Well, I must say I’m pleased. I will never again doubt of the power of a sturdy blocking.

Hearty thanks to all who have given me such generous compliments and encouragement! I couldn’t have done it without you…

As an extra special treat for any diehard rainbow lover/beach bums out there, I give you the Venice Beach photo shoot…

Friday was such a lovely beach day. I left work early last week to meet our webdesigner who’s office is on Rose and Main in Venice Beach. (I used to live right therein a tiny little bungalow with a shared courtyard and it so was awesome! Though the boardwalk seemed a little scummier than I remembered. Maybe it’s my age, or maybe I was just accustomed to that scene back then. Sorry, I was too intimidated to to take any pictures of the strange peeps.) Anyway, it was the perfect opportunity to catch the sunset and take some nice photos.

surfers on venice beach

Do you see the little birdie at the bottom of the next photo? Cute!! I love him to bits!

Hello little sandpiper!

I can’t believe this was my first visit to the beach since I’ve moved back to the Westside. Shame on me. Must make a resolution to go much, much, much more often.

So, BTW, I never meant for this post to be so long, but I must have a gotten a little advance on my Luck O’ the Irish. As I’m sitting here at work, blogging (shh! don’t tell my boss!), this giant storm system came rolling in. It was super strange with a thick layer of dark, dark gray clouds, but I could still see brightness on the horizon. This is the view from my desk…

Storm

And here’s downtown Los Angeles with a little digital zoom assist…

Downtown Los Angeles

The storm was leaving as quickly as it arrived and suddenly I realized… IMG! Rainbow!! I lept from my desk and went running around the penthouse sure that we must have the right angle off one of the gazillion balconies here. And as I burst out into the hallway, there it was.

A BIG

HULKING

RAINBOW!!

Arching over Beverly Hills and West Hollywood. Can you spot the blue and green Pacific Design Center Buildings on the left by the yellow crane in the previous photo?

Now that was pretty cool!

And no less than fifteen minutes later, we’re back to our regularly scheduled big, beautiful, blue sky…

blue sky moments later

Have a glorious weekend!

xo, Jill P.

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While You Were Away…

I got crafty in a natural way.

Remember a while back I was obsessed with wanting to have an indigo dyepot? Well, It seemed a little overwhelming, so I thought I would try some more accessible natural dyeing… something I could do in my kitchen without poisoning anyone. So I poked around on the internet and found some good ideas. I settled on turmeric and red cabbage. You can get some really nice colors with both using different non-toxic mordants and modifiers. I was especially inspired by a fellow fiber-blogger The Crafty Herbal Knitter. She had some really nice results using the red cabbage. I was really trying to follow her lead so a few weeks ago when it was super rainy in LA, I put out a whole bunch of 5 gallon buckets to collect rainwater for dyeing. For a few hours there, I thought myself a genius with perfect timing. One should always natural dye in Los Angeles during January! I did discover something interesting though… You know how after a real good soaking, the city sky looks all sparkle-y and clear. So much so that you can see a ton ridiculous mountains that you never even knew were there. For about twelve hours, you might think you had been transported to Denver!

Mountains!

View from my office!

My point being, all that dirty, dingy smoggy sky has to end up somewhere. To my dismay I found it in my buckets. I really wish I had taken a picture. The water was the color of very dehydrated person’s pee. Not quite what I wanted to soak my gleaming white superwash roving in. So, I tried hard not to be too discouraged and decided to wing it and go with straight tap water. My fish don’t seem to mind so much (as long as I remove the chlorine first! Hey maybe it might be an interesting idea to treat the dyewater with the same de-chlorinator/slime coat chemical I use for the fish water. Maybe another day…).

My main resource for the dyeing experiments was Natural Dyeing by Jackie Crook. This is a really nice book with lots of colorful pictures and easy to follow instructions. I decided to divide my roving into one ounce lots and dye with the following convolutions… neutral, vinegar assist (added baking soda modifier later because it looked exactly the same as the alum mordant sample), alum mordant, alum mordant w/vinegar modifier, alum mordant w/baking soda modifier.

Here are some in progress shots…

Red cabbage w/ alum mordent

Turmeric w/alum mordant

Red Cabbage w/alum mordant and soda modifier

Now like I mentioned, the vinegar assist alone didn’t look any different than alum mordant, so I decided to add the baking soda modifier to get a more vibrant color. Actually the color I ended up with using the vinegar and alum alone was a bit surprising. In the red cabbage batch I was expecting a light blue from the alum and a purple/pink from the vinegar. (At least that’s what the picture in the book told me)  I got pink from both. The only reasoning I could come up with for all this is that my tap water is too acidic. If it was neutral or alkaline, I would have gotten more in the blue family, right?? Well, my experiments were far from scientific, so rather than pontificate on results I don’t understand based on method I didn’t truly understand or follow to a T in the first place, I’ll just show you the results…

Tumeric Dyed…

Tumeric Dyed Roving

Red Cabbage dyed…

Red Cabbage Dyed

Results achieved using Los Angeles City Tap Water, Turmeric was dyed in an enamel coated aluminum pot and the red cabbage was dyed in a glass Corningware pot. Alum mordanted fibers were soaked over night and all dyes were simmered for one hour and set out to cool for a few hours after. Modifiers were simmered for an additional five or so minutes and allowed to cool. Rinses with clean tap water were done between each step. Oh, and all fibers were wetted with a dash of synthrapol (this could have altered results too, though I did read somewhere that synthrapol has a neutral ph, which is why I chose it over traditional dishwashing liquid.) The thing that was of acute interest to me in the end was that the Crafty Herbal Knitter had some very obvious color changes when she washed her rainwater dyed socks in her tap water washing machine. If you haven’t already followed the link to her site, you can check out her adventures with H2O ph here.

If I ever finish my sheep to shoe kit, I will spin up some nice little samples to show you. I’m thinking a cableled yarn for socks with one ply of each color. Sound good?

xo, Jill P.

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I’ll sew your buttons if you’ll weave in my ends….

Hi Jill B.!

I’m definitely up for an early morning trip downtown for buttons, etc. I did promise myself not to buy anything non-consumable in the month of February though… Hmmm. Maybe I should give up non-consumable purchases for lent. Wait! It’s already lent and I’m not Catholic anyway. Ugh! Well, I’ll just have to play it by ear. I’m definitely up for the trip though. Anyone else want to come? I think we should make it an early trip, like 9am, Saturday. Michael Levine is open at 9am, so that’s probably a good guideline. And I think most places are closed Sunday. Here’s a cool site I found that might help us to narrow down our search… http://www.fashiondistrict.org/

Sew, I guess I could give a quick update on my crafty progress… I finished that lacy sweater made from Green Mountain Spinnery yarns. Well, to be quite honest I’m just calling it finished. It’s all seamed, but I haven’t woven in the ends and I’m thinking that it might never happen. The thing turned out gigantic! My mom keeps asking for it thinking it might fit her, but I really don’t think so. It certainly wouldn’t be flattering on her either. BTW, Mom, if it’s just that you really want a sweater handmade by your daughter, I’d be happy to oblige with something nicer looking. And I think we’d both be more pleased at the end of it all, because actually, I don’t really even like the sweater that much anymore. It’s really boxy and frumpy looking. I suspect the problem was that I didn’t account for the extreme stretch factor when doing the gauge swatch. It’s a very lacy pattern and the shear weight of the yarn pulls it waaay open width-wise to such an effect as to make it too embarrassing to take pictures of. You can read about my woes in more detail on my Ravelry Project Page. I promise to show it off at the next Culver City SnB, but don’t think I’ll be posting any clown sweater pics! Here are a few finished shots where I was in denial and trying to “make” it look not so monstrous…

I think that since I’ve become a more confident and educated knitter in the last year, my tastes and notions of what I’m capable of have changed drastically. I still LOVE the yarn though. It’s so soft and natural looking. I love the slight halo I can see emerging from the fabric and can only imagine how much more soft and furry it would get over time. It just needs to be showcased in a more flattering design. This lace pattern is pretty though…

I think I used over ten skeins (at 220 yards!) so that a lot of good yarn to waste on an unloved sweater. I must say though, it was a terrific learning experience. I’m glad I followed it through to the end. I didn’t think I was going to enjoy seaming the pieces together and found that it wasn’t that bad. I’m really inspired to start another sweater soon. I have some yarn from a dark navy recycled J. Crew sweater I thought might work for that Drops sweater you just finished. (Not to be a copy-cat, I was really inspired by the progress you showed us at SnB last week 😉 I could also cast on for the Central Park Hoodie that I already have the yarn for. Or, I could just get my butt in gear and get that fleece spun and washed for the Adult Surprise Jacket. Well, that may have to wait until it warms up here. I hate to have wet fleece hanging around forever waiting to dry. Summer-like days are sure to come soon!

So, on to happier projects. I’m in the home stretch on my purl-less, toe-up, riverbed, monkey socks. I’ve got about 6-8 pattern repeats left for the leg, or until my yarn runs out. Ah, the joys of toe-up!!! Yay! I don’t have any new progress shots, but can promise finished pics before too long. I’m really dying to swatch for my Serendipity, but won’t let myself until these are off the needles, by golly!

I’ve also cast on the Clapotis that I’m making for my boss for her birthday. You might be asking, why did I cast on for a scarf that’s not due for finishing until July? Well, because I was dying to try out my new SWIFT!!!!! I broke down and got one off eBay for 40 bucks including shipping. Not a bargain, but it’s an antique from Sweden, supposedly. I had to try it outright away, so I used it the other day to put up my STR Club Yarn and Blue Heron Rayon Metallic into center-pull balls.

It really is a lot of fun. Made out of all wood parts, it’s nice and small when collapsed and just clamps onto the table. Pure and simple, it makes me happy. Inevitably, there will be better shots of the swift in action, but this is what I’ve got for now.

Another thing that makes me happy… Cupcakes! YUM!!! Many thanks to Craig and Betty Crocker for making this tasty birthday wish come true!

xo, Jill P.

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Scary button ladies

Jill P., 

I’ve been meaning to do this rant for so long, that I’m not really ranty about it anymore.  But I’ll just go for it anyway.  You know I hate sewing on buttons.  I hate hate hate it.  I have a sweater I finished about two years ago that just needs buttons.  I even bought them, I just don’t feel like putting them on.  Maybe it’s because I’m not confident in my button skills or maybe the idea of getting out the sewing thread makes me extremely lazy.  The fact remains that this unfinished sweater has spent almost that entire two years in a giant pile of crap draped over the back of my desk chair.  And now I don’t really like it anymore.  It is Noro Shinano yarn (discontinued, but some sort of mix of wool and silk).  I had to do a crazy amount of gauge math and it still didn’t quite turn out right.  It also looks extremely rustic.  It’s what I would wear if I was dressing as an artisan for Halloween.  It’s a cardigan knit side to side with a simple crochet border.  It looked really good on the book cover made out of Silk Garden.  That sweater is still on my to-do list, but really not the point of this post.

I went to F&S Fabrics (on Pico) a few weeks ago to buy some buttons.  I needed buttons for my sweater coat and also for the Baby Surprise Jacket.  First of all, they have an amazing button selection.  They have a bunch of tubes and drawers of buttons sitting out that you can look through.  But they also have hundreds of boxes behind a counter.  These boxes all have about a dozen different buttons attached to the front of the box.  The problem is, that if you want to see these buttons up close you have to get help from the button ladies.  They are both perfectly friendly, but they’re also very bossy.  They get very excited about helping you pick out the perfect buttons for your project.  They just start pulling boxes and laying out very ornate buttons onto your garment.  I’ll suggest a certain one that I like and they just pooh-pooh the idea and go back to the ones they like.  “Oh no, that won’t work.”  They want the button to be the centerpiece of the sweater and I just want to get something that doesn’t clash with the final item.  I was running out of time last time I was there and just had to postpone a decision.  There were some buttons I kind of liked but I wasn’t able to put them next to my sweater.  I feel like the only way I can buy those buttons are to go in without my project and just ask for them.  But then I run the chance of them not matching the fabric.  I can also go the path of least resistance and buy some non-descript shell-y/pearly buttons from the drawers accesible to the public.  At least then they wouldn’t cost more than the yarn for the sweater. 

That trip wasn’t a total loss.  They did suggest some really good buttons to go with my Baby Surprise Jacket.  Here’s the final project.  (I haven’t taken any pictures lately so this is kind of old news.)

The only reason those buttons got sewn on is that I was on a deadline to send the baby sweater to my niece. 

Yesterday I just finished the DROPS 103-1 jacket.  The knitting’s done.  I did the seaming and even wove in my ends.  But now it needs buttons.  I think I need to make another trip to the fabric store.  But we were talking about making a field trip to downtown or F&S to get buttons.  It would be fun for all us Culver City SnBers to go together.  I’m available this weekend, but have to check with everyone else.  I know Melissa’s up for it. 

I guess I should tell you about the DROPS jacket.  In my swatch I got about 12 st/in which is a little tighter than what it calls for in the pattern.  I decided to knit the medium size and hope for a small.  But I think when I actually started knitting it, I ended up getting closer to the actually called for 11st.  So ultimately I think I got a medium sweater.  Which works out okay, I had been torn between the two sizes.  (This feels like deja vu, maybe I already wrote this exact paragraph last post?)  The sweater could be a little smaller.  The knitting could be a little tighter.  I don’t really mind seaming.  It’s kind of exciting to see it all come together.  But I don’t really like seaming when the fabric is kind of open like that.  It feels like I’m creating a lot of gaps.  The stitches are just so huge!  Even though sewing is quicker with chunky yarn, I think I like the results better on a smaller gauge item.  I’ll have pictures to show soon.

I’ve become really disgusted with my yarn collection recently.  It’s definitely time to put down some kind of guidelines for purchasing new yarn.  Like maybe i need to finish off a whole bag of yarn before I can buy any.  And I don’t mean like a bag of ten skeins.  I mean like one of the giant shopping bags of mixed yarn sitting on top of the plastic tubs of yarn that comprises my stash.  My main problem is that I keep buying small bunches of yarn (like four skeins) when all I want to knit now is sweaters.  I want to be able to knit from my stash but don’t seem to have the right amount of yarn for anything.  Blah.  I need to get it under control.  I may need to hold off on my big KnitPicks order.

I’ll try for more pictures next time!  And if you or anyone sees a Hello Kitty sewing machine on clearance at a Target anytime soon, either let me know or buy it for me (will reimburse!).  I hear they’re only $25, if they can be found.  I didn’t want it that much for $50, but now can’t stop thinking about it!  I’m enjoying my Wii, I need to get my second controller than have people over for a party!

 Jill B.

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Birthday Mitts!

Jill B.!

Thank you so much for my Birthday Mitts. They are so perfect! I’ve been wearing them non-stop since yesterday.

I think I was able to get the color to represent pretty well in the photos.

Not only are they special because they are a pattern I’ve been wanting to make for myself (Evangeline…Ravelry Link) at the perfect length, but I love, love, love that you used your handspun. Soft, warm and oh so squishy! It makes them even more dear to me.

xoxo, Jill P.

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