Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Hectic Season

Happy Hallow-----wait. Whoops.

It's the time of year when time seems to race by me. I know, I know; the way I post in this blog you are probably shaking your head at the lack of discernible difference. Time tends to elude me in general, but there is something about the corridor between Halloween and New Year's that makes me (and many others, I suspect) feel like I'm constantly in the middle of some important project. Luckily, the panicky feeling this used to ignite in me subsided after I graduated from college.

November is easily the busiest month in my year--between Christmas gifts that need to be finished and Nanowrimo, there is always something waiting for my attention. Now, though, I get to revel in the joy of pursuing things I want to do without the stress of knowing that I'm procrastinating when it comes to the things I have to do.

I'm not sure what effect November will have on this blog. Like Charlie Brown, I pretend that I work best under pressure, so there's a chance that having so much on the go will increase my productivity. There's also a chance that my lingering proclivity towards procrastination will result in a flurry of posts. Then again, by week three of Nano, when the pace starts causing me to huddle in the corner and mumble about plot holes, I may end up abandoning the blog at least until December, when (of course) I will bring you the news of my triumph. (Please color the tone of that sentence with maximum skepticism.)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Rainbow Road

(If you want to skip my inane babbling, feel free to scroll to the pattern at the end!)

I’m terribly excited (and nervous) to be posting my first pattern online. It’s such an easy, intuitive pattern that I’m really hesitant to even label it as “mine”—but for the sake of brevity, I won’t post my full inner monologue concerning the subject. Just know that if, after viewing said pattern, you should feel that I’m utterly ridiculous for even committing it to the page…well…I can understand. That said, I ultimately decided to share the pattern because I had a blast making it.

It all started with two skeins of Malabrigo Silky Merino in Arco Iris that I bought on a whim. I needed the perfect pattern for them—something that would show of their beautiful variegation while also allowing me to keep the snuggly yarn as close to my skin as possible. Though letting them remain on my desk as mascots/pets/the most deliciously soft, yet ineffective paper weights you could imagine was tempting, I finally decided that the yarn was meant to be a scarf. However, I couldn’t find anyone pattern that suited my needs, so I decided to make my own. (I highly recommend checking out some of the patterns that helped inspire me, though—they are gorgeous. I originally looked for chevron patterns, but wavy turns up some fantastic options, too!)

I wanted a long scarf that wasn’t too wide, with gently textured waves that would play up the beautiful colors in the yarn. I used needles a few sizes above the recommended gauge to produce a fabric with extra drape. (I used size 10 needles; however, because this is a scarf, go with whatever gauge makes you happy!)

This is a fantastic project for someone who wants to practice increases and decreases.

Rainbow Road Scarf

There may or may not be a lot of Mario Kart played in this house.

Cast on 36

Knit first 4 rows

Begin pattern:

Row 1: (k2tog) 3 times, (kf+b) 6 times, (k2tog) 6 times, (kf+b) 6 times, (k2tog) 3 times.

Row 2: knit

Row 3: knit

Row 4: knit

Repeat these four rows until scarf is desired length, bind off loosely.


Just in case you don’t already know:

K2tog: refers to a decrease in which you knit two stitches together

Kf+b: refers to an increase in which you knit into the front and back of a single stitch

You can substitute alternate increases to produce different effects—for example, working a yarn over instead of the kf+b will create holes within the fabric, giving it a lacy effect.


You can purchase Malabrigo Silky Merino from a variety of stores--but I recommend using Eat.Sleep.Knit. (Follow the link on the top of my sidebar for a paradise of yarny goodness.)


Friday, October 21, 2011

Five Years Five Years La la la

Because this is public, I'm going to try and keep this as brief and non-mushy as possible.





Dear Daniel,

It is not every man who would gladly put up with a knitter.
Who would joke about stealing my yarn stash while patiently enduring hours at the yarn store while I fondle every skein. (And who would only tease me a little about using the word fondle. It's funny, I understand.)

Who would wear the silly hat I made him for our first Christmas together (don't worry, those pictures are stowed safely where no one can see them).

Who would not only graciously accept that first, horribly wonky sweater I made him, but also keep it hanging in his closet.

Who would wear the second sweater I made him even though it was itchy.



Who would encourage me to pursue my wild dream of becoming a professional knitter, knitwear designer, writer, and editor.

Who wouldn't bat an eyelash at the fact that this means most of my days are spent at home surrounded by yarn. Or the fact that I have so far made a grand total of $20 dollars.

Who would be patient, kind, and caring as I struggled to find myself.

Who would start randomly dancing, singing, or tickling me when he knows that I'm sad and I need a reason to smile.

Who would tell me I'm beautiful despite the fact that I've worn the same dress three days in a row and my hair hasn't seen a hairbrush in...well...too long.

Who loves me not just in spite of my flaws, but because of a fair few of them.

Before I met you, I was sure that I would never want to get married; now I can't wait to be your wife.

I love you so much, Happy Five Years.



Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Quick Blurb

Also, because the last post was *gasp* completely unrelated to knitting, here is a sneak peak at a post I'm working on for later in the week:

Pumpkin Daze

I know that after a two week absence, I should probably be posting some sort of fantastic, moving yet funny, picture filled post that comes with a free pattern. Unfortunately, as much as I would like to have something to that affect, I'm going to do this post instead. It was on my mind over the weekend, and I'm going to get it out of my system.

I love Fall--the decorations that start to go up (be they Halloween or inappropriately early Christmas decorations), the spirit of anticipation, and the way that I get a chill just listening to the wind gusting outside. (That might also be the air conditioner.)

One of my favorite things about fall, though, is the fact that come September, you can find pumpkin flavored stuff Everywhere. I'm wild for pumpkin--real or fake, salty or savory, on its own or mixed in with oodles of other yummy things.

Most people anticipate a struggle with their weight during the holidays because of Turkey feasts and rampant baking. For me, it is all about the pumpkin.

Fact: I have had at least six pumpkin lattes since I spotted the telltale sign go up late August. I don't think I have six lattes in the rest of the year--let alone that many in a little over a month.

Sometime in the last two or so years, someone high up--or actually, many someones high up--noticed that I'm not the only one who suddenly becomes a latte junky the second they roll out the pumpkin syrup. This year, there are more pumpkin products on shelves and menus than ever, and I am reveling in it.

Because I am positively preoccupied with pumpkin (yeah, that made me gag a little bit, too), here is a list of my top 10 favorite pumpkin products. You will notice that I do not mention homemade pumpkin pie on the list. Please trust that this isn't because I am not completely gaga over it--it is by far my favorite of all pumpkin foods--I just wanted to focus on commercial items.

10. Mellowcream Pumpkins-- Yes, I know that these are not actually a pumpkin food--they are candy corn's hyper delicious cousin. In a world of miniature snickers, tiny bags of skittles, and teensy rolls of life savers, these pumpkins are the candy par excellence. Your mileage may vary.

9. Pumpkin Delights-- Like mellowcream pumpkins, these snacks contain very little actual pumpkin. However, they are still scrumptious enough to serve at your next fall themed fete. I may or not refer to these as Pumpkin Pasties around my house...

8. Store bought pumpkin pie--(See what I did there) Though not anywhere near as flavorful and satisfying as my Mom's homemade pie, store bought pumpkin pie is still a delicious alternative to being pumpkin pie free. After years of testing, I've found that Fresh Market's pie is the best of the grocery store alternatives--although both Publix and Whole Foods do pretty well.

7. Pumpkin Bread-- Again, this is best homemade, but the store variety is still yummy. I'm putting pumpkin muffins in this category, as they don't differ much in terms of flavor.

6. Pumpkin Ice cream --I would place this higher on the list, but unfortunately not all pumpkin ice creams are alike. My favorite version ever came from a small mom and pop shop out in California that made homemade pumpkin ice-cream. Unfortunately most of the big brands only sell pumpkin pie ice-cream or, worse, pumpkin cheesecake. While these are both pretty tasty, these varieties get weighed down by chunks of crust mixed into the batter, and overwhelming non-pumpkin flavors like vanilla or cream cheese.

5. Pumpkin whoopie pies-- I get mine from Fresh Market, and they pretty much taste like a dream. A cake cookie made of pumpkin with a layer of frosting in the middle--what isn't to love? I haven't been able to yet, but I'm dying to try these.

4. Pumpkin Spice Soy Milk-- Like my fiance, you may be loathe to try this stuff. However, there is a reason that it is one of the few products with so little actual pumpkin content to make it this far down the list. It is crazy delicious--smooth and not too cloying, with a very nice pumpkin-y flavor and a good blend of spices. I also highly recommend Silk's soy Egg Nog--it isn't as heavy as regular Egg Nog, but it's just as delicious.

3. Pumpkin Cheesecake--I've linked to Olive Garden's pumpkin cheesecake rather than any other brands for three reasons: the ginger cookie crumbles provide a nice contrast, they drizzle it with caramel sauce (my favorite companion for pumpkin pie), and my first piece this year contained large spots of pure, un-cheesecake-adulterated pumpkin pie flavored goodness.

2. Pumpkin Latte-- I'm not going to link this one because there are so many to choose from. Starbucks may have marketed the first big name one, but these puppies are popping up in just about every coffee shop you can find. I will, however, link to this search page of homemade latte recipes. I haven't tried any of them yet, but they look delicious.

1. Pumpkin Bagels--Einstein Bros. gets the link because that is where I tried my first pumpkin bagel. They have two varieties right now: an ultimate pumpkin bagel that skews sweet, and a plain pumpkin bagel. I tried the plain pumpkin with my requisite garlic and herb low fat cream cheese--it was a pumpkin experience unlike any other. I paired with a pumpkin spice latte (there's are my favorite, officially) for the ultimate pumpkin breakfast. I've been bugging Daniel to go again for a whole week.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Gratifying

When I first started knitting, I--like so many other fledgling fiber enthusiasts--was sure that my creations would make perfect gifts for the people I loved. I would take great care in picking the softest yarn, the most appropriate patterns. Unfortunately, I quickly learned--as all knitters eventually learn--some people don't understand the value of a hand knit.

There are tons of biases that inhibit people from understanding the love, effort, and (not to put too fine a point on it) sometimes massive amounts of cash that are invested in a hand good. A lot of these biases stem from the knitting stereotypes that are perpetuated in the media: doddering old lady who create itchy, ill fitting sweaters in garish colors. Even worse, in my opinion, are the people who decide that those who give craft work out as gifts do so because some how it's cheap. (Yup, that $60 of yarn was totally easier for me to find in my budget than a $20 gift card--and that's not even factoring in what my work would have cost.)

Now don't get me wrong--I know some of my early projects weren't exactly the stuff of dreams. I've made my fair share of wonky scarves and lopsided sweaters. They were all made out of love, though--and there were certainly a few people who recognized that. (That these people overlap with the group of people who now receive my more refined products is not a coincidence.)

Every time I give someone a hand knit, though, I still get a little nervous. I think it's natural--each scarf, hat, or blanket represents not only a lot of my hard work, but my good will. It's scary to think that might be rejected. I find giving knits to children especially daunting since they are both capricious in their tastes and vocal about what they don't like.

So, it was with no undue trepidation that I presented my fiance's niece, Emma Claire, with the blanket I had made her for her Baptism.

I held the blanket out for her to touch and she immediately grabbed it in a vice grip and brought it to her mouth to taste. After processing this initial data, she removed the blanket from her mouth just long enough to give me a big grin. I think that sounds like resounding baby approval.

Her mother helped me snap a picture later in the day--though her smile is an "isn't Mommy silly?" smile, not a "man this blanket makes for good gumming, Aunt Alex!" smile. Isn't she gorgeous?



The blanket is a Bookman Blanket, using Comfy Sport in Peony.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Yarn Accidents

My pseudo yarn diet came to a screeching halt yesterday after Eat.Sleep.Knit announced that they were having a special sale for 10k club members in hour of their five year anniversary. (If you haven't been to Eat.Sleep.Knit before, click on the button in my sidebar--it is my absolute favorite online yarn store.)

I had agreed to a yarn diet a few weeks ago with the idea that I would save up for ESK's annual Black Friday sale (an unrivaled event of yarny madness).

Of course that resolve crumbled like a box of graham crackers being stocked by a lazy, accident-prone teenager. I was honest about this, though, and despite being tempted to hide my indiscretion I texted Daniel to get clearance for breaking the rules.

He wrote back saying that I could get enough yarn for one project--a decent opening offer, however when I countered with a request for four skeins he failed to rise to the bargaining challenge and told me to only buy what I could afford. I imagine he heaved a beleaguered sigh at this point, but I can't be sure.

I set about choosing my yarn with care, focusing on procuring only those skeins which I had been coveting for some time. I scored a couple of skeins of some sock yarn I'd been eying for a few years and a new worsted that I have been wanting to try.

And then....well....I had an accident.

A skein of the squooshiest, most scrumptious, most lustrous yarn in a shade of blue that I frequently dream about fell in my basket.

Despite my efforts to remove it, it just kept hopping back in--so finally, I accepted that this yarn was simply destined to come stay with me and I placed the order. It should be hear early next week--I'll try to take pictures, though I might end up hiding the special skein, lest anyone recognize it and figure out just how much money I dropped on an impulse skein of yarn...

Monday, September 26, 2011

You can knit if you want to

Last night I decided that I would post about how I’m pining to order from a new (to me) yarn retailer. (Well…when I say decided, I mean that my fiancĂ© suggested I write about it, since he’s been subjected to my obsession for a few days now and I think he wants to share the wealth.)

However, when I sat down to write said post, I found myself distracted by something I read about a few days ago. I’d list the original source, but a) I can’t remember where I saw it and b) sadly this topic is ubiquitous enough that you’ve probably already encountered it. Therefore, I will let you draw from your own experience with this ongoing discussion, while I continue with abbreviated preamble.

Apparently some people think that being a knitter makes me a bad feminist. Now, I’m not going to kid myself—there are a lot of things about me that make me a “bad” feminist in other people’s eyes. I like to wear dresses, I cook, I played with doll’s as a kid, I hope to be able to stay home with my children when they’re small, and from time to time I’m not averse to watching a sappy romantic comedy or a period film. The list of “feminine” clichĂ©s could go on, but I don’t think either you or I would find it very interesting.

As you can tell from my use of scare quotes, I don’t agree with either of the aforementioned designations. In my opinion, “bad” is subjective and “feminine” is a cultural construct. For the sake of avoiding too much unnecessary chatter, I’m going to focus on the latter. Femininity is not a universal concept—or rather, our Western conception of femininity is not shared wholesale around the world. Some of the most fascinating articles I read during my time as an anthropology student focused on cultures that had conceptions of gender that varied from our own—one of my favorite of which concerned a tribe where women were seen as the tough, valuable workers while men adorned themselves in jewelry and fancy robes to attract wives. (At some point, I should dig through my books and find this specific reference.)

The assumption that being a woman means (or worse should mean) any one thing is ill conceived at best and offensive at worst—which is why I find it so frustrating that some people have decided that feminism must entail the eschewing of all “feminine” trappings. Feminism is about fighting for equality between the genders, not homogeneity, yet so often it seems that people equate feminism with women attempting to be men—or at least trying to distance themselves from the image of “woman”. Yes, I believe that women should be allowed (and encouraged) to take on traditionally “male” roles, if that is what they so desire—but I don’t think they should be forced into being less “feminine” if they don’t want to be. To me that smacks of agreeing that being male is somehow better than being female—and doesn’t that defeat the purpose?

The most recent article I read about this was written by a knitter who had been told by another woman that she was a bad feminist for engaging in craftwork. At the end of the article, the knitter said that she didn’t care if she was a bad feminist, she was going to knit because she liked it. I am going to take it a step further: I am a good feminist because I knit. I refuse to be pigeonholed. I’m not going to cook, clean, wear a dress, or knit because someone tells me that I should because it will make me a better woman—but I’m also not going to give up these just because someone says that doing so will make me a better feminist.

For me, feminism is about supporting women in the pursuit of their own happiness. Women shouldn’t be limited by anyone else’s expectations; women should be free to define themselves.

At this point, I could also bring up the long history of male knitters, but that feels tangential (if not contradictory) to my point.* So instead, I will stop preaching to the choir, and go drool over some more yarn.

*However, I’ll probably do another post on it later in the year, because I think it is really cool!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Part Deux

As promised (I know you've all been eagerly awaiting it, after all), here is the second half of my Takumi Clover Interchangeable Bamboo Needles set review. (Word order may vary.):



Yup. They're amazing alright.


The Join:

I really like the join. It comes together easily, and stays together for the most part. I tried the Knit Picks Sampler interchangeable kit a few months ago, but found that I frequently had to tighten the joins while I worked. It was especially frustrating while working with lace, as my yarn would decide it was in love with the gap created between tip and cable and, like head strong teenagers sure that this was the end all and be all of life, it would take way too much frustration and cursing to untangle needle from the yarn. So far, I have only had this issue arise a smattering of times—and only on the needle in my right hand. I’ve found that checking the join every few rows eliminates this problem entirely.

Also, the join is tapered nicely—I’ve had no trouble transferring my yarn from cable to needle, even when I’ve been using the magic loop method. (Magic loop plays havoc with my gauge; I tend to tighten like crazy to prevent ladders, and have had a lot of trouble inching the working stitches up joins in the past. Expect an exasperated post about it at some point.)

The Needle Tips:

Initially, I was very underwhelmed by the tips. As a long time clover enthusiast, I figured I couldn’t go wrong buying their set. I’d read a few reviews that talked about the tips being a little coarse—one even mentioned having to sand and refinish them—but I dismissed that given that most of the negative reviewers also mentioned not being big fans of clover needles in general. For various reasons (namely my own unflappable ability to set my expectations ridiculously high as well as a few product descriptions that described “silky” finishes and “finer grains”), I thought the needles would fall somewhere on the spectrum between the regular Takumi needles and the Velvet Takumis. In the interest of full disclosure…I also forgot which set was the nicer of the two types; I mistakenly thought that Clover was the designation for the nicer needle finishes, not Velvet.

As you can guess, my dismay upon opening the case was palpable, but not unrelenting. The needles are a little bit coarser than the regular Clovers—which stinks if you’re expecting Velvets, but isn’t so bad ridiculous expectations aside. So far I’ve worked with superwash merino in a variety of gauges (even lace) and have had absolutely no problem. The needles also smooth out after a few hours knitting, so I recommend breaking them in on something like cotton if you are really worried about them snagging more delicate yarns.

***

Overall, I’m happy that I bought the set. It’s not as fantastic as I hoped it would be, but for a hundred bucks I feel like it was a good deal. These needles will last me for at least a few years, and it will ultimately be cheaper than buying individual needles. If you are interested in getting a set of your own, I highly recommend purchasing them from either Amazon or Nancy’s Notions, as both shops provide a sizeable discount—and frankly, given the finish on the needles, I don’t think they are worth the full price.

Whew…that was a whopper of a review—I promise future attempts will be a bit more streamlined. (And hopefully quite a bit funnier. I found as I wrote the review, most of my jokes tended to be based in innuendos and inappropriate puns, so I figured I would spare you. All two of you.)

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Interchangeable days

First off, let me apologize for such a long absence. We celebrated my fiance’s birthday this weekend in what can only be described as a bonanza of family activities—several of which I spent last week planning. My mastery of automated reservation services aside, it meant that I didn’t have a great deal of time to devote to personal projects. A flimsy excuse, perhaps, but sometimes weeks are just like that.

Now, sitting here in my tidier, more festive apartment, I find that I finally have time to get around to a blog post that has been percolating in the back of my head for a few weeks. In a show of very uncharacteristic foresight, I managed to snap pictures for this post more than a week ago. (Of course, I assumed that these pictures would be utilized the next day.) Without further ado, then, I present:

The First EVER Twitchknits Review!

*Disclaimer*: This review represents my own personal opinions. I am in no way affiliated with the company that produces this product, nor have I contacted them about creating this review. As a consumer, I know that I appreciate being able to read my peers’ reviews of the products they use; I’m simply trying to contribute to my community.

Please remember that just as every knitter’s gauge is personal, every knitter’s experiences and opinions are subjective as well. This review reflects only my opinion; your experience with this product may vary.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to the good stuff.

After a period of intense rumination and internet scouring, I finally purchased a set of interchangeable needles. I had been searching for a set that met my criteria (bamboo, 16’’ cords included, good value) with the intention of saving over the fall—when I saw these on Amazon, I pounced, much to the chagrin of my savings plan.

^ That's my excited face, apparently. Not to be confused with my "somebody let me have too much sugar" or "nope I'm not crazy from lack of sleep" faces.

I find it easier to organize my thoughts if I provide myself some sort of structure, so I’m going to write this in order of what I noticed about the set, and then give an overall impression. Please feel free to skip to the end at any time, as I may start a’ramblin’!

Case:

The case is no more than I expected it to be—unlike some of the fancier sets the Takumi Clover set comes in a very basic, black vinyl case. It smelled a little of plastic at first, but now that it’s aired out for a week or two, the fumes have dissipated. The layout of the case is intuitive—well organized, with snug bands for the needles and a deep pocket for the cables. Because the bands are snug, I’m a little concerned about scratching the bamboo tips as I remove them from the case; however this may just be regular Twitch paranoia.

Cables:

Admittedly, the cables (along with the price point) are what sold me on this set. I’m a creature of habit, and 16” cables are my weapon of choice—they’re essential for hats and are great for scarves. I was so disappointed to find that most interchangeable sets don’t include them. (After reading a few interesting google responses, I think that this has to do with the length of most interchangeable needle tips; they are usually too long to be used for shorter circulars.)

The cables are easily my favorite part of the set. They come in their own separate pouch, complete with a diagram for telling the needles apart based on which pocket they’re in.

They are flexible, but don’t fall completely slack. In the past, I’ve had trouble with the regular clover circulars bending back on themselves and or remaining crimped in a certain position after storage. So far neither of these issues has arisen with my interchangeable—it’s fantastic. The only negative thing I can say is that the cables squeak and creak sometimes as I’m using them. However this is extremely faint.


Alright, as I'm being my usual verbose self, I've decided to leave this blog as *bumBUMbum*

To Be Continued...

Return tomorrow for an action packed* review of the sets joins and needle tips, as well as my overall recommendation!

I know, it's exciting right?! I'm totally not doing this as an easy way to get two blog posts this week...I would never do that....this is all about streamlining the content.....yeah......

*Much like recent action movies, the action-packed-ness of tomorrow's blog post may be grossly exaggerated.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Unbridled Enthusiasm


One of my favorite parts of knitting is the rush I get when I start a new project. The clack of needles as I cast on and the feel of new yarn rushing through my fingers.

My poor fiance is frequently subjected to my surge of excitement—usually in the form of me calling for him to come and look at my (sweater/ hat/shawl, etc). Invariably, this occurs just after I’ve completed one of the first few rows. Like a toddler with her crayon scribble family portrait, I’ll proudly direct him to look at my fledgling project. (“See the Hat? Can’t you tell it’s going to be an awesome hat?”) He’ll admire my mass of freshly created yarn loops—sometimes he’ll even muster up a nod or a somewhat befuddled noise of appreciation. We both know that I don’t actually expect him to see the hat (sweater/shawl/monster doll); it’s enough that I know what it will be, I just need to enthuse to someone outside of my head for a little bit. In a few days (weeks/months/three years later when I find it in the stash and finish it) Daniel will look at it again, and this time his nod will be grander, his noise less befuddled. (He is really fantastic about reacting to my projects.)

This exuberance has only increased now that I’ve started designing my own patterns. It’s no longer just yarn loops that I show off—no, sir. Now I have random letters and charts with strange symbols. He takes it in stride, being one of the best of men.

But today…today I’m going to give him a break.


Look! See the shirt! Doesn’t it look like it’s going to be a great shirt?!!!?