Saturday, May 22, 2010

Pictures! People like pictures, right?

Now that I have delivered this to its recipient, I can share my latest FO.

This is the blue & green "Raitaritarin Raita-asu/ Striped Outfit for a Stripeknight" (Ravelry project link) I made for Lisa, one of my favorite knitting friends, who is having her first child sometime between Any Day Now and hopefully not too much longer than the middle of next month. We were in Hawaii for her first shower, but the knitting circle at Piedmont Yarn had a shower for her yesterday, which was an awful lot of fun.

This was exactly the project I'd been waiting for to use up the leftover Karabella Aurora 8 (Rav link) from a Tulips cardigan I made a while back for my niece. I thought I might run out of the teal, but wound up with just under 2 ft left. Perfect! I love this yarn; it's a multi-ply construction that some people might find a little splitty, but I don't generally have much problem with that, and it's SOOOO soft and smooth, with great stitch definition and sproinginess. It converted my SIL, who was surprised to hear that it was wool, and previously didn't like knitted wool garments because of the itchiness. It's so smooth, in fact, that when I'm weaving in ends I usually try to go through a strand or two to make sure it will hold.

And here's where I reveal my dirty secret: my model for the sweater is none other than ...
yes, a roll of paper towels. I don't have any babies around to model my baby clothes, so I'm usually scrounging around the house for items to give the clothes a little shape for photos, instead of laying them out flat. I've used 5lb bags of flour3-d wall art, and even martini glasses before. This time? Paper towels. Whatever works, right?

The extra fun part (and the proof that sometimes my good intentions actually work out) of this project was realizing Thursday night that I needed some way to wrap the gift, and wouldn't have time to run out to the store before the shower. I have some fat quarters of pretty colors of quilting cotton, and decided to try my hand at making a Japanese Knot Bag to present the sweater in, something Lisa could use afterwards for a project bag. It was my first attempt, and I basically cobbled together the essentials of several different patterns and tutorials to come up with my best guess effort at it. I'm actually pretty pleased with the result:

I need to work on my stitching technique, especially the handstitching to seal the tops of the handles. I have more fat quarters I plan on using to make more of these and perfect my own version, and Bente at Piedmont Yarn is already asking me to consign them through the shop. We shall see. I need to figure out how to make them better and faster before they would be worth my time to sell.

I do have more pictures to share, and there will be even more after I go tonight to pick up the two floor looms I seem to have acquired. However, all of that can wait for another post.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Knitting Items Of Note

Installment 3 of Stash Knit Repeat's excellent Fit to Flatter series is up, and features lots of patterns from the latest Twist Collective! Stop by and check it out!

While we're at it, one of my very favorite bloggers, Techknitter, has also started a less-regular series of posts about Designing and Fitting Knitwear, the second of which is available this week. Techknitter always does a fabulous job of not only explaining and illustrating how to do something, but also why the yarn or fabric behaves in certain ways. It's gotten to the point where I will check the Techknitting site before I Google when I'm looking for instructions on a technique that's new to me. If I can work up the nerve, I plan to write and ask for permission to use some of the illustrations for the class I'm teaching in July (with full credit and links, of course); I have no idea whether the request will be granted, but regardless, I will be encouraging my students to check out the site.

(By the way, Techknitter has an awesome article on Mastering Kitchener Stitch in the Spring 2010 Interweave Knits that is definitely worth the read!)

Last but not least, Kira K. is a great local designer (she actually lives in my neighborhood) whose designs have been featured in She teaches knitting, crochet, and sewing in many local stores and venues. I took a beaded knitting class from her at Knit One One a couple years ago and really appreciated her informative yet laidback teaching style, and I had a great time helping her out at her booth at Stitches West this spring. She's teaching a series of 4 classes on Knitted and Crocheted Skirts at Piedmont Yarn (Flash warning) starting May 22. If I can make my schedule work AND get over my intention of losing some weight before I try knitting a skirt, I hope to sign up. She's got a variety of skirt patterns to work with a variety of body shapes.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Some meals just don't need gravy, y'know?

Our trip last week was marvelous. We had wonderful accommodations, in spectacular surroundings, and had the opportunity to do so many things that will become life-long memories. Even before we bought the ticket we knew there was no way we could see and do everything we'd have liked to on The Big Island in our one week there, but we had no real concept of just how true that was until we got there. By the middle of the week, we were already trying to figure out how we could arrange to come back and stay for a month, offsetting it with work for a portion of that time. I know how my travel-lust works, and when it comes down to it, it will be difficult to spend the funds on time there instead of someplace I've not yet seen, but even so, we do intend to get back and spend more time there.

It was the perfect blend of relaxation and sightseeing for us. And all those good intentions that kept creeping up? I didn't do a single one of them. Well, beyond getting three repeats into the Betty cardigan before realizing it was going to be way off gauge, and frogging it until I could get home. I'm actually kind of proud of myself for not trying to force more activities into my week. I needed the break, and I needed to take some time off, from everything.

Getting home, though, was challenging. We were on a United red-eye, and even though, after the miserably cramped trip out, we had sucked it up and paid for the upgrade to Steerage Plus with its 'extra 5" of legroom,' the seats were so uncomfortable neither of us got any sleep. (I am still trying to figure out how to phrase my choice comments for the customer survey they asked me to fill out. "Bait and switch" and "never again" will definitely be in there.) When we did finally arrive at home, we discovered to our dismay that despite the fact that we had a catsitter staying the entire time we were gone, our cat had gotten himself into a dreadful state and had to be rushed into the emergency vet. We very nearly lost him, but he is improving at this point. We're hoping he can come home tomorrow, and most of the non-work time since we arrived home has been consumed with dealing with his care. We haven't even finished unpacking yet!

It's time to get back on track with my goals, though; not only do I want to finish this dress before I completely lose momentum on it, I need to finish two baby sweaters in short order (one baby is coming early -- hopefully by Thursday! -- but I won't see him until later in June, so the local baby's sweater is first priority). And then of course restarting that cardigan with the right needle and pattern mods, plus tomorrow I have a local weaving expert coming by to look at my loom and advise me on what needs to be done to get it into working order. Plus all of those photos I need to process -- the remainder from our Oregon trip, all of them from Death Valley, and now Hawaii added on top of it all.

Busy busy already! I'm so glad I had the time to relax in Hawaii. It's what's keeping me going in the chaos since we've been home.

Friday, April 30, 2010

A Breath of Fresh Sanity

Sanity finally prevailed around 1:30 this morning, about 15 minutes after I made myself go to bed so I'd actually get a little sleep before my 6am meeting.

You see, my Good Intentions get away from me and take on a life of their own, on occasion. (Just ask my husband about the knitted gifts for Christmas this past year.) I try to set reasonable goals, and to adjust them as need be without too much fuss and bother, but ambition is bigger than my capability to complete.

As the dress form last week took longer and longer to complete, then turned out to be Just Plain Wrong (I still plan on taking a picture of it before we toss it today), I started preparing myself for the likelihood that I would run out of time on this dress project. I told Rick a few days ago that I would set it aside and focus on other trip prep if I had anything more than the zipper and the hem left to do when I set it down last night (or earlier if he was too overwhelmed by our to-do list and needed me to stop). It was looking pretty dire when I hadn't cut out anything but the lining pieces before I started working on it yesterday, and I was ok with that. I have other clothes I can wear in Hawaii, and I'll still have a lovely dress to wear this summer even if I don't finish it until after I get back. But then...I started getting hopeful. I was making good progress last night, and I started thinking there was a chance, and those Good Intentions came flooding back. I could do this! I would have my dress after all! I just needed to push a little harder.

Then I glanced over and noticed the big bold 12:43 staring at me from the clock, and the Good Intentions stumbled, just for a moment. When I gasped in shock at the time, Rick (who is a prince among men!) asked if there was any way he could help me get it done. I shoved some bodice pieces at him and said, "Yes! Iron these seams open, please?" He was more than happy to help, and did a great job ("Does it matter that I don't have any idea why these need to be ironed?"), but at 1:00 I realized sleep needed to happen so I could be coherent today for work, and started putting things away for the night.

The Good Intentions followed me to bed, though; the new plan was that I was going to do everything on my to-do list (aside from the dress) as early as possible, and then if I had any time left I would finish the dress. I could pull out the clothes I want to take, while listening on conference calls. I could sort my toiletries and refill what I needed to while I was waiting on processes to run. And really, since we're going to have to leave the house at 3am tomorrow anyway, if I need to I can just skip going to bed, and get some sleep on the plane. Who needs sleep before vacation, right? I can still do this!

And finally, FINALLY, I remembered that the purpose of this trip is to relax and enjoy a beautiful location with my husband to celebrate our tenth anniversary. Everything else -- EVERYTHING, including a new dress -- is just a bonus. The only reason I was so focused on finishing is because that was my goal; that was driving my crazy plans even more than the idea of wearing the dress on the trip. So there really is no need to make the last day of trip prep even crazier than it's already going to be, just because I want to meet a goal I set for myself. So I'm very deliberately setting aside the dress with absolutely no intentions of picking it up until I get back. After all, we want to try to stay more or less on West Coast time, since Rick will be working for three days of the trip and I'm hoping to catch a sunrise or two for pictures, and skipping a night of sleep will not help that. We're even hoping to get to bed as early as 8pm tonight to try to give ourselves the best chance at a full night's sleep as possible (where 'full night' in this case is only '6 hrs' but hush).

I'm really ok with not meeting this goal. I will enjoy this trip, relaxing with my beloved. While he's working I'll knit the shrug I want to make for the dress, and take my time instead of frantically diving into it on the plane and trying to get it done so I can wear it on the trip. While we're sitting on the beach listening to audiobooks and watching the waves, I'll leisurely finish the first of two sweaters for the June babies I'm knitting for. Hmm, maybe I should pack the other one, too. I'll finish up the mitts that have been sitting there waiting for me all month. And I can work on my huge backlog of photo processing. And order some enlargements. And maybe start looking for places to talk to about doing a gallery show. And start working on a website... and...

*deeeeep breath*
Relaxing with my beloved in a beautiful location. Everything else is, as they say, gravy.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

In knitting news

A few things you may want to check out:

This Saturday, Knit One One in Berkeley is having their May Magic Craft Sale. I will be on a plane, but you should go! Those caramels look delectable, and there are some really cute coin purses, bags, jewelry, awesome San Francisco cards, and oodles of other things. Check it out!

Mark your calendars now for Sunday, June 27. My favorite local yarn store, Piedmont Yarn (warning: Flash!) is hosting the first Oakland Fiber and Textile Festival (another warning: Yes, Flash! Sorry. :-/) in Splash Pad Park where Grand and Lakeshore meet 580. I can't wait for this! I  know it's Pride weekend, but the parade's in the morning, you'll still have time to come out to the Festival for the afternoon. Bente is focusing on getting as many local yarnies and fiber artists here as possible; I love how much value she places on supporting locals.

This new series of Fit 2 Flatter tutorial posts on Stash Knit Repeat looks really promising. Maybe between this, my Big Girl Knits books, and Custom Knits, I'll find altering knit garment patterns a little less intimidating.

Hawaii looms large! The dress...not so much.

My self-imposed deadline for having this dress done in time to take it with us to Hawaii is fast approaching, and I'm beginning to fear I won't make it in time. I still haven't done a stitch on the actual fabric, though I have cut out the lining for the bodice and determined I'm not going to have enough of the lining fabric to make the midriff lining, which puts the quantities in doubt for the outer fabric, as well -- and I finished off the bolt when I bought it.

I have been working on it steadily, though! I finished making the duct tape dress form last week only to measure it and find it doesn't really match my measurements, at all. Waist, under-bust, and bust are all too large. Top of shoulder down, over bust, to under-bust, is too small. I don't even know how best to adjust for that kind of measurement error. I'll have more thoughts on what went wrong with the dress form later, once I'm done with the dress. For now, it's sitting on a chair in the dining room with the shreds of an attempt at fitting a muslin pattern piece to it still pinned on, and I moved on to Plan B.

This involved enlisting R's help in fitting the muslin to me. And me explaining what a dart is, and how to make it, all while having him wield sharp pins in the vicinity of sensitive tissue. Tailoring 101 for both of us! We got what we thought was a pretty good approximation of the bodice pieces fitted to my body, and I made a first attempt at it on the muslin. It was ... better than the pattern, but still a bit off in a number of places. With the completed muslin bodice on, we attempted further modifications, then I spent the rest of the evening sketching out how best to make the pattern fit those mods. I've never done any of this before; when I was sewing for myself 20 years ago, I a) mostly fit the patterns as designed and b) where I didn't fit, I didn't care. Now, I a) don't so much fit the patterns, and b) am much pickier about having properly fitting clothes.

So, now, though it may have been a little impulsive, I've taken my modded pattern and gone ahead and cut out the lining with the actual fabric I intend to use, without taking the time to make another whole muslin bodice to test the mods. I'm going to sew in the darts, maybe even go so far as to baste the shoulders and side seams (of the lining) together and throw it on right quick to see how close I am, before I cut the modded bodice front out of the outer fabric. This, of course, will all be after I've had time to practice some seams on the scraps of the lining, so I know which stitch type I like best on this stretchy fabric. And this is all happening after I get off work, AND after I run out to fetch a zipper foot and more lining fabric so I can cut out the midriff lining.

I have two, maybe two and a half more evenings to work on this. I told R I needed to be down to only the zipper and the hem by the time I wrap up on Thursday evening, or it won't get done. That's my line in the sand. I simply won't have time for anything more than that on Friday, what with the cleaning for the house-sitter and packing that needs to happen.

If it isn't done in time for Hawaii, though, it isn't a wasted effort; the trip was the catalyst but I tried to choose a style I could wear for any number of occasions. It's a solid-color fabric that goes with a lot of stuff I already own, and I also have at least 2 other knitting projects planned that would coordinate very nicely with it, besides the short cardigan I've swatched for and want to start on the plane. I'll get back on the sewing as soon as I get unpacked from Hawaii, and should have something lovely to wear for the remainder of the summer.

I'm not giving up yet! I'll push through as long as I can afford to, in hopes of finishing. Just preparing myself for the fact that it may not be enough.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Every good blog deserves an introductory post, right?

This very well may be an ill-fated endeavor, given the amount of time I've devoted to my LiveJournal and Twitter accounts lately. Nonetheless, I've found myself wanting to talk a little more about my projects of late, including ones that won't necessarily be documented in Ravelry, and wished I could share with folks who aren't on Ravelry. Therefore, a new blog!

So, let's start with the boring background stuff. After a childhood spent growing up in too many places to call any one single place 'home,' I've finally settled in with the love of my life, Rick, in Oakland, CA. This is the first place I've lived where I've really felt I could settle in for the long haul. When we moved here, we'd lived in our previous house for 6 years, which was twice as long as I'd ever lived at one address before, and that previous record was twice as long as I'd ever lived at one address before then. Now, unless we get an opportunity to move overseas, I see us staying here for a very long time. Our cats, Oscar and Felix, are quite happy with this idea, too.

Rick and I love to travel; it's in my bones from the way I grew up, and I get antsy if I go too long without traveling somewhere. I think that's starting to rub off a little on Rick, too. Since we've been married, we've traveled to Italy (twice), Paris, Canada, Puerto Rico, Thailand, and the Dominican Republic. (I think he's starting to get used to lugging all my photography gear around the world!) My goal is to hit all seven continents at some point, but that last one's a doozy, so it may take a while. In the meantime, our next trip is a small one, to Hawaii for our 10th anniversary next month.  Beyond that, we have our sights set on Côte d'Ivoire, New Zealand, and India over the next few years, though things can change if opportunities arise.

On to more blog-relevant topics! A few years ago, when my siblings started reproducing, I picked up my cross-stitch needle and patterns again and started working on Christmas stockings. I managed to finish two of them before a friend taught me how to knit shortly after we moved to Oakland. More than 3 years later, knitting has officially become an obsession, and I'm always dreaming up new projects. (You can find me on Ravelry under username Danea.) A great deal on a sewing machine at the Oakland Museum of California's annual White Elephant Sale inspired me to start thinking about sewing again, after doing none (the very plain window treatments in our living room don't count) since the dresses I made in college. I'm currently working on a dress for the Hawaii trip, which is going to take an awful lot of customization in the bust area, which has created a secondary (semi-successful, half-done) project of creating a duct tape dress form. I also have plans for knitting a little cropped cardigan to go over the dress; I'm nothing if not ambitious when it comes to my planned projects! I've also got two knitting projects in the works for June babies. One is nearly done, and the other will be started after I get back from Hawaii. Longer-term, I'm going to attempt my first full-sized adult sweater, for Rick, to wear this next winter. That should be an adventure! (I've already warned him he may be getting his own duct tape clone when I get started on that.)

Aside from the knitting and sewing that are currently occupying my time, I also have an old table loom that a friend gave me. It needs to be cleaned up a bit, and seems to be missing a few parts, but when I've done that I intend to pick up weaving. And while I continue to have no interest in learning to spin, I have to admit I find the idea of dyeing yarn really sparks my imagination.

As if that's not enough, though this blog will primarily be about the fiber arts, I reserve the right to occasionally throw a photography-related post at you, here & there, since that is my other obsession these days. I've been taking photos With Intent (ie, not just snapshots, but actively aiming for good photos) since '91,  have been published a few times, and have been recognized in photo competitions, as well. One of my goals this year is to get an official website up and start selling prints. As an added bonus, I'd like to get a gallery show somewhere, but we'll see how that goes.

So that about does it for me. I hope you stick around and enjoy the show!