Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Checking in...

While there are certainly any number of projects waiting to be finished (or, in some cases, restarted), I've made time in the last week to start a new project. This is my attempt at getting a head start on my holiday crafting and to not get stuck, like I did last year, with 14 pairs of mittens to make in just about as many days. That was the opposite of fun.

My current project is The Drawn Thread's Perennial Border. I had to go through a few hoops to get the fabric (a time which will one day be known as the Saga of the Strawberry Sampler) but I'm glad I waited to visit a shop rather than just buy it off the Internet. As much as I like not having to interact with humans whenever possible, I think some things warrant the kindness of strangers and shopowners. Since the Strawberry Sampler's closed on Sundays, my mom and I ended up visiting Stitches that Count (211 Delaware St, New Castle, DE 19720) for some stash enhancement as well as Belfast linen in Platinum. Historic New Castle, even in the rain, is a hidden gem and I'm already planning a return trip. Mom and I lamented the rustic beauty and restored heritage of New Castle, agreeing that there's no good reason our own hometown couldn't be as vibrant. A little research, a little restoration, and a spit-shine or two would reveal the hidden gem on the Jersey-side of the Delaware, too!

After craft-shopping, we had a bite to eat in a lovely bar in a strip mall. Doesn't that sound horrible? But it wasn't! With Delaware's smoking ban, eating out is pleasant even when you're opting for pub grub. Sated, we made our way across the way to shop for some clothes. I ended up with two new pairs of shoes, two skirts, two tops, and infinite possibilities! Ok, so I actually only have about 6 possible outfits from these four pieces, but still--that's not bad!

Even better than Mom treating me for much of the day (I did buy my own linen at the cross-stitch store because, after all, I'm making the piece for her...) was the fact that I was trying on clothes in sizes that I don't think I've worn since before I got married. Rather than ending the shopping trip in tears, I was actually satisfied with everything. I've got a week and a half to hit my next goal (35) and as of this morning, I was just about 2 lbs away.

It's sunny right now, with a warm breeze. Let's all hope it stays that way so I can at least have part of my bike commute be dry--though, if given the choice between riding home wet and riding to work wet, I'll take the former.

I hope to have some craft pictures soon. I've got a big photo-event this weekend (wedding), but after that, I should be able to photograph what I want, where I want, when I want. Relief!

Friday, June 23, 2006

Bust

NYC was mostly a bust. I won't go into now, having spent the early part of my afternoon ranting to all that would listen. Still, I had fun--a day getting lost in New York is still better than a day of work, right?

My boobs, as anyone might have predicted, are shrinking. This means new bras. That's almost as much fun as the doctor's appointment I had to deal with this morning.

Sunday promises to be better if only because I'm going shopping with mom. Gotta love the mother-daughter shopping sprees.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Haiku and stash enhancements

Progress on knitting
Cardigan daily growing
Carolina-bound

The body of Haiku is close to 75% done--it's a nice quick knit and a welcome change from the finer work of sock knitting and embroidery (separate acivities). I'm considering knitting the sleeves in the round (two on two circs) just to avoid pesky seams, but we'll see. I'm using Bernat Softee, a definite break from my usual yarn-snobbery, but it's actually holding up well and isn't too bad to work with. I picked it after skin-testing several options and that must have looked interesting to the bystander: some random chick holding various skeins of yarn to her chest...

We were in AC Moore over the weekend (Mike had to get supplies for this mini-car he's building as part of a school project), so while he browsed and pondered the selection of balsa wood, I walked around the store. I'm never overly impressed with the yarn at AC Moore (see yarn snobbery comment above). It's not that I don't think the yarn is crap (though some of it is), it's just... well, if I'm going to spend a significant amount of money on yarn, I want it to be REALLY nice. Sometimes, you can get that at AC Moore, but mostly, you've got to cruise the LYS for the good stuff. That all said, I've got a fair amount of Lion Brand, Bernat, kitchen cotton, and the like in my stash (OH MAN, I just remembered I have Fun Fur in my stash... it's like an 80s flashback...). When push meets shove, I'll definitely be able to find something to knit with at AC Moore.

Anyway, on Saturday, I wasn't really looking for yarn or anything. I was just taking advantage of two things: being in a craft store and delicious, ice cold, air conditioning (our rowhouse is slated for AC installation this fall!!!). As I walked up and down the yarn aisles, I groped and fondled a fair number of skeins, but held onto nothing. Then, in the big old bin of mill ends--a place I've never really looked EVER--I found a super soft blue, tan, and chocolate variegated yarn. At $5 a bag, I bought 3, and I've been planning a sweater since Saturday. My last self-designed sweater will be getting frogged soon (too big, even when I'd first finished it; definitely too big now), but that was a super quick knit (US 13s, anyone?). This next self-designed sweater (using my mill ends yarn) is going to have a little bit more oomph to it... At least, in my head it does. We'll see what happens once thought become craft.

Finally, with one cross-stitch piece off to be framed, I've got the X X X bug again. I've been rooting through my stash, trying to find something challenging, yet quick, and I think I've got the perfect project. Now, I just need to get to my local needlework shop (a cool 22 miles south and west of me) to get some 32-count Belfast linen, in "putty". I'll be stitching by Saturday night!!!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Knitting for baby, and NYC shops

I'm working on Haiku (from Knitty) finally. I say finally because I've looked at the pattern on and off since I can remember and I just never had the occasion to stitch it up. But, with a due date in July approaching, and the cross-stitch project all but framed, why not cast-on for another knitting project?

As best as I can figure it, here's a list of WIPs:
Anastasia cabled sweater--the back is complete; however, this may need to be frogged and sized down due to my weight loss.
Scoop du Jour cardi--started, stopped, currently holding at half a pair of sleeves. I thought, maybe, if I started with the sleeves I'd be more encouraged to knit the long haul faster. How mistaken was I!!!
A blanket for my craft room, using yarn procured in a trade with...Lauren (I had to really delve into my memories for that one...)
Mom socks (not for my mom, though).
Two pairs of socks for me (barely started the toe on both of these). Note: I have the yarn to make myself at least 4 more pairs of socks, but like I said, I'll probably end up gifting these as time goes by.
Branching Out, from Knitty... about 60% done.
Socks for Mike (a mental WIP, if you will).
Squirrel-lined bag (Two Old Bags pattern... and no, it's not lined with squirrel fur, but rather squirrel print fabric. Who knew such a thing existed? I DID!!!)
Boogie vest--this is in need of a desperate frogging. I got impatient while knitting it and made it WAY too short and WAY too wide. Perhaps in August, just before the weather turns, I will frog this and try again (paying closer attention, also, to gauge...).

I know I'm missing something on this list... But I guess that's not too bad since I did it all from memory. I really need to sit down and prioritize my knitting--there's no reason that Branching Out SHOULD not be done!!! I mean, COME ON--60% complete?

But, it's just knitting, and life happens in between the rows, so... I'll get to it all soon enough.

Now, potential stash enhancement expedition on the horizon! I've been invited to New York City next week (a friend is meeting with potential suppliers for her new business) and she's completely unsure about public transportation in the Big Apple. I cannot say that I am an expert on MTA, but I can say that Mike and I have always been able to get around in other cities (we're big fans of public transportation and have planned our vacations around which location will offer the most in terms of PT. I suppose this is why most of our recent vacations have included trips to big cities and not, say, the country...). So, I'm in charge of navigation. We'll be around 7th Avenue and 39th Street in the morning and I'd like to try to have lunch (or, dunch, if it's a later lunch) at Risotteria (270 Bleecker Street). Other than that, though, our schedule is wide open.

Since we're both knitters (I gave her a refresher lesson about a year ago and she's going strong), we want to get in a few yarn shops. Aside from School Products (I've heard a lot about this shop, so I feel as if I must go), are there any other yarn shops that are must-sees? I'm not as familiar (sadly) with NYC as I should be, so please be as detailed as you can with any recommendations... And, for a little non-knitter fun, any off-the-beaten-path things two crazy girls should try to squeeze in while gallivanting through the big city?

Monday, June 12, 2006

A finish!

No pictures yet, but I've finished the wedding piece, with weeks to spare! I completed the stitching (save for a few French knots) while relaxing with Christy and Michelle in Jody's beautiful (even in its unfinished state) back yard. Once home last night, I finished the French knots and added some beads for embellishment. All that's left now is a gentle washing, blocking, and mounting--I'll be stopping by the framer's soon enough!

Knit-talk was the main course for Sunday afternoon, but Jody also whipped up some amazing pork kebabs (cinnamon in the spicing!) and a tasty corn and bean salad. The menu entirely has inspired me to do some grilling this weekend!

Jody and Christy knit on some blanket projects and Michelle and I kept it sock-centered: she was working on a leg and I was scouring Jody's books for the perfect sock pattern. Despite the fact that I've knit several pairs of socks, I only have ONE pair to my name. Even if I start out knitting a pair of socks with the intent that they will be mine, all mine, I will, invariably, end up gifting the socks to someone else. Heck, even my cat has received a sock--but that's an entirely different post.

When I was at Woolbearers, I bought some of their in-house sock yarn and I am vowing that this yarn will be used only for my own pair of socks. This should be do-able: my Koigu is tagged for socks for Nat, I've got a forest green sock yarn meant for Jerry. Mike has two yarns that are waiting to become socks for him, and that leaves about 12 or so other skeins of sock yarn waiting to be assigned. Ideally, they'd all become socks for me, but I know that I'm too much of a giver to keep the sock love all to myself.

On the way over to NJ, Christy had recommended Sensational Knitted Socks, and boy oh boy, was she ever spot on! I'll gladly admit that most knitting books leave me wanting a little more--either the patterns are 50/50 or the writing isn't clear or the technique is grossly different from mine. Whatever the issue, there's always something that I can point to and say, "Meh..." (And just so the knitters and knitting writers don't feel the brunt--I'm this way with all craft books. There's only one cross-stitch book that I've used so much that I could and should replace it, but that would mean I lose all my notes: Art Nouveau Cross Stitch--I've made several of the patterns featured in here and I would gladly make them again. That's truly saying a lot about cross-stitch!!!) Anyway, SKS is just the kind of book that will readily become a sock reference. It's also the type of book where the patterns allow for a bit more flexibility, and that appeals to my wild and free creative side--don't fence me in with your absolute K1P1 rigidity!

And as if discovering this little gem of a sock book wasn't treat enough, Jody then surprised me further with the generous loan of Seasons 1 and 2 of Gilmore Girls. I now know enough people that watch it that I no longer consider GG my secret pleasure, so I'm shouting it out, y'all. I'm a late-comer to GG, having started somewhere in the last 3 years or so. While I don't feel like I'm lost while watching new episodes, I'm eager to get as much of the back-story as possible. Plus, GG is guaranteed (sock) knitting time! I can't wait to get home tonight JUST SO I CAN WATCH MORE.

I'm hoping to take a picture or two of the finished cross-stitch tonight, so look for another photo post soon!

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Insert scream of frustration HERE

I am seriously about one row from ripping out the second of a pair of socks AS WELL AS the first. Why, you ask? BECAUSE.

First, I had issues because I put down the second sock for too long. Now I have issues, related to the first batch, because the heels are not matching up. I'm not talking about self-striping stripes matching up--I'm talking about forgetting the number of stitches I used on the first heel.

And I've checked the first sock all along! Every time I've worked on the second sock, the first one has been there for comparison and reference.

If I frog them both now, I still have all of June and half of July before they need to be done, so it's not as though the deadline looms. And I do have other things that need more immediate attention. But, I hate that my knitting is currently close to getting the best of me.

For tonight, I will just leave it... Maybe by the weekend, we'll be back on speaking terms.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Free ride

After a grueling tour of a local elementary school, I went home last night and changed out of my respectable outfit and into bike shorts and a t-shirt. Mike's been pining for a decent ride and since his new job doesn't permit bike-commuting (it's the distance and lack of a safe route, mostly), I suggested we take a quick trip around the Loop after work. I was off for most of last week--working essentially just two of the four days in the already short week--so I missed my daily 10 mile ride.

We averaged 16.5 mph for the Loop itself (I pooped out on the hill and slowed to an excruciating 6.5-7mph for the last half-mile--BUT for only the third time in my personal history, I made it up that hill without stopping ONCE). I hadn't realized how beneficial my daily riding was until haflway through our ride last night when I realized pedaling on the flat ways is damn near effortless! Hooray for having to bike through hilly Northwest Philadelphia!

Tangentially related...

I've bought some new clothes lately, the latest round of purchases coming from Old Navy and consisting of t-shirts mostly. I bought a size smaller than I used to buy, but found that size to be too big still. Since January, I've lost nearly 30 pounds... And since March 2003, I've lost over 50 pounds. Saying that number, even if it's just in my head, is pretty damn inspiring.

It's easy to say now that I'll bike the whole summer, but right now the weather's not too hot, the humidity's not too high, and the night temperature doesn't leave my thighs semi-permanently adhered to each other. BUT, when I do start to second-guess my idea about riding through the summer, I'll remember these numbers.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Craft update

As promised, a photo update.

First, some cross-stitching. This is the ALMOST finished wedding piece that I'm making for my dear friend Chloe and her soon-to-be husband, Felipe. I took this picture about a week or so ago, and I've finished a little bit more. I don't have a lot left to do and I've even less time to finish it, so I should really get back on the ball with this! Damn need for sleep!



How about some x-stitching stash?




And just so the sock of the moment doesn't feel left out, here's it with its up and coming mate...



It's not the best picture, but it's at least proof that I do still knit! I've had some trouble with these socks--the first one, I did the bind off too tight (it's now ripped back some and waiting for the needles to pick up the stitches and bind off with ease). The second one, I got to the heel, put it down for a few weeks, and when I picked it up again, I couldn't for the life of me remember just what the hell I was doing. HATE that. So, I frogged it entirely and started over (only after about 16 attempts to figure it out, and after having about 23 fits of rage). I'm now to the heel--again--but I'm not putting this sucker down until I'm to the leg.

I'm using a Regia sock yarn and the "You're Putting Me On" basic toe-up sock pattern.

Finally, some stash enhancement. I mentioned that I'd made a trip to Woolbearers a little while back... Well, here're the fruits of that trip:


MORE sock yarn! I'm really becoming quite the sock-knitter! I love the versatility of this portable project AND I can always justify two skeins of sock yarn! While my hopes and dreams were to become a sweater knitter, I've just not got the patience to knit more than a sweater or two a year. Plus, knitting socks seems to really amaze friends and family, especially when I do them toe-up. ANYONE can knit in a circle, I say, but if my skills as a sock-knitter is up there in my bag of tricks, I'll take it!

There are more photos here, including some from our summer vacation last year!