Thursday, June 30, 2005

Vacation, all I ever wanted...

I am a bad blogger. I haven't posted since Monday and now it's Thursday afternoon, I should totally be working because it's my last day in the office until next Wednesday (woo hoo! vacation!), but instead, I'm updating this blog.

I predict that the Spinnerin shrug will be completed tonight. I've finished the majority of it -- I've got 6 more garter stitch rows for the bottom edge, 8 rows of garter on each sleeve edge, and then sew it up. I promise pictures. I'm actually pleased with it so far. I'm normally more of a crochete
r, so it's my most intense knitting project to date. I hope it comes together like it's supposed to. It's a birthday present for my friend Allison, who I'll see tomorrow when we're on vacation.

As I mentioned above, I leav
e for vacation (a long weekend, really) tomorrow. Four nights in lovely Lake Tahoe: yarn on the beach! beer in hand! I'm really looking forward to it, as it's a long-standing tradition with friends and family to be there for the 4th of July. We've got a group of 11 going this year. We normally go for a full week, but with weddings, pregancies & other vacations, we all decided that Tahoe should be shorter this year. Tahoe is also going to be somewhat bittersweet because the boyfriend of my good friend, Carrie, passed away in March. Tahoe of last year was one of the first group activities that Carrie brought Brent to, and we all had such a good time. It all seemed so perfect: most people were paired off and happy, and there was wedding & baby talk in the air. When Brent passed away, it was just so sudden and such a shock to all of us, but of course, to Carrie most of all. She decided not to come to Tahoe this year, for the first time in many years. There are a lot of reasons for her decision and I respect her for them. And even though I'm excited to go and I know we'll have a great time, there is just a tinge of the bittersweet.

It's hard to successfully transition from loss back to knit & crochet, but I'll try. I've had some requests for the pattern of the shrug I was pictured in on Crazy Aunt Purl's blog. It's a vintage pattern and when I get back from vacation, I'll post it. Here are some photos of my mom in a version that I made for her.

When I'm crocheting on the beach, I've decided that I'll be crocheting the Seraphina Shawl. I wanted to do something that is relatively easy, yet interesting. My friend Ellen has made numerous versions of this shawl and they look lovely, so hopefully, it will work out. Also, I think this will be a good stash-buster project. Now I just need to decide which yarn I want to use. Hmm, this could take a while.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Project Organization

I am not an organized person. The old president of my office would sometimes close my office door so he didn't have to look at my desk and the piles of paper and binders and envelopes (oh my!).

I am also a bit of a pack rat. It's in my genes. My grandmother was an incurable pack rat -- she would return from trips to Hong Kong with loads and loads of cheesy "Oriental" furniture (black laquer with mother-of-pearl inlaid tigers) and plaster casts of elephants. Not that this state is something I want to emulate, but I'm just getting it out there to let you know that I have a certain genetic predisposition for collecting stuff.

Past collections include amber jewelry, Barbies (mostly vintage), ceramic masks (it was the 80s, people), among others. For a while, I'll go hog-wild about a certain subject, buying more things than I have any need for, and then it will die down. I still enjoy my amber necklaces and earrings. I still cherish my mint condition brunette Bubblecut Barbie with pristine box. (Ok, the masks, I'm over) But the passion eventually passes onto a new collection (or two or three).

Current collections include early copies of the Anne of Green Gables books, yarn, fabric and vintage knitting/crochet/sewing magazines. Let me state now that I live in a one-bedroom apartment with my husband, 2 cats and a turtle. So where do these collections reside? Well, mostly scattered about in bags & boxes strewn casually about the living room (although Barbies & Anne books have a comfortable and safe environment in display cases). My husband is thoroughly patient with all of my crap, but even I felt it was getting a bit out of hand, especially since the famous Fern Smith estate sale where Faith & I bought hundreds of vintage knitting magazines for pennies.

So this weekend, while Richard was in Columbus to meet his internet friends (Nintendo RBI Baseball fans -- he's just as weird as I am!), I knew it was time to organize.

Faith and Laurie and I spent a fabulous Saturday shopping downtown at the Michael Levine Loft (fabric Mecca where you buy fabric by the pound -- $2 a pound, to be exact, unless your good friend remembers to bring coupons for 1/2 off, so $1 a pound!). After two hours of digging in refrigerator boxes full of polyester (this whole place is a powder keg!), I emerged with 9 lbs of faux fur (electric blue), black flocked cotton, and lots of stretch jersey. I felt a little guilty because where was I going to put all this fabric? My fabric cabinet was already overflowing.

We decided to head to Ikea for their summer sale. After a much needed wash down in the ladies restroom (my arms and face were covered in little flecks of black flocking, sweat and dirt), we sauntered through the store. I managed to find cheap magazine holders (5-pack for $2.50), two bed trays (since we only eat on the ground in front of the TV because the kitchen table has my knitting machine set up on it), and a lamp shade. I said a fond farewell to the ladies and headed upstairs to begin the organizing.

I was amazed by the transformation. The magazines are now grouped by decade (50s, 60s, 70s, modern), although a couple of titles deserved their own holders (Mon Tricot, Interweave Knits). I was so inspired (and I had holders left over), I also organized my kitchen bookcase, which I always wanted to be exclusively cookbooks, but which had become a receptacle for old mail, fliers, bills, etc. I couldn't stop there.

Sunday, I headed over to Organized Living, which is having a going out of business sale. It's going out of business because most things are ridiculously overpriced, and even at the sale, things are only 20% off, so most things would still have been cheaper at Target, but I was on a roll and could not be stopped. I left with a 10-pair over the door shoe hanger (to supplement the 24-pair hanger that is already full), an over the door iron hanger ( to match the over the door fold-out ironing board), a medium Sterilite plastic box to hold oversize magazines that don't fit in the magazine holders (1950s-1970s McCall's Needlework & Crafts) and assorted vintage craft books, and a large Sterilite platic box on wheels to house the additional fabric that doesn't fit in the fabric cabinet.

My apartment, while not actually clean by any act of imagination, is at least clear of lingering cardboard boxes and plastic bags. I feel like I accomplished something important. I should also mention that while filing all my magazines, I also set about repairing the ones which had ripped covers and pages falling out (using linen acid-free tape that I originally bought for mounting the embroidery project for my friend's wedding present). When I finished, it felt like a big weight had been lifted. It's stupid, but it's true.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Spatial Relations 101

Why would a former Tetris addict have issues with figuring out how a knitting pattern would actually come together? This should be simple spatial relations, but somehow, it's not.

Ok, I'm making good progress on the Vintage Spinnerin Shrug (description: bulky knitted shrug, made in one piece; simple moss stitch with garter stitch borders). My gauge is good (3 1/2 sts = 1", 5 rows = 1") and I'm knitting pretty fast (for me, anyway). I'm at the point where I've worked the body, and I've cast on extra for the underarms. And as I'm reading the pattern, I'm trying to figure out how the pattern will come together into a finished piece. And I hit the wall.

I should state that I'm normally pretty comfortable with patterns. I've been sewing for years. I took "Intro to Apparel Construction" at OTIS College of Art & Design. I've made quite a few pieces, sewn & crocheted, from vintage patterns. But, for some reason, I can't get my head wrapped around this pattern.

Here is a normal shrug/bolero pattern:

Knit it up, sew A to B, C to D, and voila! Looking at the photo of this pattern, that's how I assumed this pattern would come together. But as I did the math, I realized that what i would have at the end would actually look more like this:

I drew a diagram. I folded paper. I stared at it for about 20 minutes. I felt like an idiot. How could this be this hard? And a bit of panic, I need to finish this for a birthday present. It needs to be done in a week and a half. I don't have time to frog this!

And then I read the pattern again: "Starting at neck edge, cast on 97 sts." Which means that the 27.75" bottom edge was actually the top edge. I turned the diagram around.

DingDingDing! Light bulb turns on above my head. Sew corner A to corner B, corner C to corner D (armholes), and then sew up to create sleeves. Hurrah! We'll see if this actually works or not, but my fingers are crossed and my eyes less so.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

why does work have to get in the way of knitting?

I am a rebel.

We have a big meeting at work with people from our national office, and I didn't wear a suit. Ha! It's a beautiful day in LA, the June gloom appears to finally have burned off, and I am not going to wear a suit for an internal meeting. Instead, I wore a turquoise colored top and a dirndl skirt that I made out of this fabulous vintage fabric (cream with an abstract "painting" of Central Park in turquoise, brown & green). Hmm, maybe if I wore suits, I'd get more "rewards," but I think I've decided that being true to my inner fabulousness is more important.

I am making one concession to the politicking thing -- I have to miss SnB tonight to go to a "Congratulations" dinner to celebrate our fundraising walk success. I'm hoping I can sneak out early and make it for the last hour or so tonight in Santa Monica, but we'll see.

On the shrug front, I am making progress, but this yarn is a bitch to see the stitch pattern. I've had to unknit a few rows already. I'm just about at the point where I need to cast on for the sleeves. I'll try to remember to post pictures of the progress soon. Our meetings are supposed to be all day tomorrow, so I may or may not be able to steal a moment to post. And what else is work for, if not for updating your blog?

Monday, June 20, 2005

and we'll have fun-fun-fun till your husband spills red wine all over you

Had a very good weekend, which after the week I had, was very needed. Friday night we spent in, had Indian food delivered (hurrah for living in the city) and played Scrabble. We have ourselves so loaded with activities and seeing friends (SnB, kickball, etc.) during the week that we felt we just needed a night in with each other.

Saturday was Crazy Aunt Purl's barbeque. I made my famous candy-crack brownies (named from the exclamation "oh my god, these brownies are so good, they're like crack!"). I do have to be honest that it is not my recipe: it's from a book: The Chocolate Bar, which I highly recommend. The barbeque was a lot of fun. We got to see Aunt Purl's lovely little house, and fab back yard, and even the burned out crack house! Rich actually said, "this is such a nice neighborhood; you'd never think there would be a crack house here." Which you wouldn't. But to read more about the crazy kissin'cousin crackheads, read this.

We had to leave the barbeque early to make it out to Cinespia to meet assorted kickball/SnB friends. The film was "Some Like it Hot," which is zany Marilyn at her best. Everything was going nicely, different groups of friends were mingling, and then the junebugs arrived.

Junebugs. In Los Angeles.

Let me state for the record that junebugs are one of the reasons I avoid Kingsburg (Rich's hometown, about 20 minutes south of Fresno) from Memorial Day to Labor Day. These brown beetles are about the size of your thumbnail fly and often hiss. I hate junebugs.

Up until Saturday, the only place I've ever seen junebugs is in Kingsburg. But apparently, they like cemetaries, too. So, at about 8:15 p.m., they start their mating ritual, which involves thousands of them flying around trying to get a little lovin'. Unfortunately, they seem to like landing in hair. I'd like to think I maintained my composure, mostly. It took self-control of steel not to go running to the hills, but I tried to look sane to the friends of friends (the real friends know me too well to be fooled).

But I was not the only person ill at ease with the bugginess. Richard, with his cherubic locks, was also freaking out when the junebugs would go for his hair. Unfortunately for me, he forgot he had a big yellow plastic party cup filled with red wine in his hand when he freaked out. The wine went all over me, my cute turquoise tank top, and, most heartbreakingly, my so-brand-new-I-just-finished-sewing-it-this-afternoon tiered prairie skirt. Red wine. I almost cried. But I'd had enough wine not to get overly agitated.

Lucky for Rich, the material was very patterned, a swirl of flowers and geometric shapes in pinks, blues & greens. After pre-treating it and then washing it, the skirt was fine (tha tank top, not so much, but it was a $10 Old Navy one, so I wasn't so worried).

Sunday was fun. We went & saw "I Am My Own Wife" (2004 Tony award winner for best play & best actor and 2004 Pulitizer Prize winner for best play) at the Wadsworth. So good. It's the true story of a transvestite who survives the Nazis and the Communists in East Germany. I highly recommend it. After we came home (we went to see a 2 p.m. matinee. We were the youngest people there by at least 30 years. There was actually a tour bus from Palm Springs that brough retirees in. Boy, are old gay men grouchy), Rich took a good long nap and I worked on the shrug. It's supposed to me in a modified moss stitch, but I must have dropped a stitch somewhere (probably at Cinespia with all the red wine), so I had 6 rows of 1x1 ribbing. If this were a crochet piece, I'd rip it out, but it's knitting (which is not my strong point), the yarn is so busy, it's hard to see the pattern anyway, and it's a birthday gift (needs to be completed before I leave for Lake Tahoe on July1) for a non-knitter (she'll probably never notice the mistakes).

As my SnB leaders, Shannita & Faith, would say, "There are no mistakes, only design elements."

Friday, June 17, 2005

just because you only have 2 cats doesn't mean you're not a crazy cat lady

Look, cats really do play with yarn!

Ok, I totally did not stage that photo. Doyle legitimately attacked the innocent ball of yarn with his back paws (trying to rip its hypothetical innards out), but by the time I grabbed the camera, he was back to looking cute.

Another unstaged photo opportunity:

By the way, Deano is kind of a plus-sized kitty. Last time we took him to the vet, he weighed in at 22 pounds. That's more many medium sized dogs and some 3 year old humans. Doyle is relatively petite at only 14 pounds. You know how they say that pets end up looking like their owners? Hmm. I have no idea what that means...

crap, but at least there is SnB

I have been having a crappy week. Nothing dramatic, but let's just say the work situation, which has been going rather well, has been a bit bumpy as of late. The important thing I've tried to hold on to is to breathe in and breathe out and try not to cry in front of people. It's just hard when you feel like you're giving your all, but no matter how hard you work, because you don't play the political ass-kissing game, that you'll never be rewarded. (although the question of giving my all I guess could be raised since, well, I'm updating my blog at 9:30 in the morning on a Friday).

SnB has gotten me through this week. Both Tuesday and Thursday I went home and crawled into bed and pulled the covers over my head. I would have stayed there all night and wallowed in my own misery if I hadn't had SnB meetings to go to. Because even if all I do is quietly sit in a corner and knit, just going and listening to laughter makes me feel better. It maybe doesn't solve the root situation, but it definitely helps.

So, the phrase that pays from last night's WeHo SnB is : Eunuch Hats.

Ok, so maybe that needs a bit of explaining. Faith made this gorgeous knit hat from a variegated wool (kind of looked like Noro) that she said she made with a German yarn called Unikat. Across the table and across many other conversations, Gwen thought she said "eunuch hats." It was very funny at the time. Maybe it was funnier not explained.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

yet another project

Ok, now that my friend, Christa's wedding is over, I feel the need to begin a new project. I still have a bunch of unfinished things, but, you know... I get bored. I'm like a cat -- easily distracted by shiny objects (or in this case, fuzzy, colorful objects... like yarn).

But, as part of my Stash Reduction Objective, I am using some cute pink & metallic red Dive yarn that I purchased at a Yarn Lady sale a year ago. I'm making this:

It's for my friend, Allison's birthday. She's pregnant, but I figure she'll get a lot of baby stuff, and every mother I know needs something pretty for herself. Plus, it's a shrug, so no wacky closures over bellies.

If anyone is interested in knitting this shrug along with me, the pattern is posted in the right-hand column. The sizing is as follows: 12 (bust: 30-31"), 14 (bust: 32-33"), and 16 (bust: 34-35"). Not very big, I'll give you. Luckily, Allison is very small, so even with maternity's gift (ie, bigger boobs), a large should fit, no problem. As I work on this, I'll report if the size is true.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005


Ok, as requested by my fans (ok, fan -- Hi Laurie!), I present photos.

First, let me state for the record, that I am a bad photo blogger person. I forgot to take a photo of myself in the pink crocheted shrug with the bridesmaid dress (it was really hot at the reception, so I only wore it for a few minutes). But, I did remember to photograph the shrug & dress on the hanger. Not as good, but maybe a close second. So, here it is:

And here is the embroidery piece I (with help from my husband, who actually embroidered -- and liked it). I had it framed & matted before I gave it.

Here is the jewelry that I made for my sister (turquoise chunks, freshwater pearls & silver beads). She wore it to the wedding to match her Charlie's Angels-esque dress.

And here she is in said jewelry (why her mouth is open like she's trying to catch flies, I don't know).

And finally, here is me with the family at the wedding. Note the "glow" about my face (some unkind people might call it sweat). It was like 100 degrees with little to no breeze. But it was fun.

Santa Monica Stitch n Bitch is tonight. I don't really know what I'll work on because my finger is still sore from the *sports-related* injury. Maybe I'll try a little crochet, at least until it starts hurting again. grr. It's frustrating not to be able to make stuff when I want to.

Monday, June 13, 2005

weekend (craft) update

Ok, so it's Monday. The wedding is over, which means I'd better have finished all my wedding-related craft projects. And I am happy to say that I did.

I finished my alterations to the bridesmaid dress. It was still relatively unattractive, but aren't all bridesmaid dresses? The zipper never looked right, but I think that was mostly because I had to replace the it (first one broke while I was re-installing it) with one that was slightly heavier.

Crocheted shrug -- finished, although I think I actually wore it for all of 6 minutes because it was so hot at the reception. I passed the shrug on to my friend Carrie, so hopefully, she'll get some use out of it.

Embroidery wedding present -- complete & framed & gifted. Pictures posted later.

Jenny's jewelry -- completed, presented & worn (and paid for). Ended up with a necklace, bracelet & earrings.

Did I mention that I finished all of these projects with a *kickball* injury? Yes, I play in an adult kickball league (adult as in, over 21, but not as in "Debbie Does Kickball" --, and in the pre-game practice session on Wednesday, I bent to catch a kicked ball and jammed my right ring finger. I played the game, but I paid for it Thursday morning when it was bruised, swollen & hurting. I've got it taped up, but it still hurts like a mother. And it makes typing a bitch. So please excuse any spelling mistakes as I'm using the hunt & peck method as best I can.

Now that the wedding is over, I can not only work on non-wedding related crafts, but I can start the baby-related projects (not for me -- for one of my best friends). She's of English/Irish descent and his family is from Mexico, so I'm thinking of doing a baby blanket with shamrocks and chili peppers. I'll keep you updated.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

First post

First posting, I'd better make it good.

Ok, intro. My name is Sara and I am a 29-year-old craft-a-holic. I do a lot of them. Whether I do them well, that's for someone else to decide.
  • Sewing -- almost 10 years
  • Jewelry (beads, not silversmithing) -- 10 years, off and on
  • Crocheting -- 2 years
  • Knitting -- 1 year
  • Decoupage -- 2 years
  • Other assorted crafts done on a per project basis (i.e., not done continually) -- mosaic, embroidery, upholstery
I've decided to start this blog to chronicle my life through my projects, since I do crafts rather than, oh say, cleaning my apartment or cooking or reading or other less expensive hobbies.

So, the current list of projects underway:
  1. Bridesmaid dress (fyi, I'm in a wedding this weekend -- I don't just work on expensive, ill-fitting dresses for the heck of it). Status: almost complete -- just need to reattach bow to back of dress.
  2. Crocheted shrug from 1955 "Smart Crochet" magazine (to wear to wedding). Status: almost complete (although it's been in this state for weeks). Just need to finish loop fringe.
  3. Embroidery piece for wedding present (to be framed). Status: almost complete -- just need to finish vines.
  4. Jewelry for sister (to wear to wedding). Status: almost complete -- just need to make earrings (necklace & bracelet already completed).
  5. Knitted tank top (Cannes pattern from Rowan Beach Cool book). Status: pissing me off. I finished the front, only to realize that, due to the quirky wording of Rowan patterns, the stockinette section is too short. So, I have two choices -- either rip out the top & all armhole shaping and keep knitting, or pick up stitches along the bottom and increase the size of the garter stitch border. I'm leaning towards the second choice (I know, I should just rip it out, but the yarn is raggy, and I'm afraid it won't rip out cleanly, and the yarn is discontinued, so I can't get more if I ruin it), but it makes me too mad to think about it right now.
  6. Green & brown crocheted sweater (based on pattern from 1952 "Smart Crochet" magazine, but changed because I don't have a 26" waist and 36" bust). Status: more than 1/2 done, but I haven't worked on it since before Christmas. It's mostly wool & mohair, so it's not exactly the type of project I want to work on in the summer, but I've spent so much money on the yarn that I can't let it go uncompleted like so many of my projects. So I'm writing this to remind me to finish it!
  7. Imitation of Marc Jacobs Spring 2005 granny square purse. Status: not working out the way I wanted it to. I was using a color combo of pink, green & white, but the pink was not the right shade, so I bought a brighter color and need to start over.
  8. Knitty "Tempting" ribbed off-the-shoulder sweater. Status: I'm bored. Rows & rows of 2x2 ribbing. I'd say I'm about 1/3 of the way there, but I just don't know if I can go on.
Planned project that I have already purchased the materials for, but have not yet started.
  1. Crocheted starburst tank top (from Japanese pattern). A friend from Stitch n Bitch went to Japan in March and brought me back these fabulous knitting & crochet books. I don't read Japanese, but their patterns are written in graph form, so if you can figure out the initial symbols (that's what the internet is for), you can figure it out. This pattern is a cute tank that is worked from the top left shoulder in a radiating pattern. I bought some great cotton (Blue Sky Organic, GGH Goa) in a 70s harvest gold, dark brown & white. I can't wait to start this, but I need to finish some projects first.
  2. Sewn summer tops for sister Jenny. I have the materials and patterns, but I've only finished one, of an expected three.
  3. Sewn fancy dress for Jenny. Will get to it when I have time. I have to create this one without a pattern, so it will involve a lot of draping.
Yarn that I have purchased, but don't have projects for (these are just ones I can think of off the top of my head -- I've got more yarn than I know what to do with).
  1. 10 skeins of Noro "Gisha" ribbon yarn (discontinued). Brown/orange colorway. Purchased on ebay for $39.99. Practically free, and perfect for a summer project, but I don't know what yet.
  2. 10 skeins of Austermann "Candy" suede-like ribbon. Black/orange colorway. Purchased at Yarn Lady sale last year for 50% off. No idea what to do with it.
  3. 10 skeins of Trendsetter cotton/silk riboon yarn (can't remember name). Green/lilac spacedyed colorway. Purchased at Yarn Lady sale last year for 50% off. Will make fabulous summer tank, if I ever get to it.
  4. 10 skeins of Filatura di Crosa "Elena" wool/acrylic yarn. Taupe/peach colorway. Yarn Lady sale, again. No idea what to do with it.
  5. And so much more...
That's it for now. I'll post photos of the wedding related crafts after this weekend.