7/29/2006

the beauty of small things


Small things are rocking my world. I think it's because I've had a rough week. I can't go into it. But, instead of self-medicating with alcohol and other ways I bought yarn. And books. And beads. And fabric. Look at the pretty fabric.


I don't know what it wants to be yet. Possibly the lining for the bag that's next up in The Happy Hooker Crochet-along. (It's only a fat quarter. I searched for more, but to no avail.) I'm finding that crochet-along very interesting - it's sort of liberating being told "make this" and me saying "okay" and then finding out how much I like it. I think I have invented a new acronym, though. CABLE - Crafts Amassed Beyond Life Expectancy.


This is the latest small project. It's M.K Carroll's Cell Phone Piggy, found in Debbie Stoller's Stitch and Bitch Nation, posing on my piano. I made it in Patons "Powder Puff", which is a pig in itself to work with. It took me maybe 2 hours to make, if that, start to finish. The gratification of small things is a little triumph in itself.

Book review time:

One Skein, by Leigh Radford (Interweave Press, 2006)
I weakened, and bought this and another book (Knitting Rules) from yarnsonline.com.au this week. Shoutout to Meaghan from Yarns Online - superb service, super quick (3 days from ordered to received!!), well packaged. And stocks some of the materials I'd need for this book. Go there. Buy things.

It's a book that I can say now "Gee, I wish I'd had this when I picked knitting back up a few years ago", but I don't think I would have got it. I started with mega-projects. Even my first scarf was metres and metres of Dr Who inspired stripes (yes, from the pattern floating about the net. It's twice my height!). This is the opposite end of the spectrum.

The beautiful thing about small projects is that they are deceptive in their simplicity. To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, often the things that we retreat to when things become too complex are the things that are simple. I started a scarf from this book - it's a cable pattern, able to do it without looking, stash yarn, but there's something about the smallness of it all that makes me happy. There are a few bigger things (like the rug) that use stash, but most of this is weekend, or week-long projects.

There's a good range of small projects (not all hats, scarves and baby wear), and the design is what one would expect from Interweave - stunning. It's a well thought-out book - the yarns have CYCA designations on them (much easier for subbing!) and meterage as well as physical weight in grammes. Even the edges of the cover are designed to fold in and mark your place. I think I'll make a lot from it, just because a small project is good for the skills, good for the interest, and good for the morale when you finish it quickly. I've certainly bought yarn for several projects - the beaded gloves, the legwarmers (shutup, it's cold here) and the tank top. You need to see the tank top yarn, but that's another entry.

The most common criticism of the book is one that initially made me a little wary of it. Many people have said in reviews that there is no way these projects will take one skein. Then I realised that I don't mind projects taking several skeins, and as I looked at the yarns and the meterage, something occurred to me. Some of the projects have outrageous meterage when you read it in a book, but not in a yarn shop. I expect that lovely ball of Opal sock yarn to do two socks. That's a LOT of yarn in terms of metres. In a 100g ball of yarn, one expects somewhere between 160 - 200m if it's a DK - now envisage the same ball in lace weight. Once you take into account the weights of the yarn, one skein may well cover your project, if you pick the right skein.

Overall, interesting and worth the money. If only for the joy of getting new knitting books. (SP - I know I put this book on my questionaire. I honestly didn't expect you to get me a book. If you have, I'm very sorry. Send it anyway (it would be worth a whole month at least on its own!) - I can find a good home for it, and I'll feel totally justified in spending the money it's worth on yarn!)

Oh, and I bit the bullet and subscribed to Interweave. Apparently I get the Fall magazine sometime in the middle of next month. Yippeee! Just in time for Spring!

7/24/2006

bean there...

Okay, I have finished the beanie. It's huge. It covers my head most amply. I'm thinking of giving it to the director of the show, because he has a huge head. In the literal sense, I mean (in the metaphorical sense, he is one of THE most lovely men I have ever met, and not at all conceited, which is so unusual for we theatrical types).



I'm struggling, however, with the butterfly shawl. I might have to dip out of the CAL for that one. Seriously. The butterflies look...ick. I am thinking that I am trying to run before I can walk. We'll see. The red cardigan goes well. I've been making it whilst watching "Smallville", which I bought Season One of last week. It's an entertaining show.

Our musical is over, and I don't want to return to normal life. I'm so tired. All I want to do is sit on the lounge and watch tv and craft.

I've also decided to go on a health kick. I made a sterling start today - I've had 2 chocolate bars, a packet of chips, a bowl of home-made guacamole, and a bread roll. I don't know that ANY of that constitutes health food. Well, maybe the guacamole, because that was just avocado and seasoning. Hopefully, tomorrow will be healthier....

7/19/2006

Spin-out!

I'm tired. It's musical production week, and all of the things that normally go wrong with a show are going wrong, and I'm slowly-but-surely fixing them. I think it was Terry Pratchett who defined musical theatre as a whole trainwreck of disasters that somehow magically all fail to go wrong at the same time...

But, there have been some funnies. Like the dog. Or the DOG. He is playing Bullseye. He is about the size of a small pony; he'd be an acceptable riding dog, if one were short enough, and so inclined. But this 100kg drool factory is loveable. He's cuddly. He's charismatic. He's also ruining the dramatic tension when Bill slaps Nancy, because Bullseye starts licking Nancy's face the minute she falls to the floor.

So I sulked last night. It was 2-for-1 pizza night, and there were no knitting magazines in the shops, so I bought Interweave's "Spin Off - Summer 2006". First time I've ever seen it in the shops here. Now, this is testament to my knitting magazine obsession - I DON'T SPIN. I have no intentions of learning to spin. I think I'd be horrible at it. But I saw the patterns, and bought it anyway.

I like Interweave publications. They're well-set-out, have photos that are nice, but not so arty I can't work out what the garment is, the patterns are with the project, rather than squished in the back, and they have articles. It's not all about the pictures. This particular one had some really fascinating patterns that have gone on the spreadsheet (sheep puppets! a modular cardigan!) and articles applicable to knitters as well as spinners - I was especially interested in one about dyeing your own sock yarn WITHOUT stretching the stuff across the back yard!

There's also another magazine coming out of Australia, which can be found in an online preview issue. I clearly have issues with felted boots, because I found another pair in there that I want-want-want.

And the identity of K9 has come out.

MIAOMIAO! You ROCK!

7/15/2006

I don't know when to stop...

I haven't updated for a few days, because this is my busiest time of the year. Musical time. I'm juggling all sorts of things, although I think I'll try and get a photo of the fake flowers and fruit and meat and whatnot that I've made into trays for "Who will buy". The Rose Seller's is particularly impressive. It can also be held upside down with nary a rose out of place. And the fake meat tray is just....wrong.

Okay, my week of exciting mail didn't finish with K9. *I STILL DON'T KNOW WHO K9 IS! YOU PEOPLE WHO KNOW, YOU'RE BIG BLUE MEANIES*

Look!


Pirate socks and a Jack Skellington case. Which now holds my crochet hooks, being exactly the right size to do so! Thanks a million, Veritas! The case is perfect, and the socks not only fit, they passed the test of approval by Fagin's gang!

I'll be needing those hooks. I've managed to join not one, but two CALs, having decided not to go timidly into crochet. One is the and the other is the . I have made several butterflies (okay, they're a bit wobbly), and a failed attempt at a hat. I'm also up to the sleeves on the world cup cardigan. My, don't I feel accomplished!

I am also loving the new Knitty. I have got inspired, and organised, and now I have:
- a folder on my computer called "yarn"
- two RL folders on my desk, one with printed out knitting patterns, and one with printed out crochet patterns (otherwise I bookmark them and forget about them)
- a spreadsheet (yeah, I know, I've moved into the dark side) with my planned projects on it.

Ah. Now. For Monkeemaven, in the hope that I can barter it for information about the identity of K9, the grossest food I will eat. This is seitan. It's basically wheat gluten. Mid-preparation. MmmmmMMmmm.

Yeah, I know it looks nasty. But you can't buy it here. Hence, I make it. Though recently, I've been making quesidillas. I'd actually forgotten that they existed. Silly, silly me.

7/10/2006

Oh. My. Gosh!

I just got home from rehearsals to find THE most enormous box on my front doorstep. And now I need your help. My package from my wonderful SP6, K9, has arrived.

I knew K9 was great. Just picking up on my love of Dr Who and being K9, sending messages from the Tardis, and everything else, was SO much fun! But when I opened this box, I was totally blown away...



Lots of little wrapped parcels. In each, loads of treats. There was chocolate, and magaziney goodness, and a panda, and some beaded stitch markers that deserve their own photo (along with a pin from Harrods), and some clues (a New York pencil and some New York chocolate), and my very own Dalek easter egg (which is now sitting well out of pet-reach, on the top shelf of my desk with K9's other cards). I can't believe how wonderful all of the things that K9 has sent me are!



But that wasn't all! In addition, there was YARN!

Yes, that's a HUGE quantity of Knit Picks in the most gorgeous mapley brown, along with a cute little bag, some lovely soaps, and another ball of coffee-purple cotton. The brown is such a beautiful colour! Thanks so much K9!

And that's where I need help. There are clues that need to be deciphered. I'm also gonna place a plea on the Knittyboard (tm) for help. I only know a little about K9...

- I know that K9 moved near the start of the round
- I know that K9 has something to do with New York
- K9 is a.k.a a cat
- K9 subscribes to knitting magazines

Because I need to get K9's identity...so that I can send that tail warmer!

7/08/2006

Fat bottomed bags you make the World Cup go round!

Auroraville, Saturday: In a shock decision that has divided supporters, Team Aurora has gone ahead with a proposed substitution in her Knitting World Cup project. Scarlett Cardigan has been dumped for the younger (and some say more attractive), Fat Bottomed Bag.

"The crochet was better for the sore shoulder of unknown origin that plagued the team in our leadup to finishing the first half of the cardigan," was the official statement, but the players in question tend to differ.

"I think that I was really just the right bag for the job," commented Fat Bottom, in a recent press conference. "Scarlett just isn't a team player, and let's face it, the only challenge that she poses is in her miles and miles of stocking stitch. I posed a challenge - not only did Aurora have to learn to crochet, she had to line me and sew in handles. She even put in a magnetic bag snap."

Sources from within say that this lining process was not without its own troubles for the unwary, with the lining first being pinned in the wrong way, and then the sewing machine needle breaking when asked to sew into a pin. Apparently, sewing is not a particular forte for the team, however sources say that Aurora is inordinately proud of her new bag.

Only the incomplete second half of Cardigan was talking today, and her frustration is clear. "I don't think it's all down to an injury. I think that the allure of a younger project inflamed the situation. And listen, people, this is the KNITTING world cup. The bag is CROCHET! Crochet, I tell you! It's simply not fair!"

Perhaps the last word belongs to Aurora herself, who released this as part of the official statement: "In light of the refereeing in the Football World Cup, I'm not sure that substituting knitting and crochet is such a bad option. Or at least, it's more fair than some of those calls in the matches. And I had fun making both, so where's the issue?" AAP

7/04/2006

Reviews and news

I'm almost finished a short visit to Canberra. I leave quite soon. The nice thing about Canberra is that it gives me access to a. my mother, and b. yarn shops that are not the ones at home, and have more yarn, and c. book shops. So I got to pick up my standing order at the comic shop, (yay for the latest issue of Fables, and who gets married in it!) and generally pick up some books. I thought I'd do a bit of a review of the two books that I've read in the last few days; Compassionate Knitting, by Tara Jon Manning, and At Knit's End: Meditations for Women who Knit too much, by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee.

Both hinge on a similar theme; metaknitting, or the consideration of knitting not just as something done with pointy sticks and string, but as something more esoteric, or at the very least meditative in nature. Let's start with Manning's Compassionate Knitting.

Compassionate Knitting is the companion to/sequel to an earlier book called Mindful Knitting. I think that my appreciation of the techniques discussed in Compassionate Knitting would be more rounded if I had this earlier volume; basically, Manning advocates that we are mindful of our craft when we knit. This encompasses why we choose to do it, when we do it, the materials involved, mixed together with spirituality that is not unfamiliar to those of us who have done some study into Buddhism, or Neopaganism. This is not to say that Manning's approach is incompatible with Christianity by any means - part of the world view of anyone with a sense of spirituality is necessarily contemplating the wonder that is to be found in this amazing place that we inhabit.

That said, the focus of Compassionate Knitting is geared more towards projects than techniques. As far as I can gather (I only have Compassionate Knitting), Mindful Knitting sets out the techniques, Compassionate Knitting expands upon them. The projects are organised into sections corresponding to different elements; heaven, earth and knitter (spirit), and boy are there some wonderful projects in there. There's a number of things that I want to make already; from "Heaven", the cloud pillow, wisp of mist wrist warmers, angels and fairies, and if I ever have kids, they'll be wearing the heaven and stars baby set. From "Earth", there's a lovely Sea Aran cardigan (complete with descriptions of the meanings of the stitches), a stunning jacket called Sky Lake jacket, and walking meditation socks. From "Knitter", a padma jacket, and a feng shui charm that will be just dandy to send to a friend who is moving house. A word of warning, though - if you are a very small person, then it is unlikely that all of the projects will fit you. The Padma jacket has a finished chest measurement of 44 inches, or 112 cm. Makes a change from knitting magazines, and garments that only make it to a medium (I recently had my hopes for a lovely lacey cardigan-thing shot down by a magazine that shall remain nameless).

This is a lovely book, but if you're into the spiritual side of things, it might be worth trying to find Manning's first book, Mindful Knitting. I'd still get Compassionate Knitting - the depth of projects in there, and the hints at where one can find inspiration shouldn't be sold short. Or if you'd prefer a philosophical basis served with a generous serving of (occasionally self-deprecating) humour, pick up Stephanie Pearl-McPhee's At Knit's End.

To be honest, I avoided buying this book. I saw it once, ages ago, on a trip to Sydney, and thought "Who needs a book about meditations for women who knit too much? I knit, but I don't need to think about it." So I put it back. Maybe some things aren't meant to find you until the right time. I just spent a wonderful afternoon reading it in the sun, with the dog on my feet, laughing unabashedly at the often-accurate statements and thoughts, after picking it up at the yarn shop in Jameison, ACT.

You won't find a pattern in this book. Or instructions about how to knit (well, maybe some cautionary tales). It is instead a collection of stories, quotes, anecdotes and knitterly philosophy that invites you to examine yourself as a knitter, and encourages you to love all who knit (including yourself), with their quirks, stash-obsession, and ability to sniff out yarn at 60 paces. It's the sort of book that is - although I hesitate to use the word, because it's one I never use - heartwarming. It makes you feel good about your craft, about being a knitter, about knitters through the ages, about your stash, and even about knitting disasters. It's the papery equivalent of the friend who, when you do something totally, hideously embarrassing in public, says "Oh god, I do that too" and helps you away from the feeling that you want to crawl under a rock and die. Or else gets in under the rock with you and makes jokes until you're ready to come out. Highly recommended, and not just for afternoons in the sun.

And in breaking news, Team Aurora has announced a late substitution in her Knitting World Cup team. Apparently the red cardigan has strained its shoulder, from being knitted too much, and its place is quickly being usurped by another younger player. Early reports say that this new younger project is much closer to completion, although still poses a challenge to be finished by the 9th. More news next entry.

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