July 30, 2010

Toonces The Driving Cat

I've been on a bit of a toy-knitting jag recently, probably because they're quick and fun and provide a good distraction from a couple of longer term projects on which I've been working. But let's not over-analyze this; they're also pretty cute.  The three most recent toys (including the Bates and Crawford families) have all been Rebecca Danger patterns, which are available both on Ravelry and Etsy.  I have to give a shout-out here to Ms. Danger and her patterns, which are really clearly written and include large and helpful photos.  The toys are all fairly simple, cute and a bit funny looking, which is just as a knitted toy should be, to my mind.

I think Toonces here fits that description.

Pattern: Greta the Captivating Cat, by Rebecca Danger
Yarn: Lorna's Laces Shepherd Worsted Multi, in Glenwood
Needles: US5/3.75mm
Started: July 26
Finished: July 29

Named for my favorite car-driving cat from 1980s late night TV, Toonces is going to live with Consuelo and David and their on-the-way baby. I made him using a partial skein of Lorna's Laces that was left over from a Baby Surprise Jacket I'd made two years ago.  I hadn't initially planned it, but after I'd been working for a bit, I noticed that the variegated nature and colors in the yarn were creating a great calico effect.  The yarn is soft and springy and, importantly, machine washable.

I was nervous about stitching on his arms, ears and tail because finishing is not my strong suit and there's no great way to hide these stitches, but again, the variegated yarn worked  in my favor masking some of my stitches.  I did make a modification with respect to his tail, and instead of working it in the round, I just made a 5-stitch i-cord.  Easy as pie, and it looks good.

July 21, 2010

The kind you find in a second hand store

If you recognize that line, you probably know what's coming next.

Yeah, baby: a raspberry beret.

A week ago, this project wasn't on my mind, was no where near the horizon.  Then my friend Emily from my knitting group passed on some information about a yarn store's going-out-of-business sale.  Fresh off a six-month long yarn buying moratorium, I kind of lost my mind.  But 40% off?  COME on!  I felt compelled to start working with some of the newly purchased yarn immediately, and so I did.

Pattern: Rose Red, by Ysolda Teague
Yarn: Mirasol Yarn Qina
Needles: US6/4.0mm
Started: July 16
Finished: July 17

This yarn was wonderful to work with.  It's an alpaca/bamboo blend, so you can imagine how soft it is.  It was so smooth with a great hand, and I love the slight fuzz.  I also really enjoyed working this pattern.  Like everything I've ever knit by Ysolda, it was clearly written and well edited, with both written and charted instructions.  I love working crochet with diagrams, but for knitting I often prefer written directions.  I find it's easier for me to keep my place, and I cannot for life of me remember all of the chart symbols. 

Another neat thing about Rose Red is that it has directions for making three different sizes!  I've found that most hat patterns are written in one size only, so that if you are like me and have a large head, you have to start fiddling with numbers and patterns.  I can't be bothered when a pattern contains cables and leaf/lace work.  Also, it's annoying to pay for something only to have to rejigger it on my own.  So kudos to yo, Ysolda Teague, and thank you for another great pattern.

My plan is to mail this off to its recepient later this week.  She and her family have decamped to Sweden for the sumemr, where her husband is from and where his family is.  So lucky!  Sweden in summer is beautiful and a little bit magical, if you ask me.

There's something else I've been meaning to share: a hexagon blanket started, and finished long ago.

Pattern: Ruby Hexagon Blanket, by Nova Seals
Yarn: many, many different and unknown worsted & DK weights
Hook: 4.5mm
Started: April 4
Finished: April 15

I was inspired to make this by my friend Jane, who crocheted a beautiful version out of sock yarn.  I had neither the stash or the patience to make this out of sock yarn, but worsteds I had in abundance.  Hexagons appeals to the side of me that likes geometric shapes, an attraction which goes way back.  When I was in 8th grade, I had 2 twin beds in my bedroom, a la Richie Cunningham, and they were covered with matching comforters: white with a pale grey large-scale grid, on top of which were screened geometric shapes in primary colors.  It felt very Samantha Baker.    

But I digress. 

The afghan.  I haven't measured it, but it's long enough for me to cover up while lying on the couch, and I'm 5'7 3/4".  My one impracticality with this project was that not all of the yarn that I used is machine washable. I would never saddle a loved one with burden like this, but forr me it's fine.  I'll either hand wash, dry clean or take my chances on the gentle cycle.  If it gets ruined, I can make another.

July 20, 2010

A boy's best friend is his mother

At least that's what Mrs. Bates always told Norman.

I rememebr the first time I ever saw Psycho, it as a sunny Saturday afternoon when I was about 12.  That it was the afternoon is significant, because it cut down dramatically on the terror and suspense which characterizes the film.  It's hard to be creeped out when the sun is shining and birds are chirping and your mother's in the kitchen cleaning with Pine Sol.  And while I didn't find the movie to be particularly terrifying, it was creepy, especially Norman's man-boy schtick and his creepy semi-sexual relationship with his mother.  You don't have to be a Jungian psychoanlyst to know that their relationship was simply not healthy. She was controlling, he was dependent.  In a word, they were too close.

Pattern: Daphne and Delilah, the Momma and Baby Monster, by Rebecca Danger
Yarn: Caron Simply Soft rites (green), Red Heart Super Saver Solids (purple)
Needles: US 5/3.75mm
Started: July 7
Finished: July 9

I started little Mother and Norman Bates right after I finished Joan and Christina Crawford.  I had no recepient in mind; I was just working with an eye towards reducing my stash.  As it turned out, my friend Jum needed a baby gift to send to some friends in Italy, so these guys will be headed over the Atlantic pretty soon.  Jim was worried about the button eyes being a choking hazard, so I duplicate stitched the eyes inetsad.  The yelow and squarish shape gives them an alien vibe, which I like.  One of fun things about making toys instead of garments is that improvisation is easier and the results seldom ruinous.


In this era of helicopter parenting, folks sometimes have a hard time distinguishing where their needs end and their children's begin.  Let the Bates family serve as a cautionary tale.  Don't think it's possible to be "too close" with your child?  Well, then, please watch this:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U8CGFF3rlSo&feature=related

July 10, 2010

It must be love

I have a new love.

Pretty, right?  She played a role in the adventures of my last post, but I didn't really introduce her.

I'd been thinking of getting a new bike for the past two years, but kept putting it on hold for a variety of reasons, the most significant of which was that I already had a bike. But mine was a men's model mountain bike and I wanted a ladies style cruiser: upright and cute.  Then, one Saturday  in April as I was walking to the farmer's market with my compost, I saw a vendor unloading vintage bikes to sell at the Brooklyn Flea.  I almost panicked, I was so excited!  And this was just a week before my birthday, so you know, fate. I took her for a test ride and then took her home.  Thus began our romance.

But like any relationship, it's had it's ups and downs.  There was a magical, misty ride to Sunset Park for dim sum with Jane and Penelope, and a sunny sojourn to meet up with my knitters on the Upper West Side.  Oh!  And then there was the flat (pictured above - front tire) that stopped me a mile from my apartment.  It's much harder to walk a bike with a flat tire than one might expect. Just after that was fixed, we had some more serious mechanical difficulties involving my gear shift.  Merrily peddling along was I when I noticed the bike wouldn't stay in gear.  I was able to get it to cooperate only by manually holding the gear shift in place; no mean feat when climbing a hill. Then, while crossing the Manhattan Bridge I heard the unmistakable ping! ping!  that told me bits and pieces were flying off of my ride.  Turns out that bikes, like people, have history and baggage, and when you get one that's approaching 40, this baggage can present challenges.  But a little patience and the help of some friends (at Gotham Bikes in TriBeCa) can do wonders, and for the past four weeks, my lady love and I have been getting along fantastically well. 

She takes me to work, and this commute has changed my life.  We had a  heat wave last week in New York, and she brought me sweet relief from oppressively hot and subway platforms. 

No longer am I relegated to steerage class on New York City Transit!  The sun, the air, the vistas all make me so happy.  I usually take the Manhattan Brodge, as it has far less pedestrian traffic than the Brooklyn Bridge, and so is an easier and more relaxing ride.

That't the Williamsburg Bridge in the distance.  New York isn't known for it's bridges, as is my hometown of Portland, OR, but we really do have quite a few here, and they're (msostly) beautiful  When crossing a bridge on foot or bicycle I think a lot about the engineering and physical efforts that went in to building it. Imagine how different our lives would be if we didn' have bridges!

Coming off the bridge on the Manhattan side, I see this man every morning.  He's meditating.  Right off of Canal Street.  He don't mess around.

Not all of the ride is traditionally scenic; nevertheless, I find it charming. Like this here: one woman is doing morning tai chi exercises.  The other is walking backwards.  Hmm . . .

Here we are, under the FDR. 

Over the past few years, our city government has established a lot of bike lanes.  Some are painted green for high visibility and some are even separated from car traffic by physical barriers.  They make riding much more fun and safe. 

A view of DUMBO and Vinegar Hill, and a bit of my beloved Manhattan Bridge.

For me to go on and on like this, it must be love.

July 5, 2010

No Wire Hangers!

I love long weekends.  That's not exactly revelatory; I think everyone loves a long weekend.  Whan I have one, I susally spend one day running errands and being terribly efficient, one day being crafty/domestic, and one day is lost.  It makes for a nice balance and I come out of the weekend feeling both productive and refreshed.

Yesterday, July the 4th, was my crafty day.  It was super hot outside and I don't have a pool, so I didn't mind spending the entire day inside.  Besides, I had a bee on my bonet about starting and completing a project this long weekend, which made the scorcher a perfect time.  Around 7 am I started digging through my stash for some yarn, and by the end of the day, I had all but sewn together these little ones:

Pattern:  Daphne and Delilah, the Momma and Baby Monster, by Rebecca Danger
Yarn: unknown worsted weights (less than 70g each)
Needle: US 5/3.75mm

I've named them Joan and Christina Crawford after one of my favorite books and movies from childhood, Mommie Dearest.  You've seen it, right?  Vain and fading star Joan Crawford adopts a strong-willed little girl whom she names Christima.  They often dress alike, at least when in public.  They are rich and pretty, and everything seems perfect . . .until the cameras shut down and the fans are out of view, when Mommie Dearest's monstrous side comes out.  Oh, it is a hilariously and campy classic.

When I finished stitching them up this morning, I thought the Misses Crawford eserved a visit to Coney Island, so we hopped on my bike and away we went.

They look so happy, with nary a hint of the turmoil at home!  We enjoyed the boardwalk and while we didn't venture into the water today, we did have fun people watching.  Our time at Coney Island was brief, however because, again, it was super warm outside.  They just said 100 on the radio, which seems excessive, but it's hard to gauge when you're on a bike because of the self-created breeze. 

In any event, we are happy to be home and are thinking of indulging in some of the sour cherry compote that I made yesterday, perhaps with some Greek yoghurt and a sweet drop biscuit. Care to join?

Oh, and on the off chance that you haven't seen Mommie Dearest, here's one of the original trailers.  It's off the proverbial hook.