February 23, 2011


By the time you read this, I will be in Mexico doing something a lot like this:

I love a beach vacation in winter.  Adios y hasta pronto, amigos mios!

February 22, 2011

A hat for Sarah

When I drew Sarah's name in the my knitting group's gift exchange this year, I was pretty excited because she's someone whose taste I think I know pretty well.  I thought making a gift for her would be easy.  Pride cometh before a fall . . .

A couple of years ago, Sarah turrned me on to a method for extending the utility of my fingerless mitts well into winter: layering them over cheap, knit gloves.  She loved it, I loved it.  But as a member of the Cult of the iPhone, her layered approach to hand wear has been causing her problems vis a vis phone use.  After hearing her comment that she thought she needed a pair of proper mittens, I started scouring Ravelry for mitten patterns.  I eventually decided to crochet a pair, using some Sanguine Gryphon Eidos fingering weight yarn that I bought at Rhinebeck last fall.  Crocheting a fabric sufficiently dense so as to be suitable for mittens was slow work, but fun.

When I finished the first mitten, it was snug on me, but my hands are extraordinarily large, so I thought it would be a good fit for Sarah.  With almost two weeks to go until the gift exchange, I felt very comfortable that I'd finish well ahead of our deadline.  At our next get-together, Sarah announces that she's just made herself a pair of mittens, and in doing so, has realized that she really just doesn't like mittens.

Well, shit.

Because I've known Sarah for about three years, I was able to shift gears without too much angst.  She likes hats, specifically slouchy ones.  Even better, she has a tendency to lose them, so could always benefit from having a spare or two.  I settled on a pattern I'd made twice before because I thought it would suit her style and set to work.

Pattern: Wurm, by Katushika
Yarn: Noro Taiyo & Jade Sapphire Mongolian Cashmere 6-ply
Needles: US7 & 8/4.5mm & 5.0mm
Started: January 30
Finished: February 4

I love this yarn so much.  I picked up the skein and as soon as I saw it in the store and carried it around with me like a greedy little hoarder until I decided to buy it.  The colors are so lovely and  I thought the variegation would lend themselves to the welted hat.  The silk content reduced the stretch off the yarn, which resulted in welting that is less pronounced that in the other Wurms I've made.  This bothered me at first, but I think that was more a matter of result versus expectations.  After I sat with the hat for a bit, I decided I was happy with this variation. 

This pattern has you work an extra long brim and then fold it in half, picking up stitched from the cast on edge and then continuing to knit up the hat.  I decided it would be nice to work the inner part of the brim using some super soft cashmere.  Mmmm soft.

Sarah's head is about my size, so I knew that if it fit me, it would fit her.

Bingo!  It's even a tad big, but I think it's OK.  Anyway, it's cute and cozy and Sarah likes it.  When I was running on Saturday morning I ran in to her heading off to run errands and lo!  She was wearing the hat.  Color me happy.

February 21, 2011


My hometown's all over the news these days.  There's the IFC TV show, Portlandia (if you don't have cable, you can catch some clips on youtube; it's hilarious), a new NBC sitcom that's set there, called Perfect Couples (which has become a guilty pleasure; check it out on cable on demand) and then last week, NPR aired a story the gist of which was this: Portland's unemployment rate is usually 1% higher than the national average and salaries are 20% lower than in Seattle, but (young) people keep moving there anyway because it's so awesome.  And there are biracial guys who work at food carts and play in metal bands.  Again: it's awesome.

I was home for a week earlier this month for a sad occasion, so I was kind of off and blue much of the time, but I did find it warming to be back in Portland again.  The city has changed a lot since I moved away in 1989 (!!), but some things have remained comfortingly the same, like Oaks Park, the amusement park and roller rink where I used to skate to Van Halen, Billy Squire, AC/DC and Ratt.  The park itself was rather rinky dink, as evidenced by the photo, but the skating was always good.

One afternoon in need of a diversion I drove my rented Toyota Yaris over to Burnisde Street in search of a shop owner who is a friend of a friend, just to say hi.  While looking for the FoaF, something in a window of a store called Haunt caught my eye:

Hand knits!  Like I said, I had some time to kill, so I went in and poked my nose around a bit.  The woman working was talking to a friend/customer and since the boutique is small, I couldn't help but overhear their conversation.  The customer was asking about a book that the shop owner had written, if she was going to do another, yadda yadda, and it clicked!  The shop owner was Laura Irwin, the author of Boutique Knits.  After the customer left, I overcame my aversion to intruding on one's privacy and asked her if she was, in fact, Laura Irwin.  She was quite surprised and so friendly.  She said something  to the effect that not many people know of her book, to which I replied "EVERYONE, I know who knits knows it," then admitted that this is probably a small percentage of the general population, however.  Then we chatted about crafting and the smallness of the knitting world. 

I maxed out on dorkiness when I asked if I could take a picture of her (since I'd missed out on my chance when I saw Ysolda Teague walking across the Brooklyn Bridge a few summers ago).  She graciously agreed.  

Cute, right?  The dress Laura's wearing is in keeping with the vibe of the store: modern, feminine with a touch of industrialism.  Because I was focusing on knits, I didn't take pics of the pretty tops, earrings, capelets and shrugs they carry.  Wouldn't have done them justice, anyway, as I'm not a stylist.  But Haunt stocks really lovely items and if you're in the Portland area, I highly recommend stopping in, and if you're not, Laura and her partners also maintain an Etsy shop called Haunt Studio.  Convenient, no?
Another thing that made me happy when I was in Portland was getting the chance to see this dollface:

One of the early members of the Fort Greene/Clinton Hill Knit and Crochet Group, she moved back west a little over two years ago.  She's thriving out there, which is wonderful.  Making and selling a lot of art (on Etsy at her store Little Canoe), being outdoorsey, living the good life, which in Portland, includes eating good food.  In addition to my favorite pie place, Random Order Coffeehouse & Bakery, she turned me on to this spot here:

The Potato Champion is one of Portland's many, many amazing food carts.  This one is located in a "pod" (cluster of food carts) across from the Burgerville on 12th and Hawthorne.  I had a hard time deciding between the Belgian style fries, poutine, chili cheese fries and PB&J fries, but I opted for the exotic sounding poutine.  It's a crazy delicious concoction of French Canadian origin that combines french fries, cheese curds and gravy. Yummy peasant food - right up my alley.  The poutine was hard to believe delicious, and as I sat in one of the pod's picnic tables enjoying my snack, I felt really happy and lucky, and also a little nostalgic for my childhood in hippie, progressive, green, coffee-drinking, beer brewing, laid-back Portland.

February 15, 2011

Wrap it up!

I'm not one to get super hepped up about New Year's resolutions.  They often represent what we wish we were or could do in an ideal world rather than what we should do, or what's good or right for us.  And failure to achieve them (which starts to set in right about this time every year) is depressing. But, I do love making lists and plans and setting goals and cleaning things out and wrapping things up, whether it's my closet, my wallet, the kitchen sink or, OR my UFO pile. 

I'd had a few projects hanging about the apartment for several months now and they'd been getting me down.  Looking at them was making me feel like a greedy, impulsive flake who lacked follow-through, so I decided that before I started a bunch of shiny new projects, I needed to finish a few things, set them free and give them the life they deserve.  My Random Order socks were the first and easiest to finish up, and they gave me the momentum I needed to tackle this bad boy. 

Pattern: Log Cabin Square, by Sarah Bradberry
Yarn: Cascade 220 Superwash
Needles: US 7/4.5mm
Started: February 22, 2010
Finish: February 11, 2011

Around Christmas of 2009, my friend Adrienne had asked if she and her boyfriend could commission a blanket from me.  They'd seen some neat ones while travelling in France earlier in the year, but really liked the idea of having something made by a friend.  Producing a commissioned work is not something I'm completely prepared to do, yet.  My skills need improvement, and I am prone to see a mistake and say "I can live with that."  Not quite the right attitude for work for hire.

At the same time, I was really excited about the idea of making something for the two of them, and so I suggested that if they bought the yarn, I would be happy to do the work. She was down with this idea, and so began our collaboration. 

We started by exchanging emails with lots of photos of knit and crocheted blankets and afghans.  I'd skulk around flickr, mostly, for ideas.  I have to admit that I was kind of hoping she'd pick a crocheted pattern, because it would be faster work, but was also quite willing to make a knit blanket, so when she picked a log cabin pattern, I wasn't disappointed.

The next step was selecting yarn.  I knew she would want wool rather than acrylic, so I decided we had to go superwash (they have a toddler and practicality is key); also Adrienne hates the chemical effects of dry cleaning.  I promoted Cascase 220 Superwash pretty heavily, because it's the superwash I've used the most, is widely available and affordable.  Adrienne and Clayton both have very specific design aesthetics, so I left the color selection up to them.  She then sent me an architect-style rendering of the blanket, which was invaluable to me in working on this.  Some people are too loosey goosey with descriptions, and I'm a word person, so that can make me crazy.  Adrienne's an architect and is quite adept at creating visual representations of ideas.

Once I knew the colors to buy, I ordered the yarn from a couple of different online stores to maximize volume discounts and  free shipping.  I think the total was something around $119 or so.  And then, last February, I started knitting.  I'd forewarned Adrienne that this may take me the better part of a year, and darned if it didn't do just that.

Despite swatching and wet blocking a square in advance, when I wet blocked the actual squares, they grew more than I'd planned. The blanked was supposed to be 4' x 6' and it's probably closer to 5' x 7'.  When I finished piecing it together in January, I realized how completely unfinshed it look.  "Shit!" I thought.  "All this work for something that looks like an oversized dishrag."  Then Sarah from my knitting group suggested I make an applied i-cord border (she is i-cord obsessed, but I can make fun of her no longer).  Perfect!  It totally saved the project.

There are 24 squares in total, but I didn't have any way to photograph them all at once.  I'll be mailing this off to Seattle later this week with a twinge of sadness.  Why?  Because it's so groovy, I kind of want it for myself.  At least I know it's going to a good and loving home.

February 13, 2011

Ups and downs

 This past month has been a hard one with a lot of downs.  The downs don't always go away, but focusing on them too much is bad for one's heart, so I try to focus on the ups, of which there are many, for example
Time spent with little cousins

Journey songs 

Karaoke night & Korean food with the Fort Greene/Clinton Hill Knitters & Crocheters

A pretty hand-dyed (with beets!) skein of yarn from the yarn swap (Brava, Kim!)

A groovy present I received in our gift exchange (well done, Shameka!)

And a surprise, going away gift (a perfect fit, Emily!)

And a chocolate ice cream sundae with warm caramel sauce from Brooklyn Farmacy.  That place is awesome!  I highly recommend a visit if you find yourself in the Carroll Gardens area.

Reflecting on these lovely people and things makes me feel a bit cheerier.

Next time, I'll share some knitting news.