Saturday, December 30, 2006

Mambo, Baby, Mambo

The last days of 2006 linger, like a snippet of song heard from the car next to yours, left floating on the breeze as the light changes and the car moves off. The tune stays in your head, though, even as you move forward, delighting in the promise of a new year.

For me, knitting-wise, this year's tune has been a Cal Tjader mambo. Upbeat, lively, its percussion got my fingers moving and its vibes added soul to every stitch I made. Here are the highlights:

1. The Knitting Olympics - What a blast to connect with other knitters around the world and learn a new technique at the same time. Several of the women in my knitting group also participated; three of us learned to knit lace by making knitty's Branching Out scarf.

2. Intarsia - Another new technique learned by joining the Wobbly Circles Tote KAL in the spring. The KAL itself was lackluster, but the framework it provided kept me motivated to finish this behemoth of a felted bag. (Seriously, the thing turned out huge.) It also made me realize that I can spend the rest of my knitting life not doing another intarsia project and that will be just fine.

3. Lace - After finishing my Branching Out scarf, I discovered I was addicted to lace. Casting around this summer, I found Sivia Harding's Yahoo group, joined up and participated in their ongoing Diamond Fantasy Shawl KAL. Sivia actively participates on the list, and responds to almost every post. The other knitters share wonderful tips, there are great FAQs pages for newbie lacers like moi, and Sivia's patterns are well written and easy to do. A fantastic experience all around.

This fall I also joined the Lacevember KAL, which was also a great KAL. Already I'm looking forward to next year.

4. Knitdevil - After six months (!) of hemming and hawing, I finally began blogging in September. Now I can't believe I didn't do it earlier, as it's become such a big part of my knitting world. And friends - thanks for reading, leaving comments, and enriching my life. It's good to know ya.

5. Pasadena Daytimers SnB - While our knitting group disbanded this fall, it was great fun while it lasted. I learned a lot and laughed even more. Thanks, knitsisters.

A few other musical notes - I finished my first adult sweater, and am tickled that it fits me. I'm learning how to make socks. I'm over my Kid Silk Haze crush. I knit a bunch of stuff for my sister and a poncho for my niece. I learned how to dye with Kool Aid. I tallied up my stash, and realized I have way too much Jo Sharp Kid Comfort but not nearly enough worsted weight wool. I bought a spinning wheel. My one UFO from this year is a Jess Hutch toy; all it needs is its arms and legs. I fell in love with handdyed sock yarn. I swatched for five sweaters, and none of them worked out well enough for me to start knitting them. Felting is comforting. I crocheted a baby blanket.

And now, time to move on. Happy 2007! May the music it brings be your favorite song.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

So, What Did Santa Leave You?

Hope everyone has had a wonderful holiday, and you're settling back into regular life with a rosy glow of contentment. Me, I'm just glad I survived the wackiest Christmas I've ever had. (Some kindly advice gleaned from this weekend: Never allow a childhood friend of your husband's - whom your husband hasn't really spent any time with in twenty years - who is going through a dreadful divorce, talks non-stop about himself, and 1) doesn't pay for anything or 2) bring one measly Christmas present to spend the holidays with you. It can really tax a person's holiday cheer.)

But, after the houseguest from hell left bright and early yesterday morning, and the strains of his truck stereo blaring the Eagles at ear splitting volume faded into the distance, Tom and I heaved a sigh of relief and settled down to our Christmas proper. We called family, prepared a righteous prime rib (Tom's favorite special meal), drank wassail (one of his family traditions that I enjoy, too), admired our presents, relaxed and watched a movie after dinner. Lovely.

Again, no knitting content, as I haven't had any time to pick up my needles this past week. But my head is chockablock full of ideas for the coming year. A good few involve my conquering the sock, and I have a feeling Lucy and I will be getting to know each other pretty well.

I'll also be knitting some cables, learning how to Fair Isle, and making one of these. Can't wait!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Twinkle, Twinkle

Today is the winter solstice, and, on this shortest day of the year, I offer bright blessings to you and your families. May you all be surrounded by light and joy, now and in the coming year.

Here at Casa Knitdevil, holiday preparation superceded everything else this past week. We got a late start this year, but things are in hand - the tree up and decorated; the outside lights up; the cards written and sent; the gifts bought, wrapped and sent/placed under the tree. Cookie baking commenced yesterday, and will continue through the weekend. I was just beginning to relax a bit, when we got a phone call from a childhood friend of Tom's. He's going through a rough spot, and will be joining us for Christmas. Tom is excited he's coming, and I see it as a chance to get lots of knitting done while they're out and about. (I'm also supposed to be getting a Webs gift certificate to help diffuse the stress of having a guest whom I don't really know in the house over the holiday. Yes, I'm bribable.)

On the knitting front there's very little to report, due to the aforementioned holiday blitzkrieg. One lone FO.

Pattern: Felted Striped Tote from One Skein
Yarn: Knit Picks Wool of the Andes in Avocado, Carrot, Chestnut, Evergreen and Fern
Needles: Options US 10 1/2
Mods: Made the handles more substantial by doubling the number of rows
Rating: Yep, I'd make it again

I'm calling this bag my leftovers bag, since 1) the yarn is from this, and 2) the yarn colors are named after food. Well, except for evergreen. But, I've heard you can eat fiddlehead fern buds in the springtime, so the fern qualifies. And lots of veggies are dark (ever)green, like chard and spinach. Anyway, enough with the digression. I like how the stripes look, but what's with that wonky right corner? In retrospect, the bottom seam looks off kilter, but whatever. I'll load this puppy up with all my purse stuff, and you won't be able to tell a thing. And this is a great pattern for using up those feltable odds and ends in your stash.

* * *

Finally, Mehitabel has tagged me to reveal six weird things about myself:

1. I've never seen a reality tv show. (when my knitting group talks about Project Runway, I daydream about him)
2. I can't say the alphabet backwards.
3. When doing laundry, I have to fold our t-shirts a specific way. Tom folds them the opposite way, and it drives me so crazy I always have to refold the ones he folds. This folding mania applies only to t-shirts; with the rest of the laundry I'm totally laissez faire, and however it gets in the drawers is fine.
4. I love the smell of wet wool.
5. I have a calaveras folk art collection and tattoo.
6. My sense of humor is unusual and, well, dark. For example, I'm one of probably two people out there (the other being Tom - thank goodness we found each other) who really likes the movie Death to Smoochy.

Happy holidays!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Where's My Aluminum Foil Hat?

Crafting Morrighana has a contest running right now, and last week I decided I'd participate. Easy, I thought. All you have to do is count how many balls of yarn you have. That won't take any time at all. It's not like I have a lot or anything.

Cue to this afternoon. I dragged out my tubs o' yarn and began tallying.

After 2 hours it became clear that reality is a little different than my understanding of it. How? Well, after counting, and counting, and counting, and then rechecking my numbers twice, I learned that I have 600 skeins/balls/hanks of yarn. Six hundred. Most of which were purchased over the last three years. Kinda mindblowing.

It must be aliens. They're totally messing with me. There's been no bright lights, or time standing still, or any of the other, er, less pleasant side effects linked with alien visitation, but how else to explain that huge number?

Yep, aliens. With some sort of mind control device, that clicks on whenever I visit a yarn store. That must be what's going on. Now, please excuse me while I go check for data chip implants.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Jayne Hat

To round off and finish up the Buffy/Angel/Firefly jag I've been on, I tracked down a photo of my good buddy DD (fellow Buffy fan and co-owner of the infamous Wax Trax Records - if you're ever in Denver go check 'em out) trying on (see the gift tag still attached?) the Jayne hat I made him last winter. Cunning, eh?

Pattern: Jayne hat from the television series Firefly, episode The Message; available as a kit here or a pattern here, here
Yarn: Lamb's Pride Bulky in Autumn Harvest, Sunburst Gold and Rust
Needles: US 10 1/2 16" circs (Addis) and dpns
Mods: For the earflap decreases I subbed ssk's on one side. Also changed something else about how I did the earflaps - maybe how I picked up stitches? - but don't really remember now
Rating: 5 by 5

Call me a total dork, but this project was fun. I was so lazy I just bought the kit from Heather - I think the deciding factor was she even makes the pompom for you - and whipped it up in an evening. This is the first - and probably? hopefully? the last - time I've ever knit clothing from a tv series. Kinda surreal, especially after I googled and saw how many Jayne hats are out there. But fun. See? Dork.

Monday, December 04, 2006


One of the things I love most about Los Angeles is its modern architecture. From the deco sweep of City Hall to the fresh crispness of Neutra's Silverlake homes, from the whimsical googie shapes of Pann's coffee shops to the weightiness of Frank Lloyd Wright's Mayan-inspired concrete block mansions, LA has some great design going on.

This exuberant design aesthetic can be found inside buildings, too, and one of the most ubiquitous examples of this is California Pottery. From the late 1880s to the 1960s, ceramics companies flourished in California, and one of the grand dames of that time was the J.A. Bauer Pottery Company. (Bauer: Classic American Pottery by Mitch Tuchman and California Pottery: From Missions to Modernism by Bill Stern are good places to read more; also, any of Jack Chipman's books) Bauer's dishes - glazed turqoise, cobalt, yellow and orange in the 1930s - are a little slice of the sunny California Dream. Once everyday crockery selling for pennies, these dishes now collect high prices on ebay.

Despair not, however, because a few years ago Bauer was reborn as a new ceramics studio. The folks running it have reintroduced some of the original pieces, concentrating mainly on reproducing designs from the 1930s and 40s. All those collectors out there paying seventeen bajillion dollars for their oilpots may recoil in horror at this "new" Bauer, but I love it. For one, it offers a viable way of owning some of these great ceramic pieces. For another, it perpetuates a part of Los Angeles history. And, to make things even better for thrifty crafty folk like you and me, every December they run a year-end holiday sale where they offer irregulars at dirt cheap prices and regular stock at 10% off. (The sale runs for the next two weekends, so if you need a last minute holiday gift - or just love good dish - you still have time to go.)

It has been several years since Tom and I went to the sale, but yesterday Sknitty, Tom and I popped in first thing. Their warehouse is a funny little building tucked behind some other industrial warehouses at the end of a cul de sac. Inside are shelves bursting with dishes and serious shoppers roaming among them. I only had a few things on my list, and came away with the most important: these adorable food bowls for our kitty Maggie and a 9" yellow nesting bowl to replace the one I've chipped badly.

To recharge the batteries, we then boogied on over to Eat Well and had a full-on breakfast. Once back home, trying to stave off a nap, I wet blocked the pink sweater, worked a couple of rows on Hanging Garden and dug into the felted striped bag from One Skein. What a glorious Sunday.