Friday, May 28, 2010

Somebody loan me $10--the ice cream truck is here!

We hit 90 degrees in Denver today, and I just heard ice cream truck music for the first time this year. Looks like summer is here, at least for the weekend. I recall a few Memorial Day weekends when it snowed. You read that right--snow. Really doesn't put you in the mood for stuff like grilling and planting and hanging out by the pool. On the other hand, I don't mind knitting bigger things like sweaters when the temperature isn't exactly hovering around the cold beer consumption range.

DD goes back to school for one day next week, then her junior year is over. (Chalk up that one day to a snow makeup.) It's been a good year grade-wise, mostly A's and no summons to the counselor's office. There's never a dull moment at Casa la Angustia, so the anxiety about senior year should start any moment. Work cranks up for DH when summer gets here so we're mostly about stay-cations. I actually get a lot of knitting done this way, but this summer my goal is to read a few more books than I usually do. I have visions of lazy hours spent by the pool--books, a little knitting and a cold Sophia Single at hand. I hope your summer will be as pleasant as I plan to make mine.

Have a safe and fun Memorial Day weekend. And for you Canadians, can tell me where I can find some of those chicken flavoured potato chips?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Goin' old school

I love color. What's my favorite? Dunno. Is the Moon in the Seventh House? What did I have for dinner last night? There's no rhyme or reason to what color I call my favorite at any given moment.

Color is a big part of why I knit--going into a yarn shop and being surrounded by chromatic yarn porn is my idea of a good time. There isn't a color I absolutely refuse to work with, and my stash pretty much contains the entire color wheel.

In my photography, I spend a lot of time trying to get the colors "correct." But there's something about black and white photography that just sends me. I hope you agree.

I turned the heels of my SAM KAL socks last night, so they should be finished in plenty of time. It probably won't be tonight, since I have my photography class. The class has been a blast and I'm sad it's ending, but I've learned a lot and I managed to take a few decent photos. I'm hoping we'll form a flickr group. If we do, I'll post the link.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

No peeking!

Maybe I'm easily impressed-I dunno. But when I see a knitter knitting without staring intently at their work, the way I usually do, I always think they have some sort of super-human yarn-y type powers.

I've been doing the Sock A Month 9 KAL and haven't missed a month yet. Today is 25th of May and I started my May socks yesterday. Yeah, I know. Don't say it. Anyway, given that I'm running out of month AND the French Open is being televised almost 24/7, I decided to knit a simple sock that I have a prayer of finishing before the end of the month. I also want to be able to knit while watching Nadal pull his tennis shorts out of his butt crack a million times, so this is the perfect time to work on my no-look knitting skills.

It seems to be all about feel and a simple pattern. I don't care if you're the Yarn Harlot--if you're knitting cables you have to keep your eyes on your work. O.K. Maybe Stephanie can knit cables without looking, but me? No way. The right yarn helps too. You don't want anything too splitty, so I went stash-diving and came up with two skeins of Plymouth Happy Feet, in a rust-brown colorway. They're mostly stockinette, with some purl squares thrown in. It's going quickly and the little squares break up the monotony of the stockinette. I should have these bad boys finished in a couple of days, then I can get back to my stole. I'll put up the pattern for anybody who might want to practice their toe-up no-look skills.

Now back to the grindstone. And Rafa, if you read my blog, enough with the wedgies already. Maybe go commando. Couldn't hurt.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Try not to drool on your monitor

Sometimes it feels like the hours of the day get sucked into this weird, crazy time-warp place. I looked at my cell phone and HOURS have disappeared, poof into thin air. Maybe they go to The Land of Missing Socks and Keys. Who knows. All I know is twenty minutes ago I was sipping my morning cup of coffee and all of a sudden it's almost four in the afternoon, only this time I have something to show for it. Slap a gold star on my forehead!

I finished the homework for my photography class tonight and baked some cookies to take along. See? Don't you just want to lick your monitor?

These are banana-chocolate chip cookies and they are tasty! The recipe is actually called Nana Moons, from Knitcircus Magazine. Forgive my CRS--I got the link this morning from one of the blogs I follow and I can't remember which one, so if you're reading this and it's your blog, a thousand pardons and thanks. The original recipe is meant to make banana-chocolate chip moon pies, but since I didn't have the ingredients for the filling, I just drizzled them with melted dark chocolate.

Knitcircus is a great fiber site you can subscribe to--lots of knitting and sewing patterns, crafts, and yummy recipes. This site would be perfect for an iPad. Not hinting or anything, just sayin'...

I got a few more inches on my stole. I am so happy with the end charts--I found the perfect combination of stitch patterns to finish it off, and they compliment the main part of the stole really well. It would be great if I could finish this weekend, but that's being overly optimistic. I also answered and wrote emails, walked the dogs, and cleaned up the kitchen too. I love days like this. I hope yours was a good one too.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Why male trees are bad news, and other crazy stuff

Here's something I didn't know:
"Dioecious" tree species bear male and female flowers on separate plants. Dioecious trees include ash, boxelder, cedar, cottonwood, juniper, mulberry, and yew. If you select a male plant you will have problems.
From an allergy perspective, the worst trees you can live around are dioecious males, which will bear only pollen and no fruit or seed. The best plants in your environment are dioecious females as they bear no pollen and are allergen-free.
Apparently, every damn tree in my neighborhood is a male. Oh the irony. Right now, it's the cottonwoods that are driving me nuts. And guess what! Our townhouse is surrounded by cottonwoods. I had no clue when we bought the place that cottonwood trees would become the bane of my existence. Not that it would have made a difference. But that isn't even the best part. Here's what the Allergy Relief Center says I should do:
Delegate house cleaning to others and leave the house when it is performed.
Yeah, I know. I'll bet I'm not the only one who wet my pants laughing when I read that.

My stole pattern knitting is coming along, slowly but surely. Here's a little peek:

I'm hoping to get some serious knitting time logged this weekend, since it looks like I'll be stuck indoors. The pattern will follow soon after, I promise, as long as I'm not looped on allergy meds. Or maybe even if I am loopy. Now THAT might be funny.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Channeling my inner Ansel Adams

My interests tend to be pricey. If you're a knitter or a photographer, you know what I mean. Yarn can run the gamut from Red Heart acrylic to are-you-freaking-kidding-me Karabella cashmere, or worse. Same thing with cameras and all the doodads you tell yourself YOU ABSOLUTELY MUST HAVE in order to get that make-me-rich Lindsay Lohan crotch shot. (I just used up my entire monthly allotment of gross-out in one sentence. This is a skill that's taken a lifetime to hone, so do not judge me.)

DD just won't let go of this go to college idea, so I've vowed to keep my photography expenses to the barest minimum possible while still being able to get that Lindsay Lohan you-know-what shot. This past weekend I took a class in Environmental Abstract Photography, and oh my gosh, it took all the willpower I possess not to head straight for the nearest Sony store and buy a macro lens. An EXPENSIVE macro lens. Hell, that's a redundancy if there ever was one--everything about macro photography is expensive, but it can be so amazingly cool. I did the best I could with the equipment I had and got some shots that I am in serious love with, but any macro shooting was out of the question for me.

Fast-forward to today. After hunting all morning on-line, I have tracked down a not-too-pricey macro lens. It's on hold at a secret location, while I work up the energy to shower and drive there. I'm fighting a cold, thanks to a certain high school student who will go unnamed. Or as she likes to call herself, the Petri Dish. It's the lowest low-end macro lens available, and I won't be able to shoot things like fly eyelashes but I can live with that.

Here's one of my photos from the class. (Please insert the usual "this photo belongs to JelliDonut and if I use it and pretend it's mine she will have Petri Dish lick my face" clause.) And have a fabulous week!

Friday, May 14, 2010

It's NOT snowing today--putting on my Happy Dance shoes

I'm having a blast in my photography class. The instructor is a lot of fun and knows how to engage the class--she brings wine. Nice!

Here's some of the homework I showed last night, a couple of which I've posted here before:

(Sophie, shot in manual mode)

(shallow depth of field)

(another shallow depth of field)

(deep depth of field)

I got really good comments on my photos, and found out one of my classmates is a knitter. Awesome! The instructor thinks I should enter the landscape photo in a juried show that's coming up soon. That made me feel really good about my progress. Just shows you what taking a few lessons will do--in photography, knitting, whatever. If you want to get better at something, go where the knowledge is.

Tomorrow we're going to a park to shoot landscape abstracts. That should be pretty cool and I'm hoping I can translate this to my knitting photos--I'll learn to look at familiar objects in a different way.

Have a fabulous weekend everybody! And cross your fingers that the sun keeps shining here in Colorado. We may get summer yet.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

When eating a fruit, think of the person who planted the tree.*

I was going through my "favorites" list on Ravelry this morning--sorting, tagging, that sort of thing. The majority of the patterns on my list are available for free and it got me to thinking. Do I always remember to thank the designer when I download a free pattern?

Just because a pattern is free doesn't mean the designer didn't spend a boatload of time on it, sketching, swatching, knitting, frogging, and re-knitting. And just because they aren't getting paid for their work doesn't mean they don't care about the pattern once it's out there for anyone to own. I suppose I'm looking at this from both sides of the coin, as a knitter and as a designer. It's a stretch to call myself a designer when I've got a whopping total of two (so far) patterns to my name, but I'm curious about the knitters who've chosen to download my patterns. Why did they pick them? Do they have a recipient in mind or are they just collecting the pattern for a future knit? How long have they been knitting? Boxers or briefs?

Personally, it feels a little weird to just download a pattern and not make some sort of contact with the designer. It's kind of like when they have the free food samples at Costco. I always tell the person who's handing out the stuff "thanks." I'm hoping it fools them into thinking I'm not stopping at every single sample station and calling it lunch. Oh please. Like we ALL haven't done that.

I guess I should be careful what I wish for. If every single person who's downloaded my patterns dropped me an email or left a comment here, I'd be slammed because I'd have to acknowledge their acknowledgement. (If they made Thank You for Your Thank You Note cards, I'd probably buy them.) But even if you didn't leave a comment or an email, I hope you like the patterns and I thank you for downloading them. If you are a designer offering free patterns, even if I've never downloaded your patterns, I thank you. Group hug!

* Vietnamese Proverb

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Smart and Smart-ass aren't QUITE the same thing...

I love hand painted yarns. Like snowflakes, they're unique and precious. But let me be honest--they're a pain in the butt at times. Like now.

I really do love the Araucanía I'm using for my new shawl pattern, but it wasn't my first choice. I ignored that little voice in my head that told me this yarn might be a problem and instead listened to the one that said, "to heck with it. You're here, there's enough of the same color way so just buy it already!" And for a couple of days I thought I'd gotten away with it. But I'm changing my mind.

It's just not quite right for the pattern and each skein is just different enough from the other that alternating them every eight inches even in this pattern is not getting the job done.  Here's an outdoor photo of two of the skeins:

Yeah, I know. Smack me with the Stupid Stick. I deserve it. What the hell was I thinking? But wait--it gets worse. Take a look at this:

This is a Lucy Neatby yarn. Again, loved it when I bought the four skeins but believe it or not, these were even worse than the Araucanía when it comes to being mismatched, and these were supposedly from the same dye-lot.

Maybe I am learning. It took me almost an entire sweater to figure out the Lucy Neatby wasn't working. With the Araucanía, I wised up about 10 inches into the shawl. I'm going to have to call that progress, sad as it is.

The last couple of days haven't been completely wasted. I've really nailed down the pattern and have good numbers to go by. It's just going to take a few days longer than I'd hoped to get the pattern on this blog and Ravelry. Live and learn. I just wish I'd catch on to the "learn" part a little quicker.

Just to leave you with SOMETHING positive, here's a photo of the irises DD gave me for Mother's Day. I love the gift and the giver:

Monday, May 10, 2010

Knitting In the rain, just knitting in the rain...

A few years ago I took a Photoshop class. You wouldn't know it if you looked at some of the earlier photos on this blog, but I (mostly) blame it on the crappy little point-and-shoot-yourself camera I was using. Now that I have a DSLR things are looking up camera-wise, so today I tried playing around with Photoshop again. My version is pretty old--CS2. I think they're up to CS783 or something. Doesn't matter though. I have forgotten EVERYTHING I ever knew about Photoshop. Craptastic! Now I need a refresher Photoshop class. My compulsiveness has no limits. 

I've gotten a handle on my new shawl pattern, and finalized most of the details. I blocked the swatch and was quite pleased with the result. Isn't it amazing what blocking will do to a lace pattern? What I initially thought was meh at best turned out to be pretty awesome. I wasn't thrilled with the yarn when I bought it but it met the criteria so I took a leap of faith and cast on. The more I knit, the more I like this yarn--Araucanía Ranco Multy. I'm going to alternate the skeins about every eight inches, since each skein is slightly different. I won't bother with alternating two skeins every two rows. I'm thinking that would add too much bulk to the edge of the shawl and the pattern will camouflage the variations. That's all I'm saying about it right now.

I should be able to get in a lot of knitting this week. The pollen count is so high right now I can't go outside without coughing up a lung, so I'm pretty much house-bound. We'll get some relief tomorrow when (supposedly) it's going to rain so hard we'll need boats instead of cars, so that means another day of staying inside. I hope the weather prognosticators are right this time. I haven't seen a hard rain in forever and they repaired the leak from the puny rain we had a few weeks ago. What could go wrong? Besides, they found Noah's Ark, so I'm good to go. 

Friday, May 7, 2010

Channeling my inner Dirty Harry

My first DSLR photography class was last night. I knew it was going to be a good class when I walked into the room and there were mini candy bars on all the tables. Nothing like a little chocolate to jump-start your brain in the evening. The instructor even brought out wine later. Awesome! Can I pick a class or what?

We have homework. Since I'm all about killing two birds with one stone, I shot some yarn porn:

This pile of yumminess is BMFA Woobu--60% merino/40% bamboo. I have two skeins (1240 yards) purchased at Knot Hysteria last year. I thought that would be plenty of yarn to make some sort of little cardigan or whatever. Then I saw this. Dang! Reading through the notes from others who've knit this sweater, gauge is important and I'm thinking it might be a good idea to use the yarn called for in the pattern. That would mean, however, I'd have to be extremely lucky and order two skeins that end up being from exactly the same dye lot as the skeins I already have. Fat chance, since Knot Hysteria was back in November.

So the question is, do I feel lucky? (wav file)

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The only thing left to do is get "Knitting Geek" tattooed onto my butt

Looks like my newly discovered thing with swatching isn't just a fling; it's a full-blown love affair. I'm still swatching for my new shawl/shawlette pattern and I'm as fascinated with it as the day I created the stitch pattern in Cat Bordhi's Engineering New Stitch Patterns class. Every new swatch teaches me something different. I have the body of the piece worked out (I think) and now I'm finalizing the border.

I didn't get any really great photos during the class. I was too busy being obsessive about my stitch pattern and I also didn't want to disrupt the class. I'm still figuring out the when and how of photographing events like this. I asked Cat if it was O.K. to post stuff about the class on my blog and she was more than gracious about it. I'm still a little hesitant to photograph participants--when and how do I let them know the photos might end up on my blog? Do I have to have them sign a release? It's all a bit awkward. I'm hoping my upcoming photography class will answer my questions. Meanwhile, here's a  photos from the class.

Even though this photo isn't technically great, it's still my favorite from the day. This is Cat helping someone (didn't get her name) with a sock fitting issue.

I'll post some swatch photos in a day or two. I need to buy a bounce flash and an infinity board to get the types of photos I'm after. Photography makes knitting seem low-cost, but with this blog, they go hand in hand and I really have no choice. Are you buying into my reasoning? Yeah, I thought so.

Monday, May 3, 2010

If I weren't so busy swatching, I could do vasectomies

I've spent the last two days doing very little knit-wise except swatching. (Is swatching even a word?) Since the Engineering New Stitch Patterns class with Cat Bordhi I've been on a mission: I'm writing a pattern for a shawlette. Yes, I realize I've only knit maybe three shawls/shawlettes in my entire life, but don't try to confuse me with facts. I had a revelation in the class: don't let what you don't know stop you from creating new things. People, that is HUGE.

Think about it. How many times have you decided not to attempt something because you didn't think you knew enough to just jump right in and begin? I'm not talking about brain surgery or anything like that--although I'm pretty sure I could perform a vasectomy if I had to. I saw a doctor do one on Phil Donahue years ago and it didn't look that tough. I'm talking about being adventurous, just going for it even if you don't have a clue.

With Cat's encouragement, I created my own unique stitch pattern and it will be featured in my shawlette. She started the class by giving us three basic stitch patterns drawn from a set of cards (more on that in a later post) and then turned us loose to create. I had a blast! My combination was a tough one, and at one point Cat told me I could choose different cards if I wanted. But I persevered and came up with something I really like.

The bottom of the swatch is the rough draft; the top is the refined version. It took me most of the class to get to this version, but I enjoyed the process so much.

Tomorrow I'll post more photos and give more details about the class. In the meantime, I'm enjoying the last few hours of my birthday. I had a nice dinner with my family, got a phone call from my son, and donated to Ravelry, something I plan to do every year on my birthday. That's a whole lot more fun than getting a colonoscopy like I did a few years ago, but just as necessary. What could be better?

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Cat Bordhi is my Red Bull!

Cat Bordhi gave me wings today. She is an amazing teacher and I'm blown away. I'm so excited, I can't even put a coherent thought together right now. I just wish everyone who thinks they aren't creative knitting-wise could take a class from her. She made me feel like I can do anything. Cat, from the bottom of my heart, thank you! Also want to give a shout-out to A Knitted Peace. Thanks for bringing Cat to Colorado. You guys are great.

I'll post the details in a day or two, when I come down from my Cat-induced high. I'm so excited to show you the stitch pattern that I invented. Yes, me with an original stitch pattern. Who knew?