Saturday, September 12, 2009

Greetings from Iowa City

I'm back! I'm posting this from the deck of my new, huge apartment in Iowa City. Here's what the view looks like:

Leafy, no? It's a long way from the South Side of Chicago.

(The other side of my apartment looks out onto a trailer park, but it's a leafy trailer park. Here's the view from my kitchen window:

I've got zero complaints about the trailer park. As far as I can tell, this is a really nice, quiet neighborhood. And quiet is a good thing in IC, which is filled with drunken, carousing students who are best avoided if you are over the age of approximately 22.)

One very positive thing to be said about Iowa City is that there is good shopping. It's not awesome in the way that Chicago is awesome: you can find pretty much anything you want in Chicago. There are definitely things that you can't find in Iowa City. But, in part because most franchises are banned downtown, there are lots of neat little shops here. For instance, there are two LYSs within bike riding distance. (There's another one, a farm that sells fiber and yarn, that's about 15 miles away, but I think that's out of my bike range at the moment.) I work a few blocks from Home Ec Workshop, a very cute store staffed by very nice people. They have a little coffee shop and awesome yarn, and I could definitely see myself becoming a loyal customer.

Today's big shopping success, though, was not at a LYS. It was at Artifacts, a store downtown that's packed with all manner of second hand and vintage crap. I love this kind of store, even if it does trigger my allergies. They have a little craft section, but there wasn't much there. They do have a huge selection of patterns for crocheted doilies, if you're in IC and are into that kind of thing, but they did not have the $7 copy of Alice Starmore's Aran Knitting that I fantasize I'm going to stumble upon someday in a second hand store. What they did have was these suckers:

Those, as you may or may not be able to tell, are glove blockers. Here's what they look like out of the box:

They're not intended to be used by knitters: they're "glove dryers" to use after you wash commercially-produced gloves.
I can't see any reason that I can't use them to block hand-knit mittens and gloves, though, which is pretty cool. A few months ago I made mitten blockers out of a plastic placemat, but these guys look handier, in that they have fingers and those little hanger things on the end. I am (finally!) almost done with my mom's scarf, and after that I think I will start a pair of stranded gloves just to get a chance to try them out.

In other Iowa City-related news, here is a picture of my new, enormous living room:

(Most of you are thinking "what is she talking about? Her apartment isn't enormous! Her street isn't that leafy!" To which I can only say that I have until recently been a grad student in a big city. My apartment is enormous and my street is leafy by my standards.)

I'm looking for something to hang over the T.V. I'm thinking maybe a poster for an interesting museum exhibit. Anyone know of anything cool-looking that is available over the internet?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Fun with crock pots

So this post isn't really for you, gentle readers. This is a place for me to bookmark some recipes I want to try, now that I have rediscovered the joys of crock pots.

Vegetarian Crock Pot Curry

Indian Crock Pot Curry

Vegan Sweet Potato Chili a la Crock Pot

Crock Pot Jambalaya (I made that, minus the shrimp. It turned out fine.)

Crock-Pot-Free Turkey Burgers

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Bad blogger. No cookie.

I have been a very bad blogger. There's a reason for that, and it's not just that I've signed up for Twitter. This is primarily a knitting blog, and I hate my current knitting project. It's difficult to blog about knitting when you're studiously ignoring the thing you're supposed to be working on.

So I'm making my mom a scarf:

It's Londinium from SMarieK's line of cabled knit scarves all named after Firefly planets. Like the rest of SMarieK's scarves, this guy features very complicated cables, requiring the use of two cable needles at the same time. And it turns out that I hate very complicated cables. I can't seem to memorize the pattern, so there's constant looking at instructions, which is irritating. My second cable needle always falls out while I'm working the first one. It's just annoying. Every time I pick it up to knit, I mysteriously remember something else I should be doing. I need to finish this, because it's my mom's long-overdue Mother's Day present, but I can't bring myself to work on it. I've never hated a knitting project as much as I hate this one. I can't figure out what my deal is: I usually like complicated, involved knitting. Apparently complex cables are not my thing.

On the plus side, the yarn is soft and squishy and delicious. It's Mirasol Tupa, which I am loving and which I will definitely use again, hopefully for a project that I actually enjoy knitting.

My big news is that I'm moving to Iowa City. I have been job hunting, and the job I found is in Iowa. I was secretly a little scared that I would get a job somewhere warm and sunny, where I would never be able to wear the wooly things that I knit. Iowa does not present this problem. After I get my act together and power through my loathsome knitting project, I will get started on lots of hats and scarves and gloves to steel me for the freezing Iowa winter. I'm actually pretty excited about it.

Hopefully there will be more Iowa blogging in the coming weeks. Hopefully there will also soon be a picture of a finished Londinium scarf, but I wouldn't bet on it.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Screw the judgers, I want instant gratification

Once upon a time, I got in an argument with someone on Ravelry about fingerless mittens. It actually wasn't really an argument, because it was all much more passive aggressive than that. Anyway, she implied that people who knit fingerless mitts are lazy, spoiled knitters who want to buy extremely expensive yarn in tiny quantities and then do really easy projects to show it off. Fingerless mitts are totally impractical, she suggested, but they're good if you're a shitty, unskilled knitter in search of a quick, pretty project that looks good because you shelled out money, not because you put in any effort. I implied, in an equally indirect way, that she was a judgmental bitch. I don't feel guilty about implying that she was a judgmental bitch, but I've come to the conclusion that she was at least partially right. And that's not an insult to fingerless mitts or the people who knit them.

I've put my Endpaper Mitts aside for a while. I'm in a bit of a work frenzy at the moment, and my real life has left my brain completely fried. I am in the mood for totally mindless knitting. I am also in the mood for small projects that get finished quickly, since in my non-knitting life I am completely consumed by a huge project on which I have been working forever. Endpaper Mitts aren't particularly difficult, but they do involve looking at a chart, and that's more involved than I want right now.

My partner in the All About Me swap gave me some pretty, pretty yarn. It's Gjestal Bris, which is 50% soy and 50% wool. It's soft and warm and not particularly easy to find in the U.S. I'm using it to make a pair of super simple fingerless mitts. The pattern is the Maine Morning Mitts from the Knitter's Book of Yarn, and it is, indeed, a really easy pattern intended to showcase tiny bits of exquisite, very expensive yarn. (Gjestal Bris is not incredibly expensive if you can find it, but it is pretty and rare, so I think it qualifies.) Here's a picture of me holding out the first mitt in my "fleeing the papparazzi because I haven't combed my hair and am wearing my pajamas" pose:

Ms. Judgmental Bitch was wrong about one aspect of fingerless mitts, and that was her suggestion that they're impractical. Many knitters think that, and it may be true that they're impractical for a lot of people. My hands are constantly cold, though, and I spend a lot of time typing in over-airconditioned libraries, so they're really practical for me. I suspect I will wear my instant gratification mitts all summer long.

After this, I plan to do a couple more instant gratification projects. I'm going to do a square for a group afghan for a rubbernecker whose husband is in the hospital, and I'm thinking about projects for the KfO charity drive for Sylvia's Place. I'm really excited about that one: a close family friend has done some work with kids from Sylvia's Place and speaks really highly of what they do there. I'm thinking some hats, possibly a scarf, and maybe another pair of fingerless mitts. I'm also planning to make my mom a scarf from one of SMarieKnits' stealth geeky series of cabled scarves. (Stealth geeky because they're all named after Firefly planets, but that's not the appeal of the scarves. Ok, it's a bit of the appeal, if you're a stealth geek like me.) That's not really an instant gratification project, but maybe at some point my brain will have de-frazzled enough to be ready for it.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Silly hat pictures

I finished my hat in record time. That is seriously the fastest knit in the history of knitting.

Getting pictures of my hat has been more of a challenge. The cables don't photograph very well in the green yarn, especially not in my dark apartment. I tried a series of increasingly ridiculous poses, all designed to try to get the light to hit the hat in a way that will make the cables stand out. I think these are, as they say on America's Next Top Model, my best shots. And they're not very good pictures of either me or my hat. Sorry about that.

You will notice that I'm not smiling in either of those. That's because when I smile, you can see my terrible teeth. Like this:

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Knitting again

I'm back! My back and arm aren't totally back to normal yet, but they're a lot better, so I've started knitting again. I've made some progress on my slightly altered Endpaper Mitts. Here's what they look like now:
I like it, although not surprisingly, I prefer the original pattern to mine. In an unusual fit of doing more than one thing at a time, I've also started the Cabled Newsboy Cap from Stitch n' Bitch Nation. It's a nice, goofy little project that uses worsted weight yarn and that I can probably finish in a week. It's fun to knit with thick yarn every once in a while, because your stuff knits up so fast.

But that's not what I'm going to blog about. I'm blogging about my very exciting trip to Jo-Ann's today. Ok, not that exciting, but I don't have a lot to blog about.

The first very exciting thing that I got at Jo-Ann's was these very exciting puzzle blocks. I think I've blogged about my blocking woes in the past. Basically, I only have two appropriate surfaces for blocking in my apartment: my bed and my couch. Sadly, I use both my bed and my couch on a regular basis, which meant that in order to block things I had to curtail basic daily activities in pretty disruptive ways. Well, that problem has been solved! You know the Knitter's Blocks, which cost $50? Or this knock off from KnitPicks, which costs $20 and is sold out until the end of June anyway? Well, Jo-Ann's had these guys on sale for $8:

Yay! Blocking problems solved.

My other Jo-Ann's purchase was their new Deborah Norville sock yarn.

This stuff is clearly meant to compete with Paton's Kroy. The price is right: it's $3.29 per ball, and I think you'd need two balls to do a pair of socks. I'm not crazy about the colors, though. These were the two best ones, and they're not colors I'd generally buy. I'm going to play around with it a little bit after I finish my current projects, though, because I'm curious to see how it knits up.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Knitting hiatus

I've done something to my left shoulder and arm. The doctor thinks it's a pinched nerve (or rather "some kind of nerve impingement syndrome," which seems to be doctor-ese for "a pinched nerve). I don't think it's a big deal, but it is interfering with my knitting. I will return with pictures of my endpaper mitts once I stop feeling like someone has permanently hit my funny bone.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Endpaper Update

I am officially having a Bad Day. I think that the universe sends me into Total Vertigo Meltdown occasionally just to remind me how nice it is not to have vertigo. So anyway, I'm having one of those days. I also suspect that I'm getting a migraine, because there are some flashing lights that don't seem to be coming from any actual light source. Exciting.

But I am not blogging to whine about my various boring medical issues. I am blogging because I have made some progress on my slightly-altered Endpaper Mitts. See:

Endpaper Mitts II

Pretty, no? I'm pretty happy with my random re-design.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Yet more mitten-y goodness

For the "all about me" swap, I made my partner Endpaper Mitts. She loves pink, so I knit her extremely pink Endpaper Mitts. I forgot to take a picture of the finished pair, but here's the first one, on a mitten blocker that I made out of a plastic placemat:

The yarn is Cascade Heritage in fuchsia and cotton candy. I have a bunch of yarn left over, and I really like the pattern, so I've decided to knit a second pair for myself. However, I can't quite bring myself to knit exactly the same pattern twice in a row, so I've tweaked the stranded motif a little bit. I borrowed again from this gallery of Latvian mitten patterns and came up with this design:

Endpaper pattern

It's pretty close to the original, to be honest, but hopefully it's different enough to keep things interesting.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Teeny tiny

I made tiny little mittens for my friends' baby. Here's a picture:

The pattern is Knituition's Nordic Baby Mittens, with a few minor design changes. First, I shrank them a little bit to fit a newborn, rather than a six-month-old. I cast on 36 stitches and increased up to 42, instead of the 40 and 46 in the original pattern. I also used Kitchner stitch on the top, instead of three needle bind-off. Finally, I designed my own stranded motif, which was necessary since I'm using fewer stitches than Knituition's pattern. Here's the chart I worked out:

Feel free to nab it if you decide to make your own teeny tiny baby mittens.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

All About Meeeeeee

Through the Odd Ducks Swaps on Ravelry, I'm doing an "all about me" swap. The point of this thing is that everything you send to your partner should represent you in some ways: your background, your interests, your favorite things. This is actually a lot harder than it sounds. The stakes seem so high. What if I misrepresent myself? Even worse, what if I represent myself accurately and the results are ugly, tacky or boring? It's all so angst-worthy! Or maybe it's not, and I'm just the kind of person who can angst about anything. I wonder what swapable item would represent that personal characteristic.

So anyway, yesterday I got a lovely postcard from my partner indicating that she was stumped about what yarn and projects to send me and asking me to blog about what kind of things I would want. I'm happy to oblige, but I suspect this won't be too helpful.

So here's the thing about me and yarn. I'm not really a yarn person. For one thing, I'm in grad school and have been for my entire knitting career. This means that I need to be frugal. I tend, therefore, to use pretty standard, inexpensive, workhorse yarns. I use a lot of Cascade 220. I'm a big colorwork fan, and I mostly use Knitpicks Palette for that. But the issue isn't that I especially love Cascade 220 or Knitpicks Palette. It's that I'm cheap and I'm lazy and therefore when I go to buy yarn, I buy stuff that I know I like and can afford. Whenever I have branched out from my usual, boring yarn, I have been delighted to discover the interesting, new properties of interesting, new yarn. I knit a baby hat for my nephew in Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sport and thought that was awesome. I've knit a pair and a half of mittens in Louet Gems, and I love that. Hell, I loved the Paton's Kroy that I used for my mini mittens, because it was my first go round with self-striping yarn, which turns out to be awesome. So what I'm saying is that I'm easy to please. Whatever I get will be novel and interesting and awesome. I think you should do what the swap actually calls for, which is to get something that you like or use a lot and be confident that I will also like it.

As for a project, I can't help. I'm stumped on that, too! I will try to think of some stuff and get back to you.

In other news, I was planning to knit Autumn Rose, but the pattern is temporarily unavailable anywhere, so it's going to have to wait until the summer when the book gets reprinted. In the meantime, I'm swatching for a Yosemite in Knitpicks Comfy. I have no idea if I'm getting gauge, but so far I'm really liking the stitch pattern.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Mitten madness

I finished my first Briscoe Mitten. I think I need to reblock it, though, because the pattern is a bit distorted. Anyway, here are photos:

The good news with these guys is that now that I've re-designed them, you can really see the Star of David. The bad news is that you can really see the Star of David. My mittens make a somewhat more emphatic religious statement than I'm ordinarily in the habit of making. I'm not usually a person who wears her Jewishness on her sleeve, so to speak, or really any other part of her body. Also, I'm thinking about doing the second mitten in orange, in keeping with the Irish theme, and I'm worried that people will mistake it for some sort of statement of support for Israeli settlers. I think that in the future, I will attempt to be a little less literal-minded when I design mittens. Who knew that stranded colorwork could be such a cultural and political minefield!

I've also knitted some toddler mittens for the KFO service project.

We're knitting things for members of the Mattaponi Native American tribe in Virginia. I did these little mittens in Paton's Kroy. I really liked this yarn. In fact, I think it may be my favorite yarn that's available at big-box craft stores like Michael's. It doesn't feel like plastic, and "crayon" is a nice unisex colorway that is great for kids' stuff. I plan to make at least two more pairs of kids' mittens with it: another one for the KFO project and a baby pair for the forthcoming baby who I am too superstitious to name here.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Itty bitty little projects

I made a hat for the Knitters for Obama chemo cap drive:

It's a Coronet in Cashsoft Aran. I really like the pattern, and the yarn suits it, but I'm not sure it's a great combination for a chemo cap. It's really warm, which makes it perfect for outdoor wear this time of year, but I think it might be a bit too heavy to wear indoors or in the summer.

I also made some not-entirely-successful Saartje's booties. I'm too superstititious to say who they're for, but here's a picture:

I either had some gauge issues or added a row to one of them, because the one on the left is a lot bigger than the one on the right. Luckily, it takes about an hour to knit one of these suckers, so I think I can churn out another one and hope that it's the same size as one or the other of them. The yarn is Louet Gems fingering. The blue is the leftovers from my Blue Sun mittens. I'm surprised more people haven't used gems for these guys, because it's machine washable, and the colors are really vibrant.