Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Seven Nights to Rock

Trip Prep Continues

About seven nights until I leave on my trip, and the prep continues. Clockwise, from top left:

* Another new sewing project: there may still be time to make a new carry-on bag--it's a tote that converts to a backpack! It's the Day in the Park Backpack Tote. I think that I have enough of the dachshund print that I used for my passport holder to make this--I'm very excited about that. I'm not sure if this will be quite large enough to be a good carryon, but I like the idea of having a backpack option. Much more ergo, right? There are a couple of other sewing projects piled up, including some hemming and maybe another skirt. Must get cracking.

* In France, S__ and I are visiting some friends of his who have a 3 month old baby. This hat is for the baby (once I finish the i-cord ties), it's the Norwegian Sweet Baby Cap / Djevellue pattern (Ravelry link). Quick knit, and I love the contrast of the stripes. Knit from stash--Dale of Norway Baby Ull!

* Hair reblonded. Eyebrows yet to be ripped out (not sure if I am up for this).

* Yarn for knitting on the trip. It's Handmaiden Casbah from the Loopy Ewe. I happened to be browsing the store when new yarn was put up, and I couldn't resist a colorway called Paris Two! Get it--I'll be knitting Paris two in Paris! Get it? Huh? I haven't settled on a pattern yet--I'd like to cast on and get two socks going on a long needle before I leave. Maybe I can get tackle the heels before returning home . . . but I wouldn't bet money on it.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Happy 70th Birthday, Mom!


The big sign reads: Happy Birthday Janice WOW, 70!!! Love Frieda & Gretel

Question #1: How did Frieda and Gretel get my credit card information to the Mariners?

Question #2: Seriously--this is the worst photo ever, and it wasn't taken by the dogs. What's my problem???

Lunch, Week of April 21

Lunch, Week of April 21

Although I still don't really like to make my own lunch, I really enjoy having a variety of things to eat at lunch. Bringing lunch saves a lot of time and energy during the day, and is definitely healthier than going out every day. My favorite lunch this week was Friday (top), I had pork loin with mashed potato and asparagus in a mustard sauce, leftover from Mom's delicious birthday dinner. Yum. (edited for spelling!)

Thursday, April 24, 2008

That Hungry Little Dachshund *


Total passport holders made to date: 7
Additional passport holders to make: ??

I settled on fabric for my passport holder--it's a Japanese linen blend, featuring a dachshund motif. I love this fabric, and I decided to use this only after confirming that I could get more of it (in another color) from Superbuzzy. It's a shame to cut into a yard of fabric for just a little rectangle, but a passport lasts a long time so I thought that it was worth it. I think that the Letter Hound agrees.

* I refer you to this song (watch out for the pop-ups). My favorite lyrics in the song are "and hungry eyes that could not speak, say even little doggies have gotta eat". I've seen that look before, and I fear it.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

With My Ragtop Down So My Hair Can Blow


In between sewing skirts, complaining about sock heels, and being woken up nightly by dogs at 1am-ish (thanks, Frieda!), I managed to finish my convertible fingerless mitts. No, really, they're done. See that photo above? Believe me when I say that I don't have the skills to combine two photos of the same mitt into one photo.

They turned out very well, I think, and I love that I can roll them up if I want more finger coverage, or down if the fingers need access to the outside. I will wear them on Friday to Ichiro Bobblehead night at Safeco Field. Spring comes but slowly here this year, and our seats will be cold.

I'm planning to write up the pattern eventually (hopefully sooner rather than later), although I'll probably knit at least one more mitt before I post it. I'm not 100% happy with some of the fudging that I had to do on the thumb to get the numbers to work out right, and my notes are a little on the sketchy side. Also, I might take out some stitches to make it a little more snug.

Linda (who has a private Blogger profile, so I couldn't contact her directly) asked in the comments on my first post about how I finished up the blue when I picked up the purple. It's a good question, and it's something that I didn't think at all about while I was knitting the first mitt, so I have no idea what I did. On the second mitt, I did think about it, but now I'm not totally sure I can describe what I did (this is another good reason to knit a third mitt). I think that I should have taken some photos!

Basically, I started the purple in it's natural order, but once I got around the whole spiral, I just kept on ribbing with the purple. Right below the ribbing, there are still two rows of blue all the way around, so there's no obvious break in the pattern. I did knit some of the blue stitches out of order, by shifting the stitches around so that eventually one blue caught up with the other one. Honestly, I don't think that it looks any different than when I just spaced out and started the ribbing.

Another thing that I can't quite figure out is how much yarn I used of each color. Each skein of Louet light worsted is 100g. I started with two full skeins, that I did not weigh, so I would assume that that was 200g, more or less. The mitts weigh 47g each (suprisingly, exactly the same amount), or 94g total. I have 46g of purple left, and 82g of blue left. 94g + 46g + 82g = 222g, and that's not counting scraps from the considerable number of ends that had to be woven in. I have no idea whether the skeins were the same starting weight, or whether one was heavier than the other, but I think that it's safe to say that if I reversed the colors, I could get another whole pair out of the leftovers. I do really like this yarn, and I like that I'm getting a little extra (I don't think that 10% over can be humidity or something), but I'll have to remember to weigh before and after next time!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Isn't This How Everyone Prepares for a Trip?

Travel Prep:  Sewing Stage

I admit it, I'm a bit preoccupied with the trip I'm taking next month. The trip planning started with an invitation to a wedding in Vienna, from my friend G___ (sender of Krampus packages and recipient of an Unoriginal hat). My friend S__ and I will be travelling together for most of the trip, and once the date of the wedding was set we added:
  • A plan to run a 4.2K "mini-marathon" in Prague, which as a non-runner has involved a lot of training. S__ is running the full marathon--I'm just running the mini in order to get free beer later that evening.
  • A quick 2-day trip to Paris, a city I've never been to before.
  • An even quicker trip to Venice to visit some Boston friends who are living there this spring.

Basically, it's now four countries in a little less than 2 weeks, and I'm leaving in about 3 weeks. I haven't been back to Europe since 2001, when I live and studied in Vienna, and I'm very excited to go back. I can't really believe that 7 years have passed since I was there, or that it's taken me this long to go back. I'm also having a hard time believing how terrible the exchange rate has gotten--I think that it was about 0.9 dollars to the Euro when I was there, and now it's about 1.5. Yikes!

Anyway, with the trip getting closer and closer, I'm started to get into heavy-preparation mode--hence the photos above. I think that it's perfectly natural to start a bunch of new craft projects that have to be finished before I leave, don't you? The stress of this approach will counterbalance the stress of finishing a hundred lingering projects at work. Right?

I was supposed to be out of town this weekend, but changed my plans at the last minute and stayed home, and have tried to be as productive as possible so that the weekend's not "wasted." I started with making six passport holders using this great tutorial, (via whip up) and I may make more. It's hard to decide which one I'm going to take (I'm leaning towards the gnome), and I'm although thinking about adding a hidden pocket in the lining. It might add some unwanted bulk, though, and I'm in more of an assembly-line mindset than a design-and-innovate mindset.

I also started three A-line skirts, using Amy Butler's Barcelona Skirts pattern, using the three fabrics in the lower left hand corner above. I think that the green striped silk will be appropriate for the wedding, and the two cotton skirts should be good for everyday wearing. The fabrics for the skirts and passport holders are from my stash (yippee, stash!), although I did need to buy the skirt linings and notions. I made a skirt back in January with this pattern, and I wear it a lot. It's a little bit big, so I went down a size with these three skirts. Unfortunately, I forgot that the silk does not have quite the same amount of "give" as the wool-blend I used before, so the silk skirt is currently a little bit tight. Not can't-be-zipped tight, mind you, but a little uncomfortable. I'm going to hold off on hemming it for now, and hopefully I can lose a few pounds in the next couple of weeks. Or figure out how to let it out without have to pick out all of those stupid seams. I've got my fingers crossed for the other two skirts, the cotton should be a little less "firm" and maybe I'll make the seam allowances a little skinnier. Maybe the next project should be one of those elastic-back cute skirts!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Stuck Inside of Mobile With the Memphis Blues Again

Last week at knit night, there was some talk about how many of us feel stuck in a rut. A knitting rut, a general rut, a "how can it be snowing in April" rut. I've felt kind of the same--I've got a lot of projects going on, and I am actually working on many of them, but I still feel kind of stuck. What's got me stuck, more than anything else, is HEELS. I look in my knitting bag before leaving the house so that I'll have a project with me, and what do I find? Socks that are either at the heel or just about at the heel. I come home from the gym and I want a mindless project to work on while the aches and pains settle in, and what do I find? Project that involve elaborate counting of stitches and rows, due to heels.

Example #1:

Mariner almost to heel

Here's the sock that I started on Opening Day. It's a great travel project--plain stockinette, no muss, no fuss. However, I'm within 2 or 3 rows of the heel flap now (this photo is a few days old), so until I get the heel flap done and the gusset decreases underway, this baby's grounded.

Example #2:

One heel done

I'm knitting this pair of socks two at once, and I love the yarn and the pattern, and how they work together. The foot of these socks flew by, and then once again I was stalled by the heel. It's a new heel to me (some sort of reverse flap), which means that it's slower than average, and I have to really pay attention. In the photo above, I've actually finished one of the heels, but you can see the sad other sock near my foot, which is unfortunately heel-less. I've made some progress on heel #2, and should finish it soon, but it's taken a looooong time.

Example #3

Afterthought Heels

These socks have been completely finished for weeks, except for one thing. Yes, they need heels. I thought that an afterthought heel would solve my heel problem, by not really interrupting the main sock knitting. While that is the case (these were a great carrying around project for that reason), I've gotten not much further than picking up the heel stitches.

The obvious answer to the portability problem is to cast on another pair of socks, right? First, though, I'd really like to get the M's sock past the heel--we've got tickets to Ichiro Bobblehead night next week, and I'll have these with me!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Lunch, This Week

Lunch, Week of April 14

Another week, another set of Mr. Bento lunch photos. On Monday, I learned that tomato soup will stain and discolor the plastic if I microwave it for too long. It gets too hot! That tomato soup is the greatest, though--it's from a local schmancy grocery store, and if I could figure out what they put in it, I could save a lot of money on the fancy stuff I can't resist when I go there for soup.

My favorite salad of the week is the one with cucumbers and strawberries. Delicious with Newman's Own lite honey mustard dressing. That's my current favorite dressing--usually I prefer homemade, but this stuff is really good (if you like a sweet, mustardy dressing).

I'm going out to lunch today, for L___'s birthday, so only four bentos this week--which works out well with the photo mosaic, it will only take four photos.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Got My Skeleton Key

My Skull is Famous

What a nice surprise! I finally got my hands on a copy of Knitalong, and photos of my Skull Meathead and Pink Socks 101 are both in the book. For some reason, I thought that I had pre-ordered the book, which came out late last month, when in fact I just added it to my Amazon wish list. I finally realized that I didn't have the book yet when I read Mama Urchin's post about her hat. Anyway, I'm very pleased that my projects made it into the book, especially because so many people participated in the knitalongs! There were so many variations in the hats that put my little pirate flag to shame--my favorite was Adrian's little bird. The skull embellishment was almost an afterthought--it was leftover from a halloween card plan that never quite came together. Anyway, if you haven't seen it yet, check out the Meathead flickr gallery, or the Knitalong site that has galleries of other projects in the book as well.

The book only arrived yesterday, so I haven't read the whole thing, but what I have read is really interesting. It's part pattern book, part KAL instruction manual, part sociology thesis. I want to start the Pinwheel blanket immediately, I think that it might be a good travel project. And I want to knit the Entomology mittens, because who doesn't want bugs on their hands all winter? Now if I could only turn some heels and finish some socks (more on that later), I could in good conscience start another portable project.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

They Go Hand in Hand

New Electronics, and Pouches For Them

EEE Case

When I travel, I frequently take my laptop (or my work laptop), and it's really a pain. I rarely need it for more than basic internet connectivity and entertainment, but it's heavy and it takes up a lot of room in my carryon bag. And even though I'm reasonably careful, there's always a chance that I'll break it, or that it will be lost or stolen. Ever since I started planning my trip to Europe, I've been thinking about alternatives. One alternative that I pretty quickly dismissed was going off grid for a couple of weeks--it's just so much easier to find information (and in English) if I have internet access. With seven different flights to catch in five different countries, there's plenty of room for delays or missed connections, and then there are baseball scores and blog posts to keep up with.

The alternative that I decided to go with is an inexpensive, very small portable computer, the Asus eee. Asus just released the Windows XP version this past week, and so far I'm pretty impressed with it. The computer has a small hard drive (4 GB, and it's basically full of the operating system), but there are a couple of different expansion options. I included the spool of thread above for scale. The screen is 7", and the whole thing weighs about 2 pounds.

And what does every tiny computer need? A tiny case! I whipped up a case for it on Saturday, using fabric that I had on hand, and I'm pretty pleased with the results. The outside is a fat quarter of quilting fabric, and the lining is green flannel (you know, to keep the computer from scratching). I also used flannel as batting, for a little more protection without a lot of bulk. I sewed a pocket into the lining using vintage fabric. The pocket is really two pockets--I sewed a long rectangle into a pocket with a flap, and then sewed the pocket to the lining along three sides, with the top open. An elastic band holds it all together. There's no velcro (velcro is the enemy of yarn, and there's always yarn nearby!), no buttons, and it fits nicely into my small-ish bag. The pocket is big enough for a small external hard drive, or extra memory cards, or some cables.

I'm hoping to test out the travel-worthiness on a quick trip to Boston this weekend--I'll report back (or from the road!) with the results!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Nothing Says Spring Like a Heavy Wool Sweater

Vickie Sleeve 1

It's nice and sunny and warm today in the greater Seattle area, a very welcome change. A guy at a shoe store told me that it was the first time we've been above 70 degrees since October, and it's not hard to believe. I managed to get just enough porch time (the dogs were sprawled out catching rays there on and off all day) to photograph the Vickie Cardigan sleeve that I finished this week. The last time I showed you this sleeve, I realized that I'd made an error in the X-O cable that required some re-knitting, but otherwise it's been a pretty easy thing to knit. Note that right after typing that, I got up and re-checked the X-Os on the sleeve to make sure I hadn't made the same error.

The three patterns have different row repeats, but the cabling itself is pretty predictable. The diamonds move every right side row, and the X-Os move every fourth row--it's not hard to see when the cable happens. I tend to get into trouble with cables that move less frequently, I'll either cable two rows early or two rows late, or I'll think that I've cabled too early or too late.

Sleeve number two is now underway, and even though it's "hot" here, I think I'll still be able to work on it tonight. Until it's time to go out and rock, that is!

Lunch, Last Week

Four Bento Lunches

Part of my 2008 plan involves eating better, and toward that end I've been trying to take lunch to work most days rather than eating out. The lunch options near my office either take a lot of time or are fast food, and it feels really wasteful to spend $30-$50 a week on food that I don't particularly enjoy. This past week, I started carrying a "Mr. Bento" lunch jar, and four of the five lunches (plus either an english muffin or a mini-bagel for breakfast) I took to work are above. I like that I can take a wide variety of foods, and as long as I think a little bit about what I'm including (like use the smallest bowl for the fatty pasta salad, and the largest bowl for a green salad), it's neither too much food nor too many calories. I doubt that I'll take lunch every day (let alone photograph it every day), but I think that 3 - 4 days a week is reasonable.

Knitting content coming soon--it's really nice out today so I may be able to get some natural light photos. Or maybe I'll just get out into the natural light . . .

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Songs as Stark as Black and White Stripes

I'm not exactly sure how it happened, but I managed to take one of my Endpaper Mitts to Arizona (where it was 85 degrees) and to lose it. I keep hoping that it was in my luggage and just got shuffled round when I unpacked, but so far there's no sign of it. I got a lot of use out of them, and there were things about them that bothered me, so it's not a tragedy. The purl seam between the front and the back looked really ugly on one of my mitts, and they didn't have quite as much hand and thumb coverage and I could have used. I do really miss having a pair of fingerless gloves, though--we're still getting some frosty mornings, and full mittens are inconvenient for driving and dog-walking. Plus, drinking beer at baseball games is completely impractical with mittens on!

I started a new pair of fingerless mitts on Friday, and thanks to a very, very, very long Democratic District Caucus meeting on Saturday (Go Hillary!) *, I finished the first mitt. It's a semi-convertible item, and just like Safeco Field I can wear it with the top extended :

Fingerless Mitts unrolled

or retracted:

Rolled Down Palm Side

I think that this will solve the problem of the too-cold fingers while preserving access to fingers. For instance, while walking the dogs I prefer more coverage, and while scooping poop I prefer less coverage.

I basically made up the pattern as I went along, and I hope that I took enough notes to make the second mitt. It did involve some ripping out, and a little "creative darning in" at the end to neaten up the thumb connector.

I can hardly take credit for the "design"--I'm sure that I've seen that roll down top somewhere before, but a quick Ravelry search didn't turn up anything with that feature. Please let me know if you can tell me what I "borrowed" that from. I researched the thumb gusset methodology on Knitting in Color's blog, and while the gusset is quite deep on this mitt, it works well for me because my thumbs are long.

Also, as with the Wee Tiny Sock Swap sock, I was heavily influenced by Grumperina's recent series on helix stripes, and even though I knew I'd knit a new pair of fingerless gloves, I would otherwise have just picked one of the many really nice fingerless patterns that are overflowing my Ravelry queue. I used three strands of yarn (Gems Light Worsted) to make the stripes, one purple and two blue. I wanted that thick / thin look, but my first attempt to start the stripes in the rib looked like garbage so I settled for solid ribbing.

If the second mitt comes out as well as the first one, I'll write up my notes into an actual pattern, unless there's a very similar pattern out there that I've somehow absorbed and only minorly changed. If that is the case, please let me know, so that I can give credit where credit is due!

* Note: just because I'm mentioning politics in this context doesn't mean that I intend to discuss politics here, or that I want anyone to try to convince me to support a different candidate, any more than I'm trying to convince any of you to support my candidate. That's just not how I roll. Peace out.

It's a Small, Small, (tiny sock) World


My tiny sock arrived yesterday, isn't is great? I love the colors, and the stripes! It was made for me by AllyB, who is crocheting a really pretty spring dress, and who happens to be the mother of my downstream tiny sock swap partner Rena. What a coincidence!

The tiny sock totally salvaged my Friday, I was pretty worn down by the time I got home and the sock brighted my day. It was a looooong week that included:

  • a re-org at work, which translates into a million meetings (but which is otherwise fine with me)

  • my favorite pair of clogs breaking a strap, rendering them unwearable until fixed

  • the realization that I need to find a new hairdresser, because my current hairdresser has no evening appointments for the next five weeks, and I am incapable of planning a hair appointment that far ahead

  • walking out of the office on Friday to see this:

That's my first M's sock, which evidently fell out of the car when I came back from an afternoon meeting.

Anyway, you can see how the tiny sock was a really nice way to end what was otherwise a very trying week. Thanks, AllyB!