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Archive for July, 2007

Every once in a while I come across something extraordinary and beautiful that inspires the artistic and creative part of me, not just the crank-through-a-lace-chart knitter, but perhaps the chick that fancies herself a little arty. 

First of all, there is the beauty that lives in my own (ok, The Baron’s) backyard:

This is a little flower that bloomed in the yard a month ago, and of all the pictures I’ve taken around the house, this is one of my favorites.

Then there’s the beauty that I’ve discovered on the internet.  If you haven’t seem Helle Jorgensen’s incredible fiber art, go check it out right now.  She is using used plastic bags, repurposed as yarn, to create an incredible array of sea creatures.  I first came across her work on the Adorn blog and over at her own blog Gooseflesh she has intricate, beautiful creations that live at the intersections of art, science and environmentalism.  Her work will be shown soon in LA and I can’t wait to see it in person.

I also love the renderings of sea creatures in glass by Dale Chihuly.  He calls them seaforms, and they are otherworldly.  I first encountered his seaforms in a small museum at college.  Horrified by cold and snow, I looked for any port in a storm and made my way across campus by ducking, lily-pad style, from building to building.  One day I walked in to the museum hoping just to warm up and ended up skipping a meal so I could linger among the ethereal glass.

A few years later, when I visited the Tower of David in Jerusalem, I stumbled unexpectedly into another Chihuly exhibition.  We toured the tower with our archaeologist one afternoon and returned that night to see the spectacular glass objects lit up against the ancient stones under a deep sky.

And then there’s the glass flowers, collected at Harvard and pictured beautifully at the Corning museum’s website.  I discovered the glass flowers after hearing an NPR story about the artist behind them.  Each glass flower is a delicate model, another intersection of science and art, created to better preserve plant structures that would otherwise decay.  These incredible blossoms are enchanting in their beauty and in the fact of their existence, the unbelievable craft behind each one. 

Finally, another favorite picture from The Baron’s world:

This little guy is one of his beta fish, one we bought on his last birthday and named BB (which stands for Birthday Beta). I began to compulsively photograph this fish when I discovered the macro setting on the camera, and this is an image that inspires me. I love the mix of color in the body and tail, the clean geometric shapes and the contrast between the lines of scales and fins.

I finished my socks last night and should have photos tomorrow, so I’m now on the hunt for my next mini-project and looking for inspiration wherever I can find it.  Speaking of inspiration, I love Ravelry!  If you’re not on yet, go sign up . . . and if you are, please send me a hello (I’m lindsayknitting) and please share whatever beauty inspires you.

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Two-at-once toe-up socks: These puppies are done (pretty much). I worked the last few rows in 1×1 instead of 2×2 ribbing, and I’m not sure I like it. Even worse, when I started to bind off, the regular knitwise and purlwise bind-offs just looked silly. I’m going to try the alternating k1, p1 bind-off but if anyone knows of a better sock-top bind-off, please let me know! I’m also preparing a two-at-once on one-long-circ pictorial, so stay tuned for my attempt at a how-to.

Frost Flowers & Leaves shawl: I figured out the edging but it is going so incredibly slowly! After a few hours of knitting I’ve barely made a dent, doing maybe 1/32 of the total edging. I guess that’s how it goes, little bits at a time, but it is pretty plodding and I just cannot wait to get this sucker off the needles.  My blocking wires arrived today (from Knit Picks) and am dying to use them!

Finally, I finished The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri over the weekend – it was a beautiful story about a Bengali family living outside of Boston, how the parents adjusted to life as expatriates, a world away from the place they called home, and how their children, born in the US, experienced both Bengali and American culture growing up. I enjoyed the reader, Sarita Choudhury, but most of all I loved the poignant and beautifully written portrait of an American family. Lahiri won a Pulitzer for her short story collection Interpreter of Maladies, which is already in my library queue, and I will be eagerly awaiting her next book.

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I actually had to do some work at work today, and I’ve been plugging dutifully away all morning, to the exclusion of lunch or even bathroom breaks. I finally finished, just before deadline, at quarter to three. Sadly, quarter to three is a full fifteen minutes after the grubby cafeteria closes. Ravenous, I stumbled to the break-room and prepared myself a delicious lunch: the ubiquitous year-old microwave popcorn and a cup of green tea. Halfway through the bag of popcorn (ok, fine, after the whole bag) my tongue feels like a plastic intruder in my mouth and although the lightheadedness has abated a bit, I now feel slightly nauseous. I’ve just started reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan, and the book opens with a lengthy discussion about the role of corn in the American diet. It’s a bit alarming to realize quite how much corn we all eat, but then, I have little confidence that the bag of starch I just consumed has any actual corn in it at all.

I’m in a good mood, today, in spite of the busy morning, because yesterday I saw not one but two actual babies! A co-worker brought her 10-week-old daughter in to the office and after lunch, when everyone else was lazy with food-coma, I snuck away and got to hold and cuddle the baby for almost a half-hour. I think her poor mother was a bit worried I would nibble her sweet little fingers and toes to pieces, and I nearly did.

I did rally enough to make it to the WeHo Stitch n Bitch – it was a smaller gathering than usual but still really friendly and fun, and, as a special bonus, there was a brand-new baby in attendance. It was hard to make too much progress on the socks, because that baby just looked so delicious, but after an evening of knitting I only have a few more stripes to go on the socks so I hope to make fairly quick work of it all.

This weekend I plan to spend my knitting time tackling the delicate beginning of the edging on the Frost Flowers & Leaves shawl and relaxing with The Baron by the pool . . . and tonight feeding my rumbling tummy with a giant meal that has never ever entered a microwave.

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Do you ever have the kind of day at work where you just wish and hope and pray that you’ll be called for jury duty? Yeah, it might sound perverse, but I’d love to spend the day listening to audio books, knitting, and getting paid for it. Plus, The Baron and I have been waiting for the right opportunity to do some urban exploring – I need a good excuse to jump on the Metro to downtown!

I’m really trying hard to stay on the sunny side: my psychic blisters are starting to heal (although the ones on my feet are still killing me!) and it is Thursday after all. But Thursday is a half-empty/half-full kind of situation: there is one more workday left in the week, but that day is Friday. I’m going to do my best to make it to the WeHo Stitch ‘n Bitch tonight where I plan to, for the first time in a long time, pull out a project that is not the Frost Flowers & Leaves shawl. (Yes, that was a split infinitive. Bite me.) I’ve been bringing the shawl around to SnB for what seems like months now, and I think people are starting to know me from the project, so I hope to show the sockier side of myself tonight.

The good news is that I think I cracked the code on the edging last night. Mrs. J, and anyone else who doesn’t care about yarn, you can stop reading here 🙂 The instructions for “wrapping” stitches are pretty confusing, calling for the knitter to pull the working yarn through between the fourth and fifth stitch. I figured that meant the fourth and fifth stitch, total, from right to left, but on more careful inspection I realize that it means the fourth and fifth stitch on the left needle – basically it’s wrapping the four stitches that make up the lattice column running horizontally through the border. Who knows if this is “right,” but I’ve been working on a test-run of the border in the same crochet cotton I use for my lifelines and I like the way it looks. Done. All that’s left now is to actually start work on the edging, which I’m going to save for a few quiet hours this weekend. Once it gets going, I hope it won’t take forever. I am ready to move on to the next lace challenge!

I’ll be knitting on my two-at-once toe-up socks tonight if I can muster the energy to get all the way to the Farmer’s Market – they’re so close to being done, and so simple, and I so want them to be finished! What’s the best cure for blisters on your feet? Nice soft socks, of course. In the few years I’ve been knitting, I’ve never made anything for myself, so I think it’s high time these socks get off the needles and onto my toes.

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Spending is spending, but for some reason I feel far better about purchasing art supplies (read: yarn) than I do about treating myself to some girly accessory that will be out of style in 10 minutes. It’s not like I spend more than I can afford, or really go crazy, but when the urge to create hits me, or when I’m feeling so trapped by time and chores that I think my head will explode, it’s good to be able to blow off a little steam in a creative way.

So the last few weeks, as I’ve been stressing out, I allowed myself to indulge a bit in flights of fancy about my next knitting projects. The Lorna’s Laces Lion & Lamb that I bought to make a second Clapotis arrived, and it’s incredibly beautiful:

The colorway is called Tahoe, and the rich colors remind me of warm afternoons sitting out on the deck, looking at the blue lake and the dark mountains in the distance.

I also placed a KnitPicks order – some blocking wires for the Frost Flowers & Leaves shawl (apparently they ship in a separate tube which often gets lost, so I’m a bit worried that they’ll never get here!) as well as 40 inch cables for my options needles and some yarn. I’ve been wanting to work with linen and I have two skeins of Euroflax but I couldn’t resist the affordability and the bright palette of KnitPicks Cotlin. With baby garments and summer watermelon in mind, I bought four skeins:

I also treated myself to a Cotlin color card (I’m a junkie for color cards and I have a ton) and, for the bargain price of $1.95, a booklet of patterns for bug finger-puppets. Very cute, and a great use for those extra little odds and ends left over at the end of projects. Plus, as I mentioned, The Baron and I are experiencing something of a bug obsession lately: we’ve been tracking the progress of preying mantises in his yard, from the first one we saw, tiny as a fingernail clipping, to the one that lingered on his shoulder last weekend, so that when I went to give him a hug when he came in from the yard, I got a little extra someone crawling over my hand. We’ve also been watching the BBC series Life in the Undergrowth, which is spectacularly beautiful and also hauntingly strange – the show is shot with cameras that magnify the world of tiny insects so that everything looks unfamiliar and different.

Finally, I went ahead and ordered the Peacock Feathers pattern from Fiddlesticks, and it arrived yesterday. I’m hesitant to start working the shawl without knowing who I’m going to give it to, but I do have someone special in mind. At the very least, I still have three full cones of laceweight JaggerSpun Zephyr in my stash, so I’ll have some colors to choose from. I’m excited to have all the supplies I need ready to go, so as soon as I’m done with the Frost Flowers & Leaves shawl (and I know I’ll figure out that edging any day now!) I can cast on for Peacock Feathers.

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Yeah yeah, so it’s not rocket science that getting new shoes means breaking them in. I think now that I have a major hurdle behind me, I’m going through something of a breaking-in period.

I was talking to my dad last night about some of the big changes I’m making in my life, and when I said I was worried he would be disappointed in me, that made him laugh. It is a bit ridiculous – I know very well that I would have to work pretty hard at disappointing him – but I can’t help the worry. Because underneath the worry that I will disappoint my dad is the fear that I might disappoint myself. And I’m a much harsher critic.

So today I’m just trying to accept that I’ve got blisters from my brand-new loafers, blisters from my brand-new life-plan . . . and I’ve also got a near-blister on my left forefinger from trying to learn the edging for the Frost Flowers & Leaves shawl.

Last night I worked another two rounds on the shawl – just one row left! – and decided to practice the edging on the rough crochet cotton I’ve been using to create lifelines. I cast on and worked a few rows of stockinette before beginning the edging pattern. The cotton is pretty rough and tough, especially to my fingers, accustomed as they are to the smooth silkiness of the Zephyr.

I should mention that the finger-blister is not totally due to the cotton. I did try to pick up a hot (425 degrees) cookie-sheet without a hot-mitt the other day. I don’t know why, but for some reason I am finding myself far more prone to kitchen injuries (see: Frankenfinger) now that The Baron is in his new home. I don’t think I’ve gotten more clumsy, I think I just spend more time in the spacious and functional new kitchen – I avoid the tiny little kitchen in my apartment (and I didn’t hang out too much in the kitchenette in his old one-bedroom either).

So basically, the finger is already kinda injured. And working the rough cotton just made it worse. The thing that’s great about knitting though: while I give my finger some time to heal, I can just go online and find the solution to that bizarre-o twisted stitch in the edging. Between Yahoo Groups! and Google and now Ravelry, there is no shortage of help and community out there.

And speaking of Ravelry, another thing I want to do while my blisters heal: I’m hoping I can get some good stash photos taken and posted this week. The last few weeks were (obviously) a bit stressful so I treated myself to some retail therapy . . .

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With the weekend’s adventures and ordeals successfully behind me, I feel like a new woman. There were several unexpected stops along the way that struck me as auspicious signs:

My new shoes arrived. Don’t be fooled – I didn’t actually get different shoes – just a new pair of my everyday loafers, the Franco Sarto Bocca. When I say everyday, I mean every day. I would wear jeans, flip-flops and a white t-shirt for my entire life if I could, but since I have to dress up a bit for work and since you get funny looks if you wear the exact same outfit every day, I try to at least keep the shoe part simple. I don’t remember when I got my first pair of Boccas, but I have owned at least five pairs. My friend Mrs. J and I are in agreement about this particular shoe: it’s worth it to stick with something that works! Although glamorous (who devotes about half her closet to shoes that live in their original boxes!) is horrified that I wear the same “ugly” shoes to work every day, I took it as a good sign that my new shoes arrived just before Saturday. I was turning a corner, from this

to this:

Yup, a day makes a big difference.

On Saturday morning, feeling all shiny and new but also pretty terrified as I prepared for my all-afternoon ordeal, I got a call from adorable, all the way in Europe, homesick and blue. She and her mom have been traveling since early June, so it’s no wonder she’s running out of steam. We started doing long-distance facial yoga (think long face, lemon face, lion face . . . grrr!) and before I knew it we were both laughing. My stress dissipated for the half hour we talked and I felt newly invigorated. Right before I left, I sat on the couch with The Baron for about a half hour, and he stroked my hair and massaged my hands as I reviewed last-minute details. And then, before I knew it, hours flew by and I was done. It went pretty well I think.

Sadly, my #2 pencil crippled me slightly. The first three fingers of my right hand refused at first to unclench, my wrist couldn’t bend properly without a ribbon of pain running up my forearm, and my elbow felt like I’d been smashed in the funny-bone with a giant dictionary. Suffice it to say that I didn’t do much knitting on Saturday night. By Sunday I was feeling better, but we had friends over for a celebratory pancake breakfast – The Baron made sausages on the grill, I stayed inside and made chocolate-chip and blueberry pancakes to order for glamorous, Little Miss Law, and a few other friends. Then we all spent mid-day sitting out by the pool. Paradise. By the time I finally got to the Frost Flowers & Leaves shawl, it was almost evening.

You know in Monopoly, when you get the card that says “bank error in your favor,” and you get to collect free money? Even though it’s not even real cash, there’s a shiver that runs through me every time I get that card, and anytime I get something for nothing. In this case, the unexpected surprise is a result of my horribly misreading the Frost Flowers & Leaves pattern. Instead of four repeats of chart three, the pattern only calls for one. What this means: I have ONLY three more rows to go before I am FINISHED with the shawl body. Of course, I still have to do the edging, and based on my elaborate calculations for size, perhaps I should rip back to chart two and do another repeat. And perhaps I will. But I’ve seen lots of comments on the Yahoo! Groups FF&L board, blogs and Ravelry about how much Zephyr will stretch in blocking and how big the FF&L is with all seven repeats of chart two. I’ve thought about doing a mini-blocking to check the size, but I don’t want to have to take everything off the needles and then put it all back on again, so I think I’ll just dive in. I’m going to practice the edging tonight and hopefully by the end of the week I’ll be happily cranking away on the final stage of the shawl.

The Baron and I have been enjoying a BBC show about bugs. More on that later, but everyone knows how an ugly caterpillar becomes a beautiful butterfly, right? Well, here’s my caterpillar:

And here’s a whisper of how beautiful it will be when it becomes a butterfly:

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