Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Poor Twinkle

So, I've been a-knittin' and a-froggin' this #%*#@*# sweater for a few days now. I'm betting that Twinkle herself would be whining at me as much as I am, and ruing the day she opted to publish.


Every day, I learn a little more about reading patterns and what constitutes good directions vs. poor ones. So I consider it all a reasonably good thing. The downside is that the yarn I bought, Patons UpCountry from Smiley's, doesn't seem to appreciate the learning curve and how important it is to being an ultimately successful knitter. No, in fact, it seems to get more worn out and pilled the more I frog, making me question my wisdom for using it. It is a lovely yarn, don't get me wrong, but it is a lot like glorified roving, not a proper yarn, and reacts to the learning process by losing its subtle sheen and getting fuzzy, but not in a good way.

I've frogged this to the pits three times now.

So, once done, I wonder how much I will actually wear this mother.


Shifting topics, I wanted to take advantage of my loooong holiday break from work to organize my "work room" (read: storage closet), and organize the ol' stash.

Sweet mother of crap.

I seriously have a yarn problem that I suspect will require significant medication to vanquish.

And this isn't all of it!! What the hell am I thinking? That I'm some woman of leisure with no big-time corporate gig? That I can sit on my ass all day crocheting/knitting with a cup of tea steaming nearby? Or better yet, a cocktail? For the NEXT TEN YEARS? Believe me when I tell you that you are looking only at the surface of deep shelves and that there is far more out of the picture than in it. I didn't include all the colors, and there is a huge basket of thread and a steaming pile of rug yarn that I won't DARE photograph.


And I only have 4 days left of vacation. Boo hoo....

Friday, December 26, 2008

Knit Knews

So I've been blabbing about this knitting thing for a while now and thought it high time I actually show you some of what I'm working on at the moment.

First up is the Colors of Tuscany scarflet thing by Nicky Epstein, which for the record, bears little resemblance to the original.See? Not even close.

That said, I'm pretty pleased with how easy this was to make and that I did it without screwing it up.
Next up is a Lion Brand pattern for a simple cabled scarf that I'm making for a friend, ostensibly for this Christmas, but who knows when it will actually be completed?

Also on the sticks is the Aurora Borealis sweater in Twinkle's Weekend Knits book. However, I am making so many changes to the pattern as I go (and frog), that I don't want to cast blame on Wenlan Chia's lovely pattern by associating my lame attempt with her original. But it's based on that, so there ya go.

And while in Rome, I started on Nicky Epstein's shrug (coinky-dinkly named Roman Holiday Shrug, I kid you not). It is so freaking beautiful! But I used a totally inappropriate yarn that made a horrible squeaking noise as I knitted, so I pulled it apart until such-like time as I can dig through the ol' stashola and find one that is better-suited to such extreme beauty.

By the way, Nicky's book, Knitting on Top of the World, is pretty awesome. But if it's too rich for your blood, this pattern is in the latest Vogue Knitting. Woo Hoo!

So, while I'm off from work until the 5th, my personal challenge is to do the following projects:
  • Finish bastardizing Twinkle's Aurora Borealis Sweater
  • Make Roman Holiday Shrug - the most beautiful shrug, ever
  • Make that amazing Layering Cardi from Crochet Today noted in my last post
  • Finish Aran Cable Scarf for my friend

I'll keep you posted on my progress.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happily Eating Crow

I'll admit it: I've had an ongoing love/hate relationship with Crochet Today magazine. As of late, I've found their patterns and overall aesthetic to be heading down the treacly crapper. But as noted in a recent post, I held out some hope for the recent issue. And holy cow, did they deliver! Now don't get me wrong, not all the patterns are stars, but the cardi below, for example, is an absolute knockout! It is on my to do list, lemme tells ya!The cover hat by Lady Linoleum is a cute interpretation of this NYC fave (though, being a dyed in the wool New Yawker, I'd do it darker), and this beret looks like a fun challenge.

And is it just me, or do these pillows have a really appealing retro 70's vibe? Think log cabin bachelor pad....
There are a few other patterns that I think are nice, as well, and I'm keeping fingers crossed that this is signaling an editorial turnaround that will keep the old hooks flying.

In other mag news, I thought the cover sweater from Interweave Crochet to be surprisingly fashion-forward, in a Sex and the City kinda way.

I am totally loving this riding jacket, too!
And my friend Amy does a beautiful job on this gorgeous lace scarf. It reminds me of those amazing knitted wedding ring shawls in its delicacy.
All this said, I am still thumping away on my knitting jag. I'll post photos soon here and on ravelry, but I gotta say, I'm digging the sticks. As usual, I have a few projects going, including two scarves, a Twinkle sweater, and a Nicky Epstein shrug that's so beautiful, you could cry.

Till later!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Ciao Bellas!

So, it's back to reality now.

We flew in from Rome on Sunday and the vise grip of jetlag is slowly releasing, but only ever so. Still waking up way before I need to, but the needle has moved from 4am to 5. Just one more hour of sleep and I'll be happy.

So how was Rome, you say?

So gorgeous. So delicious. Such a stimulating mix of old and new.


We stayed at the Hotel Duca D'Alba on via Leonina, off of via Cavour near the Coliseum. Tiny room. Very nice people. Well-located. You just know this is leading to something. You're waiting for the "but" and here it comes. (WARNING: self-righteous american alert!)

In 2005, the wise people of Rome decided it would be best for the health of its populace to curb smoking. Our hotel had, in fact, vietato fumare signs posted everywhere. So imagine my surprise when it smelled like either hubs or I had been lighting up in our wee little room.

Go ahead, I dare you.

Cut to: Hooker goes to nice hotel clerk, Danilo, to discuss the situation all friendly-like. And I mention casually that we are surprised at the thick cigarette smoke in our room. Danilo suggests that perhaps our neighbors in 404 are lighting up. "Oh, can people smoke in their rooms?" I ask, all innocent. "No," he replies, "it is forbidden. But I cannot go to their room and ask them to stop."

Now, I am generally considered to be of fairly quick wit. But this stopped me in my tracks. Here are two paying guests. One is breaking the law. The other is suffering because of it. The law is, in fact, on the side of the suffering guest. And the hotel sides with the scofflaw and we have to choke and take frequent showers to get the smell of smoke out of our hair.

Now, wisdom dictates that, if your hotel screws you over like this, you leave. In a huff, even. But it is cold and rainy out and I don't have the will to go shuffling through the wet, cold streets of Rome looking for another place to stay.

So we stay. Like a couple of asses. But Danilo assured me that the smokers would leave the very next day. What he neglected to tell us is that they would be replaced by a couple and their baby that said couple apparently feel is best to ignore when it cries. Oh, and they smoke, too.
And the walls are so thin in this place we could hear them poop and sneeze.

Ah well.

So, all whining aside, Rome is an amazing and beautiful city. The ONLY reason I came back just slightly larger than usual was due to all the walking we did - and we walked everywhere.

My favorite place? For the record, Ostia Antica is a MOST incredible place. It is about 16 miles out of the city and, for the measly 1 Euro it costs to go out there and the 6.50 Euro it costs to get in and crawl around the ruins of this 2,000 year old city, it beats the crap outta hauling ass to Pompei for whatever outrageous sum they charge for the train down there. And believe you me, I was desperate to go to Pompei - I've been obsessed with the place since childhood. But Ostia was a wonderful surprise.

I will also share with you, dear readers, our favorite eatery we found while searching for another: Trattoria Luzzi on
Via Di S. Giovanni In Laterano, 88, about 2 blocks from the Coliseum.
Talk about cheap and good! Noisy, cramped, and delicious, this place is the horse to beat, by my reckoning.

I can tell you that there are some shoe stores with my drool still clinging to the windows. You should know that the city is magical, even in December. And that you mysteriously understand Italian when you get into a conversation with a jewelry artisan in Campo de Fiori. And that your hand will vibrate when you touch a 2,000 year old building, still holding proud to its grandeur. And that you will dream about all those souls who have passed through these streets and lived full and passionate lives well before you or TV were conceived or the process for glassmaking was forgotten.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Crochet Today

A quickie before we take off. Just saw the preview of the January Crochet Today. Not many photos, but what was there was slightly less eye-searingly awful than what they've been doing lately. But I'll withhold any praise until I actually see the damn thing.

Hope springs eternal


Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Wipe My Drool

Okay, two things to discuss with you all:

First, did some damage at Smiley's Yarn Sale today. That's all I'm saying. Got me some Paton's. Got me some Rowan. Got me some Nashua. Going back tomorrow for more circular needles. Forgot my list. Sweet, sweet, Smiley's. This goes on till Saturday. Bring cash.
Second. I don't know how many of you subscribe to Daily Candy, but they sent out an awesome link yesterday for Shokay, a Himalayan company that makes Yak yarn. You read that right. And it's beautiful. They apparently also do a yarn that is yak and bamboo. Holy crap.
But before you look at the gorgeous yarn, you should check out their products. They have finished pieces for sale, and they are amazing. My faves are this hat above, the matching mitts, the funky scarf, and the bow tie. Cracks me up that the hat and mitts are in sock monkey colors.

In addition, they have some free patterns available for the taking. Personally, I'll make a meal of the inspiration from their finished products. Makes me happy, it does.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Victorian Cosycoat - Free Pattern

Happy Whatever, everyone!

I'd made this thing ages ago, and temporarily (depending on your definition, but all is relative, I suppose) misplaced the pattern book. Aging is a beautiful thing, no?

Anyway, here's the pattern, straight from the source. By the way, I used Wool-Ease Sport and a C hook. I added length to the bottom and some flouncy crap and did not add the ribbon as indicated in the original.

If you make this, I'd love to see your version!
PS: For those of you in NYC or close enough to care, Smiley's Manhattan Yarn Sale starts Tuesday. You KNOW I'll be there!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

I Heart Planet Purl

Am I the only one who's been completely unaware of this fabulous site? My God, I'm in love! Check it out!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Crochet as Art

Just saw this on the New York Times site. This is the work of Stephan Goldrajch, seen recently at the Berlin Review art fair. Nice to see some interesting, challenging work being done with crochet as a medium.

And, while we're at it, the same issue of the Times had this on the recent craft fair in LA. Seems like the NYTimes is upping their reportage on crafts.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Life During Wartime

I have to admit a certain fascination for the current economic downturn. Not that I like to see all this financial chaos, mind you, but when you look at the markets across the board, there are some interesting areas that are doing better now than before the (ongoing) crash. Case in point, Spam (the "meat" product. Does anything scream "depression" more?), beans (YAY!), hard cider (yummy), and vegetables (double YAY!). Add to this list: yarn (see this story in the NY Times). As we all know, you can buy some mighty sweet yarn for what a night out costs you in the big city. AND you have a great little handmade item at the end of it, which is generally more than you can say for a night out.

Add to all this the trend towards recycling and you get a fairly potent and interesting mix of situations.

I started thinking about the 1940s, where all of America was asked to sacrifice and chip in for the war effort. Citizens were encouraged to grow their own food (hence the term "victory garden"), women were encouraged to remake what they and their families wore, rather than spend money on new stuff. What did all this add up to? A generation of people who were healthier (thanks to milk and meat rations + homegrown produce), scrappier, and more resourceful than, well, we are. The little number above is from my late dad's collection of Popular Mechanics, Popular Science, dating back to the 1930s. It is full of advice about how to do more with less, but with an emphasis on fun, creativity, and the DIY spirit.

I think this same spirit helped spawn a lot of the booklets and leaflets that many of us with an interest in vintage needlework now hold so dear. And I think our current situation helps these handy little booklets to resonate with us a bit more profoundly. There are tons of DIY sites across the web and tons of people exhibiting "homesteader" tendencies (me among them).
So with all this spinning through my head, I took a look at my WWII books and found some interestingly familiar refrains. Try this one on for size:

"Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without"

Not a bad motto for today, don't you think? Given the amount of perfectly usable stuff we toss on a daily basis, wouldn't it be nice if we could view our current resource and economic crises as something we could rally around, like our forebears did in WWII? For example, this booklet, aside from admonishing us all that it is in the interest of victory that we all keep as healthy as possible (and we did, as a sidenote. Heart disease dropped during this period), it advised us to make our own stuff, like a market tote bag and a snood. Here are the instructions: And although the recipes do contain a fair amount of what I would consider crap (bologna fingers? no, thanks), there are some wonderful ones in here that seem years ahead of their time. I am intrigued by the honey-orange yeast bread and the carrot-honey cookies with oats and raisins. Yum.

From what I can tell, though, it took a while for the crafty spirit to dissipate. It just seemed to morph into something a little more fun and lighthearted, like the cover image from the 1948 booklet I will leave you with below:

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Buongiorno Roma!

Okay, quick question: Anyone out there who can direct me to any good yarn shops in Rome? We're heading out there in a couple of weeks for 10 days and I will surely need a yarn fix in that time. A little help??

And if you feel compelled to share a favorite restaurant with me, I won't argue, ya know...

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Hyperbolic Victoriana

Hi. I'm back. Still baking bread, still hooking, still knitting. And enjoying a glass of Seghesio Zinfandel, if you must know. Thanks for indulging me in my wallowing last week.

So I cooked up this pattern in my little head the other day, and lo and behold, it's so easy, the mother's done already. So I'm in the process of recreating it with the goal of actually making the pattern available for free right here. (Someone should check the temperature in hell right now - I'm just sayin'). Working on one in red right now. Stay tuned...

On an unrelated note, I had to go through a pile of vintage pattern mags today and came across some of my favorites in the process. I should preface this with telling you that the fashions of the 1910s are among my favorites. With that, I share these beauties with you...