16 April 2007

Project Spectrum: Green

Anyone care to place a bet as to how many times I'll be pulling this out?

Spring Thing Shawl - I stumbled on this pattern using the exact yarn I bought on a whim in Chicago, seemed like the lace gods were giving me a hint so I'm giving it a go. I'll be the one on the knitalong struggling along at the end!

I'm really hoping to finish this for a June wedding but certainly not betting on it.

14 April 2007

Off the Needles

I suppose it's a good problem when you have a list of finished projects to be blogged. Our perpetually grey skies have been not-so-good for the photo taking and oh-so-good for the sitting on the couch knitting.
At least the cold weather is giving me more opportunity to wear winter gear... like my new scarf.

Needles: 7 Addis - With this yarn, I'd suggest using a blunt needle to avoid snags on the silk.

Dates: March - April 2007

Notes: Yum... silk and merino in my favorite colors. Easy but interesting pattern that works well with the hand-painted yarn. Overall, a big woo-hoo for a quick one-skein project! Definitely a keeper if you're looking for a fast, pretty present idea (or a new scarf to make the never-ending winter a little brighter).

Pattern: Adapted from an Interweave Pattern from several years ago, taught at the Elmwood Yarn Shop

Yarn: Plymouth Galway, assorted colors

Needles: 10.5 circs

Dates: Fall 2005 - April 2007

Notes: This one sat for a long, long while as I procrastinated about lining it. I kept dreaming up "perfect" schemes for the handles, pockets, drawstring, etc. but finally just said to heck with it, put something in this bag and put it to use. Perfect? Far from it, but so far I've gotten compliments every time I've used it. There's a lesson in there that my perfectionistic/procrastinating self is avoiding. I'll think about that... later. Certainly after I've agonized over a few more unfinished projects!

This was my first fair isle so I'm a little proud of it. Felting helps the pride as it erases all the bumps and lumps in the washing machine. More pics here.

And of course with the finishing of projects comes the starting of projects...

1. The Spring Things Shawl - Definitely more on this when I actually start knitting the lace... but don't worry, I'll spare you all the bad words that will come along.

2. What can I say, I'm a joiner...

08 April 2007

Mmm... New Socks

Pattern: Spindle Socks from My Fashionable Life

Yarn: Looped Back Cascades colorway, DK weight (colorway best represented in top picture)

Needles: Knitpicks Sz. 2

Dates: March 2007 - Project Spectrum blue

Notes: The only good thing about the return of winter is the chance to wear thick socks for a bit longer. I enjoyed knitting these and found them very fast. I finally got cabling without a cable needle, yay for new skills! My only modification was to make all the cables go the same direction on the second sock. So, they technically don't match, but hey, I'm no stranger to non-matching socks.

Insert random story - In college, I was not exactly a frequent visitor to the basement laundry. There was waaaay too much to do to be bothered with such nonsense, especially when underwear was cheap at Wally World. When I came home, I'd load up the car with all my dirties and put mom's machine to the test. (Sorry about that, mom. And sorry I was still doing that when I was in grad school and living five states away...) My first semester I returned from Thanksgiving with what I thought was enough clean laundry to make it to Christmas. My sock supply ran dry just before finals and at that point, I was too freaked out with studying to even bother buying more. Luckily, my packrat ways came to the rescue and I was able to pull out all those mismatched socks that were lingering at the bottom of the drawer, waiting for their long-lost mates. I took, and aced, every final that semester wearing socks of two different colors. Being the superstitious student, I washed those mismatched socks and saved them for every finals week for the rest of my college career. I may have looked like a complete fool taking that advanced linguistics exam, but the A was worth it!

Back to the socks... I've got another pair of these in white on the needles, awaiting a visit home to measure my grandmother's foot. My original intention was to do both for Project Spectrum pieces, but we'll have to extend that white/grey/blue deadline a bit. I have a tentative goal to do a pair of socks for each color group, but we'll see how that holds up. Goodness knows there's stash yarn for each color group! Here's where I need some help though.

I bought this yarn from The Lone Knitter's etsy shop, Woolly Boully, and am not sure what pattern to use. It's gorgeous stuff and such a unique colorway that I want to really show it off. How do you match up your sock yarns and patterns? I'm leaning towards something fairly plain to make the colors the focus. I'm also thinking non-lace but maybe that's just because it's cold here and I fear having to march through the snow in July with holes in my socks. Any suggestions?

07 April 2007

Wesołych Świąt Wielkanocnych!

Happy Easter!
When I first started teaching in Buffalo, one of the hardest parts of my job was learning to pronounce the last names of my Polish students. I'd go down the list and if they ended with "-ski," I knew better than to even try to spit out all those syllables without vowels. I'd apologize and smile and they excused me, assuring me that it was a local skill that I'd acquire in time.
Yesterday I visited Buffalo's famed Broadway Market, a haven of all things Polish and Easter. I've heard for years that this indoor, urban market was de rigueur for people all over the area. Families have their own traditions for when they go get their butter lamb and placek.

Children anxiously anticipate what color they get for their yearly painted egg.

Suburbanites who wouldn't dream of entering the big, bad, scary city line up and fight for parking spaces so they can go in and elbow people who dare come between mom and her sausage. And speaking of sausage, woah, pounds and pounds of it coiled into giant piles in refrigerator cases. When we were there, the crowd had thinned from the peak morning hours, but I still heard someone say he had waited for over an hour to get just the right sausage for the family festivities. The most popular booths had been sold old for hours, but the ones that were still operating were calling out orders over microphones to teenage boys who were moving so fast, I don't see how they weren't cutting off fingers and toes as they whacked off the requested poundage, wrapped it in butcher paper and tossed the coil to another guy with knife at the ready. Not exactly like picking up Jimmy Dean's at the grocery store, that's for sure.

While we skipped the sausage, we couldn't even think about walking past the cannoli stand without indulging. My friend Rachel is a wee little mite of a girl, 5 ft tall when she's stretching, but boy oh boy does she love her food. In true foodie fashion, she gasps at bakery cases and moans over restaurant menus. Now these were no ordinary cannolis. These delectable delights required two hands and in my case, two days to consume. Rachel, however, really enjoyed her cannoli, downing a treat the size of her head in a matter of minutes. I'm guessing she went home and straight into a sugar coma, rising only to fix French toast from the challah she purchased and then back to baked-good-induced lounging.

This isn't the best picture of Rachel as we're still bundled up in our winter gear and walking around with hat hair, but you get the point, big cannoli. Ah, the joys of a white Easter...

Bread and chocolate... what could be better? After seeing the hordes carry out these loaves of placek, we had to ask what it was. Although the vendor looked at us as if we came from outer space, after all only aliens wouldn't know about placek, she took pity on us and gave us each a slice to try. I don't think I even finished chewing before I requested a loaf to take home.
The chocolates were made by a local company who hand-pours their easter bunnies and sugar eggs. Mmm... dark chocolate eggs with mocha buttercream filling...
I couldn't resist this beauty, a handpainted Russian egg. From what we could figure out, the symbolism of the designs on the eggs differs slightly between the various countries represented and each uses a different technique to paint the wooden eggs, but all were quite beautiful and unusual. Nothing like the plain ol' Paas dyed eggs of my past!

While it's hard to believe we left any food group untouched, on the way home I regretted skipping the pierogi. Although I'm not sure the prune pierogi we saw will ever make its way to my table, I think some good cheese and potato ones will warrant a return trip.
While I still can't pronounce those Polish names, I'm certain that there will be more placek in my future! Whatever your Easter tradition includes, hope you all have a good holiday weekend!

03 April 2007

Moving Ice

Sunday I took the new bike to my favorite waterfront park to play, learn to change gears, go in circles to be sure I could actually stay on before trying to ride in front of other people. I felt like a kid, wanting to announce to the Border Patrol, “Hey, look at my new bike. Isn’t it cool? I even have one of the car racks. I’m one of the athletic ones now. I should go get some Clif bars for us all to share.” I felt like I’d joined the Club of Life and couldn’t stop smiling.

As I was riding, just a little bit further, just a few more moments before heading home, I was met with ice, lots of ice. Huge sheets of ice, spanning the entire way across the river to Canada, maybe 20 feet across. Plates that used to cover Lake Erie somewhere and now were sweeping their way to Niagara Falls. I stopped and watched, listened to the rushing power of all that ice, sheets beating against each other and the rocks which were trying to hold them back, force them on down the river, down the current, away from the open expanse of the lake which was ready for spring. Their speed was almost dizzying, almost hard to watch with my legs feeling like jelly after my ride, but I couldn’t move, realizing that this was something unusual, something worth watching for the full five minutes as what looked like a football field passed me by.

One sheet even held an entire park bench. It was broken, but all there, the refuse of someone’s perch, a spot where someone once watched the river go by was now being taken down the river, empty as it watched all of us on shore.

Spring is always a time of new beginnings and lately, I’ve been feeling like things were stirring for me. The blockade of my dissertation is starting to break up, starting to move. I feel like it’s a little easier to breathe with each page, each footnote that I put down. There’s still a lot to send down the river, but at least there’s movement. I’m feeling a little lighter in life too. Nothing’s really changing or improving, but I’m happier, easier, freer, hopeful about what’s to come. The frozen waters are busting up, eager to move along. The ice is still powerful and awe-inspiring and frightening as it jostles on the current, but its passing makes the river seem peaceful, no matter how powerfully the water still roars. It’s dangerous water, but it’s just water. It moves and movement means change.

It’s nice to watch the ice pass.

01 April 2007

A Girl's Gotta Ride

This may cut into my crafting time for the foreseeable future.

This definitely cut into my crafting budget for the foreseeable future.

Scary thing is that right now, I don't care. Brought it home and immediately went for a spin. It's going to be a very fun summer.

In Stitches... Lots of Stitches

Nothing like kicking off April with posts about a January project! I'm still beating my usual six-to-twelve-months-late time-frame so I'm counting these as a success. Now about those Christmas presents that I owe you... from 2003...

Although I haven't posted them, I have managed to do three projects for the In Stitches-Along and am really enjoying this book as I expected. I'm still not sure how I feel about Timtex or its bastard cousin, Peltex,* but we're trying to get friendly.

January - CD holder meant to get me organized

This was a fairly easy project but I had a devil of a time trying to make it neat and smooth like the picture. Since organization around these parts is a little hit or miss, I'm going to make my organizational sewing a little hit or miss. I'd like to make more of these for a bookshelf in my bedroom (yes, to match my Amy Butler quilt, just because I'm obsessed like that) but I think I'd do some modifications as they'll be holding scrapbooking and crafting supplies rather than CDs.

I'm not sure I have helpful advice, but I would suggest using a bone folder to crease the interfacing. You can use it with your quilt ruler to get a nice, straight edge which makes pretty corners...until you goof it up with your sewing! So, notes to self for next go-around - skip the bottom on the interfacing cube and just make a tube for the sides. Insert the lining and rather than trying to seam and turn, use bias tape binding for the top edge.

February - Love and Pampering

I think I get bonus points here for using the "challenge fabric." Over Christmas, my aunt gave the girls this black and green fabric with the challenge to "make something out of it," our family motto. They may laugh about my choice of projects, but I'm still bragging that I'm the first to ring the finished project horn.** Next up, a matching pair of slippers from the Denyse Schmidt book.
My favorite part of this one was the quilting. I may have pulled out some other patterns that require this step, just for consideration. I may even be thinking about trying the book's patchwork throw that requires a whole lot of quilting.

March - Make it Yours - or Someone Else's

While my sewing skills are improving, my ability to follow directions is not. We were supposed to embellish this pattern in some unique way and um, that hasn't happened yet. Plain jane vanilla purse here, at least for now. I'm thinking something tortoise shell on the clasp. This will be a gift so now I have I just have to not lose it before summertime. I enjoyed making this, but as others have already noted, it's huge. I feel like I'm carrying one of those long baguettes that are always falling out of carts at the grocery store or poking people in the eye. This would be an ideal pattern if it was about three inches shorter, but that's just my opinion. I'll make this one again, but I think next time I'll do a handle and use the magnet clasps rather than velcro.

Can't wait for the April assignment! Who knows, I may even do something wacky like posting it during the month of April.
While on the Amy Butler fetish report here, I should say that I saw her trunk show this week at a local fabric shop. Very cool to see some of the projects on my "to do" list, especially as they were done the "right" way rather than my wonky way. As always, her fabrics are gorgeous. It was fun to try on the various bags made out of her decorator fabric to see how they hang, if that makes sense. I've always assumed that her decorator fabric was the same as the material I have from JoAnn's, but she's referring to a softer, smoother fabric that I'd put somewhere between her quilting cotton and what I assumed the patterns called for. I resisted this time, but yeah, I'll be buying some of that for a bag in the very near future. I splurged on two patterns, the High Street Messenger Bag and the Ultimate Arts and Craft Tote. The Nappy Bag and Frenchy Bag patterns will be coming to live at my house soon, I'm sure. My name is Leslie and I'm an Amy Butler addict.
* On all these projects, I used the heaviest weight of Peltex fusible interfacing from JoAnn's in place of Timtex, just to save a few pennies. When possible, I ironed the interfacing onto the project rather than basting. I also trimmed the pieces prior to ironing, based on this tutorial.

** At one of our quilt retreats, we bought an obnoxious bicycle horn that you get to toot when you finish something. Any little bit of incentive to help keep us focused on finishing rather than starting something new!