Musings on knitting, crochet, and a fairly loopy life.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

for my mom

Mother's Day is three days away, and while I have a mom-in-law and a step-mom, I no longer have a mom of my own to celebrate the day with. My own mom died of ovarian cancer 21 years ago ... and I REALLY can't believe it's been that long! But this year I've found a satisfying way to honor my mother's memory.
Mom & Dad at their engagement party (1958). Great-Grandma Esther in the background.

Patternworks is trying to collect 1,000 chemo caps by the end of October. As a gift to my mother's memory, I'm doing my part. I just finished my first cap, using a pattern from the Patternworks website. I plan on making one cap each month between now and September, and mailing them out at the beginning of October.
Anyone interested in contributing their own caps can log on the Patternworks website. In addition, if you buy the yarn they're suggesting for the project, they'll donate a portion of the sales to the Cancer Treatment Centers of America, the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, and the American Cancer Society.

Happy Mother's Day, everyone! And happy knitting and crocheting.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

i is for inspiration

Inspiration can come from the most interesting places. A beach at sunset, a forest with the late afternoon sun piercing through the tree tops, a New York City housing project ...

"What?" you ask. A housing project? Yes, indeed.

After I drop my son off at pre-school, I walk down Nostrand Avenue to pick up my car from wherever my husband has parked it that day (stopping off first, of course, at Dunkin Donuts for a infusion of caffeine). My walk brings me past the Sheepshead Bay/Nostrand Houses, a 34-building New York City Housing Authority development built in the late 1940s.

The development is designed in the "modernist, tower-in-the-park style" popular during the post-war decades.  The buildings are blocky, 6-story red brick, set among emerald lawns planted with oak, sycamore and young fruit trees.

At various corners and entrances, there are red brick columns with stone finials. Set into the brickwork are bas-relief squares with stylized oak leaves.
Something about those oak leaves really caught my attention one morning. The way the early-morning sun emphasized the shadows and highlights made me think of Aran sweaters, and all those lovely textured cables. I got an inspiration for a sweater..

Now, I'm no fashion designer, and I'm even less of an illustrator. But this sweater nagged at me. And I knew that if I didn't put something down on paper, I would lose the idea before I was ready to knit it. So off to the library I went, to borrow books about figure drawing for fashion design. And with a lot of tracing paper, a ton of patience, and much erasing, I came up with the following sketch:
It's hardly Project Runway material, but at least I have a starting point. Now all I have to do is figure out how to actually design the sweater, and I've got it made.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

favorite (fictional) knitters, part IV

It's been a while since we've visited my favorite fictional knitters and I don't know about you, but I've kind of missed them. Here's one who resides at the top of my list:
Gromit, from Aardman Animations' Wallace and Gromit franchise.

Gromit lives with his human companion Wallace in an indeterminate English village. He doesn't speak. After all, that would be silly -- animals don't speak. (Of course, knitting is another story). Even wordless, Gromit manages to be wonderfully expressive in the style of Buster Keaton and other silent film greats.

Gromit's birthday is February 12th, which makes him an Aquarius. Aquarians have keen intellects and are highly eccentric, and usually prefer the company of other eccentric types. They seek out people who are original, creative and exciting, and sometimes even a little dangerous or unstable, in order to obtain novel experiences. You can see this in Gromit's relationship with Wallace, who has opened up their home to a bank-robbing penguin, built a rocket to the moon for a cheese-tasting holiday, and repeately gotten them both involved in some sort of wacky mayhem.
Gromit graduated from "Dogwarts University" with a double first (the highest honors) in Engineering for Dogs. He and Wallace are both excellent engineers and inventors; one of their most famous inventions being the Knit-O-Matic. The Knit-O-Matic was featured in the animated short "A Close Shave," which won the Academy Award for Animated Short film in 1995.
This little film introduced Wallace's short-lived love interest -- yarn shop owner Wendolene Ramsbottom -- and Shaun the Sheep, who has gone on to become a famous fictional knitter in his own right. In the movie, Wallace and Gromit save England from a (gasp!) wool shortage, and Wendolene from the clutches of her sinister, sheep-rustling robot dog, Preston.
In 2008, reality and fantasy merged when the Wallace and Gromit's Children Foundation tried to set a world record for the biggest ever hand knitted Tea Cozy. (That record was set in April 2009 by BUPA care homes across the UK.)



Monday, May 3, 2010

the kitsch kollection

I couldn't help myself. I had to do it. I was surfing the net, looking for crocheted hat patterns and this one popped up. I had to have one.

We all had one of these growing up. The toilet roll topper that someone's grandmother crocheted for them. Come on ... admit it ... you had one too. When I saw the pattern, all I could think was "What a perfect solution for my bathroom!" You see, my bathroom is an itty bitty little thing, with very little storage space. The only logical place to stash extra toilet rolls would be in the vanity, but that's pretty much filled up. So we keep our extras stored in the linen closet, which is in my bedroom at the opposite end of the hall. Very inconvenient if you run out of paper before you're done.

So I've started keeping an extra roll on an open shelf. But it kind of skeeves me out knowing that there's dust collecting on it while it's waiting for its time to go to work. And then I saw the pattern, and all of a sudden I understood why all our mothers just had to have one of these things.

Or maybe I'm justifying. Maybe I wanted it because it's a connection to a more innocent time in my life. Or maybe it's that perverse part of me that really wants a black cat clock with a swinging tail for my kitchen. I know it's kitschy, and that's why I like it.

Now, what's the use of being a fiber artist if you can't crochet yourself a toilet roll top hat? So Friday night I threw this little baby together and put it to work in my bathroom Saturday morning. The best part of all came when my husband went into the bathroom for the first time after I set it up and laughed long and hard. My kids ran to see what was so damn funny, only they didn't get the joke. That only made it better: a little private joke between the old folks in the house.

I could have saved this photo for my ABC-Along K picture: "k is for kitsch," but I really wanted to post it now as a little lighthearted touch after all those days of esoteric religious rambling.

And I'm putting out a warning to all my friends and family: don't piss me off between now and December, or you may just find yourself on the receiving end of one of these for the holidays.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

victory and splendor

Last week's Divine aspect was Netzah (Victory or Eternity). This week's aspect is Hod (Splendor or Majesty). It makes sense to discuss them together, since they are counterparts to each other. They can be viewed as the more earthly versions of Hesed (Lovingkindness) and Gevurah (Might) respectively. Netzah represents God's active grace and benevolence in the world, and Hod represents the way in which God's judgment is dispensed on earth. Hod is also associated with the power of prophecy.
Netzah and Hod are associated with the Divine names Adonai Tsva'ot (Lord of Hosts) and Elohim Tsva'ot (God of Hosts) respectively. When associated with parts of the human body (as all the aspects of God are in the Zohar), Netzah often corresponds to the right leg, and Hod to the left; the foundations and propellors of the body. However, these two Divine aspects can also be associated with body parts that are related to knowledge and fertility: they are sometimes linked to the left and right kidneys, which are considered the source of advice in talmudic lore - go figure), and other times linked to the testicles or female breasts, which are sources of fertility and nurturing sustenance.

Meditating on these two aspects of the Divine calls to mind God's generosity and majesty; they remind us that the Almighty created the universe and continues to provides support for it (as long as we don't mess with it too badly). We can be reminded of our own responsibility to both create and sustain life, to nurture and preserve the world that the Eternal has given us.

Netzah's color is light pink; Hod is dark pink.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

beauty


Tiferet (Beauty) (also translated as "glory")  is a balancing force between Hesed and Gevurah. It is,  in fact, considered their offspring. This balancing force is essential to the proper running of the universe. Tiferet is considered the primary "male" attribute of God. (In some versions of the sefirot this attribute is called Rahamim [Mercy].)
The Kabbalists devised an image to show how the sefirot acted upon each other. It is supposed to represent a tree, with Tiferet located right in the center:
Often associated with the Written Torah, Tiferet corresponds to the Tetragrammaton itself (YHVH: the unpronouncable name of God); but spoken as Adonai or "The Holy One, Blessed be He." As the primary male attribute of God, Tiferet is seen as the bridegroom who seeks to be united with Shekhinah, the primary female attribute of God. When these two aspects are united, they produce the human soul.
Tiferet corresponds to the torso or spine on the human body, and is also symbolically represented as the Sun. Its color is purple.

Friday, April 30, 2010

mighty, mighty, mighty


Gevurah (Might) (also called Din [Judgment]) counterbalances Hesed (Lovingkindness). It is the side of the Divine most familiar to those with a superficial understanding of the Old Testament, the wrathful God of awful punishments. But as in other world religions, Divine attributes that may seem harmful are not necessarily negative once you understand their true function. Without Gevurah, the world would be so overwhelmed by God's love that it would be reabsorbed into the Divine; without Hesed, God's judgment would unleash forces of destruction on the world.
The seeds of the "Other Side" (Sitra Akhra), or demonic forces of evil are found in Gevurah, as well; the Zohar teaches that an excess of Gevurah is the source of Ultimate Evil. It is the balance of Justice and Mercy evoked repeatedly in the Hebrew Bible, that is the key to the world's thriving. And that balance, necessary in the Divine realm, is also essential in human endeavor. 


This balance of love and might, of strength and compassion, of destruction and rebuilding is understood by many world religions.  This concept is exactly what yin/yang expresses. It is the constant balancing act between good and evil in Christianity. The Hindu religion expresses this balance via different deities. Contrary to popular Western belief, these deities are not "individual gods." They are, rather, different representations of particular aspects of the one god, the source, known as Brahman. The "human" or physical representation of Brahman's aspects or attributes in the form of deities is a vehicle for the devotee to focus his or her attention, devotion or meditation on that particular aspect or attribute in a form more easily visualized and held in the mind.


For instance, the goddess Durga symbolizes the violent and destructive qualities of the loving Mother Goddess (Shakti). However, Durga protects mankind from evil and misery by destroying evil forces such as selfishness, jealousy, prejudice, hatred, anger and ego.
Gevurah is associated with Elohim as the name of God. Its color is red. (Notice, please the color of Durga's robes. Think, also of the traditional color associated with the Devil in Christian thought. Coincidence? Maybe. Maybe not. But definitely something to think about.)

Thursday, April 29, 2010

a bit of kabbalah

The Jewish calendar is currently in a period known as "Counting of the Omer." According to Exodus, after the Jews left Egypt, it took 49 days before they reached Mount Sinai where they received the Torah. To commemorate this journey, Jews begin counting the days and weeks of the Omer beginning on the second night of Passover: "Today is one day to the Omer"; "Today is two days to the Omer"; "Today is seven days, which are one week to the Omer"; and so on until they reach "Today is forty-nine days, which are seven weeks to the Omer."


The medieval kabbalists explained that those 49 days (which connect the holidays of Passover and Shavuot) correspond to the forty-nine traits of the human heart. Each year this inner journey is retraced during the counting of the Omer. Shavuot, which literally means "Weeks" is the culmination of this count.


Another way of defining these weeks is by exploring the attributes of the Almighty. The kabbalists believed that God's entire self could not be understood, but God has revealed nine attributes of the Divine Self that interact with each other and the world. These are known as sefirot. Each sefirah  represents one aspect of the Godhead, a facet of the powers of the All Powerful. Each sefirah is also identified with a part of the human body, an aspect of the human personality, a color, and one of the biblical names of the Holy One. 


This year, I'm meditating on the attributes of the Divine by crocheting a 6"x6" square for each week of the Omer; each square will correspond to one sefirot via color.


It's now the 4th week of the Omer, so I'm going to play catch up over the next few days. The first week of the Omer corresponded to the sefirah of Hesed (Lovingkindness). Hesed represents the generous, benevolent side of God, the quality of unconditional Divine Love. Hesed is often translated in this context as "love," "compassion," or "grace." Hesed is associated with the Divine name El or El Elyon (Supreme God). Hesed's color is white.


Here is my square for Hesed (Lovingkindness):
When my seven squares are complete, I will be mailing them to a Ravelry friend who will then forward them to For the Children of Pine Ridge. This group will piece them into warm blankets to be distributed at the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

h is for happy birthday

This is my first ABC-Along post that is completely unrelated to knitting. The group's rules are that the photos don't need to be fiber-related, but should be of importance to you. Can't think of anything more important to me than my kids.

Yesterday, my baby turned 4. I guess he's not really a baby anymore, but I'm having trouble wrapping my mind around that. He's my baby, and that's enough for me.

To celebrate his day, Seth had his first school birthday party ... sprinkle-covered cupcakes and party favors for 20. I wasn't there, but his teacher will be giving me copies of her photos. Last night, we had most of my local family over for cake and presents. If a little part of me felt guilty for not having a "real" birthday party outside of school, I got over it really quickly. Seth was ecstatic over the balloons, the chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream frosting, all the cards (and money!!!) from out-of-town relatives and the really cool presents. Four kids in my apartment was way more than enough (and actually I've heard that the perfect size for a party is as many kids as your child's age).

So, well done for us, and HAPPY BIRTHDAY, SETHLET!

Monday, April 26, 2010

a sweet treat

My first year of high school I was madly in love with a boy named Robert. Robert was tall and lanky, had big brown eyes, and long, shiny hair. He was smart, he was funny, he was idealistic, and he was creative.  But he was also shy. Really shy. Boy, was he shy. He was so shy, that he was completely oblivious to my affections.

Fast forward 30 years. I've long since lost touch with Robert, and in fact, all my high school friends. Then along comes this amazing tool: Facebook. I join, and all of a sudden, I can surround myself virtually with people who remember me when I too, was young, creative, idealistic and kind of shy. And one of the people who pops up is Robert. He's now happily married, and living in Australia. Australia!
When Robert first friended me, he wasn't sure that I'd remember him. But come on, who forgets their first crush? This far removed from high school, I had no trouble telling him so. And he said he wished he'd realized back in high school how I felt, and that he hadn't been so shy. Which even 30 years later, is a nice little boost for my ego.

Now here's the fun part. Back in February, another FB friend and I were bemoaning the fact that neither of our husbands had gifted us with chocolates on Valentine's Day. Sweet Robert, from all the way in Australia, offered to send us some of Oz's best chocolates (which, he claimed, are vastly superior to America's). For Anna, it's a way to jokingly make her husband sit up and take notice. For me, he said, it's a gift 30 years overdue to the first girl whom he knows had a crush on him.
The chocolates arrived in New York this week. And I'm not sure if they're superior to what we have here in the States, but they were pretty wonderful. I, being a loving wife, shared mine with my husband, which strikes me as ever so slightly perverse. Chocolates from my first love (even if it was unrequited), decades later, shared with my current love ... there is something the tiniest bit twisty about that. But then again that's how I like my life best: a little bit sweet, a little bit twisted.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

one hell of a hiatus

Wow ... I can't believe how long it's been since I posted to my blog. Time just sort of slipped by me there, and all of a sudden, TWO AND A HALF WEEKS have passed. How did that happen?

What was I doing all this time? Well, for the first week at least, I was just floating along, practicing my happy-for-no-reason lifestyle. But then I lost my place in the book, and forgot to think about the little things that were making me happy, and all of a sudden, I'm back to cynical little me. (Time to start reading again, maybe.)

This past week, I was knitting furiously to finish up my gifts for my stashbuster swap buddy. Everything got completed today, and hooray, hooray! It's going out in the mail tomorrow. Jenny in Mechanicsville, MD will be receiving a lacy spring scarf that I knit from 100% corn yarn (you can't believe how soft the stuff is!), and a crocheted cotton clutch bag (try saying that 10 times fast) that I lined with a bright summery fabric.

Here's a pic of the scarf:
Here's the bag:

and its lining:

Jenny sent me a felted needle roll with cables to hold the needles, two skeins of wool (one is the softest wool I have ever felt in my life), and assorted knitting odds and ends.
Here's what the knitting needle case looks like when it's all rolled up:
Can't wait to fill it with my knitting needles. I'm thinking that this case will be for my wooden needles, and the tapestry case I've been using will house my metal and plastic ones. (I know, I know ... how many knitting needles does one girl need? In my case, a whole lot.)

Thursday, April 8, 2010

happy, happy, joy, joy

I've been reading a book I borrowed from younger sis, called Happy for No Reason by Marci Shimoff (coauthor of Chicken Soup for the Woman's Soul).
I opened it up wanting to get the secret to being happy, but honestly skeptical that I would actually gain anything from it.

I'm glad to say, I was wrong, wrong, wrong.

Today I tried two suggestions in the book, just for a lark. Suggestion one was to try not to complain today. Suggestion two was to be be aware of the things that gave me pleasure during the day: to be truly aware for a good 30 seconds as it was happening. I mean, even if these things didn't work, they were hardly going to harm me, right?

I got through the entire day with only two complaints, and when I heard myself kvetching, I was able to catch myself immediately and stop. And the things that gave me pleasure? I was so aware of them throughout the day. I wrote them in a journal when I got home and was pleasantly surprised to find that they had filled an entire page. Little things, like the smell of freshly baked pastries in Osterman's Bakery; watching my kids play "bumper cars" on the slide after school; waking up early enough to not have to rush our morning routine.

And from these little changes, the oddest thing happened. By early evening, I found myself walking around with a smile on my face, for no reason at all. I found myself speaking more lovingly to my kids, and actually listening to my husband with interest when he told me about his day. And the feeling in my house tonight is so much more positive than usual. You know the saying, "If Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy." Well it seems that if Mama's happy, everybody else feels more happy too.


Tuesday, April 6, 2010

farmisht, farshimmelt and farblongid

Three Yiddish words meaning confused, befuddled, completely lost. If knitting is a barometer of one's state of mind, those words describe me completely. I'm all over the place, juggling too many to-do's, and accomplishing little or nothing on each.

I've got five different knitting or crocheting projects in process right now.

There's my Master Knitter course. I've completed all my swatches, but only have 2 of the 15 blocked. I haven't finished answering the questions, and I haven't begun knitting the hat for it.

There's my 2010 Afghan Knit Along. I guess that one's moving at the speed it's meant to ... one to two blocks per month. I have April's primary block knit, but not blocked, and I'm trying to decide whether to knit the second, optional block for this month as well.

There's this cabled bag that I'm designing myself - as I go. I started it three times before I finally came up with a pleasing design that's also engineered correctly.

There is a 7-square project I'm crocheting: one square for each week during which the Torah instructs Jews to count the "omer." Each week during the sefirot (count), one of God's seven defined attributes is explored, with each day within the week also exploring how one of the seven fits into the week's attribute. The Kabbalah designates a part of the body, a word, and a color to each attribute. Last week's attribute was Chesed, or Lovingkindness. It's color is white. This week is Binah (Might), which is supposed to be red. I don't have any red yarn. When I finish the squares, I'm mailing them to a Ravelry friend who is going to send them to the Children of Pine Ridge group, where they'll be joined into afghans and sent on to kids in need.

Finally, there's a spring/summer scarf I'm knitting for a Stashbuster Swap. This project is moving along slower than sludge. It's really pretty, but I'm just not enjoying working with the yarn, so I keep avoiding it. But this one is time-sensitive (as are the Omer squares), and I've got to get two projects prepared for the swap.

I flit from project to project like a bee in a patch of clover, finishing a row here, a square there, but not really completing anything. I'm unfocused and scattered. It's knitting ADD, but it's really just a symptom of my life in general these days.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

favorite (fictional) knitters, part III

Cartoon by Alec Longstreth

Anyone who's read the Harry Potter books or seen the movies knows Hermione Granger. She's the muggle-born witch who is easily the smartest student in Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Hermione is studious and quick-witted, and as part of the heroic triad in the series, she bears her fair share of battling evil. 

But if your only experience of Harry Potter is through the films, you won't know anything about Hermione's revolutionary side, or her use of knitting to battle social injustice. Unfortunately, that storyline was eliminated from the movies.

To give some background, Dobby the house-elf is introduced in Book 2 (Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets). House-elves are essentially slaves – they will serve one family for a long part of their life, and they feel that this is right and proper, that this is what they were created to do. House-elves can be freed; giving a house-elf clothes frees it from its situation. Most house-elves, however, do not want to be freed, and resist the suggestion most strongly.

In Book 4 (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire), we are informed that hundreds of house-elves live at Hogwarts, cooking for feasts, cleaning, and doing other chores. Hermione is outraged that Hogwarts would condone slavery, and she creates an organization: the Society for the Promotion of Elfish Welfare (S.P.E.W.), which is met with overall indifference from her fellow students.

In Book 5 (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix), Hermione takes it upon herself to free as many house-elves as possible. In addition to keeping up with her studies, acting as a Gryffindor prefect, and forming "Dumbledore's Army" to fight evil, Hermione spends her free time knitting hats and socks. She leaves these lying around Gryffindor Tower, hoping to free some unsuspecting elf who picks them up while cleaning the common room, and so grant them freedom. The house-elves don't appreciate this gesture; on the contrary, they take it as an insult and refuse to clean the common room, with the exception of Dobby.


Dobby Dons Hermione's Hats by acciobrain

While Hermione's fight to free house-elves is to no avail during her Hogwarts years, J.K. Rowling does write that as an adult, Hermione goes to work for the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures and works successfully to improve the lives of house-elves.

And so, I present to you Hermione Granger: genius, loyal friend, freedom-fighter ... knitter.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

april fools' knitting pranks

I've been researching the history of knitting as it was used in April Fools Day pranks, and have uncovered these amusing facts:

  • In 18th century England, April 1st was the day that young women would select which beau they wanted to court them that season. They would gift each of their potential suitors with a sweater; the men they were interested in would receive a perfectly fine sweater, but the spurned ones were given a sweater with sleeves that were much too long for their arms.
  • Scandinavian women in the 17th and 18th centuries knit humorous (and sometimes very raunchy) verses into knit caps that they would give their husbands on April 1st.
  • Marie Antoinette was particularly mean-spirited, and was rumored to have given Louis XVI a sweater whose sleeves were sewn together as an April Fools' gift.
  • Knitting as an April Fools' prank was banned by the Pilgrims, with the reason that "the labour of our industrious goodwyves' hands muste not be spente on frivolity and idle sinfulness."
Hope you found these tidbits entertaining, because not a single one of them is true!
Happy April Fools Day!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

tradition

Once upon a time a mother passed along her holiday cooking traditions to her daughter, and she to her daughter, and so on, and so on ...

I'm sure it still works that way in many, if not most families. Not in mine. Yesterday, Ian learned the fine art of matzoh-ball making from his father. Here they are, in our itty-bitty-city kitchen; Charles is tutoring Ian in the fine art of creating a just-right ball (not too hard, not too fluffy).
When I was Ian's age, I asked my mother to teach me how to make matzoh balls.

"You follow the recipe on the box," she told me. "Just put in enough matzoh meal so they feel right."

"But how will I know when they feel right?" I asked her.

Her answer? "You'll just know."
I have to say, not only did Ian's and Charles' feel right, they tasted pretty right, too. And so, while I may not have been the one to pass on this tradition, at least it's being passed along. 

On the other hand, I lead the seder when it's at my house. So I do pass along traditions, even if they're not of the cooking kind.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

just a hat

It's just a hat. A $3.00 hat from the 99 Cent store. And yet, it's become the most coveted object in my home.

In theory, it's Ian's hat. When he wears it, he's Mr. Cool Dude, or "MisterI," as he's named himself (said out loud, it's "Mystery"). 
Clearly, my kid knows how to rock a hat. But everything is fluid in this household, including clothes and accessories. I've been known to borrow Charles' longjohns for winter hiking; Charles takes my scarves and backpacks; Ian steals my moccasins, and Seth ... well, Seth wants whatever belongs to his brother.
When Seth puts on the hat, he's a cowboy. He gallops around the house, yelling "Yee-haw!" (as any good cowboy does), and "Look, Mommy! I'm a cowboy! See my cowboy hat?"

When I ask him "Isn't that Ian's hat?" he replies, "No, Mommy. It's a cowboy hat. I'm a cowboy. It's my hat." (I like the logic there.)

So ... just a hat? No way. In this house, it's a gateway to a world of cowboys and cool dudes. We really should fork over the three bucks and buy a second one, don'tcha think?

Monday, March 29, 2010

our house is a very, very, very knit house

Here is the most amazing video: it's been making the rounds of Ravelry and YouTube. In this commercial for natural gas, some Belgian advertising agency has created the house of every knitters' dreams... My younger son is in love with the video; I've got it saved on my desktop, and when he wants to watch it he asks to see the "yarn shower."

If you're wondering how the hell they did that, there's also a short video on YouTube that chronicles "The Making of Natural Gas." (And isn't that a great title?)

It seems that to make this video, all the knitting was done in advance, then UNRAVELED! in front of the cameras. The unraveling was filmed in stop-action shot by shot to get the amazing visual of the house being covered in knitting first thing in the morning.

While part of me cringes at the idea of so much knitting being destroyed for a 30-second spot, another part of me is tickled by the idea that some knitters actually got paid by an ad agency for their "humble little handicrafts."

Sunday, March 28, 2010

whose scarf is it anyway?

I've posted my first pattern ... woo-hoo! It's called the Simplest Seed Stitch Scarf Ever, because it's ... well ... just about the simplest seed stitch scarf ever. It's truly a beginner level scarf, and a beginner level pattern. If you're just learning how to knit, this is the scarf for you.
I designed and knit this scarf for DH last winter, after he managed to lose three different store-bought scarves. I thought if he had a handmade scarf, he'd be more careful with it.

What I didn't count on was my older son's acquisitive nature, and his wile. As we got ready for school one wintry day last year, I noticed him wrapping the scarf around his neck.

"Isn't that Dad's?" I asked him.

"Well, he just left it laying around, so I took it," Ian replied.

"Where was it 'just laying around'?" I asked.

"On top of Dad's jacket," was the answer.

It seems Charles had switched to a warmer jacket and a balaclava that morning, so Ian figured the scarf was up for grabs. But Charles didn't seem to mind, and Ian wore the scarf all winter, so everybody won. Plus, having borrowed it myself, I can be totally honest when I say in my pattern that it looks good on men, women, and children!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

g is for gift

My birthday was last week. My husband gave me a beautiful card and what he called a "token" gift: a bottle of very nice zinfandel. He definitely gets points for knowing my favorite wine, as well as for trying to buy the label I prefer, even if it wasn't to be found in our neighborhood.

But to be honest, I feel like a bottle of wine is the kind of gift you give to a date you're hoping to get lucky with; not the kind of present you offer to your wife of nearly 17 years. Not to say that the wine wasn't lovely. It's just not a gift that says, "I love you honey, and I really appreciate you bearing my two children, not to mention all these years you've spent picking up my dirty underwear from the bedroom floor."

No, to say all that, you've got to give something a little more meaningful. A little more permanent.

So I took matters into my own hands.

Just about this time last year, Charles and I lost our camera. Not surprisingly, we don't agree on how that happened. We had gone to the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens with friends, then Charles dropped me and my girlfriends off at a restaurant and took the kids home. I could have sworn I left the camera in the trunk of the car; he's positive I took it into the restaurant with me. (It's a real possibility that we left it sitting on top of the trunk.) Either way, we never saw it again, and we've spent the past year sans camera. I've been taking most of my pictures on my cell phone, which may be convenient, but it's hardly high quality.

So I told Charles that he would be buying me a new camera as a birthday gift, and then I went and picked it up for myself. I'm very pleased with my new Nikon CoolPix. I've never had a point-and-shoot before, being kind of a DSLR snob. But this little camera is sweet. It cost nearly nothing, since it's a (gasp!) 2009 model. It's tiny and weightless, and slips right into the front pocket of my bag. And it's a cool race car red. Oh, yeah, it takes pretty good pictures too.

Now I feel like I got a meaningful gift. The gift of recording the significant and trivial events in my family's lives. The gift of logging my crafting successes and failures. The gift of sharing these moments with my friends and family. And the gift of feeling empowered. All this in a 3-ounce piece of fiberglass and electronics. Not too shabby.

Friday, March 26, 2010

f is for ...

First group of swatches. Fourth attempt. Finished. Finally.
It took 4 tries, but I'm finally satisfied with the first four swatches I did for the Master Hand Knitter course. I switched yarn three times, changed needle size twice, and tried two different blocking methods. But I finally have something I'm comfortable sending in to the experts for their critique, and now I can move on to the next group of swatches.

Will I be touching these four samples again before I send my package out? As they say here in Brooklyn, fuhgeddaboutit.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

e is for error

I love knitting and I love making jewelry, so I've been planning on knitting bangle bracelets ever since I saw some in Vogue Knitting's 2008 Holiday issue. The only thing is, I've been too cheap, or too lazy, to order bracelet blanks to wrap the knitting around.

Well, lo and behold, Susan Hajjar has a simple bangle bracelet pattern on Ravelry that uses plastic bottles as the bracelet form! (She's also posted a tutorial on her blog, unikatissima's compilation of tutorials.) Brilliant.
Finally, I have a way to create my bracelet blank on the cheap, a method that also allows me to feel good and green. Putting my knowledge of jewelry-making to work, I sized the plastic ring to slip over my knuckles, knit up my strip, sewed it onto the form, slipped it over my wrist, and ...
Whoa! Way too big. (Unless I didn't mind how it slipped off my wrist every time I lowered my hand.)

So what's a knitter to do? My husband suggested I unravel the knitting, cut down the plastic form and start again. That's definitely a logical suggestion; a viable way to go. I opted for this instead:
A crown for Seth's backup bunny. After all, White Bunny Rabbit is prince of the stuffed animals. (Black Bunny Rabbit is King. But he already has his own lovely paper bag hat that Charles fabricated at dinner the other night.)

When it comes to my knitting, I don't like to think of things like this as errors. I'd rather view them as tiny little lemons, waiting to be made into lemonade.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

danger: airborne children

As we've been doing for the past month or so, BFF and I headed over to the library this Saturday for our weekly knitting circle. When we got there, we found out our room wasn't available, because someone had thrown a rock through a window and it wasn't fixed yet. (God forbid they should have called me with a head's up.)

There are currently only four of us who show up regularly for this little group, so we decided the day was nice enough (70 degrees, cloudless sky) to tote our knitting to a nearby park and knit outside.
Here are Ellen, Ronni (aka: BFF) and Midge, enjoying the fresh air and good yarn. (Of course you don't see me. I'm behind the camera. Or the cell phone, in this case.) The other thing you don't see in this picture is the merry-go-round that was about 6 feet in front of us.
It was empty when we first got to the park, but it eventually became covered with crazed children. I mean, those kids were using that thing like a weapon: spinning it faster than it was ever meant to go, then deliberately letting go and launching themselves into space. (And often toward us. The benches you see behind the merry-go-round were the ones we were sitting on. See how close we were sitting?)

Fortunately, none of the kids actually broke a bone (although it really sounded like they would), and none of them actually came into contact with any of us, but if they had, we were ready. After all, as long as we've got our knitting bags, knitters are fully armed. We've got those wonderful pointy, metal sticks, and we know how to use 'em.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

d is for diet

And also for "don't need it."
Since I started working on the Master Hand Knitter course, I've lost 4 pounds without even trying. I'm so obsessed (yes, I will admit it) that I've got sticks and wool in my hands every spare moment, as well as during some moments I shouldn't be sparing. If my hands are filled with needles, they don't have room to be filled with chocolate.

The photo above was taken from the requisite monthly diet article in the April 2010 issue of Glamour, but honestly, it could have come from any women's magazine, couldn't it?

Here is my alternative to the same old diet story. I call it ...

4 Knitting Ways to Lose 4 Pounds
  1. Stick to it. Knit the same swatch three times trying to make consistently sized stitches.
  2. Add steps to your day. Leave your unblocked swatches on a shelf that you thought was out of your kids' reaches. Look for swatches when you're ready to start blocking, only to find they're gone. Get 20 minutes of calisthenics searching for the missing swatches.
  3. If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Block your first four swatches, then photograph them, only to realize that the work was not nearly as good looking as you first thought. Knit swatches a 4th time.
  4. And of course, take in fewer calories. Get so absorbed in getting it right this time, you totally forget to eat dinner. (I swear, this actually happened to me this week. And I am someone who never, absolutely ever forgets to eat.)
Not necessarily so quick and easy. But my weight-loss strategy, which I think I'll call the Obsessive-Compulsive Knitter's Diet, is effective anyway.

Monday, March 22, 2010

c is for calculator

I am working on The Knitting Guild of America's Master Hand Knitter course right now, which basically involves knitting swatch after swatch after swatch after swatch after ... well, you get the idea. It's a shipload of swatches.

Swatches 1, 2, 3, and 14 have to be knit on the same needles, using the same yarn so that you can compare the stitch and row gauge of different pattern stitches. (For those of you who don't knit, that means how many stitches and how many rows it takes to fill a specific measurement, i.e.; 4 stitches to the inch.) 

In order to be as specific as possible, you've got to measure to an eighth of an inch, then divide that into how many stitches or rows you've knit. You wind up getting a number with a gazillion decimal places. Then you've got to multiply that number by either 18 or 10, to determine how many stitches you'd need to make an 18" wide sweater piece, or how many rows you would have to knit to make your knitting 10 inches high.

I don't know about you, but multiplying 6.288888x18 is not my idea of a fun mental exercise. Ergo (I just love that word!), my calculator has become my new BFF. And seeing as how I'm only on Level I of three levels, I suspect the two of us will be joined at the hip for a long, long time.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

no doubt about it. passover's coming.

On Thursday, Seth asked me to make him some popcorn. I told him I'd make it for him after his nap. It seems that was not the right answer. Seth informed me that if I didn't make him popcorn before his nap, he would punish me. (Yes, that is the word he used.)

I was curious. "What kind of punishment will you give me?" I asked him, expecting him to say he would send me to my room for X minutes (which is the only "punishment" he's ever received).

"Sick cows and frogs," he answered.

I made him popcorn before naptime. I mean, I couldn't have him going all biblical on my butt.