Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Day 3

How do you keep your yarn wrangling organised?

I would call my yarn stash and related knitting paraphenalia relatively organized. Hey, no one's perfect, but for the most part, my yarn is in neat tidy bins and most of it's cataloged on Ravelry.

WIPs reside in a basket (although WIPs I'm actually working on seem to reside on one side of my couch). Needles are in rolls or binders.

I queue a LOT of patterns, but I clean out my queue regularly, when I realize I've become delusional about the number of things one person can knit in a lifetime. I'll even go so far as to say that the first page or so of my Rav queue includes notes on which yarns in my stash will be used. Planning--I haz it!

The only thing I'm missing is a bookshelf for my pattern books. For now, they call the floor of the bedroom home. You can't have everything.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Conformity, or why I'm not a hipster

Did you know it's the Second Annual Knitting and Crochet Blog Week? I didn't even know there was such a thing, but as soon as I read about it over at Knitted Bliss, I immediately decided I had to participate, because I'm a bandwagoner like that. No one will ever accuse me of being a hipster.

So, without further ado, some rambling answers to the Day 1 and Day 2 questions:

Part of any fibre enthusiast’s hobby is an appreciation of yarn. Choose two yarns that you have either used, are in your stash or which you yearn after and capture what it is you love or loathe about them.

Sheesh, I didn't realize this was going to involve remembering my knitting.

Well, I certainly can't say enough good things about madelinetosh. The colorways are stunning, the yarn is soft (especially Pashmina, but ToshDK as well), the yardage doesn't disappoint, stitch definition is always stellar, and no unpleasant surprises after your item is finished--yarn doesn't grow or shrink tremendously after blocking, no excessive pilling, no bleeding, just gorgeous knitting.

IMG_3817   IMG_3852  IMG_3765

Of course, you pay for all this wonderfulness--it's not cheap. But I think it's worth it.

(I did encounter a skein of pashmina that was horrendously tangled, but as I noted previously, this was apparently reported to and addressed by the company; the last skein I used had no tangles.)

As far as yarn I am . . . not so much a fan of, I'm going to have to go with Hempathy, which I used for a Trellis and Keyhole Tank. It's scratchy, splitty and bleeds like crazy. Knit up it looks dull and stiff. The tank is certainly wearable, but I wouldn't knit with the yarn again. I'm sure it works for some people, but not for me.


Look back over your last year of projects and compare where you are in terms of skill and knowledge of your craft to this time last year. Have you learned any new skills or forms of knitting/crochet?

One of the great things about knitting is that I feel like I'm always learning something new. Within the last year I've tackled my first "real" lace shawl, put afterthought thumbs in mittens (cutting your knitting!), and even started attempting colorwork (though, incidentally, it's really slowed down because I lost the Amazing Doohickey. And by lost, I mean the cats found it, decided to play with it, and knocked it under some piece of furniture where it is currently hiding.). I expect to keep learning, whether it's a new technique, new construction, or a new stitch pattern.

IMG_3633  IMG_3817  IMG_3404

And to finish up, a note on MediaPeruana, which a few commenters, er, commented on. First, don't worry that you don't know what it means, because it doesn't have anything to do with knitting, it's just a cutesy name that makes me smile.

And secondly, well, here's what it means: Peruana means "Peruvian." "Media," interestingly, has a few meanings. The one I intended is "half," making the name HalfPeruvian. But, word nerds might appreciate that "media" can also be used as a noun--"medias" are stockings or socks. So if you interpret it that way, it means Peruvian Sock. Which isn't entirely inappropriate, given that I do occasionally manage to knit a whole pair of socks.

Stay tuned for more random questions tomorrow, as we cruise through the Second Annual Knitting and Crochet Blog Week!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Can I see some ID?

Identity is such an interesting concept. It's one of those uniquely human things we sit around pondering, or alternately worrying about--I highly doubt my cat lays about the house thinking, "This is so unlike me--who have I become??" Which isn't to say she doesn't have plenty of personality--she just doesn't sit around thinking about it. Maybe she just can't stay awake long enough.

For the last 13 years or so, I have been a Vegetarian. That's who I am, Kristen the Vegetarian. I'm also Kristen the Girl who Speaks Spanish, Kristen the Orioles Fan and Kristen the Writer, but the way vegetarianism has shaped my life leads me to associate more strongly with that moniker.

However, after some serious thought, I recently decided to start the Great Seafood Eating Experiment.

My vegetarianism has always been a burden on me, but I really started fretting about what a burden it is for the boy (who, incidentally, has stopped eating beef, pork and chicken, and now only eats seafood), and what a burden it might be for my future child(ren). Constantly checking restaurant menus in advance (almost impossible to do while traveling, and often fruitless because there's nothing vegetarian available anyway), trying to tactfully warn relatives and friends who invite us for meals, attempting to politely decline meaty foods without insulting them when they forget, frantically searching for vegetarian foods meat-eaters might be willing to eat when we invite them for meals . . . not to mention being frequently put on the spot to explain my choices, which I aim to do without disparaging the meal sitting in front of us. It all adds up to a giant pain the culo.

(Spanish lesson for the day: culo means ass; not "cool")

Which I am ok with for just me, but as I get older, I more fully realize that it often entails imposing my choice on those around me as well. (Not that my wonderful friends and family aren't willing to accommodate me!)

So I thought I might try to meet the boy halfway and add seafood to my diet. It will help me get more protein (important for baby time, whenever that is), most (not all, but most) seafood is wild caught rather than farmed (and farmed sea creatures are raised much more humanely than chicken, cows and pigs), and wild sea creatures are quite likely to be eaten by other predators.

These are the justifications I'm using anyway, they help me sleep a smidge better.

And thus far, the experiment is going well. Fish is fine--I missed tuna. Shrimp is . . . well, larger shrimp are too meaty, I need to start small (And I swear I can feel them swimming around inside my tummy--guilty conscience much?). Thing with tentacles are really just not for me. I don't know about crabs--as a Baltimore native, I dearly miss steamed crabs with Old Bay, but being boiled alive sounds pretty horrible. We'll see about that in June.

But what's more of a concern is the nagging feeling that I'm losing a part of my identity. That makes me a little bit sad. Or a lot bit, depending on my mood.

Fortunately, I have other things that make me ME. One of those is being a Knitter. I haven't been a Knitter nearly as long as a Vegetarian, but I've certainly embraced it. And I hope to find a new identity soon as a Designer. Sure, I only have one pattern, which I haven't even released yet, but something about having a creation that's my very own gives me an overwhelming sense of accomplishment. I feel like I have the potential to become Someone, which I sadly don't feel much in my actual career.

Which is probably why I've already jumped the gun and created this:

Whaddya think?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Aruba, Jamaica, Bermuda, Bahamas . . . Guyana?

A little blogging break, as I spent last week in Guyana for work.

I know what you're thinking: where on earth is that?? And don't worry, you're not alone. I can't think of a single person I told I was going to Guyana that actually knew where it was.

Except for, presumably, the Guyanese. And I'm not so sure about that.

So to put your mind at ease, I will tell you: it's nowhere.

I mean, technically, it's on the northern coast of South America, between Venezuela and Suriname.

But really, it may as well be nowhere.

So on that note, a few travel tips from yours truly:

Places you should never, ever visit: Georgetown, Guyana.
Airlines you should never, ever fly: Liat
Jobs you should never, ever have: mine

Since I'm the contact person for Guyana on my team, I got to participate in a four-person site visit to the capital of Guyana, Georgetown, to try to figure out what the heck is going on with their ministries and why they routinely fail to participate in or contribute to our organization, when we're basically offering them free money and training every other week.

(Can I mention that Jamaica is also one of my contact countries, and yet, my boss has yet to send me there?)

It took 15 hours to get there (including a 6 hour layover in Trinidad--this trip was like a tour of the Caribbean, but all I saw were airports). And then we had 16 meetings in 4 days--a really relaxing journey.

(Can I also mention that our Executive Secretary used to be the U.S. ambassador to Guyana and could not stop giving us history lessons about the city--the same lessons, over and over?)

Georgetown is not--I repeat, NOT--a tourist destination. There is a nice, resort-type hotel there called the Pegasus (I didn't stay there because it cost nearly my entire per diem per night, and I enjoy eating), but there is absolutely, positively nothing to do. The big "thing" is walking on the sea wall that divides the city from the beach.

This is an interesting thing about Georgetown--it's on the coast, but the beaches are dirty and the water is muddy, so there's no beach-going, hence, no tourism.

There are also no sidewalks. Which makes for some interesting walking tours of the city. My life repeatedly flashed before my eyes, not only while walking, but also while being driven around.

Georgetown is home to one of the world's largest wooden churches. Which is interesting to look at for all of 5 seconds, and then you're done and wondering what you're going to do with your remaining 4 days in the country.

I've heard that in the country's interior, which is jungle, you can do adventure things like zip lining and hiking, and there's a pretty waterfall, but I didn't have time for any of that. Maybe it's fun, I don't know.

What I do know is Georgetown is not fun. It's dirty. It's rainy. The rain causes instant flooding because the city is actually below sea level (why do humans do this??). It's hot. It's incredibly humid. The food is terrible (although if you like chicken, you're in luck). It's terribly underdeveloped. It's depressing.

(Oh, on the outskirts of the city, there are stray donkeys. Stray. Donkeys. Really amusing to watch, but sad to think about.)

So, needless to say, I was eager to get the heck out of there by the time our mission was complete. And so of course, that didn't happen. Instead, Liat cancelled my flight to Barbados.

I showed up at the airport, giddy smile on my face, ready to hop on that plane and get home to my kitties and my boy. I marched up to the counter with my itinerary in hand and presented it with naive confidence. And the guy looked at it, looked at me, and said, "that flight's cancelled."

And smiled.

Like that's a hilarious circumstance I'll really get a kick out of.

When actually, I just wanted to kick him.

And it got better.

Why was the flight cancelled? "Not enough people, it's not profitable."

So, you've screwed my entire flight schedule for your bottom line?

"Oh, I mean, there's a maintenance problem."

Uh huh.

So, I waited around the dingy airport for four hours until they shipped me to Barbados on the afternoon flight, and I spent the evening alone (I was the only one on the team that was supposed to take that flight---thanks, boss, for making a last minute decision about my participation, so I was stuck with the worst flights imaginable) in a depressing airport hotel. I made it onto the first flight to Miami in the morning (Liat didn't rebook any of my flights; they helpfully just put me on standby), and then spent Saturday wandering from gate to gate at the Miami airport trying to get on a flight to DC.

But I finally, finally made it.

(Incidentally, Barbados looked gorgeous. I would love to go back there under better circumstances.)

And what do I have to show for my trip? A half-finished shawl, which isn't too shabby. Getting my knitting needles through airport security on every flight almost felt like an accomplishment.

But I'm really, really hoping I don't have to do any traveling any time soon.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

A very belated Valentine

Sometimes I make bad decisions.

For example, the time I decided to make homemade butternut squash gnocchi. I don't think there was a single solitary millimeter of space in my kitchen not covered in flour. I must've used an entire bag of flour, not to mention the arduous task of hacking open the squash, and in the end, it tasted pretty much like regular gnocchi.

Or the time in 7th grade when I read that combing mayonnaise through your hair was a great way to add shine. It's also a great way to gunk up your hair with oily egg muck that takes four tries to shampoo out. Looking back, I'm supremely lucky my parents didn't make me go to school with mayonnaise on my head to teach me a lesson.

In Knitting Land, a make all sorts of bad decisions, one of which is Setting Deadlines. It starts out innocently enough--"Oh, it'd be great to have this sweater finished to wear to Stitches"--but it's an instant jinx. Completely unpredictable, absurd knitting disasters will occur, one after the other, guaranteeing that the sweater won't be finished for Stitches, or possibly ever. If I'd just kept my mouth shut, the sweater would probably knit itself in my sleep.

In February, I made this mistake. I thought it would be just smashing to have a Puff-Sleeved Feminine Cardigan to wear for Valentine's Day. It's short-sleeved and knit in DK weight, and I figured it couldn't possibly take too long to knit. So I got started.

And I was right, for a change, it knit up quickly, and I was moving along at a good pace, right on target for V-Day. (Was I a bit too smug about my astonishing progress? Perhaps.)

The only thing was . . . "Hmmmm, I seem to be going through this yarn rather quickly. But I knit a gauge swatch, and I got gauge, and I'm using the exact kind and quantity of yarn called for in the pattern, so, I must be imagining things. Except . . . well, I'm down to my last ball and, um, there's an awful lot left to do. Let's see what the Ravelry populous had to say about this sweater. I mean, it won't fix anything, and it probably would've been smart to check on before I bought the yarn and started the sweater, but at least I'll know."

Sure enough, the vast majority of the knitters who made this sweater reported that it took much more yarn than the pattern called for.

Of course.

And it only got worse. I bought the yarn for this sweater years ago. Dye lot loooooong gone.

I got a headache imagining having to rip out my whole sweater and start over with new yarn, and sent myself to bed early. Then I woke up and raged against Stephanie Japel and the entire Knitting Establishment. How dare they publish such fradulent information?!?

And then I went back to Ravelry, and threw myself a pity party in one of the forums.

This was actually the most effective thing I did. The previously-mentioned Stephanie, who will from this day forward be referred to as My Hero Stephanie, stumbled upon my whining, and promptly produced 2 balls of Knit Picks Merino Style in Hollyberry, dye lot 40515. It was like magic. Possibly dark magic, but I was in no position to judge. 

(For the record, I can vouch that Stephanie is a Hufflepuff, not a Slytherin. Or so she would have us believe.)

(And props as well to the Postal Service for actually getting the yarn to me--that would've been a sad, but unsurprising addition to the story, yarn lost in the mail!)

While I couldn't finish the sweater for Valentine's Day, I did manage to finish it before the end of the month, check it out:

wow, I'm super pale! translucent!

Pattern: Puff-sleeved Feminine Cardigan
Yarn: Knit Picks Merino Style, Hollyberry, 6.5 skeins
Needles: US 4 and 6
Size: 34"
Rav link

No mods, though I may have made it a bit longer if I hadn't been running out of yarn. Aside from the yarn quantity drama, the pattern was otherwise quite simple and straightforward. Minimal seaming under the arms, otherwise seamless. And it's a great fit.


So, how much extra yarn did I end up needing? Almost 1.5 skeins! That's an extra 175 yards, give or take.

The good news is, I absolutely adore this sweater, so it was all worth it.


Wow, this has become a long post. Maybe I should've skipped the mayonnaise story. Ah well.

Anyone interested in a few more photos and details about my first (of many, I hope) design can see my Ravelry project page here.