Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Japanese Inspiration

Japanese craft books, fabrics, yarn, and the like are huge in the craft world, that is nothing new. But I've really been feeling the love for all things Japanese lately. Well, I've always loved pretty much anything Asian-influenced, but in the last three or four days all these things have appeared in my range of vision all at once.

A couple of months ago I stumbled upon the blog Moonstitches and was instantly taken in. Alex's style of photography and overall aesthetic is... my favorite. I don't know how else to put it. I love what she chooses to photograph and how she presents it, and I love the simplicity of her knitting and crochet, letting color choice and small details become the focus. Today she posted a Flickr set with her photographs of the Tokyo International Quilt Festival, and I think it's the most inspiring thing I've seen in ages. Those quilts are amazing! I don't have the kind of patience it takes for the intricate detail on most of them, but they are all inspiring and now I have a few ideas to play with.

I've browsed Japanese craft books online and in person numerous times, but I have yet to buy one. None of the ones that have been translated into English and become more widely available have really appealed to me. But yesterday I was scrolling through the backlog of blog posts in my Google Reader with Mina sitting on my lap, and she spotted this:

"Bunnyyyyyyyyyyy!" she squealed as it scrolled up the screen. I went back so she could see. HUGE smile on her face. "Bunny!" So I asked "should we make you a bunny?" "Yeeeeeeaaaaaahhhhhhh!" (She never says "yes," it is always a long, drawn out, soft yeeaaahhhh.) I've never made a softie, other than the bunny I knitted for Mina in the spring, but I think I'd better give it a shot. This book will be at the top of my list once the book-buying ban is called off.

On Saturday a box with belated Christmas gifts from my sister arrived. Mina's had come earlier - two books by Taro Gomi, Bus Stops and Scribbles. I had bought My Friends when Mina was tiny because I loved the illustrations so much, and it has been one of our favorites ever since. We love Taro Gomi! Bus Stops is already in heavy rotation among the favorite read-aloud books. Anyway, Saturday, books for me arrived! One of them has been on my wishlist for at least a year:

A Year in Japan by Kate Williamson. It's beautiful, and makes me want to start sketching. What I did instead though was pull out a spool of the Habu silk stainless that J got for me in NYC over the summer to start a scarf like Habu's Kusha Kusha kit (that's a Ravelry link). I don't have the kit or pattern, just the silk stainless, so I'm basing my scarf on the photos of other people's projects. I'm also planning to use a variegated laceweight mohair rather than merino, and I don't think I'll felt it. (I don't like felted mohair. Too muppet-like.) I will say about the silk stainless though - it takes some patience. It's very slow-going, and you'd better not be a perfectionist if you plan to knit with it. I took this photo on Sunday afternoon and my kusha-like scarf doesn't look any bigger even though I worked on it over two evenings. Each stitch must be slow and deliberate. I can't wait until it's a pleasing length and I get to add the mohair. It should go much more quickly double-stranded.

To round out my Japanese-inspired week, on Thursday night I get to go to a talk on campus given by Liza Dalby. I first heard about her several years ago when I became interested in Japanese women's pillow books and learned about Lady Murasaki. Ms. Dalby's novel had recently been published (actually I discovered it by accident at Costco), so I read it but became more interested in her other books to date, Geisha and Kimono. Both have been on my miles-long reading list for a few years. Dalby is an anthropologist, and I'm interested in her perspective on these subjects that interest me anyway. But now her most recent book, which I just found out about, is more appealing to me:

I'm interested in different forms of diaries and journals from both a personal and an academic perspective, so I'm excited about this book. I fully plan to break my "buy nothing January" and book-buying bans in order to have this in time to get it autographed. I'm really looking forward to her talk as I am sure it will be fascinating. Did I mention that she is the first and only non-Japanese person to have become a geisha? Yeah. I'll be sure to post Friday and let you know what it was like. Until then, I'll be slowly knitting and quickly reading.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Sweater love

wicked - finished!
Originally uploaded by everydayautumn.

Here she is finally, my first completed adult-size sweater. I had some time on Saturday to play with the timer on my camera, which turned out to be easier than I expected although this was the only decent photo I captured. I don't have a tripod, so I had to put the camera on a shelf on one side of the room and then dash over to the other side and wait for the click. I had a slight look of panic on my face in this one, which I cropped out - no need to show that!

I absolutely loved working with this yarn - Dream in Color's worsted weight superwash merino. It's so round and soft and squishy, and the subtle color variegation is pretty without being distracting. I didn't bother alternating skeins and had no trouble with pooling or streaking. I used just under three 250-yard skeins for this project.

The pattern, of course, is Wicked by Zephyrstyle. It was straightforward and easy to follow, and the fit is perfect. I made the smallest size and customized the shaping to fit me, which was simple to do since I could try the sweater on at any point to make sure I was on track. I originally made it too short and ended up having to unpick the bind off, rip back the border, and add length. I hadn't done the pocket at first, so that was no problem. I decided to add the pocket when I re-knit because the sweater seemed too bland without it. I went with 3/4 sleeves because they seemed to fit with the sweater's style, and I thought that worsted weight 100% wool would be too warm indoors with long sleeves. It just figures that the last couple of weeks have been colder than usual here and I was too cold in the house while wearing this on Saturday.

Even so, I think the sweater is wearable even if it is slightly more casual than I usually dress. Sure, I wear jeans all the time, but I dress them up a little. I don't even own a pair of sneakers or any shoes more casual than black ballet flats.

Which reminds me. We're expecting snow today and tomorrow and I don't have any appropriate footwear. I haven't been able to find a pair of boots that fits my specifications and budget, so everything I wear goes with either ballet flats or high-heeled maryjanes. I tried to find a pair of rain boots this weekend (black, please) but only found kids' and men's sizes. I do hope campus shuts down if we actually get snow tonight...

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

So, still no photos of the sweater I finished over a week ago! That was one of my weekend goals, to catch up on photos of the handknits. I was even going to play with the timer on the camera, which I have yet to use. It was so cold and windy that the girlie and I huddled indoors reading and watching movies with a fire blazing in the woodstove. Sunday was sunny and freezing (that's the thing with the northeast winds - clear, very cold, and dry, with windchill like you wouldn't believe) so it would have been a good day to stay inside and take pictures near the living room windows, but I couldn't find the cord for the camera battery recharger. When we did finally venture out of the house on Monday, I didn't feel like wearing the sweater, and the only photo I took was this:

Random, I know. It made me laugh. This is at the Village Green near my house, in one of those places where people can donate money and get their name inscribed on a brick. I wish more of them were like this.

With freezing weather on the way I decided another sweater was a good idea, so I cast on for the Duchess Raglan, a free pattern from Classic Elite. I like the slip stitch detail along the raglan lines and the simplicity of the whole thing. The things I wear most are very simple with clean lines, so this is a good choice for me. I'm using bulky merino from handpaintedyarn.com that I originally ordered for Cherie Amour. I loved Cherie Amour when I first saw it and ordered the yarn almost immediately. After having to wait a few months to cast on, I realized that as pretty as it is, it isn't something I'd wear often. Not plain enough, I guess. Just call me boring, but I prefer plain clothing with interesting accessories to clothing that has a lot going on. Anyway, with a gauge of 13 st/4" I thought I might be able to knit the whole thing over the long weekend. I probably could have, but Saturday night I typed a long e-mail with my wrists at a funny angle and that was enough to cause one of my unexplained chronic pain issues to flare up in my right wrist. It was painful enough that I did not knit a single stitch or even turn on my laptop from Saturday evening through Monday evening. Whoa. Instead, I read The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon in its entirety - it was quick-moving and entertaining enough to do so (and I just love a gothic novel sometimes, if you didn't guess by my daughter's name!) and listened to Mina "read" aloud to me. She's in a phase where she doesn't want me to read to her, she wants to do it herself. When she walks over to the sofa with a book, she looks at me and says firmly "Mimi!" (her name for herself), meaning that I am not allowed to read it, she is going to. If I try to watch or obviously listen, she points at me and says "Mama's book!" to tell me to stop looking at her and read my own book. So bossy! The last two evenings, since I am able to knit again, she says "arns!" (yarn) instead. So, listening to her read, I've gotten through the first half of the waist shaping on this sweater. I converted it to top down so I could be certain it would fit the way I wanted, and I had just finished the waist decreases before I put the girlie to bed tonight. I'll post photos...sometime! Until then, here's my unblogged Odessa from an entire year ago:

I used Rowan Yorkshire Tweed DK and no beads. It was supposed to be for J. originally but it came out too small, so I wore it and loved it all last winter and this fall, sharing occasionally with the girlie. But, it doesn't work with my new haircut (bangs! for the first time in nearly 20 years!) so now Mina gets it all to herself. I'm halfway through a slouchy Gretel for me, but waiting for my sister to catch up since we're supposed to be doing it as a knitalong. Again, photos...someday.

Friday, January 18, 2008

The constant cardi search...

could be over? I think I just might have found my perfect cardigan pattern!

Brompton, by Alice Bell (click the photo to be taken to her blog and the free (!) pattern)

Wide neckline: check. Raglan shaping: check. Long length: check. Extra long sleeves: check. Not boring looking: check! I love the texture detail and that the cuffs can button back out of the way. Just perfect! Since I've committed to no yarn buying until the Spring Equinox, I'm looking at my stash and wondering if Cascade Pima Tencel would work.

We're gearing up for another nor'easter this weekend, lasting into next week (and no, I'm not on the East Coast, I'm on the West, but we call them that here, too). I'm wondering how quickly a bulky merino top-down raglan would knit up....

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Swing Thing, now with buttons

Not the clearest of shots, but it's hard to get a two-year-old to hold still for long:

I'm not pleased with the buttons on this, but I didn't have the sweater with me during the quick run into the fabric store when I bought them. In case you can't tell, they are those sort of filigree-looking metal (or they might actually be plastic) type, and they are strategically placed to hide two spots where I forgot to switch to garter stitch at the front edge. Luckily the mishaps were evenly spaced. I'd like to swap these buttons out for either dark wood or maybe even the translucent, deep magenta plastic ones I saw. I'm not sure.

I do hope this sweater still fits next fall...the girlie is so tall (nearly to the top of my hip!), but I think this has a little room to grow.

Monday, January 14, 2008

I'm late (as always), but... Happy New Year

I was hoping to have a banner done this weekend and do sort of a mini "re-launch" of the blog for 2008 today, but oh well. The new look will be done eventually, and I do have specific plans for more content. I'll get there.

I'm not really a New Year's Resolution sort of person. I do, though, tend to get sucked into the frenzy of organizing and starting new projects that is so prevalent in January. Inspired by Miss Violet (or Eliza B, as she'll always be in my mind anyway), I took a look at the 101 in 1001 project. But, when I sat down on January 3rd to think about it, I could only come up with 30 or so things, and that was really stretching it. I'm sure I could break some of them down more specifically and also think of a whole slew of smaller items to add, but I think I'm happy for now with my 30-ish items. Five or so of them are Big Things, especially the top four. Big.

1. New job
2. Move (back) to Seattle
3. Finish thesis/MA program
4. Get into MLIS program

See? Biggies. Not a single day goes by without me spending some time and energy worrying about that master's program that I abandoned early in 2005 - I was pregnant, working full time, exhausted, and had a lot of other things going on in my life at the time. At that point, I had one class and my thesis to go. That was it. It's an interdisciplinary humanities M.A. and my concentration is in critical theory and modern world literature in English. I'm interested in subjectivity and life writing, specifically diaries/journals. Now that it's been so long since I've even thought about these things, trying to get back into it is scary. Theory is tough, and having ignored it for nearly three years just picking up again is daunting. Plus my early classes are past their five year expiration date now, and I don't know what that means - possibly more coursework. This is a distance learning program, which was great in a way because it meant that I could live anywhere, move whenever necessary, and still stay in the program. It's also bad - I've figured out that I don't work well that way. I need the motivation of face-to-face scheduled time with a professor. But, I want to finish it. And then I want to do a MLIS program. I've been thinking about this for nearly four years. I hope, someday (when I grow up?), to work as a humanities librarian.

So, there are my big four. There are more specifics involved with the first two (and they actually lead to the fourth one), but I don't feel like going there today. Some of the other items on my list involve food and cooking, organization, writing and art, crafts with the girlie, and of course knitting. I'll share things here and there as time goes on. I'm not looking at is as a 101 (or 30) in 1001 project, but more of a list of things to remind me of my goals and interests and the way I want my life to take shape.

Wow, I don't think I originally intended to go into that with this post. This morning I wanted to finally write about this house that I see from the window of the bus every day on my way to work. But that really deserves a post of its own, since this one is already getting long and photo-less. I have found some toys I can share with you though. I used a banner maker from Mandarin Design to make the header graphics I stuck in my previous post. Scroll about halfway down the page to the "Code Your Own Banner" option. I also played with TypoGenerator (linked and explained on that same page) and got these:

They look like postcards to me. Kind of fun. The other toy that I had never heard of and am now wondering WHY is the GIMP. Open source (free!) photo editing software that looks like it can do everything if only I could figure it out. I've never used Photoshop or even seen it before. My photo editing software is whatever the free thing is you get with MSN internet access. If you've used Photoshop even a little, you can probably easily use the GIMP. And it's free! My husband knows Photoshop from work, so I'm hoping to lasso him into helping me build some images similar to the CSS banners I made using the Mandarin Designs tool and my Flickr photos. Fun!

So anyway, I hope the new year is treating everyone well so far. I always feel like I get my sense of creativity and possibility back after the slump I tend to go through in late November and December (once the light goes away and it gets so dreary). Yes, this is Everyday Autumn, but I really mean early autumn. September and October? Yes! November and December? No, thanks. Can I skip? My crayon doodles for Mina, when she gives me a break from drawing penguins and Mr. Potato Head, are already all about grape hyacinths, alliums, and robin's nests. My favorite crayons right now from the box o' 96 are wisteria, purple mountains majesty, asparagus, robin's egg blue, chestnut, and copper. All right, I'm so chatty today! It's time for lunch!

Friday, January 11, 2008

everyday autumn

(Testing out a banner maker....I just can't figure out how to put the banner where it goes!)

everyday autumn