Monday, June 27, 2011

My Needles Are Where, Exactly?

So, do you see this fiber?

Very lovely - I agree. It will eventually become this shawl.

The Dianna Shawl, one of
the many beautiful shawls
designed by the mastermind
behind Colours from Chaos
I say eventually because ... well ... this entrelac pattern has been kicking my needles to Timbuktu. I thought it would be the entrelac technique that would give me fits. But noooooooo. It's the darn lace - I cannot get past the first block! I think I've frogged that sucker at least four times.

Now, I'm a good knitter - I'd say better than average, but not an expert by any means. Clearly I can do something right, since I've turned this pile:

into this:

Nevertheless, there are just some patterns that, for whatever reason, one seems to have a blindspot. I've got another shawl that's been in hibernation since last year that others find quite pleasant, easy even (heavens to Mergatroy!), yet for me ... well, you get the idea.

Now I'm certain all those individuals who think the pattern is so easy have all kinds of advice, tips and tricks for me. They might even want to show off their FOs in an effort to indicate just how snappily they completed their projects (and hey, everyone's entitled to strut their stuff). But what if I want to learn these patterns and get through them on my own? What if I absorb information and this type of material best on my own? I don't always want to know your tips or tricks - I like finding many things out for myself. Really. In my own time. In my own space.

I learned a long time ago (through many different types of education and settings) that one can only put information out there. But really internalizing the lesson? That's different for everyone, and the motivation must come from within. I trust that experiences, perspectives, truths, are different. We can all still support each other ... just let me learn this on my own, ok?

Brought to you from somewhere between here and Timbuktu.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Finally a Proper Fee-Fi(ber)-F.O. Friday

I must say I am truly pleased that I actually had an FO siting this week. I'm pretty pleased with my Scribbles shawl.
I've been working on this steadily, at night, since the middle of May. Because it's just garter stitch, it has been my go-to project when I wanted to unwind before heading off to sleepy-land. This shawl is all about the fiber used - the delicate, laceweight Kid Merino (28% mohair/28% merino/44% micro nylon) and the awesomely colored Noro Silk Garden Sock (colorway #S84). I love the interplay of delicate and earthy in this shawl, as well as the fringe.

However (always a softie for more startitis punishment), I also used this amazing organic superwash merino sock yarn from Lollipop Cabin:

to commence a Solar Flare-patterned shawl:

An amazing colorway? Yes.

Yet another project? You bet.

Do I need to get my head examined? Quite possibly.

I know I am a little late to this week's Fiber Arts Friday dance, but do check back with Andrea's blog to see what other fiber impossibilities everyone has gotten themselves into.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Well I'll Be ...

 ... amazed and pleasantly surprised! I am this week's Wizard of Whimsy awardee (although I do wish dt would come up with a more gender-inclusive term - maybe just "Wiz"?). The submission of the following painting got me this award (which is voted on every Tuesday by the general Internet public, so I can't believe I actually won!):

Feel free to check out dt's blog to see what else he has up his artsy sleeve.

And, finally, on the "well I'll be" meter ... I also received notice the other day that one of my recent design submissions has been approved for publication! While I can't say much more than that (and those of you who know all about design publishing understand why), I've been pretty much over the moon about it since I found out.

Now, back to everyone's regularly-scheduled week.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Food and Books and TV Oh My!

These blueberries, sprinkled with a
little sugar, were so good.
As some of you know know I spent a week blogging about my adventures trying to feed myself for a week on the U.S. equivalent of one British pound per day.

At about the same time, a few blogs I read wrote scathing reviews of "Extreme Couponing," a cable television show I have never watched. While I can't believe people actually pay to watch this show, it clearly has struck an apocalyptic, voyeuristic nerve.

I wanted to counteract "Extreme Couponing" with highlighting a show - on free, network television - that is making an earnest effort to change bad eating habits at the root: kids and schools. I'm talking about Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution. If you haven't seen this one-hour show, take the time to check it out. This Friday will, I think, be this season's finale.

And what a finale it just might be. Last season, Jamie attempted to change eating habits in the school system of the "fatest city in America" - Huntington, West Virginia. He took a lot of public verbal flogging, but did manage to work with city, federal USDA officials, as well as the public school system's cooks in an effort to get them off processed, pre-packaged meals and onto an eating regime based on whole, fresh foods. At the same time, Jamie also opened up a kitchen in Huntington, where kids and their parents could learn how to cook in a more healthy manner. All this was filmed and televised. I gave the citizens of Huntington a lot of credit for allowing Jamie's cameras unfettered access. It was a cold, stark, most often unpleasant truth.

So why the potentially big finale this year? Because Jamie set hit cooking sights, and cameras, on the Los Angeles Unified School System. The school system has definitely been unified - in sending him packing. When he first started filming, the show wasn't on the air, and so school officials (basically, the former head of the school board) gave him the run-around, and even sent police in to monitor the scene. However, since the show's airing commenced in June, things have drastically turned around for Jamie, thanks to his own ingenuity, as well as the sacking of the school board head.

Most importantly, Oliver is showing, in some amazing ways, the huge flaws in our public school system's dietary approach. One such approach had to do with a school bus, a dump truck, and sugar. Fill in the blanks. 

And, since many children in public schools rely so heavily on this food (for many, it's their main source of food), he deftly links childhood obesity and food-related diseases (most notably diabetes) to the school lunch system. What the cameras in Los Angeles are also recording is the cultural and socio-economic intersection of our public school system's food approach, and Oliver doesn't even need to address it. One need only watch.

You might be able to catch previous episodes on, if you're so inclined. Oliver is likeable, and his way with the kids easy, respectful and caring.

Aditionally (since you know I'm all about the books), please take the time to read In Defense of FoodMichael Pollan's absolute tour de force on why we need to chuck out all prepackaged "foods." A truly clear and gifted writer, Pollan's entire approach can be summed up in seven words (found on the back cover, so I'm not giving away the store): "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." Besides, any book with the subtitle "An Eater's Manifesto" would get my attention every time. You'll be glad you picked it up.
Finally, I found a relatively unknown book right around the time I was getting ready for my weekly food odyssey that some might find useful. Quick-Fix Healthy Mix by Casey Kellar and Nicole Kellar-Munoz offers an amazing array of home-made substitutes for much of the pre-packaged foods many of us rely on so heavily. (Ok, I know I have.) After this mother/daughter team gets through the basics of things like recipe sizes, shelf life, and the necessary tools to put these mixes together, they walk the reader through virtually every inch of one's kitchen, providing healthful, homemade alternatives that can be prepared and stored by everyone. No special kitchen skills are needed. From breakfast to soup and bean mixes to barbeque sauces and other condiments, I cannot tell you how jam-packed the 200+ pages of this book are. It has been a truly pleasant surprise.

Have a good week. I'm off to hull some fresh strawberries.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Still in Process This Fee-Fi(ber)-F.O. Friday

Happy Friday, everyone! While I have no finished projects (still), I do have some progress to report. Note to self: pick smaller projects.

So, remember this crochet cardi's humble beginning?

Now, it's starting to show signs of cardi life:

I am particularly pleased with the yarn - both fiber and color. It's Plymouth Yarn's Grass, a cotton/hemp blend. I'm loving the drape, as well as the goes-great-with-jeans colorway (#9089). I'm a little farther along now than when this picture was taken, so I'm almost ready to complete the edging in the front and start on the sleeves (it's a long-sleeved cardi). The original Doris J. Chan-designed pattern called for ties, but I think I'm going to instead hit my button stash. Additionally, the top-down construction is allowing me to try it on as I go. I love that!

And remember my crocheted version of the Citron shawl:

Well, it's growing steadily, and now looks something like this:

I'm actually a little farther along. It's due to be completed by the end of June, since it's a test for the designer. It still looks like a lettuce leaf; the magic is definitely going to happen when I block this little green beauty. I hadn't realized the original, knit version was made for the 2007 holiday season. Things to keep in mind.

Finally, I received this lovely fingering weight yarn in a swap package:

This colorway is just awesome. There are some superb yarn handpainters out there - I think this is a prime example.

I hope each of you have a fun Summer Solstice weekend, and check back with Andrea's blog to see everyone's fibery acts of derring do!

Friday, June 10, 2011

A Slightly Different Fee-Fi(ber)-F.O. Friday

Since I am momentarily in the middle of several different projects, I thought I might like to share with you a few books I’ve recently read.

In Crochet!, Marie-NoĆ«lle Bayard has created one of the most effective and useful crochet books one can add to a home library. Crochet novices, as well as more seasoned crafters, will each find something useful in Bayard’s approach.

Straight from the Preface’s opening paragraph, it is clear that Bayard is ready to shake things up: “Crochet isn’t just a limp lace edging for tired-looking doilies or trimmings on granny dresses from generations ago.” Indeed. She then starts at the beginning in chapter 1 – “Techniques” leads off with a fairly comprehensive yarn section, then moves on to hooks, terminology (including a compendium of crochet symbols) and, finally, how to start a project. And Bayard means the beginning: she includes clear photographs on how to hold the yarn and hook (for both right- and left-handed crafters!), so even if you’ve never before held a crochet hook, she’s got you covered.

This book comes complete with stitch patterns, lace, and motifs (composites as Bayard refers to them) that are original and fresh. She then utilizes them in projects that are sophisticated, yet very accessible. The Bucket Bag (p. 56), Carry-all (p. 60), Square Pillow (p. 108), Carrier Bag (p. 111), Slippers (yes, really!) (p. 150), and Lampshade (p. 182) are several of the many great projects both beginners and seasoned crocheters will want to sink their respective hooks into.

Bayard’s many years in the textile and design industry shine through each and every page of this amazingly well-rounded book. I leave you will just one word: fantastique!

Finally, in Fiber Gathering, Joanne Seiff traveled the country and compiled the sights, fiber, and fun of her favorite fiber festivals. She wrapped them up in some original projects and serves them up for your year-round fiber fun.

While the projects might entice some, it’s the brief glimpse into regional fiber that drew me in and kept me engaged. Plan your next road trip around this great round-up of the best of fiber gatherings throughout the country.

I leave you with a few of my fondest pictoral memories from one of last year’s fiber gatherings I attended (which didn’t make the book’s cut) – the Oregon Flock & Fiber Festival. It will always have a special place in my heart, since it was my first fiber festival – and roving photographer gig. I know it won’t be my last.

Happy Fiber Arts Friday – and definitely check in with Andrea's blog to see what everyone else has up their respective fibery sleeves!

Monday, June 6, 2011

A Day In The Life

So, at the excellent suggestion of (back in the beginning of April) Miss Rain over at The Adventures of the Gingerbread Lady, several of us from Ravelry's The Blog Hub have decided to take some photos of a "typical" day in our lives and share them with all of you.

I decided to share with you a photo montage of some of my weekend, since summer (finally!) arrived in the Pacific Northwest. While I've captioned each of the photos, I want to be fairly short on copy. This is a typical way to spend the weekend around these parts:

1. My "day" started in the late afternoon - from my balcony,
it doesn't get much better than this in June in the Pacific Northwest.
Notice the boats. There were a lot more of them earlier in the afternoon.

2. From this ginormous rhodie bush ...

3. I cut some fresh blooms for my
dining table.

4. Of course, you know I got some
crafting time in there. This is the current
state of my living room coffee table.
So much for coffee.

5. Every morning, I go through
the same ritual with George
Bailey. Notice the prior
 evening's kibble adventure.

6. Then George Bailey sits there,
looking at the bowls ...

7. ... then looking at me ...

8. ... until I finally put down the fresh
food. He doesn't even settle into
a comfortable position while he
inhales the small portion of wet
food I give him.
9. Then, before my morning coffee,
I usually have some warm water
and lemon. It not only helps with my
spotty water intake, but it's a good
system cleanser. :)

10. I do a lot of walking in my area.
This is one of my favorite streets to walk.
This is on a main, heavily traveled street.
11. The benefits (and beauty) of living in
the middle of a previous rainforest system.
It ran, at one point, from Alaska to
Northern California.

12. We have a Solstice Parade
every year. These are some of the
floats under construction.
13. Urban signs of the street
(just past the float building).

14.This is one of several working bridges along a ship canal that links
two inner lakes to the bay.
15. And here's the actual canal. There's a well-used bike and
pedestrian path running alongside it.
16. All boats, big and small, as
well as a few feathered friends hit
the canal for some weekend r&r.
17. At the end of the canal, before the bay, there's
lots of ship docking and repair activity.

18. There's a street fair along a
portion of the ship canal every
Sunday. Everyone needs to
take care of pets and bikes.
19. Street fair wares. Anyone for
a funky furry hat?

20. Urban signs of life along the bike path.
21. One of several farmers' markets
held year-round, although the street
closes only in the summer months.
This was today's produce destination.

22. A sample of some of the farmers' goodies.
23. Ok, I couldn't pass up these mini-doughnuts, still hot
and sprinkled with cinnamon sugar.

24. And for everyone's musical pleasure,
your garden variety accordian/brass instrument
street musician.
25. It's definitely dog nation
at the Sunday markets. Aren't
these too adorable?

26. My bounty from the farmers' market: cherries,
apples, pears, asparagus, rhubarb (which I've never
before bought fresh), and some salad greens. Note
random dog on the left. Pooch was not getting
any of my fresh produce. No sirree.
27. I then headed over to one of the
nearby local library branches to pick up
some books and print out a shawl pattern.
No, I couldn't have planned this shot any
better if I had tried.

That's my (small) slice of life here in the Pacific Northwest. I'd love to hear your take on it, so definitely leave a comment and let me know. And thanks again to Miss Rain for getting this idea off the ground.