Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Knitting News, but Mostly a Reading Post

It was a whirlwind of a weekend. There were three different sets of house guests. The Boyfriend's 17 year old visited from Mpls. for most of the weekend. She's a good kid and I like her. We all saw Pirates Three. Promptly upon her departure my niece arrived with her three wee people in tow. I've missed them since moving away to Austin, and the visit was far too short. And promptly upon their leaving the four legged guests arrived. I had to pick them up actually. I agreed some time ago to do the doggy sitting for a good friend's two dogs while she has her first baby. I of course had no way to know that all would converge almost simultaneously. In the chaos I found no time to knit or write.

Yesterday, after the 4 dogs had run themselves nearly ragged in the yard, I did make it to my Tuesday Afternoon Sit and Knit. I was a half hour late, but I made it. And I needed it. So better late than not at all. I cast on Sizzle and made some legitimate progress. In one short session the back of the sweater now measures a full 4 inches from cast on. Time to start the dart decreases.

Unfortunately there was no other knitting to report. There is a lot on-the-needles. Seems I'm still not motivated enough to finish that pretty brown purse, and not sure just what my problem is. I'm thinking of frogging the orange tank, but can't bring myself to do it just yet, I can't bring myself to work on it either so it seems that frogging is inevitable. I've completely given up on the squares for the afghan, I found a pattern I love, but won't start that until I get some of these other projects safely off the needles.

I have been wanting to get caught up on a reading post. My reading has been bordering on prolific. I finished The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean about a week ago. There is a strange phenomenon with this book, seems every time I mentioned it the other party would reply "oh that's the one Adaptation was based on." But I never saw that movie. I tried to see that movie, but I hated it, and slept instead. I didn't hate the book. In fact I rather enjoyed it. I was struck by the fanaticism of the orchid collectors, and realized how true that fanaticism rings with both book collectors and knitters. Seems there is something lurking in the universe that pushes collectors over the edge to obsessive. And that's what this book is about.

I immediately started, and finished How to Be Good by Nick Hornby. It's a fast, fast read. It is a really light and witty story, but it touches on a pretty big theme - how do we define what it means to "be a good person". Is "good" defined by our professions, or are family status, or our ability to treat others with kindness? I'd highly recommend this one for a quick summer read.

After that dose of 'light reading" I felt compelled to pick up The War by Marguerite Duras. It's slowing me down some, and the title is really all I have to say about it just yet, it's a memoir of Duras' experience as a French survivor of WWII and Nazism. I love Duras, but this one's incredibly dark, and sad, and daunting.

Yesterday I set The Duras aside in favor of something a little less daunting and a lot more fun, Yarn Harlot Secret Life of a Knitter by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee. It was among the "Thank You" gifts I received for taking care of my friend's dogs. I read the Harlot's blog everyday, and this book is a genuine treat. I think that like Orlean's book it's about being obsessive. And like Hornby's book it's about being good. But mostly it's about knitting.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Knitting Group and A New Hat

Earlier this week I attended my first "Tuesday Afternoon Knitting Group" at the LYS. I liked it. It's sort of a new group and so it's rather small. In fact there were just four of us there, the group leader, myself, and a mother/daughter team. I liked them, they brought snacks, chocolate covered raisins and toffee macadamia nuts to be exact. There was much talk of upcoming weddings, being completely intimidated by knitting in the round, which decreases slant which way, and growing hair on your elbows.

I'm taking advantage of the group as a regularly scheduled two hour block of knitting time to finally knit myself Sizzle which is available on Knit and Tonic. I'm knitting it with Berroco Cotton Twist, that lovely cotton rayon blend that has just a touch of shimmer. And because the sweater is for me, it's brown.

I only got as far as knitting my gauge swatch, but I have three things to reveal about myself and gauge swatching: I only do it when I'm knitting a garment, I just can't bring myself to do it any other time. Once I've got the gauge I frog the thing, I can't waste the yarn. And I'm a terribly loose knitter, I am consistently two needle sizes smaller than recommended. I always assumed this was because I do felting (fulling really) and so am in the habit of knitting all loosey-goosey. The group leader pointed out that it is in fact probably because I knit continental, and it's always looser. Who knew? I'm learning new things everyday, as they say. I've decided I will from now on start with the smaller needles, and will perhaps have to only knit the one swatch, getting it right the first time, instead of having to knit three.

On another note... I made this hat. I love it! It's knit from a bunch of stash busting cotton yarn and I added a fringe of cotton ribbon.

That's it for today. Have a great holiday weekend, and please drive safe.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Tagged - I'm It

Ok, so I got tagged and I have to admit I'm not really sure how this game works. I mean I understand the basics, they were explained as thus - you get tagged, you post a list of seven random facts about yourself, and then you tag seven other bloggers. I guess that part's pretty simple. The part I don't get is the "why" and the "what for"?

At any rate, I get a little nervous that if I don't play along it'll mean bad luck. I'm sort of superstitious that way. That can be fact number 1 - I'm superstitious, I believe in bad luck, and I also believe in good luck.

Fact 2 - I won't sleep in a tent. Ever! I have of course, slept in a tent, but I don't like it. In fact I don't like anything about camping. I like clean bedsheets, and hot food, and coffee in the morning. The last time I slept in a tent there was a thunderstorm, and the tent blew down, and I crawled out, picked up the whole crumpled wet mass of canvas, put it in the back of my car, and drove away. Done.

Fact 3 - Speaking of coffee, I have two and only two and no less than two cups of coffee each and every morning. And when I'm traveling I accommodate this about myself. I've even been known to walk down to a hotel lobby and get two cups of coffee and carry them both back to the room and then tell my companion, "sorry, they're both for me". That's a huge hit.

Fact 4 - I returned the new bike I bought (see living greener post), and kept my old bike. I had to, I felt nostalgic for the old bike every time I even thought about selling it. It was like I was in love all over again. I even considered keeping both bikes, but that's just silly, so I returned the new bike. The guy at the bike shop seemed to understand, there was nothing wrong with the new bike, it just wasn't my old bike.

Fact 5 - Read fact 3 and 4 and come to the conclusion that is fact 5 - I don't deal well with change. I like things to stay the same, and I like the things I like.

Fact 6 - Viva paper towels are the only paper towels I will buy. Plain white ones. I think silly decorations on paper towels are about the dang dumbest thing. And Vivas are soft. I have a friend in Mpls. who I have a lot of quirky things in common with. We discovered that Viva Whites was one of those things. She too will only buy the Viva whites. Viva La Viva Whites.

Fact 7 - I want to learn to snorkel or scuba because I'm afraid of the ocean.

So, that's it. Now I'll be tagging seven bloggers who I read on a regular basis, and if they don't like it they can stone me.


Friday, May 18, 2007

Two Tiny Mistakes

I've made two tiny mistakes. Okay, I've possibly made more than two mistakes in the course of my whole life, but I've made two tiny mistakes I want to talk about here. For a minute.

Mistake number one: I own a copy of Sensational Knitted Socks, by Charlene Schurch. And I'm not a sock knitter. I admire sock knitters, and I even covet their socks, but I just don't have the patience for those tiny DPNs, and I'm barefoot most all the time. So I'm cleaning off the bookshelf, and I've made this mistake available to you here, at Decidedly Bookish. The book features all the basics for sock knitting, including techniques, anatomy of a sock, sock yarn and where to get it, and sizing charts. It features 10 basic designs plus a bunch of stitch patterns. You can knit oodles of socks. I can't.

Mistake number two: I got suckered by the pretty pictures I saw online from Wenlan Chia's book Twinkle's Big City Knits. This is truly a beautiful book, it's no wonder really that I was enchanted with the photography, it's stunning. Really. And the designs are unique, and chic, and stylish. I looked gentle through the book, an evening's entertainment, and decided I had made a mistake. I'll never knit a single one of these designs, I'm just not enough of a fashionista, and I'm way too thick to look good in chunky yarn. And honestly the itsy-bitsy model drives me to drink. So, if you're looking for a barely-looked-at book of high fashion knits, in chunky yarn, that's got exquisite photography, it's available here also.

Have a grand and yarn filled weekend y'all!

Edited to Add: Both books sold! Thanks.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Living Green(er)

I've lately been making more of an effort than ever before to live a little greener. Maybe it's having recently read Al Gore's book, or maybe it's noticing the changes in weather patterns, or maybe it's just maturity. I'm not sure, but when I hear people complain about how "it's getting hotter every summer", I reply "that's global warming my friend". And when I hear my people back in Minnesota talk about how "it never snows anymore", my reply is again "that's global warming my friend". And the more I say it, the more I am reminded to live a little greener.

I've been a vegetarian for almost 20 years, mostly because I have long been aware of the huge negative impact a meat based diet has on the environment. The livestock industry is a huge offender in terms of water usage, water pollution, and energy consumption. I recently read in the Austin Environmental Directory 2006 that scientist David Pimental calculated that it takes 1/2 as much energy to produced a vegetarian diet as a meat based one, the difference is enough to drive every passenger car in the US for 3,300 miles. Some other interesting facts - the energy to produce one hamburger is enough to run a 100watt light bulb for 18 hours, and the energy for one hamburger each day for a year is enough to power a refrigerator for 18 months.

Lately in addition to making meat-free choices, I've also been making an effort to prioritize some other considerations while at the grocery store. Priority number one - buy local whenever I can, most of our food travels some 1500 miles before we consume it, and that's just too far. Priority number two -buy organic, food that's grown clean means cleaner soil and cleaner water. Priority number three - buy in bulk, and minimize packaging. This includes reusing bags, and containers. After all, all that packaging uses energy to produce and increases the amount of waste we produce.

I'm also biking more. Now that I have moved from Minnesota to Texas I can ride my bike year round. And I'm lucky enough to live in Austin, a city that's very bicycle friendly providing bike lanes, and places to park. I recently got a more practical bike for these purposes, I had a little racing bike, I now have more of a hybrid that I outfitted with a rack and a trunk pack which makes it possible for me to take the bike to yoga, the food co-op, the post office, and more. In fact the only thing I can't figure out how to do is the dog food run, the mutts eat a lot of food. The boyfriend has even started commuting to work via bicycle.

So what does all this have to do with a blog about crafting and knitting? Well, for starters becoming increasingly more aware of the things I can do to be less of a burden on my world makes for some creative decision making: what route can I take to make it to my destination on the bike? What substitutions can I make to a recipe in order to buy local and organic? How can I consume less packaging? You get the idea, and the more you use your creative muscle the stronger it becomes.

I also knit green as much as I can. I use natural fibers pretty much exclusively, and natural fibers are renewable resources. Yep, even the animal based ones. One a my favorite fibers recently is bamboo, a plant that grows especially fast, making it especially environmentally sustainable. There are also organic cottons, and organic wools available on the market. And again, supporting organic agriculture supports a more earth friendly economy.

I also use recycled fibers. A few posts back I talked about 2nd Time Cotton, a yarn made from the recycled waste from the textiles industry. And there's lots of other choices for recycled fibers on the market including, wool, silk, and cotton. On a smaller scale of recycling (but no less important) there's reclaimed yarn from old sweaters, and reclaimed felting from old wool.

And finally there's buying from your LYS, buying locally when it comes to yarn is just as important as buying locally grown food. I admit I don't do it all the time, there are some great deals to be had on the Internet, and some really beautiful hand-spun and hand-dyed yarns I buy from craftspeople via Etsy. But I've resolved to make an effort to visit my LYS more often, and shop the Internet less. It reduces the trips the UPS truck makes, it supports a local independent business woman, which is also a good thing, and it definitely reduces packaging.

It may seem like an insignificant effort, but I don't believe it is. We all know the world of knitters is a powerful force, capable of real change and real impact. Think of the knitting for peace movements, and the Charity knitting movements. Powerful indeed. What if those efforts included being kinder to our planet?

We can all find ways, small simple ways, to reduce our impact on the planet, and craft a little greener, knit a little greener, and live a little greener. Think about it, and post your ideas, I for one would love to hear them.


Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Warning: This Post Isn't About Knitting

This post isn't about knitting. It's about books, or more specifically a book club. As my profile states "I'm a reading maniac", and as my header makes clear this is a blog only mostly about knitting, it is otherwise about reading, shelter mutts, and other some such.

I'm in a book club, which is really much more a "wine and eating" club. Every month or so 6 or 9 of us ladies get together and we all bring great food, and we all drink wine, and we all eat, and we all talk. We seem to only rarely actually talk about books however. Don't get me wrong, we all read - Just apparently not the same books.

We sometimes recommend books to each other, but in the almost a year that I have been a member of this book club we have only, as a group read two books. They were both really good books, but it has only been the two. They were "Bastard Out of Carolina" by Dorothy Allison and "The Blind Assassin" by Margaret Atwood.

I, like the other ladies in book club, have of course read many more books in that last year. Myself I've read "Wolf Boy" by Evan Kuhlman, "The Orchid Thief" by Susan Orlean, "Chinatown Death Peril" by Paul Malmont, "How to Be Good" by Nick Hornby, "Blast From the Past" by Kinky Freidman, "Inconvenient Truth" by Al Gore, and some others I'm not trying too hard to recall right now. I would recommend all of these reads.

I love books. I also love "wine and eating". And so I love my book club.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

What I Did On My Summer Vacation

I survived Dog Camp. Barely. I have to say that is just about the most exhausting thing I have ever done, and I've done a triathlon. In fairness, Dog Camp was also about the most fun I've had. From Friday to Sunday it was pretty much non-stop action. We tried our luck at Lure Coursing, this is the sport where the dogs chase a lure, in this case a white plastic bag that's attached to a wire course. The course covers a fairly large field in several directions. There are high speed straight aways and sharp turns. And lots of barking dogs waiting their turn. Both dogs loved this sport, both dogs are VERY fast, I don't love this sport. It's the frenzy I don't love. And so we only did it once.

We tried tracking, and honestly I felt it was a bit boring. Although, The Mike did air scenting, or the precursor to search and rescue, and loved it. I'm not surprised that he excelled at this, Mike has a great nose and uses it all the time. It's an amazing sight to watch a dog "see" with his nose.

We also spent some time on the Agility course, which is the sport we train in regularly. Both dogs have fun at Agility. Mike's enthusiasm makes him technically not very good, but he's awfully fun to watch charging over or through the obstacles usually in some random order he decides for himself. Mike's exuberance would certainly get him disqualified from any real competetion, but we do this for fun, and fun he has. Layla on the other hand approaches Agility the way she approaches everything, with grace and elegance. She floats over jumps, and walks the dog walk, and the teeter, like a supermodel walks a runway. She's not fast, but she's beautiful. Although by Sunday's Fun Match Layla was too pooped, for even this - her favorite activity - and mostly we sat in the shade and watched.

The Mike won an award, "Recall Super Star", and my proudest moment - he swam! Turns out Layla is a natural in the water, which somehow didn't surprise me. The Mike put up a fair amount of resistance, he is a willful dog who fears much of the unknown. However, once in the river with me at his side he proved to himself he could do it, and because he is such a strong dog, he is also a strong swimmer. Luckily I am also, together we swam.

Although I brought my knitting with me, I knit not a single stitch. Progress on the yoga mat bag - nil. Progress on the One Skein Tank - nada. Progress on blanket squares - nilch. This was the Wonder Pups' weekend. Now I'll get back on the needles and will have knitting progress to share soon.

Edited To Add: A post sans photos, no hands for cameras - when your handling leashes, and treats, and water, lots and lots of water.