Changes

August 15, 2010

When I first started this blog it was a major time of change for me. I had just finished graduate school, which in itself was the first time I had some sort of “career path” in mind. I had just moved back to DC (which I dislike less every day, but can’t yet say I like) from New York (which has been the home of my imagination since I put up a calendar when I was thirteen counting down the days until I would attend NYU–which I never did). I moved in with my boyfriend, who I knew at that point I would spend the rest of my life with if I was lucky. Just having a serious boyfriend was a first for me, and yet, upon reflection, neither of those things made me as nervous as they maybe should have. I started a job I was unsure about and let myself get convinced to take against my better judgment. I then quit it a day and a half later. After a week or so, I began a different job I was less unsure about. (I’ve been there ever since.)  This sounds very simple in words,  but it all felt so enormous and difficult at the time.  Like I was making a decision that would affect the whole world.

It’s been a few years and I find myself in another period of intense change. I’m at that point in my career where if you were dating you would need to decide whether to get married or break up. Does this really feel right? Is this really what I want to do for the rest of my life…or at least for a long time? Can I do better? But there are so many things I like here…will I really have those things somewhere else? Sure I’ve invested a lot in this (enough student loans to make me physically ill), but didn’t I always want something else?  Like to be a fashion designer or a filmmaker or JK Rowling.  Shouldn’t I pursue my dream (of the day)? Did I mention I’m maddeningly fickle? After blowing through five seasons of Bones in just a few weeks, I actually looked up forensic anthropology at the Smithsonian because I was convinced that was really what I needed to be doing. After Ugly Betty, I had to fight the urge to look at writing jobs.  I have a feeling that if there were a television show made about my job I would either a) stop questioning my choices; or b) realize that television shows obviously do not portray jobs accurately and not everyone is hot in any non-Hollywood job…b/c let’s be real here, it makes a difference (not really).

Part of my struggle is being ok with the fact that I probably cannot be both happy and in one place forever. There’s a lot of judgment in our culture toward people that don’t follow this forward linear structure. They’re flighty, unreliable, weak-minded. While I wish I could say that I was completely comfortable forging my own path and not conforming, I’m not.  I need validation, respect, and all that other mumbo jumbo. And on top of all of that, I’m not at all sure what I want, because when it really comes down to it, I want to do everything.  all at once.  right now.

And so that’s where I find myself right now.  Trying to decide between what’s comfortable and safe and something else.  Something that could be exciting and challenging–but maybe still not quite right.   Yet is probably better than being just comfortable, moving forward in slow motion because it’s the safest way to get ahead, which of course is what I’m supposed to do to prove I’m at least a little smart.

Thank you for letting me vent my issues.  I remembered this space as a place for me to be when change is happening–and when I should let it happen.  Because in the end, even if I make the wrong choice, I can make another change and another until I can’t.  And I should probably be making changes until then.

You complete me.

July 12, 2009

Dear Colette Patterns,

Thank you for making such beautiful patterns in such beautiful packaging with such clear and thought out instructions and such interesting construction where I learn new things.

Thanks to a great pattern, I was able to make something that one particular coworker of mine (and fellow sewer) did not immediately ask: did you make that?  In fact, she never asked.

All because you made a pattern that (a) looks current and chic and super flattering, (b) allowed me to understand proper tailoring just enough to make a work-appropriate, suit-like garment, and (c) had pattern pieces that just made sense and fit together so perfectly that I did not once swear or intentionally break something during the entire construction.  Not once. At least not once as a result of or directed to the garment, the pattern, or the sewing process.

This skirt was also a success because of my fabric choice, which you had nothing to do with, but thanks for making a pattern that complimented my fabric choice so nicely.

So thank you Colette Patterns.

I’m already scouting for fabrics for your other patterns and am anxiously awaiting new designs.

Sincerely,

The proud owner of the newly sewn, Green Beignet.

The fabric is a midweight wool that I bought 50% off from Exquisite Fabrics in DC during their most amazing moving sale.  The buttons are Le Petite.

(The bike is my new baby, a Jamis Sputnik single speed–my first real new bike…I keep it in my bedroom…and look at it from time to time…)

The lining is a grey silk habotai bought on ebay for super cheap–which is also used for some awesome pockets at each hip.  Did I mention I LOVE this pattern?  The paneling is gorgeous, the button front is adorable, and the high waist is right on style.

A bad economy

July 11, 2009

means a lot more Ebay goin on in my life.

I’m selling some yarn!  Check it out.  The first listing I’m doing is for 5 skeins of Lorna’s Laces Green Line DK Wool in Hope.  I may be adding some more in the next few days, which I’ll post about here as well.

This large bit of yarn is the 2nd half of a big batch I bought some time ago–the 1st half you may remember became my Cabled Capecho, which I love love love.  This yarn is wonderful (100% organic merino wool) but I’m not sure I want to knit with the same color again–hence the sellage.

It’s definitely time to downsize, and save, and sacrifice, and a whole bunch of other unsexy things, but this may just be someone’s opportunity to grab some yarn they may have bought anyway, but WAY cheaper.  Or your opportunity to impulse buy…ya know, whatever’s good for you.

End shameless advertisement.

Wrap it up

July 6, 2009

the baby, that is.

This is why I’ve been away.

Well, that’s not completely true.  It is why I haven’t had anything crafty to share, because on the rare occasions I felt like knitting, I had to work on this, since I missed the baby shower deadline and just barely got it finished for the kid’s birth.  My lack of desire to knit is no doubt linked to the lack of freedom I felt on this project.  But, all in all, it was worth it.  It was for one of my closest friends who just had her first baby, a little boy named Caleb.  I hope he’ll enjoy this blanket forever (and that it will not unravel and blatantly disclose my lazy, half-assed “technique” in weaving ends in).

The blanket is the OpArt pattern from the Fall 2008 issue of Knitty, which I thought was perfect for this particular child and mom.  My friend is a speech pathologist, very tuned into the subtle developmental stages and patterns of babies and children.  While she’s tapped into the auditory and verbal development of children, this pattern touches on their visual development:

“This pattern also appeals to the developmental process of infant vision. Babies are born color blind, and with very poor vision (about 20/400 for a normal infant at birth. They are naturally attracted to high contrast, black and white images, since these are more distinct to them. From a distance of a foot or so, a newborn will be able to distinguish only the larger stripes on the edge of the blanket, with the thinner ones fading away into a solid gray, as the baby matures, the thinner stripes will become distinct.”

The blanket is made of Be Sweet Bambino (one of my most favoritist yarns ever) in sea green and natural.  I used two size 5 circulars and 5 balls of each color–which still left me short, but I cut off the pattern 2 stripes early rather than finding 2 more balls of yarn (which can be very difficult).  The blanket seemed big enough as it is anyway.

It’s really soft, organic and I think will be quite nice to its new owner–a very adorable and mellow little baby.

What the what…a month?

May 21, 2009

It’s been almost a month since I wrote last and I really can’t believe how quickly time is passing.

Many things have been going on that deserve blogging, but this is a short little request for help.

You all may recall the homemade deodorant I made and used happily for a few months–note the past tense.  I even made it for others I was so excited about it, including a manly scented version for my partner who still uses it every day.

I, on the other hand, apparently have sensitive skin…which i never ever knew before.  And it’s come to my attention that baking soda is the culprit…being kind of basic and causing all sorts of rashy painfulness when mixing with my kind of acidic sweat.  So I tried a couple of recipes with less baking soda and added glycerin.  Still rashy–even after months of respite and just a day of going back and trying it out again.

So now the question is, what do I do?  I want a cream deodorant, but I obviously don’t really enjoy the rash from hell.  Perhaps I will try even less baking soda…though 95 degree days are going to start here pretty soon and I’m a seriously smelly person and I bike to work every day and don’t have a shower at work…so I’m not sure this is the ideal solution.

I’ll keep you posted on the saga.  Will my armpits ever be satisfied?  Let’s hope so.

I Dye

April 25, 2009

*This post is a draft from a hundred years ago…but it may have some value for others that foolishly do not buy their yarn from a single dye lot*

Well, my friends, it’s finally finished, my Phildar meshy sweater, made with Rowan Purelife Organic  Cotton in Logwood.  I dyed it (using Logwood natural dye) and did not kill it.  It’s soul is hardened, but it is better for it.  Actually in reality, it’s not nearly as soft as it used to be.  But it kind of went through hell, so I can’t blame it.  I hope that it will soften with wearing and eventually trust me again as a loving owner.

So, I said I would report on the dyeing process and I will.

I had to do quite a bit of research and found some great online resources, mostly through Ravelry, and I also relied on some instruction sheets from the shop I bought my dyestuffs from, Griffin Dyeworks.

So I’ll try my best and share my process in using logwood to dye a cotton sweater–natural dyeing seems to have a different process than conventional dyeing and cellulose fibers (cotton, linen, hemp, etc) have different prep and requirements than protein fibers (wool, alpaca, anything from an animal).

There are three important steps in the natural dyeing process, which I’ll go over…

1. Scouring

This was not something I was aware would be necessary until I read on a Ravelry forum that cotton yarns are very particular.  If not dyed properly it can be difficult to get bright vibrant colors–especially with logwood (which apparently has been known to fade and rub off pretty quickly).   Apparently cotton yarns come to us with quite a bit of waxy residue, which was very clear to me when I dunked my sweater in some plain old water and soaked it for a bit (in a vain hope that the dye was crappy enough to even out if just soaked) and the water was completely brown.  So in order to remove the residue so the cotton can take dye better, it must be scoured.  I got this scour mess (powder detergenty stuff) from Hillcreek Fiber Studio and followed some simple directions using a big enamel pot on my stove: 5% scour to the weight of the fiber, simmer for half an hour, and then thoroughly rinse.

2. Pre-mordanting

The next step is this thing called mordanting, which *I think* is necessary for natural dyeing only (?) to prepare the fiber for taking the natural dye.  Different mordants are used for different dyes, different fibers and to get different colors with certain dyes (like using iron for darker colors).  There’s a good table here, showing the different outcomes with different dyes using different mordants.  It can also be done two different ways–mordanting before dyeing or mordanting and dyeing at the same time.  I did the former.

So of course, cotton also requires a different mordant than protein fibers: aluminum acetate.  There’s a great blog post on the different mordanting methods for cotton here.

This was also really easy, basically following some simple directions for the alum acetate method: using 5% mordant to the weight of the fiber (or 4 Tablespoons for 1 pound), dissolve the alum acetate in boiling water. Simmer for an hour (longer is fine, too), drain water and do not rinse (though some would argue that you should rinse…I did not).

3. Dyeing

The most exciting step is the actual dyeing.  I used logwood extract, which is a finely powdered dye concentrate.  Logwood is a bark that would require a more intensive preparation than I was willing to do and the extract seemed like a perfect lazyish solution.  I don’t remember exactly how much dye I used, but it was a very small amount–maybe a teaspoon of dye in total.  The kit I bought from Griffin Dyeworks came with an instruction book, and I would imagine any dye you bought would also come with specific instructions.  It followed the same general process of dissolving the dye in a bunch of boiling water and then soaking the fiber for a while.

One interesting thing was the addition of soda ash to the dye.  If you look at the first picture the dye is a reddish purple and in the second it’s a dark bluish purple…it was like magic–it just turned the instant the soda ash hit the dye bath.

The rest needs no explanation.

A 4th obvious step of Rinsing

And finally, Drying

I may have to find a good method of softening this up again…conditioner maybe?

Liberty

April 19, 2009

Dear Friends,

I want to apologize for my extended absence.  I have been in a weird little funk for a few months now…I think perhaps called “winter”.  A few days ago something turned–shifted–in a major way.  I was home sick in bed Sunday watching unbelievably and unjustifiably bad “reality” TV on MTV.com (yes, I clearly sought it out enough to first see if MTV showed the episodes online and then to subsequently watch them online) and then magically decided to sew a shirt.  It sounds minor, but there was a palpable click, turn, shift in my mental state of being.  Like I was re-excited, re-motivated and reinvigorated.  Going to work the next day didn’t seem so painful and it actually got interesting for me again. All the extra obligations in my life stopped feeling so burdensome and actually seemed like the opportunities I thought they were when I first took them on…not that I’ve really gotten moving on them, but at least my mind and spirit are on board again.

A lot of this is really just seasonal.  I think it’s getting worse as I get older and I’m seeing why people retire in Florida.  I’m always ok at the beginning…even hopeful that I’ll enjoy it a little.  But it never sticks.  The bare branches, the grey skies,  the fact that I literally would get around 15 hours a week of exposure to even a hint of sunshine, all concentrated on the weekend (I work in a windowless office where it’s easy to forget that there even is an outside with weather and sun).  And although spring has taken a long time to come this year, once it did, my will to live made a full 180.  What’s strange is every year it’s such a surprise as though I have absolutely no long term memory.  Maybe it’s because I do feel like it’s getting worse, but maybe I only feel like it’s getting worse because I can’t seem to remember that this is obviously going to happen every year…so I’m caught off guard and then strangely shocked that I could be so seasonally affected.  It’s the hope that gets in the way–the hope that this year I will like winter.  I’m not much of an optimist, so whenever I attempt it it really throws the rest of my brain functions, like logical reasoning, out of whack.

And now, I will share the first piece of physical proof that things are looking up.

I think I’m getting more patient, detail-oriented and just better at this with each project…which is ****ing fantastic.  On this one, I made up the (relatively simple) pattern using an old shirt for fit and an Anthropologie shirt for the design.  I’m still in the copying stage, so I can build up techniques and then go crazy with my own designs later.  My case in point that I don’t know what I’m doing yet is facings. Facings!!!!  Arghh!  I didn’t realize until I had no fabric left that it would have been far better to have done an all-in-one facing than separate armhole and neckline facings, which when overlapped get a little bulky.  It’s not too bad in this case since the fabric is Liberty of London cotton lawn, which is very light.  But I also had a lot of trouble keeping the damn facings down, which forced to me do some research on proper techniques.  Hence the (organic) lace trim to weigh the facings down a little and this simple, yet surprisingly effective little trick called understitching.  Ultimately, this was the first time the inside of the piece looks just about as neat as the outside. Maybe my laziness is seasonal, too.  Here’s hoping…

Speaking of hope and change…I’m hoping to come back to this space with greater regularity…my life has been consumed lately with the purchase of a new bicycle (or I should say the saga of an attempted purchase), which is a story/issue I want to share soon…

Until then, happy Spring!!!!!

…and the city

February 16, 2009

Every so often I spend (waste) a few hours watching my old Sex and the City DVDs.  I knit and remind myself of every detail in those shows…which I kind of know by heart and am generally very embarrassed about.

But this isn’t about that.

Watching a few episodes today reminded me about something that I think usually gets lost as background: the city.

I know the show did some great things for tourism in New York City in particular.  In a sea of cop shows, it was one of the few truly positive portrayals of the city on television.  But it did more than make New York accessible to masses of women. It portrayed this fantastic lifestyle of walking to meet your friends at some interesting new restaurant or bar or gallery, having countless interesting new people to meet, and having so many exciting amenities at your fingertips.

Kind of like how I think many people view college.

But then something happens and many of us let those completely desirable things go when we graduate as though it’s to be grouped with other college activities that probably should be left behind…like binge drinking.  And we move to soulless places and live insular lives.  I don’t want that statement to be confused with living in suburban places.  I’ve seen some suburban places (all older suburbs, though) that are pretty nice and very different from the cul-de-sac ridden, completely unwalkable, and demographically homogenous suburbia in which I was raised.

My ultimate point is that I hope Sex and the City does more than make New York City a great place to visit.  The city was a real and significant character in the show.  And it seems clear that this should be the case for all of us.  The places we live should be real and significant characters in our lives.  They should excite us in some way and relate to us so that they are not just meaningless collections of roads we must drive on to get some buildings we must go to.  I currently live in a city and probably will live in one for the rest of my life if I’m lucky, but I don’t think this only need apply to cities–which I understand don’t work for everyone.  The problem is I see the great things about cities being touted as luxuries, as though in order for homes to be affordable, we have to grit our teeth through hours of congestion, zero public spaces and even no sidewalks.

Maybe a buyer’s market is our time to ask for places that engage us.  Maybe cranes halted by a bad economy and kept from creating more far off islands of not-actually-affordable housing are an opportunity to rethink what we’re doing with the land in and around our cities.

While New York was definitely more exciting than my current home of DC, the city and I do have a relationship.  It’s not always good–but it’s engaging and interesting.  It has a personality, whether the city and I are meant to be or not.

Or maybe all of this is just a sad indication that this nerdy lady watches Sex and the City and misses the whole sex thing in favor of the whole city thing…

Something new

February 15, 2009

I need some new obsessions. I’m a bit cliche with the predictable timing of this need in that it’s almost springtime…but it’s a cliche for a reason.

It may be apparent that I am a list-maker, so I’d like to share my new interests in list form (apologies for the picture-less post):

1. Cooking.

I have been following some blogs where lots of amazing vegan and vegetarian treats are made and recipes shared. Being the negative nancy that I sometimes am, I would actually not read through the beautifully photographed and no doubt well-written posts because I knew I would be very sad that they didn’t apply to me.

All that is going to change.
This lady is putting away the pirate’s booty and making her own delicious treats.

My foray into the science of cooking was last night with vegan mac and cheese.  It was really tasty, using this recipe here.  One observation that even this novice cook took note of: if you follow the recipe exactly it’s like a salt lick.  I read some of the reviews and it seems you can just eliminate the salt (or vegesal) altogether. Next time.

Next on the agenda are Parikha’s Russian Tea Cakes.

2. Music.
I’m running the Monument Ave 10k in Richmond next month and need good running music to keep me motivated until then.  I’ve run a few 10ks before and I don’t actually think this race will be too difficult for me, but I would love to do better than I did in the last 10k I ran…which means I need to stick to my running schedule.  Which means I need to have something to keep me going.  Which has always been music–of the hip hop variety.  Which I used to keep up-to-date on.  And now…I don’t.  The problem with hip hop (and I guess really with any new music) is you can’t just turn on the radio and find great stuff–unless you live in one of those musically blessed cities like Seattle with their unusually badass KEXP.  So I have to go looking for it…I will try to do this by finding good hip hop blogs to follow.

3. Reading.
I have realized that I don’t read.  Like ever. Seriously.  I read some news clips I get in my email and I read some things for work…but other than that nothing.  New authors?  I can guarantee I wouldn’t know any if you asked me. It’s pathetic…

So, in retaliation the less pathetic side of me is joining a small group of fellow urban planners and we will discuss anything about a particular corner of the world–this month is Kazakhstan.  I am to read something about Kazakhstan. Or watch a movie.  Or knit something in a design from there.  Or make cookies from there.  Basically I can wrap all of my hobbies into this activity. This may be more exciting when we pick a country that’s a little less limiting.

What really started this post were two thoughts/concerns about how I choose new activities:
1. I am worried that I have been so thoroughly conditioned by the commercialization of everything, that a new hobby generally makes the cut into a real obsession for me if it requires purchasing pretty new toys.  Running clothes and shoes, yoga mats and props, knitting needles and yarn, and so on.  The new one: baking pans and the countless cooking implements that are so lovely and interestingly functional.  Looks like cooking may be here to stay.  I’m not sure it’s worth trying to de-condition myself.

2. I am obsessive…but then I burn out.  Meaning I do actually have a pretty addictive personality–with everything except the normal addictive stuff like drugs and alcohol.  I actually find myself incapable of drinking alcohol in anything but moderation.  Maybe I’m obsessed with moderation.  Is that possible?  I don’t think that makes sense.

If I do in fact become obsessed with cooking, I hope the running balances it out.

Oh, by the way, if I never post anything every again about any of these new interests…maybe let’s not mention it, yeah?

Baby Boom

February 14, 2009

Is there one going on right now?

I feel like everyone is pregnant.  A few of my coworkers, a few of my friends, a few of all their friends, some folks on the television, some knitters whose blogs I read–EVERYONE.  I even had a dream I was pregnant.  I woke up relieved.

I heard an interesting theory that lots of babies are conceived/born during recessions.  Times is tough, so let’s just stay in…

Just goes to prove that long-term financial planning seems to be beyond the capabilities of many people or maybe they’d realize that dinner and a movie is probably way cheaper than a child.

IRregardless (use of that “word” both amuses me and makes me cringe), I have quite a few baby gifts to make use of my knitting skills for my first really good friend who is pregnant, including Knitty’s Op Art baby blanker.

But first, I made the Curly Purly Soaker for a friend/coworker who is also pregnant.  She’ll happily be using cloth diapers and these wool soakers are made for such a lovely eco-friendly practice.

I intentionally used nontraditional baby colors.  As I believe will be appreciated by the receiving mom-to-be.

This is really cute.  I’m not a huge baby person, but this is CUTE, for a cute little baby butt.

I used Cascade 220 in Italian Plum and Charcoal Grey, which I hope will make for a chic little baby of either sex (she’s waiting to find out).  I used short rows which messed up my stripes…but I don’t think the baby’s life will be ruined.  It has a “pleated” waistband made from strategically placed columns of purled stitches.  Simple detail, but I really love the effect.  The pattern was very clear and simple, and it was a fast one night knit…meaning this will be my baby gift of choice for some time to come.

Oh, and Happy Valentine’s Day…a day that might exacerbate this baby boom I think is occuring.


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