Archive for April, 2008

Can’t stop, won’t stop

April 24, 2008

I bought more yarn.  Can’t even take my own stupid advice.

This is for the Cabled Capecho I mentioned last week. It’s Lorna’s Laces Green Line DK in Hope (or off-white).  I ordered it from Jimmy Beans Wool.  I wouldn’t normally plug an online retailer, but I’m pretty pleased with them.  I got the yarn yesterday…and the package was soaking wet.  The yarn was soaked and stained in some places, as was the pattern I had ordered too–ripped and soaked through.  So I called them today, told them that I got the package damaged, and they were kind of amazing.  I’m getting a new package in the mail with my order again and I don’t have to send the old stuff back.  I can try and use it or donate it or something, she said.  Amazing.  So I washed it and am hoping the stains come out…if not I think I could have some fabulous Etsy dyer dye it for me.  It’s kind of a sweet deal actually.  The most educational part is that in order to prevent the problem in the future I can ask them to wrap my orders in plastic in the special instructions.  I’m not so excited about asking for more plastic…but I couldn’t find the yarn anywhere else.

So the yarn.  It’s 100% organic merino and comes in DK and worsted weights.  It’s beautiful and so so soft. We’ll see how the capecho turns out but I foresee a lot of future projects using this lovely lovely yarn.  I high recommend it just by the feel and look.  And it’s 100% organic!

I also did recently frog the puff sleeve jacket I was sort of working on and made Teva Durham’s Steek Vest from Loop-d-Loop:

I knit this up in a few hours on Saturday morning with some of my Savannah Bulky on 15s.  It came out a little shorter than I wanted…but I was (and am) too lazy to do anything about that.  I love the design, but it’s not quite what I thought it would be.  The yarn is a little too “earthy” for me…no sheen to it, which I don’t like so much.  It’s super soft though so I think others would love it.

These days I’m working on another Norah project (slightly obsessed), the Medallion Shawl from this past winter’s Vogue Knitting.  It’ll be a Mother’s Day gift for my stepmom, so I’m currently on a 1 hexagon per day minimum rule.  I currently have 4 done.  11 more to go.  I’ll just make it just in time at this rate.

Car Commercials Suck

April 22, 2008

So I know that I should expect nothing from car commercials.  I know that they always depict cars as super fun and liberating by having someone drive really fast on a magical open road where no other cars seem to be.  Never mind the fact that congestion is rising insanely fast around the nation making a car more of a prison than some fantasical freedom device.  I heard an interesting statistic that in the London center the average speed is 3 mph (!!!).  In 1890 it was also 3mph.  Hooray for progress.

But this Dodge video really gets me.  In this stupid commercial the car somehow is supposed to get you this lifestyle that ironically is wholly dependent on there being no cars to run you over while you play with your friends in the street.  

Maybe it’s because it’s in an urban setting, making it even more unrealistic.  But it promotes this fun, spontaneous lifestyle, where you can play with your friends and neighbors, all of whom are around in big crowds in an expanse of central public open space.  You can do this by driving to the magic place (otherwise known as a city) with your big SUV, but keep in mind this fantasy is only possible if you’re the only one on earth allowed to drive your car.  So good luck with that. 

Save the Earth by shopping.

April 22, 2008

No! Just kidding!

But I did just get this in my inbox:

Subject: A beautiful place to spend Earth day
From: Crate and Barrel

I’m going to go ahead and disagree.  I’m not sure I’m going to be reducing greenhouse gas emissions by buying a new couch at Crate and Barrel…even if it is made of sustainable wood…And just out of experience, you have to be careful with those sustainable wood farms.  I studied abroad in the Amazon several years ago and saw quite a few tree plantations on what used to be awe-inspiring rainforest.  We even did a little biodiversity study and found that the varieties and sheer numbers of bird species in secondary (new) forest were quite a bit less than primary (original) forest.

Now while I believe in eco-friendly wares, I don’t think I am “doing my part” (which I think about .2% of the population actually does and I’m not sure I know any of them) unless I’m drastically reducing my consumption (which I could use some serious work on).  I try and do more than what I think I can…I don’t own a car, I don’t use AC, I minimize general energy usage, and on and on…yet I did one of those carbon calculator things and it would still take 3 earths to support my lifestyle for everyone!! I struggle with this at work everyday: convincing people that you can’t just buy a hybrid and say the transportation sector has done its part.  You can’t just put in new windows and say the building sector has done its part. And you can’t be a consumer and think buying the same amount of crap with an eco-friendly label on it is even kind of enough.  It’s better than nothing, for sure.  But we’re beyond that.  We need more. Drastically more.  Or I guess we need less.  Drastically less.

I still think when we buy, we should all buy “green” when it’s available–just in serious moderation.

Happy Earth Day!

Endearing DC

April 19, 2008

Lately with the coming of warmer weather I’ve been moving beyond my negative feeling of enduring DC to appreciating the endearing DC.  The city in spring is beautiful, with perfectly landscaped beds of tulips framing the clean, classic Roman architecture of federal downtown.

Today was especially nice.  It seems summer is coming quickly (as it does down here in the swamp).  I woke up to a lovely breeze coming through my open bedroom windows.

The regular hot nights, when the windows are never closed (except when I break down and turn the AC unit on every once in a while) is what I can’t wait for.  Today was a preview, almost 90 degrees, and thus a perfect day for a 30 mile bike ride up through Rock Creek Park into Maryland and back down again through Bethesda and Georgetown.

On the way back we happened upon this little gem:

Not only do we get free museums (for the most part) but we get a Tulip Library.  All I need to do now is relocate the Costume Institute from the Met to DC and I’m set (not really true).  I have beautiful memories associated with tulips.  When I was a child, my mother planted beds of them every year before spring.  I figure either tulips are an easy flower to get right (unlike orchids), or my mother put a fair amount of love into them, because those tulips never disappointed us.  They were huge and bright and smelled delicious.  They even made the suburban vinyl siding look ok…

I’m pretty sure she would have really been into the Tulip Library.  There were some flowers in there I never would have thought were actually tulips with fluttery petals or deep, black hues, which I was particularly attracted to.

And some traditional tulips:

I often find DC to be a difficult place to live.  It’s a beautiful city, but it can be a tough nut to crack.  It’s frequently voted in magazine polls to have the coldest people of any city, making it hard to form meaningful relationships.  Many say it’s because people are so transient here, but I think it’s a vicious circle where people want to leave after coming here because it can be so lonely.

It looks like in a few weeks this tulip will have some friends, and maybe that’s promising for Washingtonians.  But it certainly is a test of patience.  As for me, hooray for the few lovely folks I do have here in DC — I am eternally grateful.

Where’s my pocket park?

April 16, 2008

Last weekend I went to my very first stitch and bitch.  It was pretty amazing.  It was a small group of intelligent, talented women: mostly sewer/quilters, involved in the same professional field, all congregated in one house with food, sewing machines, fabric, yarn, and pizza.  The result was some pretty fascinating and lovely conversation.  My favorite nuggets were some recounts of one woman’s experience with some folks that hadn’t heard of gender equality, or respect for women for that matter.  Years ago when she was in her 20s, before she was married, she went to a doctor to see about migraines she still suffers from.  He told her it was simply stress and she should just get married.  That apparently would alleviate all the stress a young, unmarried woman could possibly have.  Who knew the solution was looking me right in the face all these years.  Then I can have a baby and get rid of all those breast cancer fears while I’m at it…

So after being shocked and awed by the experiences of these women and enjoying some amazing, intelligent, female company, later that weekend I also enjoyed some male company with my lovely partner and strolled through DC to get dinner at the only upscale vegetarian restaurant in the city: Vegetate.  We walked a few miles from our cozy home in Capitol Hill to the U St/Shaw area.  On the way I got to thinking about the urban form in DC and how there are some little things that could really use improvement.

In keeping with my theme of taking the good ideas from New York and applying them to DC, I introduce the concept of the ubiquitous pocket park.  Almost exactly a year ago, on Earth Day, Mayor Bloomberg unveiled an ambitious program, PlaNYC, which outlines some great goals for the city across virtually every sector (energy, housing, water quality, transportation, etc).  One thing that I loved was a goal for every New Yorker to live within a 10 minute WALK of a park. While this is a goal in New York, the truth is parks are virtually everywhere there already–some are very small, but they serve as usable spaces where the public can sit, talk, generally congregate, whatever.

The idea of common open space is something grossly missing from many DC neighborhoods.  It seems we get the national mall and that’s it.  My part of Capitol Hill is actually quite special in having a few outstanding parks: Lincoln, Stanton, and Garfield to name a few.  But the rest of DC is hurting…

Walking through even my neck of the woods, I came across some pieces of land that NYC would certainly have already jumped on.

These two small tracts of land (either corners or triangles formed from stupid, huge avenues cutting through) are perfect examples of underutilized land.  A tree buffer, a wrought iron fence maybe, and some benches and this thing is totally in business. I would for sure buy a cupcake and sit in there and eat it.  But right now my dog can pee in it.  And that’s about it.  And I don’t even have a dog, sadly.

The second photo is of an area that I’m pretty sure is even meant to be public space because there are sidewalks cutting through.  But it’s clearly not public friendly, and neither is this place:

Now this is a lovely space with all sorts of landscaping and fancy stones and bricks and all that.  But what am I supposed to do here?  Stand around?  Ride around in circles on my bicycle?  Do a dance in the center? Where are the benches? Or trash cans even?  What the hell?

The argument has been mentioned time after time that if we have parks and benches they’ll just be overtaken by homeless people.

Well, awesome.

Let’s just keep people homeless (with no benches to sleep on) and perpetuate the notion that people have to move to soulless suburbs to have any decent (though completely fake and manipulated) open space. Poo on that. I want my pocket park!

You’re so skewed.

April 14, 2008

An art form I truly appreciate and partake in more and more is cartography.  Like everything else, the romantic old methods have been replaced with digital tools, but this has allowed us to do such interesting things.  I deemed myself a cartographer in graduate school (when I basically got a masters in New York City), but now turn my cartographic attention to my current and childhood home of DC (now the city, before the SUBurbs).

One thing that has really irked me since I moved back is the DC metro map:

It’s a graphic disguised as a map.  The lines are obviously stylized to read easier, which makes sense when used as a simple guide to use the system-which I believe is its primary intended purpose.

The problem I have with maps that stress form over function (as a traditional, accurate representation of actual space) is that they produce judgments that are equally as skewed as the maps.

Here is a map I made using the actual locations of the lines and stations:

My first point here is that the stations are not as evenly spaced in some locations as the stylized map shows. For instance on the west (Vienna) side of the orange line, you see 4 stations spread apart and 5 bunched together.  The 5 bunched together create the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor, which is hailed as a great walkable area and a national example of transit-oriented development.  It’s because when the stations are closer together, your chances of being within walking distance of one is far better than when they’re miles apart.  The rest of the system seems to still serve primarily as a commuter rail for suburbanites to get into DC.  More stations please!

It’s so unfortunate that DC metro planners (and DC residents in general) have been and continue to be so active against using New York as a model (where you can walk from station to station).  I feel like it’s the sour grapes, second-best complex that keeps DC from taking even the good ideas from New York.  I don’t know how many times I’ve heard about the “second best subway system”, with an undertone of “well, first doesn’t matter because its New York, which isn’t even America.”  A few months ago, I was reading a post on a DC blog about how Five Guys (a DC better-than-fast-food chain) opened up a restaurant in Manhattan that actually had lines out the door when it first opened.  There was a sense of vindication in that post…like Five Guys made DC better than NYC for a second.

The second thing that irks me far more than the first is that the official map makes it look like DC is pretty evenly covered by metro.  It’s not.  You can see in my map that there are some pretty big chunks of space in the city that are not close to metro and that the downtown area, where a ton of stations converge is actually a smaller area than shown officially.

This one points out the areas that are within a 1/2 mile of the stations, which is often considered the upper limit of what people would be willing to walk.  I just hate how the official map makes Northeast DC (an area of the city in dire need of more investment) or really the entire north of the city look like it has service, when it doesn’t.

Actually, I’m not even sure people in DC realize that there are neighborhoods pretty far north and pretty far east because they’re not so easy to get to.  But then again DC has a persistent condition of having transient folks that don’t know much about the city at all…they all seem to be confined to the Northwest quadrant and don’t seem to be aware of much beyond.  It’s strange coming from New York, where I felt like there was a pride in knowing as much as possible about the city: its history, its mysteries, its underground, its thousands of offerings and its many individual neighborhoods.  DC in itself is a fascinating place with quite a history and LOCAL political atmosphere…it’s unfortunate that doesn’t pulsate through all of the people.

That devolved into a rant about DC.  The point is DC has a lot of potential and maps are cool, even when they’re all skewy.

My new school dress.

April 13, 2008

This was a serious test of my patience, but now that it’s FINALLY finished, I’m so happy with it. This took me about two months, which in the scheme of things isn’t so long, but I got pretty bored with it after a while. After I finished the back and realized I had a whole other side to do I knew knitting dresses probably wasn’t for me…unless they’re the Twinkle, done-in-four-days kind (though to be honest the chunky trend may be losing the chic appeal that it first had with me).

This dress was knit with the Venetian yarn I bought while on vacation: Madil Zaffiro in color 210. It’s a lovely blend of cotton, viscose and silk. The pattern was also a blend — of made-up shaping, the Vogue minidress as deduced from Another Shopgirl‘s lovely interpretation of the pattern (since I didn’t have the magazine), and Norah Gaughan’s Anais.

I think of it as the Norah/Vogue love child.

This was definitely an experiment and it was definitely a test to see if I had learned enough skills to be able to just wing something. I’m pretty excited (and relieved) that the thing fits and that the different elements of these designs seem to work well in the romantic way I had envisioned.

(What you see here is relief. I am not stoned. I swear.)

The Anais pattern is so beautiful I think, as are just about all of Norah Gaughan’s designs. She introduces me to techniques that are so interesting and really makes these projects learning experiences, which is something I’m starting to find necessary in any new project. Her cabled capecho will be next on my list for this reason.

I can’t express how happy I am to be done with this dress and to know I can actually wear this happily!

So happy I thought I’d slide down a railing at the school across the street in celebration…

…and snag my new dress. Don’t worry, I stopped before it was a full-blown crisis.

I leave you with some more excitement:

It’s spring! The curse of winter has been lifted and my previously happy life can now resume.

Displays of Knitting Affection

April 11, 2008

Are you a knitter and proud? Yo tambien! I love this brooch, which is handmade of recycled yarn. I think it’s got the perfect level of quirk.

Etsy always delivers…I guess I meant that figuratively. But it’s nice that it does literally too.

Frogger

April 10, 2008

I’ve been missing New York a lot lately, perhaps because I just visited a couple of weekends ago.  Unfortunately on that visit I didn’t get to visit one of my favorite places in the city: Barcade, a bar in my old hood, Williamsburg, BK (aka land of the super hipsters).  It’s a fantastic large space (run on wind power) with a pretty decent beer selection and an even better selection of old Atari games.  My personal favorite (and tormenter): Frogger.  Damn, that game is hard.  I got pretty decent by the end of my 2 years in my soulmate of cities, but eventually those logs just go by too fast…and I lose my patience.  And perhaps I get a little drunk.  Whatever.

Speaking of frogs.

Here’s a project I started already heading to the frog pond:

Right now it’s the Puff sleeve jacket from this past winter issue of Vogue Knitting made of the Fibre Company’s Savannah Bulky, which is a nice blend of merino wool, organic cotton, linen and soya fibre.   I was already modifying the pattern for bulky yarn, but I think this may have been a bad idea.  I’m not sure what to use this yarn for, but it’s another of the relatively eco-friendly yarns I’ve now used that I would feel comfortable recommending, since half of it is either organic or alternative fibre.  It’s more of an earthy look (though very nice and soft), so I’m not sure it would work with everything.  There’s a dk weight available too, which I think may be more versatile.  At full price it’s not cheap though…and I probably wouldn’t buy it if I hadn’t gotten it half off.

A possible project for this stuff is #3 (the cropped raglan top) from VK Winter 2006/2007–an issue I just discovered so I could do the famous cabled capecho, which will be my next project once I finish the never-ending Anais dress.

I need to stop buying yarn without a specific purpose in mind.  That’s possibly the most un-eco-friendly habit ever.

Get your choo-choo on

April 10, 2008

That is a direct quote from Amtrak.

May 10th is the first ever National Train Day!!

Support sustainable transportation!

If you’re planning on traveling that day consider the train as your mode of choice, whether it’s a local or long-distance trip.  If you’re going long distance, definitely take the train instead of flying if you live in the Northeast corridor. If you live in other places where train service was bullied out of existence then use your voice, your wallet, or whatever you’ve got to push for increased intercity passenger rail.

Especially now that we know they don’t inspect those planes we’re all accustomed to flying in. Yikes!

Hey–and you can even take your knitting on the train no problem, which often is not the case on a plane.  I knitted up my rochefort chapeau nice and easy on the train from DC to New York while listening to my ipod, which I plugged into the outlet next to me.  And I stretched my legs out…boy did I stretch my legs out.

One more thing.  A huge criticism of Amtrak is the cost of the tickets.  The train is very expensive, but I want to point out their rewards program and the Amtrak credit card.  I don’t use the latter too much, but when I use it to buy train tickets, the points are multiplied and it doesn’t take too much to get a free ticket.  I have a few free train tickets along the NE corridor banked–even after using 2 to give me a free trip to NYC a couple of weekends ago.  For me it beats the hell out of driving, which is $$$$ and definitely the bus, which is always a trying experience–it once took me 8 hours to get from NYC to DC on the bus during a strange time when the NJ Turnpike was closed because of flooding.  Needless to say, I took the train back up that weekend.

It’s also another story of how those prices could go down if there was more supply and demand in more places.  Anyway–please consider the train.