Archive for May, 2008

Love me some cables

May 31, 2008

Thanks to a lot of time at the hospital while my man was recovering from possibly the weirdest (and scariest) case of appendicitis ever (his appendix burst a couple of days before he even felt enough pain to go to the hospital, which then resulted in a 3+ hour surgery, some removal, cleaning and replacement of vital organs, and a week of recovery in the hospital) and hours in airports and airplanes to Los Angeles and back for memorial day weekend, I finished my new favorite Cabled Capecho.

As a result of the well-documented, long-standing capecho-fit saga with knitters all over the world, I was able to make mine with the advantage of some pretty effective mods. For those unfamiliar, the capecho is shown on the cover of Vogue Knitting Winter 2007 to fit pretty closely and tightly on the model. But when knitters actually took to the pattern it would turn out quite large and bunchy.

To remedy this and achieve the close-fitting look of the cover, I copied most of this blogger’s mods, which mainly consisted of using DK weight yarn and 6s (instead of 8s), and changing the 8 stitch cables into 6 stitch cables, thus reducing the perimeter of each pentagon by 10 stitches. I didn’t follow the sleeve mods though (which theoretically are important since the pentagon pattern is modified) and just went with the pattern, which seemed to have no effect. The benefit of doing this is you get a smoother transition from the cable pattern to 2×2 rib (this means not doing the final decrease in the pattern). Using these mods, the fit is pretty damn good I think. I was worried before I blocked it because it seemed a little small actually, but it now looks the way I had wanted.

I used 4.5 skeins of Lorna’s Laces Green Line DK in Hope, which is 100% organic merino wool. It’s beautiful and soft, with a lovely slight sheen. I highly recommend it and it’s a pretty decent price for the yardage.

This pattern was actually insanely fun for me. I never got bored with it and was actually kind of sad when it was over. I realized that as long as cables are involved I’m happy. One could say I am in fact *obsessed* with cables.

And so I was a little excited when I happened upon these in a little shop in Silverlake:

I’m getting into the idea of using cable patterns in non-traditional ways, like these ceramics with knit patterns. I’m curious as to how they were done — knit fabrics pressed onto wet ceramics? Wouldn’t that ruin the fabric? How sad! I guess I like fabric more than ceramics…but I did appreciate the incorporation of one medium into another in such an interesting way. It really draws attention to the textural patterns in textiles, which I think often lose out to visual patterns.

Speaking of visual patterns, Norah Gaughan has been putting up sneak previews on Ravelry of her new Volume 3, in which she has some interesting interpretations of the cable, where she’s kind of doing the opposite: taking a textural pattern and turning it into a strictly visual one. I’m speaking mostly of the pattern I found the most interesting, which is her Portrait of a Cable, a fairisle pattern of a cable. I love that she does things like this and it got me thinking about my own interpretations of cables–some of which will hopefully be forthcoming. In the meantime I’ll just dream of knitting more cables.


le genius

May 31, 2008

That’s what I am.

I ordered my first French Phildar magazine, because the selections that have been translated into English are not as abundant.  And I love the new summer issue.

The thing is I speak zero French…well, I know j’mappelle Monica.  Parle vous Frances? And then I start speaking Spanish or Portuguese (badly).

But.  Thanks to this fantastic site, this article, and my own shocking genius, I translated my first French pattern for this beauty, which will be done with a lot of leftover blue-grey Rowan Purelife:

In celebration of my linguistic feat, I’ve already plotted my next project:

The catalogue is mix of 80s inspired dresses (which are cute) and huge cardigans (lots o ugliness in my opinion) and then the summery meshy stuff above.  My new-ish requirement is there have to be interesting new techniques that I haven’t done before (or know how to do) in order for me to knit it at this point.  The reason being I have enough clothes and not enough money to justify making everything I think is lovely.  I’ve also been doing a great job with my “green” yarn only challenge.  I just ordered me some Blue Sky Dyed Cotton and the new Limited Edition Malabrigo cotton, which has to last me through the next few months.

All in all, translating the pattern was much easier than I thought.  The thing is speaking knitspeak is far more important to understanding these patterns than speaking French.  In fact I’m not sure a French speaker who doesn’t speak knitting would be able to understand the pattern (like when I saw my first knitting pattern in English).  It’s just a matter of translating the abbreviations — half way through I was flying through the translation.  I only got stumped a few times, which was more a reflection of the weirdness of the pattern.  It has no shaping except for some minor decreases embedded into the stitch pattern, not even armhole shaping.  The diagram even shows 2 simple squares for the front and back.

Maybe my next challenge will be translating all the amazing Japanese patterns I know are out there.  A slightly harder task I feel…

Where are you from?

May 20, 2008

I’m from Virginia.

But I can’t tell you how many times someone has felt it was appropriate for this to be the first question they ask me (not my name, not how I was doing) and then look confused when I answer this way.

No, but where were you born?


Oh….well are you Indian?

My parents grew up in India. I can recommend some books if you’d like to know more about India. By the way, you look white. What’s that like?

Since when is it appropriate to express no interest in someone besides their ethnicity?

I share this because I’ve found throughout my life and even in my current workplace that people’s understanding of what is racially acceptable in America is so undeveloped when it comes to non-Black people of color. You would never walk up to someone black or white (that you have never even met before) and say, hey, so what’s it like being black or white? The point is that regardless of your race, it’s not your sole identity and you are not a representative for your race…and no one should ever be treated like they are.

Moreover, I can’t tell you how many times people who are barely acquaintances have felt the need to tell me about their Indian friends/boyfriends/etc as though I would care simply because they’re Indian. A coworker (who I am not friends with and share nothing personal with) spent a solid week or so catching me up on the goings on in her Indian ex-boyfriend’s life. I was incredibly annoyed and insulted at the use of this insensitive tactic as way to relate to me. By this method I should automatically be able to relate to every single white person on earth since I’m dating a white boy.

Frankly, it shocks me how people will often do this right off the bat with Asian people as though racial sensitivity doesn’t need to extend to us since we’re all doctors and engineers, right? The truth is virtually every Asian person I know has been touched by racial insensitivity and direct discrimination, whether it’s verbal abuse, being passed up for promotions, or the kind I’m talking about here. Interestingly, I encountered the most frequent and mind-numbing insensitivity while living in Berkeley, CA. Men trying to hit on me would first start talking to me about India. I would often walk away without saying a word. It was as though they thought they were so culturally sensitive that they could do it because they couldn’t possibly be racist.

The thing is I love talking about India because I love most things about the country. But India is not my identity, I do not represent it and I am not someone’s personal reference book on the subject. Especially when I don’t know the person.

I may sound angry about this, and, shocker, I am. I’m always amazed at how people that think they’re culturally sensitive and worldly will do this and I just want to scream RACIST in their face. Because while none of us are colorblind, it’s sobering and disappointing when it’s perfectly clear that your ethnicity and color of your skin are the only things someone sees–when they can’t possibly see that you’re a whole person with experiences and interests and that they could have tried to relate to you like they would with a person of their own race.

This all came to me when hearing about a series of articles about this exact topic on NPR.

People always talk about how diversity trainings are a waste of time…but I think everyone could stand to learn a little.

EDIT: I forgot to add one of my favorite related stories.  My friend was flying somewhere and a lovely young Indian woman was a row or so in front of her.  A young white man, presumably trying to hit on the Indian woman, turned to her and right off the bat asked her where she was from.  She turned to him and in a thick, thick southern accent and an obvious twinge of annoyance said, “Georgia.” and turned back without another word.  My friend called me immediately.

End rant here.

A little NYC in my DC

May 14, 2008

(A good reference map for actual DC neighborhoods is here.)

This idea came to me when a coworker likened Brooklyn to Arlington.

My immediate reaction was shock and horror. Brooklyn is not Arlington. Arlington is Jersey.

This map comes with a million caveats and here are just a few:

DC neighborhoods and NYC neighborhoods are only VERY loosely comparable.

The comparisons I make are based on either urban form, architecture, demographics, history, institutions in the neighborhood or a combination of the above.

I thought about giving you the complete rationale for each neighborhood comparison, but I thought I’d let it stand on its own first. If the rationale is desired it can be provided. I welcome any disagreements, agreements (obviously), or suggestions for other hoods.

One thing I will explain is that in DC most immigrant communities (with all that tasty ethnic food) is spread around the suburbs instead of in the urban core. So the suburbs is Queens. Speaking of Queens, if you want the best Indian food not made by someone in my family (yes, I’m biased) go to Jackson Diner in Jackson Heights. I’m one picky Indian and that food is goooooood.

Here are the initial neighborhood comparisons:

Chevy Chase = Upper East Side

Rock Creek Park = Central Park (though RCP isn’t so central)

Mount Pleasant = Carroll Gardens

Adams Morgan = East Village

Connecticut corridor (North Dupont to Cleveland Park-ish) = Upper West Side

Columbia Heights = Spanish Harlem

Trinidad = Crown Heights

Eastern Market = Park Slope

SW Waterfront = Battery Park City

Chinatown = Times Square

K Street Corridor = Wall St

Georgetown (around M St) = SoHo

Georgetown north (around the University) = West Village/NYU

Dupont Circle/Logan Circle = Chelsea

All of Anacostia = All of the Bronx

Shaw/Ledroit Park = Harlem

Potomac River = Hudson River

Anacostia River = East River

There were a few neighborhoods that couldn’t be applied to DC like (to name just a few) Nolita, Dumbo, and Williamsburg…which I tried to apply to Columbia Heights, but having moved from Williamsburg to Columbia Heights I knew it was too much of a stretch. Hipsters aren’t concentrated enough in DC anywhere…their little population seems to be pretty diffuse.

My next project.

May 12, 2008

The knitted bicycle.

Or this crocheted bicycle that I found on flickr from user

It’s seems to be the true intersection of textiles and bicycles I’ve been searching for.

Buy, Own, Repeat Until Fulfilled

May 11, 2008

I went to the Museum of Natural History yesterday to see an exhibit of live butterflies. There are over 300 butterflies in a smallish room heated to 90 degrees. It was lovely.


While I learned a lot about butterflies, bugs, and gems and minerals (and saw the Hope Diamond, which I didn’t find that impressive…but I can’t tell the difference between a diamond and glass), I learned even more about the blind consumerism taking over our world.

The thousands of people on the national mall in the summer months provides endless annoyance to DC residents. And since there are so many people, there’s a lot of opportunity to hear some of the dumbest things I’ve ever heard a human utter. Though I’d like to wholly attribute these tokens of idiocy to tourists and suburbanites, I can’t be sure.

Quote 1, boy whining to dad in bug exhibit:

“Daaaaad, can we go buy something?”

Tim and I turn to each other jaws dropped in disbelief. This is not an exaggeration. I was stopped dead in my tracks. Um, say what? It’s a zombie child…must – buy – something – losing – will – to – live. Shopping is the new heroin.

Quote 2, young woman whining to boyfriend/husband/whatever in gems exhibit:

“I don’t want to look at anything I can’t afford”

Because if you can’t own it has no value to you and therefore not worth looking at. Zombie couple. Must – own – everything. One of my favorite things to do is go into all the fancy boutiques on 5th Avenue and treat them like museums. So I find it particularly amazing that someone could actually be IN a museum and still behave solely like a consumer. As if she couldn’t imagine an object being a source of inspiration or beauty, but rather only a possession to flaunt. When I’m socialist queen of the world…

Quote 3, on a fluorescent-colored t-shirt worn by one of those annoying t-shirt wearing groups sprinkled throughout DC everyday:

“Okay, if this is the national mall, then take me to the Abercrombie memorial”

I have a feeling they were annoyed that the national mall wasn’t climate controlled.

I leave you with some butterflies. While you can’t own these particular butterflies, I hope you’ll find them beautiful nonetheless. And, who knows? Since my dreams of being socialist queen will in all likelihood remain unfulfilled, maybe you can actually buy them and really have it all.

Owl butterfly that tried to “hitchhike” on my leg (and then later on Tim’s).

Don’t remember what kind of butterfly this one is.

This one I thought would make a great fabric pattern.

An effective reminder to store your yarn carefully.

Happy Mother’s Day!

May 10, 2008

I’m relieved that I finished it in time.

This is the Medallion Shawl by Norah Gaughan from this past winter’s Vogue Knitting. It’s made on 9s with the now discontinued Rowan Linen Drape, acquired through Ebay and my first Ravelry trade, which is my new favorite thing. It’s a fantastic way to keep the possessions from piling up while still getting new things to keep me excited. The pattern calls for alpaca (I think) and smaller needles (6s I think), but I went with what I had and I wanted bigger, lacier, more summery hexagons. I’m actually really happy with it and am happy to give it to my stepmom for Mother’s Day. I did make a couple of modifications/short-cuts in that I left out the last 2 hexagons because I thought they would be too droopy tacked onto the ends and I didn’t do the crocheted edging. I thought it would actually look kind of messy since the hexagons are so loosely knitted in my version.

So, this will now be my offering to my great stepmom.

I consider myself to be pretty selfish and so I have endless admiration and wonder for those women that have assumed the most selfless position in life.

This day always makes me think back to my mother who died when I was young. Mothers are the ultimate role models and mine was and always will be a real life goddess to me: incredibly smart, skilled, talented and just lovely. She had a fabulously effective strictness and thoughtfulness in raising me and hopefully some of her strength and integrity has trickled down to me. One of my most distinct memories as a child was spending afternoons at the library with my mom cobbling together a huge pile of books to bring home. I consider myself to be endlessly blessed for that.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Friday is for Bicycle

May 9, 2008

Actually May is for bicycle. It’s National Bicycle Month.

The League of American Bicyclists has a great “50 ways to celebrate bike month” (pdf). My favorite is “wear spandex to your next board meeting”. I personally think board meetings should be like costume parties…but I guess the type As wouldn’t be so into that.

So with rising gas prices and a generally stagnating economy, bicycles have really been making it into the news lately and I thought I would share some of what I’ve been reading every once in a while.

The Chicago Sun Times has a great article about saving money with bicycles, highlighting one man that traded in the second car for a collection of old bikes that he’s fixed up — none of which were acquired for more than $10.

“My wife gets frustrated,” he said. “She’d rather have a second car. But the kids seamlessly just kind of bought into this lifestyle because that’s how we go to the park, to the Beverly Arts Center for classes like violin classes, to the local grocery store to pick up things. That’s how we go to the pool all summer, and so for them, it’s just a lifestyle that they kind of were just swept into.”

Raising your kids this way is possibly the best way to ensure we get that “lifestyle change” that is so essential to combat global warming. It may be hard to get to the baby boomers, but the new kids (including my own generation) are still malleable enough to convince of the responsibility and myriad benefits that come with a “low-carbon” lifestyle. Living without insane excess and prioritizing our health again — I hope this is the wave of the future.

Another comes from, a New England news site, where the spotlight is also on those that are able to save money and reduce their carbon footprint by biking to work.

This one is rather interesting from Seattle, where a man actually was taken in for psychiatric evaluation after riding his bike down Interstate 5 in Seattle. I found this hilarious at first that we actually have started committing people for riding on highways, but it turns out he had other, more severe issues…

And a great one from the LA Times about the rising use of bicycles as a mode of transport in New York City, despite the often treacherous conditions (potholes, taxis, traffic). I actually never biked in New York except for fun because I felt like it was too stressful. But the article offers a lot of promise:

The number of bicyclists has grown by 75% during the last seven years, according to the city’s count. Soon an ambitious city plan will make it possible for riders to traverse Manhattan via dedicated bike lanes and circumnavigate the island along the waterfront. Sheltered bicycle parking and thousands of new public bike racks are already in place.

New York is, afterall, the greenest city in America. It’s great to see it getting better every day. I heard one city official once say that every new person that New York gains as a resident is a win for sustainability. I plan to be one of them again someday.

In my own news, I’ve decided it’s time to really connect green craft with bicycle. So there’s a project in the works that I’ll share soon…if it makes that transition from my brain to my hands. And doesn’t suck.

Ride a bike, ride it good.

May 7, 2008

Ride it like you know you should. (shout-out to my shameless Khia fans)

I found this on the Gristmill blog, but in case you’re not a loyal Grist reader…this is amazing.

It’s a Hungarian ad…clearly in favor of biking. Apparently they build bikes differently out there. Vibrating seats perhaps.

The Grist post has some great comments mentioning some upcoming bicycle events that I encourage you all to take part in, like May 16th’s Bike to Work Day. I’m not sure if this is nationwide, the commenter mentions the one in San Francisco, but there will definitely be one in DC, courtesy of WABA and co-sponsored by the organization I work for. I will definitely be participating and hope that all of you can join in wherever you are. If you’re not a regular bike-to-worker it’s a great way to introduce yourself to it–and see how doable it can be even once in a while. If we could all try and substitute just one car trip a week with a walk or bike trip it would make a significant positive impact on our physical fitness, air and water quality, and that always looming problem of climate change.

Another event coming up on May 21st is the Ride of Silence, which is a silent, slow-paced ride in honor of those that have been injured or killed while riding on public roads. This is something I feel strongly about, because even with a fair amount of bike lanes in DC, car drivers (and pedestrians) are often oblivious to bikers. The 2 ton bubble that a car provides seems to give drivers a sufficiently dangerous air of invincibility. And they forget that those of us using that bubble-less form of transportation with infinite gas mileage are anything but invincible.

And lastly, on a happier note, if you’re in DC on May 23rd, head over to the Black Cat for…wait for it….

The Bike Prom!

More textile news: bye bye mulesing

May 7, 2008

In June of this year a major Australian wool supplier (Elder Limited) will start sales of specifically non-mulesed wool for foreign markets.  You may already know that Australia is scheduled to phase out mulesing by 2010, but this is a preliminary step to start identifying whether wool is coming from a mulesed sheep or a non-mulesed sheep (as part of the Australian Wool Industry’s 2007 agreement with PETA).

I’m not sure how this will translate into labeling for consumer goods, but hopefully the identification will trickle down in a clear way.  Or else those that wish to know will have to research where labels source their materials…which is an unlikely practice en masse.

For those that don’t know what mulesing is, the wikipedia article on it is decent.  It’s hard to find objective sources of information…and the subject sparks a lot of heat between consumers and producers.