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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.

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.

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?

Happy Obamauguration!

January 20, 2009

Hope you all had a warmer weekend than I did.  But I also hope it was as endlessly memorable.

I am resolute

December 22, 2008

The new year is coming.  And I am resolutely exiting a period of mental cloudiness and laziness.  Hence the absence from any recent posting of my (until now) unmeritorious thoughts.   (Hopefully you agree that my thoughts now aren’t quite so unmeritorious.)

The thing is, I have actually been busy…mostly with what I would call uninspired distractions, but also with some finished (mostly sewing) creations that I am more than comfortable calling my art of the past 1 year +.  I am excited to share those, but haven’t yet found the time to make it all presentable…in this medium at least.

I guess I should cut myself some slack.  Since the election (and last time I devoted proper attention to my most intimate connection with my most respected world of creators), I went on vacation for a while to the slightly disarmingly happy country of Costa Rica and had to take an unexpected trip to Toronto for some family sadness.

I suppose those are just excuses.  The truth is my inspiration had waned–but I feel it returning and I have a few creative endeavors that I plan on being much more forthright about–if anything so that I can receive some valuable input from all of you…

So in that spirit I have some resolutions.  Real ones.

1.  I had a great goal in 2008 to only use sustainably sourced yarns (organic fibers, low impact dyes, etc).  I found this to become increasingly easier, but often at odds with other important goals I would like to hold–like supporting my local economy.  Unfortunately my local yarn and fabric shops were not large stockers of sustainably sourced textiles and yarns.  Having accomplished my goal for the year, I plan on expanding my definitions of what I can use and what’s important, but the main goal for the year (and it’s appropriate given the death of the economy) is to CONSUME LESS.  I don’t actually have a large enough stash to just work off of that, but regardless, I will limit my 2009 projects and try to use recycled/creatively sourced materials as much as is humanly possible.

2.  To begin using my own designs.  This is a confidence issue for me.  I tend to believe that I could not achieve the proper fit and construction details that  I would achieve by using a pattern.  Yet I look back to projects I made 10 years ago, that I figured out by examining garments I already owned, and they’re surprisingly well-made with more interesting details than I achieve by following patterns wholly.  Design offers that cerebral connection to craft and the actual practice of creating that seriously fulfills me…sometimes to the point that I wonder why I bother spending time on anything else.  It’s my white collar/blue collar dream…a blue collar with white polka dots.

and 3.   To take the time to write again.  It’s quite healthy and satisfying.  I sometimes forget that making time for things I enjoy must be a conscious decision–and can be hard to make myself do.  It’s like exercise.  Ultimately it feels good.  But it can be difficult to initiate.  Especially when we let ourselves stop for too long…and then have to battle the inertia.  It’s like I can feel the laziness envelop me and eventually put me to sleep…it’s not until I wake up (for whatever reason) that I can shake it all out of me and start energizing again.  I’m admittedly a little hard on myself when it comes to the “L” word.  Being lazy may be my worst fear…and would probably be considered my worst failure if I were to let it strangle me.

Then again, maybe this was all a much needed hibernation.

Good preparation for the creative (and not creative) plans I have ahead for the coming year.

Happy New Year!  I wish you all a year of fulfilling productivity and no unwanted laziness.

sew sew sew…skirt.

August 24, 2008

I finally got it together and consummated my relationship with my new sewing machine. I decided I would try and sew something “for real” this time. In the past I’ve always kind of winged it…sometimes with relative success, but usually…not so much. I never really knew the right way to make a piece of clothing (like what’s this thing called interfacing??), so I would just kind of cut according to a piece of ready-made clothing I had on hand with some non-fabric, blunt-ish scissors, and then just kind of put it all together with whatever stitch seemed to look nice. Needless to say, the outcome would look quite home-sewn, which I don’t think anyone ever strives to accomplish.

So I used my first pattern! I have to say I was kind of nervous, since I had seen some before and the dozens of different lines made me think it was way more complicated than it actually is. But — it was totally easy and worked so well!! I printed this skirt pattern out (for free!) from Burdastyle, which is an open source sewing site, sort of like Ravelry for knitters, taped it together, cut out the pieces and a couple of hours later had this lovely skirt made of a gorgeous navy cotton lawn (not organic, sadly).

I even used interfacing for the first time to make a real waistband. Burdastyle is a great resource for sewers, with tutorials on various projects and general techniques, and a decent library of free (or at least cheap) great patterns. I’ve already bookmarked quite a few that are definitely worth attempting.

I’ve also come across some other great resources for sewing techniques, since I know practically nothing except what I’ve invented (the art brut approach, if you will, until now). You may be able to notice the currently screwy hem on the skirt. Since the skirt tapers at the end, the hem was pretty much a nightmare. I redid it several times, until I came to an intermediate solution of just sewing down a few points of the hem — I sewed a couple of inches, left a couple of inches unsewn, and continued as such to leave space for where the fabric has to bunch. But now I’ve found this: the faced hem. When I have the patience, I plan on doing this with some leftover scraps of some printed cotton lawn. I’m still discovering all the resources that are out there. It’s amazing how much easier sewing can be when you learn techniques that people have already figured out for you. I guess that’s not amazing at all really…but what is actually kind of amazing is that seemingly complicated garments are actually far more doable than I had thought before.

So, like I said, the fabric I used was not “green” in any way. I haven’t found too many resources for green sewers yet, but Amy Karol at Angry Chicken (a blog I have been really loving lately for amazing things like homemade deodorant — that I have made and can attest to its wondrous efficacy) has mentioned an online resource for eco-friendly fabrics, yarns and sewing supplies: NearSea Naturals. They have organic cotton thread, natural elastic and the like, and also fabrics like hemp silk charmeuse. I will be partaking soon. When I have convinced myself that I am indeed in control of my spending habits and therefore do not need therapy to uncondition myself from the feeling that spending money does in fact make me feel better…sigh.

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.

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?

Virginia.

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.

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.

However.

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.

Out with the new, in with the old.

May 6, 2008

I’ve been doing pretty well with my shopping rules, meaning I’ve been doing pretty well sticking with organic and/or local and/or second-hand purchases. The only problem is I haven’t been doing so well on cutting back the unnecessary things I buy, which is definitely the most important of all those goals.

While I have been doing extremely well in dampening that gut reaction to buy something brand new by looking to Ebay or Craigslist for something used instead (like my new tripod or my new sewing book), I’ve recently been faced with something harder, but possibly more responsible in the long run: making used things work (thank you, Tim Gunn). In some cases I mean that literally, like this old Remington typewriter that my Tim (not Tim Gunn, because he’s clearly not mine) got from his now-deceased grandmother’s attic.

It weighs like a million pounds.

That’s obviously an exaggeration. But it weights A LOT. I think it’s cast iron. I know it’s pretty much absolutely gorgeous. Although I feel like I was raised on computers, I was actually on the generational cusp of having to use typewriters. I remember using them for college applications because just a mere 10 years ago not all schools offered PDFs of their applications that you could fill out online.

This is actually a terrible example, because the typewriter isn’t going to keep me from using a computer…it’ll just be a fun thing to test out and play with every once in a while. Could be fun to make prints and art with or something…

There are other things that are a better example of using the old to make something that will hopefully prevent me from buying something new.

Like this dress he also found in the attic:

I think it’s from the 30s (his great grandmother’s). Right now it’s a huge sack, but the rhinestones are actually quite nice–they’re set in brass in a way that, like everything else, seems to be done of a high quality you never see now. The plan is to seriously alter it into a fancy-ish dress. If I ever get my hands on that sewing machine.

So in preparation for my new life of altering old things and making them new again, I thought I would look for some tutorials on altering old clothes…and I found something even better. Did you know you can get incredibly old New York Times articles online? I found one from 1915: “Altering Frock Often More Expensive Than New Suit; Frequent Changes in Styles Likely to Make of No Avail the Hard Work of Reconstruction.”

Haven’t you seen a woman work for over a week over a frock that should have been discarded, and which never gave a moment’s satisfaction after it was finished? This condition implies lack of judgement.

Ouch! That’s totally me usually….

One of the greatest financiers, when asked to what especial quality he thought he owed his success, answered: “The elimination of the non-essential.”

I agree. But 1915 was a different time (amazingly profound, right?)…and the elimination of our non-essential would probably refer more to our purchase of new things rather than our need to more readily throw away old things…which most of us seem to have zero problem with. Remember when people used to fix things?

I guess maybe if this was what I had to make, I wouldn’t be considering rehabbing that old dress.  Luckily I can get away with a simple design and call myself deliberately minimalist.