Friday, August 30, 2013

FO Friday: Sweaters for Boyfriends

I call this sweater "Plucky Guilt" because of all the Plucky Matt has bought for me over the past few years. One of the reasons he's a good guy is that he has seen my stash...

(ALL of my stash) and even helped me move 2 years worth of yarn halfway across the country. He reserves his guilt because he knows that buying yarn makes me happy and it's good to know that I will never have to hide my stash from him.

Good guy yarn supporter should be a new Knitting Meme.

Anywho. I knit Matt two sweaters before this and both were special occasion sweaters. After three years of being together I figured the sweater curse couldn't get us, so I took the plunge and knit him a simple Elizabeth Zimmerman pullover in some Patons Classic Merino. It was actually the first sweater I'd ever knit, making it extra special.

Seamless Raglan Pullover
I'm not sure why I didn't do a rib at the bottom of the sweater, but now I'm kind of regretting it. To make this sweater fit so well I measured Matt's favorite sweater, which he still owns & loves, and used that as a guide for making the perfect fitting sweater. And it did! Except it was a bit short.

This second sweater was a bit of a flub up in terms of sizing. To be honest, this whole pattern was a mess and needs to be reworked since it is such a good sweater. Be sure to read the errata and Ravelry pattern notes included by other knitters because they helped me a lot. I used a much lighter yarn (Eco+ <3) than the pattern calls for and did the math to try and make up for it. Unfortunately, I miscalculated and should have knit the third smallest size instead of the second. I also need to choose some bigger buttons because these keep popping out. Ah well. He still wears it.

Brownstone is the sweater I finished this week. It's another Jared Flood pattern (<3 swoon <3) and this one is much, much better. I would even venture to say that this is my favorite sweater I've ever knit and I want to knit him at least one more at some point. I knit my swatch flat for this, despite it being a pullover, because I know that I tend to tighten up just a smidge when I knit in the round. And this time it worked out because it fits like a glove. 

Even better is that this yarn is DEEP stash stuff that I bought before I moved to Philly. I scored a bag of Ella Rae Classic Merino for $29, meaning this sweater cost less than $15 to complete. AND I still have enough leftover to knit myself a sweater too. I'll throw in a couple of stripes and probably turn it into a cardigan so we don't match, but I really enjoyed working with this yarn. It's a great workhorse yarn and not *too* scratchy. I still need to wash and block it, but Matt insisted on wearing it out that same night to a drag show.

Action shot at the drag show
I did make some modifications to ensure the fit I wanted. I figured Matt wouldn't be too into the toggles, so I took a gamble and moved the neckline up a bit. To do this I kept knitting past where the pattern said to bind off the front center stitches (at about 12 inches) and continued to work in the round until where the V-neck shaping started (about 14 inches). From there I followed the pattern as written. Once I got to the collar I had to do a bit more improvising and didn't really pay much attention to placing stitch markers on the sweater front.

Et voila! The whole sweater took about two weeks to knit, including weaving in ends and sewing up underarms, which usually tacks on an extra week or two since I hate, hate, hate finishing things. I might sew down the collar so it doesn't pop up, but we shall see. I know myself and I know my, "maybe I'll do this..." and I don't have a great track record. 

Ravelry link: Plucky Guilt
Pattern: Brownstone by Jared Flood
Needles: 5&6
August 12th - 27th

Incidentally, The New Yorker published an interesting article about the history of knitting and dun, dun, dun...The Sweater Curse. It's actually a pretty good read, but, obviously, I'm not too superstitious when it comes to knitting a sweater for my boyfriend. Expect to see another Brownstone in Matt's future. 

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Thursday is for Tasty Treats

I finally got around to taking some pictures of my California stash and updating Ravelry. I've been trying really hard to budget, which is something I used to be really good at...before I started working in knitting stores. Before then I was content with "blowing" my money on thrift shop books & the occasional latte. Speaking of, it's almost Pumpkin Spice Latte season (MY FAVORITE TIME OF YEAR) and I can't even get excited about it because it just feels wrong here. But I'm sure I'll get over it by September 1st.

Anyway. Back to the yarn. When I travel I really enjoy picking up new skeins of yarn and I always try to select things that I haven't seen before or that I know won't be readily available elsewhere. The yarns pictured above, aside from the Plucky, which was mailed to me by my mother, were all purchased in California at a few different shops and events. And almost all of these yarns I've never used before. 

The top three skeins (gray, orange, green) are all from when the Yarnover Truck rolled into town last weekend. I remember reading about the truck when they were first getting started and was majorly bummed because I thought I would never get to check them out. Now I'm cursing the fact that I did get to because they are AWESOME. Seriously, AWESOME. Can you talk about hand-dyed heaven? They have some basic workhorse yarns, but most of the skeins in this sweet little truck are beautiful luxury yarns and a good portion of them are from California. That green skein of Sincere Sheep (from Napa Valley!) is my favorite purchase from the shopping trip and I'm regretting not buying another skein. But they'll be around again and I have to save some for others. 

The creamy skein is Anzula Mermaid from Sheared Sheep in Costa Mesa. It's 60% Sea Cell/40% Silk and utterly gorgeous. I HATE when knitters call yarn "yummy" (really. Knitting pet peeve #1), but this might be an exception. I'm thinking this will be Out of Darkness by Boo Knits to wear with my bridesmaids dress this October. A special occasion calls for a special shawl, dontcha think?

The other non-Plucky skeins are from my new LYS, Alamitos Bay Yarn Company, and the FoxyKnits trunk show. The wound ball is a great little skein of Koigu and I only bought one (budgeting!), so I need to try and be creative. I'm thinking a simple twisted rib slouchy hat? That will be cute. This isn't my usual color scheme, but when I saw it on the shelf I knew I had to have it. The only skein I don't have plans for is the Felted Tweed (in "watery"), but it's a soft tweed so I'm sure I can find something for it.

See? Great!
And the Plucky? Well. It's almost PLUCKTEMBER, so I better start planning soon. But I can focus on that tomorrow...along with these delicious scones. Dark chocolate & pear? Get in my belly.

Photo from Smitten Kitchen

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Wednesday Wrap Up

My projects haven't really changed much over the past few weeks since I've been working on a few larger pieces. Let me just say that I am SO ready to be knitting something for myself ;) It's been far too long and I have some Plucky Bello itching to be used. I've resumed working on my friend's wedding shawl because ZOMG it's almost time. I'm on the last full repeat and waiting for another ball of yarn, so I'll be feeling a lot better when it actually arrives so I can start the edging.

Winnowing by Bristol Ivy
I managed to wrap up a WIP last night and hope to take some photos this evening. It's been ungodly hot here in Seal Beach, so I don't really want to force Matt into a woolly sweater on the beach. I'll have to settle for an Instagram shot for the time being. (Hey! Add me over there)

Brownstone by Jared Flood
I would have to say this might just be my favorite sweater I've knit. And it's not even for me! I told Matt I was working on a sweater for myself and when I handed it to him last night, his eyes legit bugged out in surprise. Poor boy acts like he's deprived of knit wear? Bitch, please. I'll post more about it on FO Friday :)

I've been reading A LOT since I moved here. My love of books has been a lifelong affair and, over the years, that love and ebbed and flowed throughout my life. For the past few years I just haven't been reading. Maybe it was college that took that desire from me, but I just haven't really felt like it? Not to say I gave it up completely, but I averaged maybe five books a year. And that's pretty sad for anyone, let alone a former English major.
My days here have been pretty quiet. My leg is still jacked up and I've grown bitter. Because now I can't and others can and I'm upset about that. I'm now confined to the gym and chain myself to the Arc Trainer every single most weekdays. Instead of feeling like a galloping gazelle on the river trail, I now feel caged. The plus side here is that I have 30-60 minutes of prime reading time every morning.

So yes. I've been reading a lot since I moved here. I find it helps if I start a book right after I finish one, so I don't lose that rhythm I've developed. I've read six books since moving here a month and a half ago, and if this continues I just might reach my 2013 reading goal of 30. Woohoo! Seeing my little progress bar update on my Goodreads account also gives me a boost.

The book I finished last night (at 2am!) was beautifully written. The Snow Child is set in Alaska and is a retelling of a classic tale about an elderly couple who wish for a child of their own more so than anything else. It really was a beautiful book and even though I could see the ending coming for a mile away, I really did enjoy reading it. This old lady stayed up til 2am for it! If you're into dreamy novels with a beautiful backdrop this one is for you!

This, along with Ticket to the Fair, a personal essay by David Foster Wallace, have me really thinking about setting and the identity a person can form from where they live and the time they live in. I read Ticket to the Fair, written by DFW as a lifelong Midwesterner returning from a few years on the East Coast and I was shocked by how intangible my own memories of home have become. It feels like I haven't lived at home in a long, long time, but it's only been two years. Maybe it's because I'd already left, in spirit, years before. I'd always dreamt of the day when I would move to the East Coast; Boston or Portland, I thought.

I miss Home; Matt misses home. Could we go home and be happy there? Maybe. Could we go home and be bored out of our skulls? Probably. We haven't found our place yet and I think that's what keeps us moving. But that can only last so long.

I got a restorative postcard yesterday from Skyle in Philly. It was really nice to know that people out there are thinking of me. Now I want to send/receive all of the postcards. Who wants a postcard swapping penpal? 

Now I will spend the rest of the day restarting Pretty Little Liars from the very beginning. No spoilers here, but last night's episode makes me want to look for some A clues! I've turned into a big ol' wuss and was spoiled by the cool 70s when I moved here. Now it's far too hot to go outside.  

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A Reminder

I know it's hard to see it now, but someday I will be grateful for all the opportunities living like this has afforded me.

It might be trying on my soul and it might be hard to be happy for people I should be happy for. But I should be glad that I'm not tied down now by a job, a marriage, a baby. That I can take off for a weekend and go here or do this or do whatever.

I need to remember this. Because it (mostly) makes me happy.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

SoCal so far

I haven't taken much time to write about Southern California on a whole, aside from when I'm mourning my Philly life.

SoCal, as the natives call it, is a strange little place. It's really unlike anywhere else I have ever lived. I have spent most of my time in Seal Beach, but during the weekends we try to branch out a bit and explore. I have spent afternoons in Long Beach, Newport Beach, ...that other place(?) and driven through Huntington Beach on a few occasions. That place is ALWAYS swamped and I can't wait until it's a little colder/quieter (does it do that here?) so that I can explore without the mob scene. I can see the Long Beach skyline from the beach at the end of the San Gabriel Bike Path, where I like to conclude my walks, but it's not even really a skyline. For two years I missed seeing the stars from my yard and now I miss the city noise. I guess I'm hard to please.

The thing that struck me about SoCal and one of the (few) things I like about living here is that I can see the history here. This is a different kind of history. Not the Liberty Bells or Independence Halls, but remnants of a cultural past. One afternoon Matt and I hopped in the car and he took me to a fabric shop in Fountain Valley. It was in a nondescript shopping center, standing beside a Mexican Bakery, fish supply store and Indian fast food "restaurant." I was immediately thrown back into my childhood, taking weekend trips with my family and grandmother to Addison, IL for the the better thrift shop, Mexican pastries (I like those sugary white things) and my mother running into pre-supercenter JoAnn for a peek at fabric. Sharing sugary Mexican coke & cookies with Matt in a moment of familiarity in an unfamiliar place was nice. Then we probably got into a fight and that moment was over.

There's a proper Tiki Bar down the street. One of the few in existence bearing the original Don the Beachcomber name. It may be a newly minted version of the original, but it's still there. People tend to focus on the beauty that is found in California. And it is; I really do live in paradise now, but there is something so strange and beautiful about the sense that I not only live in a different place, but also, seemingly, in a different time all together. I remember being obsessed with the strange abandonment of the Salton Sea way back in high school. Back then I never thought I would be living in California, let alone 2.5 hours away.Given the plethora of information I've found (thanks, Google!), I feel ready to explore.

Let's hope this next month is kinder to me than the first has been. I'm ready to go home.

P.S. I'm pretty sure that if the zombie apocalypse ever happens it will start here.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

WIP Wednesday: Love is...

Brownstone by Jared Flood
Yarn: Ella Rae Classic
Started: August 12, 2013

Surprising your boyfriend with a woolly sweater in the middle of August in California. I lug this thing to the pool, the beach, etc. because Matt only packed one sweater (the cashmere J. Crew I thrifted for him) when we moved here. And it gets cold at night. Heck, as I type this someone just walked past me in a knit hat (at noon). This is some old school Pre-Philly stash yarn that I bought at Little Knits for $2.something a ball that was going to be a Timberline (also for Matt) and then an Exeter (for me), but I realized that would be silly in this dark shade. Both of those will be knit eventually, but probably in Eco Wool. Squishy.

My design
Yarn: Plucky! Primo Fingering
Started: Awhile ago?

And this is a little treat for me. I've swatched this a whole bunch and think I finally found the flow. I'd love to have this knit up & a pattern typed up in time for Plucktember, but we shall see. This should take only one skein of Primo fingering. I also have an idea sketched out for a hat in Traveller Aran, but the internet has a strong hold over me that prevents me from knitting. But isn't that the way it goes?

And another, non-yarn related, WIP for today:

We made beer! A summer ale and we bottle in 2 weeks. More on that later :)

Friday, August 9, 2013

Dear Beer

Dear Beer,

To put it simply, I love you.

Not so simply, I love you for all the times you remind me of. All the "road trips" with Matt up to Wisconsin to sit on a hill in New Glarus and leaf peep with a Moon Man.

All the afternoons spent giggling with K Furst after work/in the middle of the day/whenever and turning into yarn monsters over our Blind Pigs.

My last seven hour conversation with Zach, who I may never see again, at Geneva Ale House about life, love and moving forward.

Smuggling beers in the Square with K Ho. That first trip to Solemn Oath when we were the only people there and I was knitting a sock while drinking a Yarnbomb for the first (and last) time. All the brewery tours from all the trips these past two years. Beer brings grownups together in the same way coffee shop gatherings did in High School. I was always that coffee shop girl.

We share our stories when we share our beers. 

So, let me tell you a story. Once, not too long ago, a Midwest girl moved to the lovely city of Philadelphia in the Puritan state of Pennsylvania, where liquor stores are government run and beer is only sold in delis or through distribution centers. Sure, you can get a 12-pack of Yeungling Lager (from the Oldest Brewery in America!) for a reasonable price, but that craft beer stuff you're after? $18 for a 6-pack. Philly is really a great place to drink beer, IF you can afford it, and we tried not to.

Moving to California has given me the opportunity to fall in love with beer again. Being right up the highway from Stone Brewing is becoming problematic. I wish I could go back to the glory days of enjoying Corona/Amstel/Heineken Light, but once you go Craft you can't really go back. Because there is constantly something new to try.

I've kind of turned into a monster since we moved here, but, since I don't have any friends here, this time it's considered a form of research. To round out of my first week of living on the West Coast, I signed us up for a Homebrew class at Steinfillers in Long Beach. We've talked about homebrewing for a while now, but living in hotels for 2 years has forced us to put this on hold. And this might be a way to finally meet some like beer-minded people. The class was great and we left with a full beginner's kit and aspirations to make GREAT beer. Someday. For now we will start small and hope for the best.

The day is finally here. After many hopeful false starts (do you know how hard it is to find a decently priced, not faulty 16 qt stock pot?), the last of our supplies is finally set to arrive today. If it's not up to snuff I might just throw it all out the window, so cross your fingers for me. We decided to start out with a partial mash summer ale, which would have been great a few weeks ago, but I've already moved into the GIVE ME ALL THE PUMPKIN BEER stage of the year. I'm trying to resist the urge to "jazz it up," but that probably spells disaster and I've been waiting so long for this.

I'm ready for it. I've got my designated BEER (& Knitting Designs...) notebook full of notes from class and tasting notes from beers we've tried the past few weeks. Yeah, I'm a huge dork, but I want to remember that beautiful Hibiscus/Rose Saison I tried a few days ago. And that whammy of an Imperial Russian Stout. And use them as inspiration as I grow, hopefully, as a homebrewer.

Hers & His
My other half & his stout.
The first beer I tried in Boston
The most inspiring beer I've tried in Cali

Sure, it will be awhile before I can make anything like that stout. Or that Saison. But we all start in the same place. And I can't wait for that first taste.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

A wishlist

Things I want (in no particular order):

-Sewing machine. I need to develop some new hobbies and I'm crafty, so I'm thinking sewing might be the way to go. I'll probably start small & make things like project bags. I'm  looking at a little cheapy one on Amazon to get me started.

-A bike. Because I'm losing my mind here & I can only take it so long.

-A hookah. Because I hate cigarettes & everyone around here smokes (cigarettes & so much weed) and I too would like to sit on my balcony. I miss horchata.

-A SQ of Plucky Trusty. Gray or red because she does them good.

-For my leg to stop hurting when I run. Walking is not the same. All I want is to be able to run comfortably for longer than a mile or two.

-Success in my creative endeavors. Too many things haven't worked out the way I wanted them to.

-Trips. All of them. I'm hoping to visit R Kelley in San Francisco soonish and I would love weekends in Phoenix & Seattle.

But seriously. I would settle for my leg not hurting. I did 5 miles yesterday and it was hard.