Wednesday, September 25, 2013

WIP Wednesday: Socks & Sentiments, Bitch.

Let's get sappy here for a moment.

About a year and a bit ago I got a tattoo on my arm. It was my first one and I doubt it will be my last. I sketched what I wanted & my artist made it even better than I could have imagined. I was initially concerned that the knit stitches would look random and out of place, but she turned my drawing into something organic and beautiful. The quote is from a letter Virginia Woolf wrote when she was locked away and though she wrote it in a fit of desperation and melancholy, I gained my own interpretation from the words. I studied English in college, so while the words may have garnered me flack from some, I don't really care. Saving may have been more literal to Ms. Woolf, but it can still save me as well.

Whenever I look down at my tattoo I am reminded of so many things. The initial thrill of getting my tattoo, which started "the most exciting month of my life thus far," and the mundane not-so-exciting moments that have brought me to where I am now. Every night I've spent knitting in bars with friends or driving to yarn festivals with friends or watching stupid tv with friends or playing Dance Central and knitting with friends. Every trip I've taken has been documented with photos and souvenir skeins of yarn purchased in Seattle, Hanalei, Paris, Portland (Maine), etc. Knitting has saved me in many ways.

I'm the first to fess up to being a yarn hoarder. I used to be frugal and more money savvy, but then I got passionate and lost my mind a little. I like to joke that I'm setting my future daughters up with stashes they can't even knit, but let's be real (I'll probably have all boys): I just really like to buy yarn. There is always something new to see and something new to knit, so why not? This was never an issue until recently, when I moved across the country and gave up what is probably the only retail job I really enjoyed. I really had a hard time leaving, despite all the recent internal developments that weighed me down (COUGHugh*THAT*coworkerCOUGH).

Despite all the yarn hoarding I've done over the years, I just can't feel that bad because so many of those skeins are special to me. One of the special memories I have from when I was younger is looking at my mother's charm bracelets. She had a very different childhood than I did and she had so many charms from her birthdays and family trips that she needed two bracelets to hold all the charms. For me, yarn is like those charms. Each skein I collect when I travel or go to a Fiber Festival holds those memories as I knit with them.

This week's WIP is from a skein of yarn a friend gave me long ago, around when I first moved to Philly even. These were the slow days at the shop, where we would wait and wait for customers to come in. Sara gave me this yarn after deciding the colors weren't really her and I, being the yard hoar(der) than I am, snatched it up to cast on for a sockhead hat. But I never did, because I got distracted by something else, as I tend to do.

I am not a sock knitter, but I mean to be. For some reason I packed this random skein of yarn with me when I moved to California, when yarn space was a premium in the one suitcase I allowed myself to bring with me. I thought I might use it at some point and yesterday I just decided that I wanted to cast on for some socks to bring with me to Portland this weekend. And, as I worked on my other WIP for the week (Breaking Bad, what what!), I got sucked in and knit most of the first sock. Whoops.

Project: Vanilla Sox
Pattern: Adapted from How I Make My Socks
Yarn: Bitsy Sock in Lover of Art
Needles: Size 1 Hiya Hiya Sharps

Whenever I'm feeling blue I can put on these socks and think of different times. I can think of that first winter in Philly, when I was having the time of my life and meeting so many great people. I can think of Sara, who gave me this skein for no real reason, and all that knitting and enabling we have been through. And I can thank her for showing me another new indie dyer I never would have known because you know I love that shit.

Now back to Breaking Bad, bitch.

(<3 <3 Aaron Paul <3 <3)

Friday, September 20, 2013

FO Friday: Bray Cap & Homebrew Round 1

Where have I been? In Philly! I surprised one of my besties for her birthday and had a fabulous weekend surrounded by some of the best friends a girl could ask for. And I came back to a new California slump (and a lovely boyfriend who had berries & wine waiting). So now I am back, in a bit of a slump and planning on all the ways to make Autumn awesome. Because I can't be in too much of a slump during the best time of the year!

View from my hotel. All my favorites.

So, Philly was awesome. But we know this, because I love me some Stinky Philly. I got a little emotional when I walked past my weird hotel home, which is hilarious to me since I was so miserable when I found out we would be moving there. First World Problem to the max. I had a little cry and pressed on, exhilarated by being in a city again. I spent each day with a friend (or five) and just enjoyed this breath of fresh air. In short, I needed this.

A trip to Philly wouldn't be complete without yarn and knitting (and eating mussels 3 times in a week). Most of the friends I made there was because of knitting and most of my favorite memories from these past two years have been the assorted sheep & wool fests/knitting circles we have spent together. I won't be attending Rhinebeck this year (:'( tears forever), so we knit it up while I was visiting. And bought some yarn.

Peace Fleece WW, PF dk, Shepherd's Wool WW
My dear yarn hoarding protege & I took the train into Manayunk to visit my friend Lisa's shop, Hidden River Yarns. She stocks Quince! And so many other good things! It was hard to leave without a sweater's quantity of that middle yarn, but I only had so much room in my suitcase. Our visit was the same day Brooklyn Tweed's Fall '13 collection came out and I knew immediately that I wanted to make a Bray Cap ASAP. I get a sick thrill from casting on for things as soon as they come out :) So I bought my yarn, bought the pattern & cast on that very evening. And finished it the next day.

Seriously. How beautiful is this hat? I love me some cables like you wouldn't believe, so I was stoked when I saw the entire BT Fall '13 collection. Stonecutter pullover might just be the most beautiful sweater I've ever seen. I would love to knit it (someday), but cables make me look boxy. Maybe I'll just knit it and hang it on a wall somewhere.

(I'm not kidding)

Anyways. This hat. I knit it in a day and a bit, and I'm already itching to cast on for another one. This was my first time using Peace Fleece, which is actually a bit more of an aran weight, and it won't be the last. I would love a squishy cardigan out of this yarn, again, someday. Because it was an aran weight, this hat turned out a smidge too large, but that won't stop me from wearing the heck out of this next weekend when I'm in Portland(ia). As a result of the size, I won't be blocking it for the time being. And by that I mean until I knit another one. I have some O-Wool Local waiting to be swatched for an upcoming design (Colorwork! Holla!), so I might tuck into that while I wait for my other colors to arrive. Bray in Local? Amazingness.

Action shot
Pattern: Bray Cap by Jared Flood
Yarn: Peace Fleece Worsted in Wild Mustard
Needles: Hiya Hiya Sharps in 4 & 7
Mods: used a regular cast on

Knitting Bray in a day was a nice break from my Taking a Chance shawl, which is coming out beautifully...aside from the huge issue I discovered yesterday (and refuse to talk about). I love everything about this shawl and I can't wait to finish it this weekend. Plucky Bello is wicked nice. Wicked. I also cast on for Terra (I need to stop with the Jared Flood), which has been in my queue since the pattern was first published. I'm using the Shepherd's Wool I bought while I was in Philly and it's so soft. It's coming along quickly and is perfect for knitting during my Breaking Bad binge watching/wine drinking. I'm hoping to have that one done next week :)

The other FO I should mention is our first batch of homebrewed beer. We made beer! That actually tastes like beer. We've done a few small samplings along the way and epically failed with the bottling (you need to add bottling sugar? Duh), so this batch was the actual, final result. And it was beautiful. 
Pint glass compliments of Skyle
It's a cloudy, light summer ale that we dubbed "Clementine Summer Ale" after our cat baby. As you do with anything, the obvious next step was to go to the brew store the very next day and brew batch two, this time a Saison. It will be ready in about three weeks & this time we are going to do it all right ;) I'm fighting the temptation to add some hibiscus ala Jolly Pumpkin's Baudelaire Hibiscus Saison, but there's always next time. We are already planning Christmas brewing.

Clementine seal of (dis)approval

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

WIP Wednesday: Happy Plucktember!

It's no secret that I'm a yarn hoar. All you need to do is look through my (not fully updated) Ravelry Stash to see that. I used to buy Madtosh like it was going out of style, but recently another yarn has stolen my heart...and wallet.

I'm talkin' Plucky.

And September is now a whole month dedicated to the celebration of all things Plucky, which is kind of amazing. Given the flurry of excitement over in the Ravelry group, you can see just how many people feel the same way I do about this beautiful yarn.

At Vogue Knitting NY
I didn't buy it all, but boy do I regret that. I vowed to put together a montage or something of all my yarn hoarding pictures. There are more online than I would like to admit. The thing about Plucky is that I actually use it, unlike most of the other special skeins I hoard away. Why is that? Because it's just so darn beautiful. And so nice to work with.

Sempervivum by Jared Flood
My first Plucky FO used two skeins of Primo Fingering in Barn Door. Oh man. Not only is the base delightful (20% cashmere!), but it takes dye like a boss. The pattern is by Jared Flood (thump, thump, thump goes my heart) and worked up surprisingly fast. The combination of lace stitches & luxurious yarn was perfect and this is one of my favorite FOs from last year. I even rocked it at VK Live in the above photo. I'd love to (someday) rework this in a heavier weight.

Ziggity by Kirsten Kapur
Another Plucky shawl, this time using some of the Plucky Feet One Hit Wonders I picked up at VK Live. Kirsten Kapur is one of my favorite designers & when I saw a sample of thing at VK I knew that I needed to knit it ASAP. I'm a huge fan of blue & gray (see here also) and this yarn was a joy to work with. I'm really kicking myself for not snatching up a few more skeins of these because One Hit Wonders are my faves.

Dateline Cowl by Thao Nguyen
My most recent Plucky FO was also knit in Plucky Feet. I wasn't a huge fan of this color when it arrived, but when I volunteered to test Thao's new pattern, I thought the delicate lace would be perfect for this color. I used most of the skein, but still have a small orange sized ball. Might pair it with another shade for a colorblock hat. Someday. 

Which brings us here, to Plucktember. I'm trying not to get too overzealous here because I have so many things to knit & finish up before the end of October. Wedding shawls, presents, etc. I'm kind of losing my mind a bit. You would think that my knitting output would have skyrocketed now that I'm unemployed, but it really hasn't. I've only managed to finish 2 things since moving here a month and a half away. How is that possible? I'm really not even sure. Oh wait, the internet. And my recently developed ADD. So I'm keeping things simple & making plans for only three of my precious plucky skeins. It helps that I only brought six with me.

Plucky Bello in Windmill Island & Traveler in Lonely Heart
I cast on for Taking a Chance on Love on September 1st and I'm flying through it. It might be endless stockinette, but did I mention that Bello is almost 50% cashmere?! Yeah. Makes all the purling almost worth it. Ok, it is worth it. When I saw the cables & lace I was sold and bought the pattern immediately. I'm surprised their aren't more FOs on Ravelry. I haven't gotten very far yet, but my project page is visible here.

Isn't this beautiful?
That other skein is Traveler Aran in Lonely Heart. I bought it mostly because if reminded me of Marina & the Diamonds (<3), but it's a lovely autumnal purple. Perfect for leaf peeping...if I can find some leaves around here. I plan on designing a slouchy cabled hat, so I might not finish it before Plucktember is over. My backup plan is to use it for a modified Contemporary (My homegurl Christie is casting on for one) or Lowbrow, another Thao design that is blowing up all over Plucktember.

Since we went to San Diego last weekend (more on that later), I plan on knitting all of the things & relaxing this weekend. It's going to be good. Traveling is fun but exhausting.