Thursday, January 31, 2008

Striped Sock

With the leftovers growing quickly again, this week I was feeling the need for some more striped objects - one day I may think of something else to do with these bits, but it's going to be stripes and more stripes for now. Here's one sock, in a rather ugly-cute kind of colour scheme (rugbyish?), that I knitted toe-up (using the ever-popular Wendy's toe-up pattern) so as to make sure I didn't run out of yarn. Although this is my second pair of short-row heel socks, I completely forgot how to do the wrapping and turning thing, so I looked at this handy tutorial from Cosmicpluto.

My happy news is that this Friday, I will be rejoining the working world. That's right, I finally found a job, and one that will allow me to continue in my craftiness at that! I am oh-so-pleased. Starting February 1st, I'll be working part-time at a private practice doing officey work in a beautiful old house that looks like it was torn from the pages of a chic decorating magazine featuring Elegant Bed & Breakfasts. My employers seem like lovely people too. This is a happy compromise given the difficulty I've had in finding relevant work - at least I'll be doing something sort of in my field. It even (sadly) pays a bit better than the other This-will-be-the-end-of-me job I turned down. And it doesn't involve driving an hour away and dealing with poo on the walls.

I've been doing lots of stuff this week, but nothing that was really photo-worthy, so unfortunately all I've got for you is a sock. My week: I baked a loaf of bread (some type of batter bread) that actually rose for once, made seafood and sausage gumbo, packed lunch for D and drove him to school, started researching travels to Europe, read more Anthony Bourdain, wrote a reference letter, watched Project Runway, looked up housing in Bethlehem, surfed Ravelry daily, claimed missing Aeroplan points, paid bills online, vacuumed, laundried and much, much more. Oh, my life is so exciting. To think I used to do all these things *while* holding a full time job. Now, it literally fills my week. Wow, I can't wait for this job to start!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Back from Bethlehem

It had been a busy week. This post is really more of an update for our friends and family, but there are a few crafty bits at the end of the post if you bear with me.

After a long weekend of stewing in indecisiveness, I turned down the job offer, justifying my decision in an exceedingly lengthy babble, and felt an enormous relief as soon as I put the phone down. I think it was the first time I ever turned down a job. What was odd was how quickly I developed a feeling of loyalty to the interviewer, and even though I really didn't want this job, I felt like I should maybe just take it anyway. Just because he was so nice. Good thing I snapped out of it. Instead, I am going to focus on finding a volunteer position that will better utilize the skills I already have. And, a part time office job may have fallen into my lap so I'll have something else to keep me busy. A good ending, I think.

This Tuesday, D and I traveled to our potential new home of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, where D was offered a job at Lehigh University. The trip started out with a few bumps (missing our connecting flight and me twisting my ankle) but we did make it there eventually. Bethlehem was a lovely little town, very quaint and picturesque, and surprisingly fashion-forward. It was once the centre of a booming steel industry (which they're turning into a casino - very sad) and there are some very beautiful historic buildings in the downtown. The university is built on a mountain, which reminded us of McGill - only with many, many more spectacular old and beautiful buildings and no ugly sixties cement block-style facilities.

The Library

We stayed at the Hotel Bethlehem, and had some really great meals and drinks at Bethlehem Brew Works, Tap Room, Olive Branch Cafe and Restaurant, White Orchids Thai Cuisine, and Star Fish Brasserie (where we also heard some fantastic live jazz on martini night!) Considering its size, there are a surprising variety of shopping options in Lehigh Valley, ranging from local vendors and farmers markets to the usual mall-type places, which made me quite happy (Allentown Farmer's Market, Moravian Book Shop, Saucon Valley Promenade, Lehigh Valley Mall, and the essentials: Target & Ikea). My most significant shopping discovery occurred immediately after our arrival, when I spotted Tangled Yarns right on Main Street. Yay!

Sweets at the Farmer's market

Farmer's market produce - a more modest St. Lawrence Market

We enjoyed our visit quite a lot, and spent much time talking about how weird it will be to settle down. The small-town feel is appealing, and we got excited about the possibility of a cute little house with a garden and barbeque. And being able to paint the walls and drill holes in them. It was very weird, however, to think that we will no longer be urban city folk with access to great public transportation. It will no doubt be a pretty big adjustment, but there is much to look forward to. New York City and Philadelphia are close by, so when we have we-miss-the-big-city moments we can take a day trip to either place. And oddly enough, ever since we moved away, we have actually been seeing friends and family more than we did back in Toronto.

I have not done much actual crafting at all, but I have been doing a lot of cleaning and reorganizing - my craft room is a bit more functional, I swatched the orange and tweed I bought last week, and frogged Skully:

The demise of D's first sweater

And it's time to do something with these lovely laceweights too, perhaps the Swallowtail Shawl or Shetland Triangle.

Ornaghi Filati Laceweight

Things have been slow on the cake decorating front, but yesterday I did make a yummy lemon cake - tart, moist, sticky and mostly eaten, but still worth showing. Here's the recipe - since I didn't have yogurt, I subbed sour cream for it instead, which worked nicely.

Gatsby, eager to help me blog as usual.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Weekend Recap

I know the weekend's not over yet, but I'm probably not doing much today so I feel safe going ahead with this post. I've already listed all the great things that have happened this week, but I left out a few others and also want to show off some of the neato gifts I received from some generous folks (dear friends and family, that's YOU!) I'll just show you one, from D, which is from a local store:

Cute Shinzi Katoh tote bag from Tigertree

And here is my something crafty to share before I ramble on about non-knitty things - the finished Peter Rabbit scarf using the Misty Garden pattern from Scarf Style:

It's exactly one skein of Fleece Artist Peter Rabbit using US 7 needles

The latest news: remember how I was talking about being 30 and unemployed, yada yada, and then I had my first interview on Friday? Under some very surprising circumstances (me thinking I had bombed the interview), I received a phone call at 5:00pm on Friday and was offered the job. How crazy is that? I can't believe I actually found a job before I turned 30 - with 7 hours to spare. It was certainly a wonderful surprise, and very validating. That said, there are significant pros and cons to this job, and I will have to weigh them out carefully. Compared to Toronto (and perhaps Canada), social service work is an extremely undervalued profession, and unbelievably poorly paid. To have a graduate degree and specialized training, and then be paid such a low wage is really depressing, and insulting (I could probably make more at Starbucks). Focusing on the advantages of the job (such as training I'll receive) barely combats the unjustness of the situation. I could rant for hours and hours about this, but I'll stop now since that's not what this blog is about.

We did have a lovely dinner on Friday night at Rosendales to celebrate birthdays and job offers (D was offered a great job in Pennsylvania - we will be traveling there to check things out. More on that if we decide to go). Rosendales was by far the best meal we have had in Columbus, and having read Restaurant Widow's review, I was even more excited to go (and predictably, "I don't feel like I'm in Columbus!" did come up several times). The food was absolutely delicious and the service was great too - our waiter helpfully offered us several wine choices after consulting with other staff (the chef or sommelier, maybe?). I had the Ahi tuna starter and 48-hour short ribs, and D had the seafood bisque and pork loin. Dessert was the prettiest part of the whole meal - lemon curd with ginger ice cream in a miniature parfait glass, piped with some sort of marshmallowy meringue that had been toasted somehow as not to melt the ice cream.

We had dinner at Akai Hana which was very good - I think the nicest sushi place I have visited in Columbus. Check out the sushi:

Then we went to Momo2 KTV for karaoke and sang (and shouted) our hearts out the rest of the night. I think a great time was had by all - even those who were initially a little shy were belting it out in no time. The group sang a lovely rendition of Sweet Caroline:

And being the birthday girl, I happily sang my share of cheesy classics: I proudly, and loudly, butchered my favourite, Total Eclipse of the Heart, with J and D.

Other side of my canvas tote!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Adventures in Dressmaking

Hi all, Happy Saturday! Thank you everyone for your bday wishes, and the wonderful gifts. I'm having a great weekend so far. Columbus is beautifully sunny this morning, and D and I have already been out and about for a lovely brunch at Tasi, a cute little cafe in the Short North.

D had the house-smoked salmon bagel with cream cheese, tomato and red onion, and I had their version of huevos rancheros (my first time ever) with poached eggs - super yummy and fresh. We sat at this huge wooden bench with other diners and enjoyed a lazy and relaxing meal.

I was struggling to come up with a way to make this post craft-related, and finally found a photo of a dress I made last summer to wear to a friends wedding. It's a simple, loose-fitting baby doll style dress with ruffled hem made in a turquoise-y Dupioni raw silk (about 2 yards). Let me tell you, this was fantastically comfortable and buffet-friendly.

The dress is based on this McCall's (M5377) pattern, except that I shortened the hem a lot and made 3 rosette pins (not photographed very clearly, sorry) to gather parts of the dress when I realized it was too tent-like. I also left out the zipper when I realized I could just slip it on over my head.

Lately I have been quite addicted to Project Runway and have been fantasizing about studying fashion at fun would that be?? Unfortunately, I haven't faced sewing in a while and haven't made any clothes. Nor have I photographed any of my old projects. I'd better get on with it.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


Sorry for the lack of crafting progress...I'm a little under the weather. A weird cold picked up from the science center that I'd almost beat, but unfortunately it seemed to get a second wind. Hack, hack. This cold had better be gone by the weekend - a busy one it will be!

You see, I am officially leaving my twenties this weekend. My 30th birthday week has been pretty exciting so far (I like to celebrate birthdays in weeks, not days). I haven't reflected on it too much, even though people keep asking me "how do you feel, turning 30?". Honestly, it doesn't really bother me. It has, however, in combination with being unemployed, made me think about my career, and whether now is a good time to try something new or stick with the old. It's still a very poorly formed thought in my head, so I have no specifics to report.

A Good Week:
I have my first job interview of 2008
I signed up to volunteer with the local mental health association
I attended my first adult ballet beginner class (with the tights and everything!)
We found out we might be moving to Pennsylvania next year
I booked my flight home for Chinese New year on Aeroplan points
I ate some really good fish and chips at Elevator Brewery
I bought some discounted yarn
My even-feed presser foot arrived in the mail
I am contemplating taking a fashion design course next year (I looooovvvee Project Runway)

And it's not even over yet! On Saturday night, I'm celebrating with a night of sushi and karaoke. I've never sang with this bunch, but I really hope no one pulls an I-will-always-love-you fast one on us. Wait, maybe that'll be me...bring me the mike...

Once I recover from the celebrating, there will hopefully be a new project to blog about. It will probably be lace - since I did buy all that lace yarn.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Ene's Scarf, Finished!

At last, Ene's scarf is complete. Doesn't she look lovely?

Pattern: Ene's Scarf, from Scarf Style (borrowed from the library)
Yarn: 1.5 skeins Knitpicks Shadow in Oregon Coast, about 616 yards
Needles: US6

I started Ene in December and for one reason or another (perhaps short attention span), kept putting it down to work on other things. This week I felt this sudden determination to finish, so I plowed through the last chart during several re-runs of Project Runway (which, surprise surprise, was pulling me in the direction of sewing again).

I would have to say that Ene was a really enjoyable knit after I got through the first two chart repeats. It was my first time having to read charts, so I did learn something new. The way the scarf is constructed has you casting on 375 (!!) stitches which forms the two scalloped, longest edges, and then you decrease 4-6 stitches every other row, and toward the end it feels like you're really picking up some speed because there are fewer and fewer stitches left. The only complaint I have about knitting lace is that it's easy to lose track of how many stitches you have, particularly if you accidentally miss purling one of the many, many YOs on the WS row. At one point, still about 350 stitches in, I managed to lose about 10 stitches and had to carefully unknit all those stitches. No fun. But the pain was worth my time - the final product is beautiful. And I am very happy with the yarn - light and airy, but with warmth too.

Now for some process details. As I approached the cast off, I focused on what there was to look forward to - the exciting, transformational blocking process! Here is the finished scarf, looking all lumpy and nubbly, and generally very un-exciting:

The book recommended pinning Ene first, then placing a damp towel over top. I'd seen many people do the full on wet block, so I went for it too:

Soak up the excess water and then lay flat to pin, pulling out each point on the border (I managed to keep Gatsby from jumping all over this, his paws would not have been happy):

I forgot that lace would dry so quickly - after a couple of hours the blocking was done. And my, did Ene look more lovely afterward! All the details really came through in the smooth, even fabric.

I don't know what's going to be next in the knitting queue. I am currently frogging Skully, and may turn that into a chunky cardigan for me...

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Super Striped Vest!

What do you do with all those leftover yarn bits from other finished projects? Like most knitters, I hang onto them, hoping to put them to some good use so I can call myself an environmentally friendly, conscientious crafter. However, the pile does get out of hand, and every now and then I feel the need to conquer my mess. Alot of leftovers projects just aren't all that appealing, though. There are plenty of suggestions for using up your leftovers, but they leave something to be desired. Things such as wrist bands, head bands, cell phone cozies, tiny ornamental Christmas sweaters, washcloths, and the like...they're just not very useful things to me.

I saved up all my bits of leftover Lamb's Pride worsted weight wool and ended up making this striped vest, which is very loosely based on this Leftovers Vest pattern from Knitty. I knit this on US8 circulars and did a quick gauge calculation to determine the number of stitches to cast on (I must have measured another sweater for circumference) and worked a 2x2 ribbing until I basically got bored of doing that. With this being my first striped project, I was having a hard time choosing my striping pattern so I borrowed the stripes chart from the Peppermint Twist sweater in Stitch n Bitch: Knitter's Handbook. And, I used these instructions for doing jogless stripes:

I'm not sure if I did it right, but it looks fine to me - not very joggy at all. I made some guesses on where to start dividing for the collar and armholes, then seamed it up at the shoulders. Stitches were picked up at the collar and armholes (which turned out a little tight, but not tight enough that I was willin to rip back and start over).

This is my winter super-vest. D and I walked around the North Market today to take these photos, and I even with my jacket wide open I was still getting hot. Next time, I'd knit Lamb's Pride worsted on slightly bigger needles for a slightly cooler-wearing project. Overall I quite like this yarn, it's got a great colour selection (have I said this already?) and the mohair gives it a nice, soft fuzziness too. This is probably the the most colourful winter thing I wear.

So, what are you going to do with your leftovers?

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Tweeds and Heathers

Today I am home with a headache, so I am sitting around trying to find something to do that won't give me a headache, which means I have to write this post pretty fast. I don't have any really thrilling news to share, other than the fact that I applied for four jobs, knitted some more of Ene, watched the Buckeyes lose their big final game, watched some of the New Hampshire stuff, and scoped out a karaoke bar. This afternoon I will be visiting Ms. Zarafa, who is kindly sharing her the use of her amazing ball winding machine! Yippee! (You have to be a pretty major knitting nerd to appreciate the wonders this little thing can do). After this post, I'm going to dig up some projects that need frogging.

I've also been thinking about what I'd like to make next, and vests have really caught my interest - a nice tweedy wooly vest to wear over a button down shirt or long-sleeved tee would be good for this really unpredictable weather we're having.

Yesterday, I accidentally acquired some new yarn. There was a 25% off sale at Heavenly Creations Yarn Shop so I dropped by 'for a quick peek' and ended up with yarn for two new projects. Here is some Plymouth Galway Highland Heather in a rusty coral colour:

I was thinking of a cabled vest like this (Pattern is Paton's, but this one is by Celtic Cast On):

But I also wanted something more simple and wearable, and this Plymouth Tweed caught my eye:

I really like this vest, made by sky blue cardigan:

This is probably the pattern I'll follow (which H gave me last year, and I still haven't used):

Time to go nurse my headache now.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

More crafts than I can handle

As far as crafting goes, it is nearly impossible for me to focus on one craft and actually finish a project from beginning to end. I flip flop usually between knitting, sewing and baking, and have been known to do some beading, scrapbooking, cardmaking, upholstering and pottery throwing. This fall has been my best record yet, sticking mostly with knitting, with the completion of several small items and even a sweater (though ugly, but whatever).

I don't know why I find arts and crafts so fascinating, or why I am drawn to many different crafts. If I had the time, I'd probably want to learn how to cobble my own shoes. I told D that he should do some sort of study on why people find things interesting. Part of it is the satisfaction of creating something with your own hands and taking pride in that. Sometimes it's because you don't want to spend $500 on a designer sweater that looks so easy reproduce. It could also be that it's difficult for you to find well-fitting, well-made clothing, so you sew it yourself. Or you want to have something unique that no one else has. As romantic as it sounds though, realistically, there just isn't enough time to make everything from scratch, it's just too stressful! (not even Martha could do it - but I do love her ideas).

Which is why I really like the concept behind Etsy, a sort of online one-of-a-kind craft show, where you can relieve your anxiety by purchasing all those lovely things you don't have the skill, time, or patience to make yourself. Plus, you are supporting independent artistry and the promotion of handmade goods. Everyone wins. Admittedly, I haven't shopped on the site yet, but have spent endless hours perusing the goods. I encourage you to visit this site as soon as possible. You can shop the old fashioned way by category (jewelry or papergoods), but it is even cooler that you can shop by colour (every shade imaginable) to find a match for that outfit you can never accessorize for.

Oh my. How did I get started on this again? Oh right, over Christmas I got some new crafty toys that I want to share. First, check out these awesome, super cute travel-themed cookie cutters given to me (and D) by Miss A (the mitten modeler). D's benefit in this gift will be eating the cookies.

D's new lunch box!

choo choo, put put...

I also got this crazy gum paste flower making kit from D's parents to supplement my cake decorating hobby. I've never worked with gum paste, but it is supposed to be easier to mold and cut than fondant. The flowers look so real and are very detailed - I will surely have hours of fun with this. And a flower garden in my living room.

Aside from the new crafts, I was really responsible over the holidays and did not buy any new yarn, fabric, or other supplies besides some bias tape from Fabricland (they had some wonderful winter coat wools that I had to drag myself away from).

And it was a relatively productive holiday for ongoing knitting projects. Ene is coming along - I worked chart 1 and 2, am on the second repeat of 2, and have managed not to lose any stitches. It's been a slow knit for me since I have to look very carefully for all the yarn-overs, which is kind of dizzying after a while. I haven't suffered any neck cramps though, fortunately.

I also made this bobbly beret in Deep River. It's the Trinity Stitch hat that's popular on Craftster and Ravelry right now. I followed Sticks and Tones modifications since I had the same needle sizes, and cast on 112 stitches. I started decreasing at 7" and did 4 decreases every 2 rows, and it still came out rounder on top, unlike the original pattern. My hat is a little slouchier. And it doesn't sit flat and circular like a beret, which is OK. At first it was annoying me that it wasn't more beret-like, but now that I've worn it a few times I am really liking it. This thing is so warm that your head starts sweating if the weather isn't below zero.

D acted as my photographer on our outing to the North Market today:

Pattern: Trinity Stitch Hat with mods (see link above)
Yarn: 2 skeins Patons Classic Merino, grey, held doubled

Needles: US8 for ribbing & US10 dpns

And would you believe that after the long cold spell, the pansies outside our building are STILL alive?? I took this photo this morning. This weather is crazy, I tell you...

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Happy 2008!

Happy New Year!!

It's been a while since my last entry. Hopefully you've all had a restful and enjoyable break, and are ready to face work/school (or in my case, a very messy craft room and the joy of starting job hunting). We had a really good visit filled with delicious food (as usual), skating, movies, drinks, dinners, crafts and boxing day shopping. And this time I even lugged home two huge baguettes from Fred's Bread (I know, I know, I said Ace Bakery was the best, but sometimes you just have to make do with what's nearby and available). And luckily the border crossing officials didn't look in my trunk, although I think bread is fine. They probably would have confiscated them just seeing how delicious they looked.

Now that the holidays are over, I can finally do my Christmas recap. And tomorrow, if the light is good, I'll show you the new toys I received as well as progress on some projects.

The Christmas giveaways:

Pattern: Various internet readings, stitch dictionaries & Stitch n' Bitch Nation
Yarn: Lamb's Pride Worsted
Needles: US 8 dpns

Basic Cabled Socks for H - I was obsessed with making labels

Four coaster sets to give away, more labels

I tried not to look ridiculous taking photos of everything I ate and drank, but here's one from Christmas day - brandy champagne cocktails. It kind of captures the bulk of how we spent the holidays. We were in a perma-celebration mode.

And here is D's mum's Christmas cake, looking very pretty and cheery (and deliciously boozy - Christmas cake has definately grown on me over the years). The flowers are made with royal icing, I think, and the flower stamens were dipped in yellow food colour. The hearts were piped onto parchment paper, dried, and the attached with thinner royal icing.

And here is my friend A, the recipient of some Knitticrafty mittens, proudly modeling them on a freezing Yorkville morning. And (so far) the only person I know to explicitly state her desire to be featured on my blog. Done! I'm not one to prevent someone from reaching their goals.

More to come!