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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Punk Rock Gift Exchange Questionnaire

1. How long have you been knitting/crocheting/spinning?
I’ve been knitting for a year and a half. I would like to learn to crochet, but no spinning for me.

2. Do you consider yourself a beginner, novice or experienced yarn artist?
I’m an advanced beginner or intermediate knitter.

3. What fibers (materials) have you knit/crochet with?
Wool, acrylic, alpaca, mohair blends, cotton (never again on the cotton)…

4. What are your favorite yarns?
I enjoy natural fibers the most, especially merino wool, alpaca blends, and lambswool. Some current favorites are Malabrigo, Plymouth Suri Merino, Debbie Bliss Cashmerino, Fleece Artist Blue Face Leicester,

5. What fibers are you dying to try?
Wools, wool blends, alpaca, alpaca blends. Worsted and DK weights are most useful for me.
- basic wool yarns like Beaverslide or Cascade 220or Mission Falls 1824 wool – I haven’t knit with any of these
- organic and/or plant-dyed wool
- handp-dyed yarns (not fingering weight sock yarn though – I don’t have the patience for tiny needles)
- Madil Kid Seta or Kidsilk Haze (for a Kiri shawl)

6. Do you prefer solid, self striping, or handpainted yarns?
Hmm… everything has its place. I especially like heathers and solids, and I also like handpainted yarns for socks (DK weight) and shawls. Self-striping is not my cup of tea.

7. What fibers do you dislike?
Cotton is too rough on my hands and wrists, and I’m guessing that hemp and linen would fall into the same category. I’m not a big fan of 100% acrylic yarns, but blends have their uses. I’m not into boucle or fun fur.

8. What are your favorite colors?
Blue is my absolute favorite color. Every shade speaks to me, from periwinkle to navy to powder blue. I also like lavender, heather grey, dark brown, natural/oatmeal, cranberry, dark red, cherry red, and sage green.

9. What are your least favorite colors?
Orange, yellow, peach, or green with olive tones

10. How did you learn to knit/crochet/spin?
I learned at a local indie coffee shop.

11. What projects are you currently working on?
- Forest Canopy Shoulder Shawl in sage green alpaca (DK weight)
- Campfire Socks (ribbed) in a variegated blue DK sock yarn from Cider Moon
- a rather tiresome Wavy scarf (from Knitty) in red alpaca/merino.
- feather and fan scarf in Noro Silk Garden
- baby blanket from Louisa Harding’s Natural Knits for Babies and Moms
- Hourglass sweater
- basic ribbed socks in blue Lamb’s Pride Wildfoote (on hold)
- Mason-Dixon baby kimono (on hold)

12. How old is your oldest UFO? What is it? Will it ever be finished?
A Mason Dixon baby kimono in Bernat Cotton Tots has been in my WIP basket for about 7 months. The cotton yarn just kills my wrists. I’ll finish it sometime when my wrists are feeling strong!

13. What is the most heartbreaking project that you ever frogged?
My Hourglass sweater! I need to cast on again.

14. Do you prefer straight or circular needles?
Straight, but I use circs too. I use DPNs for socks and small things.

15. Do you own a swift and/or a winder?
No

16. Where do you keep your needles?
My straight needles sit in two ceramic sheep vases in one of my bookcases and in a lovely blue needleroll given to me by my awesome SP9. The DPNs and circs are jumbled up in a cardboard box under my bed.

17. Do you enjoy helpful hints about your knitting or does it just piss you off?
Helpful hints can be great if they’re delivered in the right tone.

18. What techniques are you still a virgin in (lace, cables, etc.) and are you interested in trying them?
Cables, stranded colorwork, crocheting. I would also like to try needle felting (esp. cute little animals)

19. What knitting magazines do you subscribe to?
Interweave Knits. That's really the only knitting mag I like besides Rowan.

20. Are there any books, needles, yarn, patterns that you are dying to get your hands on?
I would like to try the new Addi lace circular needles in size 5 or 6. I would also like to try out some different laceweight yarns, like KnitPicks Shimmer in Morning Mist or Flower Garden. I'm also interested in handpainted yarns from Fearless Fibers, and I just love Cider Moon yarns. You can check out my Amazon wishlist for book ideas.

I'm dying to get my hands on the Fiber Trends pattern for "A Felt Flock" (206x). The sheep are just so heart meltingly cute. On a related note, there are some very cute kits out there for beginning needle felting that involve little penguins, racoons, sheep, goats, etc.

21. Do you enjoy knitting socks? How big are your feet?
Yes, but only on size 3 or 4 needles! I’d probably be OK with 2s, but my attempt at socks on 0s made me crazy. I wear a US 9.

22. Do you have a wish list?
Yes, at Amazon. Search by my name, and it should be easy to find. There’s quite the mixture of things on there, so consider yourself forewarned.

23. What are your non-knitting, crochet, spinning hobbies?
Reading, cooking, baking, indie rock, piano, and yoga.

24. How do you feel about sports?
Ugh… not my thing for the most part. I like ice skating, skiing, and hiking. Yoga’s a sport, right?

25. What is your favorite season? Least favorite season? Why?
Winter! I love snow and hot cocoa, and having time off to spend with friends and family. I don’t like summer since I hate being hot.

26. What is your favorite holiday?
Christmas.

27. Do you like handmade gifts?
Yes

28. Do you wear jewelry that isn't real?
Not really – sometimes earrings.

29. What are your favorite foods? Scents that you love?
Pizza and chocolate! Wait… I’m trying to eat more healthfully, so maybe raspberries and yogurt? I love coffee and tea (fruity or spicy green or black or red). I do like chocolate, but I definitely need to watch the quantity. I like to snack on dried fruit and trail mixes.

I like natural scents that aren’t too strong – lavender/vanilla combinations, honey, almond, nut, mint, citrus. I love bath and body products, esp. natural soaps, hand lotion and lip balm.

30. What is your family situation? Do you live alone?
I’m married to my college sweetheart, Paul. We live in quirky vintage apartment less than 2 blocks from Wrigley Field. Go Cubs!

31. Do you have any pets?
I have two eleven-year old tabby cats – Capricha and Kylie. They’re much beloved.

32. What kind of music do you like? Can your computer/stereo play MP3's?
Indie rock, mainly, plus some old favorites like Simon and Garfunkel. Lately I’ve been listening to Regina Spektor, REM, Snow Patrol, Reindeer Section, The Decemberists, The Replacements, The Flaming Lips, Belle and Sebastian, and The Magnetic Fields. CDs and MP3s are both great with me.

33. What are your favorite movies? TV shows? Actors?
I like quirky movies like The Royal Tennenbaums, The Life Aquatic, and Little Miss Sunshine. I also dig literary adaptations – A Room with a View, Pride and Prejudice, The Hours, The Cider House Rules. When I'm feeling blue I dig out old 80s favorites like Pretty in Pink, 16 Candles, and Ferris Bueller's Day Off.

I used to like Gilmore Girls, but I’m sick of it now. I do like Grey’s Anatomy and the new Dr. Who, but I’m a season behind on both. I don’t watch TV very much, but I do watch reruns or DVDs of Buffy, Scrubs, and Seinfeld.

Colin Firth, Jeremy Northam, Clive Owen, and Johnny Depp top my list of favorite actors. For actresses, I like Emma Thompson, Kate Winslet, Laura Linney, and Maggie Gyllenhall.

34. What do you collect?
Books, cookbooks, CDs, and yarn! I’m a grad student in the humanities, and I also love to read novels, so I’m building up quite the library. I also collect blue floral Polish pottery mugs as well as blue or blue patterned handmade pottery.

35. What do you do in real life -- besides knit and blog?
I’m working on my PhD in Classics (Latin and Greek literature), and I hope to get a job as a professor someday soon. Please, no “It’s all Greek to me” jokes.

36. When is your birthday? Is it a national holiday or just another day?
March 30. I like to celebrate, but not party too hard.

37. Do you have any allergies, medical conditions or disorders that your pal should be aware of (ie. diabetes, food/pet allergies, ect.)?
Nope! I’m allergic to some grasses, molds, and the like, and I know that Bath and Body Works Flowering Herbs lotion makes me very sneezy. Really old books often make me sneeze, too.

38. Are there any scents, phobias, or sensory thing (ie, the way certain objects feel) that your pal should be aware of?
Nope!

39. What is the most difficult thing that you have ever knit/crochet?
Probably the socks on size 0 needles – so tiny and so annoying.

40. What is your personal style? Is there a time period/fashion movement that you take your cues from?
Hmmm… I’m not sure about this one. I’m really a jeans and black turtleneck (or Fair Isle cardigan) kind of girl. I love clogs and really eye-catching footwear! My home is very cozy, and I like retro 50s style for the kitchen.

41. Anything else that you would like to say?
:-)

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

SP10 Questionnaire

SP9 was so much fun that I signed up for another round!

Secret Pal 10 Questionnaire

1. What is/are your favorite yarn/s to knit with? What fibers do you absolutely *not* like?
Soft natural fibers that aren’t too scratchy – merino wool, alpaca blends, mohair, lambswool, etc. Yummy Malabrigo is one of my favorites. I also like to knit baby stuff with washable wool or wool/microfiber/acrylic blends. I don’t like fun fur, eyelash yarn, 100% acrylic, or boucle. Cotton is too hard on my hands and wrists.

2. What do you use to store your needles/hooks in?
My straight needles sit in two ceramic sheep vases in one of my bookcases and in a lovely blue needleroll given to me by my awesome SP9. The DPNs and circs are jumbled up in a cardboard box under my bed.

3. How long have you been knitting & how did you learn? Would you consider your skill level to be beginner, intermediate or advanced?
I’ve been knitting for almost a year and a half. I’m an advanced beginner/intermediate knitter. I’m no longer scared of DPNs, and I’m learning to love lace.

4. Do you have an Amazon or other online wish list?
Yes, I certainly do. Search by my name, and it should be easy to find. There’s quite the mixture of things on there, so consider yourself forewarned.

5. What's your favorite scent?
I like natural scents -- lavender/vanilla combinations, honey, mint, almond, nut, and citrus. For candles I also like spicy/cinnamon/pumpkin scents.

6. Do you have a sweet tooth? Favorite candy?
Yes, I have sweet tooth, and I like chocolate. I’m trying to watch what I eat, so a ton of sweets is not a great idea. I’m not into gummy or hard candies. Dried fruit and trail mixes are good alternatives. I really like tea (fruity or spicy black/green/red) and coffee, too.

7. What other crafts or Do-It-Yourself things do you like to do? Do you spin?
I cross-stitch, quilt, and sew a bit. My favorite cross-stitch designers are Blackbird Designs, Country Cottage Needleworks, The Prairie Schooler, and Little House Needleworks. I don’t spin. I would like to learn needle felting (esp. cute little animals). I also bake and cook.

8. What kind of music do you like? Can your computer/stereo play MP3s? (if your buddy wants to make you a CD)
I like indie rock mainly, but also old favorites like Simon and Garfunkel. The Decemberists, Snow Patrol, REM, Regina Spektor, Reindeer Section, and Belle and Sebastian are some current favorites. I also like classical music, especially piano and cello. I can play CDs and MP3s.

9. What's your favorite color(s)? Any colors you just can't stand?
Blue is my absolute favorite color. Every shade speaks to me, from periwinkle to navy to powder blue. I also like lavender, dark brown, natural/oatmeal, light heather grey, cranberry, dark red, cherry red, and sage green. I don’t like orange or yellow or peach or green with olive tones. Both solid and heather colors are great. I like multi-colored yarns, but I’m not a fan of serious pooling.

10. What is your family situation? Do you have any pets?
I’m married to my college sweetheart (Paul), and we have two beloved indoor tabby cats (Kylie and Capricha). No kids yet.

11. Do you wear scarves, hats, mittens or ponchos?
Scarves, hats, and mittens – YES! No ponchos, but I do like lace wraps, stoles, and shawls.

12. What is/are your favorite item/s to knit?
Hats, mittens, baby stuff, socks (with DK yarn), lace.

13. What are you knitting right now?
- Forest Canopy Shoulder Shawl in sage green alpaca
- Campfire Socks in a variegated blue DK sock yarn from Cider Moon
- a rather tiresome Wavy scarf (from Knitty) in red alpaca/merino
- feather and fan scarf in Noro Silk Garden
- baby blanket from Louisa Harding’s Natural Knits for Babies and Moms
- Hourglass sweater
- basic ribbed socks in blue Lamb’s Pride Wildfoote (on hold due to my frustration with fingering weight yarn)

14. Do you like to receive handmade gifts?
Yes, I certainly do.

15. Do you prefer straight or circular needles? Bamboo, aluminum, plastic?
They all have their purpose! I prefer bamboo or wood needles.

16. Do you own a yarn winder and/or swift?
No

17. How old is your oldest UFO?
A MDK baby kimono has been languishing in my knitting basket for about 6 months. The cotton yarn just kills me.

18. What is your favorite holiday?
Christmas. I love snow and spending time with friends and family.

19. Is there anything that you collect?
Books, I suppose. I’m a grad student in the humanities in addition to being a voracious reader of fiction, so I’m building quite the library. I also collect blue floral Polish Pottery mugs (often found at Marshall’s or TJ Maxx). Yarn, too 

20. Any books, yarns, needles or patterns out there you are dying to get your hands on? What knitting magazine subscriptions do you have?

Patterns:
- Wicked sweater pattern from Zephyr
- Wonderful Wallaby pattern from Cottage Creations
- Ariann cardigan pattern from Chic Knits

Books: check out my Amazon wishlist

Yarns:
Soft DK and worsted weight yarns are generally my favorites. I’m really very open to most natural fibers (except cotton and hemp). Here are a few things that I’m interested in, but I always love surprises!

- Manos in Wildflowers for mittens and a hat for me
- basic wool yarns like Beaverslide or Cascade 220 or Mission Falls 1824 wool -- I haven’t used any of these yet
- organic or plant-dyed wool
- handpainted yarns (not fingering weight sock yarn, though -- too frustrating)

Magazines: I subscribe to Interweave Knits, and it’s the only knitting magazine I really like.

21. Are there any new techniques you'd like to learn?
Tons! Stranded colorwork and cabling are the top two. I want to learn how to crochet. I have picked up a couple crochet books, but I haven’t taken the time to sit down and figure it out yet.

22. Are you a sock knitter? What are your foot measurements?
I have finished one pair of socks, and I have more on the needles. I wear a US 9.

23. When is your birthday?
March 30

Monday, February 26, 2007

Feeling blue?

My Grandma Max emroidered this friendly mousie for me. For a few years she was stitching floursack towels by the boatload. I think of her each day as I set out a fresh towel. This is one of my absolute favorites.

Got the blues? I do! I'm talking about Project Spectrum v. 2.0, of course. I'm on square 2 of 12.

Pattern: Cot Blanket from Louisa Harding's Natural Knits for Moms and Babies

Yarn: RYC Cashsoft 4-ply, doubled (light blue and dark blue)

Needles: Grandma Max's old blue Boye aluminum 7s. See, I'm even working Project Spectrum angle with the very needles themselves! Talk about commitment :-)

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

still life with sock

Best. Colorway. Ever.

I followed a blog link to the Cider Moon website, and next think I knew I was entering my credit card number and rubbing my hands together with glee in anticipation of my lovely new yarn. Their customer service was great, and they even threw in a goody bag of little mini skeins of yarn to sample!

This is Glacier, a DK-weight superwash sock yarn, in "Winter Twilight." So beautiful, and so quick to knit. I'm using a free pattern off the Cider Moon blog: Campfire Socks. At this stage I far prefer DK to fingering weight. Plus thick socks are great with all my clogs. I'm trying out different DPNs, too -- KA Unicorn bamboo. They come in a very convenient 6" length. Compared to my usual Clover bamboo needles, they are shinier, pointier, and slicker (but not in a bad way), and they have a much nicer feel. They are more pliable and less prone to dents and dings than Brittany birch DPNS, which I like to use in larger sizes.

So far Cider Moon gets two thumbs up from me. I'm really wishing I had ordered the June Carter and Casual Friday colorways, too.

Fleece Artist Soft Mitts are done! They are soft, fuzzy, and lovely. Fleece Artist is very generous with their yarn in this kit. I was able to get three adult size mittens out of the kit. I'm sure that you could use one kit to make matching adult and child mitts. The kit is a bit pricey, but if you tend to lose mitts or if you like to be matchy-matchy with a little one in your life, it doesn't seem quite so bad.

My cross-stitch project is coming along quite nicely, although I have run out of some of the fancy schmancy overdyed Crescent Colors floss already. Time for a little online needlework shopping!

Saturday, February 17, 2007

SP9 grand finale

My secret pal, the fabulous Jill over at Paper, Sticks, and String has struck again. She sent me an absolutely amazing grand finale package. She found me a lovely blue and white mug. I adore floral Polish pottery, and it's great addition to my coffee rotation.
Even better, she knit me this beautiful cabled scarf! It's so luxuriously soft and squishy, and it has a wonderful mix of blues. I'll have to post a pic of me modeling it, too. I think she used Classic Elite Water Lily.
That's not all, folks!
What's all this?

- a lovely (blue, of course) needle case, which will come in very handy
- a postcard from Kansas, where Jill currently lives (though she has lived as far afield as Alaska)
- 2 skeins of Debbie Bliss Cashmerino in a gorgeous dark blue -- I've been lusting after this yarn for so long
-A Shilling for Candles, a mystery novel by Josephine Tey (who also wrote the excellent Daughter of Time and Brat Farrar)
- fancy Perugira dark chocolate
- dark blue Regia sock yarn
- a Trader Joe's gift card, awesome since I'm a TJ's junkie
- light-up knitting needles for knitting in the dark and entrancing the kitties
- cute cat stickers

Jill, you seriously have blown me away with this one. I nominated you for best Secret Pal, and I was disappointed that your name wasn't drawn.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

uh-oh...

The Crazy Cat Lady action figure, in all her glory:Available for purchase here

happy valentine's day

Ashley has a great post about Valentine's day. Yes, there's an awful lot of Valentine hype and Hallmark crap, but it's also a great day to remind people how much you care about them and how they make the world a better place.

Kylie Cat in her natural environment -- the couch, complete with fluffy down blanket.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Mitten

Upon realizing that my Fleece Artist Soft Mitt would fit only someone with serious Man Hands (alas, my husband is not into fluffy dark pink mohair mittens), I ripped away and quickly reknit on smaller needles (US 7 rather than 8). I also shortened the length of the mitt and the thumb by 1/2" each. The thumb is still f$%&in' huge, but I just didn't have it in me to rip it back. I would highly recommend doing some extra decreases at the base of the thumb.

I really love this yarn combo -- Fleece Artist Mo and Blue Face Leicester, so I wasn't even too crabby about reknitting. It's lovely to knit with.

My cross-stitch roots have been calling out to me. Cross-stitching is much easier on my wrists and hands than knitting, so it's a nice break. I especially like working on samplers that have some white space to them. I don't like the look or feel of projects that have every square covered.

Here's the start to "Forest Snowfall" by Nikki Leeman at Country Cottage Needleworks. I really like her designs. She brings a Shabby Chic aesthetic to samplers that often have a primitive aspect.
Here's a picture of what it should look like when done:

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

casting on

I cannot even begin to imagine how some knitters crank out so many pairs of socks! I cast on for a basic 4-stitch pattern from Sensational Knitted Socks using Wildfoote and size 0 needles. So tiny! So time-consuming!

Chicago is chilly and snowy, and I am loving it. Winter is my time of year. All over campus people were griping about the weather yesterday. Here are my winter gripes:

- People who complain about the cold and nonetheless don't don proper winter attire. Come on, people, we live in the upper Midwest. Buy some warm mittens, wear a puffy down coat (unless you're a serious vegetarian) even though your thin wool one is more stylish, cram that stocking cap over your hair, and invest in some wool socks. When shopping, keep in mind the following words and phrases: Gore-Tex, down, temperature ratings, and Thinsulate. Pay attention to fill power! Wear silk long underwear or Cuddle Duds if your home is drafty. If it's really drafty, put up that tacky plastic film. It actually works.

- People who don't bother to brush the snow and ice off their cars and drive around without being able to see at all. Menaces, I tell you!

- Chicago's snow plow crew.

- People who don't shovel their sidewalks.

The cats have been cuddling together to stay warm. This is one full basket o' cats.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

wild night in Big Mexiko (sic)

My first pair of socks is finally done and dusted. Here are the specs:

Pattern: Knitting Pure and Simple Beginner Socks #9728
Yarn: 2 skeins Schoeller & Stahl "Big Mexiko" #7592, worsted weight (93 yds/skein) + a little Cascade superwash for the toes
Needles: Clover US 5 DPNs

Notes: These are a little loose. I would go down to size 4 needles next time. The heel come out much better on the second sock when I added an extra stitch when picking up stitches, then knitted them together in the next round. Obviously I ran out of yarn, so I need to watch the yardage when I knit this pattern again.

My fabulous secret pal sent me this yarn way back in November. I was so lucky to have Jill spoiling me! She was so thoughtful, and I've really enjoyed getting to know her. We have a lot in common --Jill has lived in Illinois, she's back in grad school (while working full time as an academic librarian, whew), she likes winter, she's a voracious reader, and she loves animals. Dogs, rather than cats, but that's OK. Thanks again, Jill!
together at last
The temperatures have been below zero here in Chi-town. I don't mind it one bit. It feels like a real winter. Now we just need more snow. I started some mittens while snuggling in and watching DVDs with Paul on Friday night (Idiocracy -- hilarious and frighteningly possible; The Devil Wears Prada -- trite, predictable, and a little bit painful to watch).

This is a Fleece Artist Favourite Soft Mitts/Socks kit. I am just loving the yarn. You hold together one strand of Mohair and one strand of Blue Face Leicester. It's so soft, and the colors are gorgeous. This is the "Vineyard" colorway. I found this kit at Colorsong Yarns. Sheri at the Loopy Ewe just might be stocking these kits soon.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Bloggers' (Silent) Poetry Reading

It warms my heart on this cold winter's day to read the poems shared across the internet. Too often poetry does not seem to have a place or even a welcome. As a classicist and a literary scholar, a person who has dedicated her life to language and poetry, I feel as if I'm irrelevant, stuck in limbo, somehow in the wrong time, or the wrong place.

Cat
The fat cat on the mat
may seem to dream
of nice mice that suffice
for him, or cream;
but he free, maybe,
walks in thought
unbowed, proud, where loud
roared and fought
his kin, lean and slim,
or deep in den
in the East feasted on beasts
and tender men.
The giant lion with iron
claw in paw,
and huge ruthless tooth
in gory jaw;
the pard dark-starred,
fleet upon feet,
that oft soft from aloft
leaps upon his meat
where woods loom in gloom --
far now they be,
fierce and free,
and tamed is he;
but fat cat on the mat
kept as a pet
he does not forget.

-- J. R. R. Tolkien
There's more information about poetry reading day here.