Friday, November 30, 2007

Eleanor Burns would be truly disappointed.

It takes a special kind of genius to figure out the quickest and most effective way to make something. Eleanor Burns is exactly that kind of genius.

I am not.

Eleanor has a show called Quilt in a Day. I -- when all goes according to plan -- will have a show called Think It Out, wherein I will walk viewers through the process of not using the internet, not using pattern books, and using the longest way around there is to make some everyday item. And everyone will love that show. Or they will say they love that show because everyone will know that if you watch Think It Out, you are obviously someone who likes to use your brain until it throbs right out of your skull. And everyone knows that's cool.

Let me give you a little sample of what I'm talking about.

I decided I wanted to make some (four) placemats as a gift for a friend's 40th birthday. In my shoes, Eleanor Burns would simply pull out her trusty placemat pattern and get to sewing. An hour later, she'd be finished and having a cocktail.

Not me!

I looked through my fabrics and decided I'd like a motif in the middle of my mat -- a motif that I'd have to somehow extract from other designs in the (rather expensive Japanese) fabric. Fine. I know from watching my shows that that's called "fussy cutting", and those ladies do it all the time.

I eyeballed the space around the motif and cut it out, trying to leave as much of the surrounding fabric intact as possible.

Then, I pulled out a placemat that I own, traced around it for size onto a piece of tissue paper, and cut that out. I then proceeded to sketch a log cabin pattern on it by placing the cutout motif in the center, then just eyeballing the rest of it. I wanted the design to look somewhat irregular but not jacked up, so I figured this was the best way to achieve this. Then I measured.

Two things you should know here: (1) I did remember I needed to add 0.5 inches to each dimension for the seam allowances. Bullet dodged. Good one, me. I even made a spreadsheet with the correct measurements to make sure I wouldn't blow it later. (2) I have a very strange talent apparently, in that when I eyeball something, it happens to be exact measurements. I didn't really know that before, so that was weird to discover.

[Program note: I'm realizing Think It Out may not be able to cover one project per show. This might present a challenge in selling it to the networks. But whatevs.]

Let's skip ahead:

On different tissue paper, I made a pattern for each strip. For directional fabric, I marked the pattern with orienting lines. (Oh, I tried figuring it out without those lines first. Yeah. Because I'm thinking here! Right.)

Eleanor isn't scared by directional fabric. I am. But that didn't stop me from using it, and using it in the most difficult way possible.

There were SO many steps in here, it was ridiculous. I'll spare you and just tell you that here's what I've got so far:

The outer white edge is batting, not part of the top. (The photos are bad today because of weather that includes much-needed rain here in SoCal.)

OK. Now. I think on my show there's going to be a section where I ask the audience for advice. But only after I'm very much committed and possibly in over my head.

So that's this part here, and it involves the finishing of these mats. Ready? OK.

I was planning on machine-quilting these, you know, so they're like little quilts.

(1) Is cotton batting ok for the middle layer, or should I use interfacing or something else instead?
(2) Can I stitch in the ditch, or will that look bad/dumb/annoying? Can I use off-white thread?
(3) Should I make a binding to go around the edge, or should I just take another fabric for the back, sew right sides together, and turn it inside out -- no binding?

And finally,
(4) Have I made a terrible mistake?

I thank you for your input and kind consideration in this matter.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Items! Part Two.

Our trip to the East Coast for Thanksgiving was really great. The food was incredibly delicious, the weather was real weather-y, and some of my knitted garments got to do what they were put on this earth to do -- keep my tender neck warm.

The trip also entailed a serious appreciation of the out-of-this-world-ness of the shops in Brooklyn. They have cornered the market on cute and righteous, I tell you what. Hip clothing, beads, cheese, wine, baby stuff, books -- all distinct stores that are there simply to crush you. The worst offender, in my humble opinion? The Brooklyn General Store.

Man oh man, people. This store.

Do you ever have the experience of walking into a place and not being able to see anything because everything is just so compelling? Yarns. Fabrics. Quilts on display. Dark hardwood floors and cute styling everywhere you turn. I mean, seriously. It was too much. It was absolutely too much holy shit! all in one place.

So, get a load of this fabric. It's flannel.

Flannel! What will they think of next?

I was so overcome with dizzying confusion that all I could do was buy this flannel and a couple of skeins of Misti Alpaca and get the hell out of there. (As they say: If you'd have been there. If you'd have seen it. I bet you you would have done the same.)

My trip into the city to Purl? A horse of a slightly different color. Still overwhelming. Still hard to see everything. But I'd been there before, so I knew what to expect: light-headedness, lack of oxygen to the brain, drooling. All the signs you know you're in a good fabric store and/or having a medical emergency.

I'll tell you more about Purl at another time. For now let's just gaze upon two fabrics I bought -- buns and birds.



And birds.

Motherfucking birds.

No idea what this is for. But I can't find enough expletives to capture how passionately I feel about this fabric.

Thanksgiving: If you come home cursing like a sailor, you know you did it right.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Great minds

I got a phone call from my wasband a minute ago.

WASBAND: Have you seen boingboing today?
ME: No. Why.
WASBAND: Someone made a Darth Vader tea towel.
ME: No way.
WASBAND: Can you believe that?!

He was outraged.

ME: Was it embroidered?
ME: It's probably bad manners to leave a comment and be all, "I made an R2D2 tea towel a long time ago."
WASBAND: "Check the date on it!" Yours was in color and way more detailed.
ME: Yeah, well. It was your idea to begin with.

Take-home lesson? There are only so many ideas a person can have, and embroidering Star Wars characters on tea towels is one of them. Now we know. Weird, huh?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Items! Part One.

I made a scarf while I was on vacation.

There. I said it.

Look. It was a whole thing. My SIL had something to do with it. The Brooklyn General Store and Purl also had things to do with it. But you know what? Let's not get caught up in assigning blame. It's not ladylike and just gets us nowhere. Instead, let's gaze upon the wonder that is the scarf.

Doesn't that stitch look good?

It is purty.

Pattern: My So Called Scarf. (That link is to the free pattern.)
Yarn: Manos del Uruguay. Handcrafted Kettle Dyed Pure Wool. Color 118.
Needles: Lantern Moon. US size 15.
Mods: I used honkin' big needles. The pattern calls for 11s, I think. But the 15s were all I had with me, and I wanted to make the scarf while I was still with my SIL to make sure she'd really like it. Blah, blah, blah. She and I both agree we like how it looks. And I like that it knit up real fast.

There are worse things than buying two skeins of new yarn and knitting a brand new scarf. Really. So much worse. Maybe I'll convince my brother to let me tell you the Crap or Vomit story. It's a good one. And it will take some of the heat off of me and and my item-y ways.

Fingers crossed.

I am glad to be back!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Woo Hoo! haiku

Back from the East Coast.
Quite pleased with myself for sure.
(So much warmer here.)

Do you like items?
Soft yarns? Fabrics? A new scarf?
Photos tomorrow!

Must catch up on blogs.
Must create lists, set deadlines.
Oh! Must not lose mind.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

An apology, an admission, and an invitation

Apology: So sorry it's been so long since my last post!

Admission: I went back into that store. OK. Sure. Yes. I vowed to never set foot in there again, but it seemed foolish to stand on ceremony when my PIC needed some yarn to finish a project, and we were right there! Good news for me -- there were no familiar faces, we were in and out of there in exactly three minutes, and nothing was purchased. Bad news for my PIC -- nothing was purchased. While they didn't have what she needed, I did manage to spy some Manos that I am going to buy elsewhere. Ha HA! See there! Elsewhere! I also saw some little cupcake pincushions that were super cute, but they were not thirty-two dollars cute, and that's what those bitches were selling for. Nope. Thank you kindly, but hell nope.

Invitation: My sidekick and I are going away for the week of Thanksgiving, starting tomorrow. While we're gone, I want you to have things to read (or re-read), and it just so happens that there is one "eavesdropping" post for each day I'm away. Isn't that handy? If it so pleases you, come on back each day for a little trip down memory lane. I've made a little schedule just for you. (Don't let this limit you. Please. Feel free to wander about as well.)

Friday: None of my beeswax
Saturday: These are the people in my neighborhood
Sunday: How the week went from Whee! to Meh. back to Whee! again
Monday: That eavesdropping from the other night
Tuesday: Overheard at the fancy supermarket
Wednesday: Overheard at Crate and Barrel
Thursday: Our trip to the so-called craft store
Friday: Overheard at lunch today

I will check in from time to time, as I am able. I may also have some kind of haul when I return, if history repeats itself.

Please know that this Thanksgiving, I am truly grateful for each of you.

Peace and love,
Dr. B.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

He might need glasses.

I walked into my living room the other day, and this is what I saw:

I think he couldn't believe his eyes when he saw his three favorite things -- comedy, outdated lists, and and a book on animal rights -- right next to his bed. What are the chances?!

I didn't wait around to see what he chose. In addition to being an avid reader, he's also a dog who likes his privacy. So, even though I left him alone and can't confirm it, I'm betting he went with the comedy.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Ooo ooo, Kushu Kushu.

My Habu kit finally arrived. I'd ordered it months ago from a trunk show at a lovely yarn shop across town.

These strings will turn into the Kushu Kushu scarf, if all goes according to plan.

A-20-16 lavender color (it's a warmer, dustier purple than it appears here). Silk. Well, silk with a stainless steel core. This will be the ends of the scarf.

A177-29 coffee color. Super fine merino wool. This, together with the lavender, will be the middle section of the scarf.

There are other things at the top of the to-be-made queue, and I'm not gonna lie, I'm also a little nervous about knitting with steel. So it remains to be seen when exactly this will get going.

In the meantime, I like the idea of this scarf having its own cheer - "Ooo! Ooo! Kushu Kushu! Ooo ooo! Kushu Kushu!" Who's with me on that?

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Burnt hands can't craft.

ME (to my Sidekick this morning): So, how about those eggs you were gonna make us?
SIDEKICK: Ohhhh! I forgot I was gonna make eggs!
ME: Grrr. Me starving.
SIDEKICK: How about I make it up to you with a grande decaf vanilla soy latte?
ME: Ok.

A few minutes later, my Sidekick returns with hot beverages.

ME: Aw. Thanks!
SIDEKICK: You're welcome.
ME (picking up cup): Owee. That's hot. You didn't bring a little cuff thingie?
SIDEKICK: What? No. I didn't. Sorry.
ME: But it's real hot. How am I gonna drink my delicious hot beverage if I can't pick it up?
SIDEKICK (rolls his eyes, shakes his head, laughs a little)
ME: Maybe there's an old one in the recycling.

I look through the recycling. Nothing.

ME: I guess I'll just have to fashion my own cuff thingie.

I begin the process of fashioning my own cuff thingie. It involves scissors and tape.

SIDEKICK (watching me): You weirdo, just use a paper towel for it.
ME (still fashioning): Why do you hate the earth so much? I'm recycling!

Twenty-five seconds later, I've completed my masterpiece.

ME: All done.
SIDEKICK: Oh my God, it's great!
ME: Thanks!
SIDEKICK: You should take a picture of it.
ME: That's silly.
SIDEKICK: Take a picture of it for the blog!
ME: You kill me.

Ladies and gentlemen, this morning with my Sidekick.

Aaaaand, scene.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Finished for real

There's a part of the movie Grey Gardens that lives on in our household. It's calling whatever you're wearing "the costume for today". If you haven't seen the movie, it's a documentary, and I recommend it if you're into strange and crazy people from 1975. (There was also a musical of it, I guess?) But more to the point, one of the main characters in the movie gets dressed one morning, and in evaluating its merits, she says:
This is the best thing to wear for today, you understand. Because I don't like women in skirts and the best thing is to wear pantyhose or some pants under a short skirt, I think. Then you have the pants under the skirt and then you can pull the stockings up over the pants underneath the skirt. And you can always take off the skirt and use it as a cape. So I think this is the best costume for today. (quote from imdb)
Not only do I completely agree with Little Edie that you should -- at all times -- be wearing a garment that can at any moment be converted into a cape, I also agree that you should always think carefully about what the best costume for the day might be. It was in this spirit that I blocked the green Chevron Scarf.

Last night, as I was preparing to go out to a nice, casual dinner with my Sidekick, I noticed that my costume was green and brown and missing something. I then noticed my Chevron scarf wadded up on a chair (this seems to be what I do with things I make). When I picked the scarf up to consider wearing it, it folded itself into thirds immediately, revealing itself to be an unwearable flat tube.

I stared at it. I thought about it. Then, knowing the scarf was necessary if I wanted to be wearing the best costume for today, I grabbed a damp towel and my iron, and blocked my scarf.

My PIC, who finished her Chevron Scarf long before I finished mine, warned me that "it's still gonna want to fold into thirds after you iron it, but you can just do it again later." She's right. And I might do it again later, but I can't be sure.

What I do know is this: With even the wrong side looking good,

this scarf was just what I needed for the best costume for last night. (Well, I could've worn a skirt-cape, but I didn't want to make other people at the restaurant feel bad for having inferior costumes. I'm sensitive like that.)

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Longer, wider, faster

Last time you checked around a week ago, I'd started a second Chevron Scarf. Here's what I had then:

Considering my first one took 6 months, I'm impressed at how quickly (relatively speaking) this one is going. This is what I have now:

Long, right?

The colors are much more beautiful than these photos show. You'll see.

This one also seems a little wider than my first, but that's not important. So let's just move on.

Hey! Thank you so much for your input on what to make with the Chinese yarn! Your ideas were all so good and helpful! What would I do without you?! Really.

I like the idea of making something for my sweet friend, as many of you suggested. If I went with socks, I'd definitely have to double the yarn or add some other kind of thread to it, because it seems like they'd wear through in about three seconds otherwise.

But. If I were to go in a shawl/wrap direction (not for my sweet friend), I love the Hanami shawl that Kristy suggested. There's also a little wrap in Weekend Knitting. (Can I sub this Chinese yarn for mohair, do you think, or no?) I'm a little worried that I may have to give in and get that Folk Shawls book you're all going on about. Damn it! Don't you know I'm drowning in books over here? Sheesh.

Thank goodness Seth kindly reminded me that books are free at my local li-berry. (He also had the brilliant idea of incorporating Chinese knitting designs into the project. He is all good ideas, that Seth.)

Note to self: When at said library, look for Knitting For Peace. It has the pattern for the Swirl Hat that Kim went and made in her obvious attempt to destroy me, rather, to help me with ideas for my holiday knitting.

Oh, what do you know, my new issue of Interweave Knits just arrived. Gotta go!