Tuesday, April 24, 2007

On Crochet...

When I was a little girl, my mom and my grandma taught me how to crochet. I can remember hooking loops together to make endless scarves over summer vacations. I don't have any of those scarves myself, but I will bet you money that my my mom has some packed away in a box somewhere, probably never to see the light of day again in this millenium. Just the knowing that they are there is enough to satisfy her.

Since crocheting came easy to me, I of course was fascinated by knitting. Ironically, I didn't learn to knit until after my 30th birthday. The crochet hooks were long put away well before I turned 10. Paper crafting took the place of the needle arts until the knitting bug hit me. Hard.

For some reason, I regarded crocheting as the black sheep of the needle arts. Probably because it's so simple. You tend to place value on those things that don't come easy.

If a knitting pattern called for a crochet edge, I passed it by. I'm sure I could pick up the skillz again if I wanted to, but who has the time?

I taught my mom to knit a couple years ago, and she's very content to stay in the squares and rectangles area of scarves and blankets. Sl1,K2tog,PSSO? Not for this lady. She crochets circles (literally) around everything, but she's happy to leave her knitting squared.

Now comes the reason why I love test knitting. I'm usually assigned a project, yarn color, or technique that I otherwise wouldn't have looked twice at. And I haven't been disappointed yet by what I've tried.

But then Knit Picks assigns a (still secret for now) project to me that requires a crochet edge. Oh nooooooooooooooo! My first thought was "how can I get around this?" The answer was that I couldn't. Enter my mom, who was in town for the knitting guild's shop hop.

"Mommy, can you teach me how to crochet again?"

You should have seen this woman's face light up, as if she had won the lottery. I liken it to my Girlie, who has confided to me that it's not really her thing (sob!) asking me the same thing about knitting.

So we sat down at the kitchen counter with a pot of tea and warm cookies fresh from the oven, me all thumbs, my mom going through it just one more time about 20 times, with my grandpa giggling at our silliness in the background.

And I sat back in my mind and thought, what a precious moment. These don't come often enough anymore with my whole family scattered to the four winds. We've lost so much, immeasurable loss, yet we can find happiness in the simple act of hooking loops together; a shared purpose. My heart was full.

And I learned to crochet again. This time not at my mother's knee, but by her side.

Monday, April 23, 2007


My Secret Pal has been at it again. Look at this sweet package that arrived on my doorstep:My pal sent the cutest little stationery pad with two ink pens, A Post-it Flag pen that has little post-its actually inside the pen, and some cute post-it page flags (she must know how I flip through a new knitting magazine when it comes and mark the pages of a pattern that I want to knit!)

She also sent a chocolate bar (yum!) that donates part of its sales proceeds to endangered species, which made Girlie very excited. Both about the animals and about the chocolate.

Also included was an adiago red bloom black tea blossom. It's a hand-woven tea cluster that unfolds into what looks like a pink flower when you put it in hot water in your tea pot. (!)(!)(!) I've seen these before, and love them. I mean, hand-woven tea leaves? Doesn't that sound like a perfect meld of two of my favorite things, knitting and tea? Secret pal, please, please tell me where I can get more of these!

And last but not least, there was a sock pattern and a set of sock needles, 5 of each size from 000, 00, 0, and 1. Perfect for knitting with beads. The pattern is from Y2Knit and it's the Top-Down Anklet or Sock (I'll be doing the sock). My pal knows how much I love sock knitting! The funny thing about the set of sock needles is that I had almost bought them on the shop hop and regretted that I hadn't. And then here they come in the mail from my Secret pal!

Thank you so much, Secret pal. I love it all.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Shop Hop, 2007 Style

My knitting guild put a shop hop together yesterday, and I was on the planning committee. It was great fun, though time-consuming. We as a committee had great chemistry, complemented each others' skills, and checked our egos at the door. Each meeting we had left me feeling like I had something valuable to contribute, and that everyone was pulling their own weight. This was such a positive experience for me, one that I really needed to help me ease back into some semblance of a normal life after losing my brother. A big shout out now to my fellow committee members Chrissy, the blogless-but-we're-working-on-that Donna, and Lynette. You girls are rock stars!

Speaking of Chrissy, it was just one year ago that we met, during last year's shop hop. What a difference a year makes. Wouldn't you know that we'd be running it this year? But those who know us well aren't the least bit surprised.

Before I get started with pictures of my plunder, I want to say a quick hello to the very sweet Tiffany and Jenni (it was so nice to finally meet you in person!), as well as my pal Amanda, who were all brave enough to come along on the adventure bus. It was great to have you all there! And I just love it that my mom Karen was able to join us for the festivities.

Amanda's post tells you all about the logistics of the shop hop, so I won't repeat them here. Let's just get to the good stuff: the plunder!

At our first shop, All About Yarn, I found this yummy yarn and pattern:The yarn is Jojoland, and it is 100% Cashmere, and is surprisingly affordable for 400 yards (especially with our 20% shop hop discount!) The pattern is written for the yarn, and takes only one skein to complete the project. I wasn't going to buy it, but Donna and Amanda are such enablers that they said they wouldn't be my friends anymore if I didn't (just kidding). I was also able to get my hands on some of the new Addi Turbo lace needles. I'll let you know what I think of them when I get the chance to use them.

Our next stop was The Knitting Bee, where I found these beauties:Above is Blue Sky Alpacas Royal Baby Set, that I had been drooling over for actually a couple years now. I didn't realize until yesterday that the pattern was available for purchase (d'oh!) I plan to make a hat for Sproutie with the natural Blue Sky Alpacas Organic cotton, and a hat for ZimDee with the muted green organic Cotton. The hat on the right is basically the same pattern written for bigger heads, which I plan to make for Girlie with the ever so soft pink Blue Sky Cotton.

I also scored a handful of really cool sock patterns, which I (smartly this year) had on my list to keep an eye out for. I think I did pretty well. Pictured with the patterns is a magnetic board to help keep track of your place when you're working on a pattern.Finally, one of the pitfalls of being on the Shop Hop Committee is seeing all of the raffle prizes in advance. When I didn't win the prize for the Blue Sky Alpacas Baby Hoodie that I had been jonesing for, well, what was a girl to do but buy it for herself? I plan to make it for ZimDee and pass it down to Sproutie as they grow, which little boys do, all too fast. Isn't that a luscious color of brown? And I'm not really a brown person, but for this I made an exception.
The next store we visited was Knit Purl. They were the only shop that offered a 15% discount whereas all the other shops offered 20%. But of course, they had something that I really wanted:This yarn is called ShiBui, and it is made exclusively for the store. It's 100% superwash merino, and I can't even begin to tell you how squishy and springy it is. Instead of illustrating to the store that offering a bigger discount would produce larger sales, Katrina goes ahead and tips the scales and throws it all off. What can I say? I'm a dork. But I have been searching high and low for a delicate soft pink and soft yellow sock yarn for-like-ever, so when you put it right in front of my face during a SHOP HOP, people, what am I supposed to do? I know.

The next stop was Dublin Bay, which is a gorgeous yarn store and not to be missed if you are ever visiting in the Portland area. Most people I spoke to on the shop hop claimed this was their favorite store. I can't say I blame them. Chandeliers, wood floors, friendly, helpful staff that actually know what they're talking about. What's not to love? There I happened upon this:The sweetest cutest little stuffed bunny kit from Rooster called, of course, "Miss Bunny". I actually had to fight my own mother for this, as it was the only one the store had. This was some serious shopping, people! The fact that she gave birth to me could have no bearing on my resolve to get what I wanted that day. Actually, I think she let me have it, knowing that she could try to use the guilt card in the future to make me give the finished object to her.

I was also able to get some Hand Maiden Sea Silk, which wouldn't leave my hands once I touched its incredible softness. To show that I'm a bargain hunter, I picked up some Katia bamboo that was on clearance (I scored at 70% off). The pink and blue balls are destined to become Norberta for my sweet dragon-obsessed Girlie. I also found the most adorable sheep calendar and greeting cards by Thomas Joseph.

The next store was Lint. Trish Anderson from Tanglewood Fiber Creations was there, selling her beautiful handspun yarn at major discounts. I was able to get this:The skein on the far left is to become a hat for my husband, since it's in our high school colors. The two skeins in the middle will become scarves, and the skein on the right is going to become socks for moi. But that's not all.Trish was selling items hand-knit by her own mother! The tags read "Spun by the daughter from the finest Merino wool, knit by the mother." Softy that I am, I couldn't resist. You couldn't make these items for these prices! After my discount, I got the hats and slippers for $8 each, and the adorable sheep socks for $16, which will become my house slippers.

Just look at the close-up of these sheep:And look at sweet Sproutie modelling them:At our last stop, Molehill Farm, I came away with these:Two beaded fish kits to knit so my ZimDee can love me forever and ever.

It was quite a day and quite a haul. I'll be busy with these projects for some time, though if the urge to knit some cool socks along the way hits, I may have to answer the siren call...

Monday, April 16, 2007

Sockret Pal Socks

Now that I know that my Sockret Pal, Laura has received the socks I knit for her, I can safely show you here:Pattern: Molly Pitcher Socks, created by Kimberly at Woven N Spun. In a neat twist, Kimberly was my spoiler, I was Laura's spoiler, and Kimberly was Laura's spoilee. Funny.
Yarn: Sunshine Yarns by Dani in the Sangria colorway.
Needles: Size 2 Knit Picks circulars, using the magic loop method.

This was a fun little knit and I'm really happy with how the colors turned out. Snaps to Kimberly for writing such a pretty pattern.

P.S. Edited to add that the colors of these socks count for April/May Project Spectrum colors of (green), Yellow, and Pink!

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Fun Movie questionnaire

I'm a little slow in posting this, but Amanda challenged me to answer these movie questions. I'd love to hear what my readers' answers would be:

1. Name a movie you have seen more than 10 times. The Incredibles is going on its millionth showing right about now.

2. Name a movie you’ve seen multiple times in the theater. The Sixth Sense. I saw it exactly six times in the theatre. The best part was knowing when the spooky parts were and watching other theatre patron's reactions.

3. Name an actor who would make you more inclined to see a movie. Johnny Depp, purely for eye candy. Morgan Freeman, Ashley Judd, Tom Hanks.

4. Name an actor who would make you less likely to see a movie. Julia Roberts, Charlize Theron. To me it seems like they come from the "Look at me, I'm acting!" school. And I never have liked Tom Cruise, even before it became fashionable.

5. Name a movie you can and do quote from. What movies don't I quote from? They're all fair game. Classics rich with material are Tombstone and Raising Arizona.

6. Name a movie musical in which you know all of the lyrics to all of the songs. Victor/Victoria.

7. Name a movie you have been known to sing along with. Mulan.

8. Name a movie you would recommend everyone see. The Razor's Edge had a profound effect on me as a teenager.

9. Name a movie you own. The Devil Wears Prada. "That's all."

10. Name an actor who launched his/her entertainment career in another medium but who has surprised you with his/her acting chops. Eddie Murphy.

11. Have you ever seen a movie in a drive-in? If so, what? When I was a kid, don't remember what. I always fell asleep. But I do remember my parents having a heck of a time hooking up the sound thingy to the window.

12. Ever made out in a movie? What? And interfere with the whole popcorn experience? No way. There's a time and place for everything.

13. Name a movie you keep meaning to see but you just haven’t gotten around to yet. Napoleon Dynamite.

14. Ever walked out of a movie? Yes. Some Halle Berry stinker. My brain won't even try to recall the name.

15. Name a movie that made you cry in the theater. Titanic (yes, I'm a dork).

16. Popcorn? Always, with butter. It's not a movie without it.

17. How often do you go to the movies (as opposed to renting them or watching them at home)? Not as often as I'd like to at all anymore. I'd like to change that...

18. What’s the last movie you saw in the theater? Dreamgirls.

19. What’s your favorite/preferred genre of movie? Mystery/thriller.

20. What’s the first movie you remember seeing in the theater? Star Trek.

21. What movie do you wish you had never seen? Powder! I think it's the worst movie ever made.

22. What is the weirdest movie you enjoyed? Fargo. How do you explain to someone, "You should see this--it's pretty funny." -- "What's it about?" -- "A guy hires someone to kidnap his wife and the wife and kidnapers end up dead and...oh. Never mind."
My husband thought I was pretty weird for enjoying O Brother Where Art Thou?--another Coen brothers movie. And none of my friends enjoyed Lost in Translation. I guess I am a bit left of center.

23. What is the scariest movie you’ve seen? Amityville Horror at a much-too-young age. I swore I would never live in a house that had stairs.

24. What is the funniest movie you’ve seen? Funniest movie is such a tall order. Instead I'll answer with the last movie I saw at the theatre that had me laughing so hard I couldn't breathe, and that was the new Dick and Jane when Tea Leoni drives up in the beat up car to pick up Jim Carrey from the border and he comes running out with his beat up face shining in the headlights and jumps when he sees her swollen lips from the bad botox experiment, and all the illegals are jumping onto and falling off of that little car as they drive away. Good times.

I told you I was a dork.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Warning: Picture-heavy Post Ahead!

I've never gone two weeks without writing in my blog before. So much has happened.

We left off with my ouster from Sock Madness in round 2. The pattern for round 3 was released last Wednesday, and it was with genuine relief that I didn't feel under the gun to have to knit it up quickly. I've heard from many people that this is their favorite pattern so far in the tournament. I have filed it away to knit sometime at my leisure. I do like how that sounds.

I received some wonderful birthday goodies from sweet friends. My wonderful secret pal sent me two skeins of Louet Gems Pearl in the Eggplant colorway that I had been coveting (Isn't that a sin? This yarn may well be worth it). My sneaky pal (I just know we're going to get along) had asked me which was my favorite Cookie A. pattern, to which I replied that I really wanted to knit the Gothic Spire socks, but couldn't find the Eggplant yarn anywhere. Lo and behold, a birthday package arrived with the Eggplant yarn inside. Now that's what I call spoiling. Thank you so much, Secret pal! You made my day.

The very thoughtful Kim sent me a care recovery package with teas, a refrigerator magnet, and a relaxing music CD to help me get over the craziness of Sock Madness. You are one of a kind, Kim.

And I met Amanda for lunch at the Macaroni Grill (ooh now I'm getting hungry...) where she gave me a tea cup and tea diffuser and three yummy balls of Crystal Palace Kid Merino in the prettiest purple, lavender, and green (one of my favoritest combinations) I've ever seen. Thanks again, girlfriend!

Thank you to all of my friends who emailed or called me on my birthday. I feel very blessed to know each and every one of you.

Most of my family came to town for the week of spring break and my birthday. They were here for a very special reason--to plant a tree in memory of my brother. More details about the tree to follow, but right now I'm going to show you how we celebrated my birthday:
Oh, yes, that's American Idol karaoke. And let me tell you something, that Simon is brutal. I can't think of a funner way to spend your 38th birthday than singing badly into a microphone along with your mother, two sisters, daughter, and niece. I must also confide that the mimosas were flowing freely, courtesy of my sister L's sweet birthday gift of ornamental champagne flutes. Trust me, nobody can touch my rendition of Heart's "Alone".

We ate my favorite birthday cake, a quadruple layer chocolate cake that weighed 7 pounds. We played cards and games. Some of us stayed up until 3 am laughing and crying. There were many showings of "Firefly".

I'm still recovering.

We planted the tree on the last day that we were all together. It was a beautiful sunny day. We chose a Weeping Atlas Cedar, which we all felt was very appropriate. We all prepared a little something to plant with the tree. I enclosed my wishes in this:One of my very favorite yarn sellers, Ruby Sapphire, listed these two yarns for sale:Can you guess what they were called? The colorful one on the bottom was named "Trina" (what my family has always called me) and the beautiful blue-green on top? David. My brother's name. Did they know? Do they read my blog? Or was it all a wonderful coincidence?

I decided to combine the two yarns together to knit the pouch (the pattern can be found here).I enclosed my wishes and a few meaningful trinkets and placed them at the roots of the tree.You can also see the sweet things my mom and sisters left with the tree.

Here is David's tree:And how it looks in my yard:Planting the tree for David has given me a real sense of peace, and it stands as a physical symbol of my path to healing, as well as a place to go to be with him in my thoughts.

Another symbol of beginning to heal? I had 4 inches cut off of my hair yesterday.
Before (look at that sad little face):

And After:I also had it darkened to match the color of my boys' hair. No, I'm not grey yet, just having a bit of fun. I'm actually wearing little braids today, which I can show you courtesy of ZimDee playing with the camera:That must be what I look like when I'm sitting at my computer. That will give you all a good mental picture of me writing on my blog. Notice my favorite ratty blue sweatshirt that I'll never part with--it's way too soft to get rid of now!

Finally--a finished object. These are my Sockret Pal socks that I was supposed to mail by April 1st (Sorry, Laura!) But I hope they are worth the wait!Pattern: Molly Pitcher Socks by my Sockret Pal spoiler, Kimberly, at Woven N Spun. Isn't it pretty?
Yarn used: Sunshine Yarns by Dani, another great little Etsy shop, in the Sangria colorway (fabulous!)
Needles: Size 2 Knit Picks circulars.

Speaking of Knit Picks, what did I find when I visited their site just the other day? Another project that I knit for them, Lace Cuffed Socks:
The pattern was from the book A Gathering of Lace by Meg Swansen (daughter of the great Elizabeth Zimmermann). The yarn is KnitPicks Essential in cocoa and fawn. The entire sock is knit toe up in stockinette, which is very easy. But let me tell you, the cuff almost did me in. It took me days and days to get it just right. I must say I'm pretty pleased with the finished product, however.

And I was tickled to get the Knit Picks catalog and find a picture of the Straight-Laced Socks I knit for them in there.

Now Knit Picks has me working on another secret project, not socks this time, to be unveiled in upcoming months.

I'll leave you with a picture of me and my babies this Easter morn:They don't look too happy in the picture (I think Mr. Sunshine was in their eyes), but trust me, we had a good time. Just look at those brightly colored eggs in Girlie's basket.

My love to all.