Friday, July 23, 2010

I went to Europe!!!

I've always been a traveler, but... I'm now officially a world traveler. This summer, I took the grand tour of Europe. From Italy to Switzerland to Germany to France to England, I was a student, a tourist, a teenager, an American, and so many things in between. Ah, the stories I can tell about Rome, Florence, Paris, Reims, Strasbourg, Meersburg, Siena, Rothenburg, Assisi, London.... the list goes on and on! The trip is - was - a dream come true. I never believed it would really happen when I first blogged about wanting to go last year. 

Some of my best memories: 
1. Climbing up the stairs to Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome. Over 506 narrow, dark stairs lead to the most incredible view of the entire city and famous surrounding hills. I loved hearing other tourists' exclamations as they came around the corner from the dark staircase to the lookout point from the tallest building in Rome - it was "Oh, how beautiful," in every language, some more colorful than others. 
View from St. Peter's

2. Florence. Our hotel, the Hotel Le Due Fontane, was quaint and old and on one of the city's main squares. After a night of walking to see the Duomo in the dark and enjoying the musicians on the street, we returned to our hotel room, which had a big shuttered window that opened onto the square below. We spent the latest hours of the night and the earliest hours of the morning singing country-western songs (rather badly) out the window. The next morning, we found out that other members of the tour had been kept awake by what they thought were drunk Italians singing on the streets below. Oops. :) 

The window where the singing happened
3. Canterbury, England - a few of us students were walking on the old city walls when it started raining.   We sang, took pictures, laughed, and ended up running along the top of the wall in the pouring rain. I was wearing flip-flops and took them off to run. There was something awesome about that. 

Happy and wet in Canterbury, England
4. On our way from Venice to Geneva, we stopped in Chamonix, France for dinner at an amazing ski lodge in the Alps - the Aiguille Du Midi. I had my first taste of foie gras, duck, and potato soufflé, with black forest cake for desert. I can't say that I'm a fan of French food, but the beauty of the scenery and hanging out with the other people on the tour made it incredible. 

Dinner in the French Alps
5. London!!! We rode the tube all day, visiting many of the literary landmarks that us nerds were all over - 221B Baker street, Fleet Street, Vauxhall, Charing Cross, Millenium Bridge... A few of us also went to see The Phantom of the Opera at Her Majesty's Theatre one night and rode a double-decker bus back to the hotel. Another bus took us to Chinatown, where we found out that all the action happens at the Burger King. 

Sherlock Holmes!
I also found a couple of great yarn shops entirely by accident - one in Heidelberg (Wölle Rodel), and one in Rothenburg, Germany. Needless to say, I came away with a few purchases, and ended up  trashing some of my clothes so I had room for the souvenirs (both fibery and otherwise). Of course, I worked on some projects along the way - I knitted several charity baby hats on the bus between cities, and taught one of my fellow tour members (a guy, no less!) and my roommate how to crochet somewhere in Bavaria. I finished on project with souvenir yarn shortly after I got home - a Strangling Vine scarf, knitted on size 6 Addi Turbos with Online Supersocke Silk. It's amazing yarn, and I love the scarf - it will be a permanent reminder of the trip, and possibly the best souvenir, even though I knit it after getting back home. The pattern is so simple you hardly have to look at it - and the scarf only took three days to finish. The rubber ducky in the picture is from our hotel in Zurich, Switzerland.
Strangling Vine Scarf
The icing on the cake is the fact that the tour is worth history credit. Now that I don't have to sit through another history class this semester, I can focus more on my real passion - literature and journalism. Pure win. 

Sunday, April 18, 2010

A different kind of stitch.

I've been AWOL for quite a stretch, haven't I? I've actually been working on quite a few other projects - namely, school. This is my first semester as a journalism major. I love it! But it keeps me insanely busy. Two more weeks of classes, one week of finals, and I'll be home free. I have been knitting. Sometime since the last time I posted, I started a Forest Canopy shawl - my first lace shawl - that I got pretty excited about, but I stopped working on it sometime around mid-terms, and I'm fairly sure I have forgotten the pattern. I'll probably have to pull out a few hairs when I go back to it with the instructions to try to figure out where I left off. 

In the  meantime, I've been taking different kinds of stitches. Embroidered ones. 

I need to work on some of the details, but it's a fun concept. :)  

I think there's an Elvis and a Michael Jackson in my needlework future, as well. Fun times. 

Thursday, December 17, 2009

A little knitting...

I'm still here!

So the other day, I was faced with a dilemma. A good friend of the family asked me to knit her a scarf. She had seen a picture online, and wanted me to duplicate it. Easy enough, right? Of course, I'm cursed with the relentless inability to say "no." Even though the request came right in the middle of a couple of other projects and at the onset of my Christmas knitting, I agreed to take up the challenge.

Weeelll, I was fortunate enough to be able to trace the picture my friend saw to the actual pattern (a miracle in itself?), which was free and listed on Ravelry (yay!). It turns out, the scarf, which Family Friend wants sooon, is a fairly intricate cable pattern knit on fingering weight with size 3 needles. What's more? The scarf requested involves four colors, and several skeins of sort of expensive organic wool. (In case you're wondering, the scarf is the lovely Merlie Scarf [Rav link]).
This bring up lots of philosophical questions about why you should to say "no" to unreasonable or impractical requests, and whether you should knit for historically picky, unsatisfiable people, and how to deal with similar delicate situations that arise when people who know you can knit ask for things. I chose not to deal with any of those issues.
Instead, I bought some cheap acrylic WW yarn (Vanna's Choice) in colors somewhat similar to the ones in the picture (a pumpkin orange, sage green, brown, and dusty blue), and proceeded to design my own 2x2 ribbed cable scarf, letting the cables unwind in the middle of the scarf to make life easier, and trying to make it look enough like the picture that Family Friend wouldn't be able to tell the difference. Towards the beginning of the project, I was forced to explain to the yarn (and the pattern, which I was not following) why I was the boss of it: it being the inanimate object and me being The Designer, able to make sovereign decisions and seemingly insane changes to the pattern, even asymmetrical changes, with impunity. It was incredibly freeing and I loved the results. :)

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Sparkleball Mania and Christmas Spirit

A sparkleball begins with dozens of plastic drinking cups, a soldering iron, and a string of Christmas lights.

Until yesterday, I had only a shady idea of what a soldering iron was. You don't use them much in the fiber arts, you know? But a compelling desire to make a sparkleball of my very own inspired me to go all out for this project. That's me, looking up with mild annoyance as Mom interrupts my strategic plastic-cup-sculptery.

The assembly is fun.

And - the finished object: behold the sparkle.

For more information on the magic of sparkleballs, check out .

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Monday, November 2, 2009


I just found out about NaNoWriMo (via Ravelry, of all places) and have decided to jump in with both feet because (1) I'm a writer, and (2) It sounds like an incredible challenge!

For those of you who don't have a clue what I'm talking about, NaNoWriMo is the National Novel Writing Month, and it lasts from November 1-30. The goal is to write a 175-page, 50,000 word novel between those dates. It's all about letting go of writing barriers and expected procedures, throwing off the usual conventions associated with novel writing, and just writing quickly. Sounds like heresy, right?

Writing quickly and for quantity is, um, REALLY hard for me, the perpetual editor. I usually can't write a single sentence without analyzing it and changing a couple of words, then rereading paragraphs for flow and clarity, then rereading it and adding a few words and deleting a few others, then rewriting the paragraph... which is impossible, when you only have 30 days! Anyway, writing for NaNoWriMo is a relief because my only expectation in doing it is just so I can say that I did, for the personal accomplishment (much like conquering a new, insane knitting pattern!) and, hopefully, so I can let go of some of my compulsive editing. :)

Happy writing!

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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Knitting in Florida

Hi! I'm still here!

This is a random nature shot from Sarasota, Florida. It's beautiful, but hot and humid at the moment. I've been quite busy lately, so I haven't gotten much accomplished - just a few small projects.

My most recent finished object is hat for a friend, who almost died after a bus accident in Jamaica earlier this year. She had a terrible brain injury that required surgery, and they had to shave her head to operate. Charlotte was in a coma for three weeks and even when she came to, doctors said that she would either die shortly or be in a vegetative state for the rest of her life. Miracle of miracles, she recovered completely and is back at home, living life just as she did before the accident. When she asked for a hat to keep her head warm I was more than happy to oblige. I sent her links to a few patterns and she chose the In-Between Seasons Cap (Ravelry link).
This is not a great photo (of me or the hat), and I took it before frogging and re-knitting the hat. I'll replace it with a better one soon.
This hat was my first attempt at twisted stitches, which I like in theory, but they didn't turn out so well in this hat. The stitches up the sides of the hat looked nice - until you put it on, when they stretched in a sort of weird way - one side stretched out a little bit more than the other. I think the problem has to do with my knit vs. purl tension, which I've been working on lately. Anyway, to remedy the problem, I frogged the top part of the hat down to the picked-up stitches and re-knit it without the twisted stitches. I like the result. And the yarn I used - Knit Picks Andean Silk - is amazing! I will definitely be using it again.

Then I knit another hat for Charlotte, because the Knit Picks wasn't exactly the right color. I used some Vanna's Choice in a dusty blue to knit Cabled (Ravelry link), by Thea Colman. This is one of my favorite patterns. I made one for myself earlier this year, so I immediately thought of the pattern when I decided to knit a second hat for Charlotte. The Vanna's Choice isn't great, but I found it more pleasant to work with than some other acrylic yarns. I don't have a photo of this, but I'll add it in a day or two.

I love knitting for charity. Especially baby things. Especially hats. I like to think of the person who will use the item I'm making. So, I both give and get warm fuzzies. Get it? Give... and get? Never mind. Here's a picture of an almost-finished newborn hat.

I promise I'll have some more respectable projects to share soon. In the works: my first cabled scarf - with a deadline (yesterday). Life is... crazy. Maybe one day I'll have it figured out. For now, knitting is a necessary piece of sanity in the midst of all my craziness.

Friday, August 28, 2009


I wrote a pattern! This cephalopod is my own little rebellion against amigurumi patterns that require tons of finishing - especially octopus patterns, which often require you to assemble and sew on the legs individually. There's only one seam on Douglas (to sew on his underbelly); all of the legs are crocheted onto the body. An abundance of legs are a delight to little hands that love to grab, twist, and pull.

Douglas is quite friendly and settles in quite naturally, even when he's far from the sea.

I used a size F hook and random worsted-weight scraps of yarn. Any sturdy, washable yarn would work just fine.

Gauge? Don't sweat it. It's a toy.
Row 1 ch 2, 8 sc in second ch from hook. place marker to indicate beg of round. do not join.
Row 2 *2 sc in next st. Repeat from * around. (16 sts)
Row 3 *1 sc in next st, 2 sc in next st. Repeat from * around. (24 sts)
Row 4 *sc in each of next 2 sts, 2 sc in next st. Repeat from * around. (32 sts)
Row 5 *sc in each of next 3 sts, 2 sc in next st. Repeat from * around. (40 sts)
Row 6 *sc in each of next 4 sts, 2 sc in next st. Repeat from * around. (48 sts)
Row 7 *sc in each of next 5 sts, 2 sc in next st. Repeat from * around. (56 sts)
Rows 8-12 1 sc in each stitch around. (56 sts)
Row 13 sc 10. work a 5 trc cluster (*3 yo, insert hook in stitch, pull up a loop, [yo, pull loop through two sts] 3 times, repeat from * 5 times. Yo and pull through all 5 loops on hook). sc in remaining sts. (56 sts)
Row 14 sc 10. skip next sc. sc in remaining sts. (55 sts)
Rows 15-17 work 1 sc in each st around.
Row 18 (create legs) *ch 20. work 5 hdc in 2nd chain from hook and in each remaining ch. skip 3 sts on body and sc in next 2 sts. repeat from * 11 times.
Row 19 holding legs to the front and working behind them, *work 3 sc in the space left by skipping sts on the previous row. then work a sc around the back of each of the next two sc on the previous row. Repeat from * around. Join with sl st and finish off. (56 sts.)

Work same as for Body through row 6. Join with a sl st and cut yarn, leaving an 18" tail for seaming.

Attach safety eyes (or embroider eyes) as desired. Take a long stitch between the eyes with a loop of yarn and pull as tightly as desired to create a "pinched" look; tie a knot and reinforce with a second stitch for stability.

To make Douglas rattle for small children or babies, put a few dried beans or pennies in a plastic easter egg and tape or glue shut. Wrap in stuffing.

Stuff Douglas firmly. Sew on underbelly with a blunt needle, taking stitches through the front loop of underbelly stitches and the back loop of body stitches. This creates an inconspicuous seam. Pull all loose ends deep into stuffing. Voila! Smile, show him off, and introduce Douglas to his new home.

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